Keep me honest, people

OK I've totally slacked on the ballroom dance diaries. Starting tomorrow, I promise to return to that topic and live up to my pledge. It's just those entries take quite a lot of time and effort, and up until now I haven't had much of either. Which is why I count on you fine people to harass the hell out of me until I deliver.

Where everybody knows your name

F's has closed. Three weeks ago I walked by, and the lights, both interior and exterior were off. There was a sign that said "Closed for renovation." I though "What the hell are they renovating?" The whole allure of F's is that it is a dive. You don't have to worry about what you are wearing. You don't have to worry about your behavior. As long as you don't set anything on fire ( including other patrons), you are a stellar customer. I figured that more likely F's got flagged on some health code violation.

It's been three weeks now, and no activity, no sign of F's ever re-opening. The bartenders weren't even informed of the closing. ( Which has to suck-you show up to work and find that work no longer exists) I was sad that the bar would close down without letting any of us know. After all, there are people from F's that I never bothered to ask for a number. They woudl turn up again eventually-the bartender Justin who knew more about archetypal psychology than any other person I know ( he turned me onto some very good books)-bouncer Joe who has an autistic son and lovely daughter and was always good for a pep talk (he was also willing to bring me "hot latin lovers" on request-I never accepted choosing to forage for myself)-Jerry the actor and Alex the writer-Patrick the heartbroken-Kevin the requisite obnoxious Irish bartender-Michael the NYPD detective, who bought me a drink once for explaining comma usage to him-Jay the karoake king-Mark who taught me to drink a glass of water between every drink right before he quit drinking for good-even crazy drunken Mike the only stockbroker I know who admits he can't figure out his cable bill. I met a lot of good friends through F's-Jim the photographer and Ursula the fashion consultant.

It would have been nice to have one last big hurrah. F's was the place that saved me really from many nights of crying alone in my apartment. For a while, it was the only place I could do work. I would go to F's with big stacks of papers and grade with a big pint of hard cider sitting in front of me. It was a safe place to go when I wanted to leave my apartment, and none of my friends were about. It's not like there aren't other bars in NYC to take its place, but the closing of F's is definately a landmark moment. It is the same age I am. Established in 1974, F's and I share a birth year, which also makes its demise a little sadder.

But it might end up being a good thing. It will push me to explore other places, or maybe revisit old places in the village, now that the weather is nicer.

Still, I'll miss it.

The central message of Buddhism is not every man for himself -Jamie Lee Curtis as Wanda in A Fish Called Wanda

Last week, the Bad Buddhist was smashing around his cubicle, ranting about the stupidity of his students, when I looked him in the eye and said, "You know, you are the worst buddhist ever." ( Side note: BB often smashes around his cubicle, which often makes me think of the Ionesco play Rhinoceros. I keep hoping that one day I will hear him blustering around in there, and then suddenly a grey tusk emerge from the other side of the divider.)

He tried to argue. He tried to fight back. "Buddhism isn't just a bunch of surfer dudes chillin' out. It's about challenging conventions. It's about shaking people up so they can see beyond their reality." He spluttered around a bit more, and then walked out of the office.

Today, he informed me that he is now writing an essay entitled "The Worst Buddhist Ever."

Monday, after buying me a bottle of water because he insists I don't "hydrate enough" he said, "You know, I'm just crazy enough to be effective."

I thought this was rather an exaggeration on his part, but jokingly suggested that he should get a "Crazy enough to be effective" t-shirt.

I told him I should get a companion t-shirt with the slogan "Just crazy."


"In the theater, we have something called a unifying moment. That's where everyone in the audience and on stage feels the same thing. All of us are silent. The audience, the actors, except for one eight year old boy and he knows what he saw and he is LAUGHING. I don't know what to do. Do I break character? Do I keep going? I decide to go onto the next line. 'Aren't they waiting for the eternal part of themselves to come out pure?'"-Monster in a Box

Spalding Gray's body has been found, and although I am happy his family now can begin the healing process, there is a part of me that misses being able to imagine that he out there somewhere gathering notes for a new monologue. Metafilter has some touching comments on the topic. This site has some nice links to his work, including a short film.

"'Spald, you're barking in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 'And I am. I'm barking in the Metropolitan Museum." -Monster in a Box

The first time I became acquainted with his work, I was maybe ten or eleven. I turned on HBO one rainy day, and there was a man sitting at a table talking. I was riveted and discovered the film was called "Swimming to Cambodia." I became a slavish fan to his monologue work. I was fascinated by how a person sitting at a desk could be so interesting. As I was in CT at the time, I had to rely on HBO to his work. But I taped Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a Box off of HBO and watched them over and over.

"This guy was the Elvis of psychic healers."-Gray's Anatomy

My first year in college, our speech teacher made us learn a Spalding Gray monologue. I was thrilled by the assignment, although I thought having each of perform his work actually diluted his talent. Became clear to me after watching so many different material performed so many different ways that his talent wasn't just in writing the material, but in the unique way he communicated with audience. That there was some ineffable way that Spalding connected during a monologue that was necessary for the work to actually succeed.

"She threw me out of the garden of Eden!" Monster in a Box

I saw him twice in person. The first was more dramatic. I saw him as I was walking through Penn Station. He looked like Moses. His white hair was long and disheveled. He was sun burned which intensified the translucent white of his hair. He was wearing some loose pants and I seem to remember a peasant type shirt and a long woven coat. He looked both determined and lost.

He looked the way I always imagined he would.

"I just accepted that as a part of my life, accepted that forever I would always be a little in the place that I was not." Impossible Vacation

I'm terribly sorry, did I say that out loud?

Sitting in my office trying to find the will to go home, I stumbled upon this blog. The maintainer of the site is not only a resident of the upper east side, but lives close to me as he is listed as part of 86th street crowd at New York City Bloggers. It seems that I have been correct that some people, some people in my very neighborhood, have the life that I fantasize about. The life, which as Kevin Spacey says in American Beauty ( actually "Brad" says it-but he is reading Lester/Kevin's letter aloud), "that doesn't so closely ressemble hell." He loves his girlfriend, they have moved into together, things are fabulous. Mind you, I can't like a guy for more than two weeks unless he vanishes. A friend of mine called last night and said "Why didn't you mention you were seeing someone before?" I said
"Why should I bother? In another two weeks, it will be somebody else. A few months from now I won't even remember his name." And the sad part is it's true. Even my therapist can't keep track of all the boyfriends I've had in the last three months, even with a Venn diagram and a flow chart.

Yes, this is the post competition depression. (Very similar to the post master's thesis depression and post successful show run depression.) But when I see someone so blithely happy, well, in the words of Scott Thompson as the artist Matty Goon speaking to the Ontario School of Art "I feel puke."

Rasputin, noticing my aversion to happy couples, asked me, "Can't you be happy for other people?"

"No, I really can't be happy for happy couples, not in that way. I'm not saying that I hope they wallow in freak like misery forever, I'm just saying it doesn't make me happy to see them happy."

Damn happy well adjusted people. Makes me wonder what NYC is really coming to.

Ballroom Diaries: March 4- Traveling and Arrival

The organizers of the competition apparently like to start the adrenaline rush early by withholding specifics of the competition, like say where it is or when exactly you have to be there, until the day or so before. Once releasing the top secret information to entrants, I discovered that the competition has been booked in the Brigadoon of the NJ transit system, a hotel that is reachable in a way sort of by mass transit ( take a bus from port authority to a terminal NEAR the hotel and then get a cab) once every one hundred years.

In the past, I've booked a car, but often the drivers got lost on the way to the hotel, and I was assured by the competition organizers that the hotel was accessible by mass trans. In addition, Miracle Gro was counting on me to make the trip first and give him the lowdown in terms of actual traveling time and difficulties.

The thing to keep in mind is that Miracle Gro is over six feet tall and only had to bring one change of clothes and one pair of dance shoes ( he was also coming only for one day of the comp-just for the Latin dancing). I am four foot six and mildly disabled. I also had to haul 4 dance "costumes", 3 pairs of dancing shoes, all manner of make up and hair care products, as well as pjs and street clothes. I managed to stuff everything into a rolling suitcase and grabbed a cab to Port Authority.

The directions from the competition organizer jibed with the directions from the hotel's front desk ( I called to let them know I would be checking in at nine). At Port Authority I made the executive decision to trust the comp. organizers mainly because I couldn't find the bus the hotel suggested. After much grunting and sweating, I managed to get my suitcase to the bus terminal and then onto the bus. Hauling a suitcase is one of those activities that makes me long for a boyfriend...or a mule. (Actually, now that I think about it I would prefer the mule.) I then missed my stop as apparently no one announces stops on such buses. ( I was heading for Seacaucus Plaza.) Luckily some charitable NJ transit rider told me where to get off to catch a taxi ( I was going to have to catch a taxi anyway).

The taxi driver congratulated me on my single bag, "You're an efficient packer" he told me as he threw my bag in the trunk. I'm assuming most of the professionals arrived with garment bags and imitation matching Vuitton 3 piece luggage sets. I told him "Listen, when you have two spares mules or a llama, then you can pack what you want, but when you are a little girl traveling alone-efficiency isn't really a choice."

I arrived at comp. slightly ticked and fairly frazzled. I called Miracle Gro to let him know what was going on. We talked briefly, but I liked being able to call him. Unlike my partners at the last comp., he seemed very engaged in the process. He promised to wake me up early in the morning and make my life miserable. Giggling I hung up the phone.

I wish I had a digital camera so I could explain to you the unpacking process at a dance comp, but I don't so you'll just have to deal with my narrative.

First I unpacked make up. La Mer moisturizer, NARS liquid foundation, MAC translucent powder, and Benefit's Dr. Feelgood-all the base for the face-unpacked first. Then the Tartecheek stain "Tickled Peach". This was followed by two types of liquid liner ( NARS liquid liner in "Sri Lanka" and Dior's liquid liner in brown), four eye shadows ( NARS: Nymphea, Twisted, Santorini, and Night Breed), 5 types of glitter (a light scented gold powder from Tarte called Golddigger, three different types of Mattese loose glitter, and Too Faced "Kitty Glitter" in "Cat Fight"), 3 lipsticks ( NARS: Pigalle, Congo Red, Cabaret) and 3 glosses (Sisley's Marachino and Brown as well as some gloss from Face Stockholm-the name eludes me), fake eyelashes and glue. And that was just the make up. ( I have a few pictures of myself at comp-no close-ups- but hopefully I shall be able to post them later.)

When I was unpacked all I really had to show was a few gown hanging up in the closet, a pile of dance shoes, and a heap of make up in the bathroom. I was thirsty and tired and so I had the great debate about getting up and going down to the bar for a coke ( room service was closed) or lying on the bed parched.

I opted to go down to the bar where I started to set down notes for this very entry. I didn't get to far until a couple of cops started talking to me. Yep, the convention hall across from the ballroom had been booked by some NJ police union and so the bar was packed with dancers AND cops.

One cop, Chris, saw me taking notes and started talking to me. He was impressed with how quickly and easily I took notes. I'm not sure what it is about people these days. Even in my office, other profs often admire how quickly I type. In fact, many people say they know when I am in the office because from the time I come in to the time I leave my keyboard is never silent ( little do they know I am blogging and not "at work"). It frightens me that the simple act of writing is so impressive to people, particularly other English profs.

The cops sat around and told me stories. I was amused that I could go to a dance competition and manage to have a couple of cops buy me drinks ( they were just cokes but still) and a snack. One of them gave me a "get of jail free" card which he assured me would be honored in any state including Texas. Finally, I extracted myself and went upstairs to get some rest.

Coming Up Next
Day 1 of the Competition: Breakfast of Champions

Ballroom Diaries

Well, I went to a ballroom competition this weekend. Actually I went to the Fred Astaire 2004 Metropolitan Dancesport Championship (Doesn't THAT sound impressive). I had 31 entries, and was dancing for two days. And when I say two days I mean on saturday I got up and danced from ten in the morning until three in the afternoon in two and a half inch heels.

The experience was full of material and I took notes as the evil hotel I was staying in was stuck somewhere in the 1989. About the only conveince they managed to pull off was express check out, and I'd like to thank them for that little mercy. But I digress. The point is that I feel like I've been hit by a bus, I got no work done, and I have all this deep and profound commentary on the nature of amateur competitive ballroom dancing. So I'm going to do the same thing I did with my cruise. ( Christ, I can't believe that was almost a year ago!) I'm going to to start with my arrival and post every day about this weekend until I get it all down, so you are going to have to bear with me for a while.

soon to come...traveling and check in

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