Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dancing at the Reunion


            The music started, a little jazzy. Where was the Motown? Where was the disco? The punk? It was my 50th college reunion, and this was the Saturday night dance.

            My college had had two weekly dances. Friday night was folk dancing, Saturday night was the twist party. I loved rock and roll, had loved it from the moment I heard it on the radio years before, on "Jukebox Saturday Night." I loved it even though my mother was soft on Elvis Presley -- she didn't denounce him like all the other grownups did. I loved the syncopated rhythm, the rough yet crooning sound, the harmonies.

            I only knew how to dance by watching "American Bandstand." No one ever asked me out on a date, so I didn't get much practice. Instead, I would hold onto the doorknob of my bedroom, as though it was my partner's hand, and try out steps.

            Now, at college, the twist was hot (go, Chubby Checker). I was shy, didn't go anywhere by myself, but my roommate, from Long Island, was brash and had enough attitude for both of us. The twist was the quintessential lone dance -- you could have a partner, but you didn't need one. I would stand near the wall, but still feel part of the dance floor, and twist away. It was easy, and I felt wrapped up inside the music, the rhythm (Ray Charles, "Hit the Road, Jack"; Del Shannon, "Runaway"; the Shirelles; the Everly Brothers). I almost didn't want a boy to ask if we could  dance, because then I would become attached to him, I would have to talk, ask questions, wonder what he would want to do next or if he would want to take me outside, and that was the part of dating I knew nothing about.

            More than 50 years later, I was no longer shy. Dancing was still the abandon of movement, rhythm taking over my feet, arms, hips. I no longer needed to stay at the edgeofthe dance floor, though I couldn’t be the first one. A woman, maybe in her 50s, danced onto the floor, and then I leaped up. I could be second.  (She said, maybe a little gleefully, she was humiliating her son. He remained in the darkness, a beer in hand.) We danced in the old rock and roll style, alone but but oriented around each other. The couple from the 1950s class joined us, with a friend. I was glad that the first people out on the floor were the oldest.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Slice of Life, 50th Reunion


            There are so many slices I could report from this past weekend. It was my 50th college reunion, two days packed with events, weather, people I knew, people whose names I vaguely remembered, people whose faces were definitely not familiar. But the main reason I was there was Saturday night’s Div Dance. (It’s too complicated to explain wht “Div” means, so I won’t.)
            Saturday morning and into midafternoon, it rained. A deluge. A big tent on the central lawn, the venue for our meals, and the dance, was on ground that had become a quagmire. So the dance was relocated to the theater building.
            After dinner I wandered down to the theater, fireflies flickering right and left. Outside the building half a dozen people had gathered, one woman with a bottle of wine on a folding chair. (Was the chair hers?) We were waiting for the sound system to be set up. I chatted with a man from the class of ’75, a faculty member around his generation, and a graduate from 2007. But I was impatient for music, so I and the ’07 graduate went inside to see what was the holdup.
            The theater stage was the main floor to the left of the entrance, with stadium seats rising to the right. Near the back wall was a table with an array of electronic equipment. A faculty member I knew from New York was testing the fog machine; it worked. He was waiting for the  DJ to arrive with the computer.
            The DJ turned out to be a lawyer from one of the 1990s classes. She was wearing a blue T-shirt that proclaimed: "Antioch College Bootcamp for the Revolution." She needed a min-in cable, but no one knew what that was. She was handed a USB cable, but that didn’t work. There was a lot of unplugging and switching of cables. The soundboards looked like the control panels of a small plane, much more complicated than a pile of vinyl, stacked on a turntable. I wandered over to the seats and talked to a graduate from the mid-’50s.
            Finally the music started, a little jazzy. Where was Motown? Where was disco? Where was punk? The empty dance floor lit up, but I couldn’t be the first one. A woman, maybe in her 50s, danced onto the floor, and then I leaped up. I could be second. We danced in the old rock and roll style, alone but but oriented around each other. The couple from the 1950s class joined us, with a friend. I was glad that the first people out on the floor were the oldest.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tuesday's Slice of Life, a little late

Yesterday I took part in the Urban Librarians Unite Read-In, a movement to promote and support public libraries and also protest budget cuts to public libraries. People read for 15 minutes at a stretch for 24 hours straight. (Yes, all night too, and that's when people can read their favorite porn and erotica.)

This year it was next to City Hall, as the City Council is currently debating the budget. I read from 5 to 5:15 (from Carola Dibbell's new, and first, novel, The Only Ones, which I highly recommend), and hung around for an hour altogether, before and after. The scene around the read-in was almost as fascinating as the readings and readers themselves.

There were two tents, one for the reader (with mike), the one with three rows of seats for anyone who wanted to stay and listen. I was there around the time people were getting off from work. Most people walked right by between the tents. Some looked over to see what was going on, a few paused to read the signs, but some walked on as though they didn't notice a thing out of the ordinary. A few did detour around the audience tent -- they noticed, and didn't want to interfere.

The woman before me read all of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit, and then something from a book about Beatrix Potter and her garden, to fill out her 15 minutes. The person after me was a father and his three-year-old daughter. The father read from Dr. Seuss's I Wish I Had Duck Feet, and the last word of every fourth (or so) line was supplied by the little girl, who had obviously memorized the whole story. Once she realized that the mike magnified her voice, she could hardly wait to shout her word into the mike. And when we all laughed, she was even happier. I'm sure she will demand a microphone for her next birthday.