~ Monday, March 08, 2004 ~
Today during lunch Jarah and I performed the Mr. Sandman/Rabbi Jastrow piece for everyone else at Drisha, in honor of Purim. It went really well. The harmonies sounded right, the tempo stayed even, and everyone laughed in all the right places. Devorah herself was gone during lunch, so when she returned she requested a reprise performance, which Jarah and I gave in her (Devorah's) office just before she (Jarah) had to go teach Hebrew school. Devorah, too, laughed in all the right places. She especially liked the "three point font" bit, as did a bunch of other people, so I was glad I put it in instead of the other line, and particularly glad I saved it till the last verse. It's total big-fish-small-pond, I suppose, in that nobody else seems to have considered rewriting song lyrics, so they're impressed when someone else does it, but I'm prouder of this work than any of my others, perhaps just because I managed to not indulge in a weakness of mine and clutter it with too much overcomplicated explanation. It's short and simple and doesn't use too many big words, so other people can get it the first time, which is the only chance they have.
The ball on Saturday night was delightful, but not at all in the way I'd expected. I was expecting a Gaskell ball, and this one, while well-proportioned, was a good deal farther to the petite end of the spectrum. Instead of the 35ish I'm accustomed to expecting, there were ten scheduled dances and a few bonus dances squeezed in here and there, plus a set of German Cotillion games during the intermission. Instead of the 500ish I find at Gaskell's, there were approximately 50 people. I'm bad at these estimates, but the hall was far (FAR) from crowded, and it was also about a third (quarter? again, I am ill at these numbers) the size of the Scottish Rite Temple. The band, Spare Parts, was more of a duo than a band, really, but they had adequate amplification and they were good without drawing attention inappropriately...steady, consistent, and tasteful in their choices of Civil War-appropriate pieces. There was, astonishingly, a slight gender imbalance in our (Amanda's and my) favor, probably due to the Civil War reenactor contingent that attended, and (joy!) knew the dances. Amanda had fun making a subtle production of sighing over the Men In Uniform. How period of her. :) Other nice things about this ball, in spite of its smaller-than-expected dimensions, included: the spread of dainties--all beautifully presented, all with calligraphed place cards telling what the food was and its historical source; the shocking consistency of historically correct, well-fitted, and beautiful costumes on women, and some nice uniforms on men; the very danceable wood floor; the ladies' changing area downstairs (which Amanda and I didn't use, but where we stored our street shoes); the dance cards attached by red cord to tiny pencils, presented to every ballgoer upon arrival; the two German Cotillion games we played between the two sets (the first was a simple game in which ten gents polka'd in a circle together while eight ladies stood around the edge of the room until a whistle was blown, at which point the gents found ladies and danced with them, except for the two extra gents, who had to dance with each other...so innocent, it's almost invisible; the second was basically the same as the Paul Jones we sometimes played at Friday Night Waltz when Richard was in charge--1. couples make a circle and progress to the left in time to the music, 2. when a whistle is blown, all turn to face partners and dance a grand chain, starting by passing partners by right hands, and 3. when another whistle is blown, all take the approaching person of the opposite dance role and dance anywhere in the room until a third whistle is blown, at which point all reform the circle--only it was done in waltz time, and the gents were blindfolded, to the great amusement of the audience); the wide age range (there were boys of 12 or 13 and men of 70ish, and girls of 13 or 14 but looking 18--corsets under low-cut dresses will do that--and grandes dames of 60ish, but looking 40--corsets and low-cut dresses will occasionally do that, too); and the uniform friendliness of everyone I spoke with there. I suppose when attendance is so light, each person is more obvious, and people are more willing to share themselves with strangers. The smallishness made it feel more like a "real" private New England ball, somehow, especially because Mr. Patri Pugliese (who, with his wife and children, hosted the ball, I think) announced and MCed the entire night. He also taught all the dances and was the liaison with the band. He has a very gentle sort of commanding presence.
On further reflection, the best part of the weekend really might not have been the ball; it was hanging out with Amanda and Co. on the way up, on the way back, and during the day on Saturday and Sunday at her parents house. "Co." turned out to be only one person, whom I'll call Mountain Man, instead of two or three, which was lousy for the car rental price we each paid, but nice for the person who could sit in back and stretch or sleep during the 5ish-hour drive from Manhattan to Amanda's parents' house.
I'm excited about Amanda. She feels sort of like the part of me that doesn't get to come out and play so much at Drisha. I started thinking she might be a good person to get to know when I met her at a contradance and discovered that she does all the Victorian ballroom stuff I do, and in fact, used to perform the same sort of historical re-creation business I did, only through something run by Mr. Pugliese rather than through Dickens Fair. She didn't know all the mazurka variations, but we got together one evening on the 5th floor of the Jewish Center, where they have a ballet studio, to play with stuff, and she follows like a dream. No. Dreams rarely follow anything. She follows like ei after c.
She's just over thirty but looks my age, and she's stunningly beautiful and comfortable with it, so while we were upstairs doing the requisite three-hour-ball-preparation-marathon (while Mountain Man stayed downstairs until the last five minutes, chatting with Amanda's parents about business...how classic), she was not at all ashamed of playing dress-up in very pretty things and grinning coyly into the glass with bubbly girly satisfaction. ("I'm so pretty!" she actually said, although not entirely seriously.) She admits to desiring nice things, in spite of the materialism implied, and when I saw the aesthetic loveliness of her parents' home, I could understand why. (The guest room, where I slept, had a hand-made quilt in shades of green, which matched the towel and the carpet.) She likes admiration, and gets it. She's a struggling actress, but not struggling as hard as some. She knows the words to all the worthwhile musicals, including G&S, and takes song cues almost as often as I do. She doesn't pun back at me so much, but she gets them and appreciates that sort of thinking. She likes third-grade jokes, and we passed some time in the car trading them...the one about no tomatoes had her laughing for several minutes. (You know: What's red and invisible? No tomatoes.) She seems to make the same relationship-related demands and errors that I do, and to be attracted to and to have the same difficulties with the same sorts of personality traits in others. Many of the choices she has made in life, when they weren't the same as the choices I've made, were the ones I almost made, and vice versa. She's Unitarian, which is, as far as I can tell, the "Christian" version of Reconstructionist Judaism. She was thinking seriously of becoming a minister for a long time before she chose performing. Talking to her late Saturday night, after the ball, cuddled under the hand made quilt, felt like talking to an alternate-universe-version of myself.
Mountain Man and I didn't hit it off so well. To his credit, he did a good job of being a gentleman throughout the ball, but at points over the rest of the weekend there were other parts of his personality that impressed me unfavorably. He seems to be, in many ways, rather good at conforming to the stereotypes of "Man". The sad thing is that I think this is intentional. Aside from the physical aspect--he's quite tall, and broad of shoulder--he also seemed overly given to doing the sorts of things that are joked about in those annoying jokes that bitter women make up about their ex-husbands. Amanda had taken the first driving shift, and when we stopped to switch drivers, he asked if either of us had a hair elastic for him to borrow while he drove. His hair is shoulder-length, and I guess it bothers him to have it loose when he drives. I had two elastics, one light blue and one black. I let him choose. Mountain Man chose black. "Really?" I queried, looking at his light blue plaid shirt and his faded jeans. "But the light blue one would match your shirt and jeans so perfectly." "Yes," said Amanda. "Look, it's the exact shade of this stripe here." And he explained (I wish I could remember his exact words) that the light blue would be too feminine. ??? I guess for some people it's important to look manly by wearing black hair elastics while driving to Massachussetts with two ladies in the car. Okay.
Later, while he was driving through part of Massachusetts near Boston, a pickup truck ahead of us wasn't going fast enough for his liking (we were doing 70 in the left lane) and he handled the situation by continuing to go at the exact same pace even though the pickup, which remained in front of us, continued to go slightly more slowly. I was once in a car with another guy from my past whose first name was the same as Mountain Man's, and as Past Guy looked down to fiddle with the AC for a moment, I watched, increasingly disbelieving, and mute from terror as we rear-ended a pickup in front of us. The pickup was stopped at a red light which Past Guy hadn't seen. All of us were fine, but the hood of Rosenante, Past Guy's light blue Toyota Tercel, had crumpled like aluminium foil. I did a good job of not acting like I was scared until the next time I was in a car and felt as if we were approaching the car ahead too quickly. My breathing grew shallow and I kept involuntarily slamming on the passenger-side brake. In fact, I've never really completely gotten over that reflex. Anyway, back to the recent past, I decided that Earlier Than Necessary was a better time to speak up than Later Than Necessary, so as I watched our rental car continue to close the distance between us and the pickup in front of us, I said, quite clearly, "Uh, you're planning on slowing down, right?" No response. We crept closer. "Please slow down." Mountain Man: "He shouldn't be in the fast lane if he's going to move so slowly." Closer. Me: "He's not changing lanes!" Amanda, loudly: "I am NOT comfortable with you driving this way." Then Mountain Man dropped back, and proceeded to execute an elaborate lane-changing maneuver in which he ended up going all the way to the second lane from the right and back again to the left just because he was so determined to pass this pickup. After about 10 minutes I started breathing normally again, and Amanda drove on the way back.
Sunday morning, Amanda (who can cook things) decided we ought to make an omelette for breakfast. After I passed a few minutes by washing and coring mushrooms while she beat eggs and fiddled with spices, I realized that Mountain Man was doing something odd. He was sitting in a nice winged chair reading a newspaper. "Would you like to help me with the mushrooms?" I asked. "Of course," he said, and up he got. He found a large knife and sliced the mushrooms paper-thin, which was fine, if a bit of overkill, but when you're a guest in someone else's house, why not offer right away without being asked? Is cooking really so ominously light blue?
I sometimes wonder why it is that my close male friends tend to identify, or be identified, with a certain image that isn't particularly marked by a preponderance of testosterone. Am I unfairly ignoring all but a certain subset of society? Then I remember what it's like to hang out with the testosterone-driven guys, and how certain thought processes that I take for granted seem, in their case, to be seriously impaired, and I feel thankful that I've found the good ones.
Current Sounds: raindrops on pavement
~ prattled by Miriam at 7:09 p.m. [+]
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