My housemate J organized a trip to Glazed and Amazed this afternoon. This is one of those paint-your-own pottery places where you go and choose an over-priced unfinished slab of crockery and then get ceramic glaze all over yourself while eating grapes, if you are Chiara, and drinking wine, if you are everyone else in the group. You’ll never guess what I made! A SALAD PLATE WITH AN OCTOPUS ON IT. Yes! I even freestyle drew the thing! And I made the coloring all variegated, the better to emulate cephalopod chromatophores! And I drew in the suckers on the arms with puffy paint! AW YEAH. Does it get any better than this? Answer: yes, as soon as I make a chip-and-dip with a giant squid, a coffee mug with a chambered nautilus, and a flowerpot with a cuttlefish. When I was telling everyone about at the table about chromatophores and the suckers on the arms (each is independent from every other sucker, isn’t that interesting?), one girl asked if I had a degree in zoology. “No,” said J., who has endured many an impromptu marine life lecture from me when she’s trying to make dinner or something. “She has a degree in octopus.”
So even though the place itself was sort of funny, what with the smooth jazz on the radio, the be-lip-ringed nineteen year old working the kiln, and the deep and unstinting tweeness of the display items…let’s just say there was no shortage of “#1 Dad!!!” mugs…I found drawing and painting oddly satisfying. I made my octopus as biologically accurate as I knew how, and then J. showed me a good way to transfer my picture onto the plate so I only had to draw it once, and then I ended up enjoying squinting over my plate and patiently daubing on the three coats of glaze with brushes of varying tinyness. I signed my name in puffy paint on the underside of the plate with “Chiara [hearts] Octopus” and and I didn’t mess up the script at all and it came out looking very cool. We get to pick them up Friday and I can’t wait to put it up on our mantelpiece along with my pretty Italian lady plates. I guess I am easily amused, but I feel a sense of accomplishment, having painted an octopus on a salad plate, much greater than that I felt when I got the MSW behind my name. This plate is at about the level of the Thriller dance…learning it, not actually performing it. Performing it sucked…so you know it’s pretty great, if I do say so myself.
It’s been a nice weekend in general. Friday night I went to this bellydance thing my teacher Sharon has started putting on once a month. You show up in your fancy outfit and just dance around and sit on the floor and watch other dancers and enjoy the sensation of being totally relaxed about dancing. I am not very relaxed about dancing, I am sorry to report. Not in the Strictly Ballroom sense where I’m all hardcore about bellydance and I do it professionally and I have absolute opinions on various styles and a closet full of dance clothes and so on and so forth. I’m unrelaxed in the sense that I frown a lot in class because I am concentrating so hard and I’m constantly thinking about when to pivot and where my weight should be and what my arms should be doing. I have to think really hard when I dance in class and even though it’s totally fun, it’s the kind of fun that comes from accomplishment (see above re: Thriller dance and octopus salad plate) and from gaining proficiency and skill. The few times I’ve performed in public have been the same way.
The dance party, so far, has been way more laid-back. This time there were some live drummers, which threw me off a little because they changed the beat without warning and sometimes they played more cabaret-style stuff which totally freaked me out. But it didn’t matter…I messed up many times when I was leading a trio or in the middle of the circle, and I felt fine going “Sorry, that maybe should have been on the left foot, tee hee!” and getting on with my life. In class when I mess up I often get very frustrated and spend a lot of time wailing “But I can’t get out of the shimmy into the transition! My hips don’t work that way!” It was fun in the way that having a contest to see who can spin around the fastest and longest without throwing up is fun: there’s some skill involved but you’re much more in the moment.
And then of course some of us went out afterward and I cemented my love for many of the other dancers and we talked about love and dancing and who met who when and who was dancing where and who looked really cute in their wrap top tonight and who had great hair. Oh, and also! Ha. Those of you who have been worried about my self-esteem, wondering if I would ever feel beautiful again, lay your minds at ease. I sat down after dancing in a group for a while and some old dude was all over me, man, his white mustache waving in the breeze. “Who are you?” he gushed. “You’re a wonderful dancer!” Being unable to take a compliment graciously, I launched into this big speech about how my arms were all over the place and how I should have maybe done a basic Egyptian on the right foot for a change and oh by the way I should know how to do a hip bump circle by now…and so on and so forth. He was very friendly and told me I danced “passionately.” I still think that secretly means I have no control over my body when I dance but you’ll be happy to know I eventually did thank him for his nice compliment and shut up with the publishing of my flaws. Oh, and! There were a couple of SCA-types there too, and one of the guys asked us if we’d come to some big party they were having. He told us there would be “essentially three full days of swordfighting, it’ll be awesome.” One day I will tell you about my brief association with the Renaissance fair when I was in high school, but let me just say that I thought that the offer of three days of swordfighting as an enticement for me to attend any sort of function was highly funny. “You guys gotta come, man, it’ll be awesome. Dance and swords, man, what more do you want?” What more, indeed.
I’ve spent most of the rest of the day talking on the phone, to my mom; to Amy in North Carolina who just turned thirty and invited me to come out and see her and her new house and her sort-of-new baby for Easter; to Marah who turns thirty today and has a not-new-at-all baby and is in the middle of buying a house herself in her new town. My sister is coming to visit in a couple of weeks too. Maybe I will make them each an octopus plate for their very own, wouldn’t that be cool?