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.
I'm thankful for quite a few things this weekend. First off, I'm thankful for all the kind words from everyone concerning my grandfather both online and off. A good chunk of my family went to the Philippines for the funeral, which I couldn't make, but I'm also thankful to my extended Lindy family for providing a warm substitute. Especially to Naomi and her family for hosting me for yet another Thanksgiving. Also To Nina and Michael for hosting a fun post Thanksgiving dance party complete with a dramatic late night reading of soft core erotica by Nina. If you ever wonder who is the crazier of the two, Michael is always game for a competition
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.
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.
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.
Benny Powell passed away this weekend just at a time when I’ve been considering the concept of humility quite a bit lately. Benny played trombone for Count Basie through much of the New Testament period of that orchestra. I had the pleasure of meeting him while working on Frankie95 last year. He was one of the more prolific musicians during the weekend. He co-led the band for Frankie’s memorial service. Then the next night my man just showed up to play when he didn't have to. He confused the heck out of everyone because we thought he just got his nights mixed up since he was scheduled to play with Wycliff Gordon and Art Baron on Monday night. But he heard of the three big bands playing on Saturday, and just wanted to be there.
Nina Gilkenson is an incredible storyteller. One of the things I marvel at, no matter where we are, is how she’s able to captivate friends and strangers alike by talking about anything, up to and including paint dry. I was reminded of this even as she told stories about a week I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The waiting room of an Intensive Care Unit is not normally a very festive place, but it felt that way last Friday. I brought dinner from my favorite place to eat in the city. No one was in the mood to make a decision about food when I called earlier, so I used that as an excuse to get everything on the menu that looked good to me. We were all pretty hungry anyway by the time I got to the hospital.
You can’t control Falling in Love. That’s where the Falling part comes in, and why everything that comes after that can be so beautiful or so tragic. Sometimes both and maybe even at the same time. Falling is uncontrollable. If it could be controlled, then it would be Flying. Flying is how some of the old timers describe the way Frankie Manning danced. Flying is also what superheroes do. Frankie probably would have laughed off that comparison, but it’s a better description than you would think. After all, heroes give us Hope.
Hope is about possibilities and opportunities. There are now thousands of people around the world that can express themselves in a way that should have disappeared decades ago because Frankie taught them to Swing.
Swing is the way your Soul expresses itself. It's not just about music or movements. Swing about creating something new or different out of something familiar. Frankie once bragged that he could Swing even when he was standing still.
But when we Swing too hard or Hope for too much, sometimes we Fall. It felt like that a year ago. But that was Frankie’s final lesson to us: that Falling isn't always a bad thing. A year ago, something tragic eventually turned into something very beautiful.
Flying is not the opposite of Falling. It’s just another way of doing it differently.
May 26, 1914 - April 27, 2009
I apologize for the lack of updates this week. Been a short but busy week at work, since I had to cram a lot of stuff in before I head up to the Boston Tea Party. If you're lucky, I might update from there. Even if I don't I've been working on a special project that will spawn many an interesting posts. I also have a good part from Ramona to follow up her first installment of "Looking Back," so you have that to look forward to as well. I'm also sorry to say that I haven't had much of a chance to work on "Artistry in Rhythm." I have an outline of the re-write done, and although I'll be using big chunk of stuff I already wrote for it, it'll probably be some time before I finish it.
In the mean time, I'm making plans to re-post the multi-part epic that was my brain dump of Frankie95, so be on the look out for that.
As for the DCLX interview I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. There's been a delay because it's been deemed too sensitive for the family friendly DCLX website, so it had to undergo some editing. It should be up on that site within the next couple of weeks; probably before DCLX on April 9-11 I would think. An unedited version may be leaked to the public in a yet to be disclosed location . . .
Until all that fun happens, have a good weekend, and I'll leave you with your Friday moment of video zen. Watch Josh Welter's tribute to Peter Strom in this year's Savoy Swing Jam Jack & Jill finals in Seattle a couple of weekends ago. You won't have to wait very long since it happens right at the begining.
btw, he and his partner won that contest.
The idea that roosters only crow at dawn is a damn dirty lie. They pretty much crow whenever they feel like it, which seems to be any part of the day or night. It's something you notice when you're trying to sleep at any part of the day or night. It took me a little while to notice that my sleep schedule pretty much resembles what it's like when I'm at a dance weekend. I start to crash at about 7:00-8:00 pm local time which is about 6 or 7 am EST, and I wake up about 5 hours later which is roughly the early afternoon back in DC. I don't get comfortable sleeping in strange places and I'm usually attuned to getting up early for work anyway. The result is that there's a big chunk of time when I'm awake and no one else is around.