As I prepare to attend a going away gathering of a dear friend in the DC Mambo scene,I am filled with emotion as my mind is instantly cast back to the time we first met and the journey our friendship has traveled over the years. It was January 2008 and I was at Café Asia at a Social that was showcasing a Dance Competition. Out of nowhere, a guy previously unknown to the DC area was making waves and causing a collective murmur of WHO IS THAT GUY while joyfully dancing a continuous circle around the dance area, beaming like a Giant Billboard that shouted that nothing else mattered but HIM and his dancing. He was a marvel to behold for several reasons- his race, his dress code which was Dapper Dan/Bebop/California Cool which was mildly incongruent with my stereotypical reactive perception, his uncontainable charisma masked as pure JOY, and not least, his ACTUAL DANCE ABILITY which appeared to be pretty darn good for no one to NOT KNOW who the heck this stranger was.
There was a line of women AND men queued up to meet him and get a bead on this guy. I was one of the many in awe and wonder about this guy whose dance transfixed us all that night. I introduced myself quite aggressively and was completely charmed by his force of personality and wowed by his dance, as were everyone else present. Sometime over the course of the next 2 weeks, we exchanged numbers and agreed to start practicing together although his story is that I DEMANDED that he practice with me. With the truth stranded somewhere in the middle, we began to regularly practice at my Dad’s home studio and later moved the practices to the Clavekazi Dance Studio.
From our practice and our constant going out to the local weekly salsa spots, we developed a fast friendship based on our complete and utter passion and devotion to all aspects of Mambo AND because we were both curious people who were intrigued with each other’s very different backgrounds. We dove headfirst into getting to know each other and found that we shared many core beliefs, universal truths, and those things we didn’t agree on were topics fueled with a lot of screaming, passion, tension, and arguments launched in nuclear attack mode against each other. Nothing was held back and some ugly truths were shared about beliefs, race, politics, the dynamic and roles between men and women, religion, and neither one of us shied away from the offensive perspective. In fact, we REVELED in the offensive perspectives which could trigger great GLEE or alternatively, WRENCHING debates with verbal guns drawn and cocked to fire off instantly at one another. We loved EVERY MINUTE of those antagonistic conversations as much as we enjoyed the ones where we learned from each other and gained a new perspective filtered through the different lenses of race, generation/age, culture, sex, philosophy of life.
We talked EVERY DAY for 2-3 hours at a time or several times a day bursting with stories to share, ideas to consider, news or pop culture to discuss, EAGER to get the other’s perspective. In sum, we developed a friendship that quickly transcended Friendship and settled quite firmly in the category of FAMILY, specifically, a Big Overly Aggressive Sister & Demanding Little Brother Relationship that was bound by strong and durable connection and sealed with a knowledge from our souls that it was destiny that we even met in the first place and would eventually impact each other’s lives in a meaningful way. In effect, we were Siblings who happened to be birthed from a different set of parents but no matter- we KNEW we were blood relatives of the spirit.
There were some ups and downs and we are not in constant contact as we had been in the past as can be expected with any long term relationship but we still ALWAYS had each other’s backs and continue to champion each other personally, professionally, and DEFINITELY in the world of DC Mambo and beyond. It was a great ride and my life hasn’t been the same since meeting him. Sure, I would have eventually found ways to distinguish myself in creative ventures as I have always done throughout my life but I couldn’t have expanded my horizons, gained a deeper perspective and understanding of people who are different than me, nor gained the confidence to know that I was special and had potential even in an art form where I STILL HAVEN’T EXCELLED without my brother.
This is someone who FORCED me after 8 months of beseeching to GET ON FACEBOOK, painstakingly explaining to me that I couldn’t accomplish many of the things I wanted to do easily without the assistance of this social tool. The fact that I resisted back then is laughable today but that is how closed off I was at the time. He would encourage me to stay to the end of the club to talk to people and chastise me when he found out I would sneak out early before the club ended so as to avoid conversations or socializing with people. He helped change my life focus from an inner journey to an outer journey that INCLUDED people.
For these reasons and more, I am eternally grateful and appreciative that he picked ME out of many who were clamoring for his friendship/love/attention/affection to focus his attention on and help me to reach my potential in reaching out to OTHER PEOPLE and not stay so self-contained. He forced me outside of my natural introverted box and demanded I get involved with others, get to know others, and open myself up to others because he believed that I WAS WORTH GETTING TO KNOW.
Now, after 9 years, my brother is off to a new adventure in a new locale half a world away and I am contemplating what that means to me. Well, it means absolutely nothing. This is MY BROTHER and just like family, distance doesn’t change a darn thing. We will always stay connected and like family, when we meet again- Somewhere on the Asian Continent or here in the states- it will be like yesterday. Nothing changes. Am I my brother’s keeper? You Damn Right.
Love you always, General James Yoon aka Jimmy Shines aka PooPoo Head aka Stinky Draws.