Sunday, March 03, 2002

It's late and I should be going to bed, but I'm not really feeling like going to bed right now. Simba's not in the room and I can sing to my heart's content without bugging him, and I think tonight I might actually have sung enough to content myself. I'm currently listening to my Disney playlist and feeling rather content.

I already gave most of the Viennese story to Kathelia, but I suppose there are others who are at least vaguely curious and since I'm not going to bed I guess I might as well post it.

So, to begin with, the night was pretty good. It wasn't the best night of my life and it certainly wasn't magical, but it was pretty good. I'm glad I went, glad I saw Shanah show off her stuff with partners who are good enough to let her be as good as she is. I'm glad I was able to do some good last night. I didn't go away sighing happily though, so if you want a story of a magical night you'll have to check out somebody else's blog. I recommend Blue Rose's. No, I'm not going to link you.

The day began with Shanah picking me up and driving me to Town and Country to pick up a purple rose for Dr. Lear. As a couple we had a pronounced purple theme going on, and the rose was so pretty that when I saw it (accompanying Archimedes on his corsage run) I couldn't resist. Shanah was on a tight schedule, of course, so I intended for her to drive me to the other florist, then to this one, then leave me so she wouldn't be late and I could just walk back. Naturally she refused. I don't know the details of her day so I can't say if that was a responsible decision or not, but it was certainly sweet of her. That's my Sweatshirt Girl. During the pickup, Rose called and asked if we could pick up her boutonniere, since her day was ... well, "hectic" sort of kind of begins to describe it. Everything would have been fine had the flower shop not messed up the order on the first try. Ai ya ... just like at my senior prom!

Anyway, for certain young ladies the whole getting ready thing was quite harrowing, but for myself it was really very mellow. I had time to do some more dev work on my equipment (yes, I'm doing worldbuilding at the same time: as of right now I not only have the geopolitical situation in Italy figured out, but I have a basic history of the past couple hundred years sketched out as well), take a shower, shave, and dress at a most leisurely pace. I even managed to get my bow tie straight enough that Rose didn't come up and straighten it, for which I commend myself.

At 1720 I headed down to Dr. Lear's room, corsage in hand and rose behind my back. She looked quite good, really, in her semi-slinky plum beaded gown, and while she didn't like her hair (it had these strands hanging down in various places which I wasn't sure was deliberate or not) I thought it was most becoming. We went well together as a couple, I'd say. We got over to Okada about 1725 or so I guess, where we took some pictures and eventually collected the rest of our group. Archimedes had apparently never worn a tux and didn't know what the little black buttons were for, so I (with thanks to my dear mother and sister) let him borrow one of mine. Sadly I didn't have spare cufflinks, but that's okay. Everybody looked really quite good, and the girls surprised us with pink-white roses. That was very sweet, quiaff?

I had the pleasurable experience of driving Dr. Object to the restaurant in San Jose, and in-car conversation was quite pleasant. Actually for the whole night I was quite pleased at how well the non-Tmony people were integrated into conversation and so forth; it really felt to me like we were one group instead of two. Our party got to the restaurant at 1900 hours, which left us precisely one hour to be paid for and out the door, food consumption optional. I strongly suspect that somebody else (probably Rose) would have taken charge if I hadn't, but it seemed to me that on the night of the Ball she shouldn't have to do that so I decided to dust off the take-charge subroutines and step up. Remarkably we had pretty much all eaten our dinners (my tagliata chianina, thin-sliced beef in this dark sauce, was absolutely delicious; best meal I've had in not-so-recent memory) and had paid by 2000 hours. There was a potential crisis when Dr. Lear realized she had no cash on her, but fortunately my experience at Zany Brainy has taught me that there's actually no hassle involved in paying a single bill with multiple credit cards, or a combination of cash and plastic. So that worked out quite well. Dr. Lear said I looked stressed, but really I felt pretty calm. I had forgotten how good it feels to take charge of things. No wonder people get addicted to it despite the stress it incurs.

Shanah had instructed me on where we should stand to get the best view of her in action, and despite our relatively late arrival the ballrooms were remarkably clear. That meant we got positively ideal seats. The opening ceremonies were about fifteen minutes late (thank you, Murphy) but that's ok. The Opening Committee ensemble was white dress or black tails with white gloves, white vest and bow tie (if male), and red rose boutonnieres. Very cool looking, if I do say so myself. I thought it was amusing that the Dance Master got a louder applause from the onlookers than any other honored guest, including the Austrian honorary consulate and the vice provost of the university. But really, he deserves it. What has the Austrian honorary consulate done for me lately, I ask you?

The Opening Committee moved like machines, by which I mean to say that they looked so tight that they might as well have all been tied to a single remote control. Well, okay, not really, but the next best thing to it. Really, they were very polished. Shanah said that during the waltz it was alternating fields of black and white as everybody rotated at precisely the same velocity - and she was right. Way, way cool.

So then the waltzing began. As I related in an eariler post, Dr. Lear and I waltz and polka together pretty darn well, and she's definitely game for any variation I want to try or make up. The ball rooms (there were two, one for waltz/polka and one for swing) were very large, big enough for several hundred people on each floor - and a good thing too! Goodness those dance floors were crowded! Despite this I daresay that Deirdre and I did quite well in waltzing together and staying [relatively] out of other peoples' space. Dr. Lear's dance shoes were not properly broken in, unfortunately, which gave her blisters. So she danced barefoot most of the night, which ended up working just fine since the floor was quite slippery.

The dance went from approximately 2030 to 0100, and I admit that I started feeling anxious about dancing with other people. Not that I don't like dancing with Deirdre, mind you, but I kept seeing people from Social II (or just Tmony girls) and thinking "ooh, I wish I could dance with her!" And I guess I could have, but I felt an unspoken social pressure (despite the Dance Master's admonition to the Social I class) to stick mostly with the girl I'd brought. The situation was somewhat complicated by the realization that not only was Deirdre's boyfriend present, but he was present with a group of people she knew. Which made me feel a little weird. Not that I felt bad about asking her, mind you! I could launch into a scathing tirade here about proper dance philosophy, but since this is not a forum for tirades suffice it to say that I asked her before they were a couple and therefore I was perfectly justified in going to the ball with her. However, I was feeling a little tied down, and a little like her tendency to gravitate towards the aforementioned group pulled me away from the presence of the people whom I knew. Ah, you will say, but had we hung around my friends she would have been put in my position! And that's true, I admit. I guess what was really getting at me was the cognitive dissonance between being at a social dance and being tied down to a single partner, which is really not the case at most Stanford social dances like Jammix.

We didn't spend an enormous amount of time in the swing room, but I did feel like my swing improved appreciably over the course of the night. That fact made it doubly unfortunate that my only dance with Rose was a swing which was simply too fast. And that was doubly unfortunate by the fact that her date was the Graduate, whom I strongly suspect could have handled a lindy hop even at that pace. Not that I feel competetive with him, mind you, but since the basic point of dancing in my opinion is to show your partner a good time it made me feel bad that I wasn't doing that while her normal partner probably could have. Waste of dance, if you will. But Rose was a good sport about it, which was very kind of her, so I didn't really feel too bad about it at all.

The best dance of the night, by head and shoulders, was with Thalassa. When I ran into her early in the night she wasn't having a good time; I'm not sure if her date ditched her or if she had just come without one in the first place and was feeling lonely because she didn't have a default partner. Either way, I felt bad - girls should not be left alone at the Viennese Ball, let alone a girl like Thal who had to miss last year's Ball quite against her will. So when I ran into her in the swing room I asked Dr. Lear if I could ask her to dance, and of course Deirdre said yes. So Thalassa and I went out onto the floor and danced a swing to Nat King Cole's "Orange Colored Sky," which I have taken the liberty of memorizing and will have added to my bag of songs-available-on-demand in a day or so. Fortunately I knew a bit of that song already, so I could sing along as we danced. Thal said she was in heaven. Quite frankly, so was I. Thal's a really slick dancer, for one thing, and I daresay we looked great out there. I don't know enough lindy hop to sustain a whole dance of it, but I do know several ways to go from eight-count swing to six-count and back again, and Thal complimented me on my transitions, which made me feel good. She's also a good partner, though, who really makes you (well, anyway she makes me feel this way) feel good about yourself when you dance with her. Take note, ladies and gentlemen! And finally, I admit that I have a fix-it complex of my own, so I'm a sucker for comments to the effect of "I'm in heaven - I'm dancing with a great guy who's singing to me!" Yes, she said that. Yes, it made me melt.

I also managed to get in a waltz with Shanah, which would have intimidated me a few weeks ago but does no longer. My attitude towards her style of following has shifted. Consider the following scenario: you're spinning around the floor, and suddenly your partner pulls you up short. If she hadn't done that, you see as you turn again, you would have collided. Now, you can call that back-leading if you want to, but really it's not. It's just her looking out for you, and trying to make sure you have the best time possible. Things like that happen with Shanah all the time, and once I got over the fact that I can't see in two directions at once I suddenly started enjoying dancing with her a lot. She was feeling pretty down at the end of the night when we danced, but she put on one of those smiles of hers that I love so much, "only for you." Well, maybe not only for me, but in this case it was for me. Not because she felt like smiling but because she knew I'd appreciate it. Which meant that I did appreciate it.

So that was pretty much my Viennese experience. Not a waste of time or money, not really, but I'm not at all sure that I'll go next year. Especially if Shanah isn't on the Opening Committee again.

If I've worked my sentencecraft well, by now you'll be able to figure out that today I was feeling kind of a post-Viennese let-down. Not like post-show blues, where you're sad that a good thing will never come again. More like "what, was that it?" I went to a Veritas Forum lecture to cheer me up, but it didn't really although the paper presented was good. What did cheer me up was going to Twain's Cafe Night.

Cafe Night is a sort of quarterly event here in the dorm whereby various dormfolk gather to enjoy experiencing one another's artsy sides. We have a number of guitar players, singer-songwriters, poets, etc. in the dorm. The performances tonight were, objectively speaking, pretty mediocre on average. But that didn't matter. The atmosphere was very friendly, the snacks were plentiful, everybody was laid back, and I honestly enjoyed hearing every single one of the presentations tonight.

What it reminded me of was something the Director used to tell us before a show: you don't know who's coming out of the dark to sit in your audience, but chances are somebody's having a really bad day. Your performance can let them forget their troubles and send them back out into the world with a smile. I realized that tonight I was that person, and it made me remember, on the level of emotional memory, why performing is worthwhile. It made me want to get up there and share that gift with my dormmates. So I did, at the last minute. I sang "Orange Colored Sky," and it didn't go great but that was really just fine.

It also made me think of Twilight and the Jimmy Jane Blues Party. You know what I'd like right now? To be back in the Valley, sit down with him, a guitar, and a set of lyrics, and sing a JJBP song. Something like "Come On, Betsy." I think it'd feel really good to sit down with my best friend and some music and just cut loose with my voice. Ah, but that'll have to wait, I suppose. Good night, ladies and gentlemen.

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