Friday, September 25, 2015

I Think My Exercise Classes are Twerking

We all have them, those moments of clarity when in the midst of some activity, the fog that lingers around old memories like a Vaseline covered camera lens dissipates and the memory becomes focused but the meaning and understanding of the memory have a newer, deeper perspective. That happened to me just this morning and the result was life altering - sort of.

When I was a little girl, like many little girls, I took ballet lessons and then later modern dance and jazz.  As a teenager I stopped formal lessons but, along with my friends, went to night clubs to dance- mostly in Canada which, in retrospect was intuitive given what I have just figured out.

I've always been active.  In the 90s I did step aerobics, then in the 2000s I moved to kick-boxing.  I loved the kickboxing.  There is something cathartic about kicking and punching a bag and I did this with a core group faithfully through 4 instructors before my knee gave out followed by the demise of my commitment to any structured exercise class.  What was next? Running. A friend of mine decided one day to train for a marathon (yes, just like that) so in solidarity I decided to train for a 5k (you know because it's ALMOST the same) and much to my utter dismay, I became a runner. I love running but, it can become monotonous and it did, so I took a break only restarting a running program recently.  All of this is background for explaining why I took the next step.

I'm not an athlete per se. If you look at me nothing about me screams athlete. Nothing. But, I walk an average of 18 miles a week (I have a dog so. . .),often ride a bike and sometimes swim (although swimming for me is a pleasure activity so why would I want to foul the mojo by making it exercise?) And yes, a few weeks ago, I added running back into the mix.  But look at me and what do you see? Well, lean and tough does not come to mind.

So, I decided to step it up and joined a Zumba class.  Zumba, for those of you who are also stuck in exercise class void, is basically step aerobics without the step and done to music with a distinct Latin flavor. It is salsa, mambo and a little bit of hip hop.  I spent the early 2000s leaping around a gym kicking at men holding bags. . . how tough could a little dancing be, right?

Channeling my former dancing self, I showed up to my first class, stumbled through it, went to the second class and gained some confidence since the moves were no longer foreign and, man, I felt pretty good.  So, yesterday I went to my third session. In walks Patty, the instructor who I quickly learned was BORN salsa dancing and off we go. There are lots of minuscule little foot movements in Zumba, back and forth, front to back to side to back to front to back to side and well, you get the picture.  All of this is done within the first measure of a song and keeps coming at you relentlessly.  Determined to catch on, I studied her feet and when I finally had it down, she had changed foot movements.  Then, I realized that in conjunction with footwork was hip movement, booty popping, then shimmying and finally arm movements that included waving in the air, shaking them out and then an arms-to-the-side morocco playing simulation. All of this ALL AT THE SAME TIME. And it was then, at this junction that I looked in the wall length-mirror that we all stand in front of for the class and watched in horror as this room full of old women twerked. TWERKED! Even more horrifying? I was one of them. If you have not witnessed a room full of just to the right of middle aged bottoms twerking consider yourself blessed and avert your eyes immediately.

As I watch myself move to the music like some out of control carnival ride through hell I realized what my mom, my instructors and my friends had quietly been trying to tell me all of my life: I can't Dance. And with that, I stopped moving and burst out laughing - laughed so hard I almost peed (and ok, it may not take hard laughter for that to happen anymore). I laughed at the site of my unatheletic, soft body that thought it was dancing well but really looked like it was fighting off a large bat and decided, what the hell - I'll keep coming because I can laugh or I can cry, either way it burns another 1.3 calories a minute so I might as well laugh, right?

Note of Apology:

To the dance teachers at Borgo Sisters School of Dance in Royal Oak, MI - I now understand why that starchy pink tutu was never going to be mine. I am sorry that it took me 4 years of your time to figure that out.

To Miss Jeanne, my jr. high PE teacher - It wasn't the song you made us perform a dance routine to, I rather liked 'Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudeville Band even if it was played on my parents radio station. . . I really wasn't misbehaving or mocking your choices, it was the fact that I can't dance!

To My Friends (especially those who daringly crossed the border on any given night because we could drink legally in Canada) - Wow. Way to allow me to look like an ass all of these years guys. No one told me?  I know, that is not an apology.

Friday, September 11, 2015

People and Places - A Cruise through Central Europe. . . Or the Mississippi

PEOPLE  The More They Age, The More They Stay The Same

When we retired we decided to make travel our goal while we are still able to travel.  Our first post retirement trip was to China last year. It was all encompassing, exhausting and eye opening. The first hing we discovered is that most travelers are ,well,  older.  The group we traveled through China with was a collective age of 70 but their energy level was intense. So, this year when we booked a European river cruise, I expected to be traveling with older people.  I wasn't wrong.

The trip, a Viking Cruise trip is called The Grand European Tour; a pompous moniker for a 15 day trip down the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers.  We began in Amsterdam and ended in Budapest. Unlike an ocean ship that has multiple decks, night clubs, game rooms and casinos - floating cities, the river longboats are far more low key.  No casino, no night club, just a lounge, a sun deck and staterooms. The boat holds 190 passengers and by the end of two weeks, you know most of them and recognize all of them.  Having worked in the school system for a number of years, I learned how to remember names and faces aaaannnnnd personalities.

Corraling a group of cruisers, most of them senior citizens, is not unlike trying to keep 5th graders in line or better yet, trying to herd cats.  There are the people who can't seem to make their listening devices work no matter what.  There are the people who monopolize the tour guide's time by asking ceaseless questions, usually the same question rephrased in different ways and there are the ones who want to show off all they know by stumping the tour guide.

Thus, I maintain that taking a two week river cruise with 189 other people isn't any different than taking a 5th grade field trip; a
two week field trip only this time, I wasn't the one responsible for the group. And as with any class, we had our jocks, our know-it-alls, our questioners, our cool kids, our "unique" kids (you know, the ones you all fear will sit by you) and our middle of the road kids. It was a fairly cohesive group, actually and because we are all adults, there was no jockeying for the best seat or to sit by our friends. . .or was there?

One of the added tours we took required us to get on a full windowed coach and drive the "Romantic Road" which is not romantic in the least but it is picturesque the way driving along the Mississippi through Illinois is picturesque, and go to the walled village of Rothenburg, Germany.  I was standing behind the first couple in line and hoping to get a front set for me and Moondoggy (and should have by the count in front of me) when this couple literally pushed me back and ran up the steps and sat in the front seats, one on each side in the middle of a seat meant for two.  I stepped up, stopped and looked at them, "I thought you were together," I said in my passive aggressive tone and they said, "We are saving these for our friends."  Oooookay. Fine.  I'll make sure I am first on the way back so I we can have a front seat.  Game on.  And so we drove the Romantic Road and viewed it from the second seat surmising that yes, if we didn't know we were in Germany, we could, in fact, be in northern Illinois.  No loss.  When the bus arrived  and BEFORE we disembarked, pushy man asks the tour guide, "Same seats on the way back, right?"  The guide fumbled with the question and finally said, "Please be sure you are on the same bus." So pushy guy, his wife and their friends spread their jackets across the front seats to save them.  I smirked.  Jokes on you guys.