2010 forgotten vignettes

NewYork_2010-09_802-lobbyWhen I first moved into 802, an art deco building in Washington Heights, I adored the mural of the prancing maiden and her leashed—antelopes?—in the lobby. I still love them and the quaint building. But one day last summer, I walked in and saw these hideous sofas placed in front of her. It was clearly a sign: my days in 802 were numbered. Before these, there had been an equally old and musty sofa, but it was less gaudy, and the color at least matched her blouse.

As I packed to move, I heard lots of great stuff on NPR (like astrophysicist Brian May’s Bohemian rhapsody interview) that I wanted to look up and listen to again, undistracted, but didn’t have the time. When I was writing the chrissie/lebron/akron bit, I remembered the Rita Dove piece I heard on Selected Shorts: Strong Men, Stronger Women and intended include her in post (yes, she’s from Akron), but forgot. When I unpacked American Smooth I remembered. It demands a listen. (I listen to stuff when I clean. Makes it bearable.)

Dance is woven through American Smooth and it makes me wish, again, I had more time to dance and time to learn more. But I’ve barely time to do the things I’m committed to do well. It does make me sad that American culture has such little place for gathering to dance. One of the reasons, surely, why we are so fragmented.

Yesterday, I saw Barbara Ehrenreich on PBS. She mentioned her book: Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. A nice change from her usual reportage about America becoming more and more like a third world country because of government favoritism of the wealthy and the insane wealth disparities that have resulted. (Did you know that “janitorial service” is the fastest growing job in the USA?) And because we don’t dance. My assertion, not hers. Maybe hers—I haven’t read the book yet.

american_smoothMy decision to finally get the internet at home so I could watch PBS (inspired, I admit, by the Circus! ads on the subway) was not misguided.

I just happened upon this line from Rita Dove, from an interview with Robert McDowell: “In African American culture, dance has always been a key element—a communal activity that soothed and united all levels.” From my travels, it seems to be that dance is something that brings people together in most cultures, save white, protestant countries. Though to be fair, some white, protestant ministers appreciated dance. Dance was a part of my Lithuanian family, though mostly in stories of days gone by. After my grandmother died, I went to a party at the Lithuanian-American club in NYC (not somewhere I generally frequent), and we danced and danced until the wee hours. At least, the older folks did. I went to a friend’s elaborate Indian wedding a few months ago, and everyone danced. What a joy!

_________________________________________

Bolero by Rita Dove

Not the ratcheting crescendo of Ravel’s bright winds
but an older,
crueler

passion: a woman with hips who knows when to move them,
who holds nothing back
but the hurt

she takes with her as she dips, grinds, then rises sweetly into his arms again.
Not

delicate. Not tame. Bessie Smith in a dream of younger,
(can’t you see?)
slimmer

days. Restrained in the way a debutante is not, the way a bride
pretends she
understands.

How everything hurts! Each upsurge onto a throbbing toe, the prolonged descent
to earth,

to him (what love & heartache done to me), her body ferocious,
a grim ululation
of flesh—

she adores him. And he savors that adoration, this man in love
_________________________________________with looking.

She feels his look,
his sigh

and she moves, moves with him to the music in the space
_________________________________________allotted them,

spot lit across
the hardwood floor.

3 thoughts on “2010 forgotten vignettes

  1. Just after I posted this, my sister called and told me she had a good story. She and her friend were stomping snow off their boots before they went inside last night, and the stomping turned into a jig and gales of laughter. I asked her if she recalled her traditional Christmas Eve dance with my mother—their Jarabe Tapatío, the Mexican Hat Dance. I have no idea how that started, but every year, later on in the night, after my brother and his family went home, they’d start the dance (I half joined in, half took photos). It, too, resulted in tears of laughter, comfort, and joy (ohhh, tidings of…).

    She said, yeah, I thought of that, too, this time of year.

    Maybe I should go dancing this Christmas. Wanna come?

  2. I love the idea of sister cities… sister-places. Will have dinner tonight in Red Lodge, Montana… a kind of Swiss-Chech-Lithiuanian Mecca. It inspired my brother to study abroad in Vilinus during college, which in turn inspired his entire spare, spiritual post-industrial aesthetic. Akron grows so many sensitives – how is this? My favorite take-back-the-night song during October was by The Black Keys, who lived there until a few months back. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AVd5RVukcs

    1. Montana! I’ve never been there. But what a mecca, to inspire your brother to study in Vilnius. That’s wild. (I was thinking of Lithuania for christmas next year–but maybe ‘ll try this Red Lodge, instead!) The “spare, spiritual post-industrial aesthetic” reminds me of Akron as much as Lt, which isn’t a surprise really. Immigrants tend to gravitate to places with similar climates and feels. The Persians in LA and Texas, the Lithus in the flat great lakes region, etc.

      The Black Keys song is gorgeous. Thanks for that. I read that they recorded an album in a abandoned rubber factory, which must have been BF Goodrich. When I was in high school I’d go there and photograph the building and graffiti while my boyfriend skateboarded with his friends. They’d built ramps inside. It was very eerie and beautiful. Post-industrial indeed. My grandmother worked there on an assembly line, once upon a time.

      A Hungarian woman at my studio recently told me that one of our regular practitioners just moved to Vilnius for a job. This ashtanga world is very small.

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