I don’t update this very often because if you’re around San Diego, chances are at any one of the venues, you’ll find me, and I’ll always run the monthly Blues Labs. Two weeks ago, however, I lost a friend who was very near and dear to me and one of the major driving forces behind my immersion into blues music and blues idiom dances.
Hi all. I’m not posting under the “official San Diego Blues Dancing Page.” It’s just me, Elizabeth.
Maybe you do or don’t know, but the Blues Lab was born out of talks with Carl and Pavel on last year’s Cruisin’ for a Bluesin’. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for Carl always being such a kind presence and encouraging me in my blues, I may have quit years ago, when I got burnt out from all the back and forth and politics that comes with organising.
But teaching, sharing my love for all this, and connecting to people and with the music — that is something I love, and that is what I felt whenever I danced, DJ’d, or discussed music with Carl. He was excited when I went out to my first national blues event, and I was honoured when he asked if I would compete with him, two years in a row, even though I didn’t think of myself as a particularly good competitor (I’m happiest while social dancing), and that he asked me again even though we didn’t make it to finals the year before.
I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to put on this month’s blues lab, but I think he would have wanted it to happen. He even posted in the last one that he would have been here if he weren’t in the hospital.
So please, let’s extend this weekend of celebrations in honour of Carl and join me in just learning to enjoy the precious moments you share with another person on the dance floor.
This morning, I added some extended commentary:
The blues. I posted this in the First Monday Blues Lab event for this evening because I want people to understand how Carl was the catalyst behind so many things in my life.
Besides what I’d already written, Carl was also my rock at a lot of these events. I’d travel alone, determined and confident. But by the middle of the second day, after half a dozen workshops, too many people, all I’d want was some calm time with a friend. I didn’t want to be alone but also did not want to go eat with 15-30 people.
Carl’s hugs always had calming and healing qualities. He would ask, “How are you doing, honey?” and wouldn’t judge if I was ready to break down in tears because I was so overwhelmed, hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep, and I couldn’t go to Chris to vent, eat, and recharge as I would at home. Carl would just go to lunch with me, sit and chat about everything — from dance and music to dogs, to faith — or sit comfortably in silence. He was my little piece of home that I could expect to find at every event.
I would share every experience and every struggle in blues with him. We would practise things from various classes and compare notes – Julie & Shawn’s polyrhythms class, Damon & Joy’s class on swag, DJing notes from Daniel – and we’d share every artist with whom we’d just fallen in love.
He encouraged and believed in me. I wasn’t just some tango dancer who’d popped in and didn’t belong in this blues world. He joked, “No, no, you certainly have enough attitude and sass for it!”
To be honest, I’m not even sure how comfortable I’d feel continuing to go to events and workshops by myself, knowing he won’t be there. Tonight is certainly going to hurt.
Tonight went well, however. It was a smaller group, tired out from what has been affectionately dubbed “CarlCon” or “The Carl Flores Exchange” due to the number of services, celebrations, and dances and the people in town to celebrate a man who loved and affected everyone (and whom we all loved). In honour of Carl, I decided to focus on connection and the art of good partnering. Carl had moves, but he never was particularly flashy or showy. He certainly had his voice, and he could have done and shown off more, but you’ll hear and read over and over again from follows everywhere how they loved to dance with him because he was always so kind and considerate, always listened to and communicated with his partners, always made them feel safe and cherished, no matter whether they were complete beginners or seasoned professionals.
I will continue to dance, to DJ, to travel, and to share my love of blues (music and dancing) with the world. Even though I may be tired and overwhelmed after a whirlwind weekend with 100 or 300 people, even when I no longer want to deal with the politics of the (professional and semi-professional) dance world impeding on social enjoyment, I’ll do it both for myself and in honour of him and this music and family of dances that we both loved.
To you, my friend and my brother — till we meet again.
P.S. I will be teaching a workshop with Eric Nelson of Salt Lake City at the Closer Encounters workshop weekend July 31st–August 2nd!