Monday, December 22, 2014

Aerial Arts and the Ann Arbor Aviary

I've posted here before about burlesque (Michigan Burlesque Festival Detroit, Why I Like Burlesque, Burlesque: Its History and Its Present), but I don't think I have shared much about other forms of "lost" entertainment currently making a comeback, like the aerial arts of silk rope and trapeze. I saw some wonderful displays of trapeze at the Detroit Burlesque Festival, and a lot of goth clubs will include a silk rope act or two. (I once saw some excellent performers at Bar Sinister in Los Angeles.)
My boyfriend Greg and I recently attended a show at the Ann Arbor Aviary where one of terrific and talented coworkers is also an instructor. We also saw many familiar faces from the local burlesque shows we've seen. This was the first really diverse show we've been to this year, and we loved it. There single, couple, and group silk rope performances, hooping, burlesque, belly dance (two ladies and a gentleman), a Japanese butoh performance, and trapeze. (And possibly more that I am forgetting.)
Not being a fan of heights, let alone falling, I have a lot of respect for aerial performers. I know it takes a lot of practice and body conditioning to make the poses and movements look so fluid and effortless.
So inspired was Greg by this show that he signed up for the A2 Aviary's static trapeze beginner class. Greg has always been interested in circus and sideshow performances and currently runs the blog Dr. Gentleman's Wagon Tracks about the history of the circus in the United States. If he goes on and takes the second class, he will be eligible to perform at the school's showcase performance. Which would be really, really neat! (Keen, even.)
I am hoping to persuade some of the Aviary crew to let me interview them for upcoming Journal issues. Sometimes I think, "Ah! I'm gonna run out of people to interview! What am I gonna do??" Then new doors and connections open up. (I think I will start with my coworker.) One thing is for sure, I'm starting to feel more like a journalist than an author. (Yes, there is a difference.) And I think I am ok with this.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Ann Arbor's Kerrytown Celebrates KindleFest 2014

While the rest of Ann Arbor goes apeshit for deals at Midnight Madness downtown, over in Kerrytown at the farmers market and shops they celebrate KindleFest, a German-themed holiday market. Since things had quieted down at job #1 (located in Kerrytown), my generous manager let me go an hour early (turning an 8 hour shift into a 7 hour shift) so I had time to finally visit KindleFest after passing 5 Decembers in Ann Arbor  (I was always working) before my shift started at job #2 for Midnight Madness. 

(I worked a total of 11 hours that day, 7 hours the next, and 6 hours the next. By Sunday, my last day in a 9 hour week, I barely knew my own name and was mostly babbling gibberish to customers who asked if I was ok and needed to sit down. If I sat down, how would I sell you your useless Christmas crap?? But I digress.) 

I've been hearing a lot about Christmas markets in (mostly Scandinavian and Germanic) Europe lately. Greg and I even watched an episode of No Reservations in which Anthony Bourdain not only visits one, but enjoys himself! I found it all pretty intriguing. I have also been to a lot of festivals at the Kerrytown market and seen pictures of previous years' KindleFest. There is a children's lantern parade, the arrival of St. Nicolas, and occasionally a Krampus, a dark devil-like thing who puts the bad children into sacks and beats them with a stick or drags them to hell. (Hey, it's better than the Dutch Black Peter.)

Sadly, I missed the lantern parade (though I think I watched it last year through the windows of the store where I was working - December is always a blur). I did decide to take advantage of the deals. After leaving job #1, I made a beeline for Mudpuddles, the toy store on the second floor of the Kerrytown Shops, where they were offering 20% off everything in the store that wasn't Lego brand. 20% isn't much compared to what the Big Box stores are offering, but for a small business, that's a lot. It means cutting their profits nearly in half just to participate in the feeding frenzy that is Christmas. Mudpuddles is a store that I love, but generally can't afford (not saying their prices are unreasonable, I am just poor). I bought two presents for my nephews at 20% that night. I like to think the sale helped us both out.

Outside, the German-theme was in full swing. Tables and trucks selling bratwurst, lebkuchen, chocolate kringles were lined up! There were also, of course, the local artisans and vendors selling handmade toys, ornaments, and more, not to mention batches of homemade jams, brittles, soaps, and candles. I picked up an ornament of the Eye of Horus carved from ash wood for Greg. I don't think either of us is going to have to put up a tree this year, but the ornament was still way too cool to pass up. (Greg is a great admirer of ancient Egypt and has an altar to the goddess Bast set up in our bedroom. Our cats Memphis and Sawyer love it.) 

Inevitably, I headed over to Main St to do my penance at Midnight Madness. There was a surprise setting up outside Crazy Wisdom: the Leslie Science and Nature Center was having a meet and greet with two rescued owls. The little barn owl was so stinking cute! One of the people with the owls let me feel a real owl's wing (detached from a deceased owl, alas) which was much softer than I had expected. He pointed out that owls must be silent in order to catch their prey, hence the fluffy softness of their feathers. I also handled a real owl's foot with claws (again, detached). Those are some pretty fierce claws even in their current state. 

I learned that Leslie offers owl-themed birthday parties that include going on a nature hike. I don't know if it's for kids only, though I suspect children are the target group. You can also "adopt" an non-releasable animal, which I think sounds like fun. I once "adopted" a humpback whale name Patches when I was a kid. I found all the newsletters they sent and updates on Patches' whereabouts terribly exciting - and he was all the way in the Atlantic Ocean, a place I wouldn't visit until I was an adult, and I've never gone whale-watching. Imagine how much more thrilling adopting an animal you can actually go visit.  

By the end of the night, I was exhausted. I had really intended on only working on shift that day so that I would have time to fully explore KindleFest, but it just didn't work out that way. Maybe next year. (I hope next year also has owls.)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Welcome, December

It's that time of year again when Greed reigns supreme, sometimes in the guise of good cheer or charity, but usually, just out and out, bald-faced, elbow-to-the-ribs Greed (Black Friday, anyone?). To some people, holiday shopping may really bring the satisfaction of finding just the right gift to brighten a loved one's day. Then there are people like me. People who take advantage of that artificially placed desire to please one's kith and kin to line their own pockets.

I am an absolute zombie in December. I have 1 day off for the entire time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. One. And it is next Monday. Tomorrow, in honor of Ann Arbor's Midnight Madness (think Black Friday round 2), I am working from 12 noon to 11pm, then back again at 9:30am Saturday morning for a 7 hour shift. I'm already exhausted.

And why do we do this? I do it because I have bills to pay and hungry kitties to feed, and taking advantage of suckers is so much easier in December. But why do the suckers do it? It's nice to buy presents for people and make them happy with just the right "thinking of you" gift, but I do that all year long because it's so much sweeter to receive something when one isn't under societal obligation to buy it. 

It's hard for me to accept that Christmas (and increasingly Thanksgiving) are actually about getting together with and enjoying the company of family and friends when it's my only day off in a span of 20 days and the entire month prior my sole purpose is to talk people into buying crap they very probably, in all likelihood don't need. (How many snowman tea towels or kissing elves salt and pepper shakers does one person need, really?) When my only day off - the only time I will get to myself - is spent in the company of others, doing whatever they're doing, and adhering to a schedule, it isn't restful, thus not a true "day off." 

So, everyone, enjoy your holidays. I won't. I'll be delirious with exhaustion and hallucinating from lack of rest. But I will enjoy paying off bills with all that money you'll be foolishly throwing my way. Cheers!