Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Around And Around, Hand To Hand

Your servant will confess to you openly that I'm a lousy waltzer. The best I can do is a two-step, and I feel I've earned the right to do so having lived in Texas for five years. But every so often, a waltz will come around, and I'll give it my best shot. Here's one from south of the border. I'm dressed rather festively in my green and red -- two colors from the Mexican flag, if you will.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
It's not just going around and around. You will see a clapping sequence in here. That I can handle. But notice as one of those claps takes my partner and I nearly cheek-to-cheek. Flirtatious? Maybe. My thoughts, however, are not about flirting; they're about how I'm going to move my feet without stepping on somebody else's, and how I'm going to move my body in and out of that one last clap without knocking my partner over. It's all fun and games until somebody lands with a thud.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

What A Beautiful World It Was (Before It Closed)

The initials of this 1980's hit by Steely Dan's Donald Fagen refer to "International Geophysical Year," which came in the late 1950's. But every time I hear the title, I think of "O.G.Y.," a now-shuttered restaurant in High Hill, Missouri, which used to be a Stuckey's back in the 1970's.

The lyrics envision a bright future: "Ninety minutes from New York to Paris." I could only wish it was that way from St. Louis to Kansas City and vice versa during 1989, when our royal family was in the process of moving and we were shooting back and forth on I-70. The trip takes about 240 miles and four hours, give or take a gas stop in Columbia or Kingdom City.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
Having a good Walkman (and later Watchman) helped pass the time, along with a good set of tapes, so I wouldn't have to listen to my parents' music, at least when they didn't have American Top 40 on.

Staring out the window on these various trips, I would notice a lot of these skeletons of roadside America: old gas stations, old restaurants, old homes, old signs, old billboards, all rotting away but burned into my memory. I wonder why I can remember those sights and not the more beautiful sights in the green rolling hills of the Show-Me State.

Perhaps I can identify with their abandonment and loneliness. When you've been there, you're there.

Monday, January 28, 2019

They All Wear Kilts!

Scots and Greeks share a common heritage point: the kilts! Granted, Greek soldiers are the ones who mainly wear them, and they call them fustanellas, but I've made my point. I have wondered whether any Scottish and Greek dance groups got together. Turns out, they have. The above video shows it, although you only see the Scottish kilts in this mash-up.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
Last year, your servant decided to make his own fustanella from scratch. I was surprised to find no open-source instructions or patterns anywhere on the internet. So I had to reverse-engineer my design from looking at pictures and videos -- mainly of dance groups. The proliferation of Hellenic dance troupes has actually made it easier to find the garb for sale. But I wasn't about to pay $700 or so when I could make the outfit myself.

I took a king-sized sheet and split it into four long strips, which I pleated and wrapped around until it looked full enough. I also needed it to fall below my knees -- modesty, always. I have seen some half-fustanellas and they would make your servant feel like he's wearing a miniskirt.

The open-wide-sleeved shirt came together easily. I found a vest at Savers -- another terrific score from a terrific store. Add in two pairs of tights -- two pairs because the first one I ordered claimed it was "opaque," when it clearly wasn't. I ordered a Greek cap from eBay. All told, the project cost about $50.

The next step: wearing it to the local Greek Fest here in Tucson. Because doing something like this can get you mixed up with the event participants, it pays to ask the organizers. I sent a picture of me wearing the attire over Facebook. Their reply: "Get down here! We love your spirit!" Not surprisingly, your servant (along with Pricess Sherri, who joined me) got to pose for more than a few selfies and pictures. And we danced. A lot. One gentleman in particular who could've just stepped out of Zorba The Greek gave me a big hug. Opa!

Despite the many compliments, I wasn't completely satisfied with the way the project came together. The fustanella didn't look pleated enough. A couple of weeks later, I figured out why. I actually needed to baste the heck out of the strips of fabric, not pleat them. I made a second Greek kilt, and that will now go over the first one to give it a fuller look and more support. And yes, we'll be back at Greek Fest next year.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

He'll Do Anything

When Genesis made a video for "Anything She Does" off their 1986 Invisible Touch album, my favourite band teamed up with my favourite British comic: the late great Benny Hill. Most appropriately, the song is about pin-up girls -- although I didn't realize that at the time. I'm puzzled why Genesis technically didn't release this as a single, given how many hits the album had already scored.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
The video plays out like a mini Benny Hill Show complete with the chase at the end. You even get to see Tony Banks joke around a little -- something rare for Tony, who always seems to be the group's straightman wizard bent over the synthesizers.

By the way, nobody plays any horns on this track. It's a sample Tony plays from an Emulator II keyboard, another example of his wizardry.

And sadly, this is one of Benny Hill's final television appearances. He would pass away in the early 1990's, just as he was getting an offer to return to television in a new series.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I Hopak My Calves Can Make It Through This

It's good to be a Ukrainian Cossack dancer. You get to wear the bright colorful outfits with the soft boots and the baggy breeches and show off your moves like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever while the ladies in the pretty skirts and flowers look on and swoon over you. And maybe, if you're lucky, they'll dance around you like some sort of blessing ritual. I can dream about all of it. But we have two immediate issues: killing my feet and making Princess Sherri jealous.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
One of these days, I'm going to have to politely lobby for her to dress as a Ukrainian Cossack princess. Yeah, I can dream.

Any of you who dance professionally know you have to train for one of these shows like an athlete. I just wonder what the ratio of training to dancing is. And I know I'm past my prime to do it, having been around for some (2)47 years.

That doesn't stop me from dressing the part, though:

Friday, January 25, 2019

Say, Say, Say What What You Want

Michael Jackson teamed up with Paul McCartney for a huge duet with "The Girl Is Mine." Then they did it again for an even bigger one, "Say Say Say." This is not only one of your servant's favorite duets ever, it's also one of my favorite videos ever. Paul brought his lovely wife Linda in, and Michael gave his sister LaToya a guest shot.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
These were the good old days, before Paul got Michael interested in the music publishing business, and Michael turned around and bought the Beatles' song catalog -- which Paul had been trying to buy for years. Linda and Michael were still alive, and Michael wasn't dealing with so many issues surrounding his life. Paul was still getting himself on Top 40 radio with each new album.

Pardon me while I sound like an old codger for a moment. I have tried to listen to Top 40 radio nowadays, and I just can't get into it. Even "American Top 40" is a mess, and not just because Casey Kasem isn't on it anymore. I have too many memories of my youth locked up in music of the past, and new memories set to old music. I find it sad I can't turn on CHR/Top 40 radio and hear legends like McCartney or any of the artists I grew up with who are still making records -- which admittedly, isn't many.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

A Little To The Left, A Little To The Right

The French have some neat dances. And they have some deceptively simple ones. In this one, you move to the right, and to the left, do some clapping, do some turning, and do it all over again.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
Sounds simple enough, right? Here's where the deception comes in. When I do this at Folk Dance night (spot the peasant in the brown), I get thrown because I'm watching my steps in the mirror off camera, and I also have to move in the opposite direction as the line I am facing. The result is more than a few errant actions.

It fascinates me when I see all my dancing friends doing all these steps that will tie my feet up into knots. I have to follow the leader and I'm still learning every week.

"You have to put your whole body into it," somebody told me once. Yes, but how is that going to help my feet when they're the ones that gotta get it done?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

All This And Birds Too!

I hear this 1975 song on the radio, and three things stand out:

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
1) Minnie Riperton's beautifully-ranged voice

2) The chirping birds added in for effect

3) The unmistakable swirly strings of an ARP synthesizer

I also remember this song turned up in a Burger King ad in the 1990's.

But I wouldn't get to hear the full song until R&B oldies radio stations started signing on in the late 1990's, back when I was still living in the Rio Grande Valley. That area didn't have a "mega oldies" station yet, so I relied on RealAudio (remember that?) to pipe in a Dallas station over my dial-up internet line (remember that, too?). When I moved to Tucson in 1999, "Mega 106.5" immediately earned a spot on my car radio's tuner memory. At one point, we also had a second R&B oldies station that lasted about a year on a weak frequency -- more fun while it lasted!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

It's Got A Kick To It

Here is one dance your servant wishes he would have learned had he decided to start putting on a kilt in his teenage years.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
The whole idea of the sword dance is to dance around the swords without touching them -- otherwise, legend has it, you will die on the battlefield. Note the sword pointing towards the audience is on top. That's just in case an enemy should approach you while you're dancing. You can pick up that sword and point it at the bloody redcoat or whoever may be threatening to take your life or your kilt or both.

I have faked a sword dance at least once. At a friend's house one Christmas, I put down a couple of brooms and pranced around them as best I could while wearing three layers of 18th Century clothing in addition to the kilt, including a long frock coat. My heavy piping shoes also weighed me down. But I capered and high-cutted and pas-de-basqued around those brooms as best I could.

"You're a lord-a-leaping!" somebody remarked.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Don't Let It Get You Down

Today is supposed to be a day on, not a day off, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. But inevitably, people are going to stop and pause and think about the legacy. Maybe some people will be hopeful, maybe not. This tune doesn't fit the day, but it fits all the other Mondays.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
Princess Sherri recently reminded me of it. I actually had it in my playlist, and I have for some time. It's almost prophetic, especially in the opening photos before we get to the actual promotional film. You had to wonder what Karen Carpenter was thinking about in those early days, when she and her brother were rocketing up the pop charts with their wholesome style of pop love songs. Karen was battling a negative self-image, and I wonder how often she thought about what it would take to become her own woman.

Princess Sherri has worked to assert her own image as a mixed-race woman. She has had to battle both bigotry and false impressions from people who would also pigeonhole her into one compartment or another. That's the kind of thing MLK was fighting against. Go back and listen to his "I Have A Dream" speech. It's not a black speech; it's an equality speech.

"Sometimes I'd like to quit, nothing ever seems to fit," Karen Carpenter sang. "Nothing is really wrong, feeling like I don't belong."

Both my princess and your servant have had to battle depression in various forms. Some of that was related to prejudice or bullying.

"No need to talk it out, we know what it's all about," Karen sang.

Yes we do. Now let's go do it.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Let's Learn A Minuet From George Washington

Not many people think of George Washington as a great dancer, but he loved to dance -- as did many Virginians. So why not let him teach a young lady the art of the minuet?

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
Minnesota History published the above clip on YouTube nearly 8 years ago. They said at the time: "The official Mount Vernon George Washington re-enactor teaches a student at Washington Middle School in St. Paul, MN how to dance the way that the General and Mrs. Washington would have done at their wedding. General Washington was visiting the school in connection with the Discover the Real George Washington exhibit."

Can you just imagine how beautiful that wedding would've looked like? And I imagine Mrs. Washington wasn't the only one who wanted to dance with His Excellency.

I also imagine a lot of ladies would like to dance at Mount Vernon...

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Drawing The Line

Not too long ago, I was sitting in a parking lot in north Phoenix, my designated rendezvous point for meeting up with Princess Sherri for an evening outing, when this came on the radio. The unmistakable sounds of the Oberheim OBX synthesizer, the same one used for Van Halen's "Jump," drew me in.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
I didn't grow up listening to Rush (at least not this Rush), but they've started growing on me, and this song especially. It addresses in its own Rushian, sci-fi way, cliques and growing up.

And yes, that's Atari's legendary "Tempest" at the end of this video.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Okay, Here's An Easy One

It's called "Nyandolo," and it's from Kenya. It may be the easiest circle dance I've ever learned, apart from a hands-six in Scottish Country Dancing.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
You don't have to think very much. Just move in tight with your friends, knuckles to knuckles, and enjoy the ride. It's the perfect dance for late in class, when your brain doesn't want to work, but your feet still want to move.

When this video was recorded, your servant was breaking in a new pair of red dancing slippers. They had already gotten a workout this evening, and by the end of the session, all the pinching in all the places was gone.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

I Heard It On The School Bus

One day in 1981, when I was probably in the third grade, I heard some kids on the school bus singing "nah, nah, na-na-na-nah, na-na-na-nah, nunna-nunna-nah-nah" repeatedly. I thought they were riffing on a country and western song until I heard the above from the J. Geils Band.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
This is one of those songs you hear as a kid, and then when you hear it again as an adult, you wonder, "How did our parents ever let us listen to that," with lyrics like, "take you to a motel room, and take 'em off in private." And that video -- with the scantily clad ladies. MTV was a guilty pleasure for us young ones in those days, back when it played music and broke bands, or made small bands big. And if you heard it on the school bus, you knew you had a hit, or something your parents didn't want you listening to.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Saturday Night Frock Coat

Here's a flashback from nearly a decade ago. It's a Saturday night in June 2009, at the historic Kenilworth school in Phoenix. It has to be at least 80 degrees outside. And I'm driving up from Tucson for a contredance in my late 1700's powder-blue coat and white weskit and breeches, with the stockings. Where on Earth did I get all this energy from, and where the heck did it all go?

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
Once upon a time in my dancing history, I felt like a colonial Tony Manero, consistently getting that Saturday Night Fever to go boogie in that tricorn and breeches, even if that meant a 90-minute drive sometimes. I had it bad. I gather that was because I got so much joy out of it at the time when so many other things in my life didn't seem to be bringing much in the door. By this time, I had gotten right with GOD, so that wasn't the problem.

Fast forward ten years later, and I've mellowed out a lot in that respect, finding other curiosities -- and other dance groups to wet my whistle. And I gather my internal chemicals have shifted a bit. That's what happens when you've been around for 247 years!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

It's Still A Smelly Olds To Me

June 1980 finds your servant and his kid brother in the back of an Oldsmobile on the way to Niagara Falls with the Queen Mother and Royal Father. On the charts, this song by Billy Joel is on its way to number one, and I'm hearing it several times during the course of the trip.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
That trip would also include several instances of the Royal Father lighting up his pipe. He had a system: while steering with his legs pressed against the bottom of the wheel, he would pack some Bourbon Riff into the end and get out his lighter. Positioning the lighter upside down into the pipe opening, he'd give it a few flicks. Of course, it would never light on the first try, as much as he huffed and puffed to get that pipe smoking. Something did invariably light, however, because soon clouds of tobacco smoke filled the front seat and drifted to the back.

Dad would then realize the imminent danger to our health and safety, probably with a complaint added in from the Queen Mother:

"Dave, haven't we had this conversation about you smoking in enclosed places?"

That's when he would crack the driver's side window and let air pressure perform its natural duties. But the car still smelled like a pipe. Or a cigar.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Tripping The Light Foot Fantastic

If I could only remember what I dreamt, would I remember this?

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
Above is a recreation of an 18th Century ball -- at least a vision of what one might have looked like. It's highly choreographed, and a lot less populated than something that a king or queen or lord or lady would have hosted. But you get the feel of it.

This is the way your servant wishes he could move, if only those buckled shoes weren't so durned heavy. I've recently turned to using dancing slippers, which work well for folk dancing and Regency occasions. Not only are my feet lighter, I get a little more traction.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

On The Road With Sara

A Saturday morning in March 1985. I'm in the back of a church van on a junior high weekend trip to St. Louis from Kansas City. On our agenda: The Magic House, the Gateway Arch, the St. Louis Zoo, Union Station, and a whole bunch of us crammed into a couple of hotel rooms at a Holiday Inn near Lambert Field. For now though, as we roll through Wentzville, on our way to the main destination, I'm in my own world, headphones on, with Countdown America playing in my ear and this song by Starship in the top ten. They had just scored a number one with "We Built This City" a few weeks earlier, and the follow-up single was headed for the top.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
The lyrics are about a lost love, and I gather I remember this because I was feeling more than a little lost at that time myself. I was part of a church group, yet I was feeling the separation, feeling my church group mates really didn't get me, didn't get the nerdiness phase I was going through and didn't really care. I don't think I helped much, because your servant was prone to mood swings at the wrong moments.

This would be the beginning of my separation from GOD -- being among Christians but feeling you're not really a part of them. It would take many more years for me to return. But here I was on the road with the gang, because I wanted to travel, wanted to get out of the house, wanted a road trip. Adventure topped introversion.

That weekend was memorable, fortunately, for a lot of fun. I don't remember a lot of specifics about it, except for hearing a cool jazz group at Union Station and that attempt by Johnny to take a photograph of a pillow fight in the middle of the night.

"It didn't come out," he later told me. "I got elbows."

Saturday, January 12, 2019

"How Can You Dance In All Of That?"

People have often asked your servant how he can possibly cavort in so many layers of historical clothing without burning up. It's simple: I just learned to deal with it as I figured my Colonial ancestors did. Wearing a kilt helps in the summer, when I need more airflow. When I started making my own historic clothing, I aimed for thinner fabrics friendlier to Arizona climates -- and that breathed.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
I also avoid wearing a sporran with my Scottish ensembles.  That takes off a little weight and avoids it hitting in all the wrong places.  No need to elaborate there.

But, in the totality of everything, when I'm enjoying a dance, I'm not thinking of the heat or the cold or the weather or anything else. I'd rather just focus on being elegant and stately. You can see it here in these pictures taken about a decade ago at the Scottish games in Phoenix. A group there let me try out Scottish dancing.  It didn't take long to hook me.

Friday, January 11, 2019

When Jazz Got Reel

This jazz classic from Dave Brubeck reminds of when I first heard it: on the Royal Father's Sony reel-to-reel tape deck. Those open-reel beasts were the highest-end part of a high-end hi-fi system back in the 1970's. Dad's sat inside a cabinet when his system moved from my baby brother's bedroom upstairs to the newly-finished study. He didn't need any more shelving on bricks. Everything had a nice little spot behind a door.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
This tune comes from Brubeck's landmark album "Time Out," which Dad had on pre-recorded 4-track open reel format. The four tracks represented the two stereo tracks on one side, and the other two stereo tracks on the other side of the reel. Just like a record or cassette, you flipped the reel over once one side had played its way onto the take-up spool, and played the other side, which wound back onto the original reel. It wasn't convenient for playing individual tracks, but the quality was as close as you could get to the original master tape. The tape still had noticeable hiss, something you could work around.

I discovered one reel in Dad's collection that had four Bill Cosby albums on it, and I secretly threaded it up one day while I was off from school and my parents weren't around. He still has that reel. As for that Sony, it's now in possession of my uncle, perhaps gathering dust. Perhaps not.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Round And Round

(This is a 360-degree video. Swipe around with your mouse to go full circle and spot the Cossack!)

This may be the easiest folk dance I've ever learned, period. Marin Congo comes from France. The steps: in and out and twirl around to a new partner. Repeat as needed.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
This is the kind of dance I can teach to kids and their families in less than two minutes, which makes it an ideal dance for those times when I call a historic ball. As you read this, I haven't taught it yet. I'm waiting for the right ball to teach this at for a possible last dance, or something near that.

I'm thinking it would work at a Colonial ball, even though it's not a Colonial dance. In fact, the notes I have date it back to the 1980's. Still, it feels like the kind of dance I should be doing in my tricorn hat, knee breeches and frock coat instead of my puffy Cossack attire.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Truth About Cats And Dogs

On a summer night, circa 1992, the Royal Father has just picked my brother and I up from Six Flags, where we had both been working. Todd Rundgren was on the radio via WXFB (aka "The Fox"), and we were talking about getting another family dog.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
Dad has been set on getting another dog, even though the Queen Mother has done her best to talk him out of it.

I made another suggestion: "What about a cat?"

"Cats are snotty!" my brother grumbled.

"Cats aren't appreciative," added the Royal Father.

So much for that idea. Some time later, we had a black-and-white English Springer Spaniel puppy in the house. Dad dubbed him Toby after the dog in the Sherlock Holmes' story "The Sign Of Four."

I think the Queen Mother would've still preferred a cat. We had to cat-sit at least once for my Aunt Shirley while she and Uncle George went on vacation, and the experience was nearly trouble-free. Nearly, because we couldn't get Sara to come out from under the upstairs sofa. Many of my aunt's cats had the tendency to hide under furniture for hours at a time without budging. It finally took some sliced turkey to lure her out. A few weeks after the cats had departed, I found a rubber mouse under another sofa.

Steve Martin immediately came to mind:

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Watch Out For Those Puffy Pants!

Back in 2016, when I first started dipping my toes into international folk dancing, I was still trying to perfect the idea pair of puffy Cossack-inspired pants. In this mixer dance, you can see that I overdid it.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
They had what I wanted -- that swish, just like the kilt. But they also had these annoying loops of fabric in front that somehow hadn't gotten tucked in or tacked down correctly, so they just flew around. My long tunic shirt and the belt helped hide it, but they couldn't eliminate it. I made another pair, and this time the fabric was too heavy and too droopy. Finding the right bedsheet to experiment on proved elusive until I finally nailed the formula: a king size sheet, preferably of lightweight cotton, and so many inches from waist to knees. (No, I won't give you the amount here. It's my personal version of the Colonel's secret recipe.)

I figure I have made at least half a dozen pairs of puffy pants, with varying degrees of success. You can't have too many colors, either.

Monday, January 7, 2019

My Alternative Rock

It's a late night in my dorm room at the University of Missouri, circa 1991. If I was working on a Pascal program for one of my comp-sci classes, scanning online bulletin boards (before the Internet came home), or working on a long-nurtured novel, I had Columbia's KARO radio on my headphones. That's where I first encountered this record by Chi Coltrane. For a long time, I thought it was a Carole King hit. Only a YouTube search decades later finally set me straight.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.

I considered working at the Mizzou student station, KCOU. But here was the problem: I had zero knowledge of alternative rock music, and the DJ application asked, "Name the first three bands you would play." That pretty much doomed me. I had no desire to crash-course on music, especially when I had so much other stuff to get in there.

So I stuck with what I knew, even though I tuned into KCOU's uncensored Friday-night rap and hip-hop show, where the announcers would hype tracks with, "That record is so dope."

Otherwise, I was content with classic rock, oldies, and some AC or AAA (Adult Contemporary or Adult Album Alternative for those of you who don't read Billboard). I flipped my FM tuner between KARO in Columbia and KKCA in Fulton -- the call letters standing for Kingdom of Calloway, a reference to a Civil War separatist enclave that actually existed as a sovereign state within Missouri until after the war. (According to the Kingdom of Calloway Historical Society, "We were proud that we had faced adversity, had stood strong against it, and had won our right to be who we wanted to be.")

KKCA played oldies, and one day in the early 1990's, I gather they decided to pull out all the disco records they had lying around from a bygone era. So for one day only, the Kingdom of Calloway was treated to the "Disco Nightmare," one that brought a surprisingly positive response from listeners.

These two stations considerably expanded my mental playlist more than college radio ever did, or ever tried to. Alternative is in the eye of the beholder.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Swish, Swish -- The Peasant Prince Knows Bliss

Continuing our conversation on swish, it takes on a little different meaning when I trade the kilt in for the puffy pants and stockings. This is one of the dances from from the Tuesday night international group I cavort with. I'll let you guess where I am in the line.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
In this dance from Albania, we all get to hold handkerchiefs and swish a little bit between some simple steps which can still throw my feet. It's a beautiful deception. I can watch oodles of YouTube videos showing dances like this, think I'll have no problem with them, and then when my feet take the floor they knot themselves up.

Somebody said to me, "You have to put your whole body into it." Yeah, but that still doesn't help my feet. I gather my outfits will at least take the ladies eyes away from my missteps. Your servant wagers more than a few peasant ladies would love to dance with an overdressed peasant prince.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Hi-Fi Is Alive

Before my younger brother was born, his bedroom served as my Dad's stereo room. He had his turntable, tuner, open-reel tape deck, cassette deck and records stacked up on at least two levels of wood, supported by bricks on the end -- as was tradition in the 1970's.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.

The above song by Gary Wright is one I remember him playing when he was showing off the system. He also liked to throw on Linda Ronstadt's Heart Like A Wheel LP every so often.

Downstairs, meanwhile, the Queen Mother would do housecleaning to the soundtrack from The Godfather Part II on the giant Zenith console. That was if Andy Williams wasn't playing from one of at least a dozen of his albums.

Friday, January 4, 2019

We Must Have Swish

Laddies, you have so many good reason reasons to wear a kilt -- among them, the swish.

Why should the lassies get to have all the fun with the twirling of their gowns? You should have your own equivalent. The livelier, the better, as demonstrated by this group of merry Highlanders.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.

I insist on my kilts falling at or below the knee. Not only does it show modesty, it allows for more swish, especially in the back where it's pleated. If I'm wearing a frock coat over it, the effect is multiplied.

I know certain ladies like it when the lads spin up their kilts. We shall leave it at that. I have seen people throw money at lads who did so. That has yet to happen to your servant. I haven't pushed that envelope yet.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

What You Won't Do, You Do On I-10 In The Dark

My smartphone is loaded up with road music, designed to help get your servant through a six-hour drive from Tucson to the family compound in Upland, California -- mainly at night.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
This is one of those songs that rings mellow and fitting as you're zooming through the desert darkness, somewhere between Blythe and Indio, California, maneuvering around caravans of 18-wheelers. At this point, I'm probably sipping down the last of dinner on the road -- usually three double cheeseburgers picked up at the McDonald's across from the Pilot in Quartzite, Arizona.

Off into the night we go. Let's get mellow.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

It Only Takes A Minuet, Girl, To Fall In Love

Ask your servant to name his favourite colonial dance, and it's this one: the Minuet. It's festive yet fancy. It's beautiful for both the lady and the gentleman.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
A lot of us think of the Minuet as only one dance, but in reality it's a family of dances, each with their own patterns and intricacies. A lot of us also think of it as some stately procession, which is not the case in most situations. I've seen one version that is, but most are like what you see above, a refined interchange between one man and one lady.

But they all share this: you give honours, you hold your hands in a graceful position and move about your partner in three-quarter time, inserting fancy flourishes and affectations as need be.

In Colonial times, people judged you by the steps you made. Minuets would lead off a fancy ball, one couple at a time, in the social-status equivalent of "Dancing With The Stars." Muff it and people would talk about your lack of ability. No wonder they would be danced only once an evening, and dancing masters would find themselves in solid demand throughout the colonies.

Thankfully, as times have changed, the judgments have evaporated from the exercise, leaving your servant to focus on the majesty, the beauty, and the regality, as in this minuet I danced with a lady in 2017 at the George Washington Ball in Williamsburg, Virginia. She had been wondering all week whether she was going to dance it. I was wondering all week, thousands of miles away, if I would have a willing partner. Through the grace of GOD, we came together that evening for this moment of bliss.

I hope to one day show your servant dancing with Princess Sherri!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

It's About Time Somebody Told All This

The trip to Williamsburg, Virginia last March was supposed to be a magically submersive experience for Princess Sherri and your servant. Her Majesty would be enjoying her first big-time, big-league colonial ball -- The George Washington Ball -- in a historic town. This would be "Cinderella" without any wicked stepsisters.  Naturally, I felt the pressure to deliver for my Princess.  She had never been to Colonial Williamsburg, much less to a fancy ball of the magnitude I had invited her too.  This was prom times ten, perhaps times 100.

A mix of your servant's favourite music
and moves, set to stories and observations.
We made it to the ball. But we didn't have our luggage or our historic clothing, due to a maelstrom of weather-related flight cancellations and airline incompetence. Some 72 hours after the mess began, and 12 hours after we finally got our hands on the bag, we were on the flight home. I furiously typed out my grievances in a draft letter to American Airlines, accompanied by Andy Gibb's "Time Is Time" playing through my smartphone, a random yet powerful juxtaposition of disco and disgust as I put failure upon failure into words:
Multiple, MULTIPLE times, after our flight from DFW to Norfolk was canceled, and we had to re-book into Charlotte, we were failed by your customer service representatives. This began with two of them telling us, in separate calls, that we didn't need to do anything more to get our checked baggage put on the flight to Charlotte -- it would be done so automatically. It never was, and it remained in DFW to sit overnight until it was flown finally into Norfolk. Meanwhile in Charlotte, we were pointed back and forth between different carousels. Your customer service people were clueless as to where our luggage was until we finally had to call your toll-free number. Then, over the course of a weekend, I made no fewer than six phone calls to your baggage hotline asking when our bags were going to be delivered. Each time I got a person who lacked answers. They couldn't tell me anything. They couldn't even contact the delivery company in Norfolk (Butler Delivery), saying they got voicemail. I was told the delivery driver would call when our baggage was on the way. They never did. One of your representatives even said someone from the delivery company would call "within 20 minutes." They never did. I got an email saying the baggage would be delivered by 4:45am Sunday morning -- 24 hours after our arrival. It never did. One of your reps even admitted to me that email should've never gone out, because it was automatically generated when the baggage arrived in Norfolk, even though it hadn't been assigned to a driver. Turned out, it never was, even though your reps told us it would be, and I have the paperwork to prove it. I finally had to claim the luggage by driving 40 miles from Williamsburg to Norfolk on a Sunday night, just hours before our vacation was to end -- doing the job you failed to do despite promises you would do it. Our vacation was severely tarnished because of your incompetence. Stop apologizing. Start compensating us for your failures.
Princess Sherri made her own phone calls and wrote letters of her own. I stirred in a little social media shame on Facebook. American comped us $100 travel vouchers, and an airline worker friend of mine advised me to just call her in the future, saying that the mega-carriers weren't geared to properly serve their customers.

Yet in the worst of all of this, we learned who our friends were. Two wonderful people who lead a 18th Century dance team, among other pursuits, lent us period attire for the evening so we could cavort in something besides what we had been wearing for the past 24 hours.

We also learned several lessons. Never buy those basic economy fares if you can't take a carry-on with you, and stuff everything you can into it -- especially the historic garb.

In the ashes of the long weekend, I resolved to get a do-over, and I would not wait a year for it. I invited Princess Sherri to accompany me to another ball in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This time, it all worked, all beautifully. Another trip to Williamsburg awaits us. We will have our second chance soon.