Sunday, October 28, 2007

Know What I Mean?

I've previously posted about my interest in dance. For the past few months I've been attending a weekly beginner's swing dance class at Crews & Tango. The organization is called "Swingin' Out!" and while it is open to everyone, it was created for queer people to have a place to learn dances like the "Lindy Hop" or the "Charleston." I like the idea of these dances as part of my (North-American) cultural heritage, not unlike Scottish folk dance or salsa might be for others.

Last Thursday I almost didn't go. My partner had a meal with his hair school friend and I was behind (as always) in emails/blogs and feeling lazy. However I felt like I should be doing something active. I made myself go and of course had a great time.

I've been "following" which is a big change from leading in a dance. When I'm leading, I'm always thinking, "What's next? What's next?" When I'm following I really have to "listen" with my body and not anticipate what the leader's next move will be. A good leader will often give "nudges" with hands, hips or arms that guide a follower to where they are to go next.

After the lesson, there is usually a social time where the advance students dance with the beginners. Sort of a mixer if you will. Since none of my friends were in attendance, my natural impulse was to bolt but then I got this "nudge" to hang out for awhile. Sure enough, some guy asked me to dance. He tried some new things and, as a good follower, I just "went with the flow," even if it meant that these attempts didn't go exactly as planned or I ended up looking bad.

After the song ended, I thanked him and felt another "nudge"- this time to leave right at that very moment. So I put on my jacket and as soon as I walked out the door and down the steps, I was greeted with a pleasant suprise! My partner's former coworker and now good friend was walking home from work and was just passing by at that exact same moment! We laughed and started talking.

I noticed something was troubling her (usually she's very bubbly and effervescent). Turns out that her employer, who had promised to sponsor her visa application, backed out when she realized she would have to pay a) minimum wage and *gasp* b) taxes! My friend's spirit was absolutely crushed. She just had paid a great deal of money to an immigration attorney the day before based on the promises of this woman. Understandably she was distraught.

Well I did my best to comfort her. I have had experience being frustrated/disappointed with both immigration and flaky people. Fortuitously we live very near each other so I walked her most of the way home and by that time, she had calmed down considerably.

After parting, I said a little prayer of thanks to God for being able to "be there" at that moment for my friend. And this got me thinking about the presidental candidate Barak Obama- he talks a great deal about his faith and has said "I can be an instrument of God." This probably sounds crazy to people who come from a different faith background. I think that's a completely natural reaction. In 1 Corinthians 2:14 it states, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (NIV)

So no, I don't think Obama's idea here is crazy. But in light of recent experiences, I do disagree with his instrument metaphor. Oh, I do get it- instruments are designed with a specific purpose in mind and are really only useful when serving that purpose. However instruments don't get a vote, a voice. They just lie around waiting to be used. In other words, they have no free will.

At this moment, I kind of like thinking of God as my dancing partner. He's leading of course. And I'm going to try to follow, not anticipate or "backlead" but rather wait. Waiting for a spin here or a turn there. Waiting for that "nudge."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Thousand Pages, Give or Take a Few

From time to time I have heard people complain that Toronto is a boring city. My response to this is that if you are bored here, you really aren't trying to have fun. There is a plethora of places to go and things to do. My friend Ron has been really good about making me more aware of what's out there. It was he that got us tickets to see the Dali Lama next week and he was also responsible for this bag of books that I just schelped home. 'Low me to 'splain!

Unbeknownst to moi, Trinity College holds an annual booksale to benefit their library. When Ron called me about it, I instantly thought of booksales I have been to in the past, slightly amateur affairs filled with forgettables and the occasional find. I thought the temptation to add to my already book-laden shelves was minimal at best. Au contraire!

The first clue that I might be playing with fire was the sign outside that stated the first day sale charged a $5 admission fare. (The succeeding days were free, much more my style.) Upon entering and paying the fee, I was strongly encouraged to take advantage of the free bag/coat check. Then we were directed to THE LINE. This was no ordinary line. Oh no. This was a line that had begun forming at 4 AM in the MORNING. (I kid you not!) We arrived at 4:30 PM, a half hour after the sale had begun. As the hall was filled to capacity, we waited close to 45 minutes for enough people to give up and go home so we could just get inside. While we were waiting, we studied the map (yes, a map) that we were given so we could plan out our strategy for getting in and getting out quickly. As it so often turns out, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray!"

Finally we were sent upstairs and picked up empty boxes on the way. Upon entering, my worst fears were realized. I had met my Waterloo. My months of abstaining from the aquisition of books were all for naught. I was about to fall off the wagon and into my old bookaholic behaviour. The room was huge and there were books upon books. There were books in boxes under the tables to replentish the books that were on the tables and above the tables in shelves. Every genre imaginable was lovingly represented and all organized with meticulous loving care. It really was a sight to behold. To make matters worse, the books were in amazing, almost new condition and most prices ranged from $2-7! (I would usually note this is in Canadian dollars but since our currency has been on par with the US greenback for weeks, I'm not going to even bother anymore.)

All in all, I was pretty proud that the damage to my pocketbook and my blungering book collection was minimal. Here's a list of what I walked away with: (Keep in mind there were folks around me that were buying multiple boxes of books and spending hundreds of dollars.)

1. The Glass Palace- Amitav Ghosh- Ron found this for me and recommended it. At seven dollars and a hardback to boot, this was my most lavish purchase.
2. The God of Small Things- Arundhati Roy- I have heard good things about this one and am looking forward to reading it.
3. Diary of a Lost Boy- Harry Kondoleon- I must have seen this when I was bookcruising with my cousin. For some reason I've flirted with this selection before. This time, I took the bait.
4. The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse- edited by Stephen Coote- read a review of this in the paper. Fascinating look at poets from the beginning of time, articulating queer topics in poetic form.
5. The Well of Loneliness- Radclyffe Hall- This is at the top of every queer classic booklist I've ever read. Doesn't sound like much of an upper though, does it?
6. At Swim, Two Boys- Jamie O'Neill- This one Ron also recommended to me. Sounded good. Worth a shot .
7. The Seven Deadly Sins of Love (and other stories from the still unfabulous social life of Ethan Green)- Eric Orner- This queer comic I think is based in Toronto. I saw the movie first and didn't really like it. The book is, of course, much better. I love comics!
8. Men On Men- a collection of gay short stories. I love a good anthology from time to time and this one had some of my favourite authors.

There you have it my friends! All this for the low, low price of $28! Any suggestions on where to start eating...or rather reading?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Words Won't Bring Me Down

So many things in life are ironic and their numbers seem to grow with age. I have more hair on my body but less where I actually want it. After years of trying to appear older, I now despair over creases that no longer disappear when my expressions fade. Now that I am able to stay out until all hours of the night, I am too bored and/or tired to actually do so. And I still have acne even though I'm over 30 years old! What is up with that??

The newest (and most disturbing) irony is that, after all this time, I still am crushed by a bad review. I really thought I was past caring what people thought about me. I feel I have developed a strong enough sense of self to withstand peer pressure and let my individuality and unique personality shine through the gloom of routine conformity.

Case in point: As most of you know, I have recently changed my hair colour. Admittedly I've been dying my hair for many a year now, sporatically when gray hair started to show and regularly when my partner started to style hair. So I've toyed with various shades of brown but nothing radical until now. For some reason, when he offered to make me blonde after a haircut, my heart screamed "YEEEEES!" I want to be that popular tanned Ken-doll jock in high school that just smiled and people loved him. I want to be fun, less serious. I want to feel edgy and attractive. I want attention!

Forty-five minutes later I couldn't recognize myself in the mirror. Oh dear God what have I done? On the flip side it was strangely like I saw myself as God's creation for the first time. I had this totally different perspective of me and it was neither good nor bad, it was just me. And I was new!

I must admit my blonde ambition has been fun. I've received kudos galore and even more out-right stares of (what I hope were) admiration. The most important review of course was the one I gave myself everyday in the mirror. I spiked, flipped, combed both up and down and yes, even dabbled with a faux hawk.

With all this in mind I was more than a little surprised that the only bad reviews were from members of my immediate family. And they weren't merely bad, they were scathing to the point I felt personally attacked.

Being raised with the "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" dictum, I really have tried to be kind in my criticisms, knowing that with my verbal skills, I could be vitriolic. I never want to send out that kind of toxic energy. So why do I allow a bad review or two to penetrate me so deeply? I should be beyond caring, right? I really thought that I was.

At any rate, being blonde has been a blast but at the end of the day, it really isn't me. The real me keeps growing at the roots, pushing the lighter me out. My partner has suggested I return to those roots in preparation for my return to my Kansas roots at Christmastime. He's right as usual of course. Because, after all, I am beautiful, no matter what they say!