After eleven years living, dancing, teaching tango, and writing in Buenos Aires, I came home to L.A. in 2014, where I'm reconstructing my life.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Annual Thanksgiving Post

Just like Art Buchwald used to do with his Thanksgiving column explaining the custom to the French, here is a republishing of my annual Thanksgiving post. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, even if this coming Thursday isn't your traditional day. We all have much to be grateful for.

Each autumn when the harvest is brought in, the people of the world throw a party. Here in Argentina the grape harvest is celebrated in March in Mendoza. But at any time during the year, somewhere in the world people are giving thanks for their blessings.

The biggest holiday in the U.S. is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, and is also a harvest festival. Bigger than Christmas or the 4th of July, it is Thanksgiving Day. No matter the culture, race, or religion, on this day the salad bowl of American people are united by one tradition: a family feast of traditional foods (with ethnic specialities often added), and then football on TV.

Did you know that eight nations of the world have official Thanksgiving Days? -- Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Korea, Liberia, Switzerland and the United States. (But try as I might, I could find no information on Thanksgiving in Argentina.)

The ancient tradition of declaring a special day or period for giving thanks goes back to the time when our ancestors hoped that an ostentatious display of gratitude would placate their capricious gods - thus ensuring continued bounty. But these days of thanksgiving were also occasions for celebrating the year's plenty with feasts and joyful gatherings.

Proclaiming days of Thanksgiving for various reasons - success in war, a bounteous harvest, the recovery of a king from illness - was part of European tradition for centuries.

Modern North American Thanksgiving lore is associated with the Pilgrims. In 1621, a year after arriving in the new world on the Mayflower, and following a severe winter in which many of their numbers had succumbed to disease, the colonists celebrated their first successful harvest by organizing a thanksgiving feast to which they invited the neighboring Native Indians. On the menu for that first American Thanksgiving were almost certainly some foods that are staples of the holiday today - turkey and pumpkin - along with other wild fowl, venison, oysters, clams, fish, corn cakes, and wild fruit and nuts.

But enough about history! What's for dinner?

On most North American tables, a turkey still holds pride of place for the annual Thanksgiving feast. In the US alone, over 40 million turkeys are consumed on this holiday weekend each year!

In November 1997 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared the year 2000 as the official International Year of Thanksgiving.

That same year, an English writer and director, Gurinder Chadha, came out with the quintessential American Thanksgiving movie, called, WHAT’S COOKIN? In it, four families in Los Angeles, my hometown, celebrate Thanksgiving Day. The families are Mexican, Vietnamese, Jewish, and black, and show the dysfunctions and problems that all families have in common. On Thanksgiving Day, their commonality is also thankfulness.

We all have something to be grateful for, especially we expats, even though it's hard to be far from home and family on this most American of holidays.

Springtime in Buenos Aires is not turkey time, and last year we had a delicious Argentine barbecue on our terrace, but still, on Thanksgiving Day and every day, I am thankful for you, dear readers!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanks for the Memoirs!

Just as my own memoir, The Church of Tango, is readying itself for publication, there is yet another woman's tango memoir soon to be published in the UK. I guess that proves there is an audience out there. Where are the tango memoirs written by men? There are a couple of excellent books by men, Long After Midnight at the Nino Bien, kind of a non-fiction novelized travelogue by yanqui Brian Winter, and Here At the End of the World We Learn to Dance, a well-written novel by kiwi Lloyd Jones, a prize-winning author.

Now there is Twelve Minutes of Love by Kapka Kassabova, a Bulgarian who currently lives in Scotland, which is being published this month by Portobello Books. Here is the artistic trailer for the book, featuring oil paintings by animation artist Em Cooper, music by Piazzolla, and stage tango moves.
 Do I have a dirty mind or are there ink blot references to a woman's anatomy?


I understand why there are so many tango blogs and memoirs, as people are trying to explain to themselves and others the profundity and emotional content of this dance that is inexplicable in words. Men write tango blogs, but as yet no tango memoir. I wish I were a psychologist so I could speculate as to why. And why women feel compelled to share their emotional tango journeys with others.

You can listen to a BBC interview with Kapka, as well as our own Sally Blake, author of Happy Tango: Sallycat's Guide to Dancing in Buenos Aires.

And now I'd better get to work on my video trailer for The Church of Tango! Any ideas for me out there?