Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pole Position

A few years ago, I wrote an article for a magazine that never made it past the concept stage, (The magazine that is. The story was completely written). I've actually done that quite a bit. The stories I write never go anywhere, and I (rarely) never see a dime from it. Such a waste. So, since I have this ridiculous excuse for a blog, I figured that I might as well post them here, to remind people that I'm not just a demented man-child with a keyboard. I'm actually a writer and, when the mood strikes me, a competent journalist. Enjoy!

With the requisite morning coffee in hand, I stumbled sleepily, to my computer.  My eyes blurry and crusty from the previous night’s slumber. I began to check my email, as is my morning ritual, (after all, you never know when that all-too-vital email from Amerie will appear, she has to respond to one of my hundreds of emails at some point!)  when an email from my editor caught my eye.
 “You want to do a piece about competitive pole dancing?” he asked.
  Do I?! Does a bear poop in the woods? Was the Pope a Hitler Youth? Is Susan Boyle ugly? Of course I do! What hot-blooded, straight man wouldn’t?
 I cleared the crust out of my eyes and checked the email again. Nope, it’s not an early morning, sleep-induced hallucination. It’s an actual offer to do a story about pole dancing. I must have done something good in a former life.

Images of dark and seedy night clubs populated by beautifully naked and tripled-jointed women, flashed through my mind. Scenes of dollar bill-stuffed, g-string-wearing pelvises, gyrating inches from men’s faces, danced in my head, like sugar plum fairies from the famous Christmas poem.

I immediately and enthusiastically agreed to do the story. After all, it’s my duty, both as a man and a journalist, to share the joy of pole dancing with anybody and everybody who cares to listen. I would be doing the Lord’s work. I just hoped I had enough one dollar bills for practical fieldwork.

After looking into things, my first revelation about the world of competitive pole dancing was also the most shocking: there is no nudity.  None. Nada. Not the slightest bit. This bit of news completely shattered my one-dimensional (and slightly misogynistic) idea of just what competitive pole dancing was about.


According to Anna Grundstrom, one of the founders of the US Pole Dancing Federation, even though nobody is entirely sure of its origins, pole dancing can trace its roots back hundreds of years.

“There are many different sources of where pole dancing started. Some say it derives from an Indian dance called Mallakhamb. Other sources say it goes back to the Scandinavians dancing around the may pole,” she said.

Kay Penney, founder and managing director of Pole Passion Ltd., a UK-based company that offers pole dancing classes, parties and promotes the legitimacy of pole dancing as a sport, gives credence to the theory that the may pole could be the ancestor to our modern pole dance.

“The may pole has also been a suggestion where ladies and young girls used to do their fertility dance around the ‘pole’ to symbolize their fertility to males who were the bystanders,” she said. “The exact linage of pole dance is shrouded in mystique, with a certain stigma attached to the dance. There is little written history and until very recently, pole dance has remained ‘underground.’”
According to Penney, the first recorded pole dance was in 1968 by “Belle Jangles”, at a strip club in Oregon called Mugwump.
“There is however, a suggestion that the art form evolved much earlier in the early 1900s.The striptease dance was added to burlesque shows which featured strippers, including Gypsy Lee Rose.  Travelling tent shows had striptease acts whereby these travelling dancers may have taken inspiration from the Middle East and belly dance as they migrated throughout Europe,” Penney said. 

“In the smaller tents the dancers started to use the pole in the tent’s center to dance around.  These tents became known as the dance pole tents.”
The modern concept of pole dancing that most people are familiar with didn’t get started until the 1980s at table and lap dancing clubs in Canada and the United Kingdom.  It’s gained in popularity ever since, and not just with libidinous men, but with the performers themselves.
“Women in countries such as Australia and Canada, realized that dancing on a pole was an art in itself, and a great workout, and took it a step further by bringing it out of the clubs and into dance and fitness studios,” Grundstrom said.
 From strip clubs to dance studios, the movement to make pole dancing a legit sport is strong and is growing faster than China’s economy.  Interestingly enough, women are the greatest proponents of taking pole dancing mainstream. With the use of pole dance parties.

In the beginning of this nascent century, pole dance parties were created and designed exclusively for ladies by ladies. These parties were instructed in private party dwellings and were mainly held and organized for fun and fitness for the groups of ladies involved as opposed to titillate the opposite sex, Penny said.   

Women recognized the sheer athleticism required to do complicated and involved pole dancing routines.

The parties were and are about education of the dance form. The art and complex techniques required to do this art form safely and effectively with fluidity and grace demonstrates huge amounts of flexibility, strength, endurance, patience and practice, Penney said.

These pole dance parties whetted the appetites of women interested in learning more about this dance style and led to the creation of pole dance classes at fitness clubs around the world. There, women (and the occasional uninhibited man) could exercise and learn an art form at the same time. 


“Pole dancing is still in a developing stage and just this past couple of years it has grown in various directions. Some focus more on the athletic and competitive aspect, others on a more creative from or artistic expression,” Grundstrom said.

The increasing popularity of these dance and fitness classes led to the creation of pole dance associations, such as the USPDF, created by Grundstrom and her partner Wendy Traskos, both accomplished dancers who discovered pole dancing and were awed by the beauty, grace and skill required to perform the maneuvers. The USPDF does national competitions once a year, as well as smaller regional competitions.

“We wanted to contribute to the standards of the pole community and bring pole dancers together by hosting competitions. The only competitions we knew of here in the US were held in clubs which didn’t seem to fair,” Grundstrom said.

Similar competitions are held in England and other countries by other burgeoning pole dance associations. Although, without an overall governing and regulating body fully established, attempts to bring the sport mainstream hasn’t progressed as fast as it could. It has proven very costly and time consuming, Penney said.

The lack of uniform standards in the community, in terms of judging, scoring and dance moves has hampered making this a completely legitimate sport, but it has done nothing to dissuade athletes and dancers from giving their all in competitions, or when training.


The training required to become a competitive pole dancer isn’t for the faint of heart. It demands dedication, commitment and the desire to one day be featured on a box of Wheaties.  Hours upon hours of exercise and training divide the serious competitors from novices just looking to get in shape.

“The current world champion [Felix Cane] trained for four to six hours per day, three months prior to this year’s world championships,” Penney said.

Zoraya Judd, 29, a professional dancer from Salt Lake City, focuses heavily on core and resistance training when she exercises.  Using a regimen given by one of her sponsors, Atlas Fitness, Zoraya hits the gym two to three hours a day, five days a week. 

The resistance training that I do is all based on functionality and core. I don't do anything unless it has direct correlation with what I do on the pole,” she said.

I train Monday through Friday and take the weekends off. Monday through Friday I do resistance training purely for core strength and functionality,” Judd said. “A few weeks away from competition I do heavy training. When it starts to get closer to the date, I do mainly cardio and focus on the pole. Pull ups are a huge part of my regimen. I do three sets of 20, three times per week. My diet close to competition is very much like a body builder preparing for a show: a lot of protein and not much of anything else.”

Judd discovered pole dancing a year ago, at the suggestion of a guy friend at her gym.

For the first few months of me attending pole classes, I was the only girl in an all-male advanced class. I was horrible! But I loved how it challenged me mentally and physically. From the first time stepping into a pole studio I was hooked,” she said.

Much like the other women lured into the visually poetic world of pole dancing, Zoraya was attracted by the grace and beauty of the sport, as well as amount of strength and determination it takes to make the moves look so controlled, she said.

From there, Zoraya decided to compete into whatever competitions she could.  Her first competition (which she also won) was the Miss Pole Fetish Utah, in April of last year. After that, she participated in the United States Pole Dancing Federation West Coast Regionals (try saying that five times fast) and others. Currently, she’s training for the USPDF Pro Division National Championship in March. The competition will be fierce. Scantily-clad women from all over the country will come together to do athletic moves on steel poles that’ll make firemen shake their heads in disbelief.


A question that often comes up is, if pole dancing is about art and beauty and not about giving random men chubbies, then why the provocative and barely-there clothing?

I always make the joke that the better you get on the pole, the less clothes you wear. But the joke stops there,” Judd said. ”When you get into advanced holds and poses your skin acts as a gripping tool to help you remain on the pole. Clothes can be dangerous for that reason. This is also why the costumes for competitions and the dress recommendation for practice is what it is. I think of body building and other fitness competitions where the body is judged. Ironically enough, some of those costumes tend to be even more revealing than many things I've seen in the pole world.”

Besides, competing, Judd has decided to give back to the pole dancing community, teaching classes for women and men. Be it for training, or simply for exercise, her students come in all shapes and sizes and they all enjoy the sport.

“You can compare pole dancing to yoga, pilates and gymnastics. Even watching competitive pole dancing, some of the poses and moves are like those used in professional ice skating, elite level gymnastics and many forms of dance, both modern and classical,” she said.


With more than 200 pole dancing studios in just the US alone, this sport is done being relegated to sleazy strip clubs (and it will be missed, especially by that clientele.) When you factor in the thousands of participants, here and around the globe, pole dancing is certainly on its way to becoming a legitimate sport. Who knows? Maybe one day soon, we’ll all be able to watch pole dancing on ESPN. Or, if the major proponents in the sport have their way, the Olympics.

I see pole as having the potential to go all the way to the Olympics. There is a large movement trying to get pole into the Olympics. I could easily see it as a category of gymnastics,” Zoraya said. “Pole is already a legit sport, though people need to look past their own false pretenses and see that it is an aerial art. I am an aerial artist and my apparatus of choice is the pole.”

One way to make this dream come true is by the use of sponsorship. Everything from poles, to shoes, to clothes, to makeup and hair spray is sponsored by companies. This sponsorship is a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship between athlete and corporation.

“[Sponsors] help get you to the next 'step'. Without sponsors, the competitor needs to come up with travel, hotel, rental car, entrance fees, costumes, etc. They also help to appear more acceptable. For example, say I have a clothing brand that is widely accepted as a trend. If they sponsor me then people will see me as acceptable due to the credibility of the sponsor,” Judd said.

So basically, the sponsor is the rich and attractive date with the proper connections to get you into the best nightclubs. Sure you can stand like a chump in the line while it’s raining, but wouldn’t you rather just walk straight into the entrance, give the bouncer a terrorist fist bump and sashay into the club? Damn straight you would, and that’s the role the sponsors play.

Combine a clamoring, passionate group of athletes, an exponentially growing fan-base, companies willing to participate in the enterprise and committed leaders and promoters and you could possibly have the next big Olympic sport.

Why not? It’s more interesting to watch than curling.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Heart Wants What It Wants

*This conversation takes place entirely over text.*

Saturday, Dec. 8, 1:14 am

Me: Hey girl. What’re you up to?

Her: Josh, it’s 1 in the morning.

Me: Yep. Batman is busy patrolling the streets right now. Ever vigilant.

Her: Go to bed. I’m sure your drunk.

Me: Nonsense. Sober like a fox. Haven’t misspelled a word yut. I have powdered alcohol. This stuff is great!

Her: Goodnight! (Emoticon that I will not bother to reproduce here because emoticons are, of course, tools of Socialist Satan.)

Me: Wait. Seriously, I have to tell you something.

Ten minutes go by…

Me: Hello?

Her: What?!

Me: Ninjas can be real assholes sometimes.

Her: Josh. It’s the middle of the night and your being stupid. Go to bed!

Me: For cereal though, I just wanted to talk to you. I’m so bored right now.

Her: Because it’s the middle of the night and sain people are asleep.

Me: “Sain”? Now who’s drunk? Can I come over?

Her: Why?

Me: I have a loose tooth I want to show you. Why doyou think?

Her: idk. Its really late and I’m tired.

Me: You know who else was tired? Debbie. But that didn’t stop her from doing all of Dallas.

Her: Wow

Me: I know, right?

Her: UR so romantic

Me: And a consistently good speller. Don’t forget that. Anyway what’s the deal?

Seven minutes pass…

Me: Come on! I’ll bring some wine. Actually, the rest of this bottle of rum. We’ll do shots. Shots of booze with powdered alcohol mixed in. We can watch a movie.

Her: I’m not doing shots and I’m not watching one of your bad movies. I’m not in the mood for Buckaroo Bonsai versus Hitler or whatever.

Me: Your words wound my tender heart. Buckaroo Bonsai fights the World Crime League, not Hitler. Everybody knows that. So what are you wearing?

Her: Pajamas. Sweatpants. Nothing sexy. Sorry (Frowny face emoticon. Seriously people, have we sunk to this level of communication? I should write a blog about it when the booze wears off.)

Me: I’m wearing a sock. I think.

Her: Just a sock?

Me: Not sure. I haven’t ventured a look down in awhile. If it is just a sock, that’d explain the pizza guy’s face earlier.

A minute later…

Just checked. I’m also wearing a shirt that advocates hitting pregnant women. Pants are AWOL. Damn I’m smooth.

Her: If you’re going to come over, just hurry up. We’re not in our 20’s anymore. Booty calls gotta stop.

Me: Ain’t gotta tell me twice! On my way.

After 22 minutes…

Me: Hello?

Her: Where are you? You close?

Me: Funny story and I’ll tell you all about it, but you’ll have to bail me out first. Unless Mr. Brooks can get here.

Her: WTF?! Your in jail?

Me: *You’re. Never an excuse for bad grammar. I’m not in jail yet. But things are kinda messy around here and the cops are on their way. I just want to get a leg up on things before they take my phone.

Her: What happened?

Me: I have strong objections to the rules about street parking in whatever neighborhood I’m currently in. People shouldn’t park in the street at all. They should park in driveways. Or, as I’m currently doing, in garages. Well, I’m not in a garage as much as I’d say it’s somebody’s living room. But you know what I mean.

Her: ?

Me: I’m sure the family who lives here will have a nice laugh about it in the morning. Right now they’re screaming at me and cussing a lot. Here come the police. I’ll talk to you later. Keep your bed warm and your legs closed until I get there.

Her: Your an idiot.

Me: The irony in that statement will keep me going through the long, cold, anally-penetrating nights in prison.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Just Like Warm Butter

Oh. So that’s what it feels like. This probably deserves an ouch.


I look down and see three things: the hilt of the knife peeking through her fingers, which are clenched in a fist so tight her knuckles are white; the place in my chest where the handle protrudes, like a morbid after-factory modification; and the blossoming pool of blood on my chest with lines of blood going down my stomach, like red rivulets of rain on a window. But more gross. And painful.

“Ouch.” I say again, with what I hope is a little more emotion to convey that being stabbed does indeed hurt.

I slide down the wall and land hard on my ass. Now my ass hurts. Where’s the justice in that? The stabbing isn’t enough? Still holding the knife, she collapses with me. Now we’re both just sitting, looking at each other. Except one of us has a knife sticking out of them and is tie-dying their shirt the hard way. Me. Have I mentioned the stabbing yet?

I look at her face. She seems shocked by her own actions, which she shouldn’t, because we are not even close to the kitchen and knives don’t magically appear out of nowhere. Her eyes are wide and they begin to tear up. Next thing I know she’s crying hysterically and babbling in confusion. I think I hear the occasional “I’m sorry,” but it’s hard to tell with all the crying and the rivers of snot. I can’t help but notice that she’s still holding the knife. Not cool.

Also, what am I supposed to do, accept her apology? I mean I am dying here. I don’t really think apologies matter anymore.

“It’s okay,” I say, feebly.

What’s the matter with me?! She didn’t accidentally step on my toes in the movie theater. She didn’t neglect to hold the door open at the grocery store. She stabbed me. I’m pretty sure I covered that with the two ouches.

Actually, now that I think about it, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Most of it didn’t really matter in the end. Being popular, religion dictating what I’m supposed to eat and who I’m supposed to hate, sitting in the front car of a roller coaster, what happens on Game of Thrones: meaningless. Yikes, I’m starting to wax philosophical, I must almost be kaput.

I’m still looking forward, but I don’t really see her anymore. It’s like somebody put a roll of wax paper in front of my eyes. Everything is hazy and gray. And then, like a movie projector being flipped on, there’s a click in my head and I’m starting to see stuff.

Hey, it’s the “life flashing before my eyes” thing I’ve heard so much about. Although, if it happens before death, then how do people who are alive know about it? Maybe ghosts. Maybe I can be a ghost! I can think of five people off the top of my head that I’d haunt. Give me an F on that algebra test in seventh grade, eh Mr. Brooks? Have I got a surprise for you.

I settle in to enjoy the documentary of my life. Let’s see. There’s me as a baby. Wow my head was abnormally large. There’s me learning to walk. I developed my trademark gangsta lean quite early. Good for me. Now there’s school. Hey, my first hand-traced Thanksgiving turkey! Who the hell invented that concept? God kids are idiots.

My first fight. Wow, that girl beat my ass. I’m sure such humiliation had no lasting effects on my psyche. There’s me playing soccer. I’m a natural. Annnnnd, more stuff of me growing up. Yeah, I get it, I used to be a kid, fast-forward to the good stuff!

Oooh. My first kiss. That’s what I’m talking about. Wait, what the hell? She was fatter than I remember. Hormones sure do make you forget about being picky. Yikes. And what am I doing with my hands? That’s not right. Wow, this is awkward. Next please.

First time having se… and I’m done. It’s a good thing I’m about to expire. That’s embarrassing. In fact, that’s put me off of watching the rest. College, jobs, Schnietz Marphis, Army, war, bullets, bombs, Roseus, I get it. I remember. No need to dwell on any of that stuff. Alright, enough of the highlight reel. Let’s do this thing!

I’m comfortable. My body feels light. Mostly weightless. Like I’m in the world’s most comfortable beanbag chair. Man, if I knew dying was this relaxing, I would have done it years ago! I don’t really even feel the six-inch, carbon steel blade in my chest. This body isn’t my problem anymore, let somebody else deal with this messy, smelly hunk of meat. I’m just gonna lay back and close my eyes. I feel sleepy. I think I’ll take a nap for a little…


I hit the alarm clock.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Two Tears in a Bucket

“Forget how big the universe is. Forget the cosmos and your size relative to the size of a planet. Forget about the spaces between stars being so large that we have to measure them by time instead of distance.

“There’s nothing like the ending of a relationship to make you realize how incredibly small, insignificant and pointless your existence is. Why? Well, all that universe shit is far too abstract for most of us to wrap our stupid monkey brains around anyway. Let those things keep Neil DeGrasse* Tyson’s genius ass up at night. Love and breakups on the other hand, they have far more power in making us evaluate our place in the world.

“Pain is one of the few things in the world that people are not stingy about sharing. Hell, misery loves to watch Three’s Company, as that famous saying goes. And when relationships end, we try our best to spread that misery around. Unfortunately, nobody’s buying. First of all, it’s depressing. People who have just gotten out of relationships are depressing to be around. Not to mention monotonous. Everything reminds them of something. Secondly, no matter how important that relationship was to a person, no matter how life-encompassing, it doesn’t matter to anybody else (except for offspring and maybe the next person in line to get up in dem guts). Every aspect of your love life, from how you met, to your pet names for each other, to your inevitable breakup, has been seen, felt, (and dealt), heard of and experienced so many times that your own personal experience is just another drop in the ocean.

“Think about it. Why are we all here on this planet?** What is our purpose? Our raison-d’ĂȘtre? Many people would say that it’s to find a mate, reproduce and carry on our genes and innate love of cheesesteaks. So, people go out, find other people, date, marry, go on American Ninja Warrior, divorce, and so on. And each part of that process weaves itself into the warp and weft of that individual’s life. It makes up who they are and becomes a footnote in the definition of their very being.

“And it doesn’t mean dick to anybody outside of that relationship.

“Instead, we save our caring for the great, idealized (and most importantly) fictional loves throughout history. That’s why Romeo & Juliet represent the archetype of love and relationships (including the requisite tragic ending, because even on the subconscious, idealized level, we all realize that if LOVE is involved, then things can’t end well). And if you’re not a fan of those two, there’s Carrie and Mr. Big, Tristan & Isolde, Bridget Jones and her diary, Mr. Grey and ties, Martin and Riggs, etc. Don’t even get me started on Edward and Bella. (Because I have absolutely no clue what any of that junk is about.)

“Your story? Probably heard it before. Nothing new. It’s really one of those ‘you had to be there’ kind of deals for it to mean something more to people. Don’t get me wrong, nobody likes it when relationships end. You’ll get a sympathy pat on the back, a ‘buck-up-there-are-other-fish-in-the-sea’ smile and maybe even share a remorseful tear or two with your more empathetic friend. But don’t get it twisted. This pain is your own personal ride and others won’t join you on it. So while your world may be falling apart, and tissues pile up in your garbage can and your television shoots itself rather than play Dirty Dancing again, the rest of the world will move on, same as it always did, regardless of your own anguish and struggles. Uncaring, unmoved and unfazed.

“Which can result in making you feel small, short-lived and pointless.”

“So you’re saying I should go ahead and get a third scoop of ice cream?”


*Insert non-Drake related joke here about bad Canadian television show, when you can think of one. It’ll be a hilarious wink for the one person who gets it, therefore validating your creativity and humor.

** 42

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

We Will Get Through This

It’s rare that I feel the need to comment on current events, I like my entries to be timeless (except for the first three years of this blog, which were unfortunately very MySpace-centric). But sometimes things occur and I just have to give my two cents.

Situations take place that demand a strong, brave soul to step up, grab the mic/bullhorn/conveniently-located breast, and lead the masses with powerful words and inspirational language that comforts, soothes and placates the people across the land.

This is one of those times.

I am that person.

This summer sucked dead, yeasty, rotted hobo balls.

It’s true that things happened across this tiny blue marble in the past three months to give us pause and make us send our hearts and thoughts* out to others in times of despair. There have been storms and hurricanes, floods and fires. Wars in several countries, landscapes littered with the dead husbands, wives, parents and children of the unenviable survivors of these violent acts committed by man against man. There is Malaysia Airlines, which can’t catch a goddamn break. The death of celebrities, either by natural causes or their own hands. The use of deadly force by those we entrust with public safety against an innocent man. The really, really shitty movies released in theaters for our “pleasure” at seizure-inducing prices. People randomly posting videos of themselves dumping buckets of water on their heads for reasons that are now lost to time, forgotten and meaningless. The lime shortage that effected my enjoyment of summer cocktails. Sharknado 2.

But most importantly, the summer did not live up to its contractual obligation of being oppressively hot and sweaty in the DMV. I don’t know about things where you live,** but here in the Nation’s Capital, this summer has been a big old moist let down. August alone was just a month-long cloudfest. The temperatures were warm and comfortable, the humidity wasn’t a problem and we had plenty of rain to make sure plants grew and lawns were watered. And I say boo to all of this.

Where were the mosquitoes? What happened to the requisite weight-loss through sweating? Or the hours spent in icky bliss, peeling off sunburnt skin? And the Ice Cream Man, dammit! Where was he?!

All of the things that make summer simultaneously the most fun and most frustrating time of year were not evident in 2014. I mean, for the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, school started in August! That offends me to my core. Do children no longer have a voice to speak out for themselves? Let the kids be kids. Don’t force them into classes so soon. And don’t give me that crap about how kids need to be in school more to stop their brains from atrophying during the summer (both the purpose of summer in the first place, and the name of my next album: Atrophying Brains) and make us more competitive in the global arena. Americans lost that battle years ago, as exemplified by the fact that there’s a television reality show about Amish criminals.

Sure we can blame any number of things. It’s the fault of Climate Change. God is punishing us for worshiping the Kardashinans. Maybe we need to all get our shit together and throw a couple virgins into a volcano. Perhaps evil aliens are slowly transforming our planet into an environment more suitable for them (I call credit if that ends up being the real reason). But it doesn’t matter. The summer is over now, and with it, joy. Now we get on with our lives, spend the rest of the year plodding through our pointless and wasted existences. Doing our best to pretend that it’s all for the best. That we enjoy waking up and it’s dark out. Getting off of work and it’s dark out. Bundling up in layers of clothes. Dealing with increased traffic and gridlock.

But still, somewhere deep in our minds, always there, always waiting, like a beacon of purpose and fulfillment: the image of a palm tree on an empty beach at gloaming.

And those damn mosquitoes.

*Absolutely no idea what this phrase means and you don’t either. Don’t even pretend like you do. It’s a mindless thing that people repeat because others say it. Like “please” and “thank you”.