Posted on 2013.12.03 at 12:45
So the other day, my hubby and I had a fantastic time making the great ten minute schlep north to join some friends at the great American tourist destination known as Disneyland. Despite the crowds, and the lines, it felt really good to just surrender myself over to no-decision-making, going-with-the-flow, and people-watching while meandering through the lines for various rides. At some point during the weekend, the conversation turned to “my first time at Disney”. And that’s when I had to dust off the cobwebs to scan back ten, twenty, thirty… no… forty years ago.
At some point in the early 70’s, my parents decided to make the trek southward from our home on Cape Cod to the mythical fantasy-land known as “Florida”. At the time I was either four or five years old. But I had at least some very, very fundamental understanding of what Disney would be like. After all, I had watched cartoons. And beyond that, I had some degree of a personal connection (or so I thought), to Disney Travel. After all, as a fan of Saturday morning television, I regularly followed the adventures of Rex Trailer, who just so happened to be the cowboy spokesman for Crimson Travel Service – the official travel service for Disneyworld trips.
As the time for the trip neared, my sister Tina (then around thirteen or so), my parents and I all headed off to Florida. While my memories are sketchy at best, I remember the trip having no end of “Oh Boys!” I got to ride on a plane! OH BOY! I got to meet THE Rex Trailer – OH BOY! I got to stay in a hotel! OH BOY! I got to swim in a Really Big Pool! OH BOY! I got to meet Mickey Mouse! OH BOY! It was just one excitement after another! Heck, I recall even having a very yellow and brown (oh so seventies) cowboy outfit, in homage to my idol, Rex. At some point, I vaguely remember attending some sort of event (or was it a concert?) where Rex performed. I was so overcome with star-struck idol-worship, I could barely move. As a shy small-town kid, it didn’t take much to put me into complete overwhelm. Yet somehow, someway, by the end of the night, I found myself the proud owner of a 45 signed by Rex Trailer himself. And the song on said 45? “I’m Not a Kid Anymore” – an homage to growing up and looking back nostalgically at simpler times.
Over the course of the next few days, I remember staying at the Dolphin Hotel (I’m pretty sure that was the one), and really enjoying what (in my eyes) was the Biggest Most Ginormous Pool in the whole WORLD! Despite the fact that I couldn’t yet swim, I hung onto the side of the pool with a death grip. I loved being in the water, and wasn’t about to miss the chance to at least kick and splash. And even though the water slides looked scary (for indeed, they were the Biggest Most Ginormous Water Slides in the WORLD!), I couldn’t miss the chance to slide down them – even though I might drown.
When we went into Disney proper, I couldn’t contain the excitement. In every direction, there was something incredibly cool – Rides! Characters! Lights! And Things, Things, Things! I kept pointing and saying, “OOOH! OOOH! LOOK!” Back then, it really didn’t matter that we didn’t have many “E Tickets”. I was a kid, and the Teacups were plenty exciting (although scary!). They spun so fast! And they were so BIG! But WOW were they ever hot. I remember trying to hold the spin-wheel to turn the cup, but the Florida heat made it too hot for me to hold. And while I was tempted to go on something scary like the Haunted Mansion, it was but a mere dream. While the brochure showed really cool pictures, the ride was not yet ready for its debut to the public. The “new” thing was Space Mountain. And I wasn’t big enough yet to ride on it. It’s probably just as well, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride scared the ever living crap out of me, which led to one particularly memorable meltdown-of-terror by the time we got out of the ride. Nowadays, a lot of those rides just seem silly and hokey. But to the mind of a child, they can really go beyond a mild scare – they can be nothing short of Truly Terrifying!
Well, despite the trauma inflicted by Mr. Toad, the little bits and pieces that I remember from Disneyworld stayed with me ten, twenty, thirty… forty years later.
And as Rex used to sing in a song firmly imprinted in my head…
“I used to skip down the street with a band-aid on my knee.
I had a great big patch on the back of my dungarees.
Those days are gone now.
I’m not a kid… anymore.”
Posted on 2013.12.02 at 12:35
So having survived the kwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaziness of Thanksgiving and far too many activities packed into one weekend (yah… what else is new in my life?), I am now coming to grips with the fact that it is now Monday, now December, and the insanity of “busy season” quickly approaches. Between the holidays, and social obligations and SCA events, and guests, and really monumental activities and projects, etc., etc., I foresee quite a bit of exhaustion in my near future. It’s all good. But yah… busy! And I gotta say, after the HORRIBLE time I had last year around this time, it is really nice to be able to go into the holiday season feeling enthused about the season, and feeling good and perky. So as we approach that time of the year where we remind ourselves to be more charitable, contemplative, and embracing of brotherly love; I need to get just one little thing off my chest – there’s enough REAL offense out there in the world. Please quit making mountains out of molehills!
This subject comes up time and again, but most recently came up with the airing of the American Music Awards. Specifically, I saw quite a lot of discussion the day after Katy Perry performed one of her songs to an Asian-inspired presentation. Personally, I thought the performance was absolutely beautiful, tasteful, and respectful. But in reading some of the critics, it was like a third bomb got dropped over Japan. Seriously? A racist performance? Equivalent to wearing black-face? OH PAL-EASE!!!!!
I’m sorry, but I have a hard time taking seriously anybody who makes such a stretch as to compare a white girl wearing a kimono to that of blatantly and intentionally racist mockery. Seriously! There is a huge, huge, HUGE difference between doing something as an intentional insult and somebody choosing to be offended. If a white man wears black face, that is considered intentionally offensive. If a white man performs a negro spiritual, it is not. Sorry, but I refuse to be driven into an incensed state of offense over something that is not. If some passer-byer screams “FAGGOT” at me, I will take offense. But I’m not exactly going to go protest the local performance of Priscilla Queen of the Desert under the pretense that it makes fun of gay stereotypes.
I’m not really trying to convince anybody of anything here. Each of us is going to think what we think and believe what we believe – especially when it comes to gray areas or lines in the sand. But for my part, I don’t intend to go looking for offense or to pick battles where there is no need. So please, for this holiday season, let’s just all relax and take a chill. After all, ‘tis the season to be jolly. So let’s all try, ok?
Posted on 2013.11.21 at 11:23
In our area, near downtown Santa Ana, I can’t say that it is all that unusual to see homeless people here and there. In a way, it makes sense. The government seat of the County is in our city, and in the public mall right in between all the buildings, several of them set up camp. I really do feel bad about a lot of these people. I don’t believe that anybody chooses this wretched life. The fact is, many of these people are just broken beyond fixing. Several have severe mental illness, as exhibited by their behavior. Many of them shout out at things that don’t exist, preach to the heavens, etc. Even if they had the proper medication, I just don’t know if it would help. And yesterday, I witnessed another one that really stood out in my mind.
I met a friend for lunch at one of my local favorite spots. Near the house, I am fortunate to be able to order the BEST Pastrami-on-rye and onion rings on the planet! But out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a woman approach the entrance of the restaurant. She was pushing a stroller that was completely buried in a mountain of random stuff – clearly items-of-street-survival, along with a relatively new and nice-looking handbag. Her hair looked like it hadn’t been washed in ages – wild, gray, crazy, and electrified-looking. Her face was dirty, withered, and very leather-like in its appearance. And her clothing was dirty, bedraggled, and frayed. Also, most striking, it appeared as if she was holding a baby. Huh? A baby?! But she had to be easily in her 60’s or 70’s!
Walking into the restaurant doorway, she shouted out to the waitresses, asking to have a menu. Looking around at the patrons, I could see the uncomfortable looks on everyone’s faces – including those of the waitresses who clearly didn’t want a scene. Professionally, one of the waitresses who had been there for a while, grabbed a menu and told her to just take a seat at one of the tables outside and she would be right out. The woman smiled, goo-gahed at her baby, and went outside to the little table near the door. Looking out the window, I took note of the woman. She seemed very attentive of her baby. But something was very off. The “baby” (which I put in quotes for a reason), didn’t move. It was so bundled up, I couldn’t even tell what was going on. Was it really a baby? Was it alive? Was it a pet? Was it an animal? What was it? The woman was too old to actually have a baby of her own, so what was going on?
Just then, I noticed the waitress come out of the kitchen with a hot bowl of soup. The woman didn’t order, but she didn’t seem to care. She smiled a craggy smile at the waitress and enjoyed the hot soup. She seemed perfectly content with her lunch, and with her “Baby”. But as I looked at the scene, I had more questions pop into my head than answers.
What was the deal with the “baby”?
Was she a regular here?
What is the cause of her illness?
Why did she have such an array of old crappy stuff, but a relatively new designer(ish) purse?
We left the restaurant shortly after, and I noticed that the woman had finished her soup, and now turned her full attention to the “baby” that she coohed and goohed while holding up above her. Again, the “baby” didn’t move, didn’t make a sound, and didn’t respond. And in all of the layers of bundling, I couldn’t tell what it was.
And something tells me, I don’t really want to know.
Posted on 2013.11.19 at 12:50
Every now and again, I come across some article somewhere announcing a city that was determined to be the “Friendliest City in the U.S.” And while I’m sure that it must indeed be a nice place to visit, I can’t help but wonder to myself, “how in the world did somebody determine THAT?!” I mean seriously – what do they do? Send out surveys? Shake hands? Check the amount of light that reflects from the city off of all those shiny white teeth? Friendliness is not something that is particularly easy to judge. But it is something to really consider.
When I initially moved out to California, I remember very clearly making a point to act a little bit more friendly. I don’t know if it was the fear of the unknown, or a pre-disposition to shyness; but in either case, I never really used to be a very friendly person. Typically, for a conversation to begin, the other person would have to initiate it. I didn’t usually speak to strangers. And rarely would I actually engage anybody in contact. But my hubby really changed all that. I noticed that in situations of social interaction, Paul would be very outgoing or initiating of some form of exchange. As a typical example, we might be walking down the street holding a conversation while someone whom we do not know walks towards us. My typical behavior would be to just keep walking, while rarely making eye contact. But not my hubby. Big and imposing as he is, he would stop speaking long enough to make eye contact, smile, and clearly say “Good Morning”. And on more than one occasion, I would catch the temporary look of surprise and confusion in the face of the receiver of such a pleasantry, followed by a polite response. Over time, I realized that this is just a friendly, nice, and pleasant thing to do – and I’ve tried to emulate it ever since.
I don’t think it is that people are, by nature, rude or uncaring. Rather, it is that we find ourselves busy – busy with deadlines, busy with cares, busy with stress, busy with lists. We have groceries to buy, laundry to do, dry-cleaning to pick up, people to take care of, places to be, etc., etc. And in the process of getting wrapped up in life’s demands, I think sometimes we all tend to forget that often it only takes a second to be nice.
Last night, for instance, my hubby and I went to meet some friends at a local restaurant/bar. As we left, the guy at the door said, “Have a good evening,” and we politely responded. But as we left, I caught his face out of the corner of my eye and realized, “Wait a sec… I think we know him.” As we walked a few more steps, it dawned on me. He is one of our new neighbors that we just met the other week. “Oh crap!” I thought to myself. “He might think that we just blew him off!” So we backed up a few paces to see him again, confirm that it was indeed the same guy, chat for a brief moment until we got a really good smile, and then carried on with the evening.
Kindness comes in all forms. Sometimes it takes the form of a check written with a lot of zeros. Other times, it involves hours of knitting or croqueting to create a warm blanket to help someone fight off the winter cold. But more often than not, it can take just a quick moment in the form of a smile, or a handshake or a “Good Morning” or a well-placed compliment. Sometimes giving someone that extra couple of seconds of attention and acknowledgement can go so far not only in terms of making his day a little better, but also your own.
Posted on 2013.11.18 at 12:40
What is the measure of a good relationship? The amount-of-time-spent-together? Number-of-years-married? Finishing-each-other’s-sentences? All of the above?
To this overthinking cub, I would have to say that the real measure of a good relationship is how you feel about yourself as a result of the other person. That is to say, when you think about a fairly typical day with your significant other, and you think about how you yourself feel/act/believe, do you find yourself a better person for being in the relationship? Or are you an uptight mess?
In one of my tangential pop-culture references, I would have to turn to the classic gender-bender flick, Mrs. Doubtfire. Specifically, I turn to the character of the frazzled wife/mother played by Sally Field. She chose to divorce her crazy-fun hubby, played by Robin Williams. Why? She explained it in a very poignant scene where she spoke to Mrs. Doubtfire. Basically, when her husband was left with the kids, he had fun with them. But fun meant throwing responsibility out the window. And that left her with the double-burden of having to come home from work and worry about things – worry about cooking and cleaning and deadlines and responsibilities. It took her from an already frazzled state and made her even more frazzled. And that damaged her relationship with her kids, who began to just look at her as being the mean parent. And it led to nothing but fighting between husband and wife. Does this mean that either of them were “Bad” people? No. But something about that chemistry was just toxic. It was a bad combination in that it brought out the worst in each other. And she didn’t like herself when she was with him.
I don’t really talk much about my first marriage. I’m sure that a lot of people out there naturally assume that the fact that I’m now with a man just might have something to do with why we divorced. I’m sure in some ways that had a bit to do with it. But in reality, that was a very minor part. The fact is, my first marriage simply turned toxic. I don’t think that means that she was bad or that I was bad. Rather, the two of us just seemed to bring out the worst in the other. Looking back, I pretty much led a dreadful life. I absolutely abhorred my work and career. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything of any sort of importance, and most of the people I worked with put me on-edge. But I would have to say that, after a while, going home was even worse. The hour-long commute, even in the fiercest of rainstorms, was somehow my only relief during the day. I had quiet time where I could just be alone with my thoughts in a relative state of calm. I would leave the place that gave me an ever-present sense of insecurity, but then return home to what might be chaos. The fact is, I never knew what was going to happen when I got in the door. What disaster might be awaiting today? What drama may have unfolded? Would I have extra burdens to take on? Unexpected turmoil? Some new drama? Life felt just so out of control.
My ex was a very chaotic individual. In many ways, I think that is what attracted me to her in the first place. But once married, the chaos never seemed to settle down. It seemed like chaos followed her. And if she got swept away in that particular bit of chaos, then it naturally fell upon me to make up the difference or fix the things left unaddressed. Sure, in a marriage, there is give and take and mutual-support. And that is what I thought I was doing. But as it happened day… after day… after day… after day… it took its toll. And I felt myself becoming more and more frazzled and fried. Looking back, I don’t think it was ever a case of me not liking her. Sure, there were times when I felt frustrated by her ever-present chaos and drama. But it wasn’t that I didn’t like her. It was that I didn’t like myself. I didn’t like how I felt. I didn’t like the feeling of my heart racing so often. When some new drama came into play, I felt sick to my stomach. Constantly, I felt anxious or out-of-control, waiting for the rug to get pulled out from under me. And eventually, it just became too much.
So how do I know that my relationship with Paul is working? Simple. When I go home, there is a calm stillness completely unlike anything that I experienced earlier in my life. I walk in the house, and typically the loudest thing is the overly-dramatic meow of the starving cat. Usually, I find Paul quietly reading in his papa-bear chair or in his office. And when I see him, he always gives me a great big smile and says, “Hello, honey.” If there is any drama, it is because I bring some in the door. I can’t think of the last time we had chaos. And if we are going to get into a big tiff over anything, it’ll probably involve something as dorky as consommé’ cups.
So in a purely selfish fashion, I would have to say that I know my relationship is working because of how I feel about myself. I feel calm. I feel relaxed. I feel happy. I feel like I can take a nap on the couch and be left in peace (unless starving kitty jumps up on me). Annoyances really never go beyond just a temporary exasperation.
And that is because my hubby makes it so.
Posted on 2013.11.14 at 17:48
Yesterday was definitely one-of-those-days. There’s really no other way to put it! I started off in a good mood, but over the course of the day, I found myself in enough different head-butting situations as to leave me with a headache and a foul mood. And I still had a workout ahead of me!
Having listened to GaGa to get me through most of the day, I felt bereft of any “Applause” for the day I had had. Instead, I just felt nothing but an attack of the grumbles. And that was made worse by the time I got onto the cardio machines only to see a perfect muscle-god strike a pose and take a drink from his designer water bottle, while wearing his designer work-out clothes. Just then, “Donatella” came on my iphone shuffle. Fitting, actually! I felt like a total schmoe, all flabby and sweaty in comparison to his perfect physique and fashionable air. Oh whatevs! I still had to get through my yoga class. And as much as I wasn’t in the mood, I went.
Walking into the class, my happy-wappy, hippy-dippy yogi tried her best to spread her Tao-of-Pooh personality across the class, but the dark stormclouds over my head would have none of it. And as we struck various poses, I listened to the music overhead. In typical fashion, my yogi had put together a playlist of yoga-appropriate music. Overhead blared the 60’s anthem “Peace Train” by Cat Stevens. “PEACE TRAIN?!!!!” I thought to myself. Not only was I not in the mood, but I couldn’t help but think how the former hippie converted to a radical form of Islam and was now calling for the violent death of anybody whom he believes are untrue or denigrating to Allah. BLECH! I boycotted that twat long ago, and couldn’t exactly get into the sentiment. Worse… my joints were just killing me. All I could concentrate on was the owies. Fitting, actually. Because suddenly overhead, I heard the whiny strain of Michael Stipe of R.E.M. emphasizing that “Everybody Hurts”. Yes, I broke my pose… because I just started laughing. Honestly, what a song to play in a yoga class! Oh, the irony! Oh, the humor! Oh, the truth! Yet, oddly enough, that put me back into a good mood.
By the time the class ended, I found myself finally FINALLY back in a perky and happy mood, having sweat or strained the negativity out of me. And my musical commentary for the day finished off with the last song I heard when I turned on the radio. As the electronica strained out, I heard Sting wail out his commentary about the drudgery of working class families in Synchronicity II. Oh, how appropo! And as I sang along with him about how “…every single meeting with his so-called superior is a humiliating kick in the crotch…” I somehow felt oddly relieved – as if somebody out there got it!
And with that, my day ended. Another test for me, and another task for the soul.
Posted on 2013.11.12 at 12:35
So the other day I mentioned that I had accomplished a rather rare feat (for me at least) – I read a book! The Velvet Rage is a psychological study of gay men and the damage they incur in the process of growing up in a straight world. It isn’t a blame game. It doesn’t pit “us” against “them”. But it really does do a good job at analyzing common issues that adult gay men face in terms of personality quirks and traumas as a result of growing up typically without the type of nurturing that we happen to need more (or less) than our straight counterparts. As I read through the book, there were parts that read like a laundry-list of my own particular personality quirks, which I found really surprising. Probably more than any other, one trait that resonated involved that of validation.
In a nutshell, a lot of gay men feel a lack of validation as they grow up. Because they don’t fit the typical mold of the rough and tumble straight counterparts, there is this sense of invalidation. Often, we aren’t really into sports. And because of that, we are treated like we are “not part of the team” or “bad players” or some such. And when we get emotional, we are called “sissies” or “cry-babies”. Why is this done? Simple – to discourage us from one type of behavior so that we will exhibit the more typical behavior of straight boys. But what does this sort of thing do to our psyches? It f$*$s them up! It reinforces, over and over, a sense of invalidation, as if to say that our needs and our feelings just aren’t as important as everybody else. And ya know what? That feeling sucks. So assuming that one actually survives to adulthood (and let’s face an ugly truth – a lot do not!), many of us bear psychological scars. And when I really think about it, my own behavior in terms of validation could be a case-study in and of itself.
Case in point. Let’s say that I had a really frustrating experience. Perhaps the situation is within my own control to fix. Perhaps it isn’t. But in either case, I’m frustrated and angry and annoyed and feel the need to vent. So I do. I will vent to my husband or a friend about my experience. And in response, the person to whom I am venting decides to be helpful by immediately suggesting to me how I can improve the situation.
And that makes me FURIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Why? Simple. Because I’m already upset over the situation. Chances are, I am already feeling unheard, unacknowledged, and invalidated. And when I am venting about how I am feeling, and the first thing I hear is, “Ya know what you should do is…”, it only amplifies the already-present feelings of invalidation. And lemme tell ya – it is hard – really, really, really, really, REALLY hard to bite my tongue and not lash out when I find someone doing that to me. Why? Because it feels patronizing, insulting, rude, and most of all – invalidating. After all, I didn’t ASK for your help! I didn’t say, “How would YOU deal with this situation?” I can generally solve my own problems once I calm down. And if I can’t, I WILL ask for advice. But very simply, for me to get to that place of calm rationalization, I need to blow off some steam. And I can’t do that when someone (regardless of well-meaning intent), completely skips over my feelings. Seriously, if you want to help, listen to what I’m saying and ACKNOWLEDGE that I’m upset. You don’t have to agree with my reasons for feeling upset. Heck, you might think that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. (and maybe I am). But seriously, would it kill you to just say, “wow, that sucks!” or “sounds like you had a really horrible day”?
Validation is a tough one. It really sets the stage for confidence, assertion, and leadership skills. And when one is used to not feeling validated, one either becomes a very sad and secluded introvert, or a yelling/screaming/overreacting nitwit when situations arise that result in feeling invalidated.
So what can be learned from this odd little rant? Simple. I’m a broken person. I know it. I am working on it. What can you do to help? Well, nothing really. This is my problem and my own mental healing that I need to do. But in general, friends and family, I do have one very general request. Not if, but when you find me having a meltdown over some situation that really pisses me off, just listen and acknowledge that I am venting. Don’t try to fix the situation. Just let me vent and let me know that you are hearing me vent. It’s amazing just how far a few kind words can go towards helping me (or anybody else for that matter) feel more validated.
Posted on 2013.11.07 at 12:29
Many stories surround the creation of Michelangelo’s David. One of them that stands out in my mind involves the great Renaissance master’s interaction with someone who believed himself to know better. As the story goes, Michelangelo worked furiously on releasing the superb sculpture from the confines of its marble block. Where a rough-hewn block of white marble once stood, a beautiful and poised face of David began to appear. Just then, a person of some influence walked by to check on the artist’s progress. I cannot recall if he was a priest or patron; but he was a person of some influence – and an arrogant one as well. Critically, he looked up at the face of David and made the determination that Michelangelo had not carved the nose correctly. In his opinion, the nose was too big. While I would not compare myself to Michelangelo in terms of his superior artistry, I can relate all too well with what must have been a very frustrating situation where he had to face someone in a position of authority who believed himself to know better. Sadly, this has been a recurring theme for me in recent times, and to be honest, it really makes me nuts!
It is one thing to take on a project and work with someone who has a different opinion on what direction to take. But it is another to have someone who truly has less understanding of a process or history try and tell me what they think I’m doing wrong. To me, it is a double-whammy of an insult. Not only am I being told that I’m wrong (when I am NOT), but when the critical judgment comes from somebody with far less knowledge and less experience; I want to just thumb him in the eye.
Seriously! What is wrong with just being sincere and admitting what you know and what you don’t know? Why is it that certain people can’t just acknowledge and accept where they are today? OK, so you don’t know everything there is to know about this flower, or the history of this building, or a particular process. So? You know some bits and pieces and have the opportunity to learn more. And that’s fine. That is absolutely fine. You aren’t a bad person because you don’t know it all today. But when you try to come across as some expert when you are not, you will only earn my ire. I have a lot more respect for a person who says, “I’m not sure, but let me check into that and get back with you” than I have for the person who ALWAYS has an answer… even if that answer is made up.
Grabbing his tools and a handful of powdered marble, Michelangelo apparently held the chisel next to the nose of David and struck it with his mallet, all the while releasing marble powder from his clenched hand, simulating actual carving. When he was complete, he looked down from the scaffolding to ask the critic what he thought. And the critic commented on what a vast improvement he could see before wandering away.
I need to be more like Michelangelo – talented not only in terms of his art, but in how he handled annoying know-it-alls.
Posted on 2013.11.06 at 12:37
Recently, I was privy to a discussion about music. Specifically, the question was about whether or not original composition was encouraged in the SCA and whether the Laurels considered it. Now, I am not the person to really offer comment on that. Why? Cuz very simply, I ain’t no musicologist! Thinking back to my earliest (torture!) music lessons, it became apparent to me right off the bat that little-black-dots on a page just make NO sense with my brain. Yes, a good musician can instantly see where the black dot is on the bar and figure out what note it is. Not me. I don’t know if it is a spatial perception thing or what, but it does not/will not/cannot work with my brain. But what DOES work for me is dance. And because the two art forms are both performance arts and do have some (not all, but some) similarities and overlaps, I will offer up my commentary on dance.
Within the SCA, there are a few different schools of thought about dance. On the one extreme, we have people who are 100% purists. They believe that the ONLY dances that should ever be done in the SCA are strictly and specifically the ones that we have seen passed down in the manuscripts of history. The music should be the same. The steps should be the same. No variation, other than what was discussed in the manuscripts. Oh, and no Playford! Nothing after the publication date of 1600. On the one hand, there is no question as to the authenticity of doing performance in this manner. But on the other hand, are we shutting the door on creativity and fun?
Then you have the exact opposite extreme. Some people believe that if it has somewhat of a historic(ish) flair or feel to it, and is just incredibly fun, we should be able to do it. On the one hand, this really muddies the water in terms of how performance would most likely have been done and tends to confuse and/or miseducate those people who might not know any better. But on the other hand, people get up off their butts and dance to it and have fun.
Admittedly, my thoughts on this are not as extreme as they once were as (let’s face it), I am really not active in dance like I once was. Years of teaching dance and leading dance and performing dance has resulted in a very broken guppy. I have pretty nasty arthritis in my feet. Both knees have been operated on. I can still dance selective ones here and there if I’m feeling up for it. But I’m not the immortal that I once thought myself to be. But after much contemplation and rumination over the years, I reached one conclusion that I have used to guide me in my pursuit of historical dance: For me to teach/learn/encourage the dance in an SCA context, the dance absolutely MUST have two qualities: It must be fun to dance; and it must be either an authentic historical dance or choreographed in a documentable historical style. So what does this mean? This means that I don’t dance the Quadran Pavan. Yes, it is a historical dance (or at least outline of a dance) from Tudor England. But on the other hand, it is drop-dead-dull, as are many of the Inns of Court dance (if they are performed exactly as they are described). OK, so what about just doing fun dances? Not so fast. We have many “dances of the apocalypse” as snarky dance instructors throughout the known world have referred to them. And yes, they are fun. I like dancing the Angus Reel. I like dancing the Korobushka. I like dancing Hole in the Wall. But guess what? They are not, are not, are not, ARE NOT dances that reflect a period style or choreography. And while doing the JitterBug is fun, as is West-Coast Swing or Waltzing; it doesn’t belong in a game dedicated to Medieval/Renaissance recreation any more than a Victorian ball gown does.
Now, one thing that I do believe is sadly under-represented in the SCA is the art of original dance composition. Here’s the thing – we have a lot of dances out there that, in and of themselves, are simply bare-bones. Take the Quadran Pavan, for instance. As described in the manuscripts, the dancer basically just moves in a simple square pattern. But does that really mean that is how it should have been performed? Despite the change in times and clothing, I find that hard to believe as it is Just That Dull. So perhaps some embellishments might make it a bit better. And if a modern reenactor were to use that as a springboard for a fun dance, but still in keeping with the period mindset, I think it would make a great project. Then, we also have dances that are incomplete where we have music, but no steps (or vice versa). OK… so play. Take those broken pieces and extrapolate in a period manner to create a unique work that *might* have existed in some similar form in that time period.
I know some people in other kingdoms who are excellent at creating original dance composition and/or performances that are based upon period styles and technique. But honestly, it is something that I haven’t seen a ton of in the SCA, and I find that sad. While yes, it is easy to go off-track, I think the idea of original design in artforms is just awesome! And that doesn’t just apply to performance. I love to see people create unique and original clothing of their own design based upon period colors/textures/fabrics/techniques/etc. I think it is incredible to see someone create a unique and custom-designed embroidery based upon mix-and-match elements from extant example. You end up with something uniquely beautiful while also paying tribute to the historical masters of the past. This is where the 21st century merges with the 15th. And I find it nothing less than beautiful and inspiring!
So yes. Play. Create. Study. Learn. Apply. And by all means, while you are still young and able, DANCE!
Posted on 2013.11.05 at 19:50
I really love this time of year! Just like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates, on any given day, you really don’t know what you’re gonna get. One day can be still, and foggy and chilly. The next bright and sunny and windy as all get-out (much like today). And as the weather battles on in the southland, this can only mean one thing – Fall is here, and Winter approaches. Oh wait – it means two things – THANKSGIVING APPROACHES!
Of all the holidays out there, I think that Thanksgiving is by far my favorite. No, I am not interested in debating with any naysayers. Sure, there are lots of PETA folk out there on the march for the rights of turkeys. And yes, there are also people out there who refer to it as “American Genocide Day”. I’ve had these debates in the past, and just don’t care to rehash them. The naysayers are entitled to their beliefs, and I to mine. For my part, I like to keep it simple. Thanksgiving is a Day of Thanks. Regardless of race or color or creed or anything, it is a holiday where, if we so choose, we can appreciate our lives and the people in our lives and our accomplishments – and celebrate through the glory that is FOOD! And let’s face it – foodie-geek that I am, I’m all over that!
There are a number of things that I am really looking forward to in terms of the holiday. I am looking forward to using our dining room, complete with new and comfortable chairs that all match! I am looking forward to once again using my Grandmother’s Turkey platter, which is (I’m pretty sure) the only thing that I have of hers. I am looking forward to using the new reproduction Sandwich Glass Turkey candle holders that we got this last trip to Provincetown (the REAL first landing spot of the Pilgrims, thank you very much!) I am looking forward to being joined by friends. But more than anything, I think I am looking forward to cooking.
I don’t quite know what it is, but I have this absolute need to feed. Cooking a big dinner is a lot of work. And whether it be a dinner for eight, eighty or one-hundred eighty; the feeling the next day is almost always the same – sore back, throbbing feet, and slight headache. But the “Feel Good” makes it worth it.
So what am I thankful for? Let’s see…
I am thankful that I am healthy! As I mentioned recently, last year and the early part of this year really scared me and gave me the reality-check that I am indeed a mortal being and need to listen to my body whether I like it or not. But I’m back on my (throbbing) feet, and am thankful.
I am thankful for my hubby and my hubby’s health! He kicked ass earlier this year in terms of weight-loss. I gotta admit – I was skeptical. Often, my hubby can get really fired up one day about something, but then the next day, not so much. But when it came to the challenge of the diet and sticking to his program, he was nothing short of an absolute dedicant. And ever since then, he has been very serious about making lifestyle changes to keep him from going back. Just when I think I cannot be more proud of my hubby, another day passes and I find yet another reason to be inspired by him!
I am thankful for my friends. Ya, sure, I bitch and whine and moan a lot about really being crowd-overwhelmed and really liking my quiet time (and I really DO!) But the fact is, when I need support or entertainment or a pick-me-up or a laugh, I always have people that I can count on to make me smile. I am blessed by the people in my life!
I am thankful for progress. Over the course of years, I have complained about things in my city or in my home that make me nuts. And for a while, I threw my hands up in annoyance. But then, something happened. I look around my city and see progress! We have not just good but GREAT restaurants that have popped up in walking distance. I see less trash and litter and graffiti and more pride. And in our home, we are making more and more progress on improving things to the point where I am really, really, really enjoying my home more and more. Someday, there will be the opportunity to pick up and move. And I have this ironic sense of dread that when the day comes, I’m gonna finally be so happy and comfortable that I won’t want to leave.
I am thankful for inspiration. After all these years playing in the SCA, and all of the challenges and all of the struggles (and there have been some DOOZIES), I find myself still inspired. I am inspired to teach and to make things and to work and to take on projects and tasks and responsibilities and to do what I can to encourage others. Burn out is such a very common thing. People sometimes hit a wall and run out of things to keep them going. For whatever reason, I feel like my tanks are full. And that makes me happy!
And unique to this year, I am thankful to the addition to our little Claycomb family with the arrival of David who is living with us until he is able to get his own little nest for his hubby (also named David) who is still living on the other coast. David is nothing less than a truly fantastic friend – always happy, always helpful, always giggly, and just a fantastic addition to our lives. (Yes, I’m still sad that he won’t be here for Thanksgiving, but I guess I can understand him wanting to fly back east to see his hubby who he hasn’t seen in months).
So as we get ready to pass that turkey platter, I look forward to the approach of Winter and the holiday season.
In advance, I wish you all a very warm and wonderful Thanksgiving!