Monday, January 26, 2015

Cascadian Mountain Dancing

Here is Seattle, we are seeing a influx not of wintery weather (in fact, it was a bit balmy today) but of traditional mountain dancing, otherwise known as clogging.

The mountain dancing tradition originated in the Appalachians as a modified folk dancing tradition drawn from the Scotch-Irish immigrant population, and incorporating nuances of many styles of dance in the early american melting pot. This style was popularized most notably by D. Ray White and his son, Jesco, the Dancing Outlaw. The White family is portrayed in several documentaries- the most outrageous being the Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, which is an film that is sure to entertain anyone who appreciates wild drunken dancing and debauchery. Here's a taste of Jesco from one of the earlier movies:

But not all mountain dancing enthusiast are wild glue sniffing nihilists. Some of them are very nice people who live right here in the Puget Sound area!

In Seattle's Phinney Ridge neighborhood, we have the Eclectic Cloggers, who run a class sponsored through UW Experimental College and Country Dance & Song Society.

The Emerald City Cloggers hold classes in Seattle Center. Apparently there is quite a variety of old-timey dancing to be done in Seattle and even an Old Time Festival coming up in Olympia in February.

Get some heavy soled shoes and a jug of white lightening then get out there to clog those winter blues away!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

All Aboard the Orient Express- Karaoke night in Sodo

I am no stranger to dining in a stationary, nostalgic train car. Growing up in somewhat rural NJ, every other diner has a "dining car" that will transport you back to a simpler time while you enjoy your soup of the day. However, this visit to the Orient Express was my first experience with seven train cars welded together to create a labrythine structure which absolutely transported me to another realm of reality.

The Orient Express is a Chinese restaurant/ karaoke dream train just south of the stadiums on 4th Ave S in the Sodo neighborhood of Seattle. The building is made from seven refurbished train cars, and for many years was operated as the iconic Andy's Diner. When you enter, you are greeted by a strange fish with a bulbous head, a toy train set, and what I'm certain is a perennial Christmas tree. There is a bar car, a dining car with tall, lovely booths, and a presidential car that hosts larger parties and has a museum-like feel with framed photos and plaques. This last car is said to have been used by FDR on his 1944 presidential campaign, so this is a great place to get drunk and appreciate some American history. But I didn't come to the Orient Express to learn about former presidents, or even to eat their delicious food. I came to sing 90's pop hits.

Some work mates joined me here on a Friday evening in search of a private karaoke room. We were making an early evening, gathering right after work and before some of our other plans for the night. Upon arrival, we were lead through a maze of corridors to a dark padded room that smelled vaguely of cigarettes and hairspray. There was a large flat screen TV with the karaoke machine attached, and a nice long couch along the opposite wall. We ordered beers and finger foods, and the hostess showed us how to operate the karaoke machine. Most of the song selections were in Chinese, Korean or Thai, but we made do, belting out the hits and pondering the strange videos that accompanied the songs. As the night went on, the beer bottles added up and the surrounding rooms filled with enthusiastic singers. By the time we left, every room was full and the whole train was bustling.

I was truly enchanted by this visit to the Orient Express, and plan to return the next time a group of my peers agrees to the traditional humiliation ritual which is known as karaoke. I also found out that there is a monthly dance party hosted in one of the private cars, which might be the topic of a future post!

The FDR car