30 January 2011

And Then There Were Two

30 January 2011

I take Zumba, and I love it. One day whilst singing and squatting, I asked myself "why do I only dance for this one hour? Why don't I go dancing?" Of course there was no logical answer. There's no reason I can't go dancing every night of the week. I like to dance. It's not that I'm especially good at it, I just like the way music makes me feel. And so an idea was born. I decided to have a girls' night, when we women could get dressed up, put on painful shoes, spend too much money and have a blast. And since it was a Zumba inspired idea, I decided we would go Salsa dancing.

I did my due diligence. I consulted Yelp and found the best Salsa club in the city. I invited every woman I talk to, and I told them to invite whoever they wanted. We were to be a gaggle of women out painting the dance floor. When I first presented the idea, we were a group of 16 or 17. When we arrived at Cafe Cocomo, we were a party of two. No, I never expected everyone would make it. And no, I didn't put forth very much effort in organizing it, other than sending e-mails. But I would be lying if I didn't say I was disappointed. It was like my birthday all over again. It's like the adage says: you can bring the invite to the people, but you can't make them show up. That's real. Go with it. In the end (or I should say "at the beginning"), Trisha and I had quite the adventure. And it started right away.

29 January 2010
As I no longer have a car(link), we decided to meet and take a cab. As we stood at the corner of two busy San Francisco streets, it occurred to me I had never actually hailed a cab before. It's been my experience that men do that. Of course it could be as easy as sticking your arm out, but after 5 minutes and no cab, we switched to Plan B. We went to a hotel. Hotels always have cabs. Actually they always have men who can get taxis. But the result is the same. A town car pulled up as we waited and we dismissed it. We did not need to arrive at a club in a town car. It just seemed unnecessary. But after at least three more minutes of waiting, the hotel guy and the town car driver came to a different conclusion. Trisha & I were whisked away in a fancy car. It might have been a blessing. Or it might have caused extra problems. It's still too difficult to tell.

Our driver did not know where we were going. I gave cross streets. I looked at the map. We drove in circles. If we had been paying a meter, we would have been screwed. Then again, a taxi with a meter would likely have had GPS. Our driver was really nice though. He would not let us out until he found where we were going. We were literally under the highway. Eventually he stopped a jogger who told us we had to go a little further under the highway to get to where we were going. We turned down a few dark streets and voila, Cafe Cocomo. Once we saw it, it was almost surprising we had missed it. Then we remembered it was in fact hiding under an overpass.

The place is huge and there is a lot going on inside. There is all you can eat pizza from 7 - 9. There are $2 cocktails from 7 - 9. And there is Salsa by Jake from 8 - 9. We got drinks, because that was a priority. We got pizza, because it was free with admission. We got a table, because we knew they were going to disappear quickly. We tried to envision what the place was about to become. We had no idea. The band was just starting to set up. The lights were kind of high for a club and people were coming in groups. It seemed a little early for that much action on a Saturday night. I could tell we were on the precipice of something spectacular. First though, an awkward trip to middle school.

Salsa by Jake (I will not just call him" Jake") had them raise the lights even more. We then lined up, women on one side, facing the men on the other. The mood was just this side of uncomfortable. Salsa by Jake taught the men how to lead. He taught the women how to be led. And then he told us to partner up, which pushed the mood deep into the heart of "uncomfortable" territory. I didn't want to "be picked." But I didn't want to not be picked either. I didn't want some lady standing by while her boyfriend was holding me. I didn't want a really good dancer and I didn't want a really bad dancer and I did want to know how to tell them apart.

Suddenly I was paired. His name was John. He had bright blue eyes, a bright blue sweater, and sneakers that almost got him turned away at the door. I don't know how often you have your face eight inches from a stranger's, or how often that stranger is holding you in a commanding embrace, but it is beyond awkward. There was no music either, just bright lights and counting.

"1,2,3...5,6,7..."

The "4" and the "8" aren't actual steps, so you don't count them. John asked me about my day. I had nothing to report. I asked about his. He said it was crazy. I was intrigued. Just as I was starting to ask him about it, the leads (read: men) had to rotate. I was in the arms of another, making more small talk, judging his ability to lead by the strength of his hold. This went on for an hour. We would practice a move, add on that move, and swap partners before we could attempt the added step. It was very... brilliant. It got easier to talk to strangers. It got easier to tell a good leader from a weak one. It was very social and built a camaraderie amongst us. By the time the lights went down and the music started, I both a) felt confident in my steps and b) knew I would never go speed dating. It was all just so bizarre. But stranger things did happen.

14 January 2011

Officially Back On The Mat

13 January 2011

I admit sometimes I set ridiculous goals. While I was home for Christmas, I was sure I was going to join two additional gyms, and work out consistently at all three. I even drew a schedule that seemed totally feasible, assuming I was able to actually carry everything I needed for Zumba, Muay Thai and Bikram. On paper it looked doable, as long as I ate out for every meal and had no other errands to run.

But (as with most things) as it got close to time to actually spend the money, the plan started to fall apart. I did not want to eat out all the time, especially considering what I would already be paying for gym memberships. I also did not want to carry a heavy, stinking gym bag from place to place. In fact I didn't even want to show up to a gym already sweaty. So yes, I thought long and hard and decided to keep Zumba (with optional spin and yoga) and Muay Thai. Bikram Yoga had to go by the wayside. I do really like it and I think it would be a good compliment to Muay Thai. But it wouldn't give me the stamina or confidence I would get from Muay Thai. And that's become an addiction.

I want to be able to jump rope for three minutes without stopping. I want to be able to spar for an entire round and still form a sentence afterward. I want to know I have a chance against some random attacker who dares to cross me in the street. I want to do what I once couldn't. I want to be at least as tough as my rhetoric, because some have accused me of occasional sass. So I bit the (expensive) bullet and I signed up for Muay Thai. I'll be training at Fairtex for at least the next year. And just as it was at Master Toddy's, the price is enough to make sure I actually go. I'm hoping to train six days a week. I also plan to Zumba three days a week. Yes, there will be overlap. But it's actually not bad. So let's be excited. The Pugilist Laureate has returned.

01 January 2011

Christmas 2010 (ii)

22 December 2010
I couldn't stay entirely idle at my mom's house. There were things that needed doing, and my mind needed occupying. We made a few trips to Target, Home Depot and Toys R Us. I bought the nephew a snowsuit, because kids' things are tiny and tend to be cheap. Dayana and I made gingerbread cookies. Even now, thinking about them makes me a little sick. It was a mix that requires butter and milk. Once it was mixed... know what? Let's not even talk about it. We made gingerbread men and Dayana ate a few bites of hers. I will likely never eat gumdrops again.

"Pretend it's not that good."

23 December 2010
I went to see Derek & Toyya's house. They had just moved in, and had not unpacked. Still, I could tell it was a great place for them. They live within walking distance of the grocery store and near the harbor, which will be lovely in the summertime. Derek made breakfast and I noticed this tiny guy in the fridge. I giggled.

Later, as my mom and I were in line to pick up Dayana from school (which is its own weird subculture), we talked about Derek and Toyya, and how he had written her love letters from the cruise ship back in July. It was a few weeks after he had broken up with my nephew's mother. I told my mom that, in my experience, men forget relationships and the people in them with the rising of the sun. And we laughed, at their fickle ways.

24 December 2010
And then it was Christmas Eve. Kids, skip to the pictures. Adults, you know. Presents had to be pulled out of places and wrapped. My nephew was none the wiser. He was around for some of the wrapping and just wanted to play in the paper. Dayana has that pre - Christmas excitement and I admit it was contagious. I too got excited to see what Santa would bring.

Two kids wearing headbands.

Derek, showing Donnell it's okay for boys to wear headbands. He's also having a serious conversation about gender messages whilst holding a magnadoodle.

Spreading oats & glitter. You know, so the reindeer can find the house AND get a snack.

"Cheese."

"Donnell go get a spoon for your peaches."

Who doesn't love a kid who does a downward dog?

The setup.

25 December 2010
I slept in later than I thought - I guess the peals of laughter didn't quite reach me during hibernation. It went as I'm sure it went in millions of households across the country. We ate breakfast. Presents were opened, but couldn't be enjoyed because there were too many. Dayana would have ignored everything for her dollhouse and Donnell did ignore everything that was not his motorbike. Derek liked all the presents he had said he would be returning, you know, because he didn't want to "do Christmas." I absorbed it all and realized family is strange. I mean my family is strange, but the concept of family is also bizarre. There are people you will deal with for the rest of your life. You will not like them, but you will love them. Their happiness (or lack thereof) will affect you. These people will be your family. And mine is extra special.
Part of my "modern family"

In blue, you have Sianneh mother of Donnell, ex-girlfriend of Derek. You have Donnell hovering over his motorbike. Then you have Derek, and current girlfriend Toyya. Dayana is standing in front of my mom and in the orange, you have Vicki, my mom's wife.

The straw that stirs this cocktail is my mom. I sometimes ask myself how I should "explain" my mom to my friends. I sometimes think I don't have to explain anything to anyone. But I know people have questions they're not comfortable asking and there really is a simple explanation. My mom is transgendered. To the rest of the world, she is a he. That goes for Vicki and Dayana and lots of other people who knew my mom in the past. I'm all for being who you are, and I fully support my mom in this manifestation. Still, I only have one mother. It's possible -- if my mom had not been my best friend -- I would have been willing to forfeit that. If my mother had not been such a mother, I wouldn't have cared to see her go. But I had (and still have) a great mom and we have a great relationship. So my dad and some others can have Adrean. The world can have Dre. Derek and I have our mom.