This is it guys, the 100th New York Blog. I suspect there’s a counting error somewhere along the line, but I really can’t be bothered to go back and check so, unless otherwise informed, this shall be the official 100th Blog! I’m celebrating by sipping South African gin and listening to a protest directly outside my window. I might carry my gin up to the roof after I’m done writing and see if the protest looks more interesting from up there. For now it’s just muffled loudspeakers and a street full of cops.
About a week ago, the street was filled, not with NYPD, but with the post-tropical remains of Florence. I’d schlepped to Target through the monsoon on my lunch break so when I got home after work, there was no way I was schlepping back out in the rain to do my laundry. I was however, completely out of socks. At that point my options were three rounds of rainy schlepping to wash, dry, and collect my socks from the laundromat; one round of rainy schlepping to buy more socks; or a sudsy adventure in the sink—-no schlepping to speak of. It should not surprise you that I soon found myself elbows deep in hot water and dirty socks. It probably also won’t surprise you that right about the time I had committed myself to sink washing (somewhere between the soak and the final rinse), the rain wrapped up and the entire rest of the evening was bone dry. Murphy’s Law has no sense of human decency.
With clean socks drying on every free surface of my room, and hands that had certainly seen better days, I wandered off into the tunnels to catch a train to salsa. Three hours or so later, I was back home, befriending my pillow and wishing that the morning was just a wee bit further away.
Wednesday morning, was however, an absolute boon. I was slated to attend a talk on the Square at noon so I’d secured permission to work from home in the morning, which meant that I could throw my laundry in between documents and finally turn the giant pile in my room into clean, fresh, wearable clothes. Clean laundry is one of the sillier pleasures in life, but I’ve come to find it one of the finest—-or at least one of the most reliable.
From the lunch-hour talk, it was back to Brooklyn to put a few hours into the office before packing up my things and heading home for a quick rest before the evening’s activities. The evening was to be absolutely packed with westie. I started with an audition for the increasingly popular JT Swing teams. For those of you that aren’t westies, the JT Swing teams are a bit of a phenomenon. Two of the top dancers in all of west coast swing recently retired from choreography competition, but they are certainly not retiring from the community. Instead, they have created two global swing teams–one at the intermediate level and one more advanced. Every six months, a new set of choreographies is released and teams all over the world, work with their local instructors to learn the choreography so that they can perform it whenever and wherever they happen to be in the company of other JT Swing team performers and an opportunity to perform.
Now I’ll own that I’m not usually a huge fan of west coast swing choreography, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all my years of dance, it’s that the best way for me to progress in a dance is to have regular rehearsals to keep me honest and keep someone shouting down my neck when things get difficult and litost threatens. So finally, three seasons in, I decided to audition. And now I guess I’m doing it. You see, they’ve let me onto the Varsity team, and I’m now so curious about this season’s choreography, that I can’t help but go ahead with it. Here’s hoping two fairly intense dance teams in two different styles won’t entirely end me.
After the audition, we wandered down to westie cafe via my favourite Turkish cafe. I usually end up eating babaganoush, but given the already late hour, I needed something that could be eaten as I walked, or at least carried with me to dance. So I got a falafel wrap and my goodness was it ever delicious. Perfect, tender, flavourful falafel paired with smooth, indulgent hummus, fresh veg, and a delicious combination of spicy red and cooling yogurt sauces–handheld heaven. It was a very falafel fuelled evening of dance.
Come Thursday, it was time to head to the MediaLab Summit where I heard saw a string of project presentations followed by a fascinating debate on synthetic media. I do so love when I get to go places and learn things. I popped by the office briefly in the afternoon to catch an important all hands meeting with our new Dean, before heading back to the Summit to take in the Demo Expo and see what all our AR/VR competition is up to. Sometime around 5pm, I gathered my stack of brochures and business cards and headed home to pack, change, eat, and haul myself out to a spinning class.
After almost a decade of dance, I find myself well able to spin, but only because of my myriad of brilliant compensation strategies. So I’m going back to the basics again. I’m learning to actually spot and use it on every rotation rather than just one every now and then when I happen to remember. I’m reworking my body so that my turns are not only functional, but actually beautiful. It’s a process. Thank heavens I’m the sort of awful perfectionist that loves nothing more than agonizing over technique for hours on end.
After an hour of exhausting my ankles, I then ran home, changed one more time, and headed over to my favourite local cocktail bar to meet Remy for a drink. Or two. Will it surprise you if I say we stayed out past midnight? Or that we each had two wonderfully unique cocktails from NiteCap’s nearly discontinued Spring-Summer 2018 menu? I so love that charming little basement bar, especially with it’s tin plated ceilings and spectacular mixologists. It was even better with a good friend and lots of gossip to catch up on.
First thing the next day, I loaded up my bags and schlepped off to work. From there it was a hustle up to Penn Station to meet Patrick and Jenny, hop on a train, and head to Secaucus where the addition of Jessie made our trio a foursome, flying down the highway to Philly for, yes, you guess it, swing. The Philly Swing Classic was calling our names and who were we not to answer?
After catching the Friday evening comps, I headed off to spend some time amongst my fellow gin hounds of the Rutgers persuasion before social dancing. It was a very good night for gin drinking. We started with a tesseract made with Bluecoat, followed by a nameless grapefruit concoction with more Bluecoat, and finally a bees knees with Botanist. I also had a wonderful time chatting with a few folks that I’ve certainly seen before, and some even danced with, but never actually hung out with. It’s one of the things that amuses me about dance, we all sort of know each other, but frequently we’ve never actually spoken beyond asking for a dance and thanking them after. It’s a big part of why I party at dance events. It’s a chance to actually talk with people in a room that isn’t so loud as to prevent you even hearing each other. Plus I do love a good cocktail, and with mixologists as good as Edem (who sadly wasn’t at this last event) and Glen (who was) well, there’s plenty to promote a party.
Post-gin we made our way down to the ballroom and danced until sometime after 4am when the sleepies finally won and bed was the only viable option. We woke briefly around 10am to grab the free hotel breakfast buffet, and then flopped right back into bed for another few hours of sleep before competing. I felt good in comps but, I suppose good was not enough as I found myself second alternate. It’s a funny thing the way judging goes. For example, the majority of the followers who got to finals had one judge who said No to them—-one judge who just didn’t think they should be in finals. But of course the two other judges said Yes. In my case, no one said No to seeing me in finals, but two of the judges said Maybe or rather Probably Not (i.e. they scored me as ‘alternate’), which sadly meant that I had only one Yes and didn’t get through. In the land of WCS, Yeses speak louder than Noes, which is as it should be, but alas was not in my favour this weekend.
Despite my own miss, my friends all did marvellously and I was only too delighted to watch them do so. Perhaps because they were on Saturday and so people weren’t quite as tired, the finals were great gas—-especially the all stars. I don’t know who put what in their coffee that morning, but they were all absolutely nuts in the best possible way. So much personality and humour and of course skill all packed into six spotlight dances and one all skate. It was wonderful. I ate dinner from the Wawa across the road. I’d scoffed at the folks who gushed about it before, but it really is an exemplary gas station. They’ve a whole hot food cafe with a fantastic range of menu items, but alas no lime juice, which is how I ended up getting kicked out of a liquor store over a bottle of lime juice.
You see, when I’d headed over to Wawa, I wasn’t expecting to go anywhere else so I just threw my credit card in my phone case and headed out. But then Wawa had no lime juice and I hate to give up, so I figured I’d just stop in at the liquor store next door and see if they had a bottle. I didn’t have my ID but I’m a good number of years past 21 and I wasn’t buying booze, just lime juice. Apparently, that’s not allowed. Because, to quote the manager who appeared instantly when I had to reveal my lack of ID to the cashier, “THIS is a LIQUOR store.” That I was trying to purchase a non-alcoholic item had absolutely no impact on the situation, and I quickly realized that any attempt to rationalize or negotiate was going to end with my bodily removal from the store. Fortunately, the ever resourceful bartender of our little room party, Glen, managed to talk some lime juice out of the hotel bar so we were saved from a sad lime-less fate, after we ran down our original bottle of juice.
Saturday night was a few more tesseracts with Botanist and my South African gin, Cruxland, all crowded around a gin mule made with the last of the Botanist. We’d gained numbers since the previous night, which meant that there were smaller drinks, but more rounds and thus gave us an excuse for more permutations on the tesseract theme. I have no complaints.
When I got back to my room, most of my roomies were napping, but one was awake so we relocated to the hallway to chat for a minute before heading down to dance. I finally turned in around 5am and woke some 5 hours later for breakfast. Philly Swing is a bit unique amongst westie weekends, there are a few workshops on Sunday, but comps are all wrapped up by Saturday night, so we wandered our way through a slow indulgent morning. We stretched, packed, and even did the tiniest bit of acroyoga before hitting the road around 1:30pm to head back to the city.
I probably should have fallen asleep as soon as I got home, but then, my novel was calling and somehow I just couldn’t say no, so instead I stayed up reading Half-Blood Blues until nearly midnight, when my eyes lodged a final complaint and dropped their lids refusing to read even a single word more.
Today was a fairly average day right up until I saw what looked like an NYPD motorcycle gang rolling around the corner of my block. When I turned into my street, I found that it wasn’t just ten motorcycle cops, but also a whole posse of bicycle cops, three vans, and no small number of uniformed officers just hanging around on the street corner. I will admit that I had an initial flash of concern as I wondered what sort of heinous crime could call out half the bloody NYPD, but soon realized that this was not aftermath so much as pre-emption. From 5:30pm through about 7:30pm, my street was full of the smothered cacophony of rally speakers piped through an inadequate sound system and drowned out by the shouting of the crowd. It’s not that the cause wasn’t good, but I’m just not a rally sort of person. Perhaps it’s because I’m anti-social, or maybe because I struggle with loud noises, but boisterous protests just aren’t my scene. And thus, I’ve spent the evening indoors, drinking gin, and typing away while braver, louder folks protest injustice outside. I’ll be into my novel in a minute and I’ve not a single regret.
The Salsa Girl