Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mind the Feet

Cardin and Charlotte arrive
Last night I heard a preview of Cardin's latest recording and Hilde and Charlotte taught my old dogs new tricks. All this in the presence of five melodeons, which is a personal high watermark.

We threw a goodbye party for Anita, who sadly must return to the land of tea poured over free ice. The party featured lots of pizza, beer and the like but was definitely short on frozen water, even though the refrigerator in our Ballenstraat flat was reputed to have ice trays.

Alas, when we arrived at our flat the rental agent and I peered into the refrigerator and were appalled to discover that the tiny box had no freezer.  She because her own email had confidently assured us that we would to make all the ice we wanted; and I because I had to break this tragic news to Anita, who believes that her breakfast iced tea sans cubes is only a pale imitation of the real thing.

A cup of orange juice and ice tea with  real ice
In Belgium, ice is dealt by the cube. Typically one receives a pair. In a generous moment, perhaps three of a kind, but never a full house. No one sells ice, period. When I inquired, I was told that it was with drinks only. Even the Five Easy Pieces approach of I'll have a glass of water, with ice, and, oh yeah, hold the water didn't turn the trick.

Many mornings I found myself heading off to the local croissant shop where I ordered freshly squeezed orange juice with a side of ice.

The first time I did this it took some explaining. Yes, I wanted the juice and the ice but in separate cups. Indeed, I wanted orange juice with ice but not together lest the orange juice become watered down as I carried it back to our flat.

The Belgians really care about the quality of food and drink, especially their beers. This must also extend to their orange juice, because to my surprise this approach actually produced a cup of ice cubes, in the nude.

After a week I came to be greeted warmly on my daily visit -- as the crazy American ice addict, no doubt. One clerk busied herself making juice. From somewhere in the back of the shop I could hear the sound of the owner chipping away at what must have been a precious but thoroughly frostbitten bag.

We now have a new appreciation of the stuff.  After waking Anita to fresh croissants, fresh juice and, best of all, iced tea I was her hero, an outcome which is cheap at any price. I do think I'll turn off that ice maker in Atlanta and dole out of a secret stash, just to be sure I stay on my pedestal.

Cardin plays for dancing
Cardin played for the dancing. This recently formed duo consists of Guus Herremans -- my music tutor-- and Jeroen Laureyssens. They rocked the apartment with an dros, bourees, scottishes, polskas, and -- best of all in my opinion -- lots of sparkling mazurkas.

Charlotte and Hilde, both accomplished Boombal dancers, did me the honor of persistently leading me through the steps. As a result I finally managed to dance the mazurka.

Here I must disclaim that I did so only for a couple of measures at a time before I found myself wandering out of Charlotte's orbit. Poor Charlotte. I started by trampling her toes. Though she graciously claimed no damage, she certainly looked relieved when I let my dogs out of their Keens and proceeded in sock feet.

Mazurka, sometimes
As the evening rollicked along Hilde took on the task of teaching me the more bouncy traditional mazurka. At the critical moment, which has been likened to the movement one makes when testing thin ice with one foot, she would literally tug me into the air to help set the pace and I suppose, keep me off that thin ice. After a while the timing of that odd motion finally started penetrating my awareness.

I am seeing a pattern here. Every woman with whom I have danced so far finds it necessary to chant one, two, three as she hauls me around the floor and thinks mind the feet, mind the feet. I suppose this style might be called novice mazurka.

So, there were two launches at Anita's goodbye party: Cardin and my dance career. Cardin is ready to go and has recently posted their first recording. As for me, well, I could use more practice. But I found myself thinking that I could learn this stuff, given sufficient partners willing to bench-press me at just the right time.
Bernard, Hilde and Tine 

Cardin is playing a Mazurka Clandestine in Ghent on 9-Aug. I'm not sure about the clandestine part since it seems to be common knowledge.

Before I head off to this dance I plan to shop for some steel-toed work boots. I shall offer them to my partners and perhaps start a new craze, like clogging but less painful should one's opposite stray.

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