Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Salsa Saturday and Sunday and Monday

It's almost a year now since I started taking salsa lessons at the studio here in Austin. I could never have imagined what it would feel like, and how I would be a year later. I probably would have expected more, quicker, but as it is, there's been steady progress. I've come a long way, I've way, way further to go. But it's been in increments that I can't even really delineate. For months I couldn't spin, and now I can. There are still others much better than me, and plenty worse. I navigate through the classes trying to keep up with the guys who are pushing me, and instructing the others that are getting their feet wet. It's great. Still challenging. Still totally invigorating. And pushing it up to the next level. Some Sunday nights now I head out after 10pm to the local club where others from my studio gather. It takes all my energy to walk in the door. But once there, it's tremendous fun to dance with the familiars. These strangers are strangers still, but we're connected with a kind of kindness and shared interest. In the off moments I steel myself from the humiliation, "Ugh no one to dance with. Why are they all dancing with her? (even though I know the answer to that one...). It's OK to sit and watch. It's OK."

Saturday I went to a two hour workshop in the middle of the day. A room full of women, almost all younger, almost all thinner. And we worked on styling. Owning the look of the dance. Using our shoulders, and arms, fingers extended, body rolls and hips moving. It's hard! It's hard not to feel like an idiot. At the same time, if you don't make the effort, you don't look great. The challenge is to ride out that middle period - before you look good, still working on it. I tell my daughter later, "you could think me ridiculous for trying in this room full of younger women, or you could think, 'this is great my mom is working on this.'" "I think it's great," she responds.

Later in the evening, after The Simpsons Movie with John, I head out again for the monthly salsa social. Each moment these days more precious as the most talented teacher is leaving soon for NYC. I haven't been since December or January. As always, I worry whether I'll have partners. But it's fine. I do. I dance so much the back of my neck and hair are completely wet. It's fun! There are two guys I dance with who know my level, and are sheer joy. With the others, I struggle up and down. The better guys are looking for something I don't exactly know how to follow. The newer, just trying to keep the beat and manage some simple moves. I'm happy to help them through. Back leading when necessary or just following to help them gain confidence. Once and awhile there's a shared glance and respectful distance. I know the guys see me, I try to emote that it's OK they're not asking me to dance. Other times I just stand and watch - digging the more talented. Both trying to learn and just enjoying the show. The star teacher and her partner insanely fabulous. When I head out @ 12:45 I feel invigorated and good. Proud I put myself out there and enjoyed myself.

Sunday I feel warmed up as the regular class starts. Monday, more exhilaration kicks in with Salsa 3, then 2 back to back. I'm trying to soak it all in before this special teacher moves on. Of course yes, there are other talented teachers at the studio but Azucena is amazing, both in her performance and teaching. I'm kicking myself that I wasn't ready earlier to add the On2 classes on Wednesday nights or sign up for the boot camp. I wish I could have pushed up earlier. But it just didn't work out. I had Monday night conflicts, as well as a natural learning curve.

But it's all cool here almost a year later. I'm so glad I started. I'm so glad I stuck with it. I'm excited to continue.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Friday Night Lights HEB style

A Friday night trip to the local HEB totally worth it!. Check out that Texas sky.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Werner Herzog - a genius, a treasure

I'm just crazy about Werner Herzog's work, and really love his voice. Listening right this minute to Terry Gross interviewing him on Fresh Air about his new film Rescue Dawn. We were able to see the film at the Austin Film Festival back in Oct. It's harrowing and compelling with stellar performances by Christan Bale and Steve Zahn. Definitely recommended.

Check out the interview on podcast/streaming if you can. I love hearing him talk about almost anything, but I particularly love statements like this,
"It wasn't that bad, it was fairly bad, but it could have been much worse. We both had malaria and other tropical diseases...but that's OK - you go through things like that."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

This is me = Transition Anxiety

This is me. From Oprah's August issue by Martha Beck:

Emma is a poster girl for Newton's first law of motion: Once she starts doing something, she just keeps doing it until acted upon by some external force. Each day when Emma's alarm clock rings, she drowsily hits the snooze button several times. The shower, when she finally gets there, is so steamy and fragrant, she lingers twice as long as strictly necessary. She dresses hurriedly, only to check the mirror and change. And so it goes: Coffee savoring takes 15 minutes; lipstick experimentation, five minutes; car key searching, another 10. Emma often arrives at the office late—but that's okay, because once there, she works into the night, until an external force in the form of her frustrated husband calls to see if she's alive. Emma stays up late to offer compensatory companionship, ensuring that in the morning, when the alarm clock rings, she'll be too tired to get up.

People either think Emma is an inconsiderate laggard or they shrug off her chronic difficulty making transitions, give her lavish time cushions, and judge her based on anything but punctuality. There's a key difference between people who become irritated with Emma and those who share Emma's inability to segue from one thing to the next. (continued)

Who knew there was a name for it? I realized years ago that it wasn't just that I tended to be late or couldn't keep track of time. It's that I'm usually happiest wherever I am. The next thing is less important. I'm just not restless that way. It's more of a Be Here Now. And isn't that the zen goal? That's the rationalization anyway. In practice, it's a real mixed bag.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Errol Morris - great new blog/essay on truth and photos

Erroll Morris is one of the most gifted minds of our generation. His films are in a class of their own. Check out this first in what's going to be a NYT series entitled Zoom: A Filmmaker Uncovers the Hidden Truths of Photos.

Pictures are supposed to be worth a thousand words. But a picture unaccompanied by words may not mean anything at all. Do pictures provide evidence? And if so, evidence of what? And, of course, the underlying question: do they tell the truth?

I have beliefs about the photographs I see. Often – when they appear in books or newspapers – there are captions below them, or they are embedded in explanatory text. And even where there are no explicit captions on the page, there are captions in my mind. What I think I’m looking at. What I think the photograph is about.

I have often wondered: would it be possible to look at a photograph shorn of all its context, caption-less, unconnected to current thought and ideas? It would be like stumbling on a collection of photographs in a curiosity shop – pictures of people and places that we do not recognize and know nothing about. I might imagine things about the people and places in the photographs but know nothing about them. Nothing. (continued)

Thanks to Anthony Kaufman's always interesting blog for the tip.

How Many Producers Does it Take to?

My good friend Anita writes:
Can I ask you something? We were watching Entourage tonight and as always we joke about how many producers there are - executive, co-executive, associate, etc. etc. Is that a joke they do or for real?

I love this - that she actually thought it could be a put on. After I explained it to her - all the various roles that producers can play, whether it's bringing dollars, or the deal, the idea, or the physical logistics. How TV is even more of a producer's medium, therefore enabling even more producer credits. She responded:

Well my kids will be impressed that I actually will be able to answer the question about the producers. The list goes on and on and then it finally says "Produced by..." as if all the earlier producers didn't actually do any work. Who knows.

Funny to hear the feedback from the lay world - although, it's not as though we're not sitting there counting them up ourselves, wondering who's really doing all the work.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bastille Day, my daughter turns 20

On Saturday my daughter turned 20. That's 20 years for me as a mom. While the passage of time has always been notable, the birthday celebrations have not. I probably have too much of my own birthday baggage. Slumber parties gone horribly wrong with crying fits from jealousy and social insecurities. For years I did throw her parties but I don't remember them being that much fun. The memories are of stress and relief, not joy. Although it was amusing to let the girls camp out in the Split Screen RV one year when it was parked by the house. Then she was often away at sleep away camp. Last year she was working. The year before grounded.

This Bastille Day, light years away from any other in terms of personal learning curve and growth, she originally planned to throw a bbq at her new place. Starting later than expected, we decided instead to have brunch before I treat her to the food shopping. Kerbey Lane for migas con queso w/ verde sauce on the side. We take our time, the three of us (including the live-in boyfriend) having too good a time to do anything else. We end up back at the house, hanging with Dad and bro w/ some of his friends, relaxed, happy, good to all be together. After a short break, we re-convene for dinner at Dona Emilios for delicious food and pitchers of Mojitos. John leaves us, G's girlfriend takes his place, and we crack up at Maestro - the comedy improv competition show at the Hideout. It's funny to be at this little event at my daughter's suggestion, comparing where we laugh and don't. A moment for me to tag along in their life together. Then out for after drinks at the Elephant Bar - meeting up with a graffiti artist pal of the bf. He has a totally cool look - black hat, fabulous strong graphic tee. We admire his newest badass tattoo. Listen while the guys talk about "back in the day." I'm seeing my daughter in her life. Enjoying it all.

Dropping me off at home (after Claudette's sums up my mothering: "Your mom's great! Doesn't say anything about the fake ID and the drinks out, but she's complaining about the open glass of water in your car!" - which was dead on - I was appalled at the open glass in the console, filled with water. Hadn't they ever heard of water bottles? But I digress....) dropping me off at my house, while the bf steps outside to pee, my daughter gives me a hug and says, 'This was the best birthday ever!" I'm touched, and humbled, appreciative and grateful.

Sports Names making us laugh

I'm not a sports follower for the most part, save the NBA finals and getting caught up in some local football now that I live in Texas, but today John pointed out this site which really made me laugh. He was talking about it spurred on by a column in today's Statesman about how there are no nicknames in sports anymore. Apparently, this broadcaster Chris Berman (ESPN) has been making an effort for years. Here are a few favorites but it's worth checking out the entire list.

Rene Kook Arocha
Jesse Belly Up to the Barfield
Bad to the Bonilla
Jeff Dedmon
Don't Wear Plaid
Touchy Feeley
See Me Feeley

Check it out:

Monday, July 16, 2007

Glamour empowering women filmmakers via rookie celebs

I knew Gwyneth Paltrow had directed a short film but didn't know (or more likely remember) that it was for Glamour Magazine. Anne Thompson blogged about this today, linking to her more thorough Variety article. It's an interesting initiative, all the most interesting because it seems to be working to expand Glamour's audience while it's giving women directors practical hands on experience. This time readers were invited to submit essays. The selected winners provide the material for the celeb rookie directors. Women directors will also be invited to apply for a filmmaking grant. It's not the first time a corporation has attempted to tie in with the glamour (pun not intended but it works...) of filmmaking for it's own ends, but this seems to strike a strong balance on both sides.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Anima Rising - so what!

From one of my favorite Joni Mitchell's songs, "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow." (unfair to excerpt, it's so great), -- "Anima rising - So what!" echoing in my head as I feel my own anger rising. Christine Northrup, in the very beginning of her introduction to "The Wisdom of Menopause" writes,

In the year or two before I actually started to skip periods, I began to experience an increasingly common feeling of irritability whenever my work was interrupted or I had to contend with a co-worker or employee who was not as committed to accomplishing the job as I was. Looking back, I recall that when I was in my thirties and my children were younger, their interruptions when I was in the middle of writing an article or talking on the phone were only mildly irritating to me. My love and concern for their welfare usually overrode any anger or frustration I might have felt.
But as I approached menopause, I found myself unable to tolerate distractions like my eighteen-year-old asking me, "When is dinner?" when she could clearly see I was busy."
It's not a work thing so much for me, but clearly a rising intolerance aimed at those closest. For years I've been on the receiving end of that. The outburst of anger. Odd now to be the instigator. Maybe I should know better. Maybe it's unavoidable. This morning John asks, "So what about summer travel? Where would you like to go all things being equal?" And I become furious. Because in my view, things are not all equal. We've still got a 17-year-old at home, how can we pretend we have the freedom? But then of course I know what comes next. He'll start calling others, make some plans, will take off (which he can because he doesn't have to worry about leaving the son alone), and I'll be pissed off. Not exactly pissed off that I can't go because leaving a 17-year-old unchaperoned (even a great one!) isn't a great idea, but pissed at the charade that I had a choice.

In another instance I lashed out at a friend who I thought wasn't telling me the truth. He probably perceived it as a white lie. But to me that's the dividing line between those closer and less close. With the close, you're more straight, the honesty is the essence. In my code, white lies are for acquaintances. Yes, I'm aware that some others might see that exactly the opposite. But not me. Not right now.

It's going to be a challenging phase.

"Anima rising
Uprising in me tonight
She's a vengeful little goddess
With an ancient crown to fight"

Friday, July 13, 2007

Caroline Myss on creating chaos

A couple of years ago, I attended a workshop given by Carolyn Myss at the Crossings in Austin. I'd only a vague sense of who she was, but was intrigued enough to sign up. It was an unusual excursion for me, never having been before or since, nor even to the Crossing's sister retreat center in NY, oddly enough, near where we used to live. It was a terrific weekend, not only because Myss was a fascinating, moving speaker, but because (in a perfect case of synchronicity), an Austin friend I'd been trying to get together with for months, had also signed up for this workshop as a wild unknown on her own. It was the opposite of run of the mill, and we had a great time exploring this unfamiliar terrain together.

Today I received this from Myss.com and found it tremendously interesting:

Greetings myss.com subscribers

We are trying something new for the myss.com newsletter.

This content is from the past Austin healing workshop and we found it very interesting.

Have a great weekend.

For Teresa, again, the lower mansions are where you're going to do the work on your interior soul. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd – the most difficult mansion you're going to have to work with, the 1st mansion, of course, ties you to humiliation, chaos and the seduction of God, where you have to look at patterns of chaos in yourself and illness is a pattern of chaos, when you tie illness to chaos and how illness has created chaos in your life, how change has created chaos and how chaos has become a comfort zone, because it does. (Illness, not chaos)

In a chaotic way, you can create chaos for people - for example, an alcoholic. An alcoholic can create a lot of chaos for everybody, but it's his comfort zone – it's his comfort zone. And so, his idea of healing that chaos is very threatening, it doesn't work. Taking away his chaos is the worst thing in the world for him. So, for an alcoholic to have to admit, I create a lot of chaos is a moment of great enlightenment, but it's very threatening because that chaos is a sanctuary for him, it's a form of power, it's destruction for everyone else, but for him (or her) it's complete authority, it's a language.

You come up to the alcoholic and you say to him, "You have a problem," and before you have anything, the house is burning down, because he's convinced he doesn't have a problem, and the chaos is the blockade. We all something like that that has to do with the illness. Even if the chaos is the madness is where we can't figure out why in our insistence that we must have a reason, and the idea that there isn't a reason and what if this just an experience, what if this is (as John of the Cross would say) just a Dark Night, a situation where there is no reason and I simply need to battle my addiction to having to have a reason. I have an addiction to needing to have a reason, and that is what's breaking me in two, is because I am in a situation where there is no reason, and it's me versus God. And I insist on having a reason and heaven is saying, "So, sit there. I'm not giving you a reason, pout, starve, I don't care what you do. It is what it is, and that's the reason. Because I said so, and that's all that you need to do is endure. Bask in your self pity or just say so there it is, it is as it is."

Austin Healing Healing workshop 2007.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Joe Dante - trailers from Hell and on KUT Sunday 7/15

Heard about this great new website, Trailersfromhell.com via Anne Thompson's blog.

Great to see this new project by the always charming and entertaining Joe Dante. And nice coincidence - this Sunday (7/15/07), on KUT 's Best of Public Radio @ 11am will be broadcast John's terrific interview with Joe from this Spring's past UT Master Class. You can read about it here, later they'll post the interview. (The broadcast will also include his interview with George Ratliff whose excellent Joshua is opening in Austin this Friday. I highly recommend it! It's kind of a dark comedy, psychological thriller about a well to do NYC family and their spawn.)

Monday, July 09, 2007

salsa 3

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday slogging my way through Sunday salsa. Patiently re-learning a sequence learned months ago, calming the newer guys, and feeling totally like a dork. Knowing that if any of you saw me there, you'd be horrified. How can she be doing this? Group lessons in a mall. Patiently moving around and around in a circle, changing partners, learning a few steps at a time. But that's part of it. Talking to Adriana last Sunday - part of this whole experience is allowing myself to feel like a dork, to actually be a dork. Besides the challenge, and the just plain fun, that's part of the gain. As A. confirmed, "If you never allow yourself to be uncool, you miss out on a lot."

But tonight! Tonight was so much fun that it wiped away the slog. Started in on West Coast Swing 2 - not unlike salsa but slower and danced to R&B. On a 6 or 8 count, it's like second nature. It's smooth and fun. Lots of different new guys in the mix but men, and men enjoying the dance. Then a step up into Salsa 3. Not as exciting as it sounds - frankly, I'd wondered where my favorite better dancers had gone. Some have moved on to the exclusive team or boot camp, but some had just graduated themselves up. The instructor said I could try, "But how are your turns?" Um....ah..... But it was fine. Great even. The guys nod and smile. The teacher gives me a surprise compliment, "Wow, you've improved." Pretty great. I'd missed Mondays for months. Sacrificed for the totally awesome master class and other assorted fun, but now it's great to be back. Salsa 3, then Salsa 2 - still challenging and cool with this great teacher. By slogging week after week after week, somehow the moves have gotten easier, the patterns making sense. It's coming together. It couldn't be more fun. And it's possible I look like a dork. I'm certainly big and middle-aged. But I'm not letting that stop me. I'm allowing the good time, I'm reveling in it.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Crickets in Stonewall Texas

Celebrating an early Independence Day on Saturday night, we drove out west on 290 past Johnson City, to the edge of the LBJ ranch in Stonewall, Texas. John was enamored of the moon, I was aghast at the roar of the crickets. Ah Texas!

I love it here. Particularly now after the heavy rains and fragrant blooms. I finally get it, the luxury of the open sky, iconic wooden buildings, the low trees, the sparsely dotted landscape. Glorious.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Blood Watch

OK boys, time to click elsewhere, you've been warned, TMI ahead.

Early on with this blog I started writing about my period. Then stopped as more people I know tuned in. But I've always loved talking and thinking about the monthly blood flow. I hate the wait, love the release. The flow itself a tie to life's lunar cycles, a connection to the stuff that keeps us alive, the drama, the richness, just another of life's messy liquids. Attached there's pain, discomfort, swelling. Too often there's pent up irritation waiting, waiting, waiting. But then, zah, often by surprise, the dam springs open. It's a letting go and tuning in. For years I thought about writing about it in depth - our most fundamental rhythm, this symbol of symbols, a source, from which so much else springs forth.

But now I'm at the place where that's changing. First the cycles came closer and closer. And then the blood increased. In amount and duration. Remarkable almost. How could there be so much yet still be OK? Just another day? I mean c'mon, blood is blood, whether it's gushing from your hands or elsewhere. Two years ago I started seeing an acupuncturist to manage the change. She was able to lengthen the cycles, decrease the bleeding. Until now. Now life's ready to move on - regardless. In February I started bleeding pretty much all the time. Some days lighter, some heavier (Boys - I told you to head elsewhere!). It continued into late April. Where it stopped. Completely. All that was left 28 days later was swollen breasts and a feeling of being on the verge. PMS to the max. Headaches, crankiness, any second, waiting for the blood to flow, waiting for the release. None came.

Oh, so this is it, eh? Had I bled out? But then I remembered, wait a minute, I know it's unlikely, but this is how I felt when I first became pregnant. So I used one of the EPT tests, itself an amusing ritual. They weren't around when I last conceived back in 1989. Negative. OK. So this is it I wondered. Will I stay this swollen and uncomfortable now forever? Two days ago I spot. Then again yesterday, in the middle of an all day meeting that I'd organized. Ok again, a spot. This morning the gush. It's red and wet. All through my system I feel the release and relief. Like a whoosy feeling. It's tangible this hormonal event. It reminds me of the crazy whoosh after childbirth - it lasts for days as your body crashes from the hormonal big deal. Like crashing from LSD.

But this time's there's another element. So I'm bleeding today. And maybe tomorrow. And maybe even next month. But maybe not. Definitely not forever. This time is coming to a end. And I realize I have to start saying goodbye to my friend (that quaint 50s euphemism growing more and more apt). It's been a vital connection to the life force. I'll miss it. I'll be curious to see what happens next.

My fave new friends, all lawyers 3 out of 4 39 & single

I've often noticed how new friends come in cycles - like only listening to reggae, or Brit Pop. For several years my three best friends birthday's were days apart - it was the Gemini bond calling. In 1978 the artist pals I made stuck with an intensity still strong. Three of my favorites living on different coasts, share an April 18th birthday. While July 3rd has also exuded a pull. When I first moved to Austin I accumulated a couple of super great gal pals my own age for like pretty much the first time ever! And this year the acquaintances of delight tend to be lawyers. With 3 out of the 4 - 39ish, single, and smart with a great zest for life. (1968 babies? Could that be? Would that explain it?) 39ish, single, and smart with a great zest for life - It's invigorating.