Throwback Thursday: We were always like that

This is a self-portrait of us taken by The H. when we were first dating. At the time, he worked as a furniture maker. The H. specialized in mid-century bent-wood designs, but he could make anything.* In this photo, we’re standing in his workshop. The Husband had no idea that he’d set his little point and shoot camera to panoramic. That’s why the top of his head got cut out of the frame.

But, wait! It gets better.

The Husband and Bluebird posting for a picture early in their relationship.

So, right after his camera took that first picture, The Husband (who was only The Boyfriend then) tried to pick me up, but he didn’t have a solid grip. The camera captured him trying not to drop me on my head. We are laughing hysterically, of course.

The Husband and Bluebird posting for a picture early in their relationship.

I’ve got to be honest, y’all. Every time I look at these pictures, I just laugh and laugh. There are actually four of them. There’s another with my head chopped off at the top because of the panorama setting, and one other of The H. standing by his circular saw, half in darkness. It was very cold in his shop. The building in which his workshop was housed used to be a grocery warehouse at the beginning of the 20th century.

Back to us—The Husband and I had a charmed courtship. We were friends for nearly a year before we decided to start dating, and we weren’t any hurry to get anywhere. I never had more fun in my entire life up to that point than when I met him. Even now, the most fun I ever have is with The Husband—even though he makes me half-crazy almost all of the time.

But, that’s life, right? That’s what marriage can do to a body—especially if you’re in a marriage of equals. And we laugh a lot—because that’s marriage too. Above all, we talk about every idea that can be built with common words. I look at these photos and I can see how we built the kindling for a lifetime of conversations, stick by stick and story by story.

*And by anything, I mean anything. He made Japanesque Art Nouveau-style carved cabinets and Moroccan tiled octagonal tables offound wood and all sorts of cabinets with crazy tricky parquetry.

Miss Frankly Forty

PSST! Double click the pic for a much larger readable size. I made this whole thing just for you, you, you!

An open vintage book: All of the conflicting advice regarding how one should comport oneself in one's 40s creates such a fuss, don't you think? The very modern editors at Bluebird Blvd. thought you might prefer a little friendly advice from our resident experts. Here are a few myths explored for the benefit of Miss Frankly Forty What is the difference between being 39 and being 40? digit? Also, the number 40 is divisible by 20, 10, 5, 4 and 2. And there you go. Why is turning 40 a taboo for women in Western culture? Because uteruses. But remember this is the same culture that believed that the uterus wandered your body until you have a husband to anchor it down. No, I'm not kidding. How come there's so much advice out there on how 40-year-old women should dress? The long answer: If you're a 40-year-old woman in a first-world country, you probably have plenty of clothes in your closet that you like which happen to fit you well. Fashion designers, style bloggers and big box stores need you to buy a whole new closetful of things in order to pay their light bill in Milan, Poughkipsee and New York. But how do you get women to buy things? Easy. Since the 20th century, businesses have advertised new products to women using a grotty potpourri of fear, shame, and the exploitation of a woman's need to be accepted by her peers. My advice? Don't buy anything that has been fear-marketed to you. The short answer: Money. What is a crone? A crone is a woman over forty whose uterus no longer wanders off. A crone is also a woman who owns several pairs of awesome shoes in which she can run flat out if chased by Godzilla. Why do women over 40 choose plastic surgery? An answer: Because women between the ages of 40 and 50 no longer see representations of themselves in magazines, movies and television. Over enough time, one may get the impression that to remain culturally visible, one should strive to look like a twentysomething. Or, at the very least, a rather plush 35-year-old. Another answer: Because they can. Is there anything great about being in your 40s? Why, darling, of course! As our Great Aunt Ida used to say: Consider the alternative.

Editor’s notes: 1) We know the actual plural of uterus is uteri, not uteruses. But, really—who’s counting uteri right now anyway? 2) I hope you don’t think I’m kidding, re: women over 40 on/in TV, but just in case here’s an industry-respected study for women in/on TV in 2014. 3) Oh, and there’s this crazy thing too.

Are you writing?

Twirlers standing at attention for photograph. 1960s.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting to Bluebird Blvd. for nearly three whole months.

I’ve been having a problem. A writing problem.

Is it writer’s block?

No, it’s something worse than writer’s block if you can believe it.


Writer’s block is bad enough.  And it’s real—don’t give me any of your power right through nonsense, okay? I’ve done that.  You can do it, but it’s like dancing on a broken leg. Super painful.

If you write, you know what I’m talking about. You’re sitting in the chair with the paper and the pen and the clock going, and you wait.

For what?!? You ask.

Words. You’re waiting for words.

Well, there are words everywhere, you say. Just pick up a dictionary. Hell, turn on the television. People are speaking them things all the time.

Um. They’re not the right words. That’s the whole problem.

So there you sit. Or you used to—staring at the wall. Waiting for something to materialize. The more you sit and wait, the more you believe you’re going to be sitting and waiting forever. But of course you don’t.

The words come—terribly at first, then a little better, and if you’re lucky, pretty well, and then either you go for broke and it’s hours later and you look up and go whaaaa? —because you’ve totally lost track of time and it’s late and the dogs need their supper….

Again, this is how it used to be.

Now every writer I know has a completely different writing problem.

There are too many words now, dammit. Too many freaking words.

Every day, I wake up to a phone that insists on throwing words at me.   I sit up in bed and grab the glass of water I set on the nightstand every evening. I take my pills and pull a book onto my lap—I like to wake up slowly, you see. But there are all of these things that are asking for my attention.

There’s a television set in the other room blathering about the best way to sew a Hong Kong seam. (Yes, The Husband watches his sewing shows before school.)

And my phone beeyooops! because someone on Facebook “likes” the photograph I re-posted yesterday from Humans of New York. (Dude, I love HONY. Best thing on the internet.)

And then Twitbot 3 ker-bleeps! because the alert I set for our current Texas Guvi, Captain Hairdo is blowing up this morning because—oh, is it Christmas already?—he’s being indicted. (For something. Finally.)

Yeah, I know. You’re saying, “This is a problem? I should have such a problem.”

Oh, but it is. It is!

Do you realize that I haven’t even gotten out of bed and my ears are being crammed with words that aren’t my words? They’re not even the words in the lovely book that’s fallen open on my lap like a goofy disembodied grin. These words are semi-random things, mostly banalities, that I’ve personally selected to disrupt me throughout the day.

Yes, yes. You’re getting it now. I did this to myself. It’s a nightmare; it’s a terror. I gave my brain a raging case of writer’s block, but what’s going on isn’t actually anything like writer’s block at all.

Writer’s block is turning on the faucet and only getting a dribble of rusty words. Around here it’s a damn DELUGE. I’m being pelted with a stream of blah-blah-blah seam ripper, blah-blah-blah HONY should win a Nobel this yearii…blah-blah-blah GUESS WHAT CAPTAIN HAIRDO DID NOW!

It’s no wonder I started to have serious problems with writing. There are simply TOO MANY WORDS. And they’re also ALL THE WRONG WORDS.

Look at me. I’m so upset that I’m writing in italics for emphasis. And that’s really, really bad, y’all. It’s the cheapest writing trick in the book. The only thing worse than using italics to hit your paces is… JUST LOOK AT ME. —oh, there it is. The caps-lock gambit.

I’m a mess. But it’s not just me. This word problem is a worldwide emergency.

Some writers have gone as far as locking up their devices when they’re working on deadline. (Hint: If you’re a journalist, this idea may not work.) I know of two novelists (not personally) who disabled the internet capability on their computers.

One of them literally grabbed some glue and gummed up the works in his laptop. The other novelist pulled out the little bit that connects to the internet and put it in a vault and spun the lock.

And these are good writers. The Contemporary Lit kind with the sad smile and the little bald spot and the Ivy League education and the author’s photo on some street on the Eastern Seaboard and everything. If those guys can’t pull out of a writing nosedive caused by looking at crap on their phones, what the hell am I supposed to do?!? You know me—I am as ridiculous as I tell you I am. I may be even more ridiculous than I report to you—I don’t know.

Well, this is what I’ve come up with so far: WALLPAPER. Just hear me out. You know how the first thing you see when you turn on your computer in the morning after it warms up is your desktop wallpaper, right?

Why not write something to REMIND you to write and make it into DESKTOP WALLPAPER, so that EVERY TIME you look up from some bullhound conversation you’re having on Twitter instead of writing your novel, you’ll get the point.

It’s better than guilt or an alarm or an expensive POMODORO system or GET ‘R’ DONE or any of those marketing things that help you yell at yourself to get work finished.


Or so I thought at the beginning of this summer.


In June, I designed this desktop picture and put it on my Mac so that it was the first and last thing I ever see on my computer.


Twirlers - Are you writing?

Cute, right? Okay, well that was a novelty for about a week. Then I pretty much forgot it was there and still was struggling with writing.

As you can see with this next one, I ratcheted up the noise. I didn’t want to miss this when I looked up from my browser with three tabs open that have nothing to do with me writing at the moment: The Mary Sue, Pinterest, Facewitter. Something like that.


Marching band sitting on steps.  Writing cheer.  Turn off your phone.  Siss-boom-bah.

And so that wore off in a few weeks as well. Around the beginning of July, I started to panic. That’s when I created this beaut right here:


Drum majorette holding baton aloft.  Write like a frightened graduate student.

But you know what? I ran the first part of my writing career based on fear. I’m pretty immune to fear at this point.

Plus, I am a born existentialist.  You figured that out, right?

Also, I’ve been to graduate school.  I was already a professional writer when I entered graduate school at 25.  Graduate school is way more scary than the actual writing world.  I kid you not.

Finish an MFA and you’ll be hard-pressed to be afraid of anything ever again. Deadlines.  Coral snakes.  Mortgages.  I’m serious.

None of this mattered by early August. I guess I made this?  It’s all kind of a blank here on out:

High school drum major marching in the dark shouting about social media.

And, um, this.


Drum Major marching the other way shouting about Bebop and burning cellphones

Here’s the last thing I haven’t really tried lately—plumping up my ego.

You know that writers have notoriously fragile egos, right? Well, mine is not so fragile.   But as a writer, I am kind of like Peter Pan in that I like it when you look up to the sky and think of me from time to time.

Who doesn’t?

Geez, I’ve missed you all.

Majorette doing backbend while extolling the virtues of writing. - You need a world built? Call a writer.

Oh, just one more thing.  I know the social media stuff is just witchy for writers. Actually, it’s so bad that it’s made me nostalgic for  old-fashioned writer’s block.

Sweet cracker sandwich, has it come to this?


i  That spelling is intentional. In Texas, you have the Guv and you have the Lite Guv. The Lite Guv is the guy with the power. The Guv. is usually a figurehead. Usually. (Anne Richards was no figurehead, darlin’!)

ii (Brandon Stanton is hitting all the right marks with his ongoing Goodwill tour. If you’re not following him right now, you should go and do that immediately. Then come right back, okay?


Sports Mania SPECIAL broadcast: Post-Saint Patrick’s Day wrap-up

Action shot of Irish Stepdancers in Ireland.

BRIGHT BLUE SET of SPORTS MANIA television sports show. Newscasters CHET and ERNESTO sit behind a bright blue DESK tapping their PAPERS and chatting as the Sports Mania’s THEME MUSIC plays.

(ESTABLISHING SHOT of Ernesto and Chet sitting behind a bright blue desk of bright blue Sports Mania set.)

Chet: (Deep in conversation with Ernesto)…so then I sez to the produce guy, I sez to him—

(CUT TO: MEDIUM SHOT of Ernesto and Chet.)

Ernesto: What’d you say to him? Jeeeezuuuu— (Startled. Realizes show just started.)-ssssszzz. (Clears throat.) Hello! And welcome to Sports Mania’s St. Patrick’s Day post-game wrap-up. It was an exciting St. Patrick’s Day this year wasn’t it, Chet?

Chet: (Professional smile) It sure was, Ernesto! We had wins and losses all over the map! From Omsk, Russia to Lowell, Massachusetts, Irish Stepdancers and local revellers went head to head!

Ernesto: (Professional laugh.) They sure did, Chet! But there was one memorable moment from yesterday, wasn’t there? Let’s go to our interview with Niamh Ni Dálaigh, Irish stepdancer. (Trim dark-haired young woman comes up on a built in screen behind the Sports Mania desk. Ernesto and Chet turn to face screen) Niamh, how are you this morning?

Niamh Ni Dálaigh: (Sounds tired and hoarse.) I’m fine, Ernesto—just fine, all things considered.

(CUT TO: CLOSE-UP. Ernesto and Chet share a SPLIT SCREEN with NIAMH NI DÁLAIGH.)

Ernesto: (Serious face.) Now, Niamh, I’d like to show the footage from your midnight St. Patrick’s Day performance at the Wise Rhino last night. Sports fans, let me set up this clip for you. The Wise Rhino is a pub infamous for packing in the St. Patrick’s Day crowds and skimping on stage space. Niamh, how big was the stage where you danced your final show last night?

Niamh: Two feet by two feet, plus two feet high. (Pause.) And I had to share it with the band and five other dancers.

Chet: Well, that is one small stage, Niamh!

(Niamh laughs uncomfortably.)

Ernesto: (Cutting off Chet.) If you’re tuning into the broadcast just now, Irish Dancer Niamh Ni Dálaigh from Reno, Nevada is talking about last night’s performance.

Chet: Let’s run that tape.

(Footage shows Niamh dancing in place on a two-foot high stage. Amateur drunks are standing in front of the stage bobbing and weaving and shouting. The traditional Irish band sits behind her—they’re nearly sitting in each other’s laps.)

Chet: Now, watch carefully as this guy over here— (Circles a drunk guy in front and to the left of Niamh with a green screen pen.) —starts to reach out to touch Niamh’s dancing costume right here. (Chet draws wobbly green screen arrow to Niamh’s dress.)

(Footage continues. Drunk guy starts to grab the skirt of Niamh’s $1500 performance dress. Niamh executes a quick turn, yanking the dress out of his hand, but the turn sends her sprawling into the band right behind her. )

Chet: (Excitedly.) Right there— (Draws six green screen arrows on the footage.)

Ernesto: (Slaps pen out of Chet’s hand.) Shhhh!

(Niamh, still on the split screen, covers her eyes with one hand.)

(Footage: A random drunk hand goes over the lens of the camera, but viewers can hear a SQUEAK and a YELP and the WHINE-POP-PING of several squashed INSTRUMENTS.)

Chet: (Excitedly.) Wow, I’ve never seen—

Ernesto: Shhhh!

(Niamh, still on the split screen, covers her entire face with her hands.)

(Footage: Normal filming resumes. A stunned Niamh sits sprawl-legged on stage surrounded by pieces of mandolin. Three of the four musicians are wearing the remains of a smashed hammer dulcimer. The fourth, a CONCERTINA PLAYER, has the bellows of his instrument wrapped around his neck, which he’s clawing to remove. The dulcimer player is weeping loudly. His tweed vest is in ribbons. )

Chet: Can I—(Waits to be shushed again, by Ernesto. Ernesto nods.)—talk now? (A beat.) So, Niamh, what was going through your mind when you executed that turn?

Niamh: Well, not much of anything, Chet. That was my 40th performance in three cities in five days—

Ernesto: (Looking at camera.) —the standard lead-up to St. Patrick’s Day, right?

Niamh: Yes. Yes, it is. (A pause.) —but, like I said, like every year, I’d been doing these performances since the first of March, really, and by last night, I didn’t even know my own name. Ernesto, I was so tired that I put on one soft shoe and one hard shoe at the beginning of that performance, and I would have gone on stage like that had another dancer not stopped me.

Chet: Wow, that IS tired, Niamh!

Niamh: (Nods.) Yeah. So, if I was thinking anything, I don’t remember it. But I remember what happened after the drunk guy grabbed the skirt part of my solo costume. I fell into the band, Chet. And all you could hear around me in the blur of the moment was Pop! Twaaaa-aaaang! Blawwp!

Niamh: (Continues.) I was smacked in the shoulder with that concertina—that thing should always be holstered when not in use—and somehow I sat on Jim’s mandolin. (Covers eyes.) All those smashed instruments and crying men. I’m never going to get that sound out of my ears, Chet. Never.

Ernesto: We’ve only got another minute here, Niamh. What I want to know is, what happened to the original drunk guy who grabbed your dress?

Niamh: Well… (Hand covers her mouth.) He started laughing.

Chet: Wow! What did you do?

Niamh: At first I was too stunned from the accident, but then I saw him doubled over, and like I said, he was laughing at us.

Ernesto and Chet: (Spellbound.) Yes?

Niamh: So I, uh, got up from the stage floor. (A final pause.) And then I walked over and punched him in the nose.

Ernesto: Whoa! That’s a serious party foul! How many Feiseanna do you have to sit out for this penalty?

Niamh: (Genuine smile.) Six. My Claddagh ring broke off in the drunk guy’s left nostril, and he smashed his face with his own beer bottle trying to pull it out. So, I’m out for one dance competition per stitch.

Chet: (Mouth open.) How much of your Claddagh ring ended up in his nose?

Niamh: The heart, the hands, and the entire crown broke off inside his nose, Chet. It was bad. It was really bad.

Ernesto: If you had to do last night all over again, would you have done anything differently?

(Niamh hesitates, then—)

Niamh: Yeah. (A beat.) I would have worn a bigger ring.

(Sports Mania theme music plays.)

Chet: Folks at home, we’ll see you after the commercial break. We’d like to thank our guest, Niamh Ni Dálaigh, who had to wake up before noon on the day after St. Patrick’s Day to be with us!

( Niamh waves a bleary hand at the camera. The split screen dissolves.)

(MEDIUM SHOT of Ernesto and Chet behind Sports Mania desk.)

Ernesto: (Continuing on.) After the break, we’re going to talk to a an eight-hand Irish figures team who got into a fight with half of the metropolitan symphony in Poughkeepsee, New York! This is Ernesto—

Chet: —and Chet. Live, with our day after St. Patrick’s Day wrap up on—

Ernesto and Chet: Sports Mania!

(Theme music swells.)



Niamh Ni Dálaigh   NEEV   NEH DOHL-lee 

(Irish name. “Ni” replaces “O’” in feminine names.)

Feiseanna  Fesh-eAN-na  

(Irish Stepdancing competitions.)

The Marriage Interpreter (No. 43)

The Husband dances around Bluebird's office.

THE HUSBAND is talking in bed. Bluebird is not listening.

The Husband: … my lumbago was acting up, and that was the year my Uncle Rufus got the Ear-Dread that was going around in ninenteen… ought-six.

Bluebird: ???




THE HUSBAND just walked into the living room.

The Husband: (Points at Bluebird dramatically.) I had a dream last night that you were trying to put me in a Judo outfit. Uniform. Whatever.

Bluebird: (Looks up from computer.) Was this when I put the blankets back on you? The dogs stole them while you were asleep, you know.

The Husband: And I kept telling you in my dream that I wanted to dress like the Native American dude from the Village People because that has always been my wish since I was a wee boy of six.

Bluebird: (A beat.) I’m calling your sisters this afternoon. I want details. I bet you ruined a feather pillow, didn’t you?

The Husband: (Waves arms wildly. Dogs start barking and jumping around.) C’mon Monkey!  Get Bluebird! JUDO CHOP!




THE HUSBAND is explaining how he spells new words.

The Husband: I try to pronounce it frenetically because I am a listening person who listens a lot, but what I really want to do is listen and talk at the same time.

Bluebird: Frenetically? Are we still talking about spelling?

The Husband: Yes. It’s like that learning gizmo that kids use. Hooked On Frenetics. It has cards, I think. And a gold bell. Maybe puffy stickers.

Bluebird: I, uh… yeah. (Cracks up laughing.)

The Husband: What’s so funny? Are you writing this down?




THE HUSBAND is at the ranch. He is on the phone with Bluebird.

The Husband: (Musing.) You know, what? I am going to start saying “’round yonder” more often.

Bluebird: Why?

The Husband: ‘Cause that’s where I am at right now. You know, in my heart.

Bluebird: (Baffled.) Where are you, physically?

The Husband: (With a shrug in his voice.) Does ’round yonder have map coordinates? Can you find the joy of a crisp autumn breeze on Google Maps? Can you really pinpoint the surfectifaciousisnessness of wanderlust?

Bluebird: (Slowly.) I think I have a headache from… yonder.




THE HUSBAND is passing Bluebird in the hallway.

The Husband: You don’t understand my music*!

Bluebird: (Eyes blinking rapidly.) I what, now?

The Husband: See? Tambourine, tambourine, tambourine! (Dances down hallway to bedroom.)

Bluebird: (Speaking down empty hallway.) You’re quoting Bob’s Burgers again, aren’t you?

The Husband: (From bedroom.) Tam-bour-ine! Tam-bour-ine!


*The Husband quotes the TV show Bob’s Burgers all the time lately.



The Marriage Interpreter [No. 39]

    You know that movie “Barnaby Jones, Space Ninja”? No? The Husband can tell you all about it.

The Marriage Interpreter [No. 22]

    Tonight, we will all enjoy Golem and Herb crackers together.

The Marriage Interpreter [No. 15]

    No, I do not see why it would be a good idea to watch me read Fifty Shades of Gray, Husband.

Super-Secret Friday Night 5-Minute Dance Party— Whose Line Is It Anyway? The Best of Wayne Brady


The sound quality isn’t perfect. The video is a little shaky.

Still, I’m pretty sure you’re going to love this compilation of Wayne Brady clips from the original American version “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”!

I am officially geeking out because “Whose Line” is officially returning to television.

EEEEEEE! Aren’t you excited? Yes, you heard correctly!

Check out Variety’s April 1st story (no joke) about one of my favorite show-of-all-time’s return with an all new host, AISHA TYLER!: Variety: CW Sets Late-Summer Lineup, Including ‘Whose Line’ Return in July.

Oh my gosh, I don’t think they couldn’t have found someone more fitting to host this show. Aisha Tyler is an amazing stand-up comedian and voice actress. Love her work. If you can’t remember who she is, go to the official Aisha Tyler website.

(Lots of thanks to 12MedBe on YouTube for making this compilation. It’s exactly what y’all needed tonight, don’t you think?)

The Marriage Interpreter (No. 42)

What'd I Do?

Coming to a Husband near you: The Husband's Denostrilizer.


THE HUSBAND is in his office.
The Husband: (Musing out loud.) I wish there was a fashion book called “The Stylings of the Suburban Fez.”
(Bluebird glances up from her computer, bewildered.)
The Husband: (Still speaking from his office.) Or a book like “Cravats Are Where It’s At.”
Bluebird: Is this the spring break version of you?
The Husband: Yes. Yes, it is. It’s regular me with more fezzes and cravats.




THE HUSBAND is eating lunch and looking thoughtful.
The Husband: I just came up with the perfect video game. It combines basketball with birds!
Bluebird: And you’re calling it…?
The Husband: Angry Larry Birds
Bluebird: No.




THE HUSBAND just came back from school.
The Husband: (Setting his book bag down.) A narwhal is a porpoise with a unicorn horn!
Bluebird: (Cracking one eye at him.) Do you need more sleep?
The Husband: Maybe. No. Yes? Porpoises!




A FRAZZLED BLUEBIRD walks into The Husband’s office.
Bluebird: I took sixty pictures of myself last night for that thing, and I have narrowed it down to fifteen possibles. Can you look at these and tell me which one you like best?
The Husband: (Flipping through pictures on her laptop.) No. No. No. Yes. No. No. No headphones. So, the rest of these are a no-go.
Bluebird: (Pointing to The Husband’s one yes.) I was going to use this one, actually.
The Husband: (Pauses.) Well, your forehead isn’t that big in real life.
(Bluebird stares at him.)
The Husband: What’d I do? Don’t you have a app that will de-forehead a picture? Can’t you get Adobe Deforeheader?
Bluebird: (Still staring at him.) I predict—
The Husband: (Small voice.) Oh, no.
Bluebird: (Points accusing finger.) —six months of up-nostril photos. Don’t worry. Doesn’t Adobe have their Denostrilizer app out yet?


Take Your time, Husband


* 5-Minute Dance Party [Cool Unicorn, Bruv]

* The Marriage Interpreter (No. 14)

* Self Portrait With Fez


I Was a Teenage Irish Stepdancer! Or, A Few Notes on Irish Stepdancing That I’ve Been Meaning to Write Down for Years Now

Michael Flatley in Feet of Flurgh

STOP!  Did someone in the audience call Irish Dancing FOLK DANCING?  We will show our displeasure through this interpretive Treble Reel!


I am a former Irish Dancer.

I do not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

(But you can! And I love you for it.)

Today will be a day of quiet and rest for me.

Because every St. Patrick’s Day of my childhood, youth, and young adult years felt like an eternity.

And in some ways— it was.


For seventeen years’ worth of St. Patricks Days, I performed without pay (because I was still an amateur competitor) starting at 6 a.m. on the 17th and ending somewhere around 3 a.m. on the 18th. This was expected of me, and sometimes I enjoyed it.

Typically, there was some driving and waiting around between shows, and we had some sort of long dinner break around six p.m. to just before eight o’clock.

But, from eight p.m. to three or four the next morning, we’d begin performing again at this large restaurant/bar with a teeny stage. Hour after hour.

This audience loved us more than the other eighteen or nineteen other audiences of the day put together because this audience was really, really, really drunk.

Enough time has lapsed that I don’t feel nearly so grouchy about St. Patrick’s Day.

I’ve got three things I’ve been wanting to say for years.

And I finally feel ready to share these thoughts with you.

1) Irish Dancing is not folk dancing.

The steps are as new as hip-hop, or any other contemporary dance form. In the world of Irish Stepdancing, people come out with new ways to move every year.

In folk dancing the steps and the music do not change. Ever. No one adds new movements and you dance to a specific time signature. Typically in a costume of clothes that people in the old country wore for celebrations.

Irish Stepdancing has one equivalent.

There are four plodding “set dances” with slooo-ooow hard shoe steps that every dancer has to learn. We had to do them in competition. I don’t think the generation that’s competing now has to use them at all, but I could be wrong.

Learning the “Trad. sets” helps you appreciate the modern swift-changing form that Irish Stepdancing has always been, and will always be. It’s also a way for adjudicators to line up four competitors stripped of their fancy choreography and see, in one flick of the eyes, whether the dancers have correct form, timing, and style.

The rest of the dances you encounter are a horn o’plenty of reels and jigs and hornpipes of the soft and hard shoe variety. More bounty: Each soloist will have their own choreography made up of many different steps in combination.

Some of those steps will be new. In the “no one has moved their feet that way in Irish Dancing before I just saw you do it right now” school of newness.

Now, let’s talk about those new steps in Irish Stepdancing.

Where do new steps come from? How do new steps get passeed around?

Someone does some cool new thing on stage at the World Championships, and every big competitor and their teachers sees the step, and they steal it.

That original competitor will place no higher than third because brand new steps are not acceptable. Last year’s new step is okay. And everyone is required to do the new step from four years ago with the double-Swiss variation.

But for that first guy: Woe to ye who thought it was a good idea to bring that step to Worlds!

Next year, everyone’s using his new step in their winning solo.

The following year, someone will add three extra somethings to the new step, a movement defying both physics and human anatomy. Gasps all around. And all the teachers and all the dancers steal the souped-up version of the step.

We’ve all got to learn to do the quadruple-doohickey the year after that. It’s become standard for your level of competition.

In the meantime, a dancer and her teacher have come out with “the Swan” which is a crosskey done backwards with a flick both ways, and a boy in a dance school in Guileford just added three twists to it.

That’s what we get to learn next year for our competitions. I hope your kneecaps are double jointed!

2) It’s not called “Riverdancing.” That’s a show.

Irish Stepdancing as culture goes way past Michael Flatley. What Flatley (and Marie Duffy and about ten others) did, is loosen up some of the rules of performance. To be fair, Riverdance was such a phenomenon, former champions were finally able to make a non-competition, non-teaching career out of Irish Dance. Dance teachers were able to fill all their student slots, and probably for the first time, keep a waiting list of would-be students.

However, Flatley created some unfortunate precedents for female dancers— he created a thin body culture Irish Dancing didn’t have and didn’t need.

Before Riverdance, some of the best “power competitors” were built like Mohammed Ali, and they had his considerable physical grace too. I once silently cried watching this muscular dancer perform. She was a rather famous World Champion, and she was doing things my body would never be able to do.

So there’s that.

With the new “thin” Irish Dance culture, came the weirdly dichotomous femininity, also a Flatley specialty— in which you were either a withering swan or this naughty, naughty girl. Luckily, I was heading for the exit by then. I had a university degree and I was going off to graduate school. I didn’t have an interest in dressing up as one of Flatley’s female chorus members: Three wigs sewn together to make one super-wig, six slickery coats of spray tan, and a beauty pageant tiara, all tied together visually by a dress made from wisps of fresh Irish mist.

Male dancers had it worse. I don’t even know what to say about those “masculine” leather pants Flatley stuffed his male dancers into for his next show, “Lord of the Dance,” but I can tell you those pants looked damned uncomfortable. And so did the performers wearing them.

I said I was heading towards the exit. Check that. I was sprinting.

As I wrapped up my solo career, women in any audience got in the habit of grabbing at my solo costume (worth more than my first car) and, yes, crying because they loved riverdancing so much. (Poor ladies— it was HUGE at the time. Commercials. Specials on PBS. Some people really identified with this show.) I felt bad for these women and their genuine gigantic feelings for Michael Flatley, and Irish Dance, and me, who they thought danced just like Michael Flatley, and should be in Riverdance, but all of it really freaked me out.

So I thanked them and I thanked them, and gently removed their hands from the only new solo dress I ever owned.

For the record— I wouldn’t have made the first round of cuts for the corps of any of the three touring Riverdance shows. I wasn’t good enough and that was fine by me. (No super-wig!)

If you are out and about today, for goodness’ sakes don’t call it riverdancing. Irish dancers get really ticked about this, but they’re too polite to say anything— usually because you’re all so nice and earnest and genuinely heartfelt that no one wants to correct you.

Nor should they. Dancing for an enthusiastic audience is one of the most visceral pleasures of an Irish Dancer’s life.

After more than a decade out of my ghillies*, I can afford to be frank this once. (No super-wig!)

3) This is going to blow your mind, but the national color of Ireland until late in the 20th century was actually blue.

This national color was about three to six different colors of blue because various groups in the two countries that make up Ireland couldn’t decide which blue was the right blue, so instead of picking one, they named a bunch of them St. Patrick’s Blue and called it a day.

It naturally follows that the flag that represents St. Patrick—(There are three of him too!)— is a carefully chosen symbol called the “Saltire of St. Patrick” and also the “Standard of St. Patrick.” (Though there’s fighting about that, also. Lots of history in Ireland.)

And it certainly is at all points logical that this St. Patrick’s flag, or Saltire, or Standard is, in fact, colored bright red and blinding white.

Today, I will not be watching a bunch of St. Patricky things on TV or singing any of those songs about “a ragtag rambling rover from Donegal who wore a black band in his Guinness black hair” or any other Irish tune stuck in my head until always. I will never, ever wax nostalgic about what it was like to be an Irish Dancer because there is always this:

My stress dreams involve Irish dancing. Every time. And that’s enough to keep me from pulling out my last pair of unbroken Rutherfords* and strapping them on for ould times’ sake.

Because late next week, when I’m worried about something, I’ll be looking for those damned hard shoes in my dreams as the PA is announcing the callbacks in a competition I’m in.

While I’m frantically peeking under chairs for my shoes, a lady with a fixation for Riverdance will grab at my costume and rip it— massive points off for me. And I’ll get to the stage and remember that on purple days cats don’t wear garbage cans. They wear St. Patrick’s Blue, or nothing at all.

*soft shoes, or ghillies, are what female dancers wear. They’re also called poms for some reason, and most likely, six newer names I haven’t heard yet. Male dancers wear soft shoes as well. Those shoes don’t have nicknames at all.

**a brand of hard shoe. Irish dancing has hard shoes and soft shoes for both men and women.

MORE IRISH DANCE-TASTIC GOODNESS, OR SOMETHING: I didn’t get a chance to post this list in the links on St. Patrick’s Day proper, but as it’s a NATIONAL HOLIDAY in IRELAND today (03.18.13), but I did a short survey of Modern Irish Dance on the Bluebird Blvd. B-Side Tumblr: TapTronic’s Hard Shoe Dubstep; Prodijig’s mix of Hip-Hop and Hard Shoe, and Up & Over It’s lean and conceptual “Folk You.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Photograph photograph of Michael Flatley in his Marie Duffy co-choreographed production, “Feet of Flames,” was made available by the photographer MaxGuy and by Wikimedia Commons.


The Marriage Interpreter (No. 41)

I am the very model of a modern major general...

THE HUSBAND is sitting on the couch, worrying.

The Husband: I’m on a very set schedule for my classes because I have that presentation on Thursday.

(Bluebird nods solemnly.)

The Husband: I have to present. Actually, I hate the word “present.” It’s the same word they use to describe female baboons courting a mate on nature shows.

Bluebird: Eew.

The Husband: And by courting, I mean—



THE HUSBAND is making himself coffee.

The Husband: So, we’re getting ready to study the incontinental drift.

(Bluebird is speechless.)

I've information vegetable, animal and mineral.