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Startle me!

Go on, you know you want to.

Dance your heart out
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claptwice
I take Hip Hop at a local studio. We're a motley crew. There's a man in his late fifties -- a big guy with a paunch, grey hair and glasses. He's not very coordinated ... yet ... but he has a grace that belies his physique. Plus, he seems to genuinely like the music though I would've pegged him as a classic rock kinda guy. There's a kindergarten teacher who has long wavy grey hair past her shoulders, wears Chanel Number Five and who can really shake that thing. She dances six times a week and has five different versions of a popular Snoop Dog song. There are assorted twenty-somethings who feel very much at home with Snoop (even though he's old school) and who probably honed some of their moves on the high school dance floor, copying MTV videos. And then there's Sandy. Sandy has Down's Syndrome. Her passion is dancing, especially Hip Hop. She's awesome at it. She's the first to learn the routines and when the music comes on she jumps up and down and squeals with delight. She's lovely.

Two teenaged girls came in for the first time yesterday. They were probably about 15 or so. They stopped short, seeing me (in my forties), the man, the kindergarten teacher and Sandy. I could tell they were taken aback. What were *we* doing there? I guess they expected a more youthful crowd. At first I thought they'd leave but they sat down, giggling at us behind their hands. They ignored Sandy, even though she was sitting right beside them.

They were whispering something -- I didn't catch it -- when Sandy spoke up.

"Excuse me," she said. Very politely.

Startled, one of them answered. "Yes?"

"You just used the word 'retard'. I don't like that word. I have Down's Syndrome. That word hurts me. Could you please stop using it?"

To her credit, the girl had the grace to blush. "I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean anything by it and I wasn't talking about you."

Sandy looked her in the eye. "It's not a very nice word."

"I'm sorry," the girl repeated, the blush creeping down her neck and up into her hair line.

Sandy nodded, accepting the apology.

And then she got on the dance floor, lost herself in the music and left those girls, floundering with two left feet, in the dust.

I hope a lesson was learned.

And I love the spirit of Sandy.

Writer's Block: Let me entertain you
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claptwice
Who is your personal choice for greatest singer of all time, and why?


Without a doubt, Freddie Mercury. The man could sing anything. I saw him in concert six times and each time he was unbelievably jaw-dropping fantastic. What a show, what a voice!

I said JUMP!
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claptwice
I've never been a good sleeper.

I sleep best in the city. I like some ambient light, some noise, the sodium glare my particular city gives off, and the sound of the highway.

Weird, yes.

At our cottage, on our three-acre island of Canadian shield swallowed by lake, it's awfully quiet. There are times when neighbouring cottages will throw a party and the dulcet sounds of AC/DC or some bad country band will chink in between the loons and the cicadas.

But at 3 a.m. it's so quiet you could hear the proverbial pin. And it makes you jump.

I have a vivid imagination.

I've learned a new trick to get to sleep. So far, it has been a-okay for two nights running. At least to lull me to sleep between bouts of fitful and imaginative wakefulness.

Pretend you're back in Kindergarten. Remember -- and stretch to remember -- the things you loved about it. Fingerpainting. I LOVED fingerpainting. It rocked my world. The smell, the mess, the feeling of fingertips in blue, yellow, orange, red, green paint on paper. The swirls, the swoops, the dips, the highs, the lows, the shushes of fingers, dabbed in colour, on paper.

Chocolate milk from the farm. Going to the farm! Sturdy little legs, determined hands, soft snuffly noses of cows.

Nap time.

Circle time.

My teacher's black beehive hair-do.

Not enough? Grade one.

And on. Only good things. Maybe you only remember two or three, or maybe even six, about school and that secure feeling of belonging and learning and wonder. Explore them. Embrace them. Remember smells, colours, feelings. And have a lovely night's sleep as you descend into a peaceful slumber.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh.

Missing Marshall
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claptwice
It is quite disconcerting to turn on the computer and find out via Facebook that a friend has died.

Marshall was my age. I first met him when we worked for a political party at Queen's Park (provincial legislature for my non-Canadian friends). He was tall, lanky, smart, irreverent and wore leather pants to work back in the day when the only people who wore leather pants were rock stars.

We didn't share the same political philosophy as our employer -- which made us allies. Plus, he had a rebellious streak, as did I. He was a fun guy to hang out with.

After a very bitter break-up with a boyfriend of four years -- one of those jagged, prolonged, intense splits that leave you shattered -- Marshall rallied a band of my co-workers (most of us were in our early 20s) and walked into my office, where I sat, red-eyed and useless. "Up you get," he said. "We're going to the CNE."

We spent the rest of the afternoon on every ride, eating cotton candy, playing silly fair games. It was exactly what I needed. Marshall had that way about him -- he instinctively knew how to help somebody, to lift them up and feel better.

We lost touch after we left Queen's Park. The years passed.

Marshall found me on Facebook about a year ago. We reconnected -- he was the same warm, exuberant, witty man I had known 25 years ago. He wrote thoughtful posts. He made comments that made me laugh out loud. He was a delight.

I have to thank Facebook for that -- for letting Marshall shine his light on my life again.

RIP, my friend. I will miss you so.

Writer's Block: Back off!
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claptwice
Have you ever witnessed someone being bullied and just walked away? Have you ever gone out of your way to help someone who was being bullied? How do you think it impacted you and the person being bullied?


I've never walked away. I can't stand bullies. I've waded into more situations than I should've but I just can't let people get away with it.

Probably one of the most memorable times was late at night in Prague one snowy January. We were coming back from a bar and two young Korean guys came up and asked if they could walk with us. They looked nervous. We said sure and they fell in step. Seconds later two skinheads came the corner. They weren't punks who enjoyed music -- they were punks who enjoyed stomping on people who didn't look like them. Apparently they had been following these two guys, yelling racial epithets. They stopped short when they saw us -- not that we were scary, but that we were white and confident. And now there were four of us in the group. They spewed more invective and then slipped off down an alley. We watched our backs the entire way. The Korean guys thanked us -- apparently they had been harassed by these lovely gentlemen for a good half hour before they ran into anybody else on the street.

Bullies, in any shape or form, sicken me.

Writer's Block: Mind reader
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claptwice
In three words, describe what's currently running through your mind.

Ouch, lower back.

A power, but not a super one
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claptwice
I would love to have the power to cause abdominal cramps.

Say you're driving down the highway and some numbnut is tailgating you. You try to get him to back off, but he doesn't. You use your not-so-super power to give him a weird clenching feeling in his gut. He has to pull over. He recovers, but not for an hour or two.

Say some idiot, like, pretend, my neighbour, decides to use their leaf blower to chase imaginary leaves off their driveway. Hey, presto! Stomach cramps force them to turn the damned thing off and go and have a little nap until they pass.

I'd never use my power for evil. Unless there was a long line-up and I was in a hurry. Then I'd be tempted.

Writer's Block: Bad trip.
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claptwice
What was your worst travel experience ever, and why?


Hmmmm.

When I was in my early 20s, I went to Spain to visit my sister who was living in a tiny village near Malaga. My boyfriend at the time was studying architecture in Rome and I was wending my way to go and see him.

My parents were visiting Europe too, so I travelled with them for a bit. For some reason they decided to stay in dumps. I couldn't complain -- they were paying and I had no money.

In Algeciras, there was a knife fight outside our dingy hotel. It was a scary one. Somebody drew blood because it was slicked on the cobblestones the next day. The hotel was the kind of place somebody would go to end their life, too depressed or angry to leave a note.

The hotel in Cordoba was a little better. Until there was an inexplicable flood in the middle of the night. It hadn't been raining. Pipes hadn't burst. It came up to our knees.

We got to Zaragoza quite late, having driven from Barcelona. The only place available was a little guest house, two rooms. The people seemed okay, if a bit dour. They demanded the money up front. The rooms were spotless. At 4 a.m. we heard the most dolorous groaning, followed by an unimaginable stench -- a thick, cloying, terrible smell that wormed its way into your brain, triggering an atavistic urge to flee. The four of us staggered out of bed, confused. We got dressed and obeyed our instinct to run. As we were driving away, in the middle of the Spanish night, we noticed our guest house's neighbour -- it was an abattoir.

I guess another miserable experience was a few visits ago to Paris. I was travelling with my sister. A friend of a friend of a friend had a "loft" we could rent for $500 for the week. The place was worse than a dump. When you flushed the toilet, it came up in the bathtub. And that's the nicest thing I can say about the place. My sister and I had a lovely time, nevertheless. Luckily, we saw the humour in it.

Writer's Block: Are you incentivized?
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claptwice
Are there any buzz words or catch-phrases--such as incentivize or at the end of the day--that make you cringe? What are they, and why do you hate them?


"Now more than ever!" Yikes, but how I hate that. Such a cliche. So stupid. So trite.

"World-class". My city keeps bleating that it's "world class". It's not.

"Eatery". You have that as part of the name of your restaurant? I'm not going.

"Paradigm shift". Luckily this seems to have faded away. What the hell did it mean in the first place?

Any two names blended into one to describe a couple, e.g. "Brangelina" or "Bennifer". Grow up. Most of us are out of middle school.

"Baby bump". Please. Don't be so coy. She's pregnant, it's not a traffic calmer.

Which brings me to "baby on board". What did you think I was going to do? Ram into you just for fun if you didn't sport that stupid sign?

Friends' policy
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claptwice
This journal is mostly locked for friends. If you're interested in reading more, lemme know and I'll add you.