Sometimes I think I am strange

I have the uncanny ability to fall in love with concepts, activities and places. Lately, I’ve been drawn in to bachata, but it has to split time with salsa and kizomba. I want to learn how to dance bachata Dominican-style, but I don’t know how or where to squeeze it in to my schedule. For now, I just get all goose bump-y when I hear Romeo Santos or Juan Luis Guerra. I am giddy!

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I’m sort of sweet on trombone players

On Wednesday, I went to see Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue at the zoo. After missing their show in February 2011 due to illness (two-month virus – yuck!), I was lucky enough to catch them at Bumbershoot last year. I love their sound!

For some reason horns turn me on. Over the years, I’ve started listening to more and more jazz, mostly infused with latin beats or funk. Trombone Shorty has mastered the trombone and trumpet. He has a great voice, too, but I do favor the instrumental pieces because he engages in such great dialogue when he blows.

Here’s a taste…

La vida te da sorpresas, sorpresas te da la vida, ay Dios

I created the moniker Mswandergirl because I wander a lot and love to explore new places.

Last week, I took some time off from work so that I could go to the Hollywood Bowl for a Latin Music festival. Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the LA Philharmonic and my curly-headed Venezuelan brother, organized America & Americans in order to recognize and celebrate American music that was born in Latin America.

Geri, Javi and I made the trek down to LA. We rented a cute little VRBO cottage in Hollywood that was within walking distance (although uphill, so I was sweating somethin’ fierce) of the Hollywood Bowl.

On Tuesday night, we saw Dudamel, the LA Philharmonic and Juan Luis Guerra. It was definitely bucket list material for me. At some point a couple of years ago, I downloaded almost all of Juan Luis Guerra’s CDs on to my computer. He sings beautiful bachatas and lively merengues that are simply feel good tunes. Geri couldn’t get over her adoration for Dudamel that evening – she kept screaming, “I love you,” hoping that he would catch a glimpse of her in box 1688. She is moved by classical music and also taunted by his charisma.

Tuesday night was great, but it could only be topped by the main event (for me) on Wednesday. Eddie Palmieri and his orchestra opened the show. I had seen them a couple of years ago at Jazz Alley and it was one of those ‘more fun than usual’ nights for me. Karen and I sat in the front row making goo-goo eyes at the band during the first set. I love the sound of Latin jazz and did not want to leave when the set was over. We decided to stay for a second round. The band manager apparently recognized our enthusiasm and comped us for both shows. I love it when that happens! At the Hollywood Bowl, I wasn’t quite close enough for eye contact, but I loved to see them again just the same. They had a kick-ass Puerto Rican vocalist that was really fun to watch.

After the break, I realized one of my lifelong (at least since I was 22ish) dreams. I finally got to see Ruben Blades live. I am in love with this man. He is the epitome of a renaissance man – poet, singer, actor, Harvard law graduate, presidential candidate in Panama, etc. – and the most mature man that I would be willing to marry. Jajaja. When I was in Panama in May, I tried to find my way to his home, but all I that could gather were rumors rather than directions. He was elegant and his voice was rich. He let us know that he likes to banter, but time was short so he wanted to play a full set with no talking. He left me wanting for more.

The weather was beautiful, the music was grand and the time spent together was priceless. I can’t wait to see who is in the lineup next year!

Some things never change

My adult salsa student self is oddly reminiscent of my 14-year-old soccer player self. In class, I am slightly obnoxious, giggly and showboating (trying to maneuver fancy shines) when the instructor isn’t looking. Tonight, she told me to stop laughing. I remember having to run laps around Yauger Park for laughing. Serious training is serious business, so I guess I have to grow up just a little bit. 

I had the most wonderful weekend

My goodness, I danced and danced and danced all weekend long. I didn’t even go to all of the dance events because I needed a little rest (and because I had to work this morning).

On Thursday night, I went to Century Ballroom for salsa. I was super excited because it was the first time that I would see Sara and Albir dancing kizomba live (they performed a demo). They did not disappoint. I had a great night as I met and danced with a few new leads.

On Friday night, Inca T and I went to the kizomba social. I’ve been talking a lot about kizomba and I was glad that someone finally decided to accompany me to an event. Yay! It was another great night of dancing – there were a lot of people there and I got to catch up with some of the leads that were in my summer classes.

We got down to business on Saturday and Sunday. Sara and Albir hosted a workshop and I learned a lot about moving my bunda. For some reason, I thought that Sara and Albir were these larger than life kizomba warriors, but in reality they were a very fun and down-to-earth duo. We ignored the blazing heat and worked our way through tarraxa, kizomba patterns and semba.

The music is fun. The dancing is fun. The community is fun. I had the best time!

I eased my way out of the weekend with dinner with Brenda on Alki. The evening was postcard-worthy as the sky bled pink as the sun went down. It was the perfect way to unwind before heading back to work today.

For the first time in the while, I thought, ‘right place.’

Salsa playlist and other fun stuff

O.M.G. Work zapped me today and I had just about zero energy when I stopped by my house this evening. Although I felt depleted, I mustered the strength to change in to my dancing clothes and hit up my salsa class.

My instructor has made it very clear to me that I have to practice more on my own in order to take my dancing to the next level. Sometimes I dance in the kitchen (because I can turn on the tile), but I need more space and a mirror to check out my frame and practice spotting. I’ve decided to use the 24 Hour Fitness aerobics room to go through my salsa drills. I put together a practice playlist for the week, which was a wee bit challenging as I have to find fun songs with a diversity of tempo and transitions. I found myself downloading a slew of Hector Lavoe tunes – how I wish that I had discovered salsa in the 80s. In any case, these are the jams that made the final cut:

Micaela ~ Sonora Carruseles
Yo no se manana ~ Luis Enrique
Lloraras ~ Oscar D’Leon (mi papa… jejeje)
Rebelion ~ Joe Arroyo
He tratado ~ Victor Manuelle
Que locura enamorarme de ti ~ Eddie Santiago
Pedro Navaja ~ Ruben Blades
Brujeria ~ El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico
Se le ve ~ Andy Montanez y Daddy Yankee
Calle luna calle sol ~ Hector Lavoe
Un monton de estrellas ~ Gilberto Santa Rosa

(note: I’m too lazy to look for letters with acentos y tildes at this late hour)

In addition to salsa, I’m looking forward to a fun-filled weekend of kizomba. This beautiful couple will be hosting a workshop at Century Ballroom.

We’re lucky that we have an active kizomba community here in Seattle with some seasoned dancers that are great at networking. I fell in love with kizomba earlier this year. While salsa dancing is very structured and disciplined, kizomba is a bit more sensual and flojo (I don’t really pick my feet up off of the floor). The music draws me in because it is reminiscent of 90s R&B and is mostly sung in Portuguese. I’ve been studying Portuguese via Rosetta Stone so that I can understand what the hell that they are saying.

It is safe to say that dance has taken over my life in a positive way. When all else fails, I can count on the joy that I feel when I lose myself in music.

Well, sometimes the hips don’t lie…

and this week the left one has been screaming, “owwwie!” Could this be my first dance injury? Last week, I went out to a club (as in club-club, drunk people circling the club, beer on the dance floor club) to see some friends play. I didn’t want to wear my dance kicks so I wore street shoes. Bad move!! My rubber soles were sticking to the floor all night. I was trying to twist and turn, but my sandals were not having it. I woke up in pain the next morning, but I kept dancing Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday… I was really hurting yesterday, so I started stretching and that seems to help. I’ve been having so much fun that ‘overuse’ and ‘rest’ are words that did not cross my mind. I’m amping up the self-care.

The Church says: the body is a sin.
Science says: the body is a machine.
Advertising says: The body is a business.
The Body says: I am a fiesta.

~ Eduardo Hughes Galeano

Feliz año nuevo!

Well, hello 2012!

New Year’s Eve was a quiet Saturday night for me. I turned on the tunes and threw some pollo cubano in the slow cooker (it is debatable whether or not they would actually make this style of dish in Cuba, but I digress…). I cleaned house. I chit-chatted with some of my favorite people on the planet. December was a great month for me and I just wanted to savor that last day in my own way.

I’m such a big thinker, that I often mentally catalogue potential resolutions or changes that I can make throughout the year to live a better life. If I tried to implement every single one of them, I would go insane (sorry Earth, I will likely still be a half-assed composter in 2012). I know that I am a work in progress and, as crazy as it may sound, I really work hard at loving every day. Not making love, just giving and feeling it. Love really makes life fun! I hope that it helps me to understand other peeps and myself a little bit better, too. Go love!

Beyond love, I have a big, big dream for 2012. I want to be a better dancer!! I love salsa music and want to be able to tear it up on the dance floor, especially the next time that I visit PR. I’ve always been able to do the ‘basic’ steps (in the most beginners sort of way), but my turns are a nightmare. I have to submit to being a good follow. My goal is to dance every single week this year, whether it be classes, clubs or good old house parties.

I’m really looking forward to the coming months. I will be meeting up with some of my peeps that live outside of Seattle, I’ll get to catch up with a slew of folks at my 20-year high school reunion (what?!?) and I’ll spend more time giggling and creating memories with mi familia. Love you all!!

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum

Last night I hit up rum club at La Isla Puerto Rican Restaurant in Ballard. La Isla is one of my favorite and definitely my most frequented bar. I do love all of the folks that I run into there. I also love rum and they have one of best selections in Seattle.

This Rum Bum get-together was all about testing and training the palette. For the first ‘taste,’ I had to plug my nose, roll a jellybean around on my tongue to analyze the sensations and then take a swig of rum. Sweet and sour stimulate different taste buds and salivary glands – once you know where that is in your mouth, it is easer to figure out if the alcohol has fruity or acidic nodes. I’m going to be straight up with you and let you know the I usually guess on the nodes. Now, I hope that I can make more educated guesses and, ojala, hit the jackpot from time to time.

After warming up our mouths, we tasted six locally infused rums. The apricot/orange peel (I guessed grapefruit) was the most clean and crisp. The anise was delicious, although overpowering. At half-time (after third infused rum), food started rolling out. We nibbled on tostones, fried yuca, sweet potato fries and chicharrones. La Isla has reached a good balance of pouring tastes and serving enough food so that I can get to work the next day.

This was a great introductory session for folks who are new to tasting. I suspect that they will repeat this format from time to time. I do look forward to next month when they will be cracking open some yet-to-be-announced sugar-sweet delights. Rum, I love you.