Sunday, March 23, 2014

Life and Death

Our vet told us that Mr. B has incurable cancer.  He has been very sick for a while now, and he doesn't have much time left.

It was love at first sight, when Mr. B and I met.  Compared to his beautiful, sleek, silver tabby brothers, he was just a plain brown tabby with broken rings and scruffy fur.  All the other kittens edged away when I reached down into cage,  but Mr. B locked eyes with me and let out the largest purr.

Mr. B was, and will always be my kitty, my prince, my baby.

We adopted Mr. B to be companion to our other kitty, Mrs. X.  What a bad idea.  They hated each other on sight, and remain bitter enemies to this day.  Every week either one or the other would sport livid red scratches from their unfortunate interactions.  Mrs. X became so indignant about us introducing this vile stranger into her happy home she threw up her food at every opportunity and refused to use her litter box.  We had to give her one of our bathrooms (whenever she wanted to go, she would yowl and we would open the door for her - and close the door behind her so that Mr. B can't go in) before she would revert back to normal.

The truth is - Mr. B was the biggest bully.  Not satisfied with picking on Mrs. X, he would swat and chase the other little cat and pick fights with the ginger cat, who was several pounds heavier and pure muscle without a neck, much like an Ultimate Fighting champion.  Mr. B didn't always win but this never stopped him from trying again the next day. 

Was it determination or stupidity?  Mr. B is not the brightest on the block.  He is a meanie but even the little cat can push his head aside and steal food from his bowl with complete impunity.  When the other cats pranked us by pushing all the tupperware from the top of the fridge or opening our kitchen cabinets, invariably it is Mr. B we find at the scene of the crime, munching on the kibble that the other ones spilled.   We could imagine the others giggling as Mr. B got yelled at for something he really didn't do.

Mr. B didn't mix well with the others.  He never groomed them and tolerated only a few minutes of licking from ginger cat when he was in a good mood.  Mr. B, however, thought that I was mamma cat, and often stared at me intently before bowing his forehead towards me hoping for me to wash his face with my tongue.

Man Yung declares that he is very democratic and he loves all our cats equally and I say - nonsense.  Mr. B may be a big, mean, dummy, but he is MY big, mean, dummy. He is the best kitty ever.

Now, Mr. B acts excited at meal times but when we put food in front of him, he can only manage a few bites.  The few mouthfuls he swallows causes him pain, and he runs to hide in the closet because he thinks pain is something he can hide from.  He won't play anymore.  He looks at me and his big green eyes ask me why.

We give him acupressure massage and it helps him to relax, and we believe that it helps with the pain, but every day he gets a little worse. We have to decide when it will end. I tell myself it is ok, he has been loved and pampered and he has had a great life.  Whatever he was put on earth for, he has accomplished.  No time was wasted.  No regrets.

Not many humans can say that of their lives when they are on the final trek towards death.  Things could always have been different.  Did we fritter our time, our money, our lives away needlessly.  Would it have been better if we had done this, done that. Did we choose the wrong path.  What if? 

We should be only thinking about Mr. B now, what he would want, what would be best, but I fear that our decision will be mixed with our own self-pity, our guilt, our selfishness.  How frail and foolish and fragile we are!  If only we could live our lives as simply, with as much confidence and conviction as a cat, even a big mean old dummy who didn't like any of the other cats like Mr. B.  Then it would not be as hard.  Then we would know when.

Mr. B passed on peacefully in our arms today, March 24, 2014.  His last hours were spent basking in the sunshine on the window ledge, listening to Irene play piano and surrounded by our love. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tango is not for everyone

We don't think this cute little doggie washed his hands or his feet after doing his business.  But then, it's probably ok - he isn't going to dance Tango afterwards.

Was asked this recently by a curious non-dancing onlooker at a milonga:

"Tango music is beautiful and I enjoy watching people dance Tango.  I would love to learn to dance... but is there a kind of Tango in which, you know, you don't have to dance so close?"

Unfortunately, we were actually able to recommend a few places in Toronto where she could learn Tango but safely within her criteria of 'not too much embrace, please'.  At some of these schools, people can also learn to dance 'not at all to the music', 'without any connection to their partner' and 'not caring whether they are kicking other people in the shins with their reckless exuberance'.  Isn't it nice that people who don't really want to learn what we consider to be the Tango can still go 'Tango' in our town?

Some people don't like to hug and wince upon being touched.  A few are terrified of stepping on someone's foot or being stepped on.   Others are mortified about looking awkward in public.  Maybe Tango shouldn't be their thing.

But thinking about it, maybe our inquisitive onlooker is on to something.

Tango is not for everyone.  Especially Germaphobes.

A Tango connection is a virus and bacteria-laden connection.  The average person has like a gazillion microscopic creepy crawlies in, on and around them at any given time, ready to make the leap to the next unsuspecting host.

As if this was not frightening enough! We always have our hand sanitizer ready at the milonga - and we use it liberally all the time, after we dance we anyone, after we shake hands with people, even after we dance with each otherIt's not that the lovely people we dance with/say hi to are dirty, but there's a big chance that they may have come into contact with someone who is not exactly hygienic.  Once you dance with one person, you have danced with every single person in the room.

Many years ago, we took a lonely friend to a Tango Club so she could meet some new people and try Tango out.  She found Tango fun, but we made the mistake of telling her to use hand sanitizer.

"Why?" she asked innocently.

"Oh, the gentleman you were dancing with  DIDN'T WASH HIS HANDS AFTER USING THE LOO." said Man Yung.

Our friend had already tried so hard to enjoy Tango despite being quite shy. That particular piece of information made her run for the hills and not come back.

"And not only do they skip washing their hands - I just saw one pee and NOT FLUSH!" Man Yung said last night to one of our Tanguera friends.  We had been shuddering in horror since Man Yung observed this in the men's washroom at the Saturday night milonga and couldn't wait to warn all our lady friends. Was it sheer coincidence that the non-flusher was one of the premier dancers of the Tango Club we brought our unlucky friend to all those years ago?

Our friend had a very wise reaction.

"DON'T TELL ME, PLEASE DON'T TELL ME!!!" said our Tanguera friend, waving her hands and shaking her head in dismay.  "I would like to enjoy dancing Tango tonight!"*

* Yep, we admit that this post is probably just way too much information for most Tango dancers who want to continue to dance without being completely put off by the amount of "Dirty Dancing" going on. **

** Conversely, Irene has observed that all Toronto Tangueras very considerately wash their hands after using the bathroom. ***

***  And on the other end of the spectrum, there is an exceptionally hygienic Tango Tanguero who makes sure he is clean and fresh for all ladies, so much so that he gives himself an extensive sponge bath using tissues and paper towels while in the bathroom.  Unfortunately, he is only considerate of the ladies and not considerate of the janitor.  After he is finished, the whole sink and the floor around the sink is covered with dirty water and sopping wet, used tissues - he thinks of cleaning himself but doesn't think of cleaning after himself.  Disgusting! ****

**** When some people learn to dance Tango, they think it is most important to learn more steps, dance better, get dances with better dancers, attain a skill level most likely to inspire admiration from others etc. etc. - but how can all this be more important than being a civilized, considerate human being with at least a basic knowledge of personal hygiene? *****

***** Man Yung has a whole list of names on the "Dirty Dancing" list.  But don't worry, he has learned his lesson and will not disclose to the general Toronto Tango public, for fear of creating wide-spread Toronto Tango panic.  Only lucky Irene will get to know.  Maybe it is a ploy to get her to dance only with Man Yung and nobody else!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Thank god this isn't Regency-era Great Britain where if you want to dance, 
you have to dance with every single person in the room, even the ones who you feel are completely conceited, arrogant, disdainful and

Since Man Yung seems to dance every tanda with every lady at the milonga, many observers may think he is being indiscriminate and that he isn't making a conscious choice when he choosing a dance partner.

It may look haphazard on the surface, but in fact, Man Yung uses these criteria, in order of priority:

1.  Dance with friends sitting at the same table as us first.  

Therefore, the ladies sitting with us whom we have known for ages (some of them were the first tangueras who ever accepted a dance with Man Yung, back in 2004!) will get at least one tanda, sometimes two or three!

2.  Dance with friends who are not sitting with us.  

Once again, we have known these lovely ladies for a long time and have had conversations much longer than "How are you? Fine thank you!"  Man Yung is more likely to ask single ladies in this group more than those with partners.  Those with partners will usually have more dances because of those partners than the single ladies (and be more tired out from dancing), so Man Yung will choose the single lady first.  In addition, for those ladies with partners, Man Yung is more likely to dance with the ladies with partners who are not jealous, who are not offended and are perhaps a little amused by the fact that Irene won't dance with them, than those with partners who are jealous/are offended and/or think that Irene should return the favour by dancing with them if Man Yung dances with their partner. 

3.  Dance with acquaintances we say hello to.  

Note that for tangueras falling within #2 and #3, it is important that they actually like dancing with Man Yung and are happy to be asked.  Some tangueras we are friendly with don't like dancing with Man Yung - probably because dancing with him with his encyclopedia of 'fancy schmancy moves' can be a pain in the ass.  This is when cabeceo saves the day - if the lady isn't looking in Man Yung's direction, he shouldn't ask her to dance!

4.  Dance with Tangueras we don't know very well who are staring at Man Yung for the purpose of cabeceo.  

Man Yung is short-sighted but the relentless stare will psychically make itself felt.  Since we don't know the tanguera well enough to know whether she wants to dance, the staring helps to signal to Man Yung that the Tanguera wants to dance with him.  With all cabeceo, Irene gives her helping hand (eye) to confirm for Man Yung who is staring at him so that he can go dance and leave her alone to play Match-3 games on her phone.

5.  Dance with Tangueras who have been sitting a long time/the whole night without getting dance.

Man Yung wants everyone to enjoy the milonga and he would make a special effort to dance with the ladies who have not been getting as many dances that night.  Often, these ladies may be beginners or just not popular with the other tangueros because of age and/or looks and/or skill level (the harsh truth). Once again, it helps if the tanguera is trying to cabeceo Man Yung instead of being engrossed in conversation with her neighbours/looking at her phone/gorging herself on the complimentary snacks.

Two critera we believe are very important to many tangueros that are completely unimportant to Man Yung:

A) The skill level of Tanguera.  Quite a few times we have heard tangueros say, "You should go and dance with her!  She is a really good dancer!"

Man Yung's reaction:  "She can be the best dancer in the world with the most fantastic whizzing footwork but that's nothing to do with me!"  Man Yung is not about to go out of his way dancing with someone who dances fabulously (maybe even a visiting instructor), especially if that person doesn't really want to dance with him and would only dance out of politeness. 

Man Yung can have terrific dances with tangueras of all skill levels.  Man Yung is happiest if the tanguera actually wants to dance with him and enjoys dance with him and they have fun and can feel a connection dancing together. 

B) The Tanguera's looks.  Once again, harsh truth:  Young, beautiful tangueras with gorgeous figures are the indisputable favourites of tangueros all the world over, but these kinds of good looks will not gain points with Man Yung. According to Man Yung, "All ladies are beautiful!"  And the most beautiful ladies in tango are the ones who have lived their lives to the fullest, and are full of love and laughter and compassion and light which infuses their dance. LADIES WITH BEAUTIFUL SOULS.


"So, Irene, I know you only have enough energy to dance with me and the rest of the time you are tired and want to play games on your iPhone, but if you had to choose a tanguero to dance with, what would be your criteria?" asked Man Yung.

I paused my game just long enough to respond.  "He has to dance like Fred Astaire and look like Alain Delon!  I'll take George Clooney too, he's not bad."

"Wow, Irene, what a compliment - I must have the looks of Alain Delon and the moves of Fred Astaire for you to dance so much with me!" said Man Yung.

"No way Man Yung - I think it must be the other way round.  You have the dance moves of Clooney and the looks of Astaire, but I love you anyway!"

* I remember there are three kinds of ladies Man Yung doesn't like to dance with.  One is the lady who thinks she is a hot-shot.  Describing one recent one he danced with, Man Yung said, "She literally stood there between Tangos with her hands on her hips and her nose in the air!"  

The second, related type, I think, is a lady who "corrects" Man Yung as he is dancing with her.  "But that hasn't happened for a long, long time!" said Man Yung.  

The third kind of lady talks incessantly while she is dancing with Man Yung.  I think she wants to talk not because their conversation is engrossing, but because she wants to distract Man Yung from the fact that she isn't following very well - and how can you follow well when you are so busy gabbing away, so loudly that everyone on the dance floor can hear you?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


I was going to write a post about dancers in Toronto enjoying their Tango more and more these days.

"Enjoyment?" said Man Yung after he heard about my latest topic.  "For sure - some guys are enjoying it a little too much!"

What he meant by that is not really "too much enjoyment", but rather....inappropriate enjoyment.

1.  The Gropers

 A Groper (whoops, we mean a Grouper)

Not at all hard to spot.  One of our tango friends encountered one early in her Tango journey.

"I accepted an invitation to dance from this guy at the practice - everything seemed ok for the first Tango.  Then, I noticed he was moving his right arm...downward.  For the rest of the tanda, I kept on dragging his arm up, while he kept on pushing his arm down towards my ass!"

She should have stopped dancing then and there - but heck, we were all newbies back then and gropers seem to have a homing device set to locate all the newbies to tango.  The Gropers know that newbies don't quite understand how "Tango" works and what is appropriate  and they are more vulnerable to be taken advantage of this way.

Once when we were in Buenos Aires, we saw a very interesting embrace.  The man had left hand positioned really low, really close, so that it looked very intimate.  So intimate that he was basically rubbing his hand on his partner's breast!

I don't see (or hear about) much about Gropers these days.  It could be that I am too busy playing Tetris on my iPhone when I'm at a milonga.  Or, it could be that you are more likely to find these guys at places where people "don't dance good" and we rarely go to those kinds of places - it's no joke, some guys may be dancing really poorly because they are expending all their energies trying to grab some tanguera's behind instead of improving their dance skills.

2.  Sneaky bastards

Man Yung is flirtatious but he is always a gentleman.  What he really can't stand is the sight of some guys trying take advantage of tangueras in the most sneaky way possible - peeking, accidental contact, etc.

"What these guys are are GAU LO*," said Man Yung. "If you want to ask a girl out, then ask her out!  Don't go around using Tango as a cover for your sneaky thrills!"

* Cantonese expression meaning "Dog Men", which is phonetically similar to the Cantonese for "Penis Man".  This is not supposed to be a flattering moniker.

Once we were at a milonga when some rambunctious dancer knocked into a table and spilled one of the drinks onto the floor.  One of the organizers - gorgeous girl with a great figure  and wearing a low cut dress - rushed to mop up the huge spill before it stained the floorboards.

Quite a few local Tangueros casually sauntered over...but not, ha ha, to help.  They were standing and sitting around nonchalantly as if they didn't know there was something going on.  In fact, they were secretly admiring the view as the organizer bent over! 

"What a bunch of assholes!" said Man Yung when he saw what was happening.  He told the organizer to stand up and move aside while he crouched down to mop up the spill himself.  The sneaky bastards sneakily (how else) moved out of the area, because Man Yung's ass and cleavage are not really as titillating.

3.  The "Verging on Sexual Harassment/Actual Sexual Harassment" Jolly Jovial Banterers

"Honey, I love watching your ass move in the mirror!"

"Whooo-hooo!  You are doing some crazy sexy moves!"

"I really enjoy the feeling of a pair of nice firm bosoms against my chest!"

"If I had a daughter, she'd be your age!  Come and sit on Daddy's lap after the dance!"

PUKE.  None of these were made up - they are ACTUAL THINGS said to some local Tangueras and even to IRENE at one time or another in the context of Tango. 

"I tell you, another bunch of GAU LO," said Man Yung. 

Very early on in Tango before I learned the "Power of No", I had to dance with "Super Friendly and Nice to Everyone so no Tanguera can say No to me!" local Tanguero who kept on leading me and other local Tangueras into ganchos.  "GOOOOOOOOOOD GIRL!  That's a GOOD one!" he would say whenever he found any gancho particularly thrilling.

It was even more thrilling for him when the Tanguera wasn't really good at ganchos and executed them in a wishy-washy hesitant manner which led to much inadvertent rubbing of easily thrilled body parts on the said Tanguero.  Nasty.

After taking a class with our teacher Martha Anton (this was in 2006, when Martha and Manolo were in Toronto. Martha was teaching some classes on women's technique) on how to properly execute a gancho, I accepted the Tanguero's invitation to dance the next time he asked me.

When he led the gancho, I kicked him so forcefully and accurately that you could literally see his whole body lift up off the floor about an inch.

"Wow-wee!" he said, visibly breaking into a sweat.  "That's some gancho, girl!" 

Needless to say, he didn't ask me to dance again. Yeay!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Winter won't stop us from going to a milonga!

 This probably won't stop us from going to a milonga (if there were any open, that is)

We are having the coldest, iciest, snowiest winter in Toronto in recent history.  Someone just told us that spring is around the corner in just a few weeks - and when we heard that, we thought cynically, "Yeah.....right."

All this winter has not stopped us from going to local milongas.  We were at a milonga on the December night the treacherous ice storm started.  We were so focused on going to the milonga we ignored the weather reports and didn't know that the anticipated ice storm was going to be so bad until concerned friends text-messaged us while we were at the milonga to ask us whether we were ok.

We have noticed that the non-stop winter has dampened some local dancers' mood for going to milongas.  In fact, from our (possibly slightly tango-insane perspective) it is very interesting how easily people are deterred from going to dance.  A sudden rain.  The Academy Awards.  A long weekend.  A family event.  For a lot of dancers, there's an endless list of excuses not to go!

These are some of the things that have not stopped us from going to dance:

1. Weather 

We have gone in snowstorms, ice storms, flooding, heat waves.  Exception: when the weather gets so bad that the organizers cancel the milonga - well, despite all our eagerness, we can't go, can we?

2.  Weddings of friends and relatives

We still reluctantly go to the wedding, but we sneak out early at times that Miss Manners would frown upon - so that we can still catch the last eight tandas.

3.  Company Christmas dinners

The Company no longer holds Christmas dinners on a weekend nights because the Company knows that Irene won't be going if there is a milonga on.

4. Thrilling final episodes of TVB miniseries on TV

Irene wants to watch, but Man Yung says there's a milonga on!  Irene never gets to know whether the lead characters in the show ever got together/ended up killing each other/found out who killed JR.

5. Something interesting is happening around town

Apparently, there is nothing more interesting than Tango (No, we aren't going to Nuit Blanche again!).

However, some of these things have stopped us from going to a milonga:

1.  We don't like the music that the advertised DJ usually plays.  This could be because of the selection, or the ear-splitting health impairing unmoderated sound.

2.  We don't want to watch the advertised "Show" because we know that it will be lousy, either from being unfortunate enough to have seen the performers perform before in person or on Youtube.

3.  We know from experience that the class before the milonga will run late, we mean, not 5 or 10 or 15 minutes late but 20 OR 30 OR EVEN 40 MINUTES LATE and will cut into the dancing time.  One such visiting instructor (who gives lousy shows, by the way) "shushed" us when we started to complain - she was half an hour overtime, and what was she teaching anyway?  A bunch of crap that no one would get and is absolutely useless in a milonga.

4.   We have to pay extra admission for food we won't eat and a show we won't want to watch, just because it is a "special milonga".  If dance time is extended to compensate for the time lost on the show....ok, we're on the fence and it's 50/50 whether we will go.

5.   The floor is so sticky and/or hard we would wrench all our knees out of their sockets if we tried to pivot.  We are getting on in years and we have to be protective of our joints.  No more tango street dancing for these old folk!

6.   The milonga is filled with crazy inconsiderate dancers doing dangerous moves.  Even though a trip there will give us enough fodder for blog posts for the next three months, we acknowledge that bloodshed and fisticuffs are things that should be avoided.

7.   The milonga is too far.  Gas is expensive these days.

What's keeping you from going to the milonga? 

Toronto Weather

Buenos Aires Weather