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10 Zestful Pastimes

Hobbies That Break Away From the Ordinary

January 14, 1988|JANE MAYER | Mayer is a Tarzana writer. and

Got the January blahs? Life gone flat after the excitement of the holidays? Daily routine running rampant?

Well, here's some advice: Take up a hobby.

OK, OK--so you've heard that before. And bowling, you protest, just isn't enough of a challenge to sweep the ennui from your life.

This is where today's sampler of new interests rides to the rescue.

If adventure fits your style, how about clanking around in the armor of a medieval knight or sailing high in the sky without benefit of motor or crawling deep beneath the Earth's surface?

If the quieter life's for you, how about a bit of juggling or working in neon art or learning a Gregorian chant?

Some of the activities on our list have a tinge of danger; so use common sense and caution, participate only under the guidance of an expert and use all recommended safety equipment.

Spelunking. Crawling through tight tunnels or into narrow underground chimneys without knowing what lies ahead is not for the fainthearted.

Those who make the grade as cavers are frequently rewarded with sights such as beautiful vaulted chambers lined with lacy crystal deposits and sculpture-like stalactites and stalagmites.

To discover whether you have a taste for spelunking, take a guided tour of Mitchell Caverns in the Providence Mountains, 100 miles east of Barstow on Essex Road in Essex, Calif. Call (619) 389-2281. Fee: $3 adults; $1 for ages 6 to 17, ages 5 and under free. If you want to park there overnight, it costs $6 per vehicle. Take warm clothing.

For even more excitement, head for Moaning Cavern, 50 miles east of Stockton on California 4, or California Caverns, nine miles east of San Andreas, off California 49; telephone (209) 736-2708. At both places, Steve Fairchild arranges spelunking adventures of various lengths. Helmets, gloves, overalls, ropes, rappelling equipment plus an experienced guide are provided at a cost of $32 for easy trips, $59 for the most arduous outings.

No experience is necessary for any of these, but participants must be age 10 or over and in good health.

Fairchild also arranges nine-day expeditions to Mexican caves. The cost of $895 includes accommodations, food, guides, all equipment and transportation from Mexico City.

Fencing. No movie buff who ever saw "The Three Musketeers" or Errol Flynn's flashing blade could forget the beauty and grace of what has been called "a physical chess game."

Fencing is based on the ancient reality of deadly, hand-to-hand combat. Modern fencing matches two contestants dressed in protective clothing and masks and armed with epee, saber or foil (the foil is the weapon used by almost all women fencers).

The sport puts a premium on skill, discipline, concentration, coordination and speed.

The Westside Fencing Center, 8735 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (213) 204-BOUT, a nonprofit organization, offers classes at $9 each and invites fencers to use its facilities (floor fee $3 per visit).

Tango Dancing. Former New York Times dance critic John Martin divided dancing into two categories--that done for the emotional release of the dancers and that done for the enjoyment of spectators. The tango, an erotically charged dance with roots in Argentina, is an example of the former. Its popularity reached a peak before World War I.

The dance carries the romantic image of a couple locked in each other's arms, gliding across the floor, dipping deeply and swooping in intricate patterns.

The stage success of "Tango Argentina" revived interest in this terpsichorean delight.

Among the Los Angeles area's many tango class are those taught by Felix Chavez at Dance Center West, 2339 Pontius St., West Los Angeles, 8:30-9:30 p.m. Mondays, $10 per lesson. Call (213) 479-4335.

Medievalism. The Society for Creative Anachronism--which has more than 500 members in its Southern California "kingdom"--caters to those who dream of the days when knights in armor rescued fair maidens in distress. It can offer you the opportunity to adopt, at least temporarily, a Middle Ages persona and a medieval-style name. Members say they learn a lot of history by researching music, costumes, food and arts and crafts of the era.

The Society for Creative Anachronism, P.O. Box 360743, Milpitas, Calif. 95035-0743, has numerous local chapters. To find out about your area, write to the society or call its answering machine, (714) 953-7608, and a member will contact you about membership or activities. It is a nonprofit organization you can join for $20 per year. Spokeswoman Jill Sevigny says the fee entitles you to a monthly newsletter and to participate in tournaments and banquets that feature period food and dancing. One approaching free event is the Unbelted Tournament Feb. 6, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at Mile Square Park, 16801 Euclid St., Fountain Valley.

Visitors are welcome at these re-creations of the Middle Ages, but costumes are required. Those without the proper garb can ask for the Gold Key, which opens a storehouse of appropriate attire.

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