The Luck of the Irish DanceSport Gala Weekend

So now I’ll tell you what that hotel room thing was all about.

I didn’t want to jinx it, but my dance partner and I decided to compete at the Irish DanceSport Gala at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana! And no, it’s actually not an Irish dance competition, it’s called that because the school is the Fighting Irish.

We (me, my partner, and two other team members) drove down to South Bend from Madison on Friday afternoon. It was probably between five and six hours of driving, but we managed to make it to the welcome dance before heading off to our hotel which was surprisingly a ways away. I bunked with a random assortment of team members in a rather comfortable hotel room.

The day of the competition was beautiful and sunny, and we were up bright and early around 7:30 or so, and relaxed before heading over to the venue for our first event. I tried not to be too intimidated by the other dancers and just have fun. There were some really, really good dancers there. There were a lot of bedazzled costumes on the ladies, and a few men even had their hair bedazzled. I mean, I wear a little makeup, but bedazzled hair is a little too much, even for me. We competed in 8 Bronze dances and 8 Newcomer dances, opting to forgo Viennese at the last minute because we were tired. Our first callback was, surprisingly, in Bronze Tango, followed by one in Newcomer Tango and Newcomer Foxtrot. Breaking Bronze is pretty decent, especially for a rather inexperienced pair like us. We didn’t fare well in Bronze Latin, but got called back for quarter-finals in Newcomer Rumba (despite getting extremely off-time in the final 10 seconds or so), and then semi-finals! According to the judging page, we didn’t get any points in that last rumba, but we managed to score at least one point for all the rest of our first-round dances except for Bronze Waltz (our first dance of the day) and Bronze Foxtrot. Even though we did not place, my secret goal was at least one callback, so after that Bronze Tango callback, I was a little calmer, but still feeling competitive. Overall, we gave it our best shot, and I don’t regret anything I did on the dance floor. Okay, maybe a few botched quickstep moves and a couple moments where I almost lost it in jive, but other than that, I’m happy with my performance.

The long and short of it, we didn’t do too bad, especially this being my third-ever competition and my partner’s first.

And the reason I didn’t post this all yesterday was because even though it was only four and a half hours to drive back, I drove the first two hours or so and then slept as my partner drove us the rest of the way. I’m surprised that I didn’t wake up this morning slumped over in the parking lot of her building, but I managed to get up and lead a talkback this afternoon. I have plenty of work and stuff ahead of me this week, but at least this weekend happened and now I’ve just gotta worry about this week.


Jam-Packed Crazy Spring Break Weekend!

Hey fabulous reader-friends, and greetings once again from Gainesville. Check back later tonight for details on my trip to Jacksonville and St. Augustine with Echo!

(…and the rest of this entry was written from Baltimore, but whatever)

Day 1 (Friday): Already covered in the Now I’m in Florida post.

Day 2 (Saturday): We both ended up sleeping in and not hitting the road until close to 1 PM after a bagel stop at Panera and a gas stop in the tiny town of Waldo. There was absolutely nothing between Gainesville and Jacksonville for two hours, but at least we got to catch up on family, jobs, life and stuff. Our first stop was on Fort George Island, just north of Jacksonville. We hit up the Kingsley Plantation Visitor Center, part of Timucuan Ecological and Heritage Preserve, where Echo bought a National Parks Passport and got her first stamps. Kingsley Plantation is really tough to find, but is actually a beautiful little hideaway with great views. We saw the mock-up of slave quarters and the like, and read about what life was like there on the plantation. We also saw a giant tortoise burrow out from the ground! Probably the coolest thing though was the walls, which were made from crushed seashells.and lime. We wanted to get the stamps at the other Jacksonville Visitors Center at Fort Caroline National Memorial, so we sped there and made it in about 15 minutes before they closed. The good thing about Fort Caroline was that even though the VC closed at 5, the grounds themselves were open, so we just moved the car, then walked back and explored the old fort. Fort Caroline is such an enigma; it was built 500 years ago, and no one really knows what it looked like other than a few drawings. It was nice to have a national park all to ourselves for a while, though.

Next, we drove down to Ponte Vedra Beach to check into our hotel. It was a Hampton Inn, and even though the room was lovely, the hotel wasn’t exactly as amazing as described; it felt old, the pool was tiny, there was no hot tub, it was a drive from the beach, and it seemed like either everyone smoked right outside the lobby or the wind just blew it all in. In the end, all we really needed was a comfy and inexpensive crash pad, which served its purpose. We headed up to Jacksonville for dinner, where I got some delicious fish tacos and we shared some tea and cake. Even though it was approaching 9 PM, I cajoled Echo into going out dancing, and so we found a little place called Cuba Libre in the middle of nowhere, and were there until about 11 PM. Cover charge was $10 for me and nothing for her (ladies free until 10 PM) and a decently-sized drink was only 5 dollars. The dance floor was mostly empty, and until 10 or 10:30, we were the youngest people there. Strange for a Saturday night; the tunes were great, nothing pop, rap, or R & B, just Latin music (Marc Anthony, Elvis Crespo), and it wasn’t even that loud. Echo enjoyed her first time doing bachata and salsa even though I am far from a professional. Either way, we got back at midnight and fell straight asleep.

Day 3 (Sunday): Woke up at 9, had breakfast, then went back to the room to nap until noon/check-out time (the life!) We drove through the ritzy part of Jacksonville Beach/Ponte Vedra Beach and through some island preserve, and stopped for gas and an hour’s worth of beach time and fun in the sun. Echo ran around and took pictures while I got some reading done. Then, it was south along the coast to St. Augustine.

St. Augustine, though it’s the oldest town in the United States (European-settled, that is, there are Native American towns out west in Arizona and New Mexico that are older), is a giant tourist trap with one tiny road through it, very much like the French Quarter of New Orleans in the architecture and tackiness. We managed to find decent parking, but to get into Castillo de San Marcos it was $10. Kind of unheard of for a relatively small park. Anyway, we got a free 15 minute bookstore pass, and subsequently found out that we would probably not be able to make it to the other national park in town, Fort Matanzas National Monument, because it closes earlier in the day. Still, we got stamps and postcards, and walked around the fort, which was crammed with tourists. Thanks to my Yelp app, we managed to find a crepe place for a late lunch just outside the tourist zone, which was quiet and clean and reasonably priced. If you’re ever in St. Augustine, hit up Dolce Cafe, it’s on Flagler College’s campus. We then drove out of town and through about 1.5 hours of nothingness back to Gainesville. Echo took me on a quick drive through campus, pointing out several different buildings, the lake, the bat house, and the museums. It had been a late night the previous night, and she had to get up early for work so we just packed it in by midnight or so after stopping at Publix for groceries.

Day 4 (Monday): Slept until noon again, in the comfortable apartment. Spent the majority of the rest of the day walking around Gainesville, picking up 6 geocaches and enjoying the sunshine. I got about 20 papers grading while sitting at the Starbucks at the university library, before we went out for our last dinner together, sushi at Bento Cafe. I’d had a big lunch, but it was surprisingly tasty. I had wanted to go to a karaoke bar, but I guess the walking caught up to me and I was tired, so we just checked out the UF’s new student union and downtown Gainesville before heading back to the apartment at 10. We stayed up talking for like an hour, with wake up time at 7 AM the next day so Echo could get me to the airport before her 9 AM work meeting.

Day 5 (Tuesday): Hot. Mess. Day. I woke up at 7 AM to hear about the Brussels bombings, saying to myself, “gee, what a dandy day to fly.” Fortunately, I got myself up and packed, and Echo dropped me off at the airport at exactly 8:30 so she could be at work on time. Unfortunately for me, this meant 4 hours of sitting at Gainesville Airport alone, tired, and hungry, since their hot water was broken they didn’t have any fresh food, only prepackaged. I slept on and off in several different positions, and even though I spent four hours sitting there, I still had to have my bag taken apart by the one security guard there, even though it was just crossing from one side of a room to the other. The flight before ours came in on time, so they handed out free drink tickets, and on the jetway, had a bucket of cold drinks for free (and even still, served drinks on the plane!) I was worried about this flight, since the flight in from Atlanta had been so rattly, but it was just fine. The 51 minute connection in Atlanta was enough to get me to the gate by the time preboarding was starting, and had I gone to get a snack, I might have missed the plane, so now I was even more miserable. At least this plane was much bigger and wider, and nicer in general. I spent most of the flight to Baltimore asleep, and then it took forever to get home because of rush hour traffic, but once I got home, I was never happier to just lie in my bed and nap. Even though I slept 6 hours at night, in the airport, on 2 planes, and in the car, when I got home, all I wanted to do was sleep, but Mom managed to wake me up at about 8 or 9 PM so that I could have some chance of sleeping through the night. She clearly underestimated my powers of sleeping on the spot.

So that was the trip. Feeling a bit loopy from the last day of travel, but overall, had an amazing time just being with Echo. I miss her already.


Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin: Weekend in the Northwoods

A trip wouldn’t be complete without a trip log, so now that I’m back in one piece, here it is. Well, I’ve been back for a few hours now, but just spent the bulk of the time bonding with my bed after all of the brotherly bonding of the weekend.

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin

Episode 7: Weekend in the Northwoods!

Thanks for a very generous APO brother whose family has had this beautiful cabin for 5 generations, 15 people, including myself, set off from Madison for a weekend at said cabin, in Eagle River, a tiny town (pop. 1400) in Vilas County, in what is known as the “northwoods” of Wisconsin, not too far from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. And it is far, far north.

Day 1: We (me, Rachel G., Rachel P., and Becky) set off from Madison for Eagle River. I don’t know whether it was the adrenaline, the good company, or the huge Starbucks I drank, but the trip took just under 4 hours, and we got there just at nightfall. It didn’t seem so bad, until I turned off the highway and had to drive on curvy dirt roads through the, dark, dark woods where there are deer and BEARS (according to Rachel G., who grew up in north central Wisconsin). Once we got to the cabin, we met up with the first group to arrive, and had just enough time to put our bags in our rooms before we went back to town for dinner. I’m terrified of other people driving my car, but I’m even more terrified of driving on windy country roads in the pitch dark so I let Rachel G. take the wheel and rode in the passenger seat of my own car for only the second or third time in my life. We made it out of the woods and to a bar in Eagle River called Lumpy’s, where the eight of us had fried lake perch because it was Friday in Wisconsin. And it was delicious.

After going grocery shopping with the others, we drove back to meet the remaining two cars, one of whom we just barely beat. We made sleeping arrangements and then spent some time playing games before bed. I ended up sleeping in my own (very nice) bedroom at the bottom of the stairs, across from which was a large TV room, a room with six bunk beds, and a door leading out to a fire pit (which we tried using to make s’mores before giving up and using the stove), and the lake. Up on the main floor was a huge kitchen/dining/living area, with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, and upstairs was a loft with a huge bed and a futon. Even though the downstairs was kind of chilly, I just wrapped up in some blankets and snoozed the night away.

Day 2:

Woke up at about 9 AM for a delicious home-cooked breakfast, made by the brothers, followed by a trip into town to buy toys and things for our service project, which was creating gift bags for the children’s hospital. I got in a lot of good reading and actually finished a book by lunch, which was burgers and brats. We spent a few hours making packages and drawing cards, and spent most of the day just relaxing. There wasn’t really a trail or anything within walking distance, so people just played catch in the backyard, walked out onto the frozen lake, or hung out inside. I took a quick break to zip to town, get gas, find some geocaches, and call the folks, and came back in time for a delicious burrito dinner and a night of crazy card games, laughter, and a raucous game of hide and seek. Even though I was the oldest there by far, I outlasted some of the brothers who went to bed at 10:30. I turned in around midnight, and slept soundly until morning.

Day 3 (Today!):

How wonderful to wake up at 10 AM on a Sunday, only to realize that it’s 11 AM. At least we all had fun attempting to finish the massive amount of food we bought, cleaning up, and driving our cars through the mud. The trip back was about four and a half hours, thanks to a wrong turn I made, plus a stop in Rhinelander for Dunkin’ Donuts and a stretch-washroom-and-get-Jacob-some-caffeine break in Mosinee. It rained for the last two hours, which was great as it kept me awake and cleaned off my car.

That was probably some of the most boring travel writing ever, but at least the trip went off safely, my first APO trip as an advisor. The best part of it all was being without wi-fi and making fun of all the people who acted like the world was ending; at least we had electricity, running water, and indoor plumbing. It was quite peaceful, with books, games, and other people as company, rather than computers and phones. Other than wanting to update my blog, I didn’t really feel the need to check my email when I was in the cabin; on trips into town, I was on my phone, but not that much. Maybe I’m more of a wilderness person than I thought.

But now I just realized that I have to, like, teach tomorrow. Gross.


Before the Parade Passes By…

And happy hump day in another exhausting and confusing week in the life of That’s So Jacob. It’s December, and I do not know how that happened. I suspect it had something to do with November ending. Details forthcoming.

But it’s now been two and a half weeks since I saw Parade at The Temple in Atlanta, and I thought I should write down some thoughts on it before I completely forget about it.

Parade is a quandary of a musical. It’s the story of Leo Frank, of the National Pencil Company Incident that sparked the revival of the Ku Klux Klan and the birth of the Anti-Defamation League, but it’s also the story of his wife, Lucille; the other suspect in the case, Jim Conley; and the girl whose death started it all, Mary Phagan. Just as the case is still a mystery – even though it is almost certain that Frank had nothing to do with Phagan’s death, and that Conley probably had more to do with it than previously thought – the musical does not seek to give the audience any definitive answers. In a sense, everyone is innocent, whether a victim of racial discrimination, religious discrimination, thuggery, or the law, and everyone is guilty, whether by murder, association, or merely obstructing justice.

This performance was done concert-style in the sanctuary. I sat in the second row and watched as the story unfolded in front of me. The actors carried prompt books some of the time, but they maneuvered music stands and used props to their advantage, and at times it almost seemed apropos to have the entire cast seated in chairs behind the action; there were so many witnesses, but at the same time, so few, due to the palpable silence in coming forward to defend Leo Frank.

The voices were the highlight, of course. My friend Avery performed excellently as Lucille, hitting some beautiful notes, along with the portrayers of Leo Frank and of Jim Conley, who had a particularly jazzy side to his voice that almost made the audience sympathetic to his struggle. The chorus worked together well in layering in sound; something especially difficult in a space that did not lend itself to a traditional theatrical production. They sounded downright liturgical at points, especially in the powerful moments leading into the final song, which was sung a cappella for several measures.

One point of curiosity which did not go unnoticed by myself or the cast was the usage of the Confederate flag. Avery told me that the cast, whose racial makeup ranged from white to African American to Asian American, all had different reactions to the object; seeing it, feeling it, giving it significance. I, however, feel that the usage of the Confederate flag in Parade, especially in the production’s “stripped-down” format, allowed the performers to exert control over a symbol which, in the past, has been used to control thousands of people, and for a time, an independent nation. The flag was not only used as a flag, but also as a picnic blanket, a shroud, a bed spread, and a dust rag, among many things. This allowed the audience to focus more on the object’s usage over its substance and meaning. Taking away the meaning of a symbol also strips it of its power, and when seen used to clean a floor, cover a corpse, or for the purposes of sitting and eating, it transforms the object to one of utility that happens to show a symbol rather than a beacon of hatred. The pride of the people of the South to work hard and transform themselves was evinced in this way.

The talk-back afterwards was similarly illuminating. Many cast members offered their own personal thoughts, especially in connection with their characters. Overall, it was a very spiritual experience, and a performance for which I am glad to have flown halfway across the country to see.


Georgia on My Mind

Morning morning morning from Atlanta, Georgia. I’m sitting at the airport waiting to board my flight in about 20 minutes or so, but I wanted to get in another post from the Peach State.

I woke up at 6 this morning to order my uber from Kennesaw to the airport. Avery and Janna were pretty much dead asleep in the living room, so I snuck out quietly. I did whisper a quick goodbye to Avery and heard a “bye” back, although it could have been Janna or the cat or a ghost or imagination. Anyway, I allowed myself 2 hours to get to the airport, and fortunately it took only 45 minutes, and getting through security took only about 25 minutes, so I was in the terminal before 8:00 for my 10:30 am flight. And after a delicious breakfast I’m at the gate. 

Yesterday was probably one of the most fun and uplifting experiences I’ve ever had. We got up at 10 am to catch a ride with Becca to the Temple in Atlanta for their final rehearsal. The Temple was built in 1867 and is the oldest synagogue in Georgia. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and the actual shooting location for Driving Miss Daisy. It was most definitely filled with the spirits of congregants past, including Leo and Lucille Frank, whose wedding photo is featured on the wall. I watched the first hour or two of rehearsal, then took a walk, came back, and sat in the dressing room finishing a paper until showtime. I sat with Avery’s friend Jennifer for the incredible 2 hour concert performance in the front row of a packed house. The performance deserves its own post so I’ll skip it for now. Afterwards, there was a talkback with the cast and director. One of the audience members revealed that she was friends with Lucille Frank as well as acquainted with Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, you know just like you do.

After the show we went back to the house with Avery’s friends Avery (yes, another Avery but a male Avery), Becca, and Janna to change and to Kroger to buy some drinks to take to the cast party.

The cast party was at the apartment of some of the cast members. It was fun to drink a little and pretend to be an undergrad for a little while with the cast. Everyone was so nice. The night ended with a little craziness, but we all got home safely at around 12:30 am, and I stayed up talking and jamming with Avery, Avery, and Janna for another two hours.

Here’s hoping I get back to Madison with enough time to get ready for class. It really was a perfect weekend getaway, and I hope to return in the spring. I am still in disbelief that I managed to pull it off almost flawlessly and enjoy the last bit of 60 degree weather I’ll experience until May. Avery and her friends are such warm and welcoming people, showing me true southern hospitality.

See y’all sooner rather than later. 


Hey, Minnesota

Well hello there, and greetings from Northfield, Minnesota, home of St. Olaf College and, more importantly, the APO Region IX Conference. Rather than stay home this weekend and grade papers or compete in ballroom, or go to ASTR in Portland, I am here with a fun bunch of brothers and pledges from around the region. They are all staying at a hotel, while I am snuggled up in a lovely, soft bed at a local AirBnb, which I am trying for the first time.

This morning I managed to get a little done. I probably have to redo at least half the PechaKucha, though. But other than that, I thought about grading, packed for the trip, and did some desperately-needed apartment cleaning, so that I could leave a clean apartment by 1 PM when I was set to head out to Northfield with Melissa and Joni from the chapter in tow. We managed to leave only about 5 minutes after 1, which is amazing for APO time, and other than stopping for Dunkin Donuts in Wisconsin Dells and me almost hitting a deer (but ultimately avoiding it…the key word there is “almost”) it was a pretty uneventful four and a half hours. It did take just about a whole tank of gas, so sometime tomorrow, I will need to fill up for the trip back on Sunday. We arrived at St. Olaf at 6 PM, and then…pretty much just waited for everyone else…the next group showed up at 8, with the others trickling in after. Around 9:30, all the brothers had arrived, so I said goodbye to the other advisors and drove Melissa and Joni to their hotel with the other brothers and made sure nobody was left behind or anything, and then I headed back to this place, and got here about an hour ago. Tomorrow, wake-up is 7 AM, so I can help shuttle brothers over from their hotel to the conference site.

So, how am I feeling right now? Honestly…still stressed. Very. I should be more tired, especially after driving for four and a half hours, but after learning that I probably have to redo half of my PechaKucha in addition to getting started on my lesson plans for this week’s classes and working on the mini-reports, it’s just looming over me like a monster hiding in the little closet in the corner of this bedroom, or a deer waiting in the dark only to jump in front of my car. I told myself I would get stuff done, and have a happy, fun time here, but I feel like I should probably sneak away from at least some of the conference tomorrow and get some kind of work done hiding in a corner somewhere. Probably not grading, but maybe doing a redo of some of the PechaKucha or research for lesson plans or something.

Okay, I just yawned twice, so that’s probably some kind of cue to get to sleep.