A New Leaf
Adventures in the Creative Life
by Jim Gold
Table of Contents
The Writing Life 5
Mad Shoe Folk Dancing 48
Dr. Zoltan Fok Dansz 55
Outer Travels 64
Babylonian Babble 86
InnerT ravels 91
Tremolos and Arpeggios 121
Running Wild on the Lawn 127
The Entrepreneurial Life 137
Flights of Imagination 148
Cannot be afraid to jump
Off a cliff
Into the dark, churning abyss;
To fall down, down, down
Into black, mysterious waters
And drink from turbulent streams
It takes courage to turn over a new leaf, to make each day a new adventure, and to have fun doing it! That’s what Jim Gold does, out of his home office in Teaneck, New Jersey, the headquarters of Jim Gold
International. There, he plans his international folk tours, folk dance classes, guitar concerts, and Mad Shoe Weekends, and, most important, writes his New Leaf journal.
Since 1994, when he began his “Miracle Schedule” habit of morning writing, guitar playing, running, yoga, and language study, he’s written thousands of journal pages. Jim writes about what he knows best–the joys and frustrations of making a living as an artist, and the adventures of creating each day anew. His journals, which have been published in five volumes, are filled with humor, beauty, and imagination. Also a brutally honest road, it reveals his frustrations and anxieties about tour registrations, playing wrong notes on the guitar, aches, and worries about money.
It’s also about having faith, and having fun.
A New Leaf is a compilation of the best of Jim’s published journal writings. This book is a gold mine. Jim loved writing it; I loved compiling it, and you’ll love reading it!
Jim adds: “Writing my journal is the most important thing I do each day. Writing, along with my “Miracle Schedule,” remind me of the spiritual foundation of my life and put me in touch with higher forces.
My journal writing centers me. It represents the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of my development through the adventures of a wandering mind. Even though I’m the author, I use it as my own guidebook to life. Perhaps it will inspire you to jump in and splash around in this pool
of creativity called life. Ultimately, it’s all about having fun while following your star.
I was brought up in the Bronx. My mother was an artist. My father was a high school principal. Music, the arts, and pursuit of knowledge were their passions.
I still see myself as a child, listening to the radio in our kitchen, eating Cheerios, and feeling my mind melt as I listened to the music of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky on WQXR. Stars, suns, moons, and other
celestial forms passed above me. Mozart, Wienawski, Beethoven, Lalo, Bruch, Bach. Playing their music on my violin and listening to their symphonies; those were my highest moments. The gate opened; they ushered me into a world where gods dwelt.
The High School of Music and Art introduced me to music and the epiphany of sound. On violin, and later on guitar, I played other people’s music. I was their instrument—loving, willing, but instrument nonetheless. Classical music, though beautiful, was filled with restrictions— do’s and dont’s, and endless possibilities of making mistakes. How could I be free when I constantly worried about committing such a wrong-note crime and facing the judgement of an audience?
College introduced me to the beauty and magic of the printed word. Once I read about ideas, I knew music alone wasn’t enough. Dry intellect never held me. It was the beauty of ideas, the tasty morsels of words, and the rolling language forming in my mouth, that inspired me.
During my last year at the University of Chicago, as I sat in my second floor apartment on 55th Street, I first thought of becoming a writer. Writing had music and sound; it touched my intellect as well as my soul. Most of all, it had freedom. When I wrote, I could finally express myself.
I spent a year in France, then rented a room in Greenwich Village. For the next three years, I wrote. It was the beginning of a thirty-year experiment to find the source of my creativity and the reason I passed through states of melancholy. Why should this be, when music and the presence of others lifted me so high? Did it point to an aspect of self I didn’t quite know yet?
I discovered yoga after college, when I bought a book on it in Woodstock with a picture of a yogi standing on his head. I figured I would read it, learn yoga, and, as a joke, teach it to the guests at Chaits Hotel in the Catskills, where I worked as a social director. I taught it in the afternoons, always reading up and staying a chapter ahead of my class. To my surprise, not only did the guests like it, but I did, too. I started
practicing the postures. Soon they became a habit, part of my daily routine. I liked the yoga philosophy, too. . . and the sensual quality of the asanas.
Yoga is an offshoot of my love of movement, which, as a child, was expressed in the physical exhilaration of running wild on our farm lawn before a storm or, as a teenager, playing basketball. That’s also why I teach folk dancing and run. I feel the musical high of a Beethoven symphony coursing through me.
Since I married, I’ve made my living as a performer. First was my “World of Guitar” performances on college campuses nationwide. In the late seventies, I began teaching folk dancing. My Jim Gold International Folk Tours company followed soon after.
Writing is my key to self-understanding. Its adventure continues to amaze me.”
The Writing Life
Morning journal writing is the most important thing I do. It clears my mind, brings me inner peace, and makes my existence feel worthy and worthwhile. It’s my personal form of meditation. It represents the physical, mental, spiritual aspects of my development. When I write, I compose a symphony of sound. I have no idea where my words come from. They seem magical, a gift from above. No one knows how a word is created. I wrote them yesterday, but will I write them again today? Every morning I stand at the edge of a cliff, peering through my computer screen into a new abyss.
I jump. . .and hope I can fly.
Voice of My Future
Even though it earns no money, writing is the most important thing I do.
It uncovers higher ground. The sounds of language passing through my mind make me feel great! Gifts rain down when I write.
Writing clarifies meaning and purpose.
It is a calling.
Am I afraid to face it? Wasn’t Moses afraid to face his calling, afraid of the responsibility and burdens of leadership? Finally, he accepted his destiny and talent, and followed his path.
I am ready to follow mine.
Rise each morning. Write an hour! Create the most important hour of the day.
This morning’s voice sounds strange, foreign, wild, yet full of discipline—a cry from the wilderness, a powerful Hibernian wind gusting from arctic heights, blowing away old forms and creating a clearing for the new.
Where will writing lead?
I do not know. But I will follow its voice into my future.
Writing Is A Habit
To be easy, writing has to become a habit like eating breakfast, brushing your teeth, taking a run, going to the bathroom, breathing. But no expectations! Give up all plans of future glory, hopes of recognition,
crowds cheering, audiences thronging to read your latest work. Do you have such expectations about brushing your teeth? Do you imagine throngs rushing to your bathroom to witness it? Writing should be
approached the same way, as daily fare, a conversation with yourself. This approach takes the fear out of it, makes the process softer, easier. Then, it’s like discovering the center of the universe in a loaf of bread.
Write for the Glory!
Why write? Write for the glory! Whether others read it or not is secondary. The process of laying down word after word, of sweeping out my brain and cleansing the filth that has accumulated in those back
woods, the attics, rooms, halls, and closets of my mind, provides a cleansing directional effect; it straightens me out and puts me on the road to somewhere; it pricks and forces me out of tired, stagnant molds and puts me on Light Highway. Yes, it’s all part of the glory of writing.
This means living the rest of my life with a focus on revelation rather than improvement, gathering the incredible ions together, creating an atmospheric moment where the universal forces of revelation collect, and, with my brain as a lightning rod, focusing their cosmic light through the narrow fissures of my individual self, shooting strengths and pockets of glory through my wiry body. In so doing, they connect me in electrifying fashion to the earth beneath my feet. This is podiatric medicine at
its best. Let hammer toes hammer out universal messages; let bunions sing not of wider feet spreading through galaxies beyond the known universe.
Yes, I am on a new road, the glory road. Thank God! Born today in twenty minutes of writing, this road leads first to hell, then to heaven. As I walk along the edge of a cliff staring into the abyss, I focus on revelation and a lifestyle of sparks and dynamite.
Revelation thrives in a world of completion. Living in the moment means driving wedges in opposites, unifying each experience, and completing every moment. This must happen in both long-term and short-
term projects, for long-term projects are but reflections of short-term projects that, in turn, reflect the completed moment.
Thus, my journal must reach publishable form even if it is never published. I need such a completion project.
Four Pages a Day
My back hurts. I’m drained. Can I write when my back hurts?
Can I write, then throw away my pages?
I’m trying, oh, Lord, I’m trying! Squeezing, pushing, limping, grimacing, pounding the keyboard, sweating to write my four pages and thus squeeze out the hour creating my freedom.
Freedom from what?
Freedom from my obligation to write four pages.
Freedom is my burden. Only a magnificent unobstructed flow of verbiage can set me free.
I’m racing through my vocabulary powerhouse. Gray skies lower outside my window; umbrella people pass my house, huddled in scrunched up postures, fighting wind, cold, rain, and sleet. They’re going to work. I’m home at my computer, trying to create something of value for I don’t know whom and I don’t know what. It’s an endless quest. I could put in hours every day for forty centuries, and still there’ll be no end to commitment. Tied to the Promethean rock, pushing the Sisyphean rock up a hill for no political cause, ontological rationale, or higher purpose. Where is the sanctified road I can walk upon? Vanished. I pour and pour, hoping to reach the four-page quota.
Perhaps I’m developing a skill, a looseness, a writing fluidity that will someday do me good. But when? And what kind of good? Am I doomed to write in circles for the rest of my life?
Let me look into this.
Is writing in circles so bad? After all, the sun moves in circles; so does
the earth; so does the entire solar system. If it’s good enough for them, why shouldn’t it be good enough for me? Perhaps going in circles is the natural way, the best way. Going in circles may be a talent I never recognized.
For thousands of years mankind has asked, What is the goal of life, its purpose and meaning? Why write, pray, or hope? What about love?
I’d love to have readers poring over my words, telling me what significance, meaning, and lofty purpose my work has had on their lives; I want their respect, love, and admiration. But how long would that satisfy me?
Probably five minutes. Maybe more, but not much. Would it inspire me to keep writing? I doubt it. It’s nice to be loved, respected, and admired, but sadly, not enough to make me write.
The writing process has its own magnificence: It’s a subtle brand of torture. Perhaps I should give up the idea of this journal being literature, and rather think of it as my survival kit for functioning in the world.
Perhaps I should give up the whole idea of “writing literature.” What is writing literature, anyway? Henry Miller didn’t write literature. He hated literature. Too phony, too pretentious. Rather, just pour out the real stuff.
It feels like I’ll be writing this journal for the rest of my life. It is so simple, so easy, so natural. The words flow out. No preconceived notions, no plans, no outline or plot to follow. I write whatever I like in whatever order I like. Any crazy thing that comes to mind gets written down. It may interest no one but me, and it may not even interest me. But it serves the wonderful purpose of self-liberation. It is my daily psychoanalysis, my daily adventure into the unknown, the unexplored realm of my self.
It feels like the amount of writing I can do is endless. I can go on and on. Most of it may be drivel, but it is my drivel.
I’m so happy I’ve discovered this.
And my back feels so much better!
All Is One: The Whole Room Got Up to Folk Dance!
I taught dancing at the Terzok Bat Mitzvah in West Orange, New Jersey. I worried: Will people get up to dance? I’m walking at the edge of humiliation. If they don’t get up, no one dances, I’ll have to accept pay-
ment for, ostensibly, “doing nothing.” This is my ego’s biggest fear. When I work at a Bat Mitzvah or any event, I am vulnerable, and at the mercy of the crowd’s wishes. And they may wish not to dance.
Here’s what happened: After much hidden trepidation (I know it was “hidden” because I ended up hurting my back when I bent slightly over to pick up my guitar) I walked to the center of the room. Everyone was eating lunch. I announced “Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the Emily Turzok Bat Mitzvah. Now we are going to learn the hora and how to dance Israeli dancing.” This announcement was greeted by absolute silence and total indifference. People continued eating as if I had said nothing. They talked, chattered, bantered with one another. Embarrassing to me, indeed. How would I get them to do anything? I figure I’d better go over to each table and ask them personally if anyone wanted to dance. When I did, a few smiling heads nodded and some smiling faces said yes. I looked back at the dance floor and, lo and behold, three people were standing there. Evidently, they had heeded my announcement.
Now at least I had enough dancers to start. I took the microphone, went to the center of the room, and made a second announcement. “We’re starting our Israeli dancing now. You’re all invited to join us!” Then, to my utter amazement the whole room got up! One hundred people pushed their seats back, rose, and soon mobbed the dance floor! Quickly I changed my starting plan from an improvised Klezmer circle walking improvisation to the Israeli dance Zemer Atik. I told everyone to form first two, then three circles. In three circles no one can see my steps. I realized immediately that teaching dance steps to this beginner crowd would be impossible in the absence of watching my feet. I’d decided to teach these dancers with my hands! I raised them high above my head and, through gestures, nods, finger pointing, and moving my arms about, I guided them through Zemer Atik. It worked beautifully. They hooted, screamed, hollered, and laughed as they flopped and slopped through the dance. After four or five repeti-
tions it actually began to look good! They all cheered at the end. They were ecstatic. So was I. After that a flood of incredible enthusiasm was released, they lifted the bat mitzvah girl on a chair and danced wildly around her. Family and friends came forward and invented their own dance improvisations. These people were wild and crazy. . . just what I love! Thus, on first glimpse, what appeared to be a group of stiff, suited, tightly dressed, deadhead luggards turned out to be a mad, crazy, wild, enthusiastic collection of
creative souls! My initial reading of them was wrong. It had been based solely on my fears.
So, with a little help from God, the afternoon dancing turned out to be an incredible success!
Later I thought: What a beautiful magical event! How can I now accept that I was responsible for creating it?
Then I realized I was not alone. Obviously, I could not have done it without the bat mitzvah participants and the help of God. He created the ultimate miracle of our togetherness.
I can write, play guitar, run, do yoga, study, and follow my miracle schedule.
But I cannot exist without the other.
On the deepest mystical level, there are no real divisions. We are all connected. All is One. Beauty-filled, beauty-full. Beauty is the All-Is-One experience.
Now this is something to meditate on! Meditate on the beauty of folk dancing Bat Mitzvah Oneness.
Dr. Zoltan “Fok” Dansz
Dr. Zoltan “Fok” Dansz is my alter ego. I’m writing his journal in the style of my own. Perhaps some day it and he will merge. Dr. Fok is off the wall; so are parts of my journal. He is a hidden voice in my journal.
He is me; I am him. Yet he is different. We’ll see where he takes me…….
I am moving slowly across the dance fields, taking a bath in the whirlpools of tourism. How shall I name them? The Zoltan Fok Dansz Tours, or Zoltan Tours? Does it matter? Mainly I want to collect a tourist herd and graze them across the glories of Hungary, my beautiful Magyarország. To dance with merry mustaches and wide aprons, sing songs from Debrecen, eat and drink, laugh, cry, visit porches, sit at dusk drinking bulls’ blood while the sun sets over the plains or across the fur-fields laden with fruit wine, while we break our teeth speaking Hungarian. . . .
Writing the Bible of Folk Dance with Zeus
A new day begins, and my legs are spinning in their sockets. Last night we grapevined in perfect step on the dance floor, creating a whirl of Greek steps that only islanders from Santorini, or their Atlantean ancestors, would appreciate. Zeus visited us. We undulated, fell on our knees, performed sweeping leg lifts, shimmied, and openly displaying our manliness before the surrounding women folk.
This morning my words are boiling like the stewed goulash I cooked on the Hortobagy plain when I collected swine-herd dances fourteen years ago. Ah, fourteen years ago….Irode my csikos horse across the plain, scanning the horizon, checking out the sky laced with hora-swirling clouds; I searched with my sharp eyes for Christian monks playing volleyball and for the perfect peasant dance. I couldn’t find it in the Hortobagy that year, but who cared? My purpose was to look. Besides, my horse was wild. Hortobagy wind blew through my hair as I inhaled the scent of distant hidden manure in the high grasses of this finale-flattened Eurasian steppe.
Suddenly, I heard the voice of my writing teacher, Ferenc Molnar, calling down to me from a star behind the Big Dipper. “Zoltan, don’t do it! Stop this insane riding towards the fringes of your temperament. Wild Hortobagy horse riding can never tame your passions. Return to my class; explore the Hungarian word in its great ascending magyar cadence; create the definitive néptanc work. Write the bible of folk dance for your people. How wonderful to dissect proto-magyar roots and know the origins of words in everyday speech! When you teach us boot slapping in the powerful verbunk recruiting dance or csárdás from Mezökövesd, you will convey our magyar national strength with even more magnificence. Remember when you danced ugrós and jumped through the roof? That was a great day on the dance floor.”
I climbed off my horse and lay down on the grass in the middle of that vast and empty plain under the beauty of the shining sun. I agreed with Ferenc.
Certainly I would like to pen my terpsichorean vision, form a verbal mold filled with the vibrations of the myriad steps and patterns my restless feet have danced over the years. I would ask many questions: How did medieval Hungarian calves feel after dancing all night in a csárdá? Did they experience indigestion along with a longing for celestial visions?
Danceobabble at 6 Gyarmat utca
I mounted the thirty-two wooden steps to my top floor, mirror-lined dance studio at 6 Gyarmat utca. But I was in no mood to practice dancing.
I am rarely in a dancing mood when I enter my studio. Perhaps Gyarmat utca is too far from the Danube, or the studio is too dark, or I need live music, or I crave the hot blood of an audience or even the worldly inspiration of cash payment. Whatever the reason, I’m rarely in a dancing mood when I enter my studio.
Yet dance I must. Not only Hungarian repertoire, but dances from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Romania, Turkey, Israel, Serbia, Slovakia, Russian, Ukraine, France, and the Netherlands as well.
First I warm up with some unorthodox improvisations, gently shaking my shoulders, grinding my teeth, waddling like a duck in half-squat position, and barking out Old Testament phrases in Hebrew and
Hungarian. Like dancing itself, my improvisations are beyond language. I have a “secret” language to “describe” my warm-ups: It is called danceobabble, the language of improvisation. It wipes the cobwebs from the mind so that the throbbings of the heart may shine pure and clear.
How do I transcribe danceobabble to the printed page?
I place a keyboard under my dance floor with a thin piece of wire attached to each key. Then I turn on my computer screen and begin to dance. Danceobabble words and phrases appear on the screen. Thus I can
write a journal while I dance.
Danszing “Like Crazy”
I’m so excited about the publication of my new book “Folk Dancing Made Simple.” This priceless work is beyond description. Hundreds have already purchased the cloth-bound edition. Advanced sales have my publishers, the Ujtanc Press, pressing in their pants. Many avid folk dancers have barricaded themselves inside the Ujtanc Building on Kerult utca; some have chained themselves to the doors. Nobody wants to leave with out a copy of my book. Naturally, this makes me happy and proud.
Last night I taught Csárdás to the Cockpit at a Bat Mitzvah near the Dohanyi Street synogague. The young, middle aged, and old threw their hands high in the air with a magyar simcha. Afterwards, one of the dancers asked me: “Dr. Dansz, how did you inspire everyone to dance together even though many are so terrible at it?”
“Kérem, sir.” I bowed humbly. “Please call me ‘Fok.’ Dr. Zoltan Dansz is my professional name. Only my publisher, the critics, and my wife call me that. To my friends I am simply ‘Fok’.”
“I’m not interested in your name or how you got it,” said the man. “I am only interested in your teaching technique. How do you get this bunch all dancing on the same foot?”
I reflected a moment. Here was a serious aspirant in the art of the folk dance process. “Let me explain,” I said. “From the moment I enter a room to teach folk dancing, my mind is totally concentrated on every person in that room, from the cripple sitting hunched and forgotten in the corner to the loud-mouth making jokes under the smoke clouds at the table on my right. I think about every one of them. Naturally, ‘think’ is not the proper word. One can only think of one thing at a time. That’s why I call my method metathink, or unothink, because it transcends thinking. I use my higher faculties of intuition to see into the heart and soul of everybody in the room. That is my job. It mobilizes and occupies my mind. From my metathoughts come the mind and body movements, and the dance steps, that unite this room. People can sense what I am experiencing internally. It relaxes them, makes them feel accepted, quiets their fear of public humiliation on the dance floor. Once that fear is gone and they lose the terror of making mistakes, their dancing not only improves immediately, but with it the awkwardness of interacting with others disappears. A torrent of wonderful csárdás energy courses through their veins. They start going mad with dance, dancing ‘like crazy.’”
“You’ve described it beautifully,” said the man. “If I could verbalize like you, I’d become a professor.”
“Words are good,” I answered, “but I tried explaining the art of dance only because you asked me. In truth, it is best explained without words. The wordless song is the highest art form; all else is mere imitation. As the critic Baltimore Boniface said about Book II of Folk Dance Made Simple, ‘It transcends language itself.’”
Although Book II has a period on page 64—a visual challenge for the reader—the rest is filled with blank pages, not only to emphasize the role of silence in deepening one’s awareness of the cosmos, but to show how well wordlessness can teach a folk dance. For beneath wordlessness, in the human psyche, is still more wordlessness. Wordless levels wrapped in layers of awareness increase the further you descend. At the bottom rung of the ladder you find a vast lake of Nothingness, a vacuum filling the invisible waters and silent atmosphere. This bottomless realm is the home of metathink, energy center of the universe. I meditate on it before I teach dance; I remember it during my teaching. That is what made the sparks
fly at this Bat Mitzvah—or any other event.
Bohemia Musica Concert in Cesky Krumlov
Last night we heard a beautiful concert given by the Bohemia Musica, a famous group from Prague. It was presented, along with a mime performance. The first third of the concert was classical music, then came mime, then folk music. Wonderful performance! And all given in a magical castle in the fantastic fairy-tale town of Cesky Krumlov in southern Bohemia. We must book our hotel there next year.
A few hours before the concert I was sitting in an outdoor restaurant sipping coffee, and gazing into the fast-flowing Vltava river. I was thinking about how this Cesky trip is opening up new directions, pointing to a return to classical music, and incorporating it into my tours and back into my life; I thought about how to reach the music lovers of Dvorak, Smetana, and Janicek, how to become a lover of art once again and visit the Metropolitan Museum, joining the pictures on the wall as I did when I was a child, how Bohemia offers beautiful architecture, classical music, and intellect. Once again I realized the difference between a tourist and a traveler: a tourist learns about a country; a traveler learns about himself.
As I sat writing and thinking, Joe and Sue, from Reno, Nevada, entered the restaurant. She asked if I’d like to be alone; I answered, Yes, but nevertheless, invited them to sit down with me. We spoke about
transcendence, classical music, and about playing the gorgeous classical pieces of Smetana and Dvorak on the bus as we drove through the bucolic landscape of south Bohemia. Then, to my great surprise, Sue said she had been a child prodigy on the violin and piano! She had given concerts, performed all the big concertos, but gave it up completely at age seventeen when, during a performance, she forgot a piece twice. Then she walked off stage and decided to never play violin or piano again.
We spoke about stage fright, nervousness, and my emotional fears of listening to classical music. Then, after the Bohemia Musica concert, she gave me the following note:
God has given us the window of artistic ecstasy through which
to glimpse His force. To close that window or turn our backs on it
is to deny the miraculous value of the gift.
That says it all! Remember it not only for the rest of this tour, but for the rest of my life.
God has given me the gift of artistic ecstasy, a window through which to glimpse His all-mighty power. I love Sue’s wording! Who put her on this trip, anyway? All the books I’ve read on self-improvement, self-help, searching, looking for answers and new directions cannot match the power, truth, and majesty of her statement.