Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A tail without end

 My last duty of the summer was to make suitable resting place for Jack's ashes.  I've been holding on to them since May and Lorri and I agreed we'd build a little garden for his resting place.  I built a round raised garden around our sunset maple in the backyard.  Jack and Lucy used to rest under that tree when the sun was out.  They kept an eye on things for us.

I still miss him very much.  I teared up often when I was making the garden.  The ashes still aren't there even after the planting.  Soon.  It's just hard.
Lorri awesome picture of Amos.  He's in his usual place, hiding under the computer

Our Lucy in a strange and wonderful moment. She's a very good girl.

Having said that, Amos continues to endear himself to us.  He's a very sweet, affectionate dog.  With quirks.  He loves to be around people.  He's here under the computer right now, where he'll stay until Lorri gets home.  He likes Lorri best and at night he is her constant companion.  He's funny.  Sometimes he likes to run around the backyard and bark at other dogs.  There are lots of barky neighbors and I think he figures he should be able to get in on some of the action.  I always call him in if he barks much.  On the other hand he loves it if I take him out to get the mail or the newspaper.  That means he can run around the front yard and chase me-and bark.  I'm good with it. Not much of a walker though.  He mostly seems fearful, because we usually walk in the dark.

Amos has some disappointing quirks as well.  He doesn't like riding in the car.  He whines, and shakes like the devil himself was after him.  As a result, I don't take him as many places as I should.  He's resistant and I never willingly opt to do things that seem like a pain in the ass. Once when we drove to the drug store with Lorri and Lucy, Amos got out of the car and bolted.  Scared the crap out of me. Another little disappointment is that he and Lucy don't have a lot to do with each other.  Lucy is 11 now, but still likes to play a bit.  She'll still chase a ball, and has tried to get Amos to play with her.  No such luck. Sad really, because I know Amos used to play with his buddy Evie back in Idaho.

Which brings me to my last tail, er tale.  Yesterday we were near Olympia to see Rusty.  Rusty is a beautiful red-tri, three and a half years old, living with his breeder.  He was a return.  Didn't work out for his owner to keep him once there were children in the house.  Rusty is a little bigger than Lucy or Amos.  A very nice, very playful dog.  Lucy liked him immediately.  Even Amos, Mr. Cool himself, enjoyed following him around a bit.  I found him to be much fun.  Happy, playful, well-mannered and responsive.  Sometime around October 8th, Rusty will be coming to live at our house.  We're looking forward to it.

Three, however, is the limit.


Friday, September 7, 2012

A Simple Pleasure: The Matt Harding Videos

I believe there are plenty of simple pleasures in life.  Some are guilty pleasure like Madonna songs (shhh, don't let that get out.) Some are sinful pleasures, like just about any Elysian ale or a Dick's Deluxe with two fries and a chocolate shake.  Reading Joe Posnanski's blog or any book by Timothy Egan is time very well spent.

I am not much of an internet surfer.  That doesn't mean I don't spend way too much time on the web, but I'm pretty focused on where I go.  Saying that, I'm eternally grateful to my journalism buddy Sandra Coyer for introducing me to Matt Harding's dancing videos.  I happened to be working with Sandra at WJEA's summer camp when she shared Harding's 2008 video.  It showed about four and a half minutes of this strange white dude doing this silly dance in various locations around the world from the Panama Canal Zone to the Demilitarized Zone in Korea, from the Solomon Islands to Rwanda and Seattle. Not only did Matt do his silly dance in exotic and interesting locales, as the video proceeds invites dance happy fools in to share Matt's strange dance predilection in places as diverse as Papua, New Guinea, Dublin, and Buenos Aires. In the background is a hypnotizing audio track sung by a young Minnesota woman of Bangladeshi descent in Bengali.  It is compelling and emotional.

When I saw the video for the first time I beamed from cheek to cheek.  I was filled with joy and a lump formed in the back of my throat.  I'm not sure why.  It was just a short video of the white guy doing this silly dance with a bunch of people on the internet.

As soon as I got home from Ellensburg I immediately looked up Matt Harding.  Well, actually, Matt dancing because I couldn't remember his name.  He has a website called Where the Hell is Matt with links not only to this 2008 video, but to two earlier videos. The first, made in 2005 is self made, full of shaky video and thin audio, unedited with Matt traveling around the world doing his silly dance.  The second video, made in 2006 with sponsorship from Stride gum is better edited with better sound quality and clearer visuals. 

As soon as Lorri got home from work I asked her to watch them too.  After some minor resistance she sat down and caught the 2008 video.  And immediately burst into tears. We agreed there was something amazingly joyful about these short films.  Not only a joyfulness but the connectedness that people from all over the world offer through their own silly visions of Matt's silly dance reduces all the world's complexity and diversity, it's strife and its various inequalities to the desire to enjoy something as simple in wanting to share in one man's ridiculous jig. 

Whether on the Brooklyn Bridge, in Gasworks Park, in front of the Sydney Opera House, or in a school in Auki, the Solomon Islands, or a a side alley in Sa'naa, Yemen, Matt is mobbed by ecstatic silly dancers.  In the cities the dancers are mostly adults.  One can only suspect why they are there, but clearly they've seen the videos and want to be in on a bit of the fun.  However it is the more "scenic" locales that are most affecting.  Soweto, South Africa; Timbuktu, Mali; Tagatay, the Philippines.  Matt is surrounded by joyous children, cavorting with Matt, sharing their version of his joyful sashay.  In Auki, Matt is so affected by the enthusiastic youngsters, he stops his dance because he is overwhelmed by the laughter and excitement of his young partners.

I share these three videos in the first couple of days of each school year with all my classes.  It's a way we can start talking about observation and themes in my American Studies class.  It's just a half hour or so, and everybody loves them.  In my Newspaper Production class it's an opportunity to start thinking about interviewing and what questions they'd like to ask Matt.

Yesterday I was rewarded when I showed my sophomores the videos to find a new video released in 2012.  In this flick, Matt again is traveling and dancing, but this time he's not showing off his dance, he's learning new dances.  In many respects this movie may be the most poignant, the most connected of the lot.  A great new song by Alicia Lemke that Matt helped write.  It's awesome.  It's moving.  It's special.

I haven't shared a lot of the back story to the videos.  Matt does a great job of that on his site.  If you have 15 minutes to burn, you have time for these four videos.  But they're a bit like potato chips.  You won't watch them once.  You'll try to understand why they make you feel the way you do, and you'll watch them over and over again.  And when you don't quite understand, you'll watch them again.  They're a salve for the weary soul.

Matt makes his home in Seattle with his girlfriend and collaborator Cynthia Nixon.  He was interviewed by the Seattle Times in 2006 and contributed to "And This I Believe" on PRX radio.