5/27/2015 East St. Louis, Illinois

Itinerary:
5/27-6/1 St. Louis, MO (Swing Me In St. Louis Convention)
6/1-6/7 Driving to Forest City, IA
6/7-6/13 Forest City, IA (Winnebago Factory repairs and tour)
6/13-6/16 Driving to Indianapolis, IN
6/16-6/21 Indianapolis, IN (AACE Convention)
6/21-6/28 Heading toward St. Claire, MI
6/28-7/5 St. Claire, MI

The drive to St. Louis was eventful, at least by our standards. We stayed two nights in Colorado as the weather was stormy. About 9 PM it got eerily quiet, and when we looked out the window it was snowing. We woke up to five inches of snow on the ground, so we weren’t going to drive anywhere. During the day we could hear sounds like someone throwing snowballs at our coach. Turned out to be clumps of snow falling from the branches of the tree by us. We moved on to Kansas City, Missouri, and landed in an RV park attached to a roller coaster park. There was a tornado sighting one evening, right after I had taken a sleeping pill. So everyone in the park was rousted out of their coaches with sirens and security car horns blaring and security pounding on every door until we were all in a brick shower house. Kids, dogs, cats… After 45 minutes of standing about, the tornado was getting closer so they moved us all into the basement of a roller coaster. Mind you, we are already drenched to the bone from the first hike. By the time we made it into the new shelter everyone is soaked from head to foot. But, everyone is exceedingly calm. The kids pet the dogs, the dogs went nose to nose with the other dogs, the cats stayed in their carriers or owners’ arms. Everytime the door opened to let in a new person, water flowed down the steps like a water fall. We were given a small paper towel each to dry off, but it wasn’t even close to being enough. After another 45 minutes the tornado decided to touch down twice about 15-20 miles north of us and they let us go back. The rain was still coming down like buckets, but it was a safe rain. My shoes took a week to dry out. After several days of hanging you could still wring water out of my sweat top and legs.

We square danced with three groups while in Kansas. One group was called by Dana Schirmer, who turns out to be the Executive Director of Callerlab! We were invited to the Callerlab office and checked it out. For a donation I picked up a multitude of 45s (all date back to the 70s and early 80s) as well as a Hilton record case. I was shown a wall of thousands of 45s, and tables filled plus still unboxed mail deliveries, all donated by callers either now deceased or because the callers went digital. I was also given dibs on different turntables/amps in case the ones I’m going to see in Minnisota doesn’t pan out. We also danced one night to Bill Reynolds and another to Lynn Nelson. We had dinner with Lynn, who had been conversing with me through Facebook and different caller sites, and when she saw we were passing right through her area, personally invited us to attend. She’s been calling 19 years and was surprised that I wasn’t actually a caller. At all three of these dances, callers that attend are invited up to call half a tip (which is a wonderful way to attract dancers and get more experience). I told them I was an aspiring caller–not yet ready for prime time!

We finally pulled into East St. Louis without any more weather related hassles. Yes this area is constantly on tornado watch, but not warning for the time we are here. We bought a seven day metro pass which was great. From the RV we take a Casino Queen shuttle van to the metro. Five stops later we are right outside the beautiful 1880s hotel where our events will take place. Reverse to get back to the RV. The dogs were put into a kennel/doggy camp for the week–and well worth not having to go back to the rig every 4-5 hours.

Tuesday was my first of three days of caller school with GCA (Gay Caller Association), Betsy Gotta the teacher and Ken Sale the TA. Eleven students, of which this was the first time for four of us, of which this was the first time using/singing into a microphone for three of us. From 9 AM until just past 9:30 PM (with breaks for lunch and dinner, plus bio-breaks –bathroom) each day, we had lectures alternated with mic time. Our spouses/partners/other dancers/we were the pawns that we moved around the floor. I had absolutely no idea what to expect the first day and was overwhelmed with the amount and wealth of information given out. Most of the time I remembered to turn on the voice recorder on my phone, plus I kept detailed notes. But if I was being used as a pawn I couldn’t write notes, so one day I will play back and add to my notes. The second day was easier, plus I wrote patter for a song which I sang! My mother thought all of her kids had terrible singing voices (I learned to play the violin–you can’t sing at the same time–instead of the guitar), but I was told my voice works fine. By the third day I and everyone agreed I had found my niche with singing calls. Right now I am keeping them to parodies. On the Friday of the convention we were given 1 1/2 hours to each do a patter or singing call to the dancers who came early. I was number four up and sang/called Dead Dog Rover (I’m looking over my dead dog Rover who I hit with the power mower…) to eight squares. I personally knew the front three squares and felt great to be supported until many came up to hug me and wish me the best. Each one raised my heart beat higher until my palms were sweating. Up until that point I had no butterflies, nothing but feeling calm and collected. I called to the back of the hall and didn’t even look at my buddies until it was over. Found out later that a few were thinking of “playing around” which meant switching partners or even squares. It wouldn’t matter as I was calling a set song, and not a loose patter trying to get them home. I received my official GCA caller badge which I wore with pride the rest of the weekend.

The rest of the convention is a bit of a blur as we were already exhausted from three days of caller school then the preformance. We danced in the C3A and C2 hall (same room as my caller school) on carpet (I danced barefoot the whole time), with C1 when the forementioned hall changed to C3B, in the Plus or Mainstream Halls when they were the only halls being danced in. At the top of each hour regular GCA callers called 10-15 minutes until the featured caller changed rooms and got there. I was asked many times when I was calling and where. I need at least a couple of years (probably in Palm Springs, 2017) before I feel good enough to do this. Not one day out of caller school. On Saturday we held a special remembrance service for Joe Weigal who passed away the weekend before from cancer. His Trailblazers’ pin was put on the memory quilt. There were so many pins from over the years! There was a leather dance (I danced but was not in leather–and was called on it. I will know for next time), an underpants dance (I was prepared with blue bra and panties but stayed in the C2 hall as I was having a good time), and a moonsine dance (would not attend). I also missed the ladies only dance (meh!) and the after hours country western dance (way too tired). Each day our legs and backs felt the strain, but put us on the dance floor and it all went away. There was a wonderful dinner with just about everyone there, a wonderful buffet breakfast, and by the last day (Monday) we had only six more hours to dance. We knew about 100 dancers and organizers there, made new friends, found that Karla will now also be at the Indio caller school with me, and felt really sad to have to say goodbye to some we won’t see until November, some not until summer 2016, some not until July 2017.

Tuesday was a total nothing day except to pick up the dogs from the kennel. Both clean and soft from their bath, they remembered us (it had been a week), the car, and our routine. They slept with us as we lazy dazed the rest away. Today we did the Walmart shopping list and walked dogs on and off. Chris is still sore from all of the dancing so another easy day. While he slept I alphabetized all my 45s (this took several hours–yes, I got a lot) and started typing up the song sheets on my laptop. I’m working on making them all the same font, the speaking words highlighted vs the singing words, and then cutting and pasting the patter part in a separate section to use in my parodies (as opposed to redesigning the wheel, which I was apt to do).

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