Tag Archives: Rhode Island

“The Ice is Gonna Break!”

Some photos taken a few winters ago at Olney Pond in Lincoln Woods. After a long and bitterly cold winter, ice formed atop the pond. My friends and I saw children playing on it, near the shore. Our oh mans soon turned to well let’s try its and before we knew it we were walking across the whole thing. Mustafa had just bought a nice DSLR so we took turns shooting with it.

Enjoy!

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Dancing Fool

Tonight, dude, I gotta dance. What? Chicks? No, no, fuck chicks dude. I wanna dance!

– Dane Cook

I never thought I’d become a person who enjoys, simply and wholeheartedly, the act of dancing at the bar or club. Even the connotations of the word are nebulous. Am I dancing alone, or with friends? Is this a date? Am I in a group, a circle? Am I in contact with another person? Am I performing a practices routine or just shaking it? The whole thing seems somehow un-masculine. Men don’t just “go dancing”, as the Good Reverend Cook famously explained.

And yet, somehow, I seem to have become this dancing fool. Did I undergo some ecstatic transformation and realize the wondrous poetry of articulated movement? Well, sort of. I certainly feel good when I’m dancing, but I can tell that there’s also something ulterior at play here, something greedy and power-hungry, prideful and full of lust. I want to build on that thing, nurture it into a state of tumescent maturity – and reap its harvest. However, I have been stymied – I’ve hit a wall, or perhaps a plateau, one I need to mount or traverse in order to join the community of bold society. I speak of those striding, lacquered demigods who can talk, freely, without crisis, to strangers, even – unbelievably – attractive members of the opposite sex.

I suppose I’ve been a decent dancer for a while. When I was but a whippersnapper, I used to go to countless ‘teen nights’[i] and 21-and-under dance clubs. However the objective there, or at least the only one on the minds of me and my contemporaries, was the grind. Mindless, cheaply intimate, pseudo-gratifying, but also artless, vulgar, shameful in hindsight. Thinking back on it, I had the same problem then that I do now…

When I was in elementary school, I took group dance classes at school and later at a studio, from a friend’s father – a Vietnam veteran and an interesting fellow. I remember enjoying the classes, and feeling like I wasn’t too bad. Alas, nothing came of it.

Flash forward to now. I have discovered that in doing the sort of goofy, spontaneous dances that one does on a dance floor, I possess certain tangible measures of grace and abandon. There are racial implications here. Have I been blessed with “Rhythm”? That’s Rhythm with a capital R, the kind that ‘black people have’ and ‘white people don’t’. I won’t get into that discussion here, for I fear nothing positive can come of it[ii].

I rarely sought out dance environments in Chicago. The reasons:

– I can’t stand nightclub culture – ohhh all the posturing and rules. Guuuhh the expensive drinks and dress codes, bottle service and judgments, hired ‘hot’ girls and dangerous bouncers[iii]. Who cares what kind of shoes I’m wearing, you big black-shirted fascist! Blaaah the fights, hedonism, glamour, money worship, bad manners and ego-preening. Ugggh worst of all the black bathroom attendants. Go back to 1934, you unpleasant reminder of black subservience!

– I also can’t stand going out with overachievers or ‘soft company’[iv] and getting stuck in a dance ring. You know what I’m talking about – the formation where everyone dances poorly or at least unconvincingly in a circle – too indecisive or shy or nice or mild-mannered to do anything, really. Some invisible but perceived minefield exists out there. There are just too many relationships and feeling to consider, there’s too much to lose. The result is a boring evening and a sense of life unlived.

But I realize now that I wasn’t using my powers. I was in Chicago, I could have found anything I wanted, dance-wise. I could have made hay at the Hange-Uppe. I lived right near Crocodile. I never even set foot in Bar DeVille, even though it sounds exactly like the kind of place I would seek out now.

When I moved out here to Rhode Island, I experienced a measure of self-actualization. I attribute it to getting out from under the ponderous weight of my miserably boring and unengaging career and attempting a new start in a new environment. I think those feelings of renewal extended to my dancing as well. Motive forces of bubbling freedom animated my limbs. My new posse and I started going to an absolutely delightful bar in Providence called Salon. Their DJs, working downstairs, use visuals and meticulously selected setlists to create a sublime dance experience that enlivens the very soul.

But that’s not all. I also read “The Game” by Neil Strauss, and “The Definitive Book of Body Language” By Allen and Barbara Pease. I began to see that I had an advantage on the dance floor. My figurative plumage was shining bright. My movements approximated a coordinated and humorous mating dance. Compared to the shyness and social terror I radiate in other stranger-filled situations, I was broadcasting a bright and fearless signal on the dance floor. In this motion laboratory I could make lasting first impressions, create personas for myself, investigate signals of interest, move about freely (bailing out of awkward situations easily, if need be), play games with proximity, use mirroring, social and intimate gazing, burn calories, reduce my dependence on alcohol, establish myself as a ‘fun guy’ and more.

I also began to get acquainted with feelings of adequacy and yes, even superiority[v]. Sometimes I can look down from my kinetic Olympus and declare “Foolish mortals, you can’t dance like me.”[vi] I can skip a number of the courtship/pickup steps and get straight to “demonstration of higher value”. I have received a number of positive attentions from women on the dance floor, usually in the form of unmistakable physical attention[vii] and some sort of compliment.

WHICH BRINGS ME TO MY PROBLEM.

What do I say to these girls?!?!?!?!!!?!?!???!?!!!?!??!!!!!??!!?!????

I have had women say things like “You’re fantastic”, “Nice moves” and other such things in my ear during the mating dance. A seasoned pro could drive a truck through that opening. Even an amateur would know what to do next. Unfortunately, I just freeze – that is, keep dancing without really saying anything. It’s total and complete failure. A singularity of missed opportunity that will one day tear a hole in the universe if I keep blowing it this badly. I’ve presented my dilemma to friends. Their suggestions: a) Say stupid shit, inane banter. The body language book supports this, saying that words are a far second to body language in courtship. b) Isolate/move the girl, suggest getting drinks at the bar or otherwise head to another part of the venue. This jibes with pickup principles. C) Be very direct and say something ‘bold’[viii]. This is kind of a wild card.

I suppose anything would be better than what I’m doing now, which is hooking the fish, then falling into panicked paralysis and yes, snapping my rod. I realize that in a broader sense, what I’m doing with the dancing is a workaround, a substitute for true grit, technique and growth, which in this case would involve GETTING THE BALLS TO APPROACH PEOPLE I AM ATTRACTED TO IN A CONVERSATIONAL MANNER.

So, I have found a new aspect of myself that I enjoy – a social activity that should be useful and fun for years to come. “That guy can dance!” They’ll say, at weddings and auctions, protest marches and funerals. However, with my discovery has come a quandary. I feel closer than ever to two things that have for the most part eluded me in life – confidence and access to available women. And yet even in my newly confident moments I am restrained by the old shyness and indecision. So close, yet so far.

One thing I’ve noticed, both internally and externally, is that one can force themself to do almost anything if they either plan on a) Recording it and turning it into a Youtube video or film project, or b) writing about it later[ix]. I may push myself to engage in the latter, using this this blog as the outlet. Turning strange or memorable events into written pieces helps me tease out their lessons, humor, larger implications, absurdities, comments on the human condition and the applications of these to life and living. Perhaps with the mentality that – succeed or fail – I am building up stories and material, I can push myself to new heights of boldness and experimentation.

And I welcome advice and encouragement. I like to play the self-reliant iconoclast, but I’m just a guy, and a kind word or a splash of cold water are just what I need sometimes. Help this dancing fool figure out how to say the suave thing and bring home the girl! If it works, or even if it doesn’t, you’ll probably get to read about it.


[i] This sounds creepy in retrospect, but I was a teen at the time.

[ii] I mean, what kind of conclusions would I draw from going down that rabbit-hole? That white people see me dance and feel both a certain jealousy but also paternal smug superiority? That I have to be careful not to get too silly, lest I stumble into the danger zone of buffoonery? Those kinds of thoughts can turn one’s feet to lead.

[iii] Alcohol, ego-overcompensation, unwritten codes of conduct, former football players and off-duty police officers are a terrifying mix.

[iv] By this I mean relatives, visitors from out of town, coworkers, new friends, established couples or any other group in which things have to be kept nice and squeaky clean.

[v] This is a big deal for me, I have confidence issues.

[vi] IN the places I tend to go. I have no illusions about how quickly I would be crushed to dust by actual trained, devoted dancers.

[vii] It’s funny, in the old days I used to engage in that Neolithic practice of asking a girl to dance and immediately grinding on her butt from behind. This was the style at the time, but seems unthinkable now. The attention I refer to is usually a dance facing each other, with eye contact, at a distance of 0 – 3 feet. Sometimes in this situation I find myself playing hard to get, trying to maintain some distance, but in a playfully elusive sort of way.

[viii] Strong sexual statements/questions/suggestions were the cited examples. I don’t think I’m at that level yet, but in theory it makes sense as a boom-bust, all-in gamble. If one can pass that hurdle, the rest should be easy.

[ix] There are quite a few longform journalism articles with titles like “My year as a hobo” or “Life without Batteries” or “Getting Hypothermia with the Polar Bear Club” or “Transvestite Road Trip”. They are usually a vicariously entertaining read.

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Honeymoon in Providence

It has been almost a month since I said “So Long, Stinkjob!” and began my “sabbatical” in Rhode Island. These things are never like you imagine them – there are just too many unknowns. So how has my experience been so far? Should you follow and quit your shitty job as well?

Let me preface with the fact that I am still in the honeymoon phase of the funemployment. My finances are still close to where I had them when I quit my job. The weather has been mostly a procession of leftover and imperfect summer days – a TJ Maxx rack of warm, but not hot, sunny days, weekends in the 70’s, and most importantly, no chills, frosts or other temperatures requiring indoor heating.

But what a honeymoon!

Around the house, I have been reasonably, but not exceptionally productive. I spend most of my time working on this or that, and it’s not lost on me just how many weeks I would have to aggregate in my old life just to scrape together a few short hours of project time. I’m practicing the drums every day, but hardly for the ambitious 3-4 hours that I had aspired to – I just don’t have the attention span. I have been doing a decent amount of writing – Especially on this blog, as these posts are very easy and fast to finish and get off my figurative desk. I recently posted a remix I completed, and will doing a few more. I am also trying to get the balls to make a song of my own performance – stay tuned.

Living alone in a town where you don’t know anyone is different. I certainly don’t miss all the headaches associated with having roommates who don’t share my standards of cleanliness, attention to detail or cultural outlook. I don’t really miss all the racket, concrete, visible poverty, competitive vibe and space constraints of the city either. However, when the sun goes down, I do get a little lonely and sad in my big empty house. I usually go to the library once a week to check out materials, run wild on their free internet (I pay by the ½ gigabyte at the house through my phone plan with Ting) and to be around other living breathing souls. However, on the whole, hermetic living during the weekdays isn’t so bad. I’ve talked a lot of shit about wanting to be alone and have time to myself in correspondence and conversation with friends, and thankfully, the shit I talked was fairly accurate. Having time and space at the cost of human interaction works for me at current levels.

And the reason it works is because of the “Weekends in White Satin” I have been spending in Providence. They have been a whirlwind of fun and introductions, drinking, hookah, carousing, biking, eating, exploring, conversing, joking, cat-petting. Perhaps there’s nothing novel about this. I could have had (and probably did at one point have) all of the above in Chicago, but there’s something new and fresh and different here. Something more.

On the one hand it could be me. I have internalized the cliché of the “fresh start” and I can feel it flowering within me. I feel unburdened, no longer in the cold shadows of loathsome jobs, a boring dead-end (soulwise) career, Northwestern and its zeitgeist of conformity and institutional striving (it perpetuates outward via some of the alumni – sorry NU friends), terrifying anxiety attacks, annoying and stressful living situations and the upsetting time competition between my social life and my creative impulses. When I head up to Providence for the weekend, I don’t have to worry about the work I should be doing on beer, or personal fitness, or drums, or remixes, or clothes darning and dyeing, or food preparation (gotta make lunch for work on Monday! Gotta bring food or drink to the potluck!) or whatever else I used to worry about on the weekends. I can give my time freely, to the point that I have to be careful about not hogging everybody else’s.

When I meet people here, the hardest part is explaining that I’m a bum, not working or seeking work, living in a giant house by myself. However, if I can get past that hurdle, I no longer have to talk about my shitty fucking job that I hate and how my career looks from my point of view like a long bleak march out of the city and towards the suburbs, conformity and death. I don’t have to tell the person I just met that sometimes I get so enraged that I put Car Bomb’s “Third Revelation” and Today is the Day’s “My First Knife” on my car stereo and literally SCREAM along at the top of my lungs until I feel light-headed and exhausted, but somewhat relieved.

For the most part I can be myself, a man without a past, looking toward the future. I can try to be witty or well-read or any of the other things I like to do in conversation. I can let the other party handle the work-talk, and sympathize sincerely.

And beyond that I can take on challenges, try to leave the old fears and hang-ups behind. Few people here know me, so what do they know about who I am, how much of a coward and an ineffectual I was? It’s a positive identity crisis. I never biked in Chicago, now I’m zipping through downtown with a deathwish, and it’s a real thrill. I didn’t always dress like a hipster, but now, with all my crazy home-dyed pants, and my writerly glasses, why the hell not? It’s liberating to move with your essence, by your own choice, not beholden to any institution. You get to be the mystery that people want to figure out, the one that takes a little more time and examination. The one that can’t be put quickly categorized by institutional metadata and placed in the array accordingly.

But to be fair, maybe it’s not me at all. I have a feeling it might just be my best friend. He has such an acute outlook on life, and such an iron will. When I’m around him, it’s impossible to see anything but possibilities, voids, niches and malfunctions in the system where a person can go boldly and make hay until someone makes them stop. He has opened his doors and his Providence life to me and for that I am thankful. If I had to come here, or go anywhere truly alone, with no one, that would be a much more frightening proposition. My friend is always propping me up, checking on me, alerting me to opportunities, cultural trends, little bits of insider knowledge that, even if I don’t use them immediately, keep my mind open to the sheer amount of life that is out there to be seized. His very aura boosts my confidence, and I hope that I can (or already do) have some positive effect on him now or in the future.

So in conclusion, so far so good. The weekends are like some wonderful vacation. I feel that I have been allowed to keep any and all earned wisdom in my account, and leave behind the vast majority of the bitterness and anxiety that marred my time in Chicagoland. I still have a ton of work to do if I’m actually going to capitalize on my hobbies, passions and interests, but with the prospect of going back to the office leering at me, it’s not very difficult to stay motivated.

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