Sound Immersion Meditation

I have never been good at meditation. I have tried it on a few occasions, but I have struggled to steady my mind for more than a moment or two. As soon as I calm my brain it starts making lists of all the things I have to do later, regretting that thing I said to someone 8 years ago, or contemplating what dark matter is actually made of. All things that of course must be resolved immediately.

The only time I’ve actually enjoyed meditation was when I spent 10 minutes overlooking the canyons of Malibu after climbing to the top of a waterfall last week. The serenity of the sound of the falling water against the beautiful backdrop made it easy to let go of everything.

Although I have struggled with meditation in the past, this project is as much about pushing myself to do things that make me uncomfortable as it is about doing things that are exciting.

I was intrigued when I first saw a post advertising sound immersion mediation. The session was held at The Hot Room Yoga and Wellness Studio and was hosted by Massood Taj and Robin Barnes. The description of the event read:

“As the sounds of singing bowls, frame drums, native flutes, gongs, vocal overtoning and other sacred instruments wash over you. It invites you to move into a deep meditative state. Cellular vibrations can unlock unhealthy, stuck emotional tension held within our cellular memory, boost your immune system & cultivate a heightened awareness of your inner world and intuition.”

Here is an example of what it sounded like:

Massood and Robin had a multitude of instruments laid out on blankets surrounded by salt lamps and rope lights, which provided great mood lighting in the dark. They used water drums (a bowl is placed upside down in a larger water-filled bowl and then stuck for a percussive sound), frame drumsTibetan signing bowls, crystal singing bowls, a handpan, energy chimes, a wooden bamboo flute thingy (that was made with bamboo that grows naturally in Tennessee), a Quena (Peruvian wood flute), an african talking drum, a kalimba, and an array of other fascinating instruments.  A nice summer storm added to the soundscape.

The best way to describe it was that it felt like I was being treated to a live version of the music they play while you get a massage. It was extremely relaxing.

I was just as unsuccessful at clearing my mind as my previous meditation attempts, but I did have a few moments of zen when I pictured my view from my Dominican rainforest tree house. The music was beautiful and I loved the experience. If I ever hit the Powerball I plan to hire Massood and Robin to provide the soundtrack to my life.

The Ballet

The Ballet
As a part of their mission to “bring ballet to the people,” the Dance Theatre of Tennessee staged a performance of Giselle in Centennial Park. The performance was held in the park’s bandshell and the audience was spread out on blankets and beach chairs in front of the stage. The stage was only about a foot off of the ground, so there was not much separation between the dancers and the crowd. I’m really glad I decided to bring a second blanket with me. We went on the first day of fall so it was crisp and cool outside; by the time the performance was over it was 63 degrees and a little chilly. We really could have used a thermos of hot chocolate.

Giselle is your typical nobleman meets girl, nobleman disguises himself as a peasant to get girl, girl discovers nobleman is lying and engaged to another, supernatural beings get pissed and sentence the nobleman to death by dancing type of story.

Giselle Wine Queen

Giselle premiered in Paris in 1841. [Caution: Ballet spoiler alert.] The first act focuses on the the Duke’s courtship of Giselle. Hilarion, a gamekeeper, is also in love with Giselle and tries to warn her that there is something fishy about the Duke. Giselle, however, ignores Hilarion because the Duke is just sooooo dreamy. To complicate matters, Giselle has a weak heart so she has a crazy helicopter mother who also wants to keep the Duke away from her. At some point the Duke’s fiancée shows up and the Duke hides. Eventually, Hilarion figures out what is going on and outs him. Giselle freaks out and dies of a broken heart.

The second act takes place in a forrest near Giselle’s grave. Wilis (pronounced villees—young girls who have died before their wedding day), haunt the forest to seek revenge on any man they encounter, forcing them to dance until they die. Harsh. They are led by their queen, Myrtha. Giselle rises from the grave and join the Wilis. The Duke shows up to mourn at Gilselle’s grave and begs for he forgiveness. Giselle forgives him, because you know, she’s dead, what does she care? That, and she still loves him. Meanwhile, the zombie brides corner Hilarion and make him dance until he drowns in a lake (somehow I missed this part during the performance). Then they turn to the Duke. Giselle pleads for his life, but Myrtha refuses. Eventually, Giselle’s love overcomes the spell the Duke lives and Giselle can rest in peace.

Giselle Wilis

I really enjoyed the ballet. It was expressive and told the story better than I expected. While all of the dancers were incredibly talented, the ballerina in the role of Myrtha was particularly gifted. I’ve never had a particular knack for dancing, but somehow she made it seem completely effortless. Bats flew across the stage and swooped over the dancers heads for much of the second act and not once did they seem phased by it. My friend Loren commented that she now understood why little girls can become so preoccupied with wanting to be a ballerina when they grow up. Who wouldn’t want to put on gorgeous dresses and dance around on state to beautiful music?

I’m really glad I decided to attend a ballet. While, I’ve always wanted to go and I expected to enjoy it, I just never made the effort to attend a performance. Now, however, I’ll be much more willing to attend in the future. Especially in a warmer, more traditional venue.

Carambola (Starfruit)
Earlier this week I was at the grocery store when I passed by a bin of starfruit. I’ve been curious about trying one for a while, and since nothing was stoping me I grabbed one and threw my basket. The check-out person asked me how I selected the piece of fruit I did and how I knew it was ripe. I told her that I had absolutely no idea and that I just thought it looked interesting.

Starfruit
It tasted like somebody combined a really mediocre apple and a flavorless orange. I was really hoping that it would be sweet and tropical, but mainly it was just “meh.” Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to how delicious it looked at the store. Apparently, in some countries they are grown as ornamentals rather than food; those people have the right idea.

Salsa Dancing & Meeting Martin Sheen

Salsa Dancing
Dance PollA few weeks ago I asked you to vote on which style of dance I would try next. Salsa won by a landslide. I had a deal for 2 dance lessons at SalsaKnox, so I went down to their studio to try it out. I’ve had friends accompany me on most of my recent adventures, but I decided to break out of my comfort zone a little and go this one alone.

I have discussed before that my dancing skills aren’t exactly developed. This isn’t due to a lack of rhythm, but due to an utter lack of coordination and not knowing my left foot from my right foot. Knowing which foot is which is vitally important in salsa. Because it is a partner dance, if you step with the wrong foot it throws everything off.

Salsa Steps

The basic salsa step for a woman looks something like this (in peach):

1. Step back with the Right Foot
2. Rock forward onto your Left Foot
3. Step forward with your Right Foot
4. Shift your weight on to your Right Foot
5. Step forward with the Left Foot
6. Rock back onto your Right Foot
7. Step back with your Left Foot
8. Shift your weight on to your Left Foot
Repeat Step 1


My lack of skills was very evident in my first session. I had to be shown the steps multiple times and receive a lot of corrections. Even when the instructors would take time to personally show me the steps, I still had problems. However, everyone was incredibly supportive. One fellow student told me not to worry, his first time he was terrible too.

Salsa Dip

I am really glad I had a 2-class package deal. While I had a great deal of fun my first session, I am not sure I would have gone back, thinking it was a skill I would never master. But, since I already paid for the class and am incredibly frugal, I decided to go back for more.

This time I wanted to be more comfortable. For me, that meant wearing my 4-inch heels instead of the flats I wore to my first class. Wearing flats just throws off my sense of balance. This time we were lined up facing a giant mirror instead of a wall. At first, this made me self-conscious because I was worried that everyone would be watching me and judging me. Then I realized that everyone else there probably felt just as self-conscious at me and was only paying attention to themselves. So, I decided to use the mirror to my advantage and try to watch and correct my steps.

I must have picked up something through osmosis or in my sleep, because my skills increased significantly overnight. Don’t get me wrong, I was still an extreme novice, but I was able to figure out the moves and was no longer tripping over my own feet. This made me much more confident. In fact, I got “excellent” and “perfect” from the instructors Waldo and Jacqui. In addition to picking up some new dance moves like spinning and dipping, I learned how important it is to have a good leader when you are dancing. The better direction your partner gives you, the more confident you can be about your own steps.

Salsa Basic Step
I absolutely loved salsa, and I learned not to give up easily on things I don’t master right away. The night after my second lesson I came home and purchased 15 more! I never thought I would be good at any style of dance, but who knows, stranger things have happened. This leaves only one question . . . who is going to take me dancing?

Meeting Martin Sheen — The Coolest Man Alive
While this isn’t really a New Thing, it’s the coolest thing that has happened to me all year so I had to share the story.

This week I had to go to Nashville for a meeting. I never get to see my friend Justin and wanted to spend time with him while I was in town. He had, however, an event to attend the night I arrived. He asked me if I wanted to join him, and I promptly accepted his invitation. The only thing he told me was that it was a fundraiser, what to wear, and when to be there. Thinking nothing else of it, I hopped in my car and made my 3-hour drive across the state.

When I got to the venue Justin explained that the Great Futures Gala was for the Boys & Girls Club of Middle Tennessee, and that his organization, the Phoenix Club of Nashville, was one of the sponsors. I noticed that the room was beautifully decorated and the presidential seal was on everything. I don’t really remember much of what happened next, but the conversation went something like this:

Justin: The evening has a West Wing theme, so everything is decorated like the White House, and Martin Sheen is here.
Me: (Thinking he is being sarcastic) Martin Sheen is here?
Justin: Yeah.
Me: Wait, is Martin Sheen here or are you just messing with me?
Justin: Yeah.
Me: (In a very serious tone) Yes he is here or yes you are messing with me?!
Justin: No, Martin Sheen is really here. (He points to a giant picture of Martin Sheen on the wall.)
Me: (Babbles incoherently for several minutes about my love of Martin Sheen and The West Wing.)

I should note that I am generally not star-struck and don’t care much about celebrities. However, Martin Sheen is on the super short list of people I truly admire and makes me turn into a puddle of goo.

Let me start off by saying: Yes, he is as cool as you think he is. Yes, he is as smart as you think he is. Yes, he is as eloquent as you think he is. He was interviewed for quite some time by local reporter Jimmy Carter (not the President). I don’t remember a lot of what he said, mainly because I spent the entire time with the inner dialogue of “Oh my God, that’s Martin Sheen. Oh My God, that’s Martin Sheen.” A few thing I do recall is that he talked about: his own experience as a member of the Boys and Girls and how it was a positive influence on his life, how passion for what you do in your life is critically important, and how he does not own a computer.

Sheen Interview

Of course, he did talk about the West Wing. (For those not familiar with it, it is the greatest show ever made. Yes, that is a matter of fact and not of opinion.) He told a story about when Allison Janney was interviewed about the show. The interviewer commented that it was a shame that the West Wing didn’t have a love story. She commented that the show did have a love story: Leo and the President. He said she was right, it was a love story and that they did love each other. Sheen then commented that John Spencer and he, as the more experienced actors, were the mom and dad on the set.

SPOILER ALERT for the non West Wing devotees. (What is wrong with you people? Just watch the show already, it’s on Netflix!) Sheen talked about how heartbreaking it was when John Spencer died and what a wonderful person he was. (I still can’t get through that episode without sobbing like a baby.) Apparently, Sen. Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) was supposed to win the election and the show was going to keep going following the new presidency! However, when John Spencer died, they decided to call it a day and end with their 7th season and Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) winning.

After the fundraiser we got to go to a private meet and greet with Sheen. I was so excited that I couldn’t speak. If you know me, you know this is a big deal. Sheen took the time to ask every one of us our name, look us in the eye, and shake our hands. He looked at our group and said, “look at these women . . . these women” and launched into a story about when he met Desmond Tutu. Apparently Desmond Tutu wanted to make a spontaneous visit to a tribe in Africa. The tribe thought that it was such an honor, but there was no way they would have things ready in time for his arrival. So the women stayed up all night, decorated, prepared food, and set everything up for his visit. When he arrived, it looked as though they had spent weeks preparing. When Desmond Tutu learned of what the women had done, he said, “if women aspire to be equal to men, they are not ambitious enough.”

With Martin Sheen

Meeting him and hearing him speak was absolutely everything I imagined it would be. He is as absolutely brilliant, eloquent, and charming as he seems, and is hands down the coolest person I have ever met.

My First MLB Game & Verdi’s Requiem

Reds Game at Great American Ball Park
For week 16 of my 52 week adventure, I hopped in the car with my friend Leigh to drive to Cincinnati to see my first Major League Baseball game. The Cincinnati Reds are uniquely suited to serve as host for my first game; in 1869 it was founded as the first professional baseball team. I wish I could say I planned that on purpose, but I did not.

Brandon Phillips Reds Hit

This was the 2nd game in a 4-game series against the Miami Marlins. It was Brandon Phillips bobblehead day, so we wanted to get to the stadium early. (See Phillips being awesome above). Before the game we had to stop by O’Malley’s In the Alley for a drink. O’Malley’s is a small Irish pup tucked away in one of the alleys of downtown Cincinnati. It’s not far from the stadiums, so it is a favorite spot for locals to go before Reds and Bengals games. At one point Leigh’s dad became concerned about our ability to procure our bobbleheads, so he hurried us along by telling us to “stop talking and drink.” We finished up and hurried along to the stadium.

Great American Ball Park

Our seats were in the nose-bleed seats over right field. However, the distance from home plate neither detracted from the view nor our enjoyment. We settled in with our snacks (peanuts and popcorn) and bundled up to keep warm. A friend of Leigh’s was visiting from Germany; it was his first game too. Apparently, baseball isn’t big there. For the first time in my life I got to be the one explaining the rules of a game. Fortunately, baseball is a lot easier to explain that college football.

Aroldis Chapman

The game was low-scoring so it moved a bit slowly. But there were a few highlights. The best part of the day was watching Joey Votto hit one out of the park. Always exciting. Late in the game, Aroldis Chapman stepped in as closing pitcher to relieve Bronson Arroyo. Above, is Chapman right before throwing a 99 mph pitch. Chapman holds the league record for the fastest pitch at 105 mph. I can’t even fathom throwing something that fast. Then again, if I threw the ball it wouldn’t even make it to home plate. Those weren’t the only impressive play of the game, Arroyo threw his 1,000th strikeout with the Reds.

Photo with Mr. Red

At one point we spotted Mr. Red nearby in the stadium. I decided that I had to have my picture with him, so Leigh and I took off to chase him down. When we finally caught up to him, Leigh shouted “Mr. Red! Mr. Red! It’s my friend’s first game! Can she have a picture?” Mr. Red turned around to look at me, then shook his head and hung it in shame. I apologized for my neglect to the sport and he waved me over for a picture. I guess he decided to forgive me, after Leigh took our picture Mr. Red gave me a hug and a kiss on the forehead.

Mr. Redlegs and Rosie Red

The best part of the day was just talking, laughing, and spending time with our friends. I see why baseball is considered the great American pastime. Of course, the Reds did not disappoint, they pulled it out in the 13th inning to beat the Marlins 3-2. And yes, I got my bobblehead.

Verdi’s Requiem
This week Leigh and I also returned to the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra to see Verdi’s Requiem. I know what you are thinking, “You’ve already been to the KSO! That’s not a New Thing!” Well, this was my first large-scale choral performance, and it’s my blog and I can write about what I want.

Verdi Requiem

Requiem was composed as a funeral Mass in homage to the Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni. The work premiered in Milan in 1874, a year after Manzoni’s death. At the time it was written, women were not allowed to perform in Catholic Church rituals. Yet, Verdi used a females in the chorus and as two of the soloists.

In addition to a full orchestra and 120+ member chorus, there were four superb soloists: Cherie Valaray (soprano), Bracha Kol (mezzo-soprano), David Katz (tenor), and Stephen Morscheck (bass-baritone). Being completely tone deaf, I can only imagine the years of grueling work they put in to develop their exquisite voices.

One of my favorite moments was when 4 trumpets sounded, representing a call to judgment. These were placed behind us in the balcony of the theater and sounded absolutely startling and brilliant.


If you want to check out Requiem, you can watch the entire work as performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. My favorite movement starts at 9:35.

Honky Tonkin’ & Visiting the Zoo

Honky Tonkin’
I lived in Nashville full-time for 6 years and part-time for another 4 years. During that period I avoided Broadway and honky tonks like the plague. Anytime my friends wanted to go I would excuse myself for the evening and go home. I just assumed I would have a bad time and that it would be filled with nothing but rednecks and tourists. My friend Clay, however, took issue with my characterization and said that the right honky tonk was “a beautiful local authentic music experience.”

Me: So where are the good Nashville honky tonks?
Clay: There is one that is hands down the best, Robert’s Western World.
Me: Sounds like they sell cowboy boots.
Clay: As a matter of fact, they might. . .

I never figured out if they sold boots there, but the walls were lined with them.

When we arrived, Jesse Lee & Brazilbilly, the house band, were playing traditional country music. The dance floor was already packed when people from all walks of life (including local celebrity/designer Manuel Cuevas—see the silver-haired gentleman below).

Roberts Western World
It was not long before I got asked to dance by a stranger in western wear. One vintage gentleman (which is apparently what we call “old” now) taught me to waltz, and another showed me how to western swing dance. I always forget how friendly everyone is in Tennessee. I finished the evening with some friends on the dance floor and was absolutely exhausted.

Here is Jesse Lee & Brazilbilly performing Cattle Call, one of the songs I danced to.


My first honky tonk experience was a lot of fun and I absolutely loved the music. It was not what I expected, and I have once again learned not to have preconceived notions about things. If you are ever in Nashville make sure you go by Robert’s for a swingin’ good time.

Visiting the Zoo
Somehow I have made it through life without going to a real zoo. I decided to rectify this by visiting the Nashville Zoo with my friend Meagan. We were supposed to have a nice, sunny, 67-degree spring day. What we got was a hazy, 56-degree, seasonally-confused day. Despite the weather not being what we hoped for, we had a lovely afternoon.

The zoo was geared up for Eggstravaganzoo, their annual Easter egg hunt. This meant the zoo was festively decorated, kids were everywhere, and the animals had giant Easter eggs in their habitats. It was the perfect day for a visit. We even joined in the festivities by gorging ourselves on popcorn and blue cotton candy. Mmm.

We got to see dozens of animals, but here are a few of our favorites:

First up was the Bengal tiger. There are fewer than 2,500 in the world and they are classified as an endangered species. They are absolutely gorgeous creatures and one day they might not be around for us to see.

Bengal Tiger

I loved the African elephants. I have never seen one in person so they were the highlight of my day. They were absolutely huge (as you might imagine). On average they weigh 5 tons and male elephants can grow up to 13 feet tall. Like the Bengal tiger, African elephants are listed as endangered.

Elephants

I also loved seeing the Masai giraffe. They were not as tall as I expected, I think I have seen Lion King too many times. They were, however, absolutely beautiful and graceful.

Giraffes
The Eurasian lynx may look pretty mellow, but apparently they can hunt animals 3-4 times its size. I am glad we were separated by (I hope) a very sturdy fence.

Eurasian Lynx

OK, a goat isn’t exactly an exotic animal, but it was pretty cute.

Petting A Goat
Of course, no blog post would be complete without me interacting with some sort of bird. Before we went in to feed the birds at Lorikeet Landing, Meagan warned me how much they seem to hate and want to attack her. The zoo was really busy that day and the birds definitely seemed hyped up on all the extra nectar they got. Perhaps the extra sugar was an aggravating factor, but just as she predicted I watched the birds poop on, scream at, and try to bite Meagan. I made it out unscathed.

Feeding Lorikeets

We had a great time at the zoo. This summer they will add an interactive Kangaroo exhibit and I can’t wait to come back to pet them!

Honey Basil Martini & A Double Back
About 6 1/2 years ago I had my first martini. It was quite possibly the most disgusting drink I ever tasted; it had the all the charm of, and I what I suspect the flavor of, rubbing alcohol. Ever since, I have avoided the drink. This weekend I went to Virago, one of my favorite restaurants in Nashville. As I was perusing the drink menu I noticed their Honey Basil Martini. My usual reaction is to turn my nose up at any type of tini, but I thought that it was important to give the drink a second chance.

Honey Basil Martini

The drink was made up of Stoli Vodka, grapefruit juice, honey simple, and a basil leaf. It was an interesting mix of tangy and sweet with a hint of basil—and didn’t taste anything like rubbing alcohol. While I don’t expect to turn into James Bond (who, according to the West Wing, is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it), I will be a lot more likely to choose a martini when I am out with the girls . . . or with Mr. Bond.

Later the same evening we went to The Patterson House, a prohibition-era, speakeasy-style cocktail bar. The bar had a vintage decor, was dimly lit, and the walls were lined with books (including the Tennessee Code Annotated—nerd moment).

After my positive martini experience earlier in the evening, I decided to go a bit creative on my drink order. My friend Clay pointed out the “Double Back” on the menu. The Double Back was comprised of Sailor Jerry Rum, Pierre Ferrand Cognac, cream, a whole raw egg (yes, you read that right), Averna, and Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters. The drink was cold and creamy, but had a warm and spicy flavor . . . and you could not taste the egg (thank goodness). It was perfect for a cold rainy night on the town.

After having my mind changed about martinis and loving a drink with an egg in it, I will no longer order my safe go-to drink choices and will try to branch out a little instead.

Aerial Fitness Class & The Knoxville Symphony Orchestra

Aerial Fitness Class
Aerial1This week I took an aerial fitness class at Dragonfly Aerial Arts Studio. Dragonfly is a nonprofit school and performance group that teaches students how to use the trapeze and silks (fancy ropes). We had a small class, there were just three of us (including my friend Amy) so we had lots of one-on-one attention from our awesome instructor Christy. We started by filling out a liability waiver (my 6th this year) and did some basic warmups to get limber.

One of our first exercises on the silk was to wrap it behind us like a backpack, pull ourselves up with our arms, bring our knees into our chests, and swing until it hurt. Trust me, it is harder than it looks. Keeping my knees pulled up to my chest hurt like hell. We also did a balancing exercise that really worked our abs.

Aerial2

My favorite move was hanging upside down. All the blood rushed to my head and made me feel like a kid again. This was accomplished by putting the knot behind our back and then sliding through until we were upside down (see below). From this position, we wrapped our legs around the silk and did upside down sit-ups—which are much harder than regular sit-ups.

Aerial3
This class made me realize that I have not been working out enough. I have been slacking on my yoga lately and it showed in my lack of flexibility. I am thinking of going back to Dragonfly once I am back in my regular workout routine and a bit more limber.

The class focused on core and arm strength. I did not realize how good of a workout I was getting until the next morning when I had trouble just sitting up. If you want a fun alternative to hitting the gym, I definitely suggest finding an aerial class to take.

Classical Guitar Performance
Every Thursday I have a weekly “girl date” with my friend Leigh. We usually get sushi then do some shopping (where we seem to only buy hats), get gelato, or go to a cultural event. This week she suggested that we go see the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. I looked up their calendar and saw that the concert for the evening was a classical guitar performance, not really my thing. I love classical music, but the guitar has never found a way into my heart. But, since this is about trying new things I thought it was important that I actually go to see a performance before I made up my mind.

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra

The concert was at the Tennessee Theatre, a 1920s era movie palace turned performance arts space. When you walk through the front doors of the theatre you enter the Grand Lobby, filled with gorgeous red tapestry, five large chandeliers, and staircases leading up to the balcony. The theatre itself is filled with 1600 burgundy velvet seats and has a beautifully painted domed ceiling.

The line-up for the night featured Spanish and Spanish-inspired works:

Falla: El Sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat), Suite No. 2
Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez (featuring Ana Vidovic on guitar)
Chabrier: España
Turina: Danzas fantásticas, Opus 22
Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio espagnol, Opus 34

The performance was beautiful and flawless. I never realized what amazing talent we had here. I was particularly impressed with the guest classical guitarist, Ana Vidovic. Her performance was absolutely breathtaking and different from pieces I had heard before. Perhaps it was the backing orchestra that made the difference, but she certainly changed my opinion on classical guitar.

Sidral Mundet Apple Soda
SidralMundetSince I am trying to do smaller new things each week in addition to my weekly New Thing event, I decided to visit my international foods section of my grocery. After debating whether I wanted wasabi mayonnaise or Thai hot chili mayonnaise, I decided that I would have no idea what to do with either one of them and got myself a soda. I grabbed a Sidral Mundet, an apple flavored soda from Mexico, which came in a cool vintagey glass bottle.

First off, YUM! The soda was sweet, but didn’t taste artificially flavored. The best thing I can compare it to is a green candy apple from the fair. Or, apple flavored crack coated in sugar. It is caffeine free but I was wired after I drank it. I liked it so much that I went back to the store the next day and bought 3 more bottles (and I don’t even really like soda). I am really glad I decided to randomly try this new thing, I think it might be my new favorite drink.

Square Dancing

For week 11 of my 52 New Things we went square dancing. My friend Leigh, from last week’s painting class, accompanied me to the Laurel Theater for a night of frivolity. The Laurel Theater is absolutely gorgeous. It was originally built in 1898 and served as a Presbyterian church. At some point the building was converted to a performance arts space but nearly burned to the ground in 1982. However, the building has been renovated back to it’s original condition and was the perfect setting for a hoedown.

When we arrived, the band The Hellgrammites was playing. (Hellgrammites are little bugs that look like centipedes but with bigger legs. The band had awesome “Hellgrammite accessories,” or little sparkly plastic bugs you could pin to your clothing—Leigh tells me they were fishing bait.) The band was comprised of two fiddles, a banjo, a guitar, and (I think) a bass. They sounded great, and I hope to hear them play again.

Hellgrammites

Leigh and I did not bring dates so we partnered up on the first dance. This made things slightly confusing because we kept forgetting which one of us was supposed to be leading. However, this problem was quickly rectified when a gentleman, who was very serious about square dancing, asked us to dance. First Leigh, then me. He taught us the proper way to “swing our partner” and a few other steps. Throughout the evening we had a few different dance partners (including boys with Southern names like Rett and Bo).

SquareDancing1

I don’t recall any of the names of the dances, but we were taught several different moves and no two dances were alike. A few of the basic steps were the Dosado (two dancers passing around each other without turning their bodies), Allemande—though most of the night I thought she was saying “Alabama” (partners hold hands and rotate around each other), and Promenade (partners link hands and walk counter-clockwise, everyone usually did this in one large group). My favorite part of the night was a dance that called for one couple to raise their arms to form an arch while three other couples linked hands and ran through it. We had to run though at least 3 arches, which let to a lot of traffic jams and nearly running into other trains of people.

SquareDancing2

By the end of the evening the theater was packed. I was expecting an older crowd, but it was very diverse and mainly filled with younger people in their 20s and 30s. We even ran into one of our law professors. To quote Mean Girls, I love seeing teachers outside of school. It’s like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs. Surprisingly, it was BYOB, square dancers know how to have a good time. We finally left after 2.5 hours of dancing and we were too exhausted to continue.

SquareDancing3

Jubilee Arts hosts a wide variety of community events. We had such a great time square dancing that we intend to go back and try the different styles of dance they offer. My interest is particularly piqued by Scandinavian couple dancing (polkas, schottisches, and waltzes) and English country dancing (like in Jane Austen novels). What do you think I should try?

Thank You Instapundit
While I was square dancing I started getting alerts on my phone about new comments and followers on this blog. When I checked my blog metrics I noticed that I had several hundred more hits than I usually do in a given day. At first, I was very confused about what was happening. Then I realized it could only be one thing: An Instalanche.

Over the next 24 hours I received over 10,000 hits from 60 countries, including two I never heard of before (hello there Palau and Cook Islands). So, a big thank you to Prof. Glenn Reynolds and welcome to all my new visitors and followers. I hope you decide to stick around.

This note was waiting for me when I got to work the next day:

InstapunditNote

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