Monday, May 24, 2010

The Unicorn

"Do it big, do it right, and do it with style."  Fred Astaire.

The phone rang about 8:45 on a Friday evening.  

Jewels, the Panamanian salsera with legs to die for, said:  "I just passed my exam for my Master's in English, and I want to party.  Ritmo Tres starts in a few minutes, and I want you and Kurt, my two favorite salsa partners, to come down here and dance with me."  

I replied:  "Jewels, you know I love to dance with you, but I'm moving my parents from their condo in San Antonio into an assisted living facility here in Austin right now.  I had a 14 hour day today loading the truck, and another 14 hours tomorrow  to unload, and I need to stay home and rest up".  

"What?" She said with mock incredulity, "You mean I've met a responsible man?"  

"'Fraid so," I replied.  

She laughed and added "You know, I worked in an assisted living facility in Bastrop a while ago.  The old people were outrageous.  There was one crazy lady whose daughter had died of a drug overdose.  She claimed the doctors had a machine that blew water up her ass and flushed out all the drugs, and she was still alive.  We all just smiled and said OK".  

With that, she hung up and went dancing, and I went to bed.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Unhappy and Unlucky

The 48 laws of power:    Law 10

Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky

You can die from someone else’s misery – emotional states are as infectious as disease. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.

The Monkeyfarmer

A person has a problem, a frustration, a grief. They focus on the problem, talk about the problem and nurture the problem until they finally begin to identify with the problem. They secretly love their problem.   It gives them purpose.

You meet this person. They hope to share custody of their problem with you. They want to make it your problem, too.

In other words, they want to put a monkey on your back.

People know Wizzo is a problem solver so they assume he’ll be willing to have a long, pointless discussion with them about their monkey. They’re wrong. If that monkey gets near him he’ll kill it. Wizzo is not a monkeyfarmer.

Problem solvers believe in direct action: “Stab it through the heart with a knife.”

Problem solved. Monkey gone. Life is good.

The person who loved that problem is wide-eyed, shocked that anyone might want to eliminate their beloved monkey. They didn’t want to kill it. They just wanted to talk about it.

“Stab it through the heart with a knife.” Discussion over.

Problems are monkeys. Life without monkeys is good.

Roy Williams

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Newbie


It's Saturday night at the Copa, with DJ Fabian playing everything but bachata.  I had just gotten there, and it was still early.  I danced a few songs with salseras I knew,  but soon noticed a very pretty, slender mocha-choco-latte salsera standing near the dance floor. She wore a halter top, short skirt, and beige, suede-bottomed dance shoes with two inch heels. She personified the truism that sexy isn't something you do, it's something you are.  Still, no one asked her to dance.  Now, I don't frequent Copa because I don't like the feel of the place, so I didn't know if she was a newbie, or if she could even dance.  

I went over to her and said "I tell my daughter to do it first and look like a leader, so I feel obligated to do so myself.  Can you salsa?"  

Shyrica informed me that she was visiting Austin from Houston to attend a wedding.  The after-party had ended, and she had asked her friends to recommend a salsa club.  She was a regular at clubs in Houston, but had not been to an Austin club before.  Her friends sent her to Copa.  

She replied to my question about dancing salsa with a tilt of her head and: "You lead, I'll follow". 

We made our way to the floor, and in less than 10 seconds, I knew I had found a salsa queen.  As soon as the song ended, even before we made it off the dance floor, another guy asked her to dance.  I kept an eye on her through the evening.  For an hour and a half, she never stopped or sat down.  Finally, I saw her standing back away from the crowd.  I went over.  She was panting, drenched with sweat, pulling on a bottle of water like she just crawled crossed the desert.  

"How's it going?" I asked.   

"I'm soaked, I'm exhausted, my feet hurt, and I'm going home."  

Then she stopped in thought, looked up at me, and said  "I want to thank you SO much for asking me to dance.  You made my night!"  

Shyrica walked out into the night, and I went back to dancing with Leila and Paola.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I have boundaries, and I demand respect

We're at El Sol y Luna, on Sixth Street.  Ritmo Tres hasn't started to play yet.  I took the opportunity to chat with Dina.  

"So how's the divorce going?" I asked.  

"I'm exhausted" she said.  "We had the final hearing today.  My husband filed for divorce last November.  He insisted our marriage was dead.  I disagreed.  We had our first hearing before the judge in January.  The judge ordered us to work out suitable arrangements.  He said we were both adults, and should be able agree on support and child care and such.  My husband would not agree to my requirements.  I still love him, and do not want a divorce.  Still, I have boundaries, and I demand respect, and if he wants a divorce, so be it.  I just want the ability to take care of our two young children as well as we have done together in the past.  After all, the reason divorce is so expensive is because it's worth it.  Anyway, we went back  before the judge today.  The judge was visibly angry that we had not reached an agreement.  He demanded to know why not.  My husband began to rant "She this" and "She that".  When I became irritated and upset by his remarks, my lawyer whispered in my ear 'Just be quiet, he's hanging himself.' "  

After all, as Napoleon said in 1830, "Never interrupt your enemy when he's making a mistake".  

"When my husband finished his rant, the judge asked my lawyer if we had any comments", she continued. 

 "No, Your Honor," he said, "Just grant my clients petition, please."   

Bang! went the angry gavel.  "Wife's requests granted!  Next!"                

We laughed like fools, the music began, and we danced the night away.

One finger

While at Ruta Maya on a Sunday night,  Ritmo Tres, my favorite salsa band, blasts out a rhythmic salsa, (I prefer my salsa fresh, not canned) while I dance with Jewels.  The song ended, we chatted, another song began, and we started dancing again.  I listened to the beat, and didn't recognize it.  

I asked Jewels "What is that?"   

She said "Timba" as she began to dance to it.  

Timba requires one extra step over salsa.  I couldn't keep up at first.  Jewels put her left index finger on my right shoulder, precisely where the screw from my reconstructive surgery holds the biceps tendon to the bone.  We had no other point of contact.  She began to move back and forth, and I eventually picked up the step.  We both smiled, and finished the dance.  

The following Tuesday,  I attended my weekly Tai Chi class, taught by Guy Forsyth.  We performed a variety of exercises, under the heading of  Push Hands, wherein we try to feel and follow the movement of our partner using the tiniest, lightest contact possible.  I related the events of Sunday night to Guy, and told him how Jewels was able to teach me the Timba step.  

He put his head back and laughed and said:  "That's just what women want: to push men around with one finger!"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

God bless salsa...

Here is a recent post by Roy Williams.  It is as good an explanation of what I'm up to with this blog as anything I could think up.     Salchatero

“Most of one’s life… is one prolonged effort to prevent oneself thinking.”
- Aldous Huxley, 1894-1963

“Our minds are lazier than our bodies.”
- Francois, Duc de La Rochefouchauld, 1613-1680

You probably have a limiting factor in your life that’s holding you back.
A limiting factor may be a habit, a preferred chemical or an attitude that hinders your advancement, your happiness, your future.

Can you think of a creative way to remove the limiting factor from your life?

“Creative thinking may mean simply the realization that there's no particular virtue in doing things the way they always have been done.”
- Dr. Rudolph Flesch,  writing consultant and author of Why Johnny Can't Read

You are your own best teacher. You know where you’re coming from and what you’re all about. You know where the bodies are buried and the names of the skeletons in your closet.

You also know the answer to your problem. But you don’t yet know what you know.

How can we get you to realize what you already know? How can we brighten your future?

ANSWER: Interactive journaling.

“I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on it.”
- William Faulkner, winner of the Nobel Prize

Faulkner was like you and me. We learn our minds when we write our thoughts.

The problem with our century is that we are constantly distracted; “Too much to do, too little time.” Writing dictates a frame of mind we rarely experience today.

Writing moves us from the emotional confusion of right brain, abstract thought, to the logic and clarity of left brain, analytical thought. This is why we think writing is difficult.

Interactive Journaling focuses your thoughts and quiets your mind so you can hear yourself say what you know to be true.

Interactive Journaling has turned countless addicts into model citizens. I believe it might also be able to turn pessimists into optimists.

At its heart, Interactive Journaling is a series of written questions that students may answer however they choose. But these answers must be written down.

In this private, inner world of the mind, there’s no one with whom you can argue. There is no authority figure trying to impose his or her will. The only teacher is your own experience. The only voice you hear is yours.

Interactive Journaling facilitates behavior change quietly and affordably. Are there behaviors you would like to see changed in: your employees? your students? your kids? yourself?

Each of us already knows the right answers. I’m going to Carson City to learn the right questions.

Fingers crossed.   Roy H. Williams


                                                   God Bless Salsa     

     In order to show my disdain for cigarette smoking (my first ex-wife was a smoker; we were married for seven years, and when she left, she took everything but the blame), when someone asks me if they can bum a coughin' nail,  I reply with arch facetiousness: 

"No, I don't have a cigarette.  The only thing I smoke is crack."   

After my wife left, the only thing I missed was her mother's cooking.

   So, I and my salsa crewe sit with our backs against the bar one Saturday night at El Sol y Luna on Sixth Street.  I'm in the midst of a thirty-clubs-in-thirty-days self-imposed salsa marathon.   Ritmo Tres,  my favorite salsa band, blasts out  "Lolita, su me vida".   

The bar door bangs open, and in walks a tall, pretty Latina, about 25 years old, accompanied by a group of wannabe gangsta vatos.  She is wearing a short, grey dress, sewed out of enough material to  make a large handkerchief.  They stop in front of us, and order drinks.  The Latina, whose eyes look like pinwheels in a chemical storm, leans over to me, and asks if I have a cigarette.  

I respond:  "No, the only thing I smoke is crack."  

The pinwheels speed up as she reaches up to her neckline and pulls it down, so a pretty, perky breast pops out.  My eyebrows shoot up as my eyes widen to take in the scene.  She gets a "Oh yeah, watch this" look on her face, and reaching down with crossed hands, she pops her dress off like a bottle cap.  Now she's standing there in grey high heels and a purple thong.  I'm leaning further back for a full view.  

First I said "Whoa, Nellie!"  

Then I said "God bless salsa!"  

Her friends scramble to get her dress back on, and she's yelling "Get away from me!  Leave me alone!"  

Much to my disappointment, they succeed in covering her up.  The operant rule in such a situation is: Never Touch a Naked Crazy Person.  So, I did nothing but look.  The last I saw of her, she was wobbling down Sixth Street with her friends.  The crewe began to laugh and high-five.  I pegged her for an after-work topless dancer, but Rosa, who witnessed the whole thing, jumped in our shit with both feet.  

"What's the matter with y'all?  You're acting with children!  She's Someone's Daughter!", Rosa thundered.  

"True dat", I replied in my Connecticut accent,  "but she's not MY daughter."  

With that, we all went back to laughing like fools and high-fiving, while the band played on.