A one, a two, you know just what to do…

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Five years ago, thousands of lindy hoppers gathered in New York City to commemorate the 95th birthday of Frankie Manning, the ambassador of lindy hop. What had originally been planned as a birthday celebration became a tribute to Frankie’s life, as Frankie passed away a month shy of the celebration. I was lucky enough to take a few workshops with Frankie (because I’ve been dancing that long – oy vey). I didn’t know him personally but I can tell you that his generosity of spirit, liveliness and joy were contagious. He lived to see the dance he loved so much fall out of favour and come back to life, spreading to the far reaching corners of the globe.

The best part of Frankie 95 was the hang. Seeing friends from everywhere, together, in that room. Dancing, listening, talking, reminiscing. I still remember everyone dancing to a song on the overly crowded ballroom floor and hearing a break coming in the music. Everyone prepared…the whole floor lifted together to hit the beat. I always say it was as though everyone was listening to the music in the same way at that one moment. The magic of lindy hop (and partnered dance in general) is how it connects us. We need each other – the partner, the band, the ballroom – all of it.

I have many friends travelling to Frankie 100 in the next two weeks. I wish I could be there, I’ll be thinking of you. Please, have a wonderful time, be patient with the overly crowded dance floor and remember to take in the grandeur of our community coming to together for this special moment. We are so lucky. THIS is what we do in our spare time! WTF!? Drink it in. Savour it.

Five years ago, I was in New York City for Frankie 95. I was in pain. I didn’t know why. I danced hard two nights and could barely walk the other two nights. A few weeks later I got the results of an MRI. I had a herniated disc. I needed to stop dancing…ASAP. I realized that was the last time I felt the same amount of uncertainty I feel now. I didn’t know if I’d be able to dance again. My body was against me. Shoes and socks were my enemy.

Five years later, I’m dancing hard, teaching often and still in love with the dance. Lindy hop and the people I’ve met through this dance are a gift. My mobility is a gift. Frankie Manning and his joy were and continue to be gifts. This crazy adventure is a gift. I feel an immense amount of gratitude. As we roll up to Frankie’s 100th birthday, I ask you to reflect on the things that inspire wonder in your life. Whether you’re in New York, London, Toronto, Seoul or wherever, we are connected, together, linked by this silly dance and are constantly reminded that it “t’ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it”. Let’s make Frankie proud.

Life lessons with Duke Ellington

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This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the London Lindy Exchange. Standing in a ballroom of 400+ dancers I often think “I can’t believe this is how we spend our free time. How lucky are we?” Those moments where everyone hears the break coming and you watch the dance floor communally hit a particular beat or jump at the same time. It’s like for that split second we were all hearing the music in the same way. That feeling is magic. It is energy that is created by the band, enhanced by the dancers and lifts the spirits. Those are the moments where I feel the most connected and tapped in to the community. It also helps when the band is Gordon Webster and Friends. Gord’s joy playing for dancers is only matched by his ability to rally great musicians and produce music that inspires. What a gift!

My friend Sam posted this video of Duke Ellington explaining how to snap your fingers and it seemed like the right tone and pace for today, “You don’t push it, you just let it fall.” Words we could apply for many aspects of our lives and even in our dorky but beloved subculture, “one can become as cool as one wishes to be.” Enjoy!

Easily distracted…

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I started writing a paper about peer to peer file sharing and it’s descended into listening to all my favourite songs from 2004. Solid year guys! Arcade Fire, crying my eyes out to “Crown of Love”, Feist, “Let it die”, singing the Weakerthans loudly with Mat Katz and and our university crew. All excellent memories. It happens to be a dreary day here in London, so I offer a few recommendations for rainy day reading and music playlists:

The Writer’s Almanac – Garrison Keillor could read me the phone book. I have Angela to thank for this gem. A poem a day and a ‘today in literature’ segment. What’s not to love?
The Toast – a blog that explains feminist truths and offers vintage pictures of smug bitches (no, really they do!). A suggested read from Cecily, one of the smartest women I know.

Weakerthans – Left and Leaving
Arcade Fire – Funeral
Feist – Let it Die
The National – Trouble Will Find Me
M. Ward – End of Amnesia (in particular the song Carolina)

Out of the mouths of babes

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Being a proud Torontoian, nothing brings me more shame then our current mayor Rob Ford. Otherwise known as the ‘crack smoking mayor’. My friend Tony Nappo and his scene stealer daughter made this great video using Ford quotes. It is well worth a watch. With the looming mayoral election, my top picks are Olivia Chow, Richard Underhill and/or Sketchy the Clown. To be honest, anything would be better then what we currently have. Just sayin’.

Breaking bread…

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My favourite place in any apartment/flat/house is the kitchen. You can deduce a lot about a person on what’s in their kitchen. I spent many days chopping, rolling, stirring and baking up recipes. Every party would inevitably end up with 20+ people in my tiny kitchen when I had a sizeable and comfortable living room. Maybe it has something to do with out primal self wanting to gather around a fire together, maybe it’s because that’s where the cold drinks are? Whatever the reason, I miss those moments.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a get together a few weeks ago with a group of diverse and remarkable women. We crammed ourselves around a kitchen table and over delicious food, drinks and copious cups of tea, we chatted away. Topics included (in no particular order): sex (obviously), friendship, gender sensitivity, species of chicken and science!

London is a remarkable city, with incredible people from all over the world. I often wish there were more places where you could sit, relax and make a meal. I’ve started inviting myself over to people’s house to make dinner and create more of those moments. I can’t wait until I have a proper kitchen again and a kitchen table that seats 4 – 6. Just you wait!

Keep calm

Recipe: Cinnamon Rolls WF and DF

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Cinnamon RollFor those that don’t know, I’m allergic to wheat and dairy. I have been for 9 years. I thought I’d throw up some tasty treat tonight. Living in London – they have everyday bread products covered. English muffins, baguettes, bread, scones – all a wheat and dairy free (often not vegan so keep your eyes peeled on the label). But one of the things I miss from Toronto is the decadent sweets. Bunners incredible muffins, donuts, cinnamon rolls and cupcakes, Sweet from the Earth chocolate caramel bars and date squares. I will definitely be making a Bunners run when I come to town in a few weeks.

I recently adapted a Michael Smith Food Network recipe to rustle up some spelt dairy free cinnamon rolls. I definitely cheated and used vegan Betty Crocker icing. Don’t judge me. I can feel your judging eyes!

I refuse to buy baking utensils since I’ll have to move in a few months and own all that shit anyway in a bin in Toronto, but here’s the original recipe in case you’d like to rock and roll – get it?! (I love a good pun.)

Cinnamon Rolls

I substituted the butter for coconut oil, flour for spelt flour and halved the whole thing. I used a pot for a bowl, a water bottle for a rolling pin and they turned out mighty delicious.

If you’re looking for tasty treats here in London in the meantime, I highly recommend the Free From bakery at the Borough Market for vegan GF DF rocky road squares, the polenta cake at Look Mum No Hands on Old Street and the chocolate chip mandarin loaf readily available at many retailers/cafes and markets. It’s very moist! I often buy it at the farmers market every Thursday at Torrington Place near UCL.

Playing for keeps – moving abroad and other musings

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I’ve been thinking about community a lot lately. How you build a life? Friendship requirements. Worthiness. I moved to London with a motley crew of acquaintances and find myself feeling more and more settled. I keep asking myself, “what’s changed?”

I’ve had a couple of friends ask for some tips on moving continents so here are a couple that seem relevant this week:

1. You’re never ready. You’ll repack your bag at least four times and you’ll forget at least five things. “Man, if only I had that *insert item of clothing/or piece of loved junk here*.” It’s ok. It’s just stuff, you can buy/sell/replace stuff. Or friends can bring it with them on follow up trips.
2. Take people up on their offers of friendship. If your cousin, friend, colleague, casual acquaintance, barista or dry cleaner offer to connect you with a friend or relative of theirs – TAKE IT! You never know. So and so’s bff from when they were 12 could turn out to be your fav brunch buddy in a new place. It’s like when you see someone knows people you know on Facebook. They are vetted and are less likely to be cray cray.
3. I know you hate ‘cold calling’ people, but get over it. Email those weak tie potential friends. Go to a Meetup and then judge whether or not you want to join from a corner in the bar. If the meetup is lame, make friends with the bartender (strategic friendship).
4. Put some work in. Friendships and business relationships take effort. You need to put some time and love into fostering that connection. Check in to see how people are doing by email, text or phone. Whether or not you can get together, it shows you’re thinking of them.

That’s my poetic waxing on a Friday friend. Be indulgent. Be kind to yourself take some risks. Here’s some ukulele music for you.