Okay what is the big deal with “Wealthiest Dead Celebs!” I see it in headlines and it’s annoying as ants in the kitchen.

Is this really an interesting topic? Why is this even news? Is it because this is Halloween? And tomorrow is All Soul’s, or Day of the Dead?
It pertains to the living in… what way?
It’s like we’ve build tombs and monuments out of bank accounts for these “Dead Celebs” and now pay our homage. It makes me grumpy.


This Halloween JJ & Tebone, S & I are going, after carving pumpkins and roasting seeds, to Cosmic Pizza for a benefit show with my friend & my Middle Eastern dance instructor, with her band. The benefit performance is for a Bill of Right protection group. It sounds like fun and I’ll even get dressed up for it, powdered face, slicked hair, red red lips and vampire fangs that S bought for me today.

Best of all is the so sassy skirt (which must be pronounced “ssso sssassy ssskirt”) I’ve been dying to wear for months now; it’s black and shiny and stretchy, fits low on my hips, tight around my thighs, and then flares out from the knees to the ground. If it were green I could be a mermaid, it’s that kind of skirt.

I thanked S for finding me some fangs; last night we went to Freddie’s for food and supplies, and the Halloween stuff was being packed up already. The five aisles it all occupied just last week had already been taken over by Christmas crap, you know what I mean, tinsel and lights and knick-knack bric-a-brac sparklies and geegaws, stupid Santas and reindeer and not one plaster baby in a manger to be found but I guess that kind of stuff doesn’t sell anymore, the notion of Christ isn’t very marketable...

But where, I wanted to know, were the vampire fangs?
I am not ready for Christmas stuff in the aisles. I am sure not ready for the Christmas country-western-duets gag-me music playing on the store PA system. I am not ready for cards or presents or food. If ever there was a time to say Bah, HUMBUG! It is the day before Halloween.

I wanted my vampire fangs, and the closest Freddy’s could come were those nasty wax lips with fangs, the kind advertised as “wax gum” and really it’s just wax laced with sugar and a perfumey smell. I got them because I figured there was nothing else.
But S bought me some of the plastic fit-over-your-teeth vampire fangs today. He gets gold stars on his forehead. Or maybe a vampire bite…

I don’t know what he’s planning to wear. He has changed his mind many times, and he bought a red fez with a black tassel. I asked what else would he wear and he said he didn’t know. I told him that being a streaker in a fez might get him arrested, or mistaken for a Shriner, both of which made him grimace. He just called me and said he found ten dollars in a pocket and was headed out to the Goodwill. I guess the fez is out of favor. I'm curious to see what he wears.

Tonight will be... interesting.
Have fun.


Caramel apples should be illegal.

I can not be enjoying this goopy messy sticky thing as much as I am; it's just not right. At work, even.


One of my duties at work is to take all the day's outgoing mail to the box on the corner. It makes for a nice break in the day; every day at three I walk the length of the block, under the trees down by the park and the river, feel the wind lift my hair and breathe fresh air.

Today it is cold, so cold it hailed earlier and even though it's raining now, there is slush in the gutters from the hail. Oregon is like this; yesterday it was sunny and 75*.

I walked in the rain, my two mail bundles protected by the coat I last wore in May. The air was chilly on my fingers and cheeks and I could feel the raindrops hitting the top of my head, just spitty cat rain, nothing that could get me wet. Not that I'd want to be out in it for hours, especially not with the temperature dropping like it is.

I slipped my hand in my pockets, and then I felt it.

The flat, smooth paper pack with a slight bulge at one end.
The waxy finish and pressed edges to seal in freshness.
A packet of Stash tea.
What a sheer delight to be able to return to the office after a stroll in the chilly rain and enjoy a cup of hot tea.
How thoughtful of me to leave that in my pocket six months ago.
Dance class last night was a mental workout rather than a physical workout. When it comes to step combinations I am no Ginger Rogers; just let me spin or shimmy and I'll be happy. In class we're working on a step combo that bends my brain. It's a symmetrical series of motions-- hip lift step with the right, then the left, turn 360 to the left, use right foot to cross over left foot, left steps out & to the back from right, right comes together with left and then make a big hip circle swinging to the left.

Repeat, starting with the left, then the right...
Speed it up so it's in a steady fast rhythm.
That 360 turn takes only two beats of the music.
Fast fast fast. With dramatic pauses.
During which I'm trying to figure out how the hell I'm facing backwards...

I was pleased to note I'm one of the few dancers in class who actually has the entire choreography memorized. I have to because I'm in front-- no pressure or anything. Twice last night our instructor stopped instructing and let us perform the song from memory; without her lead it was difficult, but we managed to finish it. I'm across from my friend R, who is good to watch, and who has different problem areas than I, so we tend to watch eachother in the mirrors, helps us both.

My instructor told me to come to class tonight, too, which is a class much more focused on technique and less on step combos with dramatic flair. She's one of the best teachers I've ever had, in any subject, and I think she realized I didn't have the best of time in class last night. It didn't help that I had eaten Russian dumplings only two hours prior to class. While they had a nice meaty doughy quality I appreciate, they didn't enhance my quick footwork. Boom ba da boom.

Spent the evening with S talking about squash and gourds and cooking and baking and hearty soups and Halloween.
What are you gonna be?
Something political. How bout you?
Dunno, but I wanna wear that slinky black skirt. A black mermaid, or Morticia, or? Maybe I'll just wear all black & paint my face white. Maybe I'll get a black wig.
It's three days from now.
Yeah we don't have candy or pumpkins yet. I want a pumpkin.
You don't want candy?
I want a pumpkin. I'm gonna make pumpkin soup with it this year.
You want pumpkin soup but you don't want candy? I want candy.
You are Mister Sweet-tooth.
I want chocolate.
Right now?
Or something sweet.
How about me?


We went to bed early for us, 10-ish, old married couple, nudge nudge wink wink. I am glad we climbed into bed when we did, because at three in the morning when I let the dogs out to go pee, boy dog barks and races around to the driveway, and there is a big man-shape backlit by the neighbor's porchlight. Me, I'm in long johns and a little silky top, hardly dressed for any kind of encounter with a stranger. But boy dog is wiggly and waggy, so I ask in a low calm voice, "Who is there?"

It was D; he had been sleeping in our car since midnight. I made him a cup of tea, & S sat up & chatted with him.

D is going to Jamaica.

He has the wanderlust bug biting him, biting him hard, and he's already seen most of the United States. He wants to see Jamaica.
S lived in Jamaica when he was a boy; he started school there when he was three. I love the pictures of him in his little khaki uniform with boots and strapped books. He talked about the garden, and the fruit that grows wild, and about the beaches and the poverty and about the differences and similarities.

I went back to bed.
But I couldn't stop thinking about the dance choreography and the steps I missed.
I couldn't stop thinking about the people I know who are leaving, like my friend R who says she's leaving in January, and now D, who may be gone tomorrow, and they will both be missed.

Snow down to 2500 feet tonight. Birds fly away in the winter.


Russian dumplings, pelmenyi. And baked pork pastries, peroghi.
Russia conquered half the world on this food.
And Afghanistan broke Russia's back.

"We're not leaving!"
We are not leaving. Iraq, he means, but he can't help but speak in incomplete sentences.
WE are not leaving.
Well George, "we" is inclusive, and that means you'd best get your scrawny honky slats over there, fight yo'self for those oil wells you wanted so bad you could taste.

So now we're in Afghanistan (which my Commie grandpa says "it's for the natural gas!" about) and Iraq, which takes less than a moron to recognize the petrol-driven (aka car culture, aka business interest of Texas tycoon) incentive.

In Afghanistan our top superdog secret special forces just got ambushed and killed.

George you're not clever
George you're not quick
You don't know jack

Our wounded soldiers are recovering in tents in Georgia. Doesn't that make you feel good about the war? Ever been in Georgia (George-ia wow no way) in the winter? cold, wet, nasty Atlantic ice storms and rain rain rain. Recover in a tent in that wet cold shit with a little propane heater and know your country loves you like you loved it, to go fight for it.
Great job, George.

Timmie McVeigh was a soldier in Iraq, in the first George Bush's war. A decorated soldier, high level marksmanship awards, blew the hell out of a government building. I read about him in Reader's Digest.

How many soldiers are recovering in tents in Georgia? I didn't read about them in Reader's Digest, didn't hear about them on NPR. On NPR they're blathering about anger management being ubiquitous.

Kiss my ubiquitous ass, George.
Last night S made chicken fajitas & D showed up just in time to eat. He's young & loves to learn about history and revolution & has a million questions for S, who is not only patient but has an entire bookshelf of history books for reference. D is young and dreams of a revolution.

Kitties started their own revolution last night because it definitely isn't cat food from Costco. Nope, definitely not.

I was pressed for time and the Membership has lapsed so I've certainly fallen from grace in the eyes of kitties, who like greasy dark crunchy Costco cat food best. Get this Purina crap out of here.

I awoke to my cat's insistent meow, and when I got up, she ran over to her full food dish and stared at me with an expectant and demanding look on her face.
"My, what big eyes you have Miss Kitty."
"NOW!" She can't say her Rs except to roll them. This is no comfort to me.
"There is no other kitty food."
Big orange cat grubkin came and sat next to his full-of-inferior-cat-food-bowl and listened to the demands of my girl kitty.
"I have nothing else to give you."
"NowNOW!" She shook her head to make a point and glared at me. I walked away.
There is no reasoning with kitties. They're on a hunger strike for Costco cat food.

Little revolting beasties.


Weekends always fly away so fast, like a flock of small whistling birds.

Friday we visited JJ & Tebone in a home they were watching while the owners were away on vacation. It was a geodesic dome, and I had never been inside one before. Interesting but lots of funny angles. Tebone made pizza. We played with the snorty little pug dogs who looked like goblins. Their fur was soft and they sounded terrible.
During the meal, JJ told about receiving a call earlier in the day from one of Tebone’s ex-girls -- not a “girlfriend” but she was in love with him sort of thing – and she had news about an old mutual friend. JJ answered the phone and after recognizing the voice, said, “Well hello Barb, this is JJ.”
Barb said, “I know who the hell this is. Get me Tebone.”
Understandably, JJ was upset by the exchange.
All I have to say is yes, Barb knows exactly who the hell JJ is; JJ is the one who got the man.

We watched Latcho Drom with them; it's a movie about Gypsies and it's sort of documentary, sort of musical, all of it interesting and humbling and there are very few people I would watch it with, but JJ & Tebone are both thoughtful and musicians, and I believe they enjoyed the true beauty of the film. We had a good time, got home late.

Saturday, S & I cleaned. We started at nine o’clock, right after breakfast, and we cleaned for hours. I could eat off the kitchen floor (which S mopped twice), it’s that clean. I love a clean house. I love sitting on a lawn chair in the sunshine, knowing the laundry is done and the beds are changed and dinner is in the oven. We stayed home Saturday night and had a nice quiet evening snuggled on the couch looking at a book that has eradicated any desire S ever had to go to Australia: Poisonous Creatures of Australia, written in scientific terms by some professor who gives very extensive descriptions of how the poisons react with blood and tissue. It’s fascinating in a very morbid way. Jumping inch-long ants with stingers like wasps; the most poisonous snakes in the world, most of which are in the cobra family, including the tiger snake, which likes to lounge on people’s lawns. Not to mention all the big nasty spiders, and jellyfish, and rock fish and… we learned a lot about neurotoxins.

Sunday we forgot about the time change and got up super early, ate breakfast and got dressed. Friends Oily and RB asked us to accompany them to church; the four of us usually stick with our Bible study and we’re all admittedly anti-organized religion, but they wanted to do some singing and praying so we said sure.
Like I said, we forgot about the time change.
So when they showed up at what we thought was 11:45, we had already shrugged out of our Sunday best. Silly us.

Church was unlike I’d ever attended, namely because, at the church chosen by Oily, we were four out of the ten white folk. I must say never in my life have I felt so welcome and comfortable, nor as involved in the prayer or singing. Hands were clapped, tambourines were shaken, feet were stomped and everybody sang the gospel, which means “good word,” and it was lifted to the air with rich sweet voices.
The sermon was a simple message, and then there was a guest speaker, one of the congregation, who kept snuffling snot in a most unappealing manner, but he did alright. And although I didn’t take any clear message or revelation about God from the sermon, the doctrine seemed sound, and I never once was bored. It was a good experience and a delight to hear so many joyful songs.

After church, Oily took us to a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant, which I usually avoid but it’s a new restaurant, and very clean. I tried some of everything… it might be more appropriate to say I gorged myself on all tasty savory hot and sour and sweet and soy available. We sat at a window booth and giggled about the big man coming for lunch dressed in sweat pants. With suspenders. And when we left I wished I had on sweat pants with suspenders.

We went back home and enjoyed the glorious sunshine by taking dogs for a walk around the block. Sunday was a happy lazy day. S talked about garlic and planting cover crops and trees, and about tearing down our raised garden beds to have a row garden next spring. He’s reading all about mulching, and it suits his temperament. I think half of it is he wants to buy bales of straw and spread it out so we can roll around in it in the crisp autumn air but I didn’t accuse him of ulterior motives. Straw mulch does keep boots from getting muddy, which is a good thing, and it suppresses weeds such as dandelions, which is also a good thing. I don’t care what he does with the garden so long as I have fresh fruit and veggies to eat.

Dinnertime came and went and we were still digesting our Chinese buffet lunch. But since my girl R was coming, we made pasta salad with marinated chanterelle mushrooms, olives, red bell pepper, and tomatoes. S stirred some magical ingredient into it and made it delicious. When I ask him what spices he uses he just lifts his eyebrows way up and opens his eyes all big and innocent and shrugs.

R arrived before 8. One thing about R and S; when we’re all in a mood, the giggling does commence. We get each other going and it is impossible to stop. She told about performing the night before, during which she said she felt great, and suddenly was horrified that she had made the face her mom calls her rat-fink look, where she smiles all toothy and wrinkles up her nose. She said she wonders what else she does that she doesn’t notice while she’s up there dancing.
Everything was funny.
S told about how, last summer when my folks visited, my Dad followed him around the yard as S watered plants, standing very close like Dad does, pondering something and being quiet like he is, and then he taps a sprinkler pipe with his shoe and says, “Yep, good old galvanized pipe.”
Hilarious. Maybe you had to be there but I almost peed my pants laughing so hard. And
I mentioned how I had once read that laughing is better than putting a paper bag over your head, and I meant “in case you’re hyperventilating” but was unable to finish my statement for the uproarious laughter from both S & R. It became a proverb.

Then we started dancing. Dancing while laughing while S noodled on the fiddle and taking long-exposure photos of us swirling and spinning and the dog on his bed in the corner sighing and wishing the monkeys would go to bed already.

After a midnight snack of pomegranate, kiwis, apple and Dubliner cheese R hit the road and S & I hit the hay, goodnight my love, another sweet weekend, and I pray as I drift off to sleep for the safety and happiness of loved ones, and that it rains soon in Southern California.


I have a fat lip.
Last night I was playing with the dogs and boy dog flapped his ears. He was very close to me and his big bony head hit me in the mouth, caught my lip between his skull and my teeth. The lip split on the inside and it hurts and I talk with a slight lisp but it's in the center of my upper lip, so at least it's symmetrical. And this morning S said it lends a certain attractive pouty quality to my mouth. Making me feel better, yes, and also making me hope he doesn't like it better like this because I wouldn't want to have to hit myself in the lips once a week to maintain plump lips.

I received the following in an email. Guess it’s supposed to be funny, but given my beliefs and the studying I’ve done, I find it petty and narrow-minded. I don’t know who wrote it, but I have seen it a few times. It doesn’t make me mad, but I do shake my head at the extent of shallow wit.

Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them. Here goes....

1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for The Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but many women take offense.

4. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or will you arrange it for me?

6. Another friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

7. Leviticus 21:20 clearly states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev. 24:10-16)? Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev. 20:14)?

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's Word is eternal and unchanging.

Most of the issues involve Leviticus, which is in the Old Testament, written some 4000 years ago. The name is Latin, and translates to “things of the Levites,” and it is a handbook for priests. Jewish priests. The last I heard, making fun of Jews (who still consider the Book of Leviticus to be serious rules for ceremonial death, even if the ceremonies remain unpracticed) wasn't, er, kosher.

On a strictly historical note, taking the Book of Leviticus and making fun of it is like taking the Tibeten Book of the Dead, or cave drawings, and making fun of them. Stupid homo sapiens, ha ha. We've evolved so much.

The letter fails to mention how Leviticus was written at least 2000 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, who taught yes, these things are important to remember, but He said there is a better way, through peace and love. Interestingly enough, the Levite Jews are of the same bent as those who clamored for Christ's crucifixion. This raises... strange... parallels. So let's be cynical and modern and take Christianity on its own merits, as we look at Buddhism and turn a blind eye to the caste system still intact in India, shall we?

The letter addresses the notion of fundamentalists who say God hasn't changed, which is a valid complaint against organized religion. The world has changed, and God has changed, and our interpretation of God has changed. It's not a static system. Hegel's complaint with organized religion was that it is a "pillow for intellectual sloth," but the same can be said for irreligion. This letter takes the most fanatical and shallow interpretation of the Biblical text and then makes sarcastic remarks about it. Yes, in Leviticus homosexuality is considered an abomination in the eyes of God, but do you know what else is considered in the same terms? Lying. Does this mean the fiery pit of hell for those who lie? Don't we all lie? The God I believe in is bigger than that, and Jesus has absolved us all of our sins. The key, according to the New Testament, is simply to love one another (which includes not judging one another's private lives), and believe Christ is the son of God.

From a purely historical point of view the Bible is the story of civilization, and for good or for bad it has shaped the society in which we live. I don't see that whoever wrote the letter managed to get past Leviticus in the Old Testament, which is understandable because it's weighty. Those who haven't read it because they think they know what it says are, in the simplest term, ignorant. To dismiss the Bible out of hand, especially without reading all of it, and taking it as a whole... what sort of Philistinism is that? And would we even have a notion of what a Philistine was without the reference in the Bible?

If the argument shall be whether or not God exists and whether the Bible is written by those directed by Him, then it comes down to faith. If the objection to believing in God is all the terrible things done in his name, then let's take a look at all the atrocities committed in the name of science. Neither religion nor science offers an absolutely certain answer to why we exist, but one at least does offer a sense of morality. To assume those who believe in Christ never question their beliefs is wrong. But until there is something more satisfying than science upon which I might rest my soul, I'll stick with the principles found within the teachings of Christ: love one another, seek justice, walk humbly, have mercy.

What does it harm anyone when 200 years from now a tree has sent its roots into the box encasing my remains for me to have believed Jesus is God? I'm not trying to convert anyone, not trying to demand anyone believe the same as I do, because faith is a personal thing. It tries to answer the ages-old question of what happens when we die. I came like water, and like wind I go. I think I know where I will go, but that's called faith. And that's something we all have to find for ourselves.

In the mean time, let's not make dull-witted jokes about a 4000 year old handbook of ceremonial rules for priests.


I forgot about October. I forgot about the crisp air tinged with woodsmoke and burning leaves.
I forgot about the way the marine layer creeps before daybreak and settles in the hollows and along the rivers and creeks.
I forgot how the clouds blush pink when the morning sun rises over the mountains. Today is bright and clear and the leaves swirl all red and gold, high contrast with the deep ferns and lush green grass.
Crows need no shadows as they light in crimson-leaved branches, caw, caw. The big orb weaver spiders spin their last webs before winter, and ducks fly in pairs.
The geese haven’t started their long skeins across the sky yet; the pumpkin vines haven’t melted from the first fall frost; the trees haven’t completely removed their autumn finery but I can smell winter coming. It smells like cold water from the mountains.
I forgot about October and ripe apples, baking bread, salmon, and the last blooms of the roses.


“SO. There is an IGUANA in my house!”

“Is he nice?”

“He’s meaner than cat piss, he’s small, like only a year old, and he can jump like those alien things?! whippy tail, hissing, trying to bite!”

“So you want the cage?”

“I can’t even catch him. The people who offered him to me last week lost him in their house. LOST him! I thought no problem, no lizard, no worries. They showed up ten minutes ago with the thing in a box and drove away smiling. We let him out of the box. We let him out of the box!!!”

“Umm, I’m afraid I have to get to class, but I’ll help S load the cage in the pickup and he can swing it by. Is that good?”

“Help me.”

“Get on a long sleeved shirt and some gloves. And remember it is much smaller than you. Don’t be afraid of it.”

“Okay. No fear! Just a lizard, moves like green greased lightning, wants to attack me, no fear. Hey, I miss you, have a good and fun class.”

“Good luck sweetie. He'll be over there soon.”

“Bye darlin.”


The conversation was strange enough, and even stranger given I was sautéing zucchini and mushrooms in my underwear. When I hung up the phone I noticed a message from JJ, who had finished reading two books I had loaned her, and was begging for something else to read. S & I ate our quick dinner, I pulled on comfy dance clothes, & then we loaded the 4 foot by 2 foot lizard cage into his pickup. With suggestions from S, I grabbed three possible books. I packed my hip scarf, my zils, kissed my man, and jumped in the car, headed for JJ’s.

You might know me. I’m the blond in the red station wagon doing chest lifts and head slides while listening to Wire.

I am the fly
I am the fly
I am the fly in the
Fly in the

I might just be the only person who finds this amusing.

Tebone was on the couch playing guitar & JJ was out back with N, who is recovering from surgery. And now I guess we have a book club thingie going, because The Sheltering Sky went into N’s hands now that JJ is done with it. Book swapping is fun, and it’s always nice to have someone with whom to discuss the text. I’ve never done a book club sort of thing before but it sounds like a good winter project. Meet over tea. Hmmm…

I had to leave Tebone, JJ & N because of my dance date with R & Jesi. We’re seriously working on our choreography, and have gotten more than half the song into a routine. I’ve heard the song lots of times, and it’s still interesting to hear, which is nice. I can’t say I’m sick of it, but I will say familiarity breeds contempt. This is a problem working intensively on choreographing one song—you hear it in your head when you brush your teeth, when you wake up, when you’re reading, when you’re eating, breathing, walking, laughing. It permeates the pores. At least it’s a good song, and besides, we look great, if I do say so myself. R & I are similar in size and height, and Jesi is about a foot taller than us. It’s very symmetrical, and that pleases me. We came up with some tricky stuff last night, and are going to work again this afternoon. We only have twenty more 8 counts, which translates into maybe two minutes left to choreograph, and plenty of combo moves up our long sleek black sleeves.

Jesi had to go to work, so only R & I went to class at the Eugene School of Ballet. It was a fun class, seemed like everyone was in a great mood. Only six of us showed up, the long-term regulars getting our bellydancing fix. Two of the women in class have been dancing for ten years or more. It’s one of the things I love about the dance; it takes all shapes and ages. It’s also the best way to dance without a partner, no worries about sweaty hands or bad breath, no stepped-on toes. I love to dance with my hubby at home, but let’s just say he’s not one who gravitates towards the dance floor.

In class we’re working on a group choreography to the song Ala de la Ona, which begins with this heavy sassy BOOM boom-boom BOOM boom drumbeat. It’s old fashioned cabaret music, like from 1920s Hollywood films about exotic gypsy belly dancers with bedroom eyes and veils and candles and long strong thighs. The song is short, not quite three minutes, but this means we have plenty of time to work on coordinating 6 dancers, both in body and spirit. And ego, let’s not leave out the ego.

In our class it’s actually the lack of self esteem that plays a bigger role than egotistical overconfidence. It’s a very supportive group of women who are comfortable with their bodies and have now been dancing together for at least two years. I’ve never been in another group of women where pre-class giggling conversations involve poking another woman’s buttocks, or discussing how best to make a bra so the boobs don’t fly around too much. We want to shimmy and jiggle, but we want our shimmies and jiggles to be intended, not accidental. It’s a great class. Aerobic, athletic, ass-kicking good fun combined with heavy velvet or slinky silk skirts, black eyeliner, coins, chains, and sparkly beads. What more could any woman want?

I returned home happy and tired and wired, and S popped open a bottle of wine & fed me sausage and gorgonzola cheese with some crackers. We sat and chatted. He told me all about the wild little iguana, how they got the cage into the room and then had to corner the nasty little bugger, leaping and springing and flaring his neck and thrashing his tail, and catch him in a box. He said the iguana was unnaturally fast, big long toes, spiny ridge down its back.

Sorry I missed the excitement.
Guess I can't be everywhere at once.


We went to a pumpkin carving barbeque last night. Some friends invited us to share in their wealth of gourds and food and we brought wine and cheese. S had picked out two pumpkins at the store and we brought those along, too. One was softball-sized, the other was the classic Legend of Sleepy Hollow pumpkin, almost perfectly round, big twisty stem.

After gorging ourselves on good food, including freshly-picked chanterelle mushrooms from out Fall Creek grilled with onions and pork ribs, the four of us picked out our carving knives and big spoons and tackled our orange globes.

The weather was overcast but eerily warm; yesterday saw a record high, and we were all plenty warm wielding our knives outside on the red wood porch, screened from the street by the dark and the ancient lilac bushes. At one point a raccoon crept up the steps and snatched a handful of cat food, much to everyone’s surprise. The cat seemed unconcerned but D stood up and stomped. He doesn’t love raccoons. Neither does S. They killed his rabbit when he was a boy.

S, as usual, was finished first with his carving creation. He made a Cyclops out of the tiny pumpkin. Everyone else sat at the table on the porch; I sat on the porch because I am much more comfortable when I don’t have to worry about shaking tables, sharp knives, and ten-pound squashes. Also I wanted to save the pumpkin seeds, and nobody else cared, so I did double duty picking seeds from the refuse bucket while carving on my pumpkin.
I made arched eyebrows, evil mischievous eyes, two little holes for the nose and an enormous crooked toothless grin. My pumpkin looked like he knew something wicked cool, and the joke is on you.

At the end of the night, after two bottles of red wine and a great sampling of cheese, we had a total of seven pumpkins lined up on the steps. We had a cat, a wicked grin, a hobgoblin, a Cyclops, a clown, a scary toothy topless head and a noseless goggle-eyed monster with ears.

S and I left with a bucket of pumpkin seeds and a big brown bag of chanterelle mushrooms, oh yes. I baked the seeds last night, and have been snacking on them all day. Tonight is dance class but I’ll have time to sauté and savor some mushrooms. Tomorrow night I intend to make soup from what remains.


Went this weekend back to the high pines on the Eastern side of the mountains. The Saturday sky was glorious as we rolled into the campground, tall cinnamon-barked trees swaying in the breeze. We went with good friends who know how to be alone with their own thoughts, who don’t worry about what to say or ever ask, “Are you upset?” if someone is being quiet. There are so many things to hear in the woods; the scolding chirrup of a chipmunk, the wind sighing in the trees, the deep call of a raven and the hard feathery beat of its wings, the soft sounds of one’s own breathing, the rush of water in the river. I like people who appreciate such things.

We had salami and cheese and crackers and beer for lunch, and then set out on a hike to see the waterfall marked on the map. During the hike through the desolate pine barrens the one song that stuck in my head was Leadbelly’s My Girl.
My girl, my girl
Don’t you lie to me
Tell me where did you sleep last night
In the pines in the pines
Where the sun don’t ever shine
I shivered the whole night through

It was not a very cheery hike. It was long and hot and dusty, dead trees and branches lying snagged in piles from a huge windstorm some twenty years ago, bleached silver by the sun and blackened by the snow and ice each winter, created a landscape of frightening monotony. Nothing ever rots out east, but things fall apart when all the moisture gets evaporated and then things crumble into dust. The trail twisted all around, curled up imperceptible hills, crossed BLM dirt roads, followed the riverbank and wended between stumps and snags and scrubby stunted pines. The forest was too thick in some places to see far, and sparse and barren in other places. It would be simple to get terribly lost, wander in circles for days, since there are no outstanding features, nothing to serve as markers. We stayed on the trail for the duration of the six miles, all four of us lost in his or her own thoughts most of the time. The wind took our comments and garbled the words, and we found it easier to communicate with gestures. An occasional gunshot would ring out; we were not alone in the woods. Deer hunters. I was happy to have on a red shirt.

The waterfall was not breathtaking, the hike back to camp was the same drab dusty land of right angles. The horizontal dead trees and vertical pines burnt a checkerboard in the mind’s eye, and the river, drawn down by the Army Corp of Engineers, slugged through the sand and gravel.

Once back in camp I tended to tenderfoot dogs and while bending over, a yellowjacket landed on the small of my back. When I stood, my waist band trapped the nasty little thing and it stung me hard just above my ass. I read somewhere that insect stings are rated in terms of electrical volts. It sure felt like someone had stuck an arc welder down my pants, and although I didn’t have any reactive problems with it, the site had a bloody mark in the center, and puffed up and turned black and blue around the edges. Today it is barely noticeable but Saturday it was some uncomfortable pain, and I walked around camp joking that I had a pain on my ass.

Night always creeps imperceptibly in the high woods; suddenly the sky is darker and the place looks flat in the half light of dusk. Voices carry for miles, as do gunshots. The campers across the road from us drove up with a big buck on the roof of their truck’s camper shell. They wrapped it in a blue tarp without gutting it and threw it into the back of the truck. Have you ever been to someone’s house and had bad venison? It’s called “field dressing” for a reason. It means you don’t let the thing sit dead overnight before you clean it. It looked like a nice buck, too.

We killed two bottles of red wine, ate steaks, mashed taters from a pouch, and spinach with mushrooms. The men cooked, and then S made a rip-roaring fire while we washed dishes. We drank Kijafa, Danish cherry wine that tastes like cherry pie, while we roasted marshmallows and S played his fiddle. He sounded sweet and clear in the cool night air. I don’t think he’s ever played better.

It rained during the night. Not a lot, just enough to settle the dust. It was very soothing to me. I love the rain.

Morning came soon, and we all stumbled out of bed by nine, ate sausages and eggs while the neighbor camper pulled the rigor mortised deer body to the tailgate and proceeded to butcher it in a most unusual fashion. He didn’t skin the hide off, and I could just imagine the gamey hair-covered meat. He cut through the hide in the usual places, and then before removing the guts, he hewed the hind legs off, which boggled my mind.

He then walked around with his knife and his bloody hands for about ten minutes, no doubt dreading the nasty job he was undertaking. I couldn’t believe all that he did; he cut chunks of flesh off and went into the tent, leaving half the carcass in place. He didn’t do anything with the deer’s shoulders, which is some of the best meat for roasts. It was amusing in an eyebrow-raising way. He threw the entire front end of the deer in a garbage bag and tossed it into the camper shell. The last deer S killed weighed 150 pounds and we got at least 100 pound of meat from it. This deer being butchered across the way must have weighed 200 pounds, and I doubt the hunter cleared 50 pounds of meat. The waste sickened me as much as the thought of what awful venison it would be when it was cooked. Deer hunting is a lot of work, and it doesn’t end when you drive victorious back to camp, dead thing on the roof of your car.
But enough about morbid things.

We broke camp after breakfast, and went to the portion of the park labeled “Big Tree,” where the largest Ponderosa pine in Oregon stands. We played Frisbee golf along the trail to the tree. It was my favorite part of the trip. It was nice to spend time with good friends outside, and despite the previous day's long march through the pine barrens and the sting on my ass, I had a fun time in great company.

But I am glad to be home in the land of mist and shadows. S promised me next time we'll go to the beach. And deer season will be over by then.


Last night…

I must look particularly touchable today because I’ve had four people here at work, all motherly types, pat my back, my arm, run their hand down my hair, and touch my shoulder. Even S, this morning when he brought me a cup of coffee as I brushed my hair, looked at me and patted my back with great care.

I’m tired but feel better than I did the past week.

Yesterday after work I joined forces with Jesi & R to complete another section of music for our choreography. The middle of the song has a tabla drum solo, and we figured out the timing and the appropriate moves. I’m pleased with it. Very pleased with it.

R was in high form yesterday, giddy and silly and precise as ever. She had spent the weekend in intensive study with a woman from Minnesota and said she was ready to move there, or maybe to Cairo, but mostly she’s just ready to move. Eugene is dragging her down. We had discussed it before, that she is approaching a point when she needs to put down roots, or move on. She’s a travel bug, been to Central and South America, also to Africa and Asia. She hasn’t ever been to the Middle East or to Europe, and I think that’s where she should go, rather than to Minnesota, although I know for some Minne-snow-ta is probably a veritable mecca.

Anyway I will be sad to see her go, but I know we’ll keep in touch, and she has these great big wings she needs to stretch. People to see, places to go. It will probably be next spring before she leaves, so I have a few more months to enjoy her camaraderie.

After swirling and shimmying with the two lovely girls I headed home, and S grilled garden burgers for dinner to go along with some Argentinian wine we bought for cheap. We had a wild night. D showed up on our front porch about ten o’clock; he had made arrangements with S to go to the coast today. We stayed up very late, which probably accounts for my tiredness. It was fun. I like laughing men.

I climbed in bed with S about midnight and awoke at 5, and discovered I had, during the night, somehow removed my pajama bottoms (it has been cold at night). I usually don’t take my clothes off while sleeping and I find no reason for such an occurrence; after some sleepy teasing S pleaded innocence. It was a strange way to awaken and set the tone for the rest of the day. We got up at 7 and S made coffee for me. And now everyone wants to give me a hug.

There are worse things.


I kicked S out of bed about 3 in the morning because he was having race car dreams. He actually made "Vrrrrmmm" noises, right in my ear, and tried to shift using my arm.
Okay maybe I exaggerate a little but when I asked him what he was doing with all the wiggling around his sleep-muffled reply in the dark room was, "Driving a race car."
Knowing him, it was probably a 1968 Super B. Vroom, indeed.
Halfway through teaching the beginning bellydancing class on Saturday morning, I realized the students all did their best to mimic me. It made me highly aware of my unintentional motions. I also had this incredible urge to pat my head and rub my tummy, or to jump around like a pogo stick, or maybe do some hair-tossing ala headbanger, just to see if they would all do the same, but I refrained from those impulses for a very long two hours.

It was fun. The best part about it? I could see them learning. It was a real treat and a huge ego boost in addition to the simple thrill of hearing that almost audible *click* that happens the body does what you ask it to do. After stretching and exercising for two hours on Saturday I felt wonderful.

Sunday was relaxing and overcast. I bought S three more fish for our fish tank, three blue and orange striped gouramis, and we watched fish-television all day long while doing mundane laundry and wood-chopping, sweeping and dusting. Friends M & M came for an early dinner; they had decided to exchange marriage vows and asked S to officiate the ceremony, just a small get-together of family and close friends in a few days. We talked about marriage and weddings and what they wanted S to say.

Monday was Columbus Day, although the radio show on NPR focused mostly on Magellan, not Columbus. It’s a silly holiday, and an odd thing to celebrate; Columbus didn’t discover the New World, but his discovery did mark the beginning of Spain’s terrible and brutal reign in the Americas. Anyway I was glad I didn’t have to work. S & I went for a bike ride. It was gray and overcast and it was the first really chilly day so far; we built a fire in the evening and had a nice dinner of reduced-for-quicksale buffalo steaks, spaghetti squash, mushrooms and salad greens. It was a nice evening and a quiet day. Lots of reading, lots of sewing for me. I've been building a dance costume (the process feels so long and tedious I can't bear to say I'm "sewing" a dance costume-- it has taken me about 20 hours to get halfway finished with the beaded fringe on the top. I haven't even started on the belt). It is a luxurious dark green velvet, and I'm using layers upon layers of dark metallic multi-colored beads to give it a dragon-esque appearance. It's a good winter project.

It disturbs me when I climb into bed feeling good and healthy and strong, and then awaken in the morning feeling like a cement truck had parked on me all night long. I went to work Tuesday feeling ill and shaky, and by ten I left for home, specifically for bed. It felt like a thunderstorm was going on inside my belly, all roily and twisty and rumbly. I hate that. S made me some catnip and raspberry tea and I slept all day.

Today it’s raining. I have dance practice with R & Jesi after work and right now I feel like climbing back under the covers.
Or at least be home in front of the fireplace, sewing dragon scales onto velvet, sipping wine and listening to my sweet man fiddle away quietly on his fiddle.


Tomorrow morning I don’t get to sleep in like I usually do on Saturdays. Instead, I get to teach a beginning bellydancing class. My girl R is attending a dance camp this weekend, and asked me to substitute for her class. It sounds fun, and it’s a relatively small class. I’m just wondering how to fill two long hours with stretches and beginning movements.

I’m also wondering how I’ll handle the situation when only half the students can execute the movement I teach and repeat and break down into specific, incremental motions, and the other half are wiggling something funky for all they’re worth, nowhere close to the motion I hope them to mimic. R said it was the hardest thing she had to learn about teaching, that you have to keep moving, you have to move on regardless of whether the students “get it” or not.

I’ve been trying to think of my first beginning classes, and the memory has become clouded by hours of practice. I don’t recall having trouble with the basics, like the hip tuck, one of the most essential movements, or the hip lift, another necessary foundation move. Upon the hips rests the entirety of the dance. To be able to move the hips independently of the rest of the body is a matter of muscle isolation and control. But how to teach that?

R asked me to teach the travel step commonly called the camel, which can be done a number of ways and directions but generally isolates the still upper body from the undulating lower body, and the legs move one leg constantly in front of the other, crossing only to turn or to arabesque (or to kick out one’s skirt in a big dramatic flare but that comes later). The effect is one of a floating upper torso and a snake-like travel step. It looks fantastic on thin women, which is not something I can say for all bellydancing moves. Most moves look best with some flesh to shimmy but I’ve gone off on a tangent now and I’m mostly afraid that’s what I’ll find myself doing tomorrow, babbling away and confusing the women in class who are just taking their second class ever of Bellydancing 101. There is a fine line between explaining and overwhelming.

And while I can’t recall my beginning classes in terms of when did I actually learn how to do it, I can recall wanting to know everything, from the music to the culture to the dress to the proper positions for arms, hands, feet. The more I learn, the more I want to learn, and I realize I know very little. Maybe that’s what I’ll tell the students; there is always more to learn. For me, I have measured the fire in my heart, and found it hot enough to fuel my desire for knowledge about all things bellydance.

I want to know how to teach it to others. Even if that means getting up early on Saturday.

On my way to work each morning I pass a school bus stop where sleepy children await their bus. There is always a small group already arrived, and always a tall thin boy with brown hair and a short thin girl with long blond hair. They stand together, separate from the rest of the kids, faded hand-me-down clothes a little too big or a little too small, never just right, and never what the other kids are wearing.

It was forty degrees this morning. Steam rose in plumes from the sewer grates and the streets were slick with water from last night’s rain. I love the cool air.

As I turned the corner I could see the boy and girl standing at the curb, waiting for their morning bus ride to school. She was wearing a huge royal blue jacket, and he had on a grey and red sweater. She was standing in front of him, just a bit, and yawned. He took a bite of a muffin he’d eaten half of, and he held it out to her over her shoulder just as I passed them.

The familiarity and the generosity made me smile.


I sat on the tilting cement steps of the saggy old house’s saggy old porch waiting for R yesterday, secluded from the busy street by monstrous overgrown juniper bushes that smell faintly like cat pee, hoping to not catch any whiffs of the cat shit from the area nearby used as a litterbox by all the neighborhood cats. By tilting my head up, I could see the street for any sign of her, and also avoid the unpleasant funky moldy-leaves smell in favor of the cool air, and the sun filtered down through the trees.

I had already killed some time by strolling to the crusty market down the street to buy a bottle of cheap red wine, avoiding the eyes of hot dirty sweaty working men standing in line for their Molson Ice. I was to meet R at five o’clock and the traffic patterns, people on bicycles, commuter cars, plus the timely number 40 bus roaring by at a fast clip all told me it was five.

Small grey kitty cat walked around the corner, spied me, froze with a look of surprise and big yellow eyes and then walked creeping backwards away from me, like I might reach out and grab it or something. I might have, but just to scratch kitty-ears.

It is uncommon for R to be late. She is one of the most punctual people I know, and I know she will never forget to meet me, especially not for dancing, so I felt mildly worried, but not annoyed, that I had been waiting for twenty, thirty minutes for her arrival. Also my concern included the fact that she never locks her door unless she is gone for a few days; as she said, what would people steal? Her desk, her bedroll, her 30 year old sewing machine, or her belly dancing outfits? But the door was locked.

So I sat on the cold tilting cement steps until Jesi sauntered up the walk. We exchanged worries and decided to drive to my house for a multitude of reasons, foremost to call R on her cellphone. It turned out, a plumber had worked in her apartment while she was at her work that morning, and he had locked the door knob behind him. She hadn’t told him to leave the door unlocked, and she didn’t have her keys, so after walking the twenty blocks home, she had to turn around and walk the twenty blocks back to work to fetch her spare key. I must have arrived immediately after she started her walk back to work.

Jesi & I returned to her apartment, ready to dance.

Tuesdays are Dance Days. We spent two full hours in R’s kitchen working out moves and step patterns, practicing where and what and when, and sometimes why. The choreography is built from the beginning of the song to the end, and in order to keep our place for a new move, added to the established moves, it is often necessary to do the whole song, from the beginning, again, and again, and again. And once more. And wait, I think we were off there, let’s start it over. Again. Let’s do it once more, girls. And while it has the benefit of affording much-needed practice for the beginning of the piece, it also means the beginning of a piece gets much more practice than the end of a piece. But then practice makes perfect.

We look great, if I do say so myself; our shapes and movements are even more complimentary now that we have been dancing together for a couple of months. Walking to class we found ourselves in our regular formation, with J in the middle, R to the right, me to the left. We giggled about it like dancing girls.

After two hours of choreo practice, we walked to the School of Ballet, where our instructor made us sweat some more. She still has us doing intricate traditional step patterns, and with my two left feet I often get turned around but I am getting it. I’m built to shimmy and undulate, not travel-step. Also I think the 12/8 rhythm confuses me. At least that’s my excuse, although when I get all the steps correct I feel pleased with myself. Practice, practice.

After class, riding on that sweaty-girl rubber-leg high we all seem to get, R & I pulled on our shoes & admired Jesi from across the room, and decided she was definitely a list of “s” words—snakey, sensual, sassy, sultry, and sexy. She doesn’t seem to have a ribcage or backbone, just these nice soft (another “s”) curves that slide (“s”) effortlessly. I think we embarrassed her but it was fun and she didn’t seem too upset.

I love Dance Day. Four complete hours of dancing. Went home and drank the bottle of wine with my sweetheart.

Ever sit down where you think your chair should be?

Ahnold is president of California. Governor. Excuse me. Governor. My mistake. It was a Total Recall or something. Imploding planets and metal smelting plants and lots of macho macho mens. He had dental work didn't he? I don't live in Cali but I love lots of people who do and I just shake my head sadly and say well Reagan had that seat too.
Oh, California.

Batten the hatches and hope the storm blows itself out.

Grab onto me with both hands baby
And hold, hold on


When the rain comes hard in sheets making a dull rushing roar on the roof, when the wind arcs the branches high above, when the roses bow their heads and the grass drapes to the ground, then I know catharsis.

When the trees undress and stand slumbering, their leaves blanketing the earth beneath them, when mist rises wispy and delicate from the dark wet ground, when the summer flowers have all faded to the color of straw, then I know stillness.

When the sun sinks and shines brilliant the last light of day through the silver clouds, when the light fades from gold to amber, when a prism bends a bow from each end of the horizon, then I know peace.


Wild extremes this weekend (which sort of began Thursday night, going to see JJ & Tebone & their band play at this swanky downtown lounge) took me from a totally hellish day on Friday, through a culture clash of bellydance instruction and performance followed by down home music at a seedy smoke-filled small-town Moose Lodge on Saturday, and a languid, easy Sunday.

Friday’s super-busy work events do not bear repeating but I sure felt sorry for li'l ol' me come evening, and all those emotions stirred up by stress sort of bubbled over. S dealt gracefully with it and made a nice dinner.

Woke up early Saturday to accompany R to her beginning belly dance class that she instructs, which I get to cover for her next weekend when she goes off to a dance camp. I wanted to see what she teaches, and how in the world she fills two hours with beginning moves. We got to the studio an hour before the class, and played around with the big space and mirrors. We each performed the songs we’d planned to do later in the day at the dance festival, and it was a treat to watch her do her double veil dance with a red and a black veil. She does this amazing thing while spinning; she holds each veil veil in each hand high above her head, looks like the most beautiful pinwheel in the world.

Students arrived late for class, and we spent a full hour stretching, which is a huge part of dancing. Even if I don’t have time to dance, I always take a few minutes to focus on posture and to stretch. It surprises me how many people don’t know how to stretch their bodies. Aside from the regular leg, arm, neck and back stretches we also stretch side-to-side, on a horizontal plane. Looking at myself sideways in the mirror I try to make sure my rib cage or my hips stay level and straight, no twisting, no front to back motion, so that it looks like I’m sliding between two panes of glass.

There is a hinge of the torso located approximately at the solar plexus, and that is the most important thing I can think of to tell beginning belly dancers. That, and use the lower abdomen muscles to keep the pelvis tilted forward, which prevents injuries from scrunched-up vertebrae in the lower back. Good posture is essential.

After class (which was fun, and a good reminder of how far I’ve come since I started doing this), R & I drove to the activity center to prepare for our performances. There were many vendors; all kinds of belly-dance garb, music, photos, old magazines… Our instructor was there with her vending table, with new music and a brand new purple jewel-encrusted costume hand-made for her in Cairo but she said the top doesn’t fit her very well. I think probably I would have the same problem, given the miniscule size of the bra cups; not because I have big breasts, but because if I’m going to shake my shoulders on stage I want something akin to armor, not a little bikini top with spangly sparkles on it, between me and the audience. If I step on the hem of my skirt or get my hand tangled in the swinging parts of my belt that’s one thing; if I expose myself to a sea of strangers and a handful of friends, well… yeah. You get the idea. Anyway I was mostly glad I had forgotten my checkbook.

S met us there with his camera and smile, and he & I sat up in the front row, all the better to see, my dear. The first half of the bellydancing extravaganza was to live music; five dancers including my R strutted their stuff & in my humble opinion R was the most accurate in her timing. She does this sassy thing with a sideways belly roll, makes her whole body look like a corkscrew. Her hip articulation is sweet and swingy and I loves me some R dancing.
Oh yes.

Since I was scheduled in the next batch of performers, I missed a few dancers while getting ready. I wore a big full plum-colored skirt, coin belt, and a black vest with bead fringe and chain. Standard, simple, work-a-day garb, nothing to worry about, secured by safety pins. I put on some eyeliner and lipstick, borrowed scissors to cut the frayed edge from the bottom of my skirt, and with the tatters removed I felt happily pulled-together, albeit a little nervous. I climbed into the side stage stairs, and there waiting to go on stage before me was Dina.

Once, two years ago, Dina had substituted a class I was taking, and let me say this; not a one of us in class was able to keep up with her. She has been dancing for as long as I have been alive, and looks like any short, pudgy, wide-eyed wild-black-haired bespectacled woman you might see in a grocery store. But this woman can move her body with unbelievable control, and very few dancers have more stage presence. She was supposed to dance with the more experienced dancers later in the day, but had requested an earlier slot because she was scheduled to perform in Portland that night, and needed time to drive up to the city.

I made small talk with her in the stairwell, and she mentioned being nervous about performing after having knee replacement surgery just five months ago. She said she has had to relearn very important things, especially balance. Well. Dina is nervous? And she is a hard act to follow. Fine, no more worries for me, I just waited until she was done, heard my name, and charged onto the stage. To my delight, R was seated directly in front, which was a great relief, and S was halfway back, camera poised. Near him were JJ and Tebone, who made me so happy when they arrived earlier in the day. I undulated, shimmied, swirled twirled whirled, flirted and winked, and remembering R’s one piece of advice, I smiled, damnit. As S had directed, I stayed to the front of the stage, and I loved the crowd’s undivided attention. Once done, I was so hungry I could have eaten a horse. R caught up with me first, swooped me into her veil and hugged me, and said, “You rocked, girlfriend!” She told me I had danced better than she had ever seen me dance, and at this time I noticed the back of my head being kissed repeatedly, so I moved from R’s embrace to S’s big warm arms. I was also happy to receive compliments from my dance instructor. You'd think I had just walked a tightrope without a net for all the sweet things people said to me.

There is an undeniable high from performing. It’s the best drug I’ve encountered.

Later that evening we met up with Tebone & JJ for a trip to a small town south of Eugene, and went to a restaurant S & I used to frequent when we lived in Cottage Grove. We ate as much as we could and I still had leftovers; probably because I helped JJ eat fried mushrooms, a yummy thing I had never encountered except in Japanese restaurants. Delicious. After dinner we drove to the Elk’s Lodge, only to recognize our error, asked directions (provided bass-ackwards by the guy at Chevron and luckily we knew the town), and found the low-slung slab of concrete with the “Moose” label, situated right across the street from the Dairy Queen.

The Moose Lodge was about what I expected, last updated in the 1970s, low-ceiling, low lights, black vinyl seats, pool tables, old dark wood bar and stale cigarette smoke combined with fresh cigarette smoke emanating from the wrinkly jewel-encrusted women sipping their long island iced-teas at the bar. We enjoyed listening to the band, which did mostly covers, we enjoyed drinking scotch on the rocks since the prices haven’t changed since the 1970s either, and we enjoyed watching the dancers do their sidling tempo steps. Traditional country-western dancing is wonderfully folkloric, and very similar to the Middle Eastern dance steps I have encountered. It appears the grapevine step is universal; stepping sideways, out, cross to the front, out, cross to the rear, out, cross to the front… It was entertaining to see something so similar in two entirely different cultural settings within one day.

Sunday found me lazy in bed until ten. I had a cat curl up next to my shoulder and one of my favorite ways to awaken is to a rumbly purring cat. Went with S to our favorite breakfast place with the remaining cash we hadn’t spent the night before, read the paper, strolled the streets, then returned home to do laundry, dishes, mow the lawn, etc. all the basic household kind of chores. It was a nice day. It was a nice weekend.


I have committed myself to performing a solo on Saturday at the Middle Eastern Dance Guild’s annual show. It’s an all-day event, complete with vendors, dancers, instructors, etc. and I am hoping that, since I will be one of about 200 performers, I won’t be overly nervous. It has been a while since I’ve performed and it’s one of those things, the more you do it the easier it gets. I haven’t done it much. Haven’t a clue what song I’ll use or what I’ll wear (ummm, uh-oh…). I’m more excited about it than nervous at this point, but it will probably be the biggest audience I’ve had to entertain. Last night I had a small audience; D had spent the day with S, stayed for dinner, and spent the night in the second bedroom. D is young, and looks up to S, who has sort of adopted D in many ways. Last night after dinner I had them both watching as I practiced, among other things, the choreography that Jesi, R & I have been creating.

About watching belly dancers-- and I explained this to D last night because he’s young and I’m married to S so he wants to be respectful by not watching me— it is not only acceptable, but also expected, that the audience watches. It is a necessary element of dancing, and it is the thing that makes me so nervous about performing. When people in the audience don’t know where to look it can be frustrating, and also it changes and detracts the energy. People often try to avoid looking at bare-belly flesh. But that’s what the costume is for; all those swingy tassels and jangley coins, strings of beads and pearls and lush full skirts made out of velvet and satin and silk, oh my, and the feet flashing beneath the skirt with kicks and poses, the rings on fingers and bracelets and bells around the ankles, it is to make music, yes, but it is also for those watching the dance. WATCH. It’s a good thing.

I have been to belly-dance performances where audience members behave like the dancer will at any time begin removing her clothes, and it does carry that whole bordello stigma about it, but it is also a fine art, and takes as many years of study as any other form of dancing. Dancing in any form is the embodiment of music, and as such it is an art similar to learning how to play a musical instrument. The music is reflected in artistic impression, and the better the dancer, the more artistic, articulate, finer, stronger, softer, more graceful and more accurate are the motions used to exhibit the music. Yes, dance is sensual, and that too is a key part of performing, but in my opinion the best performers balance sensuality with artistry, and err on the side of art. There is nothing more breathtaking than a beautiful, accomplished dancer articulating the beats of a drum with just her hips while the rest of her body seems to float around, separate, stunning in its stillness. And it is expected that you watch.

I have been sleepy & dragging today, and while probably some of it is directly related to too much wine consumed last night, mostly it's because I haven't had any caffeine.

Usually I have a cup of tea in the morning, sometimes a cup of coffee, but I am the biggest coffee snob ever and only like it the way S makes it. The brown-colored water here at work is inappropriately called "coffee" by the three women who like to drink it with flavored creamer. Uck.

And even though it is available, I don't drink soda.

At this point I have assessed the situation, recognized my need for a stimulant in the form of a caffeinated beverage, and in taking stock of my predicament I notice someone drank the last of my jasmine green tea. This does not make me happy but it's sort of the antithesis of spilt milk. There's nothing can be done, now.

My choice for a perk is gut-rotting super-sweet and sticky soda, or throat-closing burnt-smelling hour-old coffee.

Maybe instead I will just take a nap right here behind my desk...


Dance class last night was a great workout & also fun; the lights dimmed, the music loud, coin belts and bared bellies, all feet and thighs and arms in unison. We missed class the week before due to our instructor’s illness, and I think she wanted to make up for lost time because we did lots of strenuous muscle-building side-to-side kinds of motions, called silly names like the choo-choo, the camel, the back-back-drop. In truth we don’t name the moves so much as use words to describe them, especially combinations of hip articulations, like horizontal figure-8, staircase, and cat’s whiskers.

Some moves come from ballet, such as arabesques and rondejambes, and the names for some moves come from Middle Eastern dance, such as taxsim and maya, both of which are vertical figure-8s drawn with the hips, it just depends on which way the hips travel.

In class I like watching other dancers move; some people have a keen sense for melody, others seek out the rhythm and the changes in tempo. We practiced the choreography; got it to the point where our instructor doesn’t have to count out the moves. It’s exhilarating when I can see everyone in the big wall mirrors moving forward with a triplet-step followed by a spin; the song is a Lebanese wedding song boom-boom-boom BOOM boom, funky 12 beat rhythm easy to find if you can catch it at the beginning, hard to discern if you try and pick it up in the middle. Our teacher also showed the traditional folkloric dance step to the song & we all joined sweaty hands & swung stomping, always with the same foot to the left, leaning back at the pause, around in a circle following her. It would have been much more interesting if I had been drunk.

More dancing today—I have a dancing date with Jesi & R to practice our trio choreography. R insists on calling it a “threesome,” especially when she talks to men. She is naughty and very very funny. I’m excited with the creation of the choreo… it’s one thing to dance free-form to a song, and another thing altogether to create a meaningful choreography shared by three dancers so they don’t look like showgirls on a chorus line or kids doing a lip-synch in a school talent show. I think we’re doing a good job but the final project will have to speak for itself. We'll be performing it in December, which leaves only two months for completing and praticing the choreography and making costumes. I have nothing better to do.

There is a Coyote headed for Bangkok...