I cannot help but think that life is grimmer than ever, based on all the happy dances on TikTok and TV commercials. Together with all the pharmaceutical commercials, with their family-happiness-in-the-outdoors tropes, the happy dances are a promise that is almost never fulfilled. How does that delirious couple in the photo above look when medical bills and their mortgage are more than they could bear. Even if they got that great house for the cheap price of a zillion dollars.
The one happy dance which doesn’t bother me is Matt Harding’s “Where the Hell Is Matt? 2008.” That son of a bitch had something to dance about—the sheer joy of life—and it would be my pleasure to join him:
When I was born, for some reason I was lacking the gene for moving in time with the music. I discovered this failing when I took Hungarian folk dance lessons—in costume—when I was six years old. My partner was my cousin Peggy, who must have thought me an awful drip. I think I left my boot prints all over her pretty dancing shoes.
I never even went to our high school’s senior prom. (I have no idea who I would have invited.) Strangely, I got an invitation to another school’s prom, the one that our family friend’s daughter, Norma Gosner, was attending. Actually, I did all right, because everyone was dancing the twist back then. As you know, the twist is pretty much a no-contact dance in which the two participants merely gyrate in place. Or so it seemed to me.
Once, when I was in my thirties, I even went to a square dancing class in Santa Monica. It was a disaster, never to be repeated.
Except once, when I attended a wedding party held in my brother’s barn in Hackensack, Minnesota. My brother tells me I danced well, but I’ll never know because of all the Jack Daniels and Moonshine I had swilled preparatory to the event. I have no memory of that night.
So I suggest that if you want me to dance with you, you had better get me liquored up first.
My Cousin Peggy and Me in Hungarian Folk Dance Costume
This is partially adapted from a post I wrote for the late lamented Multiply.Com in March 2010.
That’s me at the age of five with my pretty little first cousin Peggy. Both of us are wearing Hungarian folk dancing costumes—but I’m not quite sure about how those cowboy boots fit in. Knowing what a stubborn little cuss I was, I probably insisted on wearing them instead of the traditional black leather boots.
Stubbornness was very much a part of my early years. I did not like being photographed: Many of my early snapshots show me glowering at the camera. And I most certainly didn’t like to dance. Even in those days, I had no idea how to move in time with music without punishing the feet of my partners. Of course, that made me fiercely unpopular with all my dancing partners; and that didn’t make for enjoyable dancing lessons.
Notice how thin I was in the above picture—so thin that it was around then that my parents took me to St. Luke’s Hospital for observation. The doctors said there was nothing wrong with me and predicted that I would eat my parents out of house and home. (I did.)
I have always been a little out of step. As much as I enjoy listening to music, I recall with pleasure the anecdote about Ulysses S. Grant, who is supposed to have said, “I know only two tunes: One is Yankee Doodle, and the other one isn’t.”
Although I played the alto saxophone for many years, it was with little pleasure. By a fluke, I became first saxophone in my high school band; but Chuck Matousek, who played second sax, was much better than me. He could play “Night Train” from memory: I couldn’t play anything from memory.
Boys from St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Macedonian Costume
Here’s another photo from the Valley Greek Festival in Northridge that Martine and I attended yesterday.
It has always seemed strange to me that the Greeks favored starched white skirts for their male dancers and soldiers. It certainly does not imply any lack of masculinity on their part. As a wartime correspondent, Ernest Hemingway was with the Greek forces invading Turkey in the aftermath of World War One. It was the first time, he wrote, that he had seen “dead men wearing white ballet skirts and upturned shoes with pompoms on them.” Below is a photo of Greek Evzone soldiers on guard duty:
Greek Evzone Troops
Don’t let the “ballet skirts” fool you. Although it has not always been well led, the Greek Evzones have always been a formidable fighting force.