I Once Dreamed of Becoming A Dancer


A young man’s dreams look forward to what he imagines might become his future. He creates scenarios with equal energy and effort while he’s awake and while he sleeps. His dreams are malleable and oftentimes buoyed by a joyful sensation. His imagination knows nothing about death.

An old man’s dreams become the cherished memories of his earlier faith in infinity and eternity, a faith he lost in gradual fashion, as the wind tore off one flower at a time from his face, then bent his stem toward the soil that once fed him, and near the end began to insist that his roots must be ripped away from planet Earth.

Oblivion seems a sad place, and so we invoke fairy tales that describe an afterlife. A giant’s castle inside a cloud, atop a beanstalk. The giant falls, as fell Lucifer.

I am that old man now. I own neither future nor faith. My face no longer blooms with color and fragrance. The weight of life bends me forward; my gait is slow and hesitant. My roots begin to loosen their grip. Today I rage, along with Dylan, against the dying light. Yet, I wonder if I’ll go gentle or go gutted by a struggle against the pain of disappointment. Those who say we must surrender are hopeful fools. The truth is that we are surrendered.

I was once that young man charged with boundless dreams, most of which — as survival demands — had to be perforce abandoned. So many pleasant scripts, now no more than yellowed pages littering the archives inside my mind.

One such vision I created placed me center stage, dancing.

I owned a gift, a talent, and a flair for floating across a dance floor.

On the afternoon of Friday, July 6, 1979, I snatched my carry-on luggage from the compartment above the seat I’d occupied for six hours, walked through a snaking canvas tunnel, and met two friends inside the airport lobby.

I’d purchased a one-way ticket from Philly to LA.

My friends entertained me for a couple of hours, then drove me to the apartment where I’d sleep for the next two months, while the signed tenant traveled through parts of Europe.

I was born beside the Atlantic Ocean. I grew up with the aromas of salt and sand embedded in my nostrils. The air of land’s end filled my lungs with nourishment more important than oxygen.

So on that Friday evening, I unpacked my suitcase, found a clever place to hide most of the seven hundred dollars I owned, showered, and dressed my body in what I imagined to be LA Chic. (My polyester Guido outfit failed the laid-back LA test, but no matter.)

Splashed with an abundant amount of Polo cologne, as all East Coast Guidos are bound by unspoken oath to splash, not dab, I ran from the apartment, followed the street-sign arrow that pointed west, and walked a few miles until I reached the grand Pacific.

Venice Beach.

That night, tangerine sunset sky enriched with smog, I tapped the nearest shoulder and asked, “Where around here do people go when they feel like dancing?” In order to be understood I had to repeat my question several times. I spoke East Coast Rapid in nasal tones acquired in New Jersey.

I found the dancehall. I paid the cover charge. As was my habit back then, first I sat and watched. I searched for the best female dancer, one with whom I knew I could fly.

And yes, I flew. I twirled and I curled. I sensed and followed both the prominent and the offbeat rhythm. I lost myself in meditation, the only kind of meditation that I ever could accomplish. Today I wonder how many Buddhists know how to dance.

And yes again, the crowd backed away, formed a circle around us, cheered us on and clapped out the joy we shared.

The old man I am today dances only when he closes his eyes and entertains his memories. His legs lost their onetime flexibility. The stem leans, and the roots ache.

And yes one more time, this old man feels blue when he considers the fact that back then he lacked the confidence to pursue his dancing dream.

Merry Christmas To All,
And To All A Good Flight

15 thoughts on “I Once Dreamed of Becoming A Dancer

  1. Your words dance with a rhythm of their own. I would never be the one you chose to dance with, but I can enjoy your talent with a vicarious thrill. Happy Christmas to you, and may you never lose that New Jersey charm.

  2. Please, keep writing. Not many have the talent to wordsmith. You do and those of us who don’t admire and covet the skill.

    The Story of our Lives is often the best story of all. We live in sentences, scenes, chapters, sections that all lead somewhere. And if we can relish the journey we don’t need to end the story. Someone else eventually writes the ending. I for one hope my ending will state she did it her way living life fully exhausting one chapter at a time.

    And when the music repeats our favorite songs how wonderful to have them trigger memories that course through our veins to spark our fading brain cells. For a wordsmith, what better gift than to share his words from scenes lived — taking us firmly into a dancer’s stance to demonstrate how words embraced together on a page can avoid a stumble or harried jitterbug to waltz to their own rhythm to all turn the page and covet the movement.

    Please, keep writing. You know I love hearing those stories we didn’t expect to hear. Maybe I’ll tell mine someday. Probably not!

    Love you. Thanks and Merry Christmas, Anthony.

  3. Thank you, Anthony, for the Christmas post…I did comment and hope it came through.

    Meanwhile, not sure you’d like to read the prologue I did after the Writers’ Conference….the start I did on the book was not the right beginning. I kept trying to move one of the action chapters up because I didn’t really want a prologue and then this came to me…I hope it sets the tone of a young man determined to followed his dreams and make a difference in his world…which Colonel Baker did after all. Merry Christmas today….and better yet a very happy and peaceful and joyful New Year….

    PS….Steve Mettee is coming to NightWriters in January to discuss creating your Life Story using the hero formula….a/would you mind if I sent this post to him as a local example? and b/might you finally be ready to come back to meetings and ride with me? It is a nice network, you know.


    1. Dear Judy, Each time you read something I wrote and comment in whatever way, I feel fortunate — and startled — to realize that a talented, professional writer spent time considering my passion for the written word. So thank you. Steve Mettee is a publisher I admire. But what I’ve written here would not address his subject. I understand the concept of the Hero Formula. There is no central hero in these brief pieces I compose. Mine is a somber story; that bothers most readers. My purpose, though, is just to record in order that I might better digest the person I’ve become before my friends begin to say, “He was.” Thanks anyway, dear friend. Please, yes, send me your prologue as an attachment to an email message. I’d be glad to make *general* comments.

    1. Gene, I always hope that you’ll find time to read some of what I write. I think of you often, and I think well of you. I know you to be a compassionate man and a talented writer. Most of all, however, I value your honesty. So if time and energy should allow for the effort, I’d be grateful to read your extended comments. I know how frustrating it can be to write a longer comment, only to have it disappear when you try to post it.

  4. annerallen

    Thanks for the comment on my blog. I replied in the thread, but I thought I’d post it here to make sure you see it. I want to encourage you to get into regular posting again. This is a wonderful blog. Here’s my comment:

    “You have the kind of blog that Florence Fois has–a memoiric mosaic of original photos (your photos are great!) and short literary memoir pieces that chronicle a lifetime of experiences and the characters you have known.

    You have to plug away at it, but you will get a following. Your great writing and unique insights will draw people in. It’s hard to get a blog going. During my first year I often had zero hits for weeks at a time. Luckily I was too much of a cybermoron to figure out how to read my stats.

    You don’t have to have a book to hawk–no need to apologize for that. In fact people may be grateful that you don’t. 🙂 If you network with some of the bloggers I’ve mentioned, you may find their followers will start drifting your way.”

  5. Anne, You are a rare combination. You’re a successful, hardworking and persistent author; and yet you maintain a warm heart and a continual willingness to encourage writers who may never reach your level of success. As I sat in the audience of the Digital Age Writers workshop that you and others led a short time ago, the aspect that most struck me — and that I most enjoyed — was your apparent desire to give knowledge born of experience to other writers. That, kind lady, and your sharp sense of humor are gifts for which I’m grateful.

  6. Anthony, I don’t know how you found me, but I’m glad you did. I love the tone, the tenor of your words and images. Sometimes in the night we can still run wild, dance until we collapse and remember 🙂

  7. Florence, Anne R. Allen led me to your site. And I am impressed. I feel as if I chanced upon a treasure trove. Your photographs capture an essence of New York that sometimes in my dreams I can still taste. Morro Bay, in central California, is where I live now. It’s a precious place, midway between the Garden of Eden and Heaven. But I left my Tony Bennett heart on the east coast, along with my appetite for South Philly Italian food. I’m glad I found your work. You are an artist.

  8. Anthony, I confess, out of my own guilty pleasure, I had to travel your photos of the central coast of CA first for that is where my heart is–and you did not disappoint. I see you twirling around the dance floor and oh yes, that’s also part of my favorite memories of living in Monterey/Carmel. I lived my adolescence there although I was in my early 30’s. I hope you return to the blogging world soon. Your words sail and bring forth pictures that imprint upon the soul.

  9. I loved this post, watching how your thought moved from the past to the present, from that youthful sense of infinite potentiality to a contemplative sense of life’s fading pleasures. I think we all do that as we age–I know I do. We have this whole multi-layered life with all its joys and sorrows to try to make some sense of before we too fade away or rage against the dying light. You’ve expressed that so well here.

    But what I love most is that dancing you, and those wonderful photographs. I can see you that night dancing in that golden space as people move away to watch you dance and cheer you on. It’s so thrilling. I don’t think that moment ever dies. It’s still a part of you, of who you are and will always be–it’s in there, in you. And it’s wonderful.

    I’ve never been a dancer, but I do dance sometimes when I meditate listening to music and I love that sense of rhythm and joy. I experience that even when I watch “real” dancers, when I imagine being them and how it must feel. And that same sense of joy and rhythm is still there, whether I’m moving in “reality” or only in my mind. I still feel it. And it’s wonderful.

    Thank you for letting me feel that again as I “watched” you dance that night.

    PS – My mother loved to dance and she was so good at it (unlike her daughter). I imagine you and she would have made wonderful dance partners. She’s not with me anymore, but her dancing still it.

    1. Dear Deborah, Thank you so much for taking time away from your life and your life’s work to read my article and offer me valuable commentary. I admire your talent as a verbal artist, so you encourage me to dive off the cliff that these days serves as my safety zone and begin to paddle back toward home. Much appreciated.

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