Sunday, December 20, 2009

I Can Dance-Finale

I can’t really end my stories about my career at Arthur Murray’s without talking about some significant events that occurred during and beyond.

Miss Wadley

While at the studio everyone was always addressed formally. No first names were ever used. I now have no remembrance of Miss Wadley’s first name although I did know it at one time. She had recently retired after a lifetime working at Union Pacific Railroad when she first came into the studio. She wore black old lady shoes and usually a black dress, to cover a pronounced pear shaped form, when she first became my student. She had never been married. Sometimes she didn’t smell the best. She didn’t have a sense of rhythm. When asked to do a waltz step by herself, the rhythm was slow, quick, quick, instead of even tempoed steps of 1,2,3.

Naturally, given all the potential available, I looked forward to our twice a week sessions once the odor problem went away, which was soon. We soon became professional friends. As she improved in all areas, the power of positive reinforcement was so greatly dramatically demonstrated that I never forgot it. Constance encouragement on my part and desire to improve on her part was a winning combination. At one point we performed a solo waltz together at a dance party and she followed perfectly. Later she became a life time member and the commission I received as a result went into my slowly building saving account. When I left the studio I knew she would enjoy many years of dancing in her ankle strap shoes and colorful clothes with perfect rhythm.

Pat Carter

The owner of the studio also owned 4 other studios and due to lack of profitability, closed the studio in Grand Island, Nebraska and the teachers there were transferred to one of the two Omaha studios. Among them was this good looking, skinny, naive girl, Pat Carter. She came from a very small village near Grand Island and looked to get out into the world so moving to Grand Island was a big step for her. Omaha was another giant step forward for her. She was anxious to fit in, but it was challenging because she was not yet 21 although at times she got into the club the instructors went to after work to dance.

We started to spend most of our spare time together and of course all day and most of the night at the studio. Before long we became engaged. I had made the decision to return to college and continue my quest to secure an engineering degree. I didn’t want to go without her so we got married just before Thanksgiving. All the teachers and the studio owner as well as some of our students attended the reception held at my mother’s house. And of course, Miss Wadley was there. Leaving the studio, my fellow teachers, and students was not an easy thing to do. There was some promise that I could have advanced up the rank and file and had a career at Arthur Murray’s. We both had developed close and warm relationships with all the people and there was a void to fill as we left.

My mother constantly encouraged me to return to college in order to secure a better future for myself. And I did see the logic of her argument and upon my re-admission being accepted, off we went to Ames, Iowa to get me re-enrolled at Iowa State, find affordable lodging, and find Pat a job on campus.

The rode ahead was not easy. I took all the jobs I could find and worked hard on my studies. With one more year to go, we found out Pat was pregnant in August 1958. We lived in a basement apartment and awoke in the middle of an October night to find the house was on fire. We escaped all right, although my hair got singed. We were able to recover most of our belongings because the fire was put out quickly although everything smelled of smoke.

In three days I had to leave on a required senior vocation trip to visit factories in Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. Kindly neighbors put Pat up for the week while I was gone. We found lodging in Kelly, Iowa some 10 miles away. Our new lodging was cheaper, but the extra cost of gasoline even things out.

In March there was a big snow storm we were snowed in. Somehow a rumor got started in the little burg of Kelley that Pat was in labor. Two men with anxious eyes knocked on our door to inform us that they would help us get her to the hospital in Ames by clearing roads ahead of our car. Two days later Pat did indeed go into labor. Pat’s labor lasted about 40 hours. I spend most of two days in the waiting room listening to various women scream their way to delivery as their husbands abandoned me to go their prodigy.

Finally our son decided he had had enough dilly-dallying and popped out. I can still recall the relief I felt. My wife was exhausted but both mother and child were well and safe.
From then on the rest of the school year went smoothly, I graduated, and the first week in June, we loaded our car and small trailer with our entire belongings and headed to Dayton, Ohio, where I had accepted an offer to work at Frigidaire.

Throughout the years, occasionally, I taught people to dance and got paid to do so. I even started working part time at the Arthur Murray studio in Muncie, Indiana to pick up a little extra change and refresh my repertoire. I believe dancing open doors for me that never have closed. Should anything ever happen to my wife, I fantasize that I would obtain work on a cruise ship and charm rich ladies around the dance floor, occasionally discretely accepting their room keys as a token of their gratitude. Once in their room they would give me a great foot massage and offer me a warm glass of milk. The nice thing about a fantasy is that it doesn’t have to be acted out or take place for the mind to enjoy its image. So in some recess of my mind, I will always be moving gracefully along the dance floor.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Seeing Macau in 6 Hours

While in Hong Kong we took a side trip to Macau, something I didn’t get done when I lived in HK. In the 80”s it was still under the control of the Portuguese and it had the reputation of having a lot of gambling and sex available. Today the gambling has greatly expanded and the sex has gone underground.

Judith did visit in the 80’s and she says Macau has expanded probably at the same order of magnitude as HK has. Casinos are of the same ilk as those in Vegas, big and gaudy. And the old town of two story houses and shops, along narrow winding streets, are being crowded out to make way for new high rises.

We begin our journey by taxi to the western side of Kowloon and purchase tickets for the large hover craft, After going through passport control we board we find all seats are reserved and we find ours along the outside of the boat. The seats are cushiony fake leather with plenty of leg room. Almost are nice as sitting in business class on an airplane. The sea is calm and we scoot along the coast line observing various small islands and boats. Soon we disembark and go through customs and are quickly approached by a native tourist guide who speaks excellent English. He shows us his brochure outlining some the sites we should see within 2 hours which will end us up at the historic center of the city where we can slow down as see many things of interest.

One of first things we see is the Macau Tower which offers panoramic views of the city and has a convention center and restaurants and has added a bungee jump. In the back ground is the Sai Van Bridge which connects a couple of smaller islands that are part of Macau. These islands are where even more casinos, hotels, and resorts are being built.

Next we roll by the Kun Iam Ecumenical Center along the outer harbor. The Goddess of Kun Iam (Goddess of Mercy) is made of a special bronze. Information about Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism are available there.
We make our way up one of larger hills in the city to the Chapel of Our Lady of Penha founded in 1622 by crew and passengers of a ship which narrowly escaped capture by the Dutch. It was rebuilt is 1837.
We ended our tour at the fa├žade of St. Lawrence church which burned up except for the front. It is one of the main tourist attractions now. Next to it is an old fort and we climb the many steps up only to find out there is an escalator on the opposite side of the hill.. We use it on the way down.

We walk to the center of the historic city where this fountain has been a main stay for many years. The architecture of the building in the background is typical of that during the colonial Portuguese rule. Note always the black and white swirls in the street of the pedestrian mall.
This last church of note we visited was St. Dominic’s Church built is 1590’s. The church has a violent past. In 1644 a Spanish military officer was murdered during mass for being against the Portuguese and in 1707 the friars locked themselves in and pelted soldiers for three days with rocks. The soldiers were sent to enforce the excommunication orders issued by the local bishop who had a dispute with the pope.
We had a relaxing, enjoyable lunch at a western style restaurant just off the square, then headed back to HK.The next morning I captured the sunrise out our hotel window.
The sun is just lighting the tallest building.