Unending Epilogue 22

May 2011

May 15

I suppose that the end result is I skipped DCDC featuring Magna Gopal for a Salsa evening at Johns Hopkins starring ... never mind. I don't regret my choice and decision, however.

I arrived around 6:30. The ratio of men to women quite skewed in favor of followers upon my arrival. Although the ratio evened out near the finish, I spent more time not dancing than dancing.

Still, I really enjoyed 6-9 of the dances tonight. I also had more On2 dances than On1. Dancing many times with same person was a pleasure I had missed since leaving Cambridge. I think I had plenty of workout - which may mean that I am simply out of shape, of course.

I thought this might be the end of Salsa Sundays (1st and 3rd Sundays) at the Homewood Campus for this term, but I was told that this event will continue through the summer. It would be interesting to see if how the attendance would be like. The one I danced with three times last month was here this time, but it sounded like she would be away for next 3 weeks or so.

An amusing tidbit was that everyone I talked to and learned about what they are doing are doing some biology-related studies. I guess that's what you get for being at Johns Hopkins.

Unending Epilogue 21

April 2011

April 17

I had been considering making a trip to a Salsa event at Johns Hopkins University at the Homewood campus in Baltimore ever since January - in part because it would be so convenient to attend for me and in part because it would be a new place and a change of pace. It also cost nothing (no entry fee, etc). From mid-January to mid-May, the event is held on 1st and 3rd Sundays of the month. I finally made this trip today.

The last time I went Salsa dancing was in November last year. Thus this break lasted a little over 5 months.

A Facebook invitation by the DJ Jesus was the trigger. He said the beginner lessons should end around 6. I think it ended around 6:30 – a rough estimate because I was without a timekeeping device.

I sat out the first three songs - waited until the third song started to change my shoes. I wasn’t expecting to dance On2. I was quite surprised to find the first four of my dances to be On2. Then again, I knew three of the followers so it was not a big shocker – especially after the surprise On2 dance with a first-time partner.

The event had a feel of SOS in some ways - social as opposed to a club... also it's Sunday! The venue (Glass pavillion) was airy, and sunlight provided light for a great part of my time there. The floor was of even smooth stone surface - no big complaints.

It ended up being a nice mix of On1 and On2 dancing for me. I stayed until around 8:40, which was a bit later than I had expected originally. I had repeat dances with three followers – two asked me for a second, and I asked one for a third. Overall, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way it went.

Life is busy. If things go well, I may go out dancing very seldom for foreseeable future - even though I had quite a good time this time out.

April 23

It seems I often end up eating my words when I reveal them to others these days. I went to DCDC this evening. So, I guess things are not going so well?

Perhaps... Perhaps not...

In any case, I won't try to predict my future Salsa patterns. Chances are pretty good that I will go out in May.

As for DCDC itself, it was very steamy. It took a while for me to start dancing because I was getting wet just standing. After a little while, I jumped in. It was fine, but I can't imagine doing this often if the conditions are like this. And, it's very hard to imagine it not being very crowded and very hot with Magna visiting next time.

Perhaps the most remarkable item of note I feel like adding is that I wore my contact lens for the first time in a very long time.

Unending Epilogue 20

November 2010

I thought I only went out once in November. Checking my other diary, I see that I went out twice.

Nov 9 was a BD night. My diary entry was as follows.

I went to Barking Dog. It was rather quiet. The music was rather eclectic and not always in a good way. I don't like leading with a lot of tension – it’s bad for self-preservation. This was brought upon by reading suggestions from salsaforums.com after posting a video of me (via Brendan) from a venue near Baltimore. If Tish had not been there, it would have qualified as a poor night. String of mediocre nights continues.

Nov 13 was a DCDC night. My diary entry is only of things written before I went there as follows.

I’m not particularly excited about going to tonight’s Salsa event. In some ways I regret posting that video for suggestions for improvement. I’m not sure if I want to get away from leading lightly – the alternative is rather painful and unpleasant.

My recollection is that I did not enjoy the evening. This was more because of my internal state rather than because of anything particularly wrong with DCDC. I thought I might be ready for a break from Salsa - at least in DC. Going to the regular spots in DC seemed to bring too much painful memory (not caused by Salsa but specific to Salsa outings) and often not enough joy from dancing to overcome it, and non-regular spots inspire me even less. I did not even say a proper goodbye to Tanya.

I thought maybe I would get back in January. However, seeing that it is now pretty late in December and considering that my mood lately, I would not bet on returning in January.

Unending Epilogue 19

October 2010

I seem to have picked a lot of poorly attended events this month.

Oct 23. DCDC. Quiet night. I probably missed a better party on the second Saturday with BioRitmo. A guy dressed up as Prince circa 1984 won the costume contest. I wonder if skin color matters much in the DC Salsa scene - I thought I might be seeing a certain pattern. I left fairly early. I also came to thinking that if I were to get a Salsa lesson (presumably a private lesson) from someone in DC, I probably would ask Steve Martin.

Oct 25. I went to Clarendon Grill for the first time this year. Two early dance declines made for a weak start, and the costume contest seemed to go on forever. A woman dressed as smurfette won the costume contest (a Raggedy Ann repeat from last year came in second). Tanya was the only one from my On2 crowd to show up. Olga was the lifesaver.

Oct 30. The Halloween party at Chevy Chase Ballroom had a fairly low attendance. I stayed until closing at 2 AM anyway, and I ended up having plenty of dances anyway. The three winners of the costume contest were the really young girl, Luz and someone in Batgirl (?) costume. Brandon showed up late.

The Argentine Tango 6-lesson session ended on a whimper. I also attended three free Argentine Tango practica this month. The practica experience was more intimidating compared to the small class experience - I did not feel talented at all. One thing I learned over the three weeks of practica was that leading involves minimal use of hands - the leading is done almost exclusively with the chest. The practica also ended on something of a whimper - the first night was the most interesting and impressive and the last night was the least impressive because of poor attendance. Because of my plans in Baltimore, I don't expect to get back to Tango until 2011 at the earliest.

A Mexican Wedding

October 1-3, 2010

I used to pride myself on being frugal. Now I feel shame when pinching pennies. Maybe it is because I think I’m doing it out of necessity more than anything else. The decision to buy the airplane ticket to San Diego was triggered by a realization that I needed it to get myself out of a deep malaise. Yet when I booked a rental car from Budget, I cringed. This sort of expense did not bother even when I was a student. Another thing that made me cringe was the weather forecast in Mexicali. The forecast called for a high temperature of 107 degrees Fahrenheit for the date of the wedding.

I was in need of a book to read for this trip, and I realized this too late to buy a book before the trip started. I chose to buy Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed at the Borders bookstore in Houston over The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes. Lord of Finance is about the four central bankers in the USA, the UK, France and Germany in the years leading up to the Great Depression. It made for a surprisingly good read.

When I arrived at the connecting gate in Houston, I sat next to a woman with a long flowing blond hair with a look somewhat reminiscent of Blake Lively on the television show Gossip Girl. I suppose sitting next to her (or more precisely the next seat over) did not make it easy for me to observe her because the only thing I remember about her aside from the general aura was that she had a fresh cut or scratch on her ankle. When she got up immediately upon the first call for boarding, I figured that she booked first class. When I boarded the airplane and walked down the airplane to my row, I looked around to see if my guess was right. I was wrong. I noticed her sitting all the way in the back where there were only two seats as opposed to three seats for the coach class. I had not realized such seating arrangements sometimes in the rear of the plane! Oh well. Instead I got stuck with a big black man with a baby boy of perhaps 2-3 years of age on his lap.

On my first time flying alone, I got into a nice long conversation with a lovely young woman from Europe. I can’t remember if she was from France, Sweden – my best guess is Finland. In any case she probably still is my favorite random passenger in the next seat on an airplane. The second time I flied alone, I sat next to a woman carrying a girl toddler. This flight started out pleasant enough except the kid became sick and threw up on the seat next to mine. This wasn’t as good. With the memory of the barfing kid, I was full of trepidations about this light skinned black baby boy without his own seat. Sure enough, he screamed several times during the flight and his wandering hands reached for my iPod, book, trousers, etc. throughout most of the flight. I also had some drops of milk landing on my clothes. No doubt the father of the child had the most to deal with. Only a series of turbulences we experienced while descending to land in San Diego did the kid fall asleep. My sound isolating earphones were a godsend for maintaining my solitude.

While I was in the San Diego airport, I took advantage of free wi-fi to check my mail check facebook. I saw the groom’s facebook update stating that the weather forecast calls for not only the high temperature of 107, but also 90% humidity!

Getting a rental car at Budget took a bit more time than I would have liked. The Mexican insurance turned out to be $25 per day rather than $25 flat for the trip. I wasn’t able to get the rental company to hold $200 instead of $500 from my bank account using my debit card so I decided to make a transfer of funds from my savings account to my checking account. I suppose this is one inconvenience of not having a real credit card. I also had to get a printout of my flight schedule for renting the car. Thus I had to endure two trips to Budget’s computer, which required entering of a passkey upon loading every new web page. I felt rather pathetic about everything – lack of money, credit, and confidence.

Then I got on the road and drove. As I made my way out of the city heading east, the scenery became progressively more interesting. I had seen many mountains before, but these were quite unlike I had ever seen before. The mix of color – red, yellow, green, white – was unique. There were countless rocks looking more like pebbles from the distance but turning into huge smooth rounded boulders when near. I had seen many mountains before, but these here were something else altogether. The terrain had such unique and dazzling visual quality. A mix of blue skies and dark thundering clouds overhead with occasional showers made it even more hypnotic. After the descent from the mountains came the desert – a raining desert. I told myself that this drive by itself already made this trip worthwhile. Now only if I had someone to share this experience with...

I stopped by Wal-Mart in Calexico to buy some water and more toothpaste. Immediately upon returning to the main route to the border crossing, I hit a traffic jam. It probably took over half hour to get to the border crossing. I am unsure what caused the traffic jam – the traffic lights were not working, but I thought the start of the Fiesta Del Sol (lasting from Oct 1-17 although I don’t really know what it is about) might have been the reason.

Another friend of mine, Matt, and I had agreed to meet for dinner at the hotel Araiza Mexicali. I met Matt and his pregnant wife Erin and we gabbed away the night. Erin is due in January, and their baby boy is to be named Eliot DeWitt. Back in their hotel room, the groom, Ignacio, joined us there. Ignacio and I both left well after 10 to return to our rooms. I went to bed slightly after midnight.

Saturday morning, I was partially awake by 6:30 local time. I got up after 7:30 to take a shower before taking the car to check out the city of Mexicali. First I headed to the Civic Centre area (on the corner of Independencia and Anahuac). I missed it completely the first time around because the area was so nondescript. After making a U-turn, I first checked out the bullfighting stadium on Calafia and Independencia nearby. Salon Premier (where the wedding reception was to be held later tonight) was across the bullfighting stadium on Calafia. I had my car parked there for maybe 10 minutes while a heavy rainfall passed by and caused a big flooding. A guy walking past saw me taking some photos and tried to engage in some conversation with me. I think he might have said something about television and perhaps he was trying to get me to publicize poor infrastructure in this city to the outside world, but I am far from sure about this. After checking out the bullfighting arena from another side, I returned to Independencia and Anahuac. My reaction was – what exactly makes this area Civic Centre? The most notable building appeared to be a concert hall of sorts – the building itself looked clean as opposed to decrepit. There was a Chinese restaurant on the opposite corner. A convenience store was on the side where I parked my car. I am not sure if there was a building on the fourth corner. In summary this Civic Centre area was far from picturesque – calling it downright ugly might be unkind but not necessarily unfair. Next to the convenient store was a liquor store of some sorts adverting 96% alcohol – maybe 20-40 different bottles of varying degree of dubiousness and all of them cheap (I think everything was under 100 pesos, which would be less than $10 – and many were under 50 pesos). On the sides of the store were a huge number of plastic jugs – possibly for moonshine production. On the other side of the store had large number of grain bags. Further along the sidewalk, I saw a tree stump in a rather incongruous location closer to the buildings than the road. There were some stores (e.g. a tuxedo shop) further up, but they were still closed – understandable since this was still very early Saturday morning (not even 9 AM). I returned to my car trying to decide whether to go in search of more sightseeing options and I decided that I would try to return to the Chinatown area, which I had seen a little last night (garish!). However, I only went up the road part of the way before turning around because I decided that I had seen enough last night. I did note that there were newer buildings along route 5. Places like Carl’s Jr had buildings with decorations for whatever its worth. They had modern-looking cinema. I saw a Sears building. There was a stretch spanning several blocks worth of road with nice trees in the middle of the road dividing northbound and southbound parts of the road. I was feeling bad about having only taken “ugly” pictures thus far so I tried to make up by taking these “nicer” pictures. I then went back towards the hotel before checking out the drive to the church where the wedding would be held. Lack of street signs past the “I” hampered my search for the church, but I did find it eventually with the recollection about Matt referring to it as a blue-colored church. After a little over one hour of wandering, I returned to the hotel where I ran into Matt and Erin at the lobby getting ready to have their breakfast. I joined them for a breakfast buffet and to tell them of my morning adventure.

After the breakfast, I went back to my hotel room and took a short nap lasting about an hour. I read. I wrote a little. I checked the weather. Presumably because of unexpected rain falling down periodically all morning, the temperature was much cooler than originally predicted – in the high 70s. What a change of luck – Ignacio caught a break! I had a late lunch (quesadillas) by room service in my room.

The wedding ceremony lasted a bit over an hour. Considering that Brenda had 12 older siblings, I thought this was a small wedding. I figured early on that it wasn’t going to be a short service, yet I fooled myself a few times that it would end soon. I guess it was a Catholic wedding. According to Matt, Catholic service could have entailed a mass, which would have made the ceremony even longer. I think Matt was a little taken aback by Brenda in her wedding dress – maybe she looked younger and prettier than he expected.

Peter made it to the wedding. He arrived in San Diego last night and booked a hotel there for both Friday and Saturday night. After checking out the beach in the morning, he only made it to border crossing around 3 – or about one hour before the wedding started. A Harvard law school friend of Ignacio made our party a five-some. This law school friend apparently worked for Rod Blagojevich, the disgraced ex-Illinois governor.

The five of us decided to spend nearly 3 hours between the wedding and the start of the reception at the hotel bar. I directed Peter back to the hotel while the law school friend went back with Matt and Erin. Ignacio and Brenda’s wedding car with tin cans tied to the rear of the car took a scenic route back to the hotel, and random cars in the road honked their klaxon congratulating the wedding party – Peter was impressed by this display by the Mexicans.

My guess is that it would have been better if the reception started right after the wedding serving hors d’oeuvre for perhaps 1.5 hours while they spent the time taking photographs, etc. Peter and I were among the first to arrive at the reception. The first to arrive were Noelia and her mother from New York City. Apparently Ignacio met Noelia while living in NYC, and apparently they were quite close friends for a while – at least until Brenda turned up. I sat next to Noelia and developed a nice rapport with her and later with her mother.

The main attraction of the reception was the Mexican band comprising of 19 musicians and dancers. I wonder if the dancers were more successful in preventing the attendees from venturing out to dance. The band was pretty good although I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the music.

People were very late in arriving at the reception, and the venue was not full until 10. They started serving food well after 10, and people did not start dancing until after 11. Peter had been looking forward to some dancing, but he had to leave early. At one point Peter and I decided to go spy on the kitchen area because Peter smelled food. When the salad was served, Peter was a bit reluctant to eat it – he was afraid of Mexican water used to wash the salad. He was afraid of getting sick in the airplane next day.

Noelia said she liked Salsa and Merengue dancing but not Bachata. She said she went to Latin clubs, which suggested to me that she was not at all familiar with socials in NYC. In any case, I ended up dancing with her and/or her mother several times when people finally started dancing. Merengue was better than Salsa. Noelia and I ended the night by taking Ignacio and Brenda for the final song of the night.

Because I wanted to avoid a potentially long queue at the border crossing, I got up early at 6:45. I was checked out of the hotel and on the road by 7:30. Crossing the border took only about 5 minutes. I had Egg Muffin in MacDonald’s in Calexico before hitting route 8 back to San Diego. The scenery along the road still impressed me despite the loss of first-time shock value. Coming down from the mountains, I descended into an impressive fog or cloud over San Diego. I reached San Diego city limits before 10 so I decided to do some sightseeing and to check out the beach. Getting to the beach was more complicated than I expected, and I spent more time driving than I would have liked. I am unsure if driving along the beaches of the Fiesta island, which is located in the Fiesta bay, should be considered worthwhile. I finally made it to the Pacific ocean to the north of Belmont Park around 10:45. This beach is called Mission Beach. The sand here looked as good as Ocean City while the waves here looked bigger. I suppose I didn’t have much time to linger in any case, but I decided to take off and not spend time reflecting and feeling sorrow. Later I learned that Coronado Beach to the south is considered the best beach in this area so I did not get to see the best of the best here.

I arrived at Budget to return the car at 11:05 or 5 minutes after the scheduled time. I would say that among the major rental car agencies, Budget had the least convenient and visible location. I left them my unused bottled water from Calexico. I ate lunch using MacDonald’s once again (Southern fried chicken sandwich) thinking that there would be nothing substantial to eat in the airplane. I was not quite right – they served a cheeseburger. I had a not-so-bright idea to take out my camera out of the big bag and move it to the laptop bag. By doing this, I had to take out my iPod out of the bag. I think I had my iPod in my hand when I walked into the airplane and left the iPod on the edge of the seat before sitting down. I noticed that there was a power outlet in my row, and I tried to take advantage of it. Unfortunately the arrival of middle seat passenger made it very difficult to spot the outlet second time. Later I noticed that I dropped my earphone case in the crack between my seat and the walls of the airplane. I think all this frustration led me to forget my iPod when I walked out of the airplane.

My connecting flight to Baltimore was delayed by more than an hour. I noticed that I had lost my iPod. I sat by a charging station to keep my laptop powered up while I resumed writing my diary. I was so tired by then, and solitude made me sad.

The final leg to Baltimore was cold. Everyone was suffering from the cold air blowing down from above including an old black man and a young girl, who may have been his daughter or more likely his granddaughter, sitting next to me. There was a flight attendant, who helped me with reporting my lost iPod. Although they did not locate my iPod, the flight attendant was very pleasant and beyond reproach. The flight arrived in Baltimore a bit past midnight.

After the trip, I felt drained and exhausted at many levels. Perhaps it is because I am here again, and nothing has changed.

Unending Epilogue 18

September 2010

The number of Salsa outing jumped considerably this month. Hmm.

September 7 - Barking Dog. The drive there was unpleasant because the contact lens on my left eye was bothersome. The DJ was Sonero, and the music was common. Dancing was generally better than it was last week.

...thoughts in between...

What’s Salsa for? I suppose it is good for cheap thrills, superficial social life and exercise of sorts. Getting into Salsa dancing was a positive and important experience for me, but I don’t feel so dependent on it anymore.

... ...

September 11 - DCDC celebrating Tommy Smith’s birthday was an impressive party. It was the biggest and best DCDC party in memory. The number of out of town people was unusual. About the only regret was that I couldn’t dance with them all.

September 14 - Barking Dog. Pretty good. I forgot about the cologne.

...a surprising statement heard...

H said the most surprising thing to me Friday night. She said I should keep going out Salsa dancing! What has come over her? I could understand why S changed her mind, but I was rather flabbergasted to hear H say it.

... ...

September 21 - Oh wow. I had not expected that I would have found tonight’s Salsa outing to Barking Dog to provide such a crutch! I was such a poor mood before I got there. I’m glad I had it as a drug to get me off from depression and malaise. Even a simulation of passion is better than nothing at all. Even though fake pretend love cannot complete replace a real one, it alleviates the pain of loss of one. I would guess that this was a merely better than average night, but it did well to make me forget my weariness.

September 25 - DCDC. Salsa. It gives. It takes away. In times of desperation, fake passion helps. In times of contentment, fake makes you long for something real. This seems to summarize my feelings after another night out Salsa dancing on a Saturday night. The dancing was pretty good to start with, but I ran out of steam early - not at all helped by heat and humidity brought upon by too many people attending to celebrate Jimmy's birthday.

In addition, I signed up for a 6-lesson of Tango via my university alumni group. The reason for me is more social than learning a new dance although getting a taste of a different dance seem like a reasonable backup plan. These lessons started on September 20 and will run to early October. The Tango style taught supposedly is Salon style within the Argentine Tango umbrella. Through three sessions, we have gone over walking, syncopated steps, weight transfer, leaning forward, hold, musical interpretation, etc but no figures thus far.

Unending Epilogue 17

August 2010

Once again, there was only one Salsa outing this month. This time it was the second Saturday DCDC because there was no fourth Saturday DCDC.

DCDC – I took a fair number of photos because I thought this could be the last time. In any case the writing (the end) is on the wall. This time I accepted a Bachata. A couple of Cha Cha were great. Salsa was sloppy at times, but it was okay. People in the photos include Jimmy, Tanya, Brandon, Diana, Leah, Kim, Rafa, and Steve.

I had considered asking my girlfriend if I should quit Salsa to please her. I never got the chance because she decided to end the relationship. So am I going back to more Salsa outings than I had been most of this year? Not exactly. My (Salsa) future here is quite uncertain - there is a decent chance that I would move to another part of the country - and the new place may not have much in terms of Salsa outing options.


This was added later. I ended up going out for the second time in August... August 31 to be exact.

I went to the Barking Dog. Admission was $10 because of some performances – Keith Given’s group and Ceci Villalobos’s Salsa Fuego. I saw Tish for the first time in ages. Ditto Danisha. The outing was a pleasant enough distraction, but I see that nothing has changed in the Salsa scene here in the DC area as far as I am concerned in certain social manners.

Unending Epilogue 16

July 2010

Another month with just one outing - and there was a serious jeopardy of me not going to that one because of a family function. In fact I had told one inquirer that I was unlikely to attend. The venue was DCDC for the fourth Saturday once again. It's perhaps pathetic that the clincher for attending was the GF dropping out of a dinner party because of allergies.

Incidentally I now keep a diary, which I keep private.

The fourth Sat DCDC this month was a very hot and humid affair. Even without moving I was getting drenched. I'm guessing I danced considerably less than I would have otherwise. DJs were EricB and . The local DJs bought an appreciation plaque for the Smiths. There was a performance by the group led by the promoter of Monday nights at CG, which will be closed for renovations until September. The heat drove me downstairs for a while where Brandon and I ended up using his iPod for some music selections. I was asked for a Bachata downstairs, but this time I declined. I chose Nabori and Rumbon Melon.

Unending Epilogue 15

June 2010

No second Saturday DCDC. I was free but did not go.

No DC Congress. There was a possibility of going until Saturday evening. I decided to hang out with someone else instead.

I did go to the fourth Saturday DCDC if nothing else to stop myself from going completely rusty. I only stayed for 2 hours but did manage to dance with everyone I wanted to dance with - at least for the ones there. It was a zouk performance night.

Unending Epilogue 14

May 2010

It was another one-night-out-for-the-month. This is also a very late entry - by nearly a month. The venue visited was DCDC for the fourth Saturday. No dances with many of the old favorites usually would have spelled trouble. All things considered, it wasn't bad. I was asked for a Bachata while downstairs - a surprise. So why the infrequent outings? It's the obvious option number 1 - new GF does not dance, etc.