Saturday, August 11, 2018

Love Is The 5th Dimension

I think my computer is in love with me. I’m not sure how I know this but I’ve
noticed that it does not work well in the hands of others. Recently, I asked a
coworker to open the lid, it powers up upon doing this except in this case,
it stayed off. I told him to try again: same results. I took the laptop from him and
opened the lid and…..voila!
Love is a fantastical thing. It is my theory, as professed in my books on tango,
wiccans and other things, that it is a dimension unto itself. It is not simply a
strong emotion, but rather, it is a phenomenon that exists outside of the constraints
of time and space. It joins all things together and has an influence on the course
of events, be it a particle being repelled by another or the rejection of a lover by
his mate.

We are taught that Love is a strong feeling but it is much more than that: Love
exists where humans do not. It inhabits places and things as well as people. It is
in my computer and I am okay with that.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Tango Touch

Touch. It is such an inconspicuous word for a sensation that has such an enormous impact on our emotions and on our lives. Touch is the feeling that remains with me long after the milonga has ended. So it was after some incredible dances with a delightful tanguera last Sunday. I was headed to the Baltimore area for work when I stopped to attend a practilonga in Media, PA, about two hours from my destination. I was on such a high when I left there that I could not listen to the radio for the rest of the ride. I drove the next hundred miles in silence, savoring the feeling of her in my embrace that was so clear it felt real.
Monday morning, I awoke in my hotel room to the thought of her in my arms. I could still remember quite vividly how she felt, my right hand on her shoulder blade, her back filling the nook of my elbow and bicep. Tuesday: same feeling but the memory is fading; I struggle to keep the impression of her in my mind fresh but it is fleeting. It is Wednesday morning and the recollection is almost gone. I am compelled to write or else the memory will be gone forever.
Touch is the sensation that keeps us coming back to tango like a drug addict to the needle. There is more to this sense than its mere definition suggests; it is an emotion that makes a memory; it is a digital readout of the person or object being touched; it is a sensation that records in our brains more than just texture and tone, it records possibilities.
Possibilities? Let me try to clarify that statement. If I pick up a million baseballs, one at a time, I probably will not remember touching any one of them. If I pick up a baseball my Dad gave to me, I will probably remember how the ball felt quite vividly as well as what I might do with it: throw it back to him, put it in my glove, toss it up in the air a few times, etc.
I did not remember how this particular tanguera smelled until I started writing about her: she smelled good, I remember the odor of her perfume made me think of a western forest and pinon pines, a desert aroma that is also sweet.
Her fragrance, however, was not the sensation that accompanied me on the rest of my drive, nor did it invade my thoughts in the early hours of the morning. It was the memory of the touch of her body that did this. There was a feeling of satisfaction when I touched her, maybe something more, I think she was happy. Whatever she was feeling I could sense that it was a good feeling through the contact of our bodies within the tango embrace.

This is my digital readout of her but what of the possibilities? Well, that should be obvious: we will dance again and the dancing will be good.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Happy Ending

On my tango journeys out West I met a woman and fell in love. Love is a college filled with incredible avenues of learning unavailable in other courses of instruction. We shared many things but mostly we shared insights into our perceptions of tango. From our discussions I discovered a simple trick to make many of my tango engagements remembered favorably by my partners. The trick is to end the dance on a positive note and the way to do that is in the execution of the final release.
I had been dancing tango for five years when I met her and thought I knew everything but really I was just beginning to learn what is truly important to a tango encounter. Instructors of milonguero-style had swept through the western cities of Denver, Albuquerque and Tucson yet I had never heard of it. I was a New-York-City-style dancer, educated in all the fancy moves: lifts, volcadas, colgadas, etc. Tango to me at that time was more of an acrobatic feat than a true connection with my partner whom I barely understood, though, in my naivete, I assumed I knew all I needed to know.
My lover was a total beginner. I took it upon myself to educate her properly in the art and she blossomed like a flower, revealing to me a beauty of the dance I never knew existed. Because we were lovers, I was able to ask her questions about the men she danced with and felt certain I had gotten honest answers.
It takes three years to learn how to hold a woman in the tango embrace. It is not just an act of understanding the physical mechanics of where to place your arm and how to arrange your spine. It is the composition of many things, of mind, body and emotions. Holding a woman, a strange woman whom you’ve never met, has to be done from an attitude of respect, your mind must be clear of primal thoughts but those thoughts must not be hidden. Tango is full of paradoxes. You must project confidence and be calm. Above all, you must endeavor never to push her off her balance. If she is off-balance she will panic and that is no way to conduct a relationship, for that is what a tango dance is: a relationship if only for the length of the song or the group of songs that comprise a tanda.
We attended a tango festival in Tucson, then another in Albuquerque. In the spring of the year following the time when we first met we attended a close-embrace workshop in Salida, Colorado, taught by instructors well-versed in the milonguero-style of tango. This method of dancing focuses primarily on the emotional connection between a man and a woman and very little on movements beyond ocho cortado and caminar. Looking back, I probably gave the instructors less credit than they deserved because this workshop was the doorway to an invaluable insight for me into the tango connection. It was not so much what they were teaching that illuminated my experience, rather, it was what my partner was learning and what she was telling me about her experience that I found so valuable.
Here is what I learned from our late night and early morning conversations: if a close embrace connection is established then the disruption of that connection can be disconcerting to the woman. Every time your bodies disengage surface temperatures on the skin begin to drop and panic sets in for the woman; when contact is restored, calmness returns.
This was an epiphany for me and I was able to take this thought all the way to the conclusion of the dance encounter. If you are a follower of my blog you will know that I am a whitewater river guide at heart. A river runs through my life….literally. Of the many rivers I have worked on, the ones with great rides through the rapids at the end are the most loved by the rafting patrons. It is the final memory of the day and so it is with tango that the final memory of the dance should be the most pleasurable.
For the next four years after that workshop I worked on improving my performance of the release of the tango embrace after the dance. My lover and I had agreed that 2.5 seconds was the target duration of time that it would take to complete a proper disengagement of bodies though I have found, in practice, that it varies from woman to woman and from encounter to encounter: not all engagements are the same.
When the song has ended and everyone has stopped dancing, this is no time to disconnect abruptly. Doing so creates an unfavorable emotion and the entire experience may be counted as a failure. I have found that waiting for my partner to begin the release, either by her exhalation or a relaxation of her frame, eliminates the infusion of negative energy at the completion of the dance and, therefore, I believe, the registration of the dance in her memory as a positive experience.
Memories are a funny thing. We only remember things that we can associate with an emotion, be it positive or negative. The key, therefore, is to make that final moment of the dance a positive one by taking the time to allow her to disembark from your frame at her own leisure.
I began my tango education as a study of movement but I found this dance is about so much more than that. It is a dance about a woman and her experience of you, a man; an experience that is profound, unique and only available to those who venture to discover the universe that exists within another individual.

For more thoughts from the Kayak Hombre, check out his books available on Amazon and Kindle:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Crazy Thoughts and Suggested Readings

Do you ever wonder about those things we cannot measure yet we know they exist? Things like love, faith and deja vu. At fifty-eight years of age I’ve come full circle; I’ve grown up believing in God and religion, eschewed my faith in an effort at practicality and find myself once again believing that there is a divine purpose in this world. I was led to this conclusion through tango and my inquiry into the physics of string theory and quantum mechanics. I believe we exist as both a particle and a wave of pure energy and, at any one time, we are either material or ethereal, depending upon the state of our subatomic particles.
Through tango I was able to observe the subtle yet powerful forces of human interaction. Learning how to use the cabeceo to invite a dance partner to join me on the dance floor taught me much about the language we share subconsciously when we are in a crowd; that we are one of many and that we exist as a singularity and as a part of the whole simultaneously.
I struggled to understand the tenets of string theory that propose multiple dimensions beyond those we take for granted: time and space. In my writings in Wiccans, Zombies and the Mayan Blood God,  I hoped to define, however inadequately, what another dimension may look like or be; that maybe our emotions and feelings of things we cannot explain or quantify are proof of those other dimensions. Writing is not my forte and I failed to realize any popular success from my endeavor but it helped me realize how great my lack of understanding truly was.
It’s all real. All we suspect and imagine are true as difficult as that may be to believe. Ghosts, goblins, the Bible, the Law of Attraction, evil spirits, angels, superstitions, all of that is all true. There is a reason why people purport the existence of these things to be true and it is because they are. Our fear of the dark is not an unrealistic emotion, it is our senses warning us that there are bad things out there that exist beyond the realm of what we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears or touch with our hands or taste with our tongues or smell with our noses; or maybe we do but just can’t comprehend what it is that we are seeing, feeling, hearing, tasting or smelling.

I know, this sounds like crazy but maybe crazy is what is necessary to come to terms with the insanity of the universe that we live in.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembering the Double-Xanax Tanguera

Once I danced tango with a woman who was tall, with short hair that revealed an incredibly slender and beautiful neck. She was nervous and told me so, something I would have done when I first began dancing tango: put words to the awkward truth of my situation so I could forge ahead with this invasion of my personal space. For me it was an exhortation of my partner’s allure, which was not meant as a come-on, only something I needed to say so I could maintain control of my faculties and attempt to lead with some amount of proficiency.

That was years ago but I often think about her and how hard it must have been for her to attend the tango workshop where we met. In doing so, I realize what an amazing transformation I have gone through myself.

When I first started dancing anything I was full of preconceived notions that homosexuals were everywhere and all women were laughing at me...and that my stupidity was obvious to all. That last part would be true until I learned to keep my mouth shut. In retrospect, I think we all would appear foolish if we didn’t apply a filter to our thoughts which I did not do at the time.

Here is an example of my idiocy. I burned my hands with a rope during a rock climbing accident and both my palms were nothing but giant blister burns. I put gauze and ointment on my wounds and covered my hands with winter gloves when I went to my dance lesson at the local high school that night. I thought it would be cool, kind of like something Michael Jackson would do only with a full set of gloves. Eventually, one of my partners who happened to be a doctor, convinced me to take off my gloves. It took her just a few moments to conclude that I needed to go to the hospital which was advice I did not heed because I am a stubborn man.

That’s who I am: a man who doesn’t go to hospitals. It’s a wonder I am still alive at fifty-seven. I don’t like to go to four star hotels either. The formality of these places is too terrifying a situation for me to endure. I didn’t go to the prom and would have skipped my graduation if it wasn’t necessary for me to get my diploma and escape high school forever.

I tell you this to let you know how hard it was for me attend my first public dances. I wouldn’t have endured the immense anxiety if I hadn’t been involuntarily celibate the three years before I began my education in dance. I was extremely paranoid of being laughed at, of being accused of being a homosexual, of becoming visibly aroused before an audience and of being exposed as a failure. In hindsight, I can see that I was overly self-conscious. All those things happened to me but they didn’t destroy me, in fact, they had quite the opposite effect: they made me stronger and more confident in myself. I had broken through!

I met her somewhere out West at a tango workshop.

“I’m so nervous,” she said, “I had to take two Xanax just to get myself to come here.”

I was flattered to have been the recipient of such an honest insight and responded in kind with a stupid revelation of my own, “Once I told my wife I was taking out the trash and came back drunk three hours later. I think she’d have been happy if I had gone to church and not gone to the bar.”

She responded by saying, “I would have been more mad if you had gone to church.”

Wow! This blew me away. It was then that I realized I had just made a new friend. We had something in common, we were both on journeys of self-exploration and were equally daunted by the task. I liked her, not in a sexual way although I cannot deny that I have entertained those thoughts; I liked her because of her courage which I knew from experience that was needed to throw herself into such a public confrontation with a member of the opposite sex.

My memories of her are my reward for having undertaken an adventure in tango. We had a platonic relationship that was not without moments of sensuality.

I started a practica in the small town where we both lived, an event held only a handful of times and attended by her, me and two others. I showed her how to do a proper molinete and we practiced it over and over in many different ways. I moved on but returned to the area a few times afterwards. Each time we danced was a delight in spite of the fact that she did not pursue tango instruction beyond that which was offered in the remote area where she lived. Our encounters were delightful because she focused on the perfect execution of the molinete which made me proud.

I have rarely taken it upon myself to teach a woman anything, she was one of the few exceptions and, even more rare, she was one of my few successes. Remembering this makes me happy because I know she could go anywhere and dance tango. She might not realize that but I do and I am glad. Once I taught a woman how to kayak in whitewater rivers. It was much harder but in the end she was able to go off on her own and paddle whitewater rivers throughout the world.

Knowledge of my success gives me satisfaction to this day.

On one of my returns to the area where my double-Xanax friend lived, we met at another tango workshop. I enjoyed many dances with her as we explored how to move in balance with each other. Afterwards, we had an early dinner at an Oriental restaurant and parted ways for the last time. She looked so beautiful sitting there across the table from me, her short hair, slender neck and brilliant smile making me feel like I was the luckiest man on Earth; I was absolutely enthralled yet I did not make a pass at her. It was such an enjoyable moment that the memory of it lingered on inside of me for weeks afterward. Eventually I had to put my thoughts into words and sent them to her. That made her feel awkward but I felt good about having done so.

It’s okay to tell someone how you feel about them even though that may make them feel uncomfortable. Dealing with our discomforts is one of the great lessons in life; not mistaking a sensual moment for an invitation to sex is another. Like Odysseus I have heard the sirens’ call and lived to tell about it. I find this incredibly rewarding. I don’t have fame or fortune but I have a wealth of memories that I can be proud of and that is something we should all strive for.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Her Passion for Tango Lives On

Lately I’ve been toying with the idea that certain characteristics of a person can travel independently of the host. A person’s love for gardening, for example, can leave that person to inhabit and inspire another person and that it is not necessarily dependent upon the original host expiring.
I present my Uncle Arthur’s love of dancing as proof. He was always a hit at weddings. My five sisters raved about his ability to lead them in a dance in spite of his old age. One February I was overcome by an incredible urge to learn how to dance; my uncle died the following April just before his one hundredth birthday.
Many of my passions were born after a relationship with someone who had a similar passion. You can say these are examples of learning but I think there is something else at work here, that the passion is an entity capable of moving from one person to another, that it, in effect, has a life of its own and that maybe, our entirely reality is not one of free will, rather, it is a symphony of passionate performances being played out on a universal stage. We are not the audience in this scenario, we are the props.
In my first book, River Tango, I employ the use of a ghost to help the protagonist to understand what is happening to him. I believe ghosts are real; they are not necessarily the remnants of another person, rather, they may be a creation of our own mind, a representation of another person influenced by a passion that has made its way into our brains. Seeing a ghost is often a personal experience, not shared by groups of people because it is something we create on our own.
What has all this got to do with tango? Well, I’ll tell you. Tango is the laboratory where I conduct all my experiments. It is the means by which I meditate upon a specific idea and that idea is a woman’s passion. I can feel it when I am dancing with her as well as the passions of the other dancers in attendance. It is something I struggle to explain through my stories which have not brought me literary success but have given me a place to proclaim my findings.
My latest book, The Tango Doctor, was inspired by an encounter with one of these passions at a milonga. A woman was dying and I believe her passion for tango had left her body for that of another woman whom I ran into on the street outside the dance hall. She was with another lady and telling her about an odd emotion she was experiencing these past few weeks. She said she would cry when she danced and she couldn’t understand why. The only explanation she could come up with was tango.
The woman who was dying was at the dance but not in the same room. One lady I knew went to visit her and returned an hour later, her eyes bloodshot and tearing. There was so much passionate energy in the dance hall that it was burning a hole into my brain, searing an image of the event which I could not let go of until I wrote about it.
That lady is gone now but her love for tango lives on in the body of another. How strange that is that I got to witness it happening? Where have all her other passions gone, I wonder.
There is life after death but it is not the singular one religions try to sell us. Parts of us are gone long before our last breath leaves our body. We may even wind up as a leaf in the forest still inspired by the passion that makes us dance as seen in the video linked below: enjoy:)

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Tango vs. West Coast Swing

Often times I have heard people say that Tango is the hardest dance to learn; that statement is then usually followed by a disclaimer that West Coast Swing may be just as difficult. I think your adaptation to either dance depends on how you are introduced to it, the people you do it with and what your natural inclinations are towards each activity.
Me personally, I think West Coast is sexy and Tango is sensual. Again, that depends on the person. I was at a dance last night, California mix: swing, latin and ballroom dancing, and danced close embrace to a slow song with a woman who is new to the pastime. She did pretty good and didn't melt into my arms the way some ladies do when they haven’t been hugged in a long time. I didn’t try to overwhelm her with complex movements and all we really did were basic Tango steps without the pivots.
We danced the Cha-cha-cha after that to another song and sat down. We started talking about the different types of dances. She knew I was partial to Tango and the current song everyone was dancing to was a West Coast Swing. I presented my aforementioned opinion and she disagreed saying Tango was much more sexual because we were so close.
It's not fair to compare the two dances because everyone experiences them differently. One similarity I’ve noticed between the two activities is in the pauses. There is an incredible amount of expression that goes into that moment where everything seems to stops but doesn’t really.
In Tango they say, “the passion isn’t in the’s in the pauses.”
The same goes for West Coast, when the action suddenly stops it can be like a firecracker exploding or a silent moment of capitulation. A pause in dancing conveys so much more meaning than a simple lack of movement, in fact, it often says much more than any motion can ever express.
When I started dancing Tango I was fortunate to find a large group of people all training with the same instructor who had returned from Buenos Aires to care for her ailing parent. She taught Tango immersion classes designed to get us up to speed in no time. It was a fortunate moment for us all. In no time we all found milongas, the name for those places where Tango is danced, to go to and never looked back. I hooked up with another group who all went to the same milongas. I found the women and the music addicting and couldn’t stop myself from going almost every every weekend.
A year later that instructor had moved on but she had planted seeds in fertile soil and we were growing like trees.
I took West Coast Swing lessons at a dance studio for a year before I got into Tango. After that year I tried going to other places to dance West Coast and failed...miserably. The only person I could do it with was my instructor. That was over ten years ago and I’ve started anew my efforts to attain proficiency. After a year and a half of learning West Coast Swing I feel safe in offering some thoughts at this time.
The biggest difference between West Coast Swing and Tango, in my opinion, is freedom. The best analogy I could give is that West Coast is like the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The lesson I gleaned from that short novel so popular in the 1970s was that if you love something you should let it go; if that something comes back to you then it is your forever. Individual freedom is contemplated throughout the book as seagulls fall in love while mastering the art of flight. Boy meets Girl, Girl dumps Boy and Jonathan searches for meaning to his heartache. To be with someone who chooses to be with you, he one day discovers, is the best outcome of any relationship and that to cling too tightly to someone is not good.
West Coast gives the couples the opportunity to express themselves to the music while revolving around each other connected simply by the fingertips. It is this amazing amount of freedom that results in glorious exultation of joy and amazing acts of flirtation.
Tango is more like the Odyssey by Homer where a man sails a sea of temptations to reach his one true love. Tango dancers do not go blindly into the unknown, they choose, rather, to sail past the sirens bound to the mast and ears free of cotton; they succumb to infatuation but still find the strength to break away and continue towards the goal.
Odysseus makes it home through his incredible ingenuity and it takes a similar kind of ingenuity to learn how to move with another person in close embrace while maintaining your own balance and without breaking the connection. There are so many mental, emotional and physical roadblocks encountered on this voyage that there is only one way to overcome them all and that is to give up your freedom.
Our hero is free to move about the world but he is bound by an oath to another that keeps him making his way homeward. He is in the world but not of it. He is a man of respect for the woman he loves but that does not keep him from experiencing the world in full, moving from one adventure to another, obstructed by his constant foe, the god of the sea. To escape from each predicament he must solve the riddle or make sense of a paradox.
Tango is full of riddles and paradoxes that must be solved by each dancer: how to give the intention of moving without moving, how to ignore primal instincts yet still exude a natural desire, to move on your own axis while sharing a point of balance with another or to choreograph a song you’ve never heard before with a person you’ve never met.
To do these things you must give yourself to your partner. You do this by sharing your thoughts, emotions and body to bind yourself to that person. To dance Tango your head must be clear for your thoughts are only of the song and your emotions arise to the surface unfettered. Your bodies cling together willfully and not by any restraint from the person within your embrace.
It is this voluntary abdication of freedom that makes Tango Tango but it can only happen if the partners do it with absolute respect for each other; it takes a commitment to a higher ideal that what you do together is art and something that must be done even if your work is only as fleeting as a footstep. Together you can solve the riddles and understand the paradoxes but only if the woman feels free to break away at anytime or to move in any direction she chooses, for the dance is all about her and the respect for her balance be it physical, mental or emotional.

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