Saturday, December 22, 2012

Two Left Feet

My Christmas shopping was unexpectedly interrupted today as I walked past the window of a popular dance studio. Couples gracefully dancing the Tango caught my eye. I stood on the sidewalk for quite some time just watching them. 

Their bodies were plastered against one another as they performed elegant dips, walks and quick turns. Where did the idea that two people clasping hands, arms slung around shoulders and waist; gyrating to some kind of rhythm come from? And why? It was fascinating but confusing.

My father always told me I had two left feet. His words rang true which always made it difficult for me to feel comfortable on a dance floor to wait for the inevitable, repeatedly stepping on the toes of my partner.

I walked through the door, watching the dancers a while longer, and then slowly wandered down a hallway gazing at photos of dancers arranged side by side. There were couples of all ages and sizes, beaming with pride at having won trophies or ribbons. The Las Vegas, World-O-Rama, The Miami Superama. 

Couple number 146 was having a blast on the dance floor, at least that is what the caption said. The position their bodies were in would suggest otherwise. The champs, another first place finish for East Coast Swing. Awards, awards, and more awards. 

The photos, like arrows, drew me down the hall until I found myself in what seemed to be a salesroom. I gazed around, blinking dumbly. I suddenly realized that had been lured into the marketer’s lair.

One by one, like mushrooms under a shady tree, svelte dance instructor salesmen appeared, smiling brightly and smelling of aftershave. I was cornered. Questions were aimed at me from every direction. Did I want to have more self-confidence? Did I want to meet people and make new friends? Did I want better health and social ease? Did I want to stand out on the dance floor? Not really. 

I felt like I had developed mental paralysis. After forty-five minutes of high density charming, and persuasion, I understood, there was only one way to get out of that office. I would have to dance my way out.

“Slow…quick, quick…slow,” my dance instructor chanted. Thank God my Peripheral Neuropathy wasn’t acting up.
“Don’t look at your feet,” he ordered. His breath mint made my eyes water. “Make a frame with your arms and let me drive.” Now I was confused. I looked around at the other dancers for help. My movements seemed unnatural and my breath came out in short huffs.  It felt like my pantyhose were on backwards. Was the Foxtrot really the missing ingredient in my life? 

“Dancing gives you a sense of well-being, doesn’t it?” he asked.
I smiled stiffly, wondering if I was the only one in the room who was worried about the perspiration circles growing under my armpits. I glanced into the wall-sized mirror; my efforts were looking less and less like the Foxtrot and more and more like a backward death march.
“Isn’t this normally performed to music?” I asked. He didn’t respond.

I looked up in time to see him exchange a goofy expression with a fellow instructor. What did that mean? I knew it. I was one of those hopeless beginners, doomed to roam the earth without rhythm, without dance shoes.

After twenty minutes of me framing and him driving, he stopped. I watched him walk over to select some music and suddenly the whole studio was full of Moonglow.
“Shall we?” he asked with an extended hand.

I took a deep breath and placed my hand in his. He swung me around; forcing me to cling to his shoulder then he began to chant again.

“Slow…quick, quick…slow.”
I had to check the mirror again to make sure, but it was true. I was smiling. Now I get it.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Evil Eye

I have a Facebook friend who suggested that I try an exercise used as a technique in actor training. It’s called, Synergenis. 
He explained the idea is to get your body sense memory, imagination and emotions to work together more effectively. For instance, when you’re happy, you smile. If you smile, you will automatically feel happy inside. Make sense? He instructed me to sit in front of a mirror and smile at myself for ten minutes and then post my results.

It took me well over two weeks to get up the courage to stare at myself that long…let alone smile. Ten minutes is a lot longer than you think when you’re staring at yourself and smiling, or even trying to. What finally compelled me to try the exercise was my online horoscope. It said, ‘be seductive when it comes to expressing your passion for others today, dear Leo. There is more to your glance than meets the eye. The untrained prey has no chance against your hypnotic stare’. How could I go wrong with a forecast like that? I gave it a try.

Since that fateful day, I have begun experiencing things, little things that most people wouldn’t give a second thought to. They were just things that might be attributed to changes in the weather or an unexpected adjustment of plans, such as a bad sinus headache or finding that the Dill Weed in my cupboard which I intended to use in a new recipe had the expiration date of 1982.

Last week, I left a message on a friend’s cell phone. After I finished recording, I was curious about the direction given by the perfunctory voice that I have heard hundreds of times. “For more options, press one.” I pressed one, but there were no more options. It was ominous. I felt an evil presence that seemed to cast an eerie shadow as from a dark cloud. It drifted above causing a chill to run through me.

I began to notice other things too. My online grocery purchases were delivered straight to my neighbor’s door. I certainly hope it was a mistake but after several calls to the grocery store and to my neighbor, my articles were returned with several slices of the Orowheat cracked wheat bread missing from the loaf, two sleeves of crackers were absent from my Fresh Stacks Ritz crackers and what remained of an Otis Reddenbacker microwave sack with a few kernels of unpopped corn.  What was causing me to experience such a sudden patch of bad luck?

I stumbled across an article on the Internet that may have solved the mystery of why things aren’t going so well. The evil eye is to blame. Yes, it’s true. According to this article, it is quite possible to inadvertently bring the evil eye, hairy eye, stink eye, whatever you want to call it, on yourself.  I knew I was vulnerable to negative energies but I never dreamed that I could sabotage my circumstances with my own powerful hypnotic stare.

Unfortunately, the spell won’t just go away, it must be removed by burning rare seeds or hanging a plant called, Camel’s Needle, at the front door. I could gather uzarlik to burn but I have no idea of how to get to the Khizi mountains, but I do know it is north of Baku on the road to Guba.

I started to panic. How could I remove my evil eye spell and what if I couldn’t get my hands on the proper remedy? My neighbor observed my agitation and after pouring out the frightening details of my dilemma to her, she said I could call her grandmother who lives in Mexico. 
I called her at exactly 6:48 pm as I was instructed. A feeble voice answered and with a thick accent she said, “Take the right eye of a hyena and put it in very strong vinegar for seven days. Then boil it. Take it to a remote place, where a rooster’s crow cannot be heard and bury it next to a cactus plant. Your spell will be broken.”

I think it might be easier to avoid mirrors.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Full Monty

I went to the mall yesterday, to get a jump-start on my Christmas shopping. As I pulled into the driveway to get to my favorite parking structure, I found the cars were being detoured to other parking areas. There was a long line of people standing behind velvet ropes, waiting for something to happen or someone to arrive. 

I drove past fire trucks, police cars and a bus, big enough to transport the entire Ducks hockey team. Ah-hah, that must be what it was, they were going to sign autographs. Security guards motioned the cars entering the driveway to park several miles from where I happened to be going, but I wasn’t about to let this get me into a holiday funk, so I smiled, grateful for the unforeseen exercise.

My purse, overstuffed with non-essentials, bounced heavily against my ribs as I power-walked around the corner to the front of the mall. My Rebok Lifestyles skidded to a halt against the sidewalk. I was greeted by a group of long faces. It was the mounted police! Okay, so the horses were the ones with the long faces. 

The officers were just sitting there, smiling; all decked out in their uniforms, positioned on gleaming, official, government-issued saddles. I didn’t know they still had mounted police. As I walked past the herd, the hairs on the back of my neck rose. What was I afraid of? They all seemed to have control of their mounts. I passed them as quickly as I could and crossed the street.

As I stood on the corner, the deep roar of Harley-Davidson’s came from behind. I turned to look. Now, I don’t know motorcycles, but these bikes were beauties. There were four of them. They had custom yellow pearl paint, really king of the road looking, with tinsel-decorations and lights around the gas tanks. The riders were wearing Santa hats and waving to the spectators. They were leading the way for a white, 2012, Lexus Luxury Coup convertible. The driver was wearing antler ears and a big red nose. Cute. Who was sitting up high on the back of the car?  It was, none other than, Santa Claus! 

My heart began to race as he waved to the crowd, with that parade-like hand motion. Something about this was really bothering me. It could have been the fact that Santa was arriving in a Lexus, and being escorted by burly bikers, or it could have been that I can’t remember the last time Santa arrived before December, or in a luxury Lexus for that matter. Why, dammit, why? Times must be good for the North Pole.

Suddenly, in a Mel Brooks, high-anxiety, sort of way, childhood memories began flooding back. It was a parade, and I hate parades. No wait, I fear parades. I’m sure there is a phobic term for it, like Promenadephobia. The irrational fear of cavalcades of oddly clad marchers, clanging cymbals and blowing whistles, followed by horses. Yes, horses. 

All my parade fears date back to when I was three years old. The one and only time my parents took us to the Rose Parade. We were positioned well, right at curbside. The morning was crisp and cold; we could see our breath. High school bands began marching by, while playing their brassy toned renditions, and beating on bass drums. I was so excited. Rickety floats made entirely of flowers I couldn’t pronounce passed, playing shaky music while threatening to implode. I couldn’t have been happier.

The morning was warming up, so I asked my mother to hold my coat. I remember I was wearing my little pink chiffon dress with the short puffy sleeves. My socks matched my dress. But, it was the shoes I loved the most. Black, patent leather, and shining like mirrors. 

It was meant to be an exhilarating thing for me, but the next parade participant was the one who scarred me for life. His name was, Monty Montana, and he was riding a beautiful pinto horse. My father leaned down to tell me the horse’s name was, Rex. Monty was swinging a lariat around his head. I was hypnotized by the look of intention he had on his face. Suddenly, the rope left his hand. I stood in frozen anticipation as I watched the rope heading my way. It was the knot in the rope that I felt first. It hit me on top of the head, hard, like when those mean kids thump you while you’re standing in line at the movies. The rough, hemp encircled me, and then drew tight around my tender skin. The crowd cheered as I struggled, like a calf in a rodeo event. The more I tried to escape, the worse the rope grated against my skin. 

I heard my parents laugh behind me, as Monty rode forward to claim his prize. Why didn’t they try to rescue me? Too bad, that I was too young to realize how fortunate I was to be singled out, mindfully selected to be given a fabulous memory of my first Rose Parade. He dismounted to retrieve his rope. I didn’t care that he was wearing a fringed outfit louder than the screams in my head, or that he was a cowboy actor, or even if he was a champion yodeler. The damage was done.

I have steered clear of parades ever since. I shy away from the color pink as well. Of course, avoiding parades and shades of pink hasn’t really interfered with my life in radical ways. Tragically, I still get that same sick, empty feeling when confronted by a parade, like the one at the mall. 

Perhaps one day, I will seek therapy to reverse the parade paranoia. Or, maybe I’ll just give my fear an acquiescent nod and save my money. Either way, I don’t care if it rains on my parade.