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The Aquatic Center in Vancouver

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

When I’m traveling, I seek out certain home pleasures.  And one of those is swimming.  I’m here in Vancouver, visiting with Jeremy.  With a little research on the web, I was able to find a great place to swim–the Aquatic Center.  It’s not every place that has a 50m public pool.  On top of that, it has a large skylight, so that while I was swimming–at least today–the sun was beaming in.  It’s hard to top that.  At least, when the temperature outside means that it’s only polar bears who are swimming in the ocean.  [And I mean the human ones, not the threatened ones–Vancouver isn’t that far north!]                                                                                                                                                                                                         And, having traveled a bit in the U.S. and finding it a bit of a challenge to find a place to swim, it was also a pleasant surprise to find that the cost was not outrageous.  It was about $5 today, and there are several times a week when it’s only $2.                                                                                                                                                                                                I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised that the Aquatic Center closes in the summer–at the point where the weather really is warm enough for people to use the various outdoor pools around the city.                                                                                                        One of the things that’s even more amazing to me is that the people who swim at the Aquatic Center seem to take a moment to assess whether they should swim in the “Slow”, “Medium” or “Fast” lane–and, by and large, they seem to get it right.  I don’t mean complain about my fellow U.S.A.nians, but it seems that when I’m swimming in the U.S., there are a fair number of people whose attitude is, effectively, I’m swimming here, and if you don’t like it, tough luck for you.                                                                                                        Another minor, but real, convenience for me as a visitor is the fact that there are lockers available.  On top of that, they take a quarter to lock–and they give the quarter back when I’m done!  I suppose it’s all of a piece with the luggage carts in Vancouver airport being free.  There are times when I think that I don’t live in a civilized country. 

One Activity, Two Cultures–Gay and Non-Gay Square Dancing

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Jeremy and I are getting ready for our annual expedition to the gay square dance convention.  For those of you who haven’t done any square dancing since seventh grade, this is meant for a refresher–and a discussion of some differences between the gay and the non-gay version of square dancing.  [And I’ll apologize to non-gay square dancers if I misrepresent their notion of square dancing.  This is what it looks like from the outside.]

In square dancing, the dancers are arranged in groups of eight around the floor.  Indeed, there are two dancers, a couple, on each side of a square.  And, somewhere, there is a “caller” who will provide the sequence of moves for the squares to do.  The couples facing or with their backs to the caller are called “heads”, and the couples with their sides to the caller are called “sides”.  In each couple, the “boy” stands on the left and the “girl” stands on the right.

In gay square dancing, the sex of the person dancing “boy” or “girl” may not match the designation.  Indeed, I’ve been in lots of squares where all eight dancers are men.  So, when the caller says “men trade”, in gay square dancing, if I’m dancing “boy”, the first thing that I do is to stick up my hand and say “boy”–otherwise, how can anyone know who is who.

In non-gay square dancing, at least usually, the expectation is that dancers come in pairs.  The man’s shirt matches the woman’s skirt, and they’ll be dancing together all evening.

In gay square dancing, the expectation is that dancers are individuals.  We dance together as a couple for one “tip”–about 15-20 minutes.  [The name comes from the old days where the caller would work for a while and then pass the hat.  The caller wouldn’t go on unless he got enough of a “tip”.]

As we dance, the dancers often reply to the instructions from the caller with an interjection–known as “fluff”.  For example, when the caller says “acey deucey”–which is a direction to the dancers to do a particular move–the dancers also reply “Quack!”.  Why?  Because sometime lost in the mists of time, a caller pronounced the call “acey ducky”.  As time goes on, the fluff evolves…so the fluff of gay square dancing is quite different from that of non-gay square dancing.

The fact that non-gay square dancers come in pairs leads to some unfortunate consequences.  It’s often the case that, of a square dancing couple, the man dies first.  Then, there is no designated partner for the survivor.  And existing couples are not eager to allow an unattached interloper to dance.  So a number of these widows start dancing with gay square dance clubs, where not having a pre-planned partner is a non-issue.

I’ll close with a personal vignette of difference between gay and non-gay clubs.  When I was living in Los Angeles, I wanted to get in some extra time dancing, so that I would improve my skills.  So a woman friend and I went to a non-gay club.  I was very habituated to “identifying” when the caller gave directions like “men trade”.  One time, when that happened, I stuck my hand up and said “boy!”.  The little old lady dancing next to me patted my arm and said “We can tell, dear”.

HIV+ tourists are still banned from U.S.

Monday, May 5th, 2008
I'm getting ready for my annual trip to the convention of lesbian and gay square dancers.  This year it's the twenty-fifth annual convention, and it's in Cleveland [Touch a Quarter Century].  So, of course, I'm looking ... [Continue reading this entry]

Birding–a step toward immanence

Sunday, April 13th, 2008
     I have been an amateur birdwatcher since my days in Borneo in the Peace Corps.  Characteristically, a morning of bird-watching consists of getting up early, then going out and standing someplace and letting the birds come by.  There may ... [Continue reading this entry]

About me.

Saturday, April 12th, 2008
   I'm a gay man who has been living in San Francisco for about 15 years.  I've spent a certain amount of time in various countries, including three years in the Peace Corps in Borneo, teaching mathematics.  I have a ... [Continue reading this entry]