Monday, February 23, 2009

Emmylou Harris and the Yardstick

As Saint Francis de Sales says, the will of God is scarce known except by events. Before I could get to the second installment of chapter 10 of Contemplatives, I had to wait on some rather major spiritual events and instructions, and then, once those were sufficiently in place and understood in their application, I had to wait until this morning's Net announcement of the identity of the new archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan. This news provoked my own thoughts of the Big Apple so much that I actually sat down to this rig - on a Swiss ball, by the way, so I can bounce up and down like a cowboy, or a dragoon - intending to muse on the significance as I saw it of Benedict's latest appointment.
But I was put to work first on the chapter, a nicely centreing undertaking, and then turned loose as an essayist. And all this before breakfast, the aromas of which rise up the stairs, and the substance of which I will soon be called to. And you know what the original Benedict expected from his monks: that they be always ready to drop their own personal projects to answer the general schedule of the monastery.
Having seen no alternative to getting the music message out there at this time than to once again provoke the Warner corporation, the news from New York seems relevant. The archbishop oversees the education of a lot of young people, and it will be interesting to see how quickly he can realize what I'm on to, me and my angels. Warner's head office is in New York, and the simplest thing for everyone there to do is to get together over a Mindy's cheesecake, or strudel. But of course men - or even women - are never as simple as the angels, so we'll have to wait to see how it all spins out.
I remembered yesterday, too, that when the Warner Brothers went to Hollywood, they came from Ontario. Like my ancestors, after those good souls came from Pennsylvania. It's a small, small, world.
I never had strudel or cheesecake when I was in New York. I ate apple pie in an automat that was about thirty degrees Farenheit cooler than the streets outside (now that was culture shock) and didn't really learn about the delicacies at Mindy's until I saw "Guys and Dolls", just before I headed off into the Homathko wilderness. Man, could Fosse's laddies dance.
I think I've mentioned that although my parents were great at ballroom dancing, I never took up the subject myself intil I was almost 21 and decided that knowing how to move gracefully to music might be a feather in the hat when it came to courting. From having been sports editor of the Ubyssey, I had an in with rugby coach Albert Laithwaite - "hit 'em so hahd they faht!" - and thus was able to talk my way into the ballroom dancing class, taught by another Englishman who knew his job, a Mr Valentine. That's when it first struck me, even though I'd been singing with my uke for three years, that music really was all about numbers. I thrived, and quickly became a force to be reckoned with on the dance floor.
The class was in the autumn, starting when I was still nominally in law school. In the late winter, months after leaving the legal stuff, I was winding down at Dun and Bradstreet so I could step into the harness of a writer who could get to his typewriter first thing in the morning, with the best energy of the day. But I had also bought a Buddy Knox single, "Party Doll", to play over and over again so I could learn the words and figure out the chords.
I was usually the first one of our threesome home from work, and it was my job to cook supper. It was a wonderfully sunny day, I was full of beans at the idea of soon being able to write full time, and I put on the record, probably just for the sake of study while I peeled the spuds and opened a tin of green beans.
Of a sudden, without a partner, I exploded into solo dancing. I probably did this for at least fifteen minutes, playing the single over and over again. I had such a very good time, so that when I saw Bob Fosse's lads dancing over dice in the underground, I knew what made them do what they do.
I think of this now, with, the addition of some cross training to daily in-house fitness and weight loss programme. A dance movement routine has a number of elements simple walking and running do not. It is easier on the joints, provides lateral and reverse movement as well as forward, ever forward, and can especially make use, through judicious bending of the knees - although not, initially at least, as severely as the Cossack dancers do - of the enormous calorie burning that comes with raising one's own body weight up and down as much as is comfortable according the rules of Patanjali. Also, for a mental workhorse like myself, it provides a chance to study the music and learn the lyrics as I move about.
I'be been doing some calculations I can hardly believe the results of.
A couple of Sundays ago, as the three musketeers rambled across the CPR flats heading for their rendevous with coffee, muffins, hot chocolate and so on, I was moved to wonder how many inches the top of my head rose and fell over the course of a walking stride. I estimated that if it was as much as one inch, that would mean, multiplying 175 pounds by 1/12, that I would lift 24,640 foot pounds by walking one mile.
This seemed like a lot, so I humbly decided that even if it were only half-an-inch, i would still harvest 12,000 foot pounds. I had no idea of the conversion rate for foot-pounds into calories at that point, but I was still impressed. But as I got into my gentle dancing - gentle was good, because I could see that my calves felt the change right away - I realized, on the slower pieces, that there was lots of space for augmenting the size of a step vertically, so that a slow beat might even be more calorie intense than a fast one, where you had to keep your head level so as not to break your neck.
And then I was moved to re-calculate, and used a couple of yardsticks to measure the length of my leg, and using a 30 inch stride as a standard, used my highschool geometry skills to figure out how much the top of my head really did move up and down. Would you guess four inches? So doesn't that crank the foot-pound count, and thus the calories?
If God had meant us to be obese, he wouldn't have invented dancing.
Interestingly enough, one of the original titles for Bluemantle Revisited was "Emmylou and the Yardstick", because in the process of rigging my earphones and the extension cord so I could move the cord around the furniture, I tied the cord to the end of one of the yardsticks so as to get more range for my feet by lifting the cord in a wider arc. With the purchase of a CD Walkman, that is no longer necessary and I have the full range of my two lower floors in the early morning. Katrina the cat finds all this new activity most entertaining.
So do my anterior and medial thigh muscles.
Maybe I should write a musical called "Bye Bye Blubber".
What's this got to do with the new archbishop of New York? I read that in the process of dealing with the sexual abuse problem in his diocese of the time, he was at his desk and on the phone so much and thus gained so much weight that his staff feared for his health. Is it time for the clergy to make movement class part of canon law?

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