Today, even before I attained consciousness, Frankie Manning died at age 94. Just yesterday, I had been discussing attending his upcoming 95th birthday celebration in his "home" state of New York. I'd only met him once; during his widespread world travels teaching lindy hop, he had come to Michigan, where I was living at the time. Even at his advanced age, he was still lively and powerful: doing what you love to do is a potent tonic. I'm not entirely sure where my sadness at his passing comes from, whether the loss of a living font of style and knowledge, the knowledge that there is a limited amount of literally extraordinary people in the world and one of them is gone, perhaps simply the loss of a personal hero. To be honest, I am surprised at the amount I am affected.
I feel I'm now looking at the room of an older brother who's gone away to college; it's big, it's empty. I worry about stepping into it and committing sacrilege, or at the very least, breaking something precious. Then, more urgently, I worry nobody will step in it again, that it'll become gray and forgotten. I console myself with the thought now that when I listen to jazz and begin to move, I am entering that room, dusting off an old trinket, and holding it close to my heart.
Frankie, wherever you may have graduated to, we are now and forever looking up to you.
Rule: Celebrate a personal hero.
Frankie Manning: May 26, 1914 - April 27, 2009
Photo: Ryan Swift