Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Did I mention we went dancing last night? We did. Friday was the night of the annual hangar dance at the airport. Our favorite local swing band, Ladies Must Swing, finagles an empty hangar away from whoever runs the airport, sets up some tables and plays music by Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Count Basie and the like from seven until ten so we can get out there and use our mad dancing skills. Well, not just us, but everybody who shows up. And a lot of people show up. It’s quite a party.

Last year they had the hangar dance at the end of July, but this year they had it a lot earlier in the year because the B-17 that shows up for the show, nicknamed Aluminum Overcast, wouldn’t be passing through town at the usual time, which was pretty lucky for all of us. Last year it when the dance started it was still about ninety degrees out and the sun was shining right into the hangar, turning it into a dutch oven. Then, as evening came, every mosquito in Dane County caught a whiff of all those sweaty bodies and descended on us, leaving the party an hour and a half later with about a hundred gallons of fresh human blood. We should have all come down with West Nile Virus after that, but maybe the heat killed it off, because it never got cool that night. We drank lots of water and beer that night and tried to never stop dancing so the mosquitoes wouldn’t catch up with us.

Last night was much better, as far as the heat and the mosquitoes go. Not nearly so hot, and no bugs at all that I could tell. And the party was just as much fun, with lots of good music and the best dance partner I could find! (That ought to score me a few brownie points, eh?) We didn’t dance every single one of the dances this time around because, first of all, no mosquitoes, and second of all, My Darling B was pooped out from working in her garden all day long. She tried to keep up, but we took several breaks during the first half so she could drink plenty of water, and in the second half of the show she was yawning and rubbing her eyes like a little kid ready for bed. Even so, she managed to stick it out to the very end so we could dance the last dance.

hangar dance | 8:37 pm CDT
Category: beer, daily drivel, dance, entertainment, food & drink, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play | Tags:
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Friday, July 16th, 2010

Sean was just game enough to go with us to our weekly group salsa class at Social Life last night. I’m not sure how much he was looking forward to it, but once we got him there and started cutting a rug he picked up quite a few good dance moves in just forty-five minutes! We started with a review of the basic salsa step, added a left underarm turn and a chase with a spin, and pretty soon he was dancing as well as we were.

Then he hung out for another forty-five minutes while My Darling B and I stepped through our private lesson, bless his heart. We’re trying to get as much private instruction in swing dance as we possibly can before the hangar dance at the end of this month. Christopher put us through a crash course in three new steps: a left underarm turn, a belly wrap and a step to switch handholds that I don’t remember the name of. Then he strung them together at the end of an ordinary underarm turn and had dared us to dance through the whole sequence while he played one song after another, each with a beat that was faster than the one before until we were twirling so fast we looked like a pair of boogeyriffic Tasmanian Devils.

The secret to swing dance is not so much knowing the steps as it is possessing the sheer stamina to jump around like a maniac for as long as the band keeps playing. We can learn almost any steps Christopher throws at us, although I admit I suffered a bit of a brain cramp last night when it came to coordinating hands and feet. I’m not sure what was going on but I finally sorted it out with five minutes or so to go before the end of the lesson. Stringing them together is a little more challenging as I’m not terribly creative when it comes to planning my next move. I often have to think about it a bit while I chug along doing the basic step, so I’m glad when our instructor strings a bunch of steps together that I won’t have to think about.

At this point, five minutes of swing dancing seems to be about all we can build up steam for. I have the feeling that, once the song’s over, we’ll have to retire to the sidelines to catch a breather and maybe drink a gallon of water. Also, the hangar dance being at the end of July, I’m wondering how hot it’s going to be. It’s just possible that literally building up steam might be more of a problem than I thought.

But we’re going, no matter what. The studio will have two more group swing classes on Monday nights, and we’ll get two more nights of private instruction to learn what we can before we make a spectacle of ourselves in public.

Thursday Night Group Dance | 5:18 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, dance, entertainment, hobby, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, Seanster
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Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Let the four-day weekend begin!

Oh, wait … I’m unemployed, so it’s really more like an indefinite weekend.

Well, whatever.

I applied for unemployment first thing yesterday morning … or rather, it was first thing after doinking around on the internet for an hour, because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it until after nine o’clock, which is a really stupid reason for waiting until nine o’clock when you factor in that I applied on-line. You can do anything on the internet these days!

So at nine-thirty promptly …

What? Okay, so I doinked around a little longer than I said I would. It’s the internet! It’s not my fault! The internet forces us all to think non-linearly! Our minds are being scrambled by the internet! I couldn’t help it! You know it’s true! Just look it up! On the internet!

Besides, there was this killer John Stewart video I had to watch before I did anything else, such as provide for my family.

Anyway, after a quick google search and a couple of mouse clicks, my application for unemployment benefits was complete. Took me all of five minutes. Easy-peasy.

What did I do with the rest of my day? Oh, not much. It being my first officially unemployed day, I decided to celebrate with brunch at Lazy Jane’s, so I tucked a book into my backpack, jumped on my trusty Trek bicycle and rode into town. It’s about four or five miles from Our Humble O’Bode to our favorite Willy Street restaurant, so I worked up just enough of an appetite to want their half-sandwich and soup special.

That and a bottomless cup of coffee made me want to hang around just long enough to read through a couple of chapters of A Woman In Berlin, the book that’s on the arm of my easy chair this week. It’s a cheery little tale about the Russian liberation of Berlin in the final days of World War Two, as recorded in the diary of a journalist who was gang-raped by just about every Russian soldier who marched through her neighborhood. I’d have to recommend it because it’s so well-written, but I’d also have to include the warning that it’ll make you want to drink yourself unconscious. Enjoy!

image of shadow box

After a few good, deep burps loud enough to rattle the windows of passing cars, and a long, leisurely ride home (can’t exactly sprint on a full stomach), I spent the rest of the afternoon piddling around in our basement work shop trying to put my shadow box back together. I didn’t get a gold watch when I retired, but they did give me a going-away ceremony and a shadow box filled with medals (yes, mine) and a folded flag. Pretty nice, but they mounted all the little bits of bling with some kind of goop that wasn’t quite sticky enough to hold everything in place for very long. Five years later, all the medals and collar brass were lying in a sticky pile at the bottom of the box. (Senco members, take note.)

I made a few changes. Not that I didn’t like the original shadow box, but I wanted to include some of the patches I kept as mementos of the places I was stationed. I also wanted to arrange the ribbons, badges and name tag the way they usually appear over the pocket of a blue uniform jacket, and I wanted to hang my dog tags in there, too. So I pretty much changed it completely, okay, that’s true, but it was a great shadow box in the first place, honestly. I loved it and wouldn’t have changed it at all if it hadn’t fallen apart.

I made just one other teeny-weeny little change and that was changing the fabric on the backboard. It used to be a single piece of blue felt. I thought the patches and the dog tags would look a little out of place against that background, so I split it in half. On the left, I used a panel of woodland camouflage fabric I cut out of the back of an old BDU shirt I still had hanging in the closet. On the right, I replaced the blue felt with a panel of Air Force blue fabric cut from an old polyester Class-A jacket that I would never ever wear again in a million years, not because I’m anti-support-our-troops but because the polyester jacket sucked great big unlubricated bowling balls. I’ve still got my poly-wool jacket with all the ribbons and bling attached, so if I had to suit up again, I could wear that. Heaven help us all if Uncle Sam is ever desperate enough to ask me to suit up again.

To make sure the little bits and bobs didn’t fall off the backboard again, I hot-glued the shit out of every single thing in there. Hot glue two things together and they stay together. Gravity as a force is lame-o compared to hot glue. I hot-glued the fabric to the backboard, then I hot-glued the patches and ribbons, badges and other bling to the fabric. Hurricane Katrina could not tear this thing apart now.

The only thing left is to figure out where to mount it. There’s precious little wall space in my basement lair, at least for right now. I want to re-arrange things down there anyway, so maybe this is the time. See, this is how little things, like fixing up a busted shadow box, turn into big things, like rearranging my basement lair. I’ll probably still be feeling the aftershocks of this project twelve months from now.

The rest of the evening was pretty typical: Pick up My Darling B from work, sit down to a pleasant dinner, then hit the floorboards for a dance lesson that I had a hard time absorbing for some reason, probably because I didn’t do much all day and was almost too relaxed.

Let The Unemployment Begin! | 9:32 am CDT
Category: adventures in unemployment, bicycling, books, coffee, daily drivel, dance, entertainment, food & drink, hobby, My Darling B, My Glorious Air Force Career, O'Folks, play, restaurants, work | Tags: ,
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Thursday, February 25th, 2010

When we push all the furniture in the living room to one side, it turns out we have almost enough room to practice our dance steps. Almost, but not quite.

It would probably be enough room if we had a little more floor time under our belts, so we knew how to fit the dance steps we knew into an odd space, but after just three lessons we’re still taking the biggest, broadest steps possible in exactly the direction we were taught. We can make our living room into a pretty generous-sized dance floor, but we still end up dancing directly into the wall.

My Darling B insisted we schedule last Tuesday’s lesson early enough in the evening that we could stay for the group lesson after. Her idea was that we could have time to practice so we wouldn’t forget, and with an instructor close at hand we could ask questions about the parts we got wrong.

The instructor for the group session had other ideas, though. He was teaching a waltz dance step that probably has a name but, if he mentioned it, I’ve forgotten it now. It took the better part of an hour to walk us all through the steps but by the time we were finished we looked like we were performing the final number in a Hollywood musical. Okay, maybe more like a high school production of a Hollywood musical, but if so we had as much fun as high schoolers.

The dance was rather long and had a lot of turns and twirls and a promenade and a walk-through and we didn’t want to forget any of it, and that’s why we pushed all the furniture aside last night and tried to walk through it again. We found that we could still do just about every step, although we’re not sure about the step-through and twirl at the end. B thought she should twirl one way. I thought she should twirl the other. We practiced it both ways, just to be sure we could do one of them come next week.

promenade | 10:07 am CDT
Category: dance, hobby, play
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Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Wow, dancing’s hard. Our instructor keeps impressing on us how easy it is, and I guess I have to agree with him. A Foxtrot two steps forward, on step to the side, bring your feet together, and keep repeating that for as long as the music continues. Really, you’d think anybody should be able to do that.

And now that I mention it, the half-time entertainment at the roller derby last weekend was a couple seven-year-old kids from the Fusion Dance Academy demonstrating their moves. No, really. What, you thought maybe the crowds at a roller derby were a little less refined than that?

I think that what makes dancing difficult is that it’s about one percent knowing the steps and ninety-nine percent poise. And I ain’t got a whole lot of poise. I learned a basic box-step Waltz in about ten seconds, but making it look good will take the better part of a year, if My Darling B is patient with me and we take the time to practice every night.

Last night was only our second lesson, so I wasn’t expecting too much, a good thing because we didn’t advance much. Our instructor reviewed the three basic steps he taught us last time (Foxtrot, Waltz, Swing), then played some music for us to practice with, and that’s when I discovered how hard it is to dance. I was doing just fine when I could concentrate on remembering the steps and counting “One, two, three” out loud, but if I split my attention to listen to the beat of the music, I got hopelessly screwed up and stepped all over B’s feet. That’s the part that she’s going to need a lot of patience for.
But we still had enough fun that we signed up for another six lessons and will go back next week. B wants to join the group lesson next time. That ought to be good for an embarrassing story or two.

second dance lesson | 9:31 am CDT
Category: dance, hobby, play
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Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Guess what we did last night? We went dancing! We’ve been saying for years that we wanted to take dancing lessons and last week B made a command decision and signed us up for an introductory lesson. We plunked down twenty-five bucks at a studio just north of here for forty-five minutes of private instruction so we could learn to dance the Foxtrot and Waltz.

Sort of. My Darling B and I are not the most graceful of people, and together we make one of the biggest balls of clumsy you’ve ever seen, which is why it’s a good thing this was a private lesson so you never could’ve seen it.

It’s not that we don’t dance ever. We shake our booties to the rock and roll tunes on the radio in the privacy of our own home and, on very special occasions, and usually only with the benefit of a little liquid lubrication, we will put our booty-shaking on display in public.

We have never been much for going out on the town to paint it red, though, and the way we dance together has never required us to actually coordinate our movements. And, as it turned out, it just may be that we are genetically predisposed to remain uncoordinated booty-shakers all our lives. Or maybe not. Neither one of us ever did step on the other’s feet, so I supposed that should be an encouraging sign.

first dancing lesson | 2:56 pm CDT
Category: dance, hobby, My Darling B, O'Folks, play
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