April 16, 2014

N Is for NASCAR

I love NASCAR!!


Sprint Cup, Nationwide, Trucks, ARCA, you name it. 




I am probably the last person anyone would guess to be a NASCAR fan. As a former dancer, I have lived a life surrounded by writers, dancers, actors, singers, musicians, artists — the usual artsy-fartsy set. Little did my friends know that I spent my childhood watching baseball, wrestling, and whatever auto racing was covered on the local L.A. television channels (including Figure 8 and Demolition Derby). As I grew up, though, the sports thing took a back seat to all the arts stuff.

Joey Logano, 2009
Photo by Jeff Speer
My interest in motor racing started back up in late 2008, My friend Jeff suggested that I try and get an interview with a young Italian-American driver — Joey Logano. While I knew the names of practically every dancer in San Francisco Ballet for the last three decades, I hadn't a clue about NASCAR drivers. But I needed a story for the magazine I was editing, so I contacted the appropriate public relations liaison who arranged for me to interview Logano at an appearance in Las Vegas.

When I schedule an interview, I research the heck out of the interviewee and their particular area of expertise. So, before this one, I watched my first entire NASCAR race — the 2009 Daytona 500. Good to start at the top. The ballet bunhead in me noticed that, like choreography, if someone misses a step, there can be crashes and mayhem. But in NASCAR, the drivers are dancing the steps at 200 mph. Pretty cool. And pretty scary.

By the time of our scheduled meeting, I had watched the first races of the year — Sprint Cup and Nationwide. The interview with Logano and his family went well. My friend Jeff got some great photos, and the issue with Joey Logano on the cover of the magazine was super popular.

And how is this going over in my other universe? Well, most of my friends are completely baffled, which, of course, is half the fun. My husband (a fiction writer and not much of a sports fan) just shakes his head and says, "I never know what she's going to do next." 



Sprint Cup Weekend, 2014
Photo Courtesy of Las Vegas Motor Speedway


I now participate in a NASCAR Fantasy League, usually finishing in the Top 10 of our group of 30+. Also, I have written for Skirts and Scuffs, an all-woman NASCAR-sanctioned website. But mostly, I just enjoy watching the races on the weekends.



Hopefully, I can some day get to Talladega and maybe Bristol. Because there is nothing like hearing the engines roar in person.

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A lot of people have wonderful structured themes for this challenge. Me, I'm going with Random Girl. Hey, my life doesn't have a theme, so why should my blog?

And make sure you check out Blogging from A to Z . There are over 2,000 participants in this years's challenge. Whatever your particular enthusiasm, you are sure to find something to pique your interest.

For more information, follow the A to Z Facebook page or go to @AprilA2Z on Twitter and give them a Follow.



April 15, 2014

M Is for Marinaccio (as in Gene)

Gene Marinaccio was, by far, one of the best dance teachers I have ever encountered. His combined depth of understanding of the art form, his comprehension of the human body's potential, and his ability to communicate all this to his students is well beyond the scope of most dance makers. I feel lucky to have studied with him. Unfortunately, I cannot locate him as I am pretty sure he has stopped teaching. The following is an open letter to Gene, and one that I should have written a long time ago.

Dear Gene –

This is one of those letters that should have been written years ago, but for whatever stupid reason wasn't.

I would like to thank you for all the wonderful classes and all the wonderful choreography you created. But, most of all, I want to thank you for changing my life. You probably don't remember me, but I am Geri Cofone (now Jeter), the red-head Italian girl who took classes with you back in the late 60s, and occasionally after that, including at the studio located in the church on Wilshire.

Yes, I took class; yes, I wanted to be a dancer. However, what I didn't understand until many years later is that you didn't only teach dance. You taught those who were listening how to live.

One of the phrases I most remember is: "If you aren't going to dance for me now, when the hell are you?" I have paraphrased this many times over the course of my life. As a result, I have had so much fun and so many interesting moments. I have lived in England and various cities in the U. S., piloted a canal boat on the Avon, Regency danced with guys dressed as Klingons (my husband is a sci fi writer), catered the opening of the Bath Postal Museum, played with cool rocks as a graduate gemologist, sipped white wine at a café surrounded by snow banks in the Italian Alps, spent eight years as a dance writer in Nevada and California, edited technical theater magazines, and was chief editor of a magazine for the Las Vegas Italian-American community. Currently, my husband and I are living in Ecuador. Because, "When are you going to have an adventure? How about now?"
"Cantique de la Vie" by Gene Marinaccio
Photo by Jan Deen

Additionally, all the physical work in ballet class has paid off in a way I never expected. Eleven years ago, we were in a pretty nasty car accident. Car was rear-ended, husband was fine, but the guy swerved and nailed my side of the car. The damage to my spine was extensive. The doctors wanted to do major surgery. They gave me tons of potent drugs (which I never took). After all the medical nonsense, I told them they could bag their surgery. They told me that I couldn't keep taking the major drugs I needed for much longer. I told them I never took those things and only ever took Advil. Then, they asked how was that possible because I had to be in a tremendous amount of pain.

Okay. My back hurts a lot. But so what? I got a Pilates Reformer and began a workout program. I am not healed completely, and sometimes I need a cane, but I am not in a wheelchair, and Advil is still the strongest thing I take.

And it's all because of your classes and the lessons in how to overcome discomfort in the process of achieving a goal, whether it's a perfect placement or merely the ability to walk a few blocks. You also taught us to visualize our bodies and make corrections — pretty helpful when doing rehab.

I know this may sound sad, but it isn't. I am so grateful for the things I can do and for the reasons I can do them. You and your classes are a great part of that. You taught your students that they could break down barriers, real and imagined. This is a remarkable gift you gave us all.

That's pretty much it. I know teachers sometimes wonder whether anything gets through their students' thick skulls. Just thought you should know that even those who didn't continue dancing benefited tremendously from your efforts.

Thanks again.

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A lot of people have wonderful structured themes for this challenge. Me, I'm going with Random Girl. Hey, my life doesn't have a theme, so why should my blog?

And make sure you check out Blogging from A to Z . There are over 2,000 participants in this years's challenge. Whatever your particular enthusiasm, you are sure to find something to pique your interest.

For more information, follow the A to Z Facebook page or go to @AprilA2Z on Twitter and give them a Follow.

April 14, 2014

L is for Lullaby

One of my fondest childhood memories is sitting in my mother's lap as she sang us to sleep. I know, most moms sing lullabies. But my mother took it to another level. You see, she truly could sing  and the hard stuff.

Let's put it this way  every Saturday morning, we would listen to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast, and she would sing along. Often, she would sound lots better than the soprano on the radio. For years, I was under the impression that all mothers sang like that.

Courtesy of Portland Opera
When she was in high school, my mom placed with high honors at the New York State Music Festival. One year she sang the "Bell Song" from Lakme taken down a third. The judges said she had a voice like an untapped gold mine — and led to her being offered a scholarship at Juilliard, which she turned down. Why? They wanted her to learn how to read music over the summer, and her mother didn't want her to go.

I always thought it was a tremendous waste that she didn't go for that opportunity, but as they say about the arts, "If you can be discouraged from pursuing singing (acting, dance, writing, violin, painting, etc.), you should be."

Back to the lullabies. Sure, she sang the usual Brahms and a few other standard kids things, but our favorite was when she sang the "Evening Prayer" (Abendsegen) from Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel. Here is a link to the lullaby: Evening Prayer from Hansel and Gretel

Good night.

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A lot of people have wonderful structured themes for this challenge. Me, I'm going with Random Girl. Hey, my life doesn't have a theme, so why should my blog?

And make sure you check out Blogging from A to Z . There are over 2,000 participants in this years's challenge. Whatever your particular enthusiasm, you are sure to find something to pique your interest.

For more information, follow the A to Z Facebook page or go to @AprilA2Z on Twitter and give them a Follow.


April 12, 2014

K Is for Klutz

Klutz:  a person who often drops things, 
falls down, etc.; a clumsy person. 

And that would be me. 



From the time I was a little kid, I was the "accident prone" one in the neighborhood. Went through a glassed-in porch on roller skates (sliced my underarm and poked a hole in my skull), picked up an old-school fan and almost sliced off my thumb, and the really good one, ran both arms through the washing machine ringer. That one came within a half inch of losing the use of one arm and created a forest of blood clots (before drugs for drying those puppies up). I had to walk slowly, not move much, and just sit around and read a book for almost eighteen months because there was a fear the clots would travel to my brain or heart. I was five.  

As I grew, things slowed down a bit. Until I was fourteen. That was the summer I was horsing around a swimming pool with friends, slipped on the concrete, and broke my left ankle. (This one had long-term repercussions as it was the base injury that years later ended my hopes of continuing to dance at an elite level.) 

You would think that with all the dance classes I was taking that I would become less prone to crashing and burning. Nope. As a dancer, you are taught to have great posture, including holding your head up. This means that you don't see what is down there closer to the ground. I tripped over pavement, clipped bits and pieces of furniture on a regular basis, and my pièce de résistance — falling as I was going UP the stairs.

All of this was compounded by being injured in two separate car accidents, twenty-five years apart. In both, I was stopped for a light, and the car behind "spaced it" and rear-ended me. The spine injuries and nerve damage for some reason made my klutziness even more pronounced. Terrific. Just what I needed. I have face-planted on the streets of London, in my own home, in the garden, and coming down the front steps of our house in Portland. Good thing I tend to heal fast.

Ankles seem to be the weak link, overall. I even fell and sprained both at once, which truly amused the Urgent Care staff. On the other hand, the doctor said I could take comfort in the fact that I probably didn't have any form of osteoporosis as I rarely break much beyond the offended area.

My latest "event," however, was one of my best. I was in Lima with my buddy Allison. We were getting ready to check out of one hotel and move over to an even fancier one (part of a prize I won), when my ankle popped and I hit the decks. Took out my entire right side when I landed, including seriously spraining the ankle and doing some major bruising of muscles and ligaments in my right arm. On the other hand, I managed to slide my iPad along the floor. It wasn't damaged at all.

That bruise was a real pip — black, not purple, from shoulder to elbow; I still have residual bruising . Didn't stop us from having a good time, though. Allison is unflappable (and has nurse's aide training), and I am too pissy to allow pain and agony to completely ruin our time together. She snagged the hotel wheelchair, and off we went.

And we were staying at the newish Westin in Lima, home of some of the best food I have had in years. Wasn't too much of a hardship to eat at that hotel, that's for sure.

Bottom line: Always have your accidents at a 5-star hotel. They have people. And equipment. And really good restaurants.



NOTE: I have spent the last month doing physical therapy exercises and generally trying to get over this latest attack of klutzitis. It's going slowly, but things are improving. However, I have decided that I have entered the realm of ugly shoes and at least a light ankle brace. This is going to make me one mean old broad.


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A lot of people have wonderful structured themes for this challenge. Me, I'm going with Random Girl. Hey, my life doesn't have a theme, so why should my blog?

And make sure you check out Blogging from A to Z . There are over 2,000 participants in this years's challenge. Whatever your particular enthusiasm, you are sure to find something to pique your interest.

For more information, follow the A to Z Facebook page or go to @AprilA2Z on Twitter and give them a Follow.