Pro-Age Flamenco + AIDS + Iran + Books + Pod: M. Alfieri on Story

Titling over photo of Flamenco dancers Elisabeth Fruth and Alina Coman Coman-Rodriguez.
Flamenco is fierce at any age: Elisabeth Fruth, left, with Alina Coman Coman-Rodriguez. Photo: Justine Grover, owner of Naranjita Flamenco school.

Discovery + Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Writing #Wellbeing #Women #Community #MentalHealth What do peer support and community mean to you? Author/blogger Maria Alfieri's mission is to create peer support and community for our mental and emotional wellbeing. Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Intro to today’s topic and guest 1:05 Discovery + Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri My question for you HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my own novels in progress. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Maria Alfieri, author/blogger. Cover of “The Silent Scream Anthology,: by Maria Alfieri. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is “Discovery + Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri.”

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

Fiction writing, from short stories to novels, is woefully underrated. When people ask me about my writing, I ask if they like reading. Eyes bright, they answer that of course they do. Argh, then they list their fave non-fiction titles. Any discussion of fiction elicits sighs about their lack of free time.

Folks in my circle muscle through books, gobble self-help and cookbooks and how-tos the way they do bitter greens and vitamins. Fiction, to them, is dessert, chocolate that isn’t even in the dark anti-oxidant range.

I beg to differ.

In keeping with the food/nutrition analogy, self-help is great in the way of popping supplements. Fiction, on the other hand, is whole-food goodness, nourishing in ways that defy science.

Cover of "Like a Love Story," by Abdi Nazemian.

“Like a Love Story,” by Abdi Nazemian, is an exquisitely told novel. Ostensibly, it’s for young adults, but don’t let that keep you from reading it. In it, an Iranian-American teenage boy comes to grips with his gayness amid 1980’s AIDS. The audiobook also features a terrific cast of narrators.

In the way only fiction can, “Like a Love Story” evoked memories, feelings, and thoughts. A couple of nights after finishing it, I dreamt of a beautiful young man, David Fradkin, who I knew back then. He was wise, fun, talented, full of life… and got sick… Here’s a bit more about him.

Some liken AIDS to Covid. Hardly!

Yes, Covid involves ugliness, including squabbles between maskers and vaxers. However, the early days of AIDS were completely hateful.

With AIDS, people from government officials on down — and unfortunately they still do! — blamed victims and refused to help. Countless lives would’ve been saved if it had been handled with even half the urgency Covid inspired, false starts, mishaps, and all.

Besides my prior post’s mentions of experiences with AIDS, at another job during the early-ish AIDS era, this one as a temporary administrative assistant at an advertising agency, there was a man who impressed me because of how truly kind and professional he was. I worked many of the agency’s desks, filled in when full-timers were on vacation or sick leave. This man was a dancer in his real night-and-weekend job, and we liked to talk about our involvement with the entertainment industry. When I eventually subbed at his desk, days turned into weeks into months. The office was smallish and everyone lamented his absence. When I couldn’t find one of his computer files, one of his bosses insisted I phone his home.

Oh, how I wish I hadn’t. Everyone knew he had AIDS, that he was home dying. But I called and this good soul answered and then promptly hung up on me when he found out why I’d called Good for him.

On another day back then, I parked my car to temp at another office. (Most likely I was running late, having gotten lost, asked for directions at a gas station, and searched the Thomas Brothers map book under my seat, haha.) In the lot, a gaunt young man gasped with exertion, trying to get out of his car, then sat back down to catch his breath as he rested his forehead on his steering wheel. No, I couldn’t help, because yes, I knew…

In my heart’s eye, we’re all lucky for any gay man who’s still with us, having survived those horrible times. In my circle, by comparison, Covid seems like nothing, nowhere near the overwhelming number of deaths. Regardless of real statistics, senseless deaths due to hatred define AIDS, whereas politics and stupidity define Covid.

Read “Like a Love Story” because it’s hopeful — also, in ways that non-fiction can’t, it lets readers step into history to see that always, we’re more alike than not, when it comes to confusion and fear. Nazemian’s “The Authentics” is a great read too!

Cover of "Cat Brushing," a book of short stories by Jane Campbell.

“Cat Brushing,” is a book that Jane Campbell at age 80! Among her radical collection of short stories, no topic is off-limits. Each vignette of noir humor illustrates how, to put it mildly and without revealing too much, we don’t ever have to stop surprising ourselves or anybody else.

While I’ve got your ear or rather eyes, if you haven’t already heard, a young woman in Iran was killed merely for not wearing her head scarf modestly enough. People there are so angry, so beyond fed up with government oppression, that the murder has lit the fuse to numerous public outcries.

To censor protesters, the government has closed access to WhatsApp, a major international internet phone/text/video app. You can help their voices be heard by sharing this video… 

Were you around to remember or hear about AIDS in the 1980s? Then or now, what’s your most potent impression?

Vids: Let’s Dance + Do Better: S.D.Jones + Pod18: N.Socha Plays Blind

Photo of Shira Destinie Jones: Author, Educator,. Activist.
Shira Destinie Jones: Author/Educator/Activist

Making Music Blind During Covid by Noé Socha Happiness Between Tails

#COVID-19 #Musicians #Creativity #Disabilities Did Covid impact your creativity? Noé Socha, a musician, discusses how being blind makes navigating lockdowns especially difficult. Record your questions, thoughts, and/or experiences on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 “My Experience as a Blind Musician During Covid,” by Noehh Socha My question for you and outro HBT outro Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Noé Socha's website. Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About Ernest Hemingway at Wikipedia. One of Noé’s many music videos at his YouTube Blind Selfie channel. In this one, Kenya appears as a backup dancer. Video for CBS New York News interview of Noé. Info on where Noé grew up in Carpi, Italy, and a video of the how the lovely place coped with an earthquake. Spotify, where he’s released albums and garnered top awards from the Berklee College of Music and Billboard Magazine. Breedlove, an Oregon guitar manufacturer that added him to their stellar lineup of signature artists. The oldest harmonica manufacturer, Seydel, a German company founded in 1847, invited him to collaborate; here Noé demonstrates one of their harmonica holders on his Facebook page. Video where Mastercard recognizes he’s “Something Priceless.” Access-A-Ride made it possible for him to not need to take public transportation. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Photo of Noé playing music. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s episode is the audio version of “Making Music Blind During Covid by Noé Socha: with videos” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to Google Podcasts and Pocket Casts, along with RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher and more, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is at LinkTree.

This week I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel of writing my first novel (more about it H-E-R-E)! Yay!!!!

To celebrate, let’s get moving! Can you do this?

Sit in a chair, both your feet on the ground. Then lift your right foot a couple of inches off the floor and use it to make a clockwise circular motion. Meantime, with your right hand, write the numeral six.

Gotcha! It’s an unsolved mystery why that’s so hard to do.

Now for our dance party! As you might remember from my posts H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E, I grew up with flamenco (and classical music). For my father, the louder, the better. After all, that way those neighbors yelling and pounding our walls could enjoy it too, no?

José Planas Moreno, a priest in Málaga, Spain, tears up the church floor with his parishioners. The videographer’s site shows how the province celebrates everything with dance, be it blackberry roots, or plain ole’ regional dance. (A quickie swerve off-topic: what’s your opinion and experience regarding hyperlinks, meaning the sorts in this paragraph vs. the prior paragraph?) …

Carmen Amaya is known as the Queen of Flamenco for good reason! Head to toes, she’s music and dance incarnate…

With her extended family of Romany dancers and musicians, Carmen toured the world. Hollywood (including the Hollywood Bowl) fell in love with her. Here she casts her Fandango spell… 

Whew! Dunno about you, but I’m out of breath! It’s time to sit back and meet our guest blogger…

Ever wish you could make the world better a better place for anyone and everyone? Educator/community organizer Shira Destinie Jones blogs, at least for now, from San Diego and is doing just that. As part of her plan, she’s founded, Do Better, to stop child abuse and help those who care for kids.

Volunteers Needed: Shira needs feedback on the book she’s writing about how Do Better works, as well as the project itself. Find out more at h-e-r-e.

On her way to also becoming a historical fiction novelist, she’s already published an academic text, “Stayed on Freedom’s Call: Cooperation Between Jewish And African-American Communities In Washington, DC.”

Read on for a sample of her writing. When the following incident occurred, which she titles “Standing in the Gap,” she was completing PhD studies…

“Standing in The Gap” by Shira Destinie Jones

There it was again. I knew that sound.

“Oy, they’re having a fight down there!”

That was what Mona thought. I knew better. That was an old sound, from a lifetime ago. One I thought I’d finally escaped. I should have known better.

I looked out the window, counting five men holding smart phones up toward the screams. Then my feet moved of their own accord. It was only from hearing a muffled shout as the door slammed behind me that I knew I’d left the flat. The rain had just ended, and the pavement was still wet. My feet pulled me to the source of that sound. Not the shouting, not the screaming, but the one I remembered so deeply that it still hid under the table with my inner child. The sound of a head hitting a wall.

There it was again, but this time, I could see them. Both of them. The woman’s head sounded like a watermelon when she slammed against the wall, sliding down those slimy bricks to finish crumpled on the filthy paving stones. Her eyes were open wide, looking stunned and frightened, as a giant advanced on her from the ten or fifteen feet from where he’d launched her. My stomach churned as the pain of that impact coursed through my own body, as if I had been the one tossed like a sack of rice into that wall.

Looking at the giant, I wanted to flee, abandon this woman to her fate. But my feet had a will of their own, carrying me right into the one spot where I didn’t want to be: about 5 steps between each of them.

I realized that I’d carried an old umbrella with me out the door. At least those Kung Fu lessons had had one result: they kept me from rushing in where angels feared to tread entirely unarmed. Then again, my next thought was that this flimsy brolly was more like a liability against that big drunk guy. I took a second of comfort in hoping that as a foreign PhD student, at least the NHS would cover my hospital stay if I didn’t manage to duck fast enough.

“Move!”

I flinched as the sound wave from the giant’s lips struck me. It felt just like the impact of furniture breaking against the wall that night. When the giant stepped closer to me, my feet moved me back the same step, but my body refused to budge. That brolly, I now realized, was balanced in my left hand behind me, just like a short staff. My stomach had turned into a solid ball, no longer churning. As I saw him look at me, the giant’s eyes suddenly grew wider. If he hits me, it is going to hurt. But then why did he seem to be afraid of me?

“Move!”

“No.”

Who said that? Oh, wait, that was my voice. So why did the giant look confused?

“Thank you.”

I risked a glance backward. That sobbing voice had come from behind me, as the woman I was foolishly blocking wept, her tears mingling with the rain on the wall as she’d stared up at me.

Focusing on the giant as I’d learned to do in so many sparring classes, I drew a deep breath, preparing. But the giant stood frozen himself, staring at me with some odd drunken mixture of contempt and fear. Both were clearly written in his face, as well as the frustration of being denied another chance to strike the woman on the ground behind me. What was he waiting for?

“You prick.”

He was treating me like a man? He really must be drunk. Then I realized that I’d dropped into an automatic fighting stance. He wasn’t that drunk, then.

“Ok, but you should be ashamed of yourself.”

As those words tore themselves from my throat, I began to tremble so violently that I thought I’d begin crying like the woman at my back. The giant looked so confused that I could practically see the gears turning in his drink-addled mind. Then, a tall woman stepped between us, her back to me, placing a hand flat upon the center of the giant’s chest. I found myself letting out the breath I’d not known I was holding, and heard movement behind me.

I turned to see the two young bar girls helping the woman, finally, up off of the pavement, and taking her inside the pub. As I looked back at the giant, he had backed away, the tall woman’s arm guiding him to the curb.

I stood straight, now in tears myself from the relief, and from the shock. I was still four years old, still hiding under the table, while furniture still shattered, as my mother screamed in the other room. But this time, I had not stayed hidden under the table.

This time, I had come out to help.

Lost in these thoughts, I turned down the bar girl’s offer of a drink. As Mona came over, saying something I couldn’t hear, I wondered where she had been during all of this. Recalling her nights of coming home drunk, I realized that she had been standing there, 20 feet away, the entire time. Now I could see her in my mind’s eye, standing off to the side, just watching. As the five men and two bar girls had stood by and just watched.

All standing idly by while… And all but the young bar girls were bigger than me.

What’s a problem you think people need to know more about?

For fun’s sake by da-AL

Spanish wax napkin origami of Flamenco (Sevillana) dancers.
By Eekiv – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19924480

Surfing about the net while I’ve been editing my soon-to-be self-published novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” I found this and thought you might enjoy it too — for all the time I spend writing via my computer, I still love paper! And dance! And travel! And cafes in Spain! And creativity!…

And more cuteness! Here’s my dear doggie before our walk…

My dear doggie before our walk. Photo by Khashayar Parsi.

And here she is when we went out and encountered this uplifting chalk art!…

“Stand here & think about someone you love.”

“You are loved.”

Do you love writing, paper, dancing, foreign cafes, creativity, and cuteness too?…

Flamenco Fusion by da-AL

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” is the title of the first of my soon-to-be self-published novels. The ‘Sitting Cat’ part of the title refers to the geographical shape of Iran…

Map of Iran out lined in shape of a Sitting Cat.
Map of Iran outlined in the shape of a Sitting Cat.

I grew up with only classical music — and flamenco music and dance. My father, who left Barcelona in his mid-20s, wanted it that way. Since I left home at 18, it’s a gift to watch any type of dance I like and to listen to every kind of music that comes my way.

Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.
Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam respectfully and lovingly fuses dance cultures.

I still love classical — and flamenco! Especially fascinating to me is when flamenco is fused with the dance of Iran, where my husband was raised. Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam is an Iranian dancer now residing in France. Flamenco is as much about individuality as it is about technique — it accommodates all cultures, all forms of beauty.

If only politics were as intent on creating a climate of ‘we’ rather than an ‘us vs. them’!

The way Ghalam (click here for his Facebook page) fuses dance styles is respectful and hypnotic…

For more flamenco, check out Part 3: Marvelous Madrid — Flamenco

What fusion art do you enjoy?

3. Ever been told…?

Flamenco woman with text over that reads: Ever been told that 'all Middle Eastern women are sexy,' that they have 'hypnotic eyes,' & that 'you know what goes on under those burqas'?

Ever been told that ‘all Middle Eastern women are sexy,’ that they have ‘hypnotic eyes,’ and that ‘you know what goes on under those burqas’ as if they’re an exotic species?

Flamenco and the Sitting Cat: a video intro to my novel by da-AL

“Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” is a twelve-part serialized adult general fiction literary novel I’m writing. The transcript of this video about “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” is underneath it. Its sequel is, “Tango & the Sitting Cat.”

Among the events that inspired me to write it is how, when I was growing up, my mom often supported the family. Given that between my parents and me, we were from three different countries, my earliest memories have to do with questioning how gender and culture shape us.

By the time I turned forty, I had won a number of journalism honors. Among them was an Emmy nomination and then an Emmy award for documentaries that I produced on social issues. That year that I turned forty, I married a wonderful man who added yet another country to my family’s mix.

I regard my life as a series of ongoing ‘coming of ages.’ Not just the traditional one of when I was eighteen and left my parents’ apartment to live on my own and support myself. This got me to wondering, ‘what if there was a 40-year-old-virgin-woman, not in terms of sex, but as far as trusting straight men and the institution of marriage?’

I love challenges, so I decided to learn to write fiction. The protagonist would have to be the most difficult to depict; a woman who is neither young nor old. The supporting characters would have to be an intercultural mix of personalities as multidimensional and confusing as people are in real life.

The twelve installments of “Flamenco and the Sitting Cat” comprise a sort of anti-novel that illustrates the need for tolerance and that happiness is available to any of us — during any of our coming of ages!

As the story unfolds over these posts, I’d love to know what you think about the novel’s content and unfolding. Any first-hand experience with successfully promoting literary fiction for adults would be welcome too.

Appease October Ghouls with International Food Idioms! by da-AL

Can idioms satisfy ghouls?
Can idioms satisfy ghouls?

Fright month — October, when tales of vampires and other ghouls feasting on humans are at their scariest — calls for self defense.

When my husband mentioned how in his native Iran, someone saying wanting to eat your liver means they love you, it got me to thinking.

Might food idioms placate blood thirsty villains?

Fingers crossed, I’ve collected a few from the countries I’m directly related to — my natal U.S., my paternal Spain, and my maternal Argentina.

Here at home, my sweet heart is the apple of my eye, while a bad egg is someone I don’t want to be around. Cheesy and corny people are silly. Conversely, big cheeses are VIPs.

Spaniards typically encourage flamenco performers with jaleo shouts. Hechale papas, to throw some potatoes into it, commands that dancers put even more into their moves.

Over there, a very attractive is like a cheese, es como un queso! When someone is like a soup, como una sopa, they’re soaked from the rain.

In Argentina, to be in the oven, estar al horno, is to be in trouble. Estar al horno con papas, with chips added, means big trouble. To send fruit, mandar fruta, means someone is talking nonsense.

To be rowing in dulce de leche (Argentine’s amped version of caramel), estar remando en dulce de leche, means one is in a sticky situation.

What are your favorite food idioms that are guaranteed to make your local cannibals salivate?

All Hail the Amateur Dancer: a Video by da-AL

My 8th Toastmasters speech: use visual aids. I only recorded myself from my desktop computer while hashing it out at home, so this is admittedly a bit funky, but I hope it’ll make you laugh the way it has others. The text is featured on Long Beach Underground — my good friend Peter’s brand new site dedicated to unsung artists. Check out his Facebook too, for great performances from recent his launch party.

Dada-daaa da-da-da-da-daaa. “Trying hard now…” Da/da/da/da/da/daaaa. Da-da-daaaa. Da-da-da-da-daaaaa… “Gonna fly, fly, fly…”

Note the damp towel at my neck, under the hood of my green workout jacket. Pretend there’s a locker-room reek to the air around me, a whiff of some over sweet protein-maxed drink that’s spilled onto the gym bag at my feet. Ignore how, under the above-the-waist stuff, I’ve got on a flamenco skirt. I’m aiming for a, albeit girly version, of a Rocky Balboa vibe.

Pumping my left fist into the air while grasping the lyric sheet in my right, anyone can hear how off-key my rendition of the “Rocky” movie theme is. I’m no professional singer, and I don’t care to be one.

I’m here to praise the Amateur.

Who hasn’t watched at least one of Hollywood’s billion variations on the ultimate American icon — the underdog? Those characters who never give up clawing their ways to their goals? No matter how many times they’re knocked down, again and again they dust themselves off to start all over.

Underdogs surpass all. For them lamentable backgrounds and situations are jet fuel. They spur them to dream bigger, work harder, and stay persistent! In the end, like phoenixes rising from ashes with moon beams and sunshine combined to halo their outstretched wings, movie underdogs always win.

Phooey. My praise is reserved for the Amateur.

The underdog fantasy is encrusted with sayings in the vein of, “Do what you love and the money will follow,” and, “Do what you love, follow your dreams, and you’ll win lots of praise.” This is where Jiminy Cricket warbles “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Amateur is stronger than all that! To the Amateur, money and praise are irrelevant. That’s because the Amateur is defined by the sincerest of love.

Look up the definition for Amateur. Better yet, don’t. All you’ll find are filthy words best not repeated. Words that have zilch to do with how the root of Amateur, is Amour, the French word for Love.

It may take a while to agree with me, given that it took me five years to arrive at this level of respect Amateurs. That’s because, for five years, I tried to master the maddeningly impossible to learn 12-beat rhythm of flamenco dance.

Taking my cue from underdog lore, for those five years I labored to become decent at flamenco. My efforts included:

  • attending several group classes per week
  • taking private lessons
  • practicing at outside of class
  • dancing publicly
  • buying custom fitted shoes from Spain
  • experimenting with different teachers
  • sewing my own costume
  • buying costumes
  • listening to flamenco music wherever I went, whatever I did
  • watching flamenco movies and documentaries
  • attending shows
  • reading about flamenco
  • hoping, praying, dreaming, talking — all about wanting to get good at flamenco

For people like me, Flamenco is a cruel love. Picture me:

  • swirling my hands as nearly like graceful doves as I could
  • arcing my arms as arabesque-ish as possible
  • standing as straight as solid as I might, rat-a-tat-tatting my heels for all I’m worth
  • swishing my skirt with all the emotion and conviction I was able to muster

None of it mattered. Nothing ratcheted into place. I never became anywhere near wonderful at it, nowhere close to a success at that damned 12-beat flamenco rhythm. If I was lucky, maybe on a super good day, I attained mediocrity.

It took all that, those five infuriating years, to fling aside my flamenco practice skirt.

That’s when I had my epiphany. Forget about experts and professionals. Amateurs — Amateurs! — are the ones who deserve praise!

Sure, experts and professionals work hard. But its easy get out of bed every day to practice something fun that you’re getting paid for. It’s painless to sink money behind money into a goal when a payoff is guaranteed.

Yeah, some experts and professionals swear they’re not doing it for the money. Whether they’re telling the truth or not, those truckloads of encouragement go a long way. So do the ribbons, trophies, and bragging points. With everyone exalting them, telling them how tremendous they are, how their dancing benefits the world of today and tomorrow, how could experts and professionals not keep at their goals?!

Real strength lies in committing to an endeavor devoid of all promise of any external validation. It’s deciding to enjoy it regardless of people sneering at one’s lack of mastery. Moreover, that strength defines mastery of the art of living a good life!

Life is not just a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s not some race toward a goal. I’m not racing to be born or to be in the middle of things. I’m not racing to die.

Life is every note of the entire song. Its every dance step. It’s savoring every moment. It’s embracing every pratfall, every misstep.

Only Amateurs transcend mastery of the 12-beat rhythm of flamenco. Only Amateurs are experts of what’s truly important — the call and the beat of one’s own heart.

All hail the Amateur!

What do you think of amateurs? Are you one?