My sister and I used to have dance contests in our bedroom. When she would dance, I would judge. When I would dance, she would judge. Contrary to how this might sound, there was something eerily objective in this exercise. We were dedicated to the task at hand. When we were dancing we were the embodiment of the music blaring out of the boom box. When we were judging we were (albeit 10/12 year old) judges: sedentary, stodgy, critical, often hammer wielding, judgely judges. Competing with one another was not the concern. It was one little body against the scorecard. (She may disagree.)
I’ve remained judgmental. But dancing does not come so easily.
That’s why, of all the things that Walkmans, and then iPods brought to the world, this has got to be the finest contribution: I can bob up and down, in tight pants, weave through families, formal and informal meetings, picnics, play dates, flocks of birds and business men, cars, buses, bikes, bad boys and girls, in the rain, smiling and sweaty and not feel like a fool. Easter, I ran around Lake Merritt to the Rhythm of the Saints—which I used to dance to in my bedroom as a kid, 20 years ago. Time moves forward. Feet move forward. The mind moves forward and backward like the lake, pretending to be still. Running is my way of secretly dancing in public.
As soon as I’m out the door, all’s well. I’ve learned to delight in tempo changes. If the first song is brisk, I walk halftime, to warm up. If I’m mid-lake and Bonnie Prince Billy shows up, I prance along, a taunting double time. I used to skip songs that didn’t match my heart rate, now I delight in making them work. And this is ALL I NEED. Beats and endorphins. It’s been 20 minutes and I’ve gone from running from my life, to running for my life, to a life of dancing secretly through the city. My mind, a steely-still lake top.
This particular morning my iPod was out of juice, so I actually found a CD Walkman in an old bag hanging on the closet door knob. Rhythm of the Saints was in it already. And I grabbed a CD that I picked up at The Low Anthem show in SF last week from the first opening band, The Barr Brothers. So when the old Paul Simon CD started skipping, in one of my finest moves, I jogged in place popped it out, tore the plastic wrap off the new Barr Brother’s CD with my teeth, pulled the pink disc out of its sheath and put it in the player before it got hit with more than a couple stray raindrops, slipped ol’ Simon into the new CD case and back into my front hoody pocket all the while, in my heart and in my feet, dancing to the imprint of the memory of the rhythm of “She Moves On.” I keep moving. I hit PLAY. New music. New landscape. I run around this lake almost everyday, and suddenly, it’s new again.
As I round the final corner church bells chime right in time and key with the Wurlitzer solo in the last song “Let There Be Horses.” I have to snap one ear bud out to make sure they aren’t on the track. The synchronicity is breathtaking. I stop, in Easter Day awe. I had to. I had chased down the perfect moment, after all.
Then the scorecard flashes before me. ”That’s about an 8. For authenticity. But why’d you stop running?”
Feet move forward, bells swing forward and back, music moves up and down, hips swing side to side. ”Born at the right time.”