Wandering & Pondering has a new home

After 4 years on WordPress, I decided to consolidate all my interests including this blog onto my new site:

JerryAlmonte

Please click the link above to find the new home for this blog and update your links and RSS feeds because this site will no longer be updated and will eventually close.

Have no fear, because all will not be lost. I’ve exported everything to the new site and was able to update most of the dead links. You’ll find the first post on the blog to be a handy summary and guide to all my writings.

The adventure will continue . . .

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Updates to the Wandering & Pondering-verse

Believe it or not, I am working on a few different posts, but writing is coming slower than usual these days. I was never a very quick or succinct writer, and now I’m bogged down with my new twin obsessions of video making and photography. Discovering that using a camera involves more than pointing it and pressing a button has been both the most rewarding and frustrating things I’ve done recently, but at least I’m getting a better grasp of what I’m doing (and not doing.)

DCLX 2013 Sunday 154

This picture is from this past DCLX where I also undertook a pretty ambitious video project of coordinating three other camera operators to try to capture the triple bill of Bria Skonberg, The Boilermaker Jazz Band, and DC’s own Blue Crescent Syncopators all playing on one stage. I even got to sit down and do an interview with the very talented Ms.Skonberg. I’m just starting the process of going through the footage to put together something . . . fun? Educational? Yes. Hopefully.

Although it doesn’t seem like there’s much going on here on this blog, I’m relatively busy updating across “platforms” as the kids like to say these days. This is quick run down of what I’m up to around the ether:

  • As always, the Facebook page for this blog is updated regularly. I aim for at least two posts a day (one article and one video) Monday-Thursday, one on Friday, and the odd weekend posting depending on what’s going down. Posts are usually links for and about the dance community around the world.
  • My YouTube channel is probably the next busiest with a new video every few weeks. It’s either an old dance video from the vault, or more often these days, something I’ve recorded. My most recent adventure to the wilds of The Mobtown Ballroom captured the elusive Laura Glaess and Mike Roberts cavorting to the sounds of the Boilermaker Jazz Band.

  • The Tumblr blog, New Old School Swing, hasn’t seen too much action, although I did post a couple of weeks ago about the epic Basie Ball Hellzapoppin contest in 2004.
  • My Twitter handle is J_S_Almonte, but has only seen links to new posts on this blog. I’m going to try to make it more of a habit of posting my 140 character thoughts.
  • Also, I have a vimeo page now. There’s only one video there, a short video I took at the White House in the aftermath of the 2012 US Presidential Election, but I’m going to post some of my more creative video projects there eventually.

  • I’m also contributing news items to Yehoodi’s Swing Nation, a weekly video show hosted by Manu Smith, Nicole Zuckerman, and Rik Panganiban (I refuse to refer to anyone by their Yehoodi usernames. That’s so last decade.) They talk about the current goings on across Lindy Hop and it’s extended family. I don’t actively participate in the production of the show, but I was a guest on one of the first episodes.

Speaking of news, I recently scouted out a possible new hotel for the International Lindy Hop Championships for 2014. The event gets bigger and bigger every year. We’re already past 500 registrations and on track to sell out this year. If you’re not registered, then I suggest you get on that like a duck in heat.

With all this talk of video, I should also mention that I’m honored to be part of the judging panel for this years Jazz Dance Film Festival. It’s really one of the more unique opportunities in our scene, so if you have any inkling of putting together a short video for this year’s festival, head over to the website and check it out. Putting together a short film sounds like a big deal, but you’d be surprised at how accessible they make it. At the very least, watch all the really cool videos from past festivals.

Other than a recent vacation with the family to the United Arab Emirates, I’m not travelling as much this year, so ILHC will be the next event I’ll be attending. I still DJ regularly around the DC-Baltimore area at exotic places like Chevy Chase Ballroom, The Jam Cellar, and The Mobtown Ballroom. If you can’t hang out at any of those places, then you can always drop me a message through the Facebook page for this blog.

Boom Heartedly,

Jerry

Middle East Cruise 3462

Pondering

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.

Favorite Favorites 2010: We Are Lindy Hop

People come to this dance for all kinds of reasons.  A common one is often escapism; dancing as a chance to get away from it all.  Modern life can be filled with a lot of superficial interactions both online and in person.  Social dance gives you an opportunity to for a kind of real and intimate one on one interaction that you can’t find almost anywhere else-at least not without getting tested before or after.

Nina Gilkenson & Todd YannaconeMidwest Lindyfest 2010

Newbies and veterans alike usually have a vision of a perfect dance.  A dance where everything comes together for both people; creatively, physically, and emotionally.  This performance is that dance. Read the rest of this entry »

Proof

I remember back in ye olden days of the early aughts and surfing Lindy Hop message boards, trying to figure out who knew what they were talking about was such a pain in the ass.  Often times people who were actually knowledgeable would be the least serious commenters.

Rayned Wiles would answer half the time in verse while Reuben Brown delighted in threading the line between snark and trolldom.  I remember thinking that Peter Loggins and Jenn Salvadori needed editors or be a bit less quick on the draw with their posts and how polite Mike Faltesek was when he was slamming you and everything you stood for.  Out of frustration with less knowledgeable posters, David Rehm half jokingly devised a whole merit system where people would only be allowed to post on a topic based on their dance experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Lucky

My grandfather was a simple animal farmer.  He raised chickens and pigs for a living , and there are still some roosters still wondering around.   They didn’t crow, but they looked like they were taunting me to let me know that they could at any moment.

Selling eggs and piglets is how he and my grandmother sent my aunts and uncles to college.  He was a hard man.  His main condition to his children was that they didn’t fraternize with the opposite sex until they were done with their education.  It didn’t stop most of them, but he did bust one of my aunts.   Upon discovery of her relationship, he gave her $100 (US)  and a blanket, and promptly disowned her.  He mellowed out years later, and eventually built her a house next to his.

A few years ago, my mother’s brothers and sisters (there are 10 total including my mom) decided to build a huge house on my grandfather’s land for him to live in and all of them to retire to.   Grandpa objected at first, but his animal farming business went bankrupt after his health started to decline.  He’s not doing very well these days, but he’s at home because there’s nowhere else to take him.  He spends most of his days sitting on the porch in his wheelchair.  He doesn’t remember very much anymore.  My mother tells me that one of my aunts just finished a three week stay with him and he couldn’t remember who she was or that she was even there.

My grandfather’s English was never very good, and he’s now near deaf and blind.    People still talk to him, but it usually involves repeatedly yelling, point blank into his ear.  After numerous attempts to identify me, he asked how old I am.  I told them and they loudly relayed that information to him.  After about a minute, he turned in my general direction and and said in very clear english, “You’re old.”

I swear he had a glint in his eye, the same one I remember as a kid when he visited us in the states.  My parents would normally speak in their home dialect, but they switched to English during an argument when he was there.  I looked over the dinner table, and saw a little twinkle in his eye that seemed to tell me that he knew more than he let on.

I wrote that last Spring during my visit to the Phillipines.  I wish I had more to say about my grandfather, but I only met him a few times and I pretty much used all the interesting stories I know about him.  I’m sure I’ll hear more of them over the holidays.

As I waited Manila Airport for my flight out to Japan, I got some food from a small store attended by a young woman.  From my incredibly privileged position, I couldn’t help but think how much it must suck to be up hours before dawn cooking for travelers in such a cramped space for not very much money.  As I thanked her for my food, it occurred to me that she was relatively lucky compared to many of the people I had met there, living in poverty with little to no means of creating a better life.

I was able to visit my grandfather one more time before I left.  This time around, he wasn’t very mobile and couldn’t leave the bed.  Despite everything happening to him physically and mentally, he still recognized me which is remarkable since he didn’t recognize much of anything by that point.  I could say I’m lucky, but a lot of that is because of the efforts of him and my grandmother to put most of their 11 children through college.  Without that education, it would have been very difficult for my mother to come to the states where she would raise me to sit around and blog about Lindy Hop.

I spend quite a bit of time on this blog talking about the visual aspects of dance, but hardly anytime talking about the physical aspects of touch in social dancing.   I noted in a recent post on Yehoodi that talking about dance has only become practical recently because technology now allows people in different places to see the same thing.  This is part of the reason why I don’t address that physical aspect of touch.  I just don’t feel I can do it justice with words.

I thought about this as I sat next to my grandfather isolated from the chatter around us because neither of us could participate in the conversation, albeit for very different reasons.   At one point I put my hand on his arm because it was the only way I could let him know I was there.

The last thing I did before I left was hold his hand one more time.  I consider myself very lucky for that opportunity.

Rest in peace Grandpa.

Connection Through Culture

My parents visited me this weekend which gave me a lot of time to think about a few things.   Dance related and otherwise.  My mother cooked dinner because she bought me this new fangled cooking machine and wanted to show me how to use it. And by show me, she just did everything herself as my dad and I watched a movie. Even though we were far away from where they raised me, I found myself immersed in familiar sights, smells, and sounds.

My parents speak English fairly well. My mother’s is better than my dad’s. But they mainly speak Pangasinan or Tagalog to get their point across to close friends and relatives or just to each other. It used to annoy me growing up. Not so much anymore. I’ve come to appreciate what it means to be able to fully express yourself in the most comfortable way. Read the rest of this entry »

My ILHC 2010 in Pictures

So much for updating in a timely fashion.  Things are just starting to settle down, but I thought I’d at least share some photos I took over the weekend.  I’m not claiming to be much of a photographer although it’s something I’d like to get into more.  I just got a new camera last month and it’s the first time I’ve owned one in over 10 years, so picture quality has a lot to be desired.  A few others were taken with my new Droid 2 phone that I got the weekend before ILHC.  All things considered, I figure that this is the easiest way to show you my weekend until I have the time to write up something more substantial.

Thanks to everyone coming out and supporting the event! Read the rest of this entry »

DCLX Interview: UNCENSORED!

I did an interview with Bobby White (of Swungover fame) for the DCLX website last March, but some of my original answers were deemed not wholesome enough for that  family friendly site.

Damn The Man!

(Not you Bobby.  I’m referring to a more generic, omnipotent “Man,”)

So I present the unedited version here.  There isn’t that much more, but you can play where’s Waldo with my saltier answers while I put the final trimmings on ILHC.

When did you first start dancing, and what was one memory that sticks out from that time?

My first class was January, 1999, but I didn’t go out regularly until winter 2000/2001.  Until then it was just something to do once a week.  The thing that really drew in was finally going to the dances around DC and experiencing the energy of the people and then later the creative possibilities of the dance. Read the rest of this entry »

Random DCene: Yes We Can

Reggie lived in the alcove of a rarely used building next to mine for quite a few years.  He was always hustling for cash; whether it was by washing  cars, pointing out available parking spaces to the visiting suburbanites, or just hanging out on the corner.

He was usually very friendly.  I think I saw him more than I did most other neighbors.  We always said hello to each other. He was there for years, I think even before I moved there.  Although I give money to homeless people on occasion, I never gave him anything partially out of my own financial situation and partially not to encourage him as we saw each other almost every day.

One day we started to go through the motions of our usual interaction when he just exploded at me for never giving him any change.  He cursed me out and accused me of being selfish.  It was a pretty unusual outburst.  We just stared each other down.  Me mostly out of surprise before I told him that I just didn’t have anything on me.

I left that encounter a little disturbed because I had been contemplating the concept of selfishness at that time, but not in the same sort of context.  Still, it gave me some more things to think about.  In appreciation I cooked a whole meal for Reggie the next day.  I just gave it to him without a word.  There were no apologies or thanks exchanged.

The next time I saw him he thanked me and told me a little bit about his life.  His family was gone and he had no one to turn to.   We shook hands for the first time in eight years.

He disappeared not long after that.  He did that from time to time, but eventually weeks became months and I feared the worst.

I went to go vote on Election Day back in 2008, and after I came out of the voting station I ran into Reggie in front of a shelter.  We shook hands again and he told me he was getting his life together.  He asked me to tell the folks in my building that he was doing alright.

I just spoke with my ANC commissioner today.  She was gathering up signatures to put her on the ballot again this fall, and she told me that she spoke to some of my neighbors who relayed the news that Reggie had come by our building recently.  He was in a suit and told everyone about his job and how he was about to get a car.  He wanted to thank everyone for letting him live in those bushes next door to us for all those years.

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