Tour De Life

April 29, 2005

Volume 33,
Issue 17

Sat, Feb 27, 2016


by Beau Burriola
Howdy, care to dance?
“One, two, three; step, two, three,” I counted out loud as he looked into my eyes for direction. “Go ahead, count when you step.”

“One, two, three; step two three,” he repeated, starting out slowly and awkwardly, tipping to each side dramatically as he stepped. The faint trace of a smile, as subtle as a cloudy morning sunrise, began to show on his face.

“One, two, three,” we both said, as we took our clumsy practice steps. His smile grew a bit more, adorned with a slight, left-cheek dimple. Sean and Kev watched us from the table, occasionally laughing at our mixed progress.

One, two, three; step, two, three. One, two, three; step, two, three.

Since moving to Seattle I’ve found folks to be generally nice, though I’ve found that some folks need to be brought out of their shell a bit to be discovered. One fool-proof way I’ve learned to do that is with a totally unexpected waltz.

“Waaaaltz; across Texas, with yoooou-in-my-aaaarrms. I could waaaltz across Texaaaas with yooou,” two, three; step, two three.

Waltzing is a foreign concept to most people, and learning to waltz is as useful to many people as learning Nepalese, yet it’s the perfect way to break up a stuffy moment when folks come over for dinner. This is true particularly if my guests are strangers. It started out as something I did to poke fun at where I come from. On that night a couple of years ago, I took out grandpa’s album to play “Cheatin’ Heart” and “Crawdad Hole” for a mopey guest. I fully expected just laughter at the music. Instead, a song turned into a waltz, which turned into a whole hour of full-faced smiles and giggles, teaching a near-total stranger a totally useless dance.

And so this evening, when my three guests came over for dinner and Dwayne stayed mostly to himself at first, I reached in for grandpa’s CD and my ole cowboy hat and yanked him from his chair to the middle of my living room.

“Howdy, care to dance?” I asked with my biggest grin. It was my living room and I was making dinner, how could he say no?

“Like a stoooorybook ending, I’m lost-in-your-chaaaarms,” step, two, three; one, two, three. We must have looked a strange dancing couple: Dwayne at least eight inches taller than me, his long hair, classy shirt, and fading black jeans, and me with my Cowboy hat and t-shirt pushing and twisting him around the room like a stack of wheeled cafeteria tables.

To me, waltzing is just like fiddling, wearing a cowboy hat, making dumplins on Sunday, or calling people “folks”; it’s just another way I’ve let a little bit more of my roots get back to me. When I first came out to embrace being gay, these were the parts of myself I hid the most. I didn’t want folks to hear the unintelligent twang or the phrases that didn’t mean anything. Steers? Queers? Oh no. Not here! So I brushed over everything I was with that safe gloss that people hide behind, becoming another indistinguishable person.

I stayed as un-Texan as possible, until I got tired of it. I started missing the little things that I enjoyed, like the way strangers said hello, or the way grandpa used to make people smile by making em dance. It didn’t take long for me to decide I didn’t just want to be another indistinguishable person. I wanted to be who I am, to do those things that make me feel good; and if that includes a few little imperfections like the occasional cheesy waltz, the odd jumbling of words or phrases, or the rare “wearin’ of the boots,” then I’m okay with that.

“If you don’t know who you are,” an old lady once asked me, “how do you know where you’re going? You’re lost.”

Years ago, I left Texas with a goal of finding myself, so I’m surprised to find that, as each day passes, I find more of my roots-an’-boots in me here in Seattle than when I used to live in Texas. I smile more and say “Howdy,” I use Tabasco sauce on my eggs, I keep a firm handshake, and I always smile at strangers. Maybe humans really do have this deep, dormant where-we’re-from quality that is always there, patiently waiting for the chance toy creep back up and burst out into a loud pig call or a random waltz.

The worst I think I could get out of waltzing more in my life is maybe running into a stranger who won’t want to, or who break a smile over it, but I haven’t come across that yet and I don’t expect it’s possible. If you don’t believe me, feel free to give it a try. I’ll even loan you an ole record to help you out.

“When weeee daaance together, the world-feels-so-riiiight; an’ I could waltz across Tex-aaas, with yooooou.” Dum-dum-dah, Dadum... daaaaaaahm.

Beau Burriola is a boot-wearin, (water)gun totin, fiddle-dabblin queer guy, waltzing through life whenever the chance comes up. Send him email:

Leslie Robinson

Madelyn Arnold

Paula Martinac