Monday, March 28, 2011

Blues Dancing


Square dancing.
Round dancing.
    Two-step, waltz, foxtrot, tango, jive, cha-cha.
Clogging.
Line dancing.
Salsa.
Contra dancing.

And now blues dancing.

I won't say say that blues dancing has taken me the way contra has (can't get enough of contra). I'll go far out of my way for a contra dance but have rarely encountered blues -- but there's something pleasant about it.

Familiar with what I'm talking about? Most folks I've encountered aren't aware of blues dancing. At all. Go look it up. Google it. Search for it on YouTube.

I wish there was a better way to describe it than words that I'm coming up with. Blues is a lot more expressive than any other dance I've encountered. It looses all sense of rigidness and restrictions.

Blues takes on the improvisational aspects of swing without the elite attitude that seems to surround the swing community. Goodness, I love the swing dancers, but it's always felt like a bit of a closed and judgmental community to me and I lack the effort or desire to enter in.

Blues, on the other hand, just seems to be more open and real. It seems to be a lot less "going through the motions" that I encounter with many swing partners where they're just trying to do swing move after swing move.

From what I've gathered through my blues experiences, it's all about reading the music and your partner. It's about the connection and operating in the moment without any guide but the music.

Now. Am I any good? No idea. I've only been a few times... but from what I've heard from my partners, well, I should keep coming back. I'm still a beginner and want to learn a bit more and expand my capabilities. I'm glad I was introduced by the age of 20.

When I was in Austin, I made a point of getting out to their weekly blues dance at Kick Butt Coffee. Ahh! So good. So good.

Anyways - there's not much substance to this post. Pardon that.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Austin Story #1: Amy's Ice Cream


[march 21 2011] - Amy's Ice Cream

This is the story of the time I ate Amy's Ice Cream for the first time and walked away with one less button.

After 3.42 miles of walking around Austin, I knew it was time to check off another food-must-taste from the Austin Culinary Experiences list that Victorio made in my agenda.

Amy's Ice Cream on 6th was just a 1.2 mile walk from the Texas State Capital where I had been occupying myself by clogging in the center of the rotunda.

One look around the shop was enough to know that this was a place deeply loved by the citizens of Austin. I knew this because there were hula hoops by the door. Hula hoops equate to Austin Love.

The list of flavours overwhelmed me. Each time I would try and process what a flavour would taste like, there would be some sort of ka-chunk-flooping going on by the, oi, who are they? They can't just be employees, can they?

This establishment clearly had a heavy emphasis on customer relations in addition to passion for their product.

Decisions. Decision.
Can't decide.

"I've got you," said the boy behind the counter.

And I still didn't know.

And somehow Bruce Lee came up and he pulled out his Bruce Lee tag necklace.

I realized he had to come to Seattle to visit the grave because nothing is more fun than a good ol' grave tour (the last one I was on was with Borges, Charlie Chaplin, and Audrey Hepburn).

The two employees (ahh! I hate that term) started to educate me about this ice cream. It was "ultra premium." It wasn't just ultra ice cream, this was a step above premium ice cream.

From my research, it seems that ultra premium relates highly to the percent of butterfat content. So, now I know I was learning that this ice cream was, essentially, really butter-fatty. In this case, 14%. For the Seattleites who want a comparison, our Molly Moon's has 15-19%. To just be called ice cream, a frozen milk desert is required to have at least 10%.

Mid sentence, the girl behind the counter grabbed a sample spoon and scooped up some Mexican Vanilla for me to try. That answered any question I had. This stuff was good. Really good.

Charles recommended Oreos as a mix-in, I took the recommendation, and he got to work.

Anger-management.
Tossing.

My ice cream was everywhere.
My respect was high.

Dude. My ice cream was up and then down and then behind the back and in the bowl. I've never eaten ice cream that's flown through the air before....

I walked over to the register (5 paces) where I was asked how I would pay.

"Can I pay in buttons?"
"Depends on the buttons."

I pulled out my coin purse of buttons.

Apparently they met Charles' approval. He let me pay with the button.

He then scribbled down his name on a piece of paper and handed it to me.

My biggest regret from that day is I totally forgot to tip. Really bad move on my part. But, without my wallet out, it didn't occur to me. Oi. Not cool, Margaret, not cool. I think I can solve this problem, though.

The rest of the time, eating the ice cream, was incredible. I was in lovely company and my taste buds were excited. This was better than Friday. Ice cream get's me *pats heart* right there.

So that was my time at Amy's Ice Cream. The staff were engaging and turned this food exploration into an event and experience instead of just a time to taste. They were excessively personable to a comfortable level turning Amy's Ice Cream on 6th into more than just a food join but a community Zentrum.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Reflections on Austin (where I continue to obsess over the weather)

I've made it through four days in Austin.

Wait, I need to rephrase that. That sounds like I have to be here and it's a struggle.

Four glorious days in Austin have breezed by and left me with fistfuls of memories and a memory card loaded with photographs

My thoughts have tendencies to leap to "Could I ever live here?" thoughts when I visit other locations. And to live somewhere means I have to leave Seattle.

I don't mean to compare to Seattle in a means of saying what is better and who's best, that'd be a pretty awful attitude to enter a city with, but I do so as a means of having a foundation for my observations.

The weather is what my mind obsesses over. Going from solid-Seattle grey skyes to the ever-blue warmness of Austin is something that will never get old.

I've heard many a tale of the infamous summer of 2010 in Austin. A summer with over 68 days of weather over 100 degrees. Let's compare this to August 2010 in Seattle. Our average temperature was just 65 degrees. The warmest it got was 96 - which I missed because I was in Utah.

Anyways, I just don't think I could live in a a city that got that hot. I love my rain.

Right now in Seattle (it's currently 8:12 PM) it is 8°C (47°F).
In Austin it is 10:12 PM and it is 21°C (71°F).

I would take this 21°C weather any day. It's the perfect warm. I can walk in it without being uncomfortable and wear a skirt from morning till night without getting a chill. I feel pretty blessed I got to see Austin, in my opinion, at it's best.

Austin has so far left a giddy impression on me. See, the first time I was in Texas, it was genuinely one of the 3 bottom worst days in my life. I was coming back from living in Switzerland for a year and I wanted nothing less for my first exposure to America to be in the airport in Houston, Texas. Those emotions have carried me on since 2008 and it felt good to let them go. I know it sounds juvenile to judge a state on its airport, but that's all I had to go off of (besides the wonderful Texans I had met in my travels).

So many wonderful people fill this state.

Mikaela, Stephen, Victorio, Steven, Amy, Jordan, Matt, Afomia, Maggie, Meg, Kiera, Joe, James, Alice, Dean, Jim, Tim, Tim, Elizabeth, Nick, Chris, and that one lovely girl...

That's what I wanted to do when I came here. I wanted to connect with the people.
Hopefully, that's what happened. I feel like it's what happened.

Austin appears to be full of opportunities with a much lower cost of living than Seattle.

From what I've heard, while a lot of the country is feeling the impact of the recession, Austin is still riding comfortably high (I haven't researched this). The transportation is close to ideal. They don't have the Orca card - but a day pass is only $2.

Did you read that? Only $2 for a full day of travel. For me to go to circus school and back can be either $5 round trip with an Orca card or up to $10 without the card. An Orca card is a card you can load up with money and use as you go about with the transit of the area. It takes care of transfers and allows me to go seamlessly from transit system (Sound Transit) to transit system (Metro) to transit system (Washington State Ferries). Who needs that when you've got Capital Metro Transit in Austin? $2 is cheaper than any one stretch of traveling in Seattle. I'm jealous.

This is turning into a mind slurry from idea to idea and I think I might halt here. Wonder if anyone followed along.

Austin has delighted me - and I wish I had a few more days left to explore. Currently I have tomorrow and the day after until I've got to jump on the aeroplane for Seattle.

I'm not quite ready for that.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Thoughts From Austin


My dad's been down in Austin for a while so we figured it was time for me to visit him.
These are some things I've noticed about Austin or experienced or not.

1. No one is actually from Austin and very few are actually Texans! In conversations I have witih strangers on the bus or blues dancing or at a concert (well, that didn't count as it was a Seattle series) no one seems to actually be from Austin. I've met folks from Montana, Mississippi, Colorado, Washington, and Michigan. Have I met any actually Texans - a few, very few though. It's like Austin is a city of expats.

2. People from Texas are tall.

3. The bike culture is very alive here. Not sure if it's because of SXSW - but it's so vivid. I wish Seattle had the weather and topography to accompany encourage such bikes to soar through the streets in packs. Seattle isn't too bad, I see handfuls of folks on bikes, but they tend to be a select crew. Here, everyone, everyone is on a bike. Fleets of pedi-cabs cruise down the street and are an common form of transportation.

4. I know nothing of Texan food. Nothing. All I've eaten is what I would normally eat in Seattle. A quick run to Whole Foods stocked me up with quinoa, almond butter, beans, whole wheat bread, carrots, nut and raisen mix, spinach, and carrots. I pack my lunch and dinner each day so I don't experience actual street food, which I've heard is amazing. It has a lot to do with my fear of investing in food and places that I don't know are actually good. Maybe I'll find an Austintonian and ask them to suggest something. Everyone seems like tacos... I can't remember the last time I had a taco. I think my friend Steven might give me an introduction to Texan food this evening.

5. Austin is flat and small and short. You can get from point A to point B in under 15 minute walk almost always without ever seeing elevation change. Makes it easy for me to get around. The size could be a misunderstanding on my part because I haven't had a reason to explore all regions of the city.

6. Warm. It's only a little bit warmer than perfect for me. This is one thing that gets me. I've gone from hailing/raining Seattle to this pleasent warmth all day long. It still surprises me each time I step outside.

7. Wind. This is the only weather gitch the glitches me. I would take rain over wind any day. There's a lot of wind. Sorry to sound like I'm complaining - Austin is wonderful, I swear it is.

8. Warmer people? I still can't figure this one out, but I do, in fact, think these people are a whole lot warmer than the folks in Seattle (Seattle chill anyone?). But it's not overwhelming. I'm not sure because at a time like this, SXSW, it's hard to know who is from where. There was that guy who offered to buy me lunch... that doesn't happen often in Seattle.

9. Accents. Faint. Nearly non-existant. The guy from Montana had a stronger accent.

10. Smile is an invitation to a conversation.

11. The most common phrase I hear is, "I 'ppreciate cha!" I paid my bus fare and, according to the bus man, he appreciated me. I appreciate him to.

Beautiful city. Still observing, enjoying, adapting, and absorbing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Margaret and the Margarets

Dancing at Lake Margaret

Never talk to strangers,” I was taught.

That idea didn’t last very long. Especially not after I started heading to Seattle on my own and depending on our transit system.

Part I.
I was on the bus from Taproot Theater to Seattle Children’s when I saw an older woman get on the bus, which was already crowded. She walked on down the aisle and I quickly made an attempt, with success, to make eye contact and smile at her.

She correctly read my facial expression as an invitation to sit by me while her grown up son stood in the aisle next to her.

I normally try and keep my mouth shut on the bus, apart from a sentence or two to potentially open up a conversation. I made some comment and in a thick European accent she said, “I don’t speak English very good…”

“Dann… sprechen Sie Deutsch?” I asked.

Her face lit up and her son did a double take.

The rest of the bus ride was filled with warm conversation, stories in her native tongue, and enough laughter to make the 30 minute bus ride seem like 9 minutes.

In the middle of the conversation, I realized I didn’t know her name.

“Wie heist du?” I asked (yes, I ought to have used “Sie” with her but by that time, we had agreed that it was ok if I referred to her as “du”).

“Margaret,” she said.

“Ich auch!” I replied and we both laughed. We had that instant-Margaret connection.

What are the chances that on all the busses of all the days of all the seats and all the people that I could have sat next to, I would end up sitting by a German speaking Margaret.

Wonderful life.

Part II.
It had been six hours since breakfast and I needed some food.

I was in the middle of my final day of studying for finals when I realized that my curry quinoa and beet-greens-celery-cucumber-carrot juice weren’t going to hold me over forever. A quick walk took me from my campus to the local Central Market where their salad bar leaves me feeling satisfied.

The local high school had just gotten out and the students were clustering around the lines and tables.
After I got my food, I walked over to the seating area looking for a place where I could study. There was a free table and also a table for four with just one little old lady sitting at it.

Can I sit with you? I asked.

She looked up at me, grinned, and in a European accent welcomed me to her table.

She took the lead in carrying the conversation on and I soon forgot of my study-intentions.

The topic of food came up immediately and it wasn’t long until she revealed she was Greek and was all  about all foods Mediterranean.

Our love of languages was shared and she warmed up to me even more.

I eventually asked her what her name was.

“Margarita,” she told me, “What’s yours?”

“Margaret!”

I said, and our laughter was loud enough to capture the attention of the tables around us.

By the end of the meal, we felt like close friends and I was sad to leave her with her little scarf, curly hair, and warm heart.

And that is how I’ve come to encounter to European Margaret’s in my wanderings.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bedtime Tea


I am so pleased.
My mom bought me bedtime tea.
My favourite kind.

Licorice Root
Spearmint Leaf
Chamomile Flower
Skullcap Leaf
Cardamom Seed
Cinnamon Bark
St. John’s Wort Leaf and Flower
Rose Hip
Raspberry Leaf
English Lavender Flower
Stevia Leaf
Passion Flower Extract
Valerian Root Extract


Patrick's Cardamom.
Seriously. Click the picture to see it normal.
It looks gross this small.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Contra-munity


Every time someone spins/dips/flings me (with skill), I feel this overwhelming sense of gratitude towards them - like they're doing this huge favour just for me. That turns into a smile. Smile into a laugh. Laugh releases endorphins (addicting) but it also helps out with my immune system. That means each time they twirl me, they're preventing me from getting sick. 



Twirling & Vitamin C?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Peter Pan & Love

And old paper I wrote in a morning.

2006

“Where do you live?”
“Second to the right and then straight on till morning.”
“They put that on the letters?”
“Don't get any letters.”
“But your mother gets letters.”
“Don't have a mother.”
“No wonder you were crying.”
“I wasn't crying about mothers.”


            In the 2003 live-action film of Peter Pan, a land of fantasy, wonder, and imagination is created. The audience can see childhood fantasies played out through every minute spent in Neverland, from the whoops and cries of the Native Americans to the mystery of the mermaids to the cruelty of the pirates. In such a lighthearted plot, the main character, Peter Pan, struggles and toils with the most universal theme of life, love.

            Peter Pan does not lack the ability to love, just the understanding of what it is and how express it. This is revealed in a scene in which Wendy, a girl he has brought to Neverland from her classic London home, tries to express her feelings for Peter and see if the attraction is mutual.

Wendy: Peter, what are your real feelings?
Peter: Feelings?
Wendy: What do you feel? Happiness? Sadness? Jealousy?
Peter: Jealousy? Tink!
Wendy: Anger?
Peter: Anger. Hook.
Wendy: Love?
Peter: Love?
Wendy: Love.
Peter: I have never heard of it.
Wendy: I think you have, Peter. I daresay you've felt it yourself... for something or... someone.
Peter: Never. Even the sound of it offends me.


            How could someone so full of life miss out on comprehending something as simple, yet deep, as love? Peter’s upbringing was nothing like Wendy’s and not just because he lived in Neverland. Peter Pan has no mother. He was born with one, and he knows that, but at a young age he ran away. Even with the pride he takes in his actions, he hints at a desire to have a mother. His idea of a mother is shallow in contrast to the character of Mary Darling, Wendy’s own mother. Peter projects that a mother is a women who fulfils the duties of telling stories and distributing medicine. As the audience, we can see that the psychological handicap that Peter Pan has has as a direct correlation to him being motherless. He is incapable of expressing deeper emotions of love and being aware of them. There are other symptoms as well, such as disorganization and forgetfulness that he makes up for with his zeal and physical capabilities used to protect himself, yet his lack of expression has no benefits that can be seen. Love is a motive that drives people forward, it fuels actions. Love creates a purpose.

            When others reach out, like Wendy, to express their love to him, Peter recoils. Perhaps the thought of letting himself become too dependent upon someone frightens him. He is even oblivious to the affection Tinker Bell, his fairy, shows him. Tinker Bell doesn’t refrain from showing her disgust for Wendy when she and Peter pretend they are married. Peter isn’t hesitant to acknowledge that she’s jealous, yet he does not identify the motives behind the jealousy. He ignores the deeper feelings of love, infatuation, or attraction she has for him. Peter can relate to feelings of jealousy and anger and associate them with other characters, as seen in the second quote. While those emotions can be powerful, in totallity they are shallow and one sided. Love requires one to think beyond one’s own self and well being. Love asks for someone to reciprocate the same feelings just as Wendy demonstrated when she asked Peter of his feelings.
           
            During childhood, it is the role of the mother to teach the strong emotions of love to the child through example and thousands of hours of conditioning. It is tacit and rarely explained other than through the exchanging of  I-love-you’s. Had Peter been raised with a mother, would he have understood that which is said to be one of the greatest things of all? It is very probable. Peter is not incapable of loving, merely challenged in expressing and recognizing it. He expresses love for Tinker Bell, as she nearly perishes, with tears and cries. But even then, he doesn’t see it as love but as regret when she is gone and joy when she returns. Even after he kisses Wendy, or gives her a “thimble” as he calls it, on the pirate ship and turns pink, he doesn’t know the word for what he is feeling. “This belongs to you and always will,” he says as he kisses her. With the kiss, Peter is expressing his love in a primitive way, physically. Immediately after the kiss, he turns to Hook and exclaims, “You are old!” In the moment in which he acknowledged his feelings for Wendy, he used the energy he received from that to fuel on his hate and need of revenge for Hook. In that moment, though, Peter not only revealed his feelings to Wendy, he let the audience see a glimpse of his capability to love. He might not have understood his feelings or where they came from, but on an impulse he followed them.

            It is not surprising that a timeless film like Peter Pan would have a character as simple and carefree as Peter unconsciously struggle with love. Love is universal and taught at a young age, yet Peter shows the audience what can happen when a child is never taught what is love and how to love someone else. He demonstrates that to love is natural and of human nature, but to be able to understand, express, and acknowledge it takes conditioning from some sort of mother-figure. Conflicts like these add an even greater element of wonder to the film beyond mermaids and pirates. Peter Pan is no longer just the boy who wouldn’t grow up, he is the boy who was never taught about love.
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