February 5th, 2006



So. Fucking. Exhausted.

But unfortunately caffintaed so sleep is probably still awhile's off.

Today was every bit as exhausting and foolish as I predicted it would be. Which is not to say it was a bad day. It was one of the best days I've had all year. Where to start?

How about when I woke up at 7:30 in the Goddamn on a Saturday. No one should get up that early on a Saturday but damnit if I wasn't up by then so I could shower and have breakfast before heading down to Elkhorn. I'm happy to say I had the foresight of getting the car completely packed with my aikido and dance gear, as well as a pre-packed lunch and dinner, the previous night so there was no wasted time. No, by 8:15 I was on my way south to the "Weapons Intensive Aikido Seminar."

Got to the Elkhorn Martial Arts Center at about quarter to 10:00. Session was supposed to start at 10:00. Obviously it didn't, but it did give me some time to meet the people there. Most of the people at the seminar were not aikidoka but students of the Elkhorn Center and a Korean style called, I believe Kyukido, pronounced "ku-KEE-doe." I didn't really see any demonstrations of it, and while a few people practiced forms or katas in their idle moments I didn't see enough to distinguish from any other hard style I've seen except that it sure as heck wasn't tae kwon do (reminded me a bit of the hwa-rang-do I saw Jason do, actually). They were all very receptive to learning the aikido techniques, though as many of them said, "This is different than anything I've ever done," and, "This is hard," and especially, "This is really frustrating."

The seminar was run by Sensei Bob Garza from Chicago (he ran the iaido section of the Whitewater seminar Buddha and I attended) and had two sections. In the first section, the morning section, we practiced a few open hand defenses but mostly it was take-aways. To be specific one knife take-away (which actually came fairly easily to me! W007!) and four or five sword take-aways which always look cool but never come easily to me. Then after lunch he spent the rest of the seminar on a style of iaido that was integrated with his branch of aikido. The iaido kata he showed us were beautiful, elegant, and deceptively simple. I could do them but I'm happy with my performance of them enough to show them to anyone. Note to self: get more details about Katori Shinto Ryu. I love this material but I need to dedicate myself to it or it's just fucking around.

At 4:00 I left the seminar to change. Let me tell you it's a very strange experience walking through a dojo full of gi-clad, sword-wielding, martial artists while wearing a tuxedo. Not bad, just... strange.

Got to Beloit about 5:00 and picked up Jasmine. Sadly everyone else who had said they were coming to Chicago canceled but it was a good trip with just the two of us. We talked a lot on the way down: her new boyfriend, my new life in Madison, Beloit life, relationships, music, etc. The sort of easy-going low key conversation that touches on important topics and builds a connection without ever really going to an uncomfortable area. It was good to spend time with Jasmine and while I'm sad the other people couldn't come it was nice to have some one-on-one with her. At any rate, we reached Chicago about 7:00, stood in line to get into the Willowbrook, and then we were in.

The place was beautiful. Very different feel and decor than the Memorial or Valencia but still a place that unequiviocally felt like an anachronistic bastion of old-school style ballroom. And it was a packed schedule. They started off with a West Coast swing lesson downstairs (they had the main ballroom for East Coast swing and a smaller dance room/nightclub area for West Coast and salsa!), had a number of demonstrations including shim sham and balboa, several birthday celebration dances, a fucking incredible lindy hop contest, and a best-dressed contest (no I didn't win; I didn't enter because while I love my tux I decided it was too generic. Next year: zoot suit).

And speaking of best dressed, the people there looked incredible. A mix of tuxes of every era and style (even classic Tuxedo Park white tie!), suits, zoot suit, vintage, and even vintage military (thanks for the sailor shirt, Reed!). And that's just the guys! The girls wore everything from ballroom gowns to skirt/blouse combos, vintage dresses, vintage military (one beautiful girl and a fucking incredible WWII recruiter costume), and 50's rock and roll. jasmine wore a simple pants and low-cut blouse outfit highlighted with tasteful jewelry. I wore my tux with burgundy cummerbund and bowtie set, and dark red pocket square. Jasmine absolutely made my night when she noticed the new matching ruby paste studs. I love men's style.

Now of course I have to talk about the dancing. Upstairs it was nearly entirely classic East Coast swing, though there were a couple foxtrots and they even played a tango. The Boilermakers were on fire, even better than they were on New Year's. The place was just filled with energy. I spoke to Jenny, the female rep singer for the band and she actually remembered me from New Year's, dancing with her in York, and (!!!!) remembered my outfit. Hooray for impressions!

I danced most of my dances with Jasmine, and mostly upstairs though we tried our hand at West Coast (while I'm feeling comfortable with the sugar push, right underarm turn, and pass on the left I just don't know enough moves to make the dance interesting. Really need to take lessons as, even if I patch things up with a certain West Coast girl the Wednesday night club is right over aikido practice) and danced a little salsa downstairs, plus the tango. Also had a few dances with some of the girls from there. Most were very accepting of dancing six-count with me (I even got a few compliments on it) but the more I dance at big venues the more I'm convinced that if I want to do swing and not just ballroom I need to learn lindy hop. Well, I'm seeing aetrix9 tomorrow; I'll check with her to see if she still wants to do lessons at Jumptown with me.

We finally left at 12:30. I'd have liked to stay and dance longer but I had the sense to recognize it was going to take me three hours to get home and I didn't want to fall asleep in the car. We ended up making a caffine and food stop anyway (it seems doing an entire day of physical activity on a muffin and two ham sandwhiches has a somewhat draining effect on you. Who knew?) and that perked me right up but it was still probably a good idea to leave when we did.

Hate to say it, but worth missing LARP for. One of the best nights ever.