Monday, January 10, 2011

Staying Alive

Since it was the end of the year I wanted to write something really profound for the holiday season, but to be honest nothing came to me. So this isn’t one of those pieces about looking ahead, or remembering friends, or waxing nostalgia. Instead I am going to be my usual curmudgeony self and complain. Hey, when all else fails, stick to what you’re good at.

We bought our youngest daughter a Wii game this Christmas. Actually it was an Ussue (pronounced ‘youse’). “It’s just as good,” said the man standing outside of Best Buys next to a white van with a bumper-sticker that read ‘my other car is a mafia staff car’ and “only half the price”. He tried to get me to buy the extended warranty but I wasn’t born yesterday.

Apparently, I wasn’t born a whole lot of yesterdays as I was more than just a little bewildered on how the thing works. With the help of my two oldest children it was up and running in hours. It would have been sooner if it wasn’t for all the duct tape wrapped around it. We played mostly racing games and I managed to hold last place the entire week as my family sat around sipping hot cocoa waiting for me to cross a finish line.

One of the games my daughter received was some sort of dance competition. As we went through the catalog of songs I realized many of them were from the 80s, 70s, and even earlier. My time had come. Here was my chance for revenge, I mean victory, I mean avoiding total embarrassment. Those classes I took back in 1973 to learn the hustle, foxtrot, and cha cha would finally be paying big dividends. The contest began.

Soon I was shaking past the coffee table and sliding around the ottoman. It was like watching an octopus on crack. My arms flayed around the way cut electrical wires fling about during an ice storm. I was on fire, or at least that’s what I thought. For below the pounding of “Jungle Boogie” I could hear the laughter of loved ones. I just assumed it was for what passed as graphics on the screen, but in the TV reflection I caught a glimpse of a six-foot-two, fifty-three-year-old man, huffing and puffing, trying to keep a beat. I’d like to chalk it up to old age or just being out of practice, but as I danced about, visions of the past crept into my head.

People always thought my dancing was hysterical. No matter how serious I tried to be, it just made people laugh more. I really believed I was a good dancer. I’d be out there on the floor for hours, thinking ‘I could do this for a living’, and yet I was perplexed when the offers never came in. It happens with my writing as well. Every once in a while I try my hand at a serious piece. As I begin a reading, the snickers grow like Sea Monkeys in a Mason jar. Well, I guess I won’t be the next Fred Astaire and no one will ask me to sing Danny Boy, and the great American novel I’m writing will never be published, at least I can say one thing. It feels good seeing a smile on someone’s face, even if it was put there to the tune of “Staying Alive.”


  1. I've seen you dance, Jamie, and all I can say is that your family just doesn't know style when they see it.

    Phil McDonnell

  2. I knew I'd find a fan if I sounded pathetic enough.