When was the last time you fought over Easter candy at your house?
The last time we fought over Easter candy was, let me see here—about three weeks ago?
On a related note, I’ve got some happy news!
We’re posting our 50th Marriage Interpreter today!
Can you believe it?
What’s been your favorite Marriage Interpreter moment so far?
(I think mine will always be the Cookie Movie incident.)
Our regular and original feature, Our Sunday Best, will return to its weekly posted time next Sunday.
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—
(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.)
(Irish Stepdancing competitions.)
THE HUSBAND is talking to Ilsa von Dogovitch on the couch.
The Husband: You could be a superhero dog.
The Husband: (Rubbing Ilsa’s head.) Yes, a superhero dog, with your little feet and your little carbon footprint….
Ilsa: ??? (A beat. ) Bark!
THE HUSBAND is washing dishes and talking to himself.
The Husband: Dingo got my tiara!
THE HUSBAND looks up from the TV suddenly.
The Husband: The movie “Goodwill Hunting” was about thrift store shopping, right?
Bluebird: (Rolls eyes upward.) Of course it is.
THE HUSBAND is drinking coffee and thinking.
The Husband: Why do we name undergarments after animals?
Bluebird: Like what?
The Husband: Garanimals… teddies… underpantlemurs.
Bluebird: There’s coffee in that cup, right?
The Husband: (Sipping coffee.) Wouldn’t you like to know.
THE HUSBAND walks in to Bluebird’s office, computer in hand, looking bummed.
The Husband: Textbook prices are exorbitantly lame.
Bluebird: I’m sorry to hear that. (A beat.) Did you say “exorbitantly lame”? Dude, that’s kinda awesome.
The Husband: (Brightening.) That’s because I’m exorbitantly lameawesometastic like that. (Singing and walking away.) Stupid textbooks! Are! Exoooooorbitantllllyyyyyyy… LAAAAAAAAAAAAME! Do-WOP-WOP, yeaaaaah!
TO COMMEMORATE THE GREAT DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. TODAY: MLK’s “But If Not” speech, courtesy of the Internet Archive. May Dr. King’s legacy live on in all of us.
It’s all about— Wait… give me a sec. (Bluebird cracks up.)
Just watch it. Oh my gosh, just watch it, y’all. You’re going to tip over from laughing, I totally know it.
POSTSCRIPT: “SWEDED” is a term I didn’t remember hearing before, but its origins are pretty cute. According to Urban Dictionary, a sweded film is a movie that has been summarized by a group of people, usually fans of the film, by utilizing the lowest budget props, cameras, and film techniques available. The origin of the word “sweded” comes from a movie I really love— “Be Kind, Rewind,” which you can read about on the Be Kind Rewind Wikipedia entry.
Well, I don’t want to say this, but my conscience insists: I don’t often use Urban Dictionary because its reputation is terrible for a number of reasons we can discuss at a later date. To be clearer, I do not recommend visiting Urban Dictionary, nor using it as a reference source if you can avoid it.
Current Temperature: 80°
Weather: Cloudy, 60 percent chance of rain.
What a beautiful, overcast day! You’d hardly know it’s South Texas. Time for my yearly list. Let’s see… this summer, I’d like to learn how to make French sauces, and isn’t it time for me to consider studying French afresh? Oooh! And embroidery! I’ve got that hoop and some embroidery floss. I should talk to The Husband about the archery thing this year. Haystacks?
Current Temperature: 89°
Weather: Sunny, overcast. 20 percent chance of rain.
I’ve got that great old sauce book out of the cupboard and put it by the bed. I don’t want to end up in the same pickle I did last year, wearing jeans in the middle of summer and sweating and complaining and complaining and sweating. Didn’t M— mention something about some cunning sarongs? Look up Balinese Men’s sarongs. They come in plaid, don’t they? Lovely. I’ll go to the library later today— French books! Sauces! Embroidery manuals! Yaaaaaaaaaay!
Current Temperature: 93°
Weather: Sunny, sunny sunny! .00003 chance of rain.
It’s awfully bright out there. Whose genius idea was it to slave over a hot stove this summer learning sauces? Isn’t this a winter thing? Also, the French stuff. Who the Dickens tries to learn a language when her brain is melting? Cross both of those things off of the list. Okay. What can we salvage?
Current Temperature: 98°
Weather: Sunny, dammit!
Ate an entire summer sausage yesterday for lunch and dinner with some melon slices because looking at the stove makes me break out in prickly heat. Use of English language is deteriorating. I want a crossbow so I can fire a warning shot over the neighbor’s pool the next time he sings a Celine Dion medley at 3 a.m. whilst swimming. I will have satisfa—
Current Temperature: 101°
Wore wet clothes out of the washer because they will dry immediately on body. Dogs refuse to move from the couch except to go outside to bark listlessly at other listlessly barking dogs. Am eating food right out the refrigerator. Mark down court date for crossbow incident. Lawyer says that seasonal insanity plea will not fly.
Current Temperature: 105°
Weather: *$($*% this $*%#ing heat! Also, cloudy. Ha-ha! Just kidding.
Today, wore sarong made out of bed sheets. Post office complained, but what are they going to do? Neighbor dropped lawsuit after he chucked his stereo over another neighbor’s fence because they were singing a Barbra Streisand medley at 4 a.m. Looked at an embroidery book this afternoon. Going to embroider a skull and crossbones flag to run up over the house. I want to become a pirate because it is obviously cooler out on the seven seas than it is in this house. Dogs agree. We have a three-way consensus. The Husband abstained.
Current Whatchacallit: 109°
Weather: Hot as H-E- DOUBLE HOCKEY STICK.
Husband complained about me drinking bottled steak sauces from their containers. What’s the deal? Heinz 57 is part of a complete breakfast! Pirate flag is done. I’m going to go starboard on that neighbor with the pool. Will claim pool and surrounding vicinity in the name of Bluebirdistan. The Husband stopped speaking to anyone after A-1 sauce argument. No matter. I am now embroidering many whimsical eye patches.
Weather: Khleck? Qkft.
Everyone in the entire neighborhood has become pirates. The neighbors have joined forces to claim ownership of the two backyard pools on the block. It’s not mutiny if you have consensus, right? All of us are wearing eye patches and shorts around here. Embroidered crossbow strap for fun. We will attack the house one block over at dawn. THEY HAVE A DIVING BOARD.
Current Temperature: 94°
Weather: Sunny, slightly overcast. 20 percent chance of rain.
What a summer! The Husband keeps gabbling something about neighbors and pools and pirates? Where did I put that book on sauces? When it cools off a bit more, I think I’ll make some sort of late season fruit based reduction to go with some lean chops. Won’t that be lovely! Distressing thing— I found a crudely made eye patch under my pillow this morning embroidered with skull and crossbones. Did the dogs steal this from a neighborhood child? Make note to ask husband about this item.
*THIS ESSAY is part of the SHOW US YOUR WEATHER! Blog Carnival. “Delusion, By Degrees” is dedicated to Metan of Buried Words and Bushwa. Thank you for sharing your lovely Australian winter weather with me this summer, my friend.
*The picture up top is actually Groucho Marx doing a bit from the Mikado. I’m not nearly that pretty in the summer.
*This story originally ran on August 1, 2012.
(Hey! This post contains some standard adult situations— e.g.: a flasher, some euphemisms for body parts, and some implied curse words. Don’t worry— nothing too awful, but if this were a movie, it might be PG. Read on, readers!)
Three months into my freshman year of college, I moved into a small carriage house on Ogden Avenue. It was not sumptuous digs. A small porch overlooked a green backyard, which was the only luxury. The porch was too small to actually put out a chair, and enjoy the view. You had to lean against the support poles in order to enjoy the surroundings.
The whole year felt like that porch— beautiful, but makeshift. The interior had two rooms. The first room was the living space, which had a hotel-style air conditioner that pumped out little rotten poufs of cold air— no comfort in the Texas humidity. Ugly brown wall-to-wall carpet dimmed what could have been a charming poet’s retreat. The second room featured a bathroom, a cramped kitchenette, and a sad big closet. The place looked, and felt, like a child’s playhouse.
But I chose that location specifically because it was a three-block drive from my apartment to a new coffeehouse in town called Froth. Walking to Froth was questionable because the neighborhood had some dangerous late-night elements (more on that later.)
As for Froth, I drove there every night after class or work, stopping at my apartment to change into my latest costume du jour.
At nineteen, I wore bobbed black hair and red lipstick. I had spent most of my life around adults, so my mannerisms were obnoxious — more appropriate to a hackneyed 1940’s ingénue than a nineteen-year-old college student.
When I look back at those years now, I see only static pictures of myself: a jittery girl in a faux leopard print jacket, a clumsy coquette in a too-short red trapeze dress; a faux debutante in a brown camel hair coat and gold lamé gloves.
When I consider the way I felt about myself, those images move me— I was a goofball in vintage secondhand clothes trying to figure out the next phase of my life and I knew it.
I drank way, way too much coffee. My brain was sloshing over with Important Thoughts. What I had, was three jobs and a full load of classes, but what I needed was a three-day nap and a fully-loaded hug.
Instead I had Froth.
Froth was a one-room coffeehouse with tall ceilings and yellow walls the hue of an English Regency library. Each table had a lamp: my favorite was a plastic world globe that gave off a warm blue glow. College students crammed those tables with books, coffee and sandwiches. The first Cranberries CD played over the speakers on infinite repeat.
I went there to write. That’s not new— I’m always writing. But my writing that year had become more effusive, frantic, grabby. I detailed everything— I was afraid this moment of beauty wouldn’t last.
But really, every ending is a bow to every beginning, and every beginning starts with a reverence to its natural father— the ending that sired the now: our new beginning.
This is the beginning.
Tony worker the counter at Froth. He was a former biker with a bald head and a sweet disposition. The owners themselves looked like they had been cut out from a Pottery Barn ad with mother’s good scissors. The owners were not your typical coffeehouse people, but they were effusive and funny and hopeful.
At first, the owners worked every night. Next, they stopped by, but didn’t stay. Then, they weren’t there at all.
But Tony and his bike stories fit right into the gawp-faced college ambiance, so he was there always.
I liked Tony. Tony always made my coffee extra black and extra large. He walked with a slight limp from laying down his bike on a freeway. He explained what road rash was to me. Apparently, he had lots of it.
Across the street from Froth, sat a klatch of mechanics who would drink beer and listen to Tejano music while quietly checking out the pretty college girls entering the coffeehouse.
They were harmless, but they kept an eye on a neighborhood that barely contained an ever-changing song of strangers.
We, the customers of Froth, were merely a chorus of kazoos in this much greater song during one swift year.
I was consumed, then.
School and work consumed my days. At night, I was consumed again, writing in a fever at Froth. Then I drove the two blocks to my apartment to sleep because I was consumed by exhaustion— only to wake and be consumed by a self-punishing routine the next day.
Froth was consumed by the neighborhood.
The coffeehouse developed a costly problem— a flasher in a wheelchair that no one could catch.
The flasher’s set-up was genius in its perverse use of physics: Every few nights, he parked himself in the shadows by the side of the building where the concrete alleyway provided a natural launch to the street.
A pretty girl would pass by; he would expose his wares, and before anyone could do anything, he would release his break, roll down the curb and zoom down the street.
I had heard the rumors about his activities, but didn’t see them firsthand. Not right away, anyway.
But the flasher lived in my neighborhood.
The owners of Froth were consumed with catching him—
And the flasher was consumed with perfecting his hobby.
In the dark, I walked up to Froth with a handful of schoolbooks. “Hey,” the flasher said from the shadowed alley. I was thinking. I was tired. I wasn’t really there.
“Hey!” He said again.
I turned around. At first I stared at his face, expecting him to ask me for spare change. He indicated downward with his eyes. Cupped in his hand were the tiny manifestations of his manhood.
Startled, I laughed really loud, walked to the door and went inside. “Tony! The flasher. The FLASHER.”
I tossed my books on the counter, and we sprinted outside.
On seeing Tony, the flasher released his parking brake and rolled into the street.
Tony loped after him, limping like an epileptic puma. As he limped, Tony yelled “Mother—f—, I’m gonna get you when you least expect it. Mother—f—, you’d better stop right now, so I can pound in your head. Mother—f—!”
The wheelchair flasher wheeled himself faster and faster away from Tony, from me.
Tony stopped and bent over in the street, winded.
Meanwhile the wheelchair flasher was now a rolling dot five blocks away.
The flasher slowed down, looked over his shoulder at poor Tony, and shouted “F— you, man!”
Life spun fast in the spring.
I wore hot pink dresses and wrote in my notebooks and drank more coffee than anyone should.
I returned to Froth night after night to soak up the light refracted off the yellow walls.
But when I look back at the things I actually wrote at the time, my notebooks are splashed with gibberish.
It the writing of a frantic nineteen-year old in need of sleep, and nothing more.
Here’s the part you won’t believe.
One night, a boyfriend drove me and one of his roommates to Froth.
We got out of his car, and that’s when I heard the first shots.
The mechanics that sat outside the garage across the street jumped up from their chairs. One of them reached inside his windbreaker.
Unfortunately, I had seen that gesture before, and while I appreciated the spirit of the thing, I had no interest in getting hit with someone’s well-meant stray bullet.
I dropped to my heels in front of the bumper of my boyfriend’s car. Then I came up again long enough to pull the boyfriend and the friend down by their shirts to the bumper with me.
During a brief lull between rounds, we crouch-walked into the coffeehouse where we found the brand new post-wheelchair flasher coffeehouse regulars with their faces pressed against the windows. The three of us ordered coffee at the counter and skulked to the back of the room.
The new regulars, all college students fresh out of the cellophane package, counted off the shots in a sing-song voice as the unknown person fired them off. “Seven, eight nine!” They trilled.
(POP! POP! POPPITY-POP!)
I sank into my coffee.
I have always had an unpleasant genius for dangerous absurdity; here was proof of it.
“Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen!” The college students squealed. (POP. POP! POP!) “Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen!”
This kind of evening was my oeuvre, really. I closed my eyes again and quietly sighed.
Real events were happening elsewhere.
While I brooded and sulked and the boyfriend goggled at the roommate who was freaking out and the other customers giggled and counted shots, a SWAT team pulled up and blockaded the whole neighborhood and was attempting to negotiate with the man with the gun.
They ushered all twenty of us out to our cars in thirty seconds or less.
As the three of us got into the boyfriend’s car, one of the SWAT team members told me through the window I had to stay somewhere else that night. The man with the weapon had barricaded himself in the alley right in front of my apartment.
I went to my college boyfriend’s apartment where his six roommates were playing video games and drinking lemonade. I was very quiet Those boys loaned me pajamas and a dubious-looking toothbrush, both clean, but old, and left me alone to brood.
And this is the end.
The last thing I remember from my apartment on Ogden Avenue was staring out the kitchen window as I put my few cooking supplies into a cardboard box.
I peered into the dappled heat of late autumn. The wheelchair flasher wheeled down Ogden with his eyes fixed on a distant point. He looked different in the daylight— more frail, less ominous.
His long, brown hair floated behind him like a worn flag in the thin breeze. Those tempestuous fingers of his slid along the wheels of his chair.
I watched until he was a speck in the distance, admiring the agile gestures of his body, and then I quickly continued to pack.
*This is a reposted story from November 16, 2011. Bluebird Blvd. “went live” on November 7, 2011— ten days earlier. I wrote this true story when I was in graduate school, but didn’t touch it until I started Bluebird Blvd. It’s been through a great number of revisions— because, and I believe this absolutely, the truer and freakier the story is in real life, the harder it is to make it seem believable. If you read this piece and then some of more recent Truer Than True Confessions, you can see the formality of my language dropping away. Hope you enjoy! Go here for an explanation as to why we’re reposting this week. (Hint: It’s all about you!)
PHOTO CREDIT: These photographs are by the wonderful FSA/OWI (Farm Security Information/Office of War Information) photographer Jack Delano, which are reposted here courtesy of the Library of Congress Commons.
THE BLUEBIRD BLVD. GENUINE PHOTOGRAPHY/STORY CONTEST CALL FOR ENTRIES: The GENUINE call for photos/self-portraits/100 word stories is open! See the link for deets and rules.
Here’s something new about this event— A PRIZE!— The most GENUINE photograph and story will win an original-run, hand-pulled by herself in her own darkroom, signed photograph from Courtenay Bluebird! No joke! Some of these photographs are worth hundreds of dollars! See above link for examples of the kind of original photograph (really original— as in shot by me on film, printed in an actual darkroom by me, first run) you might win.
ˈspel -ˈsərk, -ˈzərk; -ər adv. 1. When the spellcheck feature on a program pulls a nutty and starts counting every English word as misspelled using the algorithm for the Saami languages without notice, making one doubt one’s native ability to spell one’s own name. 2. When one cannot spell a word, and goes a little wild trying to imagine what letters that word contains: Ralph stayed up late last night typing a letter to his Aunty Gee because his spellcheck went spellzerker and started counting any word with the letter “a” in it as misspelled.
IMAGE CREDIT: Screenshot from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Original creator: Stanley Kubrick. Screenshot creator: Unknown.
The pronunciation key for this word was provided by the expert guidance of The Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
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
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?
THE COOLEST UNICORN HORN STORY, ONE MINOR ELECTROCUTION AND A STYLIN’ FEZ!
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.
Well, I was so impressed with this fan montage/tribute video by BrackAttack79 that I used up my Pixies credit.
What the hey-ho is a Pixies credit?
It’s like this, my friends— we don’t repeat artists for a single year on Bluebird Blvd.’s patented 5-Minute Dance Party.
Bluebird Blvd. post five dance parties a week for 52 weeks. No repeats*.
The Pixies are one of my favorite bands of all time ever in the whole wide universe of sound. Seriously— ever. Did you hear me? ‘Cause I’m using italics for emphasis a lot today.
That means as of this moment rightthissecond, I’ve posted my one Pixies song for the 2013 Bluebird Blvd. 5-Minute Dance Party season.
So that means I’ve used up my Pixies credit.
It’s worth it, right?
I mean, it is Harold Lloyd. And it is the Pixies What confused Bluebird would skip over HAROLD LLOYD and the PIXIES together in a beautifully made montage?
Not me, brother. I’m all in.
How ’bout you? Happy FRIDAY!
*Repeats of a certain type are allowed for the Super-Secret Friday Night 5-Minute Dance Party, but restrictions do apply. Bluebird Blvd.’s Super-Secret Friday Night 5-Minute Dance Party is available in all countries, including the imaginary ones. Do not taunt happy fun ball. Use only as misdirected.
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.
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.)