Saturday, March 25, 2017

Strange Brew that Tango Stew

When we dance tango there are always two strangers present. The first is the one our partner experiences and the one we bring to the dance, invisible to our own minds and not that person we have so fastidiously groomed to represent us to all who are not us. Years of lying to ourselves about those parts of our character that cause unpleasant emotions has led us to become blind to how we are perceived by others, in essence, a stranger to our own self-perception.

Your partner brings the other stranger and it is as equally foreign and mysterious to them as yours is to you.

The beauty of tango is that it allows the primal side of our being, the stranger whose actions are honest but not always innocent, to be shared with others on levels of footing that are literally and metaphorically equal. It is that part of us which is in desperate need of physical, emotional and spiritual nutrients for we are social creatures who crave contact with others of our species, or even with other animals, such as cats and dogs, when the real thing is lacking. It is what drives us to tango.

In keeping with this blog’s purpose, to be an honest exposé of the mind of a man, on tango or otherwise, I would like to try and describe what it is that I see in the stranger dancing with me.

Passion is the part of character that is most easily discerned. Sometimes it is like a huge dragon rising up on its hind legs before me, wings spread, mouth open and spewing flames. I take this as an intense desire for physical contact but experience has taught me that all I can say with certainty is that it is a big thing, strong and possibly dangerous.

Sometimes the passion inside of a woman is so small that it is disappointing and sad. It can be big but soft or it can be tiny and acrid. Whatever it is, your passion is always on display.

Another thing I see are auricular inclinations, whether or not she hears the music. This is almost always evident in skilled tangueras and it is a sure sign in those of lesser skills that they will one day achieve proficiency.

Mental discipline is another thing. Exposure to prolonged contact with tango music and tango dancers can be overwhelming for those of weaker broths. I always take composure as a sure measure of intelligence but I suspect it is simply something that I cannot yet adequately explain. I find a follower who doesn’t anticipate to be smarter than one who does but that is an illogical assumption on my part yet that is how I feel.

I am certain I have been perceived as intellectually challenged when I was first learning how to dance. I think dancing has raised my I.Q. or at least made me more aware of the amount of effort the world requires for me to stay sane and to find satisfaction in my endeavors.

During the course of a tanda I discover a plethora of aromas emanating from the living stew seething within my ethereal vessel. A chance moment of synchronous movement and erotic fragrance fills the air. The odor is fleeting and soon lost in a pungent parade of motion bringing newer flavors to a boil in the stock of our cosmic coupling.

Adornos, or embellishments, are moments of incredible insights into the stranger's mind that are always fleeting yet positively addicting. I could devote an entire post to this practice but suffice it to say here that the acquisition of these physical expressions of the melody are well worth the time it takes to work them into your tango vocabulary.

You won’t find it surprising that the simpler and purest of emotions are readily evident as the music and spontaneous choreography transpires: sadness, joy, curiosity, infatuation, anger, etc. are set upon my cosmic palette like perfumes born on a breeze from a nearby forest or a highland meadow. All readily evident to me but oblivious to my partner who is focused on being oblivious to all except my intention and her interpretation of it: all else is autonomic.

It is possible to hide the stranger from your tango partner but it is a lie that will eventually catch up to you. Recognition of it takes shape in a slowly forming feeling of disappointment. Often inexplicable and enigmatic, I believe it leads to less dance invitations.

Do not fear the stranger within you, it cannot be covered up with the bushel of lies you tell yourself to quell anxiety and doubt. Have faith in yourself and in the strangers you encounter for they do not come to tango to judge you, only to move with you to the music. If you dance with your stranger unrestrained, you will find nourishment you didn't know you were lacking, doses of spiritual, physical and/or emotional remedies brought to you by a stranger.

Life is a mystery, embrace it without fear and without judgment. Be aware of your stranger, it is a part of you, a guide to the Spice Cabinet of Life and one of the things that makes social interaction an adventure. It is an important ingredient in the tango brew and part of what makes its consumption so satisfying and the need for more of it undeniable.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Political Diet

The people are never powerless. We speak volumes with the very fact that we are alive, that we eat and breathe; our existence is a statement that has impact.
We are not mere pebbles thrown into the pond, we are also the ripples disrupting the surface and expanding in a quantum fashion throughout the universe, like the movement of the flock, turning erratically at times and at others, with poetic grace.
The election was won according to the rules but the people are not satisfied with the results.
Many feel emasculated and I say to them, “be the ripple.”
We Americans consume too much. It’s time to cut back and do so in a way that has an impact on the object of our dissatisfaction. No more clothes, ties, purses, handbags, watches, etc. No more blind investing; seek out those banks and securities that are not investing against you.
Consume only that which you need and that which your heart finds truly nourishing.
Then you will see a change that will make you feel good about yourself, about our country, like healthy exercise but with political intent.
Spend wisely, America; your pennies become the dollars that shape the world.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Tango Philadelphia:The Ruba Club is the Best

Without a doubt, the best tango in Philadelphia is held once a month at the Ruba Club. We owe this in no small part to the efforts of Meredith Klein who is a force for quality dance in this town. There are others to credit like Andres, Dasha and more but she is the engine behind the scenes; events of this caliber are usually the collaborative effort of a large group of people.
I think this is my fourth or fifth time attending this monthly event. The skill level is very high but without the attitude one might find elsewhere. This means a novice with some experience can expect to get more than just a few dances with someone more accomplished. That’s because the rules of tango or los codigos del tango are observed here. One of those rules says that local tangueros owe it to the milonga, the place where tango dancers gather to practice their craft, to make sure that all the followers get a chance to dance.
Lately I haven’t been paying much homage to that rule but here I felt compelled because this was a real milonga which is, in essence, a group experience, like a play, where everybody has a role to perform, including me. It is a two hour ride for me from the Poconos and I’d prefer to dance only with those women I’ve been thinking about all week, the ones that create a place in my brain where I go when I can’t get to sleep; these ladies are the source of my addiction and the reason I make a considerable effort to support my habit.
Another rule of los codigos del tango is that dancers enter the floor from the corners. Ruba Club is the only place in Philly where leaders not only know the rule exists but respect it uniformly. To join the group, or milonga, another of the many meanings of this word, a leader take his follower’s hand and goes to one of the corners of the dance floor. He waits there until an approaching leader meets his gaze and nods to the space in front of him and his lady. It is now okay for the new couple to safely enter the moving crowd because the nodding leader will create a safe space for them.
When I am at other milongas, new couples entering the line of dance are often like cue balls hitting a rack of pool balls on the break: chaos ensues.
At the Ruba Club milongas, cabeceo is the preferred means of dance requests. This technique is based solely on eye-contact and saves everyone from embarrassing displays of rejection or dreadful acts of mercy lasting for an entire tanda, the amount of time tango dancers spend with each partner. A tanda can be three or four songs separated by a cortina, or curtain, which is non-tango music played to separate the tandas.
To the casual observer it must seem that the dancers’ choices of partners are incredibly random events but they are actually very deliberate. Each invite is made with intent and care not to be discovered by anyone but the intended candidate.
There are many other rules of tango that add to the total group happiness of all in attendance: couples do not pass other couples, collisions are credited to both leaders who apologize sincerely to each other and that there are two lanes of traffic, traveling counterclockwise around the room. Los codigos del tango, when observed, are what makes the milonga a group experience, where the the success or failure of the event is felt by all. These rules are actually guidelines to a satisfying night of dancing tango.
The fact that los codigos del tango are observed at the Ruba Club is a big reason why so many skilled dancers come from New York, Baltimore and DC and they are a reason for all to come and dance or just to observe poetry in motion.
Thank you, once again, Meredith Klein. I had a terrific night of dancing and you played a big part in making that happen. I had such a great time that I felt compelled to write this or else risk many sleepless nights until I did.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Free Your Mind And She Will Follow

I’ve always been very cynical about women leaders in tango. I understand their rationale when they take up the role to make practica more interesting in the absence of skilled leaders but I silently object, out of respect, when I hear a lady say she does so because it is better to learn both roles. I think doing both is too big a task for amateurs like most of us. That is my opinion and it is not important. What should be, I believe, of prime concern to all who attempt to lead in tango is that they have a clear mind.
Because men and women are different it is readily apparent to a man who is new to dancing that being so close to a member of the opposite sex is distracting. I deluded myself many times before I ever realized that my thoughts must not be clouded if I was to succeed.
The most obvious delusion men experience is that “she likes me.” She doesn’t like me and it took me a long time to come to grips with that sad reality. Once I did, however, I was able to progress to the next level.
Another obstacle I had to tackle was the sophomoric assumption that I had become a good tango dancer after only five years and that I was special. I was not special. I often noticed that being special was more about how the leader treated the follower than it was about skill.
A woman is naturally distracting. It is a fact of nature. It is a concept that is relatively easy for a man to understand but difficult for him to overcome. I think it is an aspect of this dance that women ignore when they are learning how to lead.
Music enters the body and choreography must happen spontaneously; there is no room in the thought process for wondering about the follower’s choice of makeup, hairstyle, fragrance, etc. There is only one thought that is allowed and this is the respect for the lady’s balance. Learning respect takes practice. This practice must happen not only at the practica but in all aspects of your life and with all the women you meet.
This means opening doors for her, listening to her until she has finished talking and treating her opinions as those of an equal, being neither superior nor inferior to yours. To be a leader of the dance called tango, it does not matter if you are a man or a woman, only that your respect for the follower is clear. When that is apparent, your mind will be clear as well and dancing will happen more naturally.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Trump Dump

  When I was a child I had a red and yellow inner tube that was my comfort object. My oldest child had a security blanket that she literally ate. Her mother lovingly sewed on more blanket to keep it from disappearing altogether as it was tongued and chewed upon throughout my child’s infancy. My second child had a stuffed rhino which had a horn that was constantly being repaired.
As a teenage victim of the peace-love-dope generation I found that inner tube again but it failed to keep me afloat in a sea of adolescence and one day I found myself in boot camp. The absence of drugs and alcohol from my bodily functions made me aware that I was unprepared for the challenges that lie ahead, a realization that made me shake uncontrollably at times. Anxiety caused my face to break out in pimples with several deep scars remaining to this day, 37 years later.
I was surprised to find that it wasn’t the big things that worried me, it was the ordinary interactions with other human beings. What I liked about substance abuse was that it inured me to my inability to communicate honestly with my fellow human beings. I prized the truth so greatly that my body wrenched when I couldn’t bring myself to say so.
If I felt this way, I wonder how many other weird things people might be feeling. It’s a wonder that we can all get along as we do and there’s a reason for that.
In the grand scheme of things I have to think this condition was a survival instinct since being truthful has led me to two bad ass-whoopings that should have put me in the hospital if my stubbornness would have allowed me to call an ambulance. An ambulance actually arrived on the scene that second time at 3 a.m. on the bridge crossing the Lehigh River in Bethlehem, PA, but I signed a waiver resolving the emergency workers of any responsibility should I bleed to death on the sidewalk.
A man was being pushed off of that bridge and I caught him. I know I did because I could feel the pull of his full weight as I grabbed him by the belt and waistband of his pants. Unfortunately for me, the man pushing him over the concrete rail was not too happy about my involvement.
As I think back on those events I must say they were very educational as well as life-threatening. Never contradict a man who says he’s a member of the most notorious biker gang in Philadelphia and be very careful when drinking heavily with amiable strangers.
I am at one of those truth-telling crossroads once again and instinctively fear for my future and possibly the entire planet’s future.
Donald Trump has been elected president. I did not vote for him but lately I have been saying we should give this guy a chance. Upon saying this I reach for my inner tube but it is absent. The feel of rubber against my hand is not there to ease my concerns that the grand experiment in democracy may be over. As a student of history I think I am more aware of this than most.
What if this guy really is the Devil and I just backed him? What if he and Putin want to play chicken with our nuclear arsenal. What if those very same bikers I learned to avoid are part of a defacto army that will enforce his edicts? Did I just kiss my social security goodbye?
What is the truth that I am standing up for?
That’s easy to answer but it was hard for me to actually do it: it’s the Constitution. Democracy isn’t always pleasing but it serves a valuable purpose, like a toilet for our entire nation, it’s what make the United States so great: once we’ve released the crap from our bowels we can then flush it down the sewer.
Donald Trump is nature’s call for a dysfunctional government. He’s the bowl of oat bran that will quickly work his way through our system until we realize that it’s time to go.
Don’t pull the handle just yet, we’ve got to drop the load first. It’s going to be hard but in the end we’ll all feel better about that little piece of paper that helps us clean up after ourselves.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

About Angels

My angel came to me
flawed and battered,
searching for answers
in all the wrong places.
Hair white as snow
She drew me to her
like a ski junkie to powder.

I was never satisfied with her
Yet she satisfied me completely,
An algorithm hard to explain.

The cosmos is beautiful,
All chaos,
It expands exponentially.

She was far from perfect;
only I could see that.
She had flown high
On wings now broken.

That’s how the Universe sent her to me,
Armed with humility, fragility and insanity,
The only way into my world,
My dull and lifeless planet.

The Universe prepared her for me,
Like Zopyrus in the fall of Babylon:
Mentally mutilated beyond belief,
the key to the city.

She let me into the world of academia,
Taught me the joys of pillage and plunder.
It’s what I needed,
The broken daddy,
The kayak hombre.

She killed me with her honesty,
Brought me back from the dead;
Nurtured a new me
And sent me off again.

Wings healed,
She flies low over the Earth,
more certain of her uncertainty,
Stronger but still frail,
at ease with her insanity,
Saving others to this day.

Now, too,
I am an angel,
Bringing relief and disillusionment.
My comfort brings joy
Which helps them to see
The world is not so perfect

As they thought it to be.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


What is Love? Nobody really knows for certain; it’s kind of like gravity: hard to measure. Like gravity, it is a force of nature yet science refuses to treat it as such. I think Love wants it that way; it is coy.
One of the best things about being a parent was seeing my children when they were brimming with Love. It was coming out their eyes, filling their cheeks and straightening their spines; it was compelling them to give Love to us, their mother and father and I still have it to this day.
Love is a dimension all to itself as I tried to describe in my last book, Revelations of Wiccans. It is like a hole in the fabric of the Universe, a hole that I have fallen into four times in my short life. Once you’ve dropped into it there is no getting out although you may feel at times that you have.
That is what happened to me the first time I fell into Love; I thought I had climbed out of it only to find it was bigger than anything I could ever imagine and that understanding this fact of life, this fact of Love, broke my mind.
Allow me to provide more information. The first time I encountered Love I chose not to believe in it. Little did I know that was like not believing in gravity or electricity or the sun. Like falling off a high cliff or grabbing onto a live wire or wandering into the desert I was devastated beyond my ability to comprehend anything worse.
I could barely function. I did not know that I could hurt so much and it was a pain I could not escape. It filled my beer, my sleep and everything else I tried to do to escape it. It was like an angry friend that followed me around everywhere who made sure I would always know it was there. I finally had to accept that it was with me always and in doing so I could go on.
One day, about eight months later, eight months that could easily have been eight eternities, I found myself on a bus full of people traveling down an interstate highway. The bus began to climb a steep mountain and I could see trees whose leaves were beginning to change colors for the Fall. I say ‘I’ but I mean ‘we’, me and my pain and, although I knew the leaves should be red and yellow all I could see were shades of grey.
As the bus chugged up the hill it occurred to me that this feeling I was experiencing could happen to anybody: white, black or brown, rich or poor, handicapped or able, everyone was susceptible. If you had Love, I pondered, then life was worth living and without it death was certainly not an unpleasant option. That’s when I realized that Love was the great equalizer; it’s what makes us all the same, our ability to feel its warmth or its absence.
That was the moment I realized I was still in Love and that it would never go away and that that was okay. The object of my Love was gone but Love was still with me and I stood as good a chance at happiness as anyone else on the planet. With that epiphany the trees burst into flaming colors. They were all red and yellow and green as they were supposed to be. My heart lifted and the pain dissipated making it easier for me to carry on with the business of living.

The next time I fell into Love I was a constant gardener. I tended to it and it gave me two of the most wonderful things a person could ever hope to have: children. I knew I was not worthy of these gifts but that is the beauty of Love, it is nonjudgmental. I went in the opposite direction of my first Love experience and found a joy that was beyond my ability to fathom. That friend was back but this time it did not torture me, it showered me with gifts that money could never buy and it continues to this day.

The third time Love found me I realized that it has a dark side. Dark does not mean bad. There are plenty of wonderful things that happen in the night and that is where it found me: driving down Interstate 80 on a wintry night going to tango in Maywood, NJ. I was new to the dance back then and the soundtrack from the movie Amelie was playing on my stereo. Love was all around me in the people I was meeting. I could sense the depth of the pits beneath my feet as I tried to gain proficiency in this complex form of social engagement.
My van climbed a hill and descended the other side; we had forty more miles of New Jersey ahead of us before we reached our destination. All was quiet, the music was playing, soft and lilting if you are familiar with the album, the essence of melancholy. I drove straight into it. I couldn’t turn the wheel though that is what I wanted to do. I went in at 70 mph and didn’t stop until I hit the bottom.
I have heard that it is impossible for an object to be in two places at once but Love doesn’t give a damn about the possible. I was in Love once again and I found the night to be just as beautiful as the day. My life was full. I didn’t sleep for fear of missing all the wonders Love was dropping off at my doorstep.
The fourth and last time, though I hope not the final, I fell in Love was the best. I enjoyed the descent into the well, entered at my own pace and landed softly. I filled the base with fertile soil and watered it at regular intervals. Love loves to be fertilized; it is something that is at the core of its nature.
As sweet as our time was I knew it would not be possible for me to bring this plant to fruit but Love, as I have said, does not care about the possible, it made it happen and the plant continues to bear fruit to this day.
She was not with me when I plunged into the hole of Love. It was Cinco de Mayo 2012. I was camping in my tent just outside of Durango, CO, after a wonderful night of tango at a place in town. The moon was so bright that I could have read a book inside my tent without a light. It glowed and filled me with its warmth but I knew it was not the moon that was making my blood boil: it was Love.
I could not stop thinking about her nor did I wish to. I reviewed every moment of our encounters and thought of what I would say to her, what I would do to her when we next met. It was near dawn before I had made a decision. The next time I saw her I would ask if I could hold her hand. That was the thing that was most special about her, she had an extraordinary ability to touch people.
I would spend the next sixteen months touching more than just her hands. Every part of her body was like a profound discovery for me.  I would spend hours exploring a single patch of skin on her shoulder blade or her palm or a finger. I was fascinated by my ability to be fascinated with such incremental pieces of her anatomy. Our time came to an end but my Love for her continues to this day.

There you have it: Love. Get some. You won’t regret it.