Category Archives: Articles

“AIDS Square Dancing – A Personal Experience” reprinted from the January 2001 issue of Times Squared

In this article by Harry Simmons we are reminded of the horror of the AIDS epidemic and its effect on the gay community.

The contrast in our monthly newsletter between the fun and humor of the square-dancing article and the pain and sadness of the tributes to those lost in AIDS remind me of a remarkable day during which I experienced intensely both the joy of the dance and the pain of bereavement.

I was in Washington DC for the final AIDS Memorial Quilt display in October 1989, and spent a full Sunday morning with the quilt, locating the two panels I had contributed for two lovers (lost in 1984 and 1986), and experiencing all the old grief and sadness at their loss as well as the overwhelming impact of the vast expanse of the quilt itself, representing the thousands and thousands of people I didn’t know.

That afternoon the DC Lambda Squares held a dance in honor of  the Quilt Weekend and I went and spent several hours surrendering to the joy of square dancing, two-stepping, and boot-scooting, with the customary abundance of socializing, warm hugs, and smiling faces. It certainly was a fun dance in and of itself, but my sense of enjoyment was heightened by the contrast with my hours spent with the quilt! By the time I walked back to my car my senses were those of physical tiredness, but with my mind racing and whirling in a sense of dream-like unreality!

Finally, on my drive back to New York that evening, I was able to calm down and reflect on such a remarkable, intense day and conclude that it represented “both sides” of the extremes of life- my quilt experience was a confrontation with pain, suffering, and death, while the square dancing was (and actually continues to be for me) a celebration of the joys of living! I cannot remember a day when I experienced both so intensely and for such prolonged periods within hours of each other!

I was also reminded of the following incident that occurred in the PS 3 gym one evening during the past year. Another of the sad announcements was made about a Times Squares member lost to AIDS, and this was followed by a brief awkward pause and the comment “It’s always difficult to know what to say next after such announcements.” After a briefer pause, a response came from one of the listeners, “Square ‘em up!” I was delighted to hear that! Not only did I wholeheartedly agree, but I felt that my whole Washington DC quilt-plus-dance experience and all that it represented had been neatly summarized in just two minutes! It occurred to me that perhaps I should change my will to read that square dancers would be allowed to visit my own final resting place only in groups of eight – or in groups of seven and I could be a phantom dancer (unless they were seven beginning dancers and I could then be an angel!)

“Trapped in PS 3” reprinted from the May 1992 issue of Times Squared


As a club we’ve been around quite a while. In this occasional column we’ll look back at some of the serious and not to serious articles from past issues of Times Squared.

Trapped in PS 3
by Michael J. McKeon

It was a dark and stormy night (no, this isn’t a Snoopy novel) … well actually is was dark but the only storm brewing was inside the heads of Michael Coan, Sheldon Green and Michael McKeon. You see for all any of us knew, it wasn’t even 9:58 or 10:02 pm – and the three of us were hurriedly scurrying around inside the closet at P.S. 3 trying to get everything put away and straightened out for yet another square dance day.

Finishing before the others, I quickly grabbed my large and cumbersome 55-gallon trash can and headed for the Hudson Street exit. As I approached the door, I noticed the center door was chained – no problem, there are two more sets of doors. Pull, pull, pull, hmmmmm?! These doors are all locked too, not to worry (or should I?), there are plenty of other exits and Sheldon and Michael C. will know another way out. Running around the building with a ghetto blaster, a briefcase and a 55-gallon trash can, we quickly searched all the exits – unfortunately, we experienced the same results at all possible passageways – plain and simple there was NO WAY OUT. We were indeed TRAPPED IN P.S. 3!!!!

The three of us, looking like lost puppies complete with dismay on our faces, weighed our options. Sheldon suggested the fire alarm, Michael C. just looked perplexed, and I and my 55-gallon trash can was willing to do almost anything short of jumping off of the roof (specially in Cowboy boots). To me the idea of pulling the fire alarm was just fine (even a little exciting), well, except for all the noise, which was a reservation shared by all.

Finally, there was the suggestion of exiting through a window. The only problem posed was how to get through the gates which barred window access. This seemed to be no problem for Sheldon and Michael who finally found a gate which was unlocked, the only problem being the scaffolding which hampered the possibility of fully pushing the gate out of the way.

This really seemed to pose no problem for the two “little guys”, however, my 55-gallon ice bucket and I were another story.  Putting the trash can back into the closet and taking long deep breathes, I managed to begin squeezing up and out the window.  Bending down, squeezing up, sucking in and pushing, I was finally halfway through. Now my only problem was the protruding six-inch bar which was jabbing into my stomach. I can only be grateful for my recent return to running which seemingly made my efforts a real possibility – and a successful one at that, as I sucked in once again and squeezed the rest of my body through the narrowness to freedom. Whew, free at last, Thank God I’m free at last (feeling a little like Martin Luther King) or so I thought.

Taking another deep breath and looking around I soon realized we were essentially back to square on. We were finally out of the building, but now trapped a bout 12 feet in the air by 40 feet of planked scaffolding with approximately a three to five-foot wall surrounding our prison. Not only did we gingerly have to walk around on the flooring, but we also had to be on the lookout for loose pointy wires, jabby nails, holes in the floor, nosey neighbors and uniformed police officers on local patrol. The gate between exterior of the building and the scaffolding looked to be about eight to ten feet at its widest – unfortunately, scrutinizing these “escape botches” only opened our eyes to steep jumps, sloped walls, bends in the building’s structure and a host of other obstacles impeding our easy access to an expedient escape.

Not to dismay, as Michael and Sheldon both scrutinized the situation and between the two of them located 2 or 3 potential escape routes. I was only experiencing a sense of relief that I had left my great ice-can behind and all we really had to worry about was the boom-box, the briefcase and the small but interested crowd of 5 or so, which had gathered around on the street below to witness our escapades.

Fortunately, Michael and Sheldon narrowed our escape possibilities down to what looked like a potential flight to freedom. Narrow as the opening may have seemed, my two partners in crime managed to squeeze down and gingerly jump to the ground – and I knew, since I had already squeezed through a similar crack at the window that I could handle this with no problem. The only other consideration was the bump in the building’s exterior which loomed between me and a six-foot jump to freedom. Growing more and more tired and not looking forward to a 15 mile and ½ hour drive home, I expediently slithered down into the crevice and shoo-ing Sheldon’s helping hand away with my boot, I jumped to the safety of the NYC street below. (And I did it all by myself, thanx anyway, Sheldon.) However strange it may seem to use the word safety in reference to the NYC street I can assuredly assume this was the general feeling shared by all.

I guess there is no moral to our story, but just a warning: make sure the P.S. 3 janitor knows you’re “out” or “in” because if he doesn’t, you might be “in” permanently. But on the lighter side, we didn’t – or at least I didn’t – notify any P.S. 3 officials where the window was that served as our escape to freedom – so if you’re ever unfortunate enough to be trapped inside, just look for a heater on the upper level and … good luck!

Learn to Square Dance!


Looking for an evening of fun and socializing? Join us for an introduction to square dancing. No partner, experience, special clothing, or dance skill required. If you can walk, you can dance!

Our club, Times Squares, is offering three open houses this winter, on Jan 25, Jan 29, and Feb 05. Come to any or all! You’ll learn the basic moves at any of the sessions, and a few additional moves at each of the three.

Friendly experienced dancers will be there to help out, and we have a fun and talented caller/teacher lined up for the evening. A great time is guaranteed!

If you like it, you’ll have the opportunity to join our beginner’s level classes starting February 12. Classes will run every Tuesday night from 6:30 – 9:30 through May to get you up to Mainstream level. Then you can dance with any square dance club in the world!

Come see why we say “Square Dancing is Friendship set to Music!”

Times Squares is New York’s only LGBTQ* square dance club. We welcome people of all genders and orientations. You don’t have to be LGBTQ* to join — just friendly!

Cost: $10 at the door
Where & When: PS 3, 490 Hudson Street (between Grove and Christopher Street)

  • Fri, Jan 25 7-9pm with Pat Push
  • Tue, Jan 29 7-9pm with Howard Richman
  • Tue, Feb 5 7-9pm with Howard Richman

Clear Sailing to Fun Dancing

 

Overheard at our recent dance:

“I forgot how much fun it is to be surrounded by squares and dance in a full hall.”

    It was all hands on deck as Times Squares hosted a Bon Voyage dance for a group of dancers from California the night before they set sail on a Fall Foliage cruise up the east coast to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The trip’s organizer, square dance caller David Mee, and four squares of travelers joined us for the dance. David offered to call, and it’s always great to dance to a new caller. His calling was challenging without being overwhelming and he has a great singing voice. We hope he returns to New York soon, so we can dance to him again. Kudos to George Voorhis for all his hard work to make this event such a success. The hall was decorated beautifully with bon voyage banners and luggage with stickers from far off destinations. And the cake was delicious.