Saturday, September 26, 2009

In which I dance

Note: Today is my wedding day!  So I figured it would be a good day for this one...

Woman at left is painter Suzanne ValadonImage via WikipediaWhen I was 3 years old, my parents gave me a choice: did I want to take dance class or tumbling.

No contest. Tumbling.

Except it turns out they misread the brochure and you had to be 4 to take tumbling. So I signed up for dance instead.

I started with little kids' tap and ballet. By the time I quit dance at age 9, I was in advanced classes, had taken up jazz dancing, had quit ballet, and stopped performing in the recitals. I was often the oldest in my class, and if anyone was my age or older, she was taking private lessons and competing. I wasn't. I was in it for the fun, and it just wasn't fun anymore. I was wasting everyone's time if I wasn't going to compete, and everyone made sure I knew it, so I quit.

Fast forward a couple years. First I was awkward at middle school dances, convinced I couldn't dance. Then I realized -- they hated me anyway! I may as well try to have fun.

In high school, I only went to a few "milestone" dances. There was usually no one I liked well enough to ask (or if I asked, the boys in question turned me down) and certainly no one asked me. Why buy an expensive dress I'll never wear again just to sit alone in a corner? There's TGIF to be watched, and even that has to be more fun.

By college, I could usually find a date to a dance -- in fact, at certain points it was the lack of dance that was the problem (I still have the dress I was going to wear to the Senior Ball that never existed. Grrr). But it wasn't real dancing. It was shaking it like a middle-class white girl to fast songs and swaying back and forth with a boy to slow songs. There was no creativity, no choreography, and (on the part of the boy) usually very little ease.

I want to dance for real again. I'm sick of grinding because there's no other option, and I don't want to go back to "Prima ballerina or DIE!" I want to enjoy my body and in the process make it healthier.

Good thing I'm getting married, then, isn't it?

After some debate, we signed up for dance lessons.  We're learning some Fox Trot for our first dance, and a bit of Salsa for when we hit the floor later on.  Our instructor is great, and when we practice on our own, we always end up laughing.

But we're both very self-conscious, albeit in different ways.  When we make mistakes while practicing on our own, we laugh, but if we were to go to a club, would we cringe instead?

I'm finding dancing to be that rare creature, the form of exercise I kind of like.  But lessons are expensive, clubs are crowded, and there's no way I'm competing.

It's frustrating, but I think it's worth it.  I hope so.

For all my bad experiences with it, I miss dancing.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

In which I observe Internet Sabbath

St. Peter's Basilica at Early Morning Photo wa...Image via Wikipedia
I'm not Jewish, and even by Christian standards I'm not particularly great at following the Fourth Commandment (or Third, if you're Catholic or Lutheran).  I go to church most weeks... unless I'm traveling... which I've been doing a lot lately...  And I'm no good at the "no work" thing.  I'm always *doing* something on Saturdays and Sundays, whether it's work or errands or planning or just Playing Hard. 

Even if I'm physically resting, my mind needs to be occupied, and the only way to get that out of the way is to take a nap (which, to be fair, I do on plenty of Sunday afternoons).  And yes, that occupation of my mind should probably revolve around meditation and prayer... but if you know me, you know why that almost never ends well.  My right and left hand spy on each other[link], and I get Pharisaical about minutia and forget the big picture. 

But I do see the benefits.  And I do see that I frequently spend too much time online, reading trivia and losing track of time and then it's late and I'm tired.

So I have decided that once a week, I will observe Internet Sabbath.

Once a week (I'm looking at Tuesdays, but am willing to change it, even from one week to the next), from when I leave work until I arrive at work the next day, I will not go online.  I will not turn on the computer.  If I have to do either of these things, a) it will be because someone else needs me to do something, and b) I will turn off the computer as soon as I'm done.

My experiments with it have worked really well so far, so I'm thinking this could be a long-term thing.

Who's with me?

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Friday, September 11, 2009

In which I help find Don.

World Trade Center: View from HobokenImage by wallyg via Flickr
On September 11, 2001, blogger Sarah Bunting had a business meeting in Manhattan.  As she sought safety and made her way toward home, she became "disaster buddies" with a man named Don. To this day, she wants to buy him a beer and thank him for helping her keep it together -- but he is nowhere to be found.

From her site:
What Don Looks/Looked Like
Don is an African-American man. I would estimate his age at between 25 and 35 on that day — probably not younger than that; possibly older, but not much. That means he's 30-ish to 40 now.
Don is between 5'9" and 6' tall, and probably weighed 160-180 pounds. (I suck at estimating men's weights.) In any case, at that time Don had a fit build — not pudgy, not skinny, well put-together.
Don had short hair and a goatee at that time. I do not recall any jewelry; he may have worn a watch, I don't remember. No glasses.
Don had on a grey windowpane-plaid suit and was carrying a black soft-sided briefcase.
Don didn't really resemble anyone famous, except Blair Underwood around the eyes a little bit.
Other Possibly Relevant Facts
Don and I met in the lobby of the Bank of New York building, located roughly at Wall Street and Broadway. We left the bank together at approximately 11 that morning.
Don lived at that time in Jersey City, or thereabouts — he took the ferry to Jersey City to get home, from a slip somewhere around Hester Street on the west side.
Don had come into the city that morning via the PATH train, and had gotten off at the World Trade Center stop. He had come into the city for work, but I don't remember whether his business that day was actually at the WTC complex; I don't believe it was. If he had gotten separated from any work colleagues, he didn't mention it. I don't know what he did for a living, and I don't know if his job was based in Jersey City or in lower Manhattan, but I got the impression that he was in the city for an errand or meeting, and that he didn't regularly commute in
As I said, I don't recall a wedding ring; Don did not mention a wife or any other family at that time as far as I can remember.
Don's birthday is September 11. No idea what year, but based on my estimate of his age it's probably in the late sixties or seventies.
Do you know anything about Don?  I would say let me know (it would be awesome to be the person who found him!), but Operation Find Don is Sarah's baby, so let her know if you have any leads or suggestions -- but be sure to read the comments, because she's looked under a lot of rocks already.

Read more:
At That Time (2010)
Operation Find Don (2009)
OFD goes global (2009) -- Sarah is interviewed on BBC Americana (you may not be able to listen anymore).
OFD on WNYC (2009) -- Sarah is interviewed on The Takeaway.
Angels in America (2008)
Beliefs (2007)
An American Tune (2006)
All Is Not Lost (2005)
Still Here (2004)
Scents Memory (2003)
The Fastest Year (2002)
For Thou Art With Us (2001)
Dispatches (2001)
Stay the Same (2001)

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

In which I graduate from High School

Cover of sheet music for "The Star-Spangl...Image via Wikipedia
My high school had some... issues. Oh, no one shot up the halls or anything. More like a disorganized lack of consistency.

For starters, they changed how class ranking was calculated halfway through my Senior year. Now, the system they changed it to made sense, but it would have been nice if they'd grandfathered current students in -- or at least warned us prior to the last semester we were there.

My overall ranking was #1 in the class before the recalculation. It dropped to #3 after -- nothing to sneeze at, to be sure, but let's be honest. Colleges don't care that you're #3. They don't brag about #3 in their brochures. And as a result, they're not going to be throwing money at #3 to come to their schools.

(To be fair, this wasn't really a danger for me. In addition to my rank and the GPA that came with it, I had a high SAT score and a metric buttload of extracurriculars.)

But the positions of valedictorian and salutatorian were not based strictly on class rankings. Anyone who was eligible -- a certain class rank and/or GPA and/or grade in English class and/or recommended by a teacher -- could submit a speech for evaluation. If a speech was accepted for the next round, the student would get it back with some edits and be invited to audition in front of a panel.

My valedictory speech was, admittedly, not amazing, but my salutatory speech turned out very well. I broke down the lyrics to our alma mater and outlined how they paralleled our high school experience. It was part English essay, part sermon, and more than a little idealistic (far more so than my actual high school experience!), but it was good, and the judges thought so, too. I was named salutatorian.
My peers made no effort to be subtle: I could quite clearly hear their whispers that J should have been named salutatorian, but at least A got to be valedictorian like she deserved (A was ranked #1 in the class after the recalculation, and A and J had been my main competition from the beginning).

I took chorus as a full-credit class all four years of high school -- I was one of the first students (at least since the school was consolidated) to do so. One of my classmates was also taking AP Music Theory, and one of her projects was to compose an arrangement of the Star-Spangled Banner. She and several of her friends were then chosen to sing at graduation. They were not picked based on voice part -- it wasn't like they chose first soprano, second soprano, first alto, and second alto. They were not auditioned. And it was not a matter of choosing all Senior choir members, or all Senior chorus students. I honestly don't know why the teacher allowed it, but I do know if there had been an audition, I would have been notified.

I may have concluded incorrectly, but A was one of the girls who was included. A, who deserved her speaking role far more than I did, according to the other girls chosen to sing. Interesting.

Well, never mind. Come graduation, my speech was met with receptive silence, and hers with restless whispers.

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