Random DCenes: Just Beat It

You won’t find Malcolm X Park on any map of DC. Only long time locals call Meridian Hill Park that. And it’s on Sundays where you’ll find the legendary drum circle.

On really nice days in the summer, you’ll find dozens of drummers playing to hundreds of onlookers including a number of dedicated African dancers.

On a chillier late winter day like last Sunday, only the die hards are out. You can count them all on your two gloved hands.

It’s easy to get caught up in the thunder of up to 50 drummers playing at a time, but with more intimate numbers, you can enjoy the interplay between the musicians. What they lack in people they make up in enthusiasm.

On this particular day I catch the leader of the group in an especially whimsical mood, yelling and jawing over the din of the rhythmic rumble. He playfully riffs on familiar songs despite or maybe because he doesn’t quite know all the words to them.

This song starts off with some James Brown. Then into Stevie Wonder. We hear the end of “Do I Do” right before he launches into a mini-Michael Jackson medley.

Unfortunately, my camera battery dies before his Sesame Street tribute.

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There’s a meme going around citing that a good reason to dump Facebook is because you spend more time reading about the inanities of your friends’ lives as opposed to classic literature like War and Peace.

I have no intention of reading War and Peace any time soon. Never thought about it before I got a Facebook account, and my current disposition doesn’t bode well for it happening in the near future. To be honest, my ability to get through a book has diminished greatly with age.  There used to be a time where I could polish off a 500 page novel in a week or two.  Not so much anymore. I can’t get past a paragraph before I stare off into space considering it, dozing off for a few minutes, and then re-reading the same passage trying to figure out where I left off.  In light of that, 420 character updates suit me just fine.

Lots of people that bag on our dependence on technology these days posit that our virtual interactions are just that: Not real. Apparently reading a work of fiction qualifies as real now.  My parents didn’t buy that when I was growing up, so I’m not sure why it would fly now.

I’m not saying that Facebook and the internet can’t be a distraction. I have to admit that I’ve been wrestling a bit of writer’s block. Not for lack of anything to write about.  I think of plenty of things while I‘m walking around. In fact I sound like a effin’ genius during my morning and afternoon commutes. But I haven’t been able to put much of anything down when I’m in front of my computer, even if I sit in front of it for hours on end. To be sure,I’m not just staring idly at it.

I spent last weekend in Baltimore hoping that a change in scenery would inspire me to write.  Instead, I uploaded pictures of my friend’s pets while she was away dancing in Korea. While procrastinating on YouTube, I found a video of her performing there just a little over a day after it happened. I also kept up with different trips of friends to New York City and Montreal. Later I found videos of more of my friends performing in Switzerland.

The tie that connects them all is that I met them all while dancing here in Washington, DC. Facebook, YouTube, and blogs like this one help me to keep track of them, and they of me.

I’ve never known  my friend Lori to be a writer.  Although, it has been a long time since we’ve spent any time together. She and I started taking Lindy Hop classes together a long time ago.  Twice a week during the semester while she was getting her masters in social work at the same university where I was working. I remember days where we would sneak into empty spaces we could find around campus and work on a few things we just learned.

As it tends to happen, I developed a crush on her. I devised a whole plan to spend time with her under the guise of preparing to compete at the Virginia State Open. That never happened. I lost contact with her only to later find out that she went to take care of a friend who eventually passed away that summer. I didn’t see her out dancing very much after that as her career kept her working long hours at various hospitals.

Many years later, she started showing up at dances again and was actually coming on to me this time around. Unfortunately, I was dating someone else at the time. By the time I broke up with that woman, Lori moved to Cleveland.

We emailed a couple of times. At one point she asked me the lead’s footwork for some Charleston variation. Turns out she was trying to teach some guy she was dating. I’m pretty sure that’s the guy she ended up marrying. I found that out after I found her on Facebook not long after I first signed up. After that, we kept up in the same way most of us keep up with our more casual Facebook friends: exchanging the occasional comment or “like” on random status updates.

A little over nine months ago she announced that she was pregnant, and most of her updates related to getting ready for the arrival of Sophie.

Enough of your friends get married and have children, you tend to tune them out. I don’t block them formally. I just tend to gloss over details of a life that’s a little foreign to me in my bachelorhood. Sorry guys.

I was checking my Facebook account on my phone at the end of a dance a few weeks ago when I saw the first note from Lori. It was the kind of thing you don’t ever want to read about the birth of a new born.

I couldn’t finish reading it. I can’t imagine what it took to write it. I don’t know if I could do the same under those circumstances. I hope that I never have to find out.

I can’t go into specifics. It’s not that it’s secret. She put it out there for all of her friends to know. I just know that I wouldn’t be able to do her her story justice.

The amazing and agonizing thing is that it wasn’t just one note. It was many over the course of three weeks. All documenting 20 precious days. I admit that these notes got me to look up what palliative care was.

This story doesn’t have a happy ending. I only know that because I just read the most powerful and personal piece of writing I have ever seen. It’s much longer than 420 characters. It’s not War and Peace, but it is very real.

I don’t know what else to say, but I just want to do something to let my friends know that I’m thinking of you wherever you are.

Return of the Old School

I was perusing the Herrang teacher line up just to check it out even though I don’t have any plans on going. Being the center of the Lindy-verse, it’s a just interesting to see who they’re bringing in each year. I have no plans to do another analysis like I did last year, but I noticed a few new names including Laura Glaess & Mike Roberts, Alice Mei & Thomas Blacharz, and Sarah Breck & Dax Hock.

One name that jumped out at me was Marty Lau, which is funny because I was talking about him with a few friends just this weekend. He’s teaching Balboa during week three with Sylvia Sykes.

Marty was one of my teachers when I started to really get into dancing, when he was teaching with Carla Heiney, and before that, with Naomi Uyama and Nina Gilkenson. He was one of the few guys out there who could really nail the Dean Collins style, but brought a sense of personal flair that really made his dancing distinct from his influences.

Even though he was one of the ringleaders of bringing back the idea of “raw” to Lindy Hop, his execution was crisp, his lines sharp, and had sense of connection that one other teacher compared to telepathy. I even remember David Rehm starting a thread on the old SwingoutDC on the delphi boards entitled something like “The Online Shrine to Marty Lau.” Read the rest of this entry »

Then & Now: Jo & Nick

Seriously, you should “like” the Wandering & Pondering Facebook Page.  Even if you’re not on Facebook yet, you should join just to catch up with that page because I’m lacking in the time for long form blog posts right now, and I already put up six links on the Facebook site.

I should have had time last weekend, but I made the mistake of hanging out with Andrew Thigpen in Baltimore last weekend.  These two things that are dangerous by themselves, but when combined they become combustible.  Let’s just say that line dancing and copious amounts of bacon were involved. Greasy good times were had by all.

Anyway, my issue right now is that I have a few big ideas I want to tie together and the recent “Live to Dance” and Lone Star Championships have provided me with some good framing devices.  I just don’t have the time to make it all coherent.

I think I’ll probably break it up into sections, and hopefully I’ll talk a bit about the Lone Star Championships by next week. Until then I thought I’d point out Jo Hoffberg’s dance with Nick Williams in the Invitational Jack & Jill of that event.

Like the Nina and Jeremy video I posted a couple of weeks ago, I thought it would be fun to show this old school video of Jo & Nick drawing each other in the first Champions Jack & Jill at the American Lindy Hop Championships in 2002. Read the rest of this entry »

How Ya Like Me Now?

Announcing the next stage on my road to internet domination: the Wondering & Pondering official Facebook presence.

Like it here.

It occurred to me that I keep amassing links and videos that I hope to post on this blog, but since I always want to do it up all fancy like, they just kinda languish in the ether.

So I’ll use the Facebook page to pass along the articles and random videos of interest that I don’t have time to discuss in depth here.  And I’ll also post links to new posts from here as well.  It’ll be like a secret club except everyone will know about it.  Everyone.

It’ll also be a good way for people to connect with me on FB.  Honestly, I still feel a little weird accepting friend requests from people I’ve never met before.  I know plenty of you read the blog, but I’d like to reserve my personal FB page for people I know directly.  So if we’re FB friends now, but we’ve never met, there’s a good chance I may be cutting you loose soon.  It’s nothing personal, but . . .  you know . . . there’s just nothing personal between us. But then, you’ll have this new Facebook page to Like and we can keep up that way.

I also realized that I spent an entire post describing my YouTube favoriting rationale, but forgot to link to my YouTube page.

That’s this thing here: http://www.youtube.com/user/jalmon007

Feel free to subscribe.  Or just hit refresh a lot, waiting for the next embarrassing old video to pop up.

Tell your friends.

Ernest Goes to School

I still don’t have a lot of time to do a longer blog, but I thought I’d share a few videos in addition to the pictures I took in Atlantic City this past weekend.

I don’t make it a secret that I’m a big fan of The Boilermaker Jazz Band, and one of the many reasons is bassist Ernest McCarty.  I’ve talked about him before, (there’s a lot to talk about this super interesting guy) but he’s also the main reason for these videos.  He was On from the very beginning.  Within a minute of their first song, he caused me to go grab my camera to capture the funk he was laying down.

The Boilermakers had to field a rare substitute on drums that night.  It’s not often that Paul can’t bring one of his two regular drummers (Rich Strong or Tom Davis). But even without knowing that, you could tell he never played with Ernest just from the look on his face for most of the night as he kept staring at Ernest with equal parts amazement and inspiration.

There was another band led by Michael Arenella that played right before the Boilermakers.  The bassist for that band had packed up and was in the process of leaving when the Boilermakers started this first song below.  Upon hearing Ernest, that dude stopped, turned around, put his stuff back down, and stood next to the stage by Ernest just wearing a smile of pure delight.  You can sort of hear him yelling in the background towards the end of this video.

This next video is  from the end of the second set.  Read the rest of this entry »