Candy Rant

"I killed a rat with a stick once."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Man Who Loves Opera Also Loves to Dance

The almost-83-year-old man I met last week in the tiny adjunct teachers' office was there again today. His name is Clifford. I swear, he is a walking textbook on how to eat up the baked carcass of life in big juicy bites and then make a necklace from the bones.

During his decades of teaching and opera-going, he also managed to fit in 30 years of dance lessons. FLAMENCO dance. He performed on some small tours in his 20s and 30s and at age 55 was still honing his skills in Spain under the tutelage of a helpful dancing gypsy woman. (But really, aren't most dancing gypsy women helpful?)

In telling me about his early flamenco lessons, with an authoritarian of a flamenco teacher in Chicago, he stood up and took the perfect posture of a dancer, held his arms over his head ballet-style, and bent his left leg and held his foot up in the air, holding this pose for 30 seconds (flamenco/flamingo style) without a hint of shakiness. This is what his dance instructor made him work on for the first half dozen lessons 60 years ago. No actual dancing, just balance and steadiness.

He faced numerous obstacles on the dance floor. Flamenco dancing is not easy, as it turns out. When he had the routines perfected (or so he thought) his blunt instructor said "Here is your problem: You dance, but you're scared." And that was his next hurdle. Learning not to be scared.

Maybe because it was late in the day and because my blood sugar was very low, I found this exceptionally meaningful almost to the extent of being annoying. But it seems to me that that is the whole point in life. Or perhaps it's only the whole point to those of us who are scared shitless of so many things. I lie awake in bed and mentally list the things I'm worried about and catalog them like so many colorful, ornate fishing lures hooked into my lungs. It only stings when you try to breathe.

"I don't dare dance any more," Clifford told me. "It's too dangerous for the heart at my age. It's horrible to get old."

I don't know how long his own personal window was: that time between letting go of a substantial chunk of fear, and being too old to flamenco dance again. I picture my own window, if it happens, as very short. I will be spreading frosting on a graham cracker, sitting out on my front porch. Just as I put down the knife, it will occur to me that I am no longer scared feces-less of everything. Then an out of control steam shovel will rumble around the corner and flatten me like a fruit roll-up.


  • At 7:39 AM, Blogger prairie biker said…

    ps - all those pictures you wanted me to dispose of discretely for you, I saved them. Let me know when you're not too scared for me to mail them back.

  • At 8:08 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Hey thanks, PB! Oh, and let me know the same thing about those Polaroids you gave ME of your mom with the 4 hyenas. How IS her back, by the way?

  • At 8:18 AM, Blogger Domhan said…

    Candy, you are funny, alert, and quick at 8:00AM?!

    Never thought I'd see the day.

    Unless, of course, you were just getting ready to go to bed.

  • At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So have you ever been worrying about something, then something else comes to mind or interrupts you, then you remember that you were worried about something, but can't remember what it was, and then panic about THAT?

    You know, it occurs to me that even if the steam shovel rounds the corner and flattens you, right after you realize you aren't afraid anymore, to have that realization, even for a moment, would be worth it.

  • At 9:07 AM, Blogger Jerry said…


    "So have you ever been worrying about something, then something else comes to mind or interrupts you, then you remember that you were worried about something, but can't remember what it was, and then panic about THAT?"

    Oh yeah. I have my own special relationship with worry. I grew up with two alcoholics, and from an early age (about 7) felt that I had to be in control. They would get drunk and I had to make sure the food didn't burn on the stove or that the cigarettes didn't burn down the house, and so on.

    I worried so much, that I used to lie in bed at night and review all the things I had to worry about. If they were in a sober period and they were not saying we were going to the poor house (a common threat) or that they were going to get a divorce (another common threat) or that some other calamity was not on the horizon, I would sigh with relief.

    And, for a moment, I would recognize what it was like to be a child--a being whose welfare was assumed by his parents and someone who could feel warm and comfy in the bosom of the family.

    Those moments lying in the bed were few and far between. I have continued that behavior through adult life and I keep tabs on the issues I should be worrying about and revel in the moments when I think things are OK; when I can have some peace of mind.

    Those moments are still few and far between.

  • At 9:16 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Domhan, that was actually SIX a.m. my time. So there. now.

  • At 9:16 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Futuresis and Jerry...Want to respond to your comments, but at the moment I have to go teach/babysit 18 year olds.

  • At 10:46 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Futuresis, You're right. A brief moment of calm would be really something.

    And I've done that same worry dance in my head that you just described. And then, because it says right in the New Testament "DO NOT WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW" and to have a spirit of love and not fear, I start bagging on myself for that too. OK, not only am I a dumbass, but now GOD is honked off at me too. He sends me straight to voice mail now.

  • At 10:50 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    "I keep tabs on the issues I should be worrying about and revel in the moments when I think things are OK; when I can have some peace of mind."

    Exactly, Jerry. It's like hurrying to run through a sprinkler and then hiding again and trying to take in the sensation of the water drops on your skin. But by the time you've run back to your hiding place to savor it, they're dry.

  • At 12:44 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    I haven't quite figured out how to quit the fear and worrying yet, either. I'm thinking that's going to be a lifelong occupation--that, and a great relationship with antacids. Or vodka.

  • At 1:11 PM, Blogger Steve B said…

    "I swear, he is a walking textbook on how to eat up the baked carcass of life in big juicy bites and then make a necklace from the bones"

    "Then an out of control steam shovel will rumble around the corner and flatten me like a fruit roll-up. "

    I'm really quite smitten, you know. Hopelessly. GaGa. It is, of course, one of those dramatically tragic loves which can never be...but still.

    Reading your stuff is quite literally the high point of my day.

    Which, may or may not be kind of sad, really, depending on your point of view.

  • At 1:34 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Testing. Comments have gone hinkie.

  • At 1:35 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    OK, there we go.

    Mel, I prefer to numb myself with hours spent watching things like "Survivor" and "Kid Nation."

    Fewer calories. No hangover. Except for the distinct feeling of being way dumber than the day before.

  • At 1:38 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Steve. It is true. Our love can never be.

    I've tested the waters here. And you would not believe how honked off Scott became when he found out I was calling my lifelong love, Marvin Hamlisch, and playing David Soul's "Dont Give Up On Us, Baby" to his answering machine.

  • At 1:39 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    But I'm thrilled to be a high point for you.
    For weeks, one of the high points for me was rewatching "Chocolate Rain." And THEN they came out with a CAT version. Dear God. The beauty.

  • At 4:06 PM, Blogger Citlali said…

    Worry, worry, fret, fret, fret... Yes, when Kevin Kline speaks with that cute fake accent and a squinty eye in the movie French Kiss, "You make my ass twitch!" --I completely identify. That's me, naturally born worrier from day one. I'm with ya, Candy. = ]

  • At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Your gift is twofold, Candy. One is sharing these wonderful stories filled with the amazingly visual phrases. The other is the responses and comments from your friends. This prayer is for you and your friends. Especially Jerry.

    May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this Presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.

    May we all fully live the life we have been given!!!

  • At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This was posted by Anita. Only Candy's real name has been changed to protect the not-so-innocent...:

    Candy, I read this at 4:30 a.m. and loved it. I love it still. Right now I'm reading Eat, Pray, Love, and girlie, you're as good as she is. Start that book. Soon. Title it, "Standing on one leg". Troubles over. Love you, Anita

  • At 6:36 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    I just got home from a very very long day. My job beat my brains out and I felt totally empty while sitting in unmoving Phoenix rush hour traffic. I desperately wanted to get home, to just curl up. I was glad Scott wouldn't be home, so he could avoid the freak show.

    I'll just go ahead and admit, wussie that I am, or maybe just broken person that I am right now, that OneAvid's post made me cry. These comments today? It really was like God assembled a pit crew to put me back together when I got home. At least enough to make it through the evening.

    That was a serious blessing for me to read, OneAvid.

    Thanks to all of you for being exactly who you are. And for letting me be the undiluted version of who I am.

  • At 7:17 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Citlali...I have yet to see that movie. A fake French accent from Kevin Kline would be worth it.

    Jerry...I wish more of those moments, those few and far between ones, into your life.

  • At 8:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Candy, this is to Scott, so stop reading. Scott, thank you for editing my error...ask Candy, and she will tell you that yes, she is a geek, a lovely one, but I am the geek primeval. Dang, this newfangled things called blogs! Anita

  • At 8:46 PM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Heck, Anita, I still think an Etch-a-Sketch is pretty cutting edge.

    Oops. I forgot to stop reading. Just pretend I wasn't here.

  • At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I talked with God earlier today, Candy. He says you're going to live to be a sharp 104-year-old with no serious illnesses or injuries. He also says that he doesn't even know what 'honked off' means and you make him laugh so much he's throwing in two extra decades for Scott, too because he knows if you can't worry about you, you'll worry about him. So live into it, baby.

    Oh! And he says he and Hankie are tight. Go figure.

  • At 1:25 AM, Blogger Candy Rant said…

    Ana, you have walloped me with your perfect missive from God. I wonder if I can still blog at 104. Or will I be too busy arranging and rearranging my bedpan?

    I can't even imagine finding out about 2 bonus decades with Scott. Well, it'd be a bonus for me;perhaps purgatory for him.

    The part about God being tight with Hankie? Absolutely believable. Hankie is a little furry saint. Who drops an occasional steamer that runs the humans out of the house gasping for air. Saints aren't always dainty.


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