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Monthly Archives: October 2012

~ Look Ma! No Feet! ~

I was preparing to teach a contemporary dance class at Nuit Blanche, an all-night contemporary arts festival, a few weeks ago. My class would be outdoors from 10-10:45 pm and would, hopefully, attract people to participate. I had no idea what to expect. After all, it would be a chilly Saturday night and the streets would be teeming with thousands of people who could be drunk, stoned or really not into taking a dance class. Plus, they would likely be non-dancers, average Joes, so I had to prepare something uncomplicated and fun, something that would sustain their 45-minute interest.

I used M as my case study, my guinea pig. I figured if he could do it, anyone could. Truth is M is quite a good dancer. For a middle-aged white guy, he has surprising rhythm and coordination. Not that being 51 and white should negate one’s ability to groove. The fact is, M’s always loved Motown and rap, and definitely thinks he’s more “funky white boy” than white boy.

So Saturday morning, I tried to teach my funky white boy a few steps. Disaster. He couldn’t pick them up. He started improvising, doing things that didn’t look anything like the things I asked him to do. Then he enlightened me:

“Ever notice I don’t move my feet?”

“What?” I asked incredulously.

“When I dance, I don’t move my feet, it’s all up here.”

He proceeded to plant his feet, and groove with his upper body, bringing to mind the scene from Hitch, when Will Smith is trying to teach Kevin James how to dance, except Kevin manages to move his feet too.

Panic.

I told him to just try walking side to side. Suddenly, his shoulders hunched and his entire torso stiffened, like he was encased in a body-cast. He began moving homolaterally (not as in Gay, but as in stepping with the same leg and arm, not in opposition). This is a bizarre phenomenon that I’ve noticed with non-dancers. They try too hard to do what they think it should be, rather than what it actually is. Counts and structure also screw people up. Hell, even some professional dancers detest structure and counting, so they gravitate towards this thing called contemporary dance!

Kidding, but not really.

When M dances without care, he’s completely relaxed. And though his repertoire may be limited, he’s developed some signature moves that I’ve even modified and incorporated into my professional classes. Since he promised to take my class later that night, I included a gesture I dubbed “The M,” to surprise him. It’s this thing he does after his football team scores a touchdown – arms spread wide open, scans stadium, nods head – classic M.

The Nuit Blanche class was awesome. Great turnout, lots of energy and enthusiasm, plus they picked up very quickly. M did the entire class and had a blast. My friend came by and was so impressed that M was doing my class she told him he was the best boyfriend ever! Clearly, that made his night. Every half hour or so afterwards, he declared, “I’m the best boyfriend ever!” I’m pretty sure he incorporated the “M” too.

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~ Crazy Town ~

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When your dad’s been in multiple hospitals for seven months following a severe hemorrhagic stroke, and you’ve spent each day (except for maybe 8) at these hospitals, laughter or anything resembling joy seems unimaginable, and yet…

Dad has good days and bad. Not just physically, but cognitively too. Sometimes, he’s very much himself – business-minded, philosophical, funny, obsessed with Tiger Woods and Samsung – and other times, he’s a little off. I lovingly refer to these moments as “Crazy Town.”

Dad’s post-stroke brain is fascinating. It gets cross-wired in the most curious ways. Sometimes, he’s missing a few connective links. Other times, he gathers bits of information here and there and weaves together a tale that he then fixates on, like a needle stuck in an album’s groove, repeating over and over and over.

My Wife’s Husband

The other day, dad and I were chatting about how everyone in the family has pitched in during the last seven months.

“What about your sister and M?” he asked.

“Yeah, they both work hard and are helping,” I replied.

Then he mentioned his wife and asked, “What about her husband?”

“Daddy… her husband? Who’s her husband?”

Pause.

I continued, “If she’s your wife, then who’s her husband?”

Pause.

“I am,” he said.

Pause.

“Well,” he said, laughing, “He’s not contributing much is he?”

How Do You Say In Your Language?

A couple of months ago, a guitar-playing singer came to the hospital to perform for the patients. From that moment on, the guitar became dad’s object of desire.

“Get me the guitar,” he’d say repeatedly, insisting he needed to practice.

“There’s no guitar here,” I’d reply repeatedly, through increasingly clenched teeth.

“Over there, get me the guitar,” he’d say, pointing to random objects – a face cloth, a magazine, a bag.

“That’s not a guitar daddy, it’s a pile of sheets.”

“How do you expect me to fucking play the guitar, if I can’t fucking practice?”

About a week later, I took dad to a neurologist appointment. It was the first one since his stroke, so I was especially anxious to hear the doctor’s thoughts on prognosis and recovery. After waiting for more than three freaking hours in a hallway holding area, dad was tired, hungry and circling Crazy Town.

I decided to tape record the examination, so that I could focus on engaging with the doctor, not take a bunch of notes. As the session began, the doctor asked me to provide some background – dad’s general health, the moments leading up to the stroke, yada, yada, yada…

“Okay honey,” Dad, interrupted. “Just pass me the guitar first.”

Oh God, not now. Not in front of the doctor.

“Daddy, there’s no guitar here,” I said, smiling at the doctor.

“What?”

“There’s no guitar. We’re in a doctor’s appointment, so let’s just focus for a second okay?”

Come on daddy, hang in there.

The doctor introduced himself to dad, told him he was going to talk to me for a bit, then examine him.

“Do you have another guitar?” Dad asked. “Can I at least see if I can get my fingers around it?”

Crickets… crickets…

“Does your dad speak English?” the doctor asked.

 Crickets…

“Well yeah,” I said, my face all screwed. “He’s speaking English right now.”

How do you say in your language? Crazy Town?

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