Monday, March 29, 2010

The Egg Trick in Spring (and Fall)

My friend Michael North recently shared this great Egg Trick story. It has become a family folktale that Michael says continues to create wonder in friends and others.

For some it has become "the point of perpendicularity."

The egg trick:
Spring is big in my family. It goes back quite aways to our days in Salt Lake City, Utah, but nothing beats The Egg Trick story of 1956. It was a story my dad shared with me 20 years ago during my 30th birthday party. My dad was a rabble-rouser. He and several others didn't like their boss. One day the boss had enough and called a meeting.

The boss walked in fifteen minutes late or so and asked what the beef was. My dad and others griped awhile and he glanced at the clock and said..enough, you guys all think you can be me...then do this.

He took a egg from his pocket and set it on the table. It didn't fall over. It stayed straight up for over a minute and was greeted by open mouths, awe and total silence. He grabbed the egg, cracked it open and poured the raw contents in the trash and left.

That can only be done right at spring or fall and lasts usually for about one minute. This year it was 10:32 PDT March 21.
You can do the egg trick however you want – and can even use two eggs or more if you’d like - but know if you do, my Dad says 'hello'.

Michael says that you can set up eggs east to west and watch then fall like dominoes. He receives pictures of this every year from friends who have heard the story.
And, by the way, he said it also works in the fall!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wearing Green on St. Patrick's Day

When I was growing up, St. Patrick's Day was all about wearing green. Dashing off to school, my brother, sister and I would check to be sure that whatever green clothing or accessories we had selected to wear to the school that day were highly visible. Had to. It was more of a matter of self defense than anything else against those who took great pleasure in pinching anyone who was not wearing green.

According to some, the tradition of St. Patrick's Day which is rooted in Ireland before the 1600's, offered a 'reprise' from Lent, the forty day period of fasting that precedes Easter in the Catholic tradition. It was on this day that people could drink alcohol and indulge in a variety of merrymaking activities.

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area many people - Irish or not - flock to the bars and saloons of San Francisco where they often bar hop until they can't hop anymore.

But I don't think that was the original plan for this Saint's day.

Patrick (AD 387–461)is the most commonly recognized of the patron saints of Ireland. Born in Roman Britain in the fifth century was a deacon in the Church like his father before him. At the age of sixteen he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken captive to Ireland as a slave. In time he fled captivity and boarded a ship that returned him to England where he promptly became a priest.

A bishop in 432 he returned to Ireland to save the Irish, rich and poor alike.Irish folklore tells that one of his teaching methods included using the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) to the Irish people.

Records show that in 1903, Saint Patrick's Day became an official public holiday in Ireland. The first Saint Patrick's Day parade held in the Irish Free State was held in Dublin in 1931 and in the mid-1990s that the Irish government began a campaign to use Saint Patrick's Day to showcase Ireland and its culture.

Having no known Irish bones in my body, I easily accepted our PG rated Americanized version of St. Patrick's Day and happily wore something green to school. I looked forward to the delicious corned beef and cabbage my mother made that day each year. A first generation American from Rhodes (the Spanish Jewish quarter), she delighted in all American holidays regardless of their religious beginnings. So we celebrated St. Patrick's Day hoping the 'luck of the Irish' would shine down upon us!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dancing in Spring

Spring is here and it's popping up everywhere!
The weather of the Northern Hemisphere is enticing us to come out and play - even dance!

And what better time for a folk dance than now?

In fact around the world there are many folk dance festivals taking place. Here are a few that are happening here in the United States:

=Festival 2010 Kyklos International Folk Dancers in Portland Oregon.
= Salt Spring Island Folk Dance Festival in B.C. Canada
= Arcata International Folk Dance Festival 2010 in Bayside, California
= Israel Folkdance Festival in Boston, Mass.

Historically, folk dance require little if any professional training. A social function activity, it is linked to traditional music or music based on traditional music.

Anyone remember those western folk dance segments in physical education classes? It was the only time our all-girl class interacted with the boys. We gathered together in the multi-purpose room and dosy-dood with boys to the tune of the Walbash Cannon Ball. We all blushed as we were swung or were swinging our partners around.

I think it's interesting that those country folk dances always paired us up, girl/boy. And, as much as I hated to admit it, it was fun at the same time it was corny.

What's interesting is that no one ever told us that country dances and ballroom dances originated from folk dances. Apparently, over time the folk dances became more specific and refined.

Would it have mattered to me as a 7th grader? Probably not.

Sometimes folk dance does make it to the stage for public performance purposes. But in that case it is choreographed for specific results. I'm thinking specifically of what you might see in a musical like OKLAHOMA.

People familiar with folk dancing can often determine what country a dance is from even if they have not seen that particular dance before. Some countries' dances have features that are unique to that country, although neighboring countries sometimes have similar features. For example, the German and Austrian schuhplattling dance consists of slapping the body and shoes in a fixed pattern, a feature that few other countries' dances have.

Folk dances sometimes evolved long before current political boundaries, so that certain dances are shared by several countries. For example, some Serbian, Bulgarian, and Croatian dances share the same or similar dances, and sometimes even use the same name and music for those dances.

I've noticed a resurgence lately of ethnic folk dance groups and classes at community centers and colleges. Mostly, though, its the older crowd who takes the time to attend. The dance is easy without being heavily aerobic. And because it's non-professional it's okay to mess up every now and then.

For the young teens who must still face a section of folk dance there are the now-common Greek, Israeli or Middle Eastern dances. Or maybe something from the Slavic region that didn't require any real one-to-one contact. All the students have to do is stand in a circle holding hands; managing all the while to keep their eyes on the ground just ahead of them.

Now that's my kind of dance!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Some Folktales Are Hard to Write

Some folktales are hard to write. When the folktale motif is more tragic than it is 'happy' the story can be difficult to write. I know. I've tried several times in my mind to imagine a folktale about my father who died just a few weeks ago.

While there were elements of his life that were romantic/ sweet. Unfortunately there were also vast sections of his life that were marked by the debris of his violence and cruelty as well as that of others.

He was a lumber jack kind of guy who helped to set up roadway benchmarks along the Pacific and Southern coastlines for the U.S. Geographic Survey. He was also the man whose anger, jealousy and possessiveness did more than terrify me, my siblings and my mother.

As a young man he traveled with other surveyors into wilderness areas (well, areas that didn't have roads) and learned to live off of supplies that followed on horseback. As a result his ability to be resourceful was honed almost to perfection.

And yet his perfectionism led him, a battered child himself, to terrorize us on many levels because he either could not or would not help himself and because, true to the social norms of the time, no one else intervened.

A brilliant engineer he designed sophisticated roads through all types of terrain as skillfully as he re-enacted the darkness of his own battered childhood in our lives.

There are so many motifs that apply to him: 1) A man more comfortable in the natural world than he was the civilized world; 2) A wounded heart that never healed; 3)A self-made professional; 4) someone who always carried a chip on his shoulder and more.

The beauty of folktales is that I can write them about him one at a time. I don't have to pick just one motif to describe him, his achievements or his personal aggression/oppression. Over time I can use them to preserve the pleasant memories because they are proof that at times he was a good man. I can also apply other motifs like 'rageful man destroys his world' which reflects how out-of-control and lost he really was.

Folktales also allow me to hold the humanity of his life (who he was) in a way that defies condemnation. He had both dark and light universal traits and folktales help me to remember that about him, myself and others.

These individual applications of universal themes give me a way to "see" the many facets of who he was. And for that I am grateful.