In Which Downstate Heads Upstate

Another week, another dance event—you know the story. But this time, rather than heading to DC or Boston, we were headed upstate. Before we hit the winding roads towards Canada, however, there was a whole week of work, dance, and other shenanigans to enjoy. Unsurprisingly, it was a bit busy.

On Tuesday, I was on the Square for an IRB training. It was supposed to run from 1-3pm, but only ended up taking an hour which meant that I spent the rest of the afternoon working in a coffee shop, because I just couldn’t justify the travel time to get myself back to Brooklyn for 2 hours of the work day. Once I’d closed my laptop for the day, I headed up towards Grand Central for an assisted stretching session. I’ve been trying desperately to increase my flexibility and I’d heard about assisted stretching, so when I saw an opportunity for a free trial session, I decided to give it a go. On one hand it was very soothing to be gently stretched by another human being, but on the other, they stretched me cold. Like with zero warm up. Zero. So I don’t know if it actually improved my flexibility at all and based on the price list they showed me at the end, I might just be better getting an occasional massage.

Once I’d been stretched and pulled into shape, I headed back out into the chaos of the city with 20 minutes to get all the way across town to a dance studio. New York has wonderful subsurface connectivity if you’re headed north-south, but if you happen to want to go east-west, well you best be ready to schlep and schlep I did. I slid into the studio with several minutes to spare before diving into an hour of JT Swing practice with Peter. We only had an hour to work, and then I was off again, running through the night to rehearse with the salsa crew. We’re gearing up to debut a brand new routine, so we’re working our butts off, or maybe on? I feel like I only get thicker the more I train, but to be honest, I’m not about to complain about an extra curve or two.

Wednesday was another busy night. I snatched a brief bit of respite at home between work and dance, but then it was time to go. I spent two hours training for JT swing with the whole team, and then hopped on up to Westie Cafe to dance the night away. I will admit that my exhausted body did not make it to the last song of the night, but sometimes, 12:30pm really is too late to be out on a Wednesday.

And then it was Thursday. If you thought I’d need a rest, you’re right. If you thought I’d take one… Well, maybe next time. Instead, I left the office, hustled to Target to pick up some snacks for the weekend, and then caught a train up to Midtown. Dinner was a falafel wrap from my favourite Turkish place—-I might go there too often? Maybe? I never know how to feel when restaurant owners know my name and chat to my like a friend. I guess so long as it’s a small local operation, I’ll call it “supporting local business” rather than “spending too much money on food”. Once fed, it was time to spin. It was the last of Isa’s spinning classes for 2018 and we were packing in an extra rehearsal afterwards, so I decided that sleepy or not, I was going to be there. I feel like I will never spin as well as I want to, but only because that bar will forever be moving. As soon as you get singles, you want doubles, then triples, then… well you get the picture. My current project is getting comfortable with turns that require my feet and legs to be arranged into pretty turned out shapes rather than just sandwiched tightly together, clinging to my centre like my life depends upon it.

After spinning, it was runs for an hour before hurrying home to pack my bag for the weekend. Once upon a time, I used to try to be well rested before dance weekends…

Come Friday, I was in for a heck of a day. Work was busy to say the least. I had to be out of the office by 2pm to catch a train. It was absolutely non-negotiable because the next train was 30 minutes later and all my fellow car-poolers were competing in the strictlies Friday night, so when 2:00pm rolled around and I was still fighting with an intractable budget template, I just threw my laptop into my bag and headed for Grand Central. Between the ride on the subway and the Metro North, I managed to crack through the last of my work obligations for the day, and only ten minutes after we got into the car at Katonah, I’d sent the last email and settled in for a weekend of westie at the Upstate Dance Challenge.

Driving upstate is so beautiful. The layers of blue mountains stacked against a brilliant pink and orange sunset reminded me of nothing so much as a Ted Harrison painting. It was nearly enough to start me reciting Robert Service. But soon the darkness fell and we were driving through the brisk winter night towards Saratoga Springs Spa. The hotel was picturesque to say the least—-exactly the sort of place you might expect to see in upstate New York, just cabin-y enough to make the bougie-ness seem unaffected, as if you thought that every cabin should start with three-story tall pillars and endless mullions.

Once we’d settled into our rather chilly little hotel room, we headed down for the strictlies, to be followed (for me) by a delightful return to my early days of swing travel, drinking with The Infamous Canadians (TM). Apparently as a people, we’ve an impressive reputation for drinking and partying at dance events. I was not about to complain, especially not when we were staying in such a friendly hotel. Usually when the knock at the door is followed by by “security!” it means the party is about to get shut down. In this hotel, it meant that the extra cups had arrived in the hands of good natured hotel staff who weren’t sure we were having quite enough fun yet. I still don’t quite believe it actually happened.

When Saturday rolled around, I was ready for another disappointment, but I wasn’t about to give up entirely. I was so lucky. I started my rotation with the wonderful Alex Carney and our dance just gave me the exact right kind of calm and balance. He’s also a friend, so it was fun as well. And that fabulous first dance just carried me right on through all the rotations, and by god it was enough! After a day of socializing with all my lovely dancer people, watching my friends kick ass in Allstar JnJ and Rising Star (I’m looking at you Jes Ann and Edem!), and practicing in an ever expanding group of dancers lead by the fearless Dr. Rosenberg, I finally braved the score sheets. I made it! For the first time since the summer, I’d gotten myself out of prelims and right on into finals. I’ll be honest, I was struggling, hard, so it was a huge relief to find that my dancing wasn’t quite as trash as I was afraid it might be. The rest of the evening was spent eating, drinking coquito, socializing with all manner of folks, and even doing a bit of dancing. I perhaps should have done more of the latter since it was a dance weekend, but y’know, sometimes it’s just nice to hang out.

Sunday saw me roll out of bed and into the ballroom for finals. I had a sneaking feeling that there might be a semi-spotlight involved, but everyone seemed to think that it would be at least three couples at a time, so I settled in for a standard heated final—-maybe semi-spotlight, if I was lucky. We started with an all skate which was an absolute joy. I’d drawn Ryan, a friend from Vermont, and I guess we’ve both been working hard, because it was such a fun, connected dance. And then they said “spotlit jam”. I was delighted; most of the rest of the heat was horrified. It was one heck of a division. Every single couple brought something new and wonderful; I was happy just to be standing there watching each pair bring it. When it got to us (we were second last to dance), the nerves finally found me, so I took a deep breath, connected with my partner and let the inner exhibitionist take the reins. I will someday need to tame her, or at least equip her with flawless technique, but for now I’ll settle for the sheer infectious energy that she brings, bad feet, tight shoulders, and all. I probably could have danced better, but I couldn’t have asked for more enjoyable dances, and it was so good to share them with one of the original crew of New Englanders that I met at my first event on the East Coast. I also have to thank the inimitable Kristen Shaw for sage Saturday night words that I carried with me through every song of finals.

The drive home was a sleepy affair studded with Chipotle and coffee, but I must have managed to sneak in just enough of a nap because by the time I got home, my body was no longer at all interested in sleep. I have ceased to try to understand this cantankerous corporeal form.

Now it’s Monday and I’m about to be late for dance, so I’ll leave you there and see you next week!

With love,
The Salsa Girl

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In Which We Get Back on Track (but the Trains Don’t)

It’s Monday and I’m writing a blog, I know, it’s been a while since I last wrote an on time blog, but I’m on the road to scheduling recovery, I promise!

After my slovenly Thursday through Saturday, rolled right on into last Sunday in a similar vein. I did, however, eventually mosey my way into Midtown for a cup of chai, a bowl of soup, and lots of dance. I started with two hours of JT Swing team practice before hopping on over to Lori’s for a US Open watch party——the dance version, not the tennis. It was a delicious night of pizza, drinks, and chatting over hours of inspiring swing routines. In fact, the hours went by so enjoyably that, before I knew it, it was after midnight and time to face the trains. I really wish they were a touch more cooperative, but no, instead, I spent a good 30 minutes at 34th St watching the headlights of my train sit unmoving in the tunnel, just beyond reach. Signal problems are such a delight. But I was undaunted! I could just catch an R to a J!

After 7 minutes on the R platform amongst the horrendous fragrances that so frequently accompany people yelling incomprehensibly (there were a few of those too), I stepped onto an R train, thinking I’d solved my subway problem. It would not be that easy. When I got off the train a Canal St, I schlepped the length of the platform, climbed up the stairs and found… no J trains. At all. Even a little. I could have taken a 6 to get a little closer, or finagled some insane tangle of transfers to try to get to an F or a D, but I figured that none were likely to be coming, because last I saw a D train, it was wedged in a tunnel for 30 minutes waiting for signals to be fixed. So at 1:30am, I tromped out into the Sunday night, a ball of sleepy hatred for all things MTA.

Predictably, after only getting home around 2am, I was not exactly perky and awake when Monday rolled around. I made it through the work day, but only barely. A short nap later, I was on my way to dance to work off a bit of my weekend lethargy and pizza.

Ambitious creature that I am, after getting 7 hours of only sort of fitful sleep, I decided to tackle a very busy Tuesday. Immediately after work, I ran home, packed my dance bag, and headed out to Data Driven NYC. As always, the pizza was delicious and the talks were interesting, but this time I had to step out early to head up to rehearsal. It was a very productive two hours of dance, and by the time it was done I was ready to crash, but somewhere along the subway lines that lead my home, I got a second wind and ended up lying awake again. I cannot explain the vagaries of my sleep system.

Wednesday saw me leaving the office for coffee, or rather Mexican hot chocolate, and sweet potato fries. The hot chocolate was delicious and the fries were plentiful. I did however find myself wondering if my interlocutor had any desire to actually spend time with me or enjoy my company. I guess there are other reasons to invite people for social coffee. We live, we learn, we move along. After a short nap, it was then time to head to westie cafe where I ate delicious oat bars——the amount of vanilla was just perfect——chatted with folks, and even did a bit of dancing.

And then it was Thursday and mad fool that I am, I had another busy day ahead of me. I left the office in full flight and met Erin in K-town to catch up over delicious Korean food. We went to a little buffet place called Woorijip and I snuggled into the comfort of spicy, delicious Korean food and excellent company. I’m so glad that Erin and I always seem to be able to just pick right back up wherever we left off, no matter how long ago we did the leaving, but I’ve every intention of cutting down on those long agos. We live in the same city, surely we can manage to fit a coffee in more than once a year!

After dinner, I raced up to Grand Central to catch a train to Westchester. I was late, but not the latest, and I was slightly frazzled, but not alone in my distractibility. Perhaps in spite of ourselves, we managed to fit in a really solid practice session (about 2.5 hours worth) before racing back to the train station to head back to the city to rest and build reserves for the very silliest day of my week, Friday.

The rest of this section could probably be summarized as “I’m an eejit” but I choose not to cave to such simplistic explanations of my behaviour and so will proffer the entire story and leave you to choose an explanation for yourselves. The instant I hit 4:00pm, I flew out of the office, schlepping a stuffed backpack and headed for WTC. I seldom ride the PATH, but when I do, it’s always in a rush. This was no exception. After waiting out a slightly delayed A train, I finally made it into the Oculus, ran to a ticket machine, and headed down to the trains. Some 25 minutes later, I hit the street in Harrison, NJ, seeking busses. I initially found Jimmy, on a similar adventure, and eventually we found the illustrious #40 NJT bus. We were both diligently eyeing our maps, and the “Stop Requested” sign, and everything seemed to be in order until, with the sign fully lit, the driver drove right on by our stop. Apparently the sign was broken and he just listened for the bell, which of course we hadn’t rung because the sign was lit up. Blessedly, he decided that it was at least a mutual error and so he swirled back through the entire, awful spaghetti tangle of on ramps and off ramps all the way back to drop us off.

An hour and forty minutes after I left the office, we arrived at the Newark Doubletree for Swingle Bell Rock. As if you expected anything else. Of course it was a dance event. With self restraint seldom known to this mad creature, I was only attending one night, but I had every intention of maximizing my time. I checked in, said hi to some folks, and headed for a Szekely intensive. Deborah Szekely has Broadway training, New York attitude, and so much knowledge. It was two solid hours of drills, corrections, and attempting to make us poor, largely hopeless souls into better dancers. We’ll get there someday, but in only two hours, it was incremental at best.

Following the intensive, I did some more socializing and a bit of social dancing before the opening ceremonies. Now often I scoff at opening ceremonies——they seem all pomp and circumstance——but I have to give it to the Swingle Bell Rock crew, their ceremony was class. After a few (okay more than a few) words from the event director, we were all invited to grab the Christmas balls strew around our tables and take them up to decorate the line of trees standing before the backdrop. It was a bit twee and a lot lovely, as everyone stood chatting and photographing while they decked the trees in red and gold.

Next up were the strictlies, followed by the invitational jack n jill (which was a delight), a bit of socializing and wine drinking until security was called on us for noise, and finally social dancing literally until the ballroom closed. Unfortunately, the ballroom closed at 4:30am which left me with entirely too much time before the bus to the PATH to the train to home. I reviewed my options and settled on Lyft to PATH to train to home. It seemed like such a clever solution, but of course transit could not be so easily tamed. The PATH rolled up nearly twenty minutes later than expected and when I finally got to WTC, I found that, once again, there were no J’s, and the nearest A/C (to an F) was 25 minutes away. I could have schlepped back to the other side of the massive station cluster to catch an E to an F to home, but I just didn’t have it in me to risk another closed platform, so I settled in to wait for a Lex train. When it finally deigned to come (17 minutes later) it rattled me up to Spring Street which left me a mere 12 minute walk from home.

More than 24 hours since I’d last closed my eyes, I was finally home and falling face first into bed. Like I said, eejit.

Most of Saturday was spent sleeping, but I did manage to fit in a bit of responsibility and a bit of pleasure. The former came in the form of a trip to The Body Shop to update my skin care routine. In my head, I’m still a pimply teenager, a perception only enhanced by my occasional but virulent breakouts, but lately my skin has been growing drier, tighter, and far more sensitive, and it might be time to admit that I’m within spitting distance of 30. I now have new cleanser, moisturizer, a soothing mask, and a lot less money in my pocket. I shudder to think what high end skin care costs when the mid-range The Body Shop solution is so expensive already. The aforementioned pleasure took the form of a short trip to a new chocolate shop. I mean, it’s not new to the city, but it’s new to me and I’m always a sucker for new chocolate options.

This particular chocolate shop is called LA Burdick Handmade Chocolates. I had planned to spend much of the evening in their cafe sipping chocolate and nibbling sweets, but as a testament to their quality, the snug little cafe was packed to the gills so it would be pleasure to-go. The single origin hot chocolate was breathtaking. It was so nuanced and flavourful, and went down about as smoothly as any hot chocolate ever has. I followed it up with three beautiful little bon bons. The first was a Porto Baton, spicy, rich, and delicious; the second a fig with indulgent dark chocolate studded with fig and flavoured with port wine; and the final one was a double decker offering with a chartreuse cream on the bottom and a Macallan whiskey infused pistachio marzipan on top. They were unspeakably delicious. And as if that wasn’t indulgent enough, I finished my walk back across Soho to the LES with a brief stop at Kottu House to pick up a spicy tofu blast for dinner.

After enjoying my new facial mask, I had every intention of an early night, and I started off well, but then the LES came alive and by midnight I was wide awake again listening to the raucous adventures of the local party crowd. Who needs sleep anyway?

Another lazy morning ate up the first half of my Sunday, before I settled in to work on some life admin, conquer some laundry, and eat some doughnuts. Laundry is fundamentally just an excuse to go sit in a cafe while the machines spin, and this time, my cafe of choice was Doughnut Plant. They have brought in their holiday series for 2018, and the Hanukah doughnuts are divine. I had a marzipan doughnut filled with blackberry jam, and I have no complaints about paying nearly $4 for it. It was perfection!

Once I’d wrapped up my chores for the day, it was time to head to salsa. I know, right? Salsa! I haven’t been out salsa social dancing in months, but the company I dance with had a couple’s team performance, so I decided to schlep out to Las Chicas Locas. It is so satisfying to go out dancing and feel like you actually do know what you’re doing and you are a good dancer. It’s only taken me a decade or so…

A little too long after the shows wrapped up, I headed home and spent a another little too long stretching and watching cooking shows before I finally succumbed to sleep. Now it’s Monday and I’m sitting in a talk about nutritional research (and the not so benevolent effects of corporate sponsorship) after a day of delightfully dysfunctional trains. I’ll spare you the whole story; suffice to say I ended up on a D train to Atlantic Ave on my way to work this morning. If you know the MTA, you can draw your own conclusions, for the rest of you, imagine a commute expanding from 10 minutes to 30 minutes in the flick of a faulty signal system somewhere in Brooklyn.

In about 40 minutes I’ll be running off to dance, but until then, it’s biased food research and questionable funding.

Scraping the underbelly of academia,
The Salsa Girl

In Which We Get Terribly Behind

As I close in on three weeks without a blog, I must admit that I’ve been a little busy, a lot exhausted, and let’s be real, I’m completely burnt out. I guess that’s what happens when you burn the candle at both ends and fuel it mainly with stress. I only wish I thought it would change anytime soon. I really had intended to use the Thanksgiving long weekend to recover and attempt to re-establish some healthy habits, but my body decided that instead we should just come down with an intractable head cold. I press on. Christmas is coming.

So, since we’re so far behind and have so much ground to cover, you may find me a bit fast and loose with the details. I trust that you’ll forgive me, knowing that if I wrote it all down in perfect fidelity, you’d be reading for days. So let’s get to it, shall we?

Way back on the 7th, I followed my regular work day with a quick trip home to change before heading out to a long night of dance. I started with an hour of working on a friend’s choreo project, then schlepped over to another studio for two hours of JT Swing practice, before finally hitting up Westie Cafe until about 12:30am. You could say it was a busy night.

Thursday was no less busy, though significantly less dancey. Our research group was finally conducting a huge piece of fieldwork on the weekend, and I would be in Boston, so all the prep work had to happen Thursday or if necessary first thing Friday morning. By the time I got out of the office, it was time to pack for the weekend and crash. You see Friday morning I was in the office by 7am filling water jugs (110 gallons worth), packing vans, and prepping documents and materials until about 1:30pm when I bounced out of the office and onto a train. After a very slow train ride due to slippery leaves and light rain, Jenny, Patrick, and I arrived in Katonah and piled ourselves into Jessie’s car for the drive.

The weekend itself was a roller coaster. It was lovely to catch up with our fourth roommate, the excellent Brian Donna, the all night dancing and socializing was divine, and by god if the competitions aren’t going to kill me one of these days. I have continued my run of trash results and somehow I seem incapable of just taking the result and moving on. Instead, I inevitably fall into a hole of self-loathing, frustration, and worst of all resentment of all those who finaled whose dancing I don’t like. It’s hard to talk about it because you’re not supposed to have these feelings. We’re all supposed to be happy and supportive and acknowledge that it just wasn’t our turn to win. Sadness is allowed, but only briefly; anger is forbidden.

Competition is such a visible, public assignment of value, however, that it’s hard not to be angry when you see things that you don’t value being rewarded. And as if being assigned a low value in your competitive group is not enough, when you’re told that you’re being unreasonable in your frustration about who is rewarded, it reinforces the notion that not only is your dancing inferior, but your opinions and value assignments are also wrong. Perhaps I just need to “grow up” or “get a hold of myself”, but here I am, a hot tempered, passionate person, who feels strongly about aesthetics, and processes socially. It’s not a fantastic combo in the recreational competitive swing world. The struggle continues.

Acknowledging that my barely contained, over-expressive self was not improving anyone’s Sunday, I spent most of the day lying in a puddle of sunshine in front of a hotel window. It was very nearly meditative, if not entirely enough to soften my pique. While I collected vitamin D, two articles of my clothing won first place on other peoples’ bodies, so I guess at least I’m relatively adjacent to success despite my own inadequacies.

After two nights of all night dancing, and a long day of travel to get home, I was not exactly well rested for my sister and her husband’s arrival on Sunday. Thus, I deferred greeting my visiting family until Monday when I bounded out of work and hurried home to meet up with Taya and Carl. After a chat in my flat, we headed into K-town for some Korean before slipping up to my favourite rooftop bar, right under the Empire State. It’s almost nicer there in inclement weather. There are heaters that keep you warm enough, and usually there’s almost no one else brave enough to be up there. Once we’d finished our drinks and our skyline ogling, we headed up to Times Square to elbow our way through the crowds for a glimpse of the neon-LED-extravaganza that is Broadway from 42nd to 47th. It’s almost worth the hoards of humanity to bow before that altar of light and consumerism, bright and heady as a summer day, but somehow more seedy and sinister around the edges.

Come Tuesday, Taya and Carl were out to New Jersey to catch a hockey game and I was changing lightbulbs, doing laundry (because honestly there was no other night that week to do it), and eventually tossing my tired body into the studio to rehearse. Rehearsal never fails to enliven me but unfortunately it does so at 10:30pm which is not exactly conducive to a healthy bedtime for an 8am workday.

Wednesday was frigid, which made the schlep up north of Central Park slightly less than comfortable, but entirely worthwhile. You see, we were going to the finest vegan spot in the city, at least as far as I’m concerned. Seasoned Vegan is really unparalleled. It’s gorgeous southern comfort food that’s entirely plant based and honestly you wouldn’t know it. They make the best po’ boy sandwich I’ve ever eaten–seriously, try the remoulade, it’s unspeakably delicious–and their barbecue is nothing to sniff at. Even my sister’s husband, an avowed meat eater, enjoyed a delicious plate of vegan crawfish, mac n cheese, and sweet potato soufflé. It’s a very good thing the place is so far from my apartment, else I would be broke and full of comfort food conceivably every night of the week.

A significant subway ride later, we were back on the LES eating desserts and sipping hot chocolates in Cocoa Bar. I have to admit that I’m a wee bit disappointed by their revised menu. It contains only 4 types of hot chocolate rather than what used to be about 10 and to be honest, I went for the 6 types that are no longer on offer. It’s still a lovely little bar and the desserts are still nice, but I’m going to miss all the exotic cocoa add-ins.

After Wednesday’s cold, Thursday brought snow. I hardly noticed, as my day at work was busy to say the least. We had a grant going in and I’m sure you’ll recall my standard description of such days. This was similar. When I finally made my way out of the office, the world was a winter wonderland. It was even cold enough that most of the snow hadn’t turned to slush yet. I personally didn’t mind the wind and the snow, all bundled up as I was, but the cars were having a much less magical time. A sad SUV from New Mexico was spinning its tires in the intersection at Broome and Delancey, and as I walked up to meet Taya and Carl for a final dinner, I got to witness the fuming queue of cars formed behind a tree that had come down in the street. I redirected one of them, but couldn’t bring myself to walk the length of the blockage and enlighten everyone, so I left the rest for the NYPD to sort out–I had hot, delicious greek food yet to eat.

For Taya and Carl’s last night in the city, we were eating at the beautiful, bright little Greek restaurant a few blocks up from mine, Souvlaki GR. It’s another source of delicious, fresh food in my neighbourhood and the proprietors are wonderfully accommodating. Provided they’re not too busy, they’re very happy to let you sit and chat as long as you want; they only bring the bill when explicitly requested. I’m a fan.

Following dinner, I bid Taya and Carl farewell and headed home to hastily pack for another dance weekend. I’ll get the competition question out of the way right away: I did abysmally and felt appallingly bad. But now with that out of the way, let’s talk about all the good bits. I started the weekend with a mind bending bodywork appointment with Back in Balance. They do neuromuscular work and, just as I always found with my voodoo chiropractor in Victoria, it was mind blowing. After a series of flicks, holds, breathing exercises and other manipulations, I stood up and found that I couldn’t really see. Like, my eyes were working, but my brain couldn’t make sense of the information sent to it. This problem was swiftly remedied and I think I’m on the road to a much better state of body and mind, but I mention this peculiar moment as a sort of example of the power of these non-traditional methods of treatment. It’s not just placebo affect, it’s actually fine tuned adjustments that can be slightly wrong and you will feel it, which to me means that when it feels good, it really must be a correct adjustment not just some generic placebo. Admittedly, I am quite sensitive to these sorts of things (see: previous reactions to acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine).

My other highlight of the weekend was actually working with the newcomer program. I needed a mindset shift and I needed to feel that I was somehow of use, even if I was unable to get results in competition, so I offered to help out a bit. It was wonderful. The newcomer dancers are so enthusiastic and full of excitement and openness. They want to learn and to meet new people, and they’re so happy just to dance. It reminded me of how it felt when I first started dancing, before I packed all my insecurities and self-worth into my dance, back when it was just a fun thing I did with new friends on the weekend. I’m working on recalibrating myself, but until I manage that, I will continue to take inspiration from the example of the bright new dancers and their fresh uncomplicated enjoyment of our dance.

The rest of my weekend was a mix of spectating, social dancing, a bit of partying, and an annoyingly persistent headache. So I slept more than usual, but I needed it and I’m not sure I could have made it through the work week otherwise. By the time I was back at LGA (yes, we flew back) I was just ready to sleep some more.

Despite all my sleep, Monday was a struggle. I powered through until the office Thanksgiving potluck where I ate entirely too much and crossed my fingers that dance practice would work it all off. TBD on that. On Tuesday, I slipped a nap in between work and dance, which was my saving grace because it was a hard day at rehearsal. It wasn’t a bad day, just a hard day, and often those are the most rewarding, but I don’t know if I could have hacked it without the nap. I can only hope that my exhausted left hamstring eventually admits that dropping into a pathetic failure of a split about a dozen times was a good idea.

In a continuation of the “gosh I’m burnt out theme”, I managed to sleep through my alarm on Wednesday, but fortunately my commute is minute so I was only 10 minutes late and the office was dead anyway. As the day wore on, the congestion rolled in and soon it was clear that a cold was on its way. It’s almost like my body knows when I’ve got a long weekend coming, and it never misses an opportunity for consequence-free sickness and collapse.

So you can probably surmise how I’ve spent the last two days. Yes, mostly in bed with occasional reading, substantial youtubing, and just a little bit of life admin. I had intended to spend this weekend recharging and regaining my balance, but here we are. I’ve finished a book and a half, eaten Xi’an style noodles, savoured a plum tart and mocha at Ceci Cela, and slept so hard I can’t even quantify it (I mean, I could, but I won’t).

Now I find myself waiting for my first loaves of bread in months to come out of the oven so I can eat and head off to dance. Fingers crossed they’re even vaguely presentable and at least a little more leavened than hockey pucks.

Less congested than yesterday,
The Salsa Girl

In Which We Fall Back

After a long summer of daylight savings, it’s finally time to fall back to the usual degree of darkness via that divine, delicious extra hour of sleep that they slide in just as the clock hits 2am. We also get to pretend that one measly little extra hour of sleep will solve our respective massive sleep debts. I live in denial.

Balancing my sleep debt became an even more preoccupying thought this week as my usual busy schedule was spiked with migraine aura, and late nights. You see, Wednesday was Halloween which obviously meant I was highly responsible and got lots of sleep–see, denial, it’s good stuff. But in all honesty, I was somewhat responsible as Wednesday nights go. I spent my morning at work schlepping around the rabbit warren that is the subsurface section of our buildings collecting construction waste for our upcoming data collection efforts. Up on the 12th and 13th floors, it seems like a fairly straightforwardly laid out building, but once you get down to the loading dock and below, it turns into a labyrinth of staircases and hallways, massive HVAC accoutrements, and dungeon-y basement spaces. It was quite the journey and I’d never find my way back even if I had all the required swipe cards and PPE.

So after a stimulating journey through the bowels of a building, I bustled through the rest of my work day, bounded home, and started spackling on the face paint for Westie Cafe. Like the fool that I am, I had fallen victim to the siren call of another silly pun costume. Apparently this time, I chose a word that doesn’t actually pattern in American English, so it was even harder than usual to get people to figure out how my slightly nutsy costume all tied together. This year, the word was Ginhound and the costume was ponytails for ears, doggie face paint, and a bright blue collar with a tiny bottle of Bombay hanging from my throat. It was an homage to my idiotic sense of humour as well as my potentially unhealthy obsession with gin cocktails–it was received well, but with incomprehension.

The next morning, still scraping the last few dregs of make up off my face, I headed to the office for another day of work. Awkwardly, my evening’s entertainment was also in Brooklyn, but at 6:30pm. So I bummed around the office for a bit before walking over to the venue, and then around the venue, and then past the venue, and then finally back. I walk too fast. It can’t be helped. The event was in the fabulously refurbished environs of the New Lab. Everyone was very sharply dressed. We were shuffled into a very professional looking theatre. And then we met the moderator. The panelists were brilliant scientists that I presume had much to say, but I honestly don’t know because the bloody moderator wouldn’t stop talking! She was asking yes-no questions! On a panel! And cutting the speakers off within seconds of them beginning to speak. Not to mention her hackneyed attempts to “translate” everything they said, and the “jokes”. Maybe I’m a spoil sport, but good heavens, when you have three leading biomedical researchers on your stage, why not let them share their incredible experience and knowledge rather than stirring in a hefty dose of slightly self-absorbed and entirely too loquacious physicist. I sulkily drank my hipster-y canned wine, chatted with a recruiter just arrived to New York from Oxford, and made a mental note to check moderators before RSVP-ing in future.

After a peaceful wander back through the night to York St to catch an F train, I managed to grab a few hours of shut eye before facing Friday. I had all the best intentions of wrapping up work and heading to salsa. Alas, the shimmer of migraine aura began to creep up on me and by the time it was time to head to salsa, I was entering early stage tension headache. As my right eye socket began to argue with the base of my skull about which of them ought to lead the charge of agony, I decided that perhaps salsa wasn’t going to happen that night. So I tentatively promised myself I’d hit salsa on Saturday and collapsed into bed.

Saturday morning, I woke up, made crepes, ate crepes, and then set to work on laundry. I usually schlep back and forth from my apartment with each stage of the washing and drying, but whether out of laziness or indulgence, I decided that this time, I’d camp out in a cafe nearby rather than tackling my stairs again. I ended up curled up in a cozy corner of The Granddaddy, a newish cafe in my neighbourhood, with a mocha and a book. Thank heavens the laundry was due for the dryer in 25 minutes or I might have spent all day there. Once the laundry was squared away, I then set out on foot, Midtown bound. I was still swimming in migraine aura but I was optimistic that the combination of endorphins and caffeine would sort me out, at least well enough that I could handle the afternoon of Gotham swing workshops. Because the world is not always kind, my hazy and periodically prismatic field of view would soon be entered by a tiny, indignant queue cutter who had the never to not only attempt to sneak into the queue but then to make a massive stink when the barista rightfully attempted to serve me first. Perhaps she didn’t understand that Starbucks queues are marked and that you cannot just join the queue by jumping in at a perpendicular angle to the actual line but, as it was a busy Starbucks and I was unlikely to come out of any argument looking well, I elected to swallow my indignation, signal my acquiescence to the barista, and allow the queue cutter to boorishly butt in front. I was however, rather pleased to note that I ultimately got my drink before she did, despite her staring daggers at me the entire time we were waiting for the drinks to come up.

So it will come as no surprise to you that any improvement to my impending migraine made by the walk, was swiftly undermined by my irritation at the rudeness of aforementioned Starbucks patron. So I hobbled my way through three hours of workshops in a mood that could only possibly be described as desperately foul. I like to pretend I kept it relatively well controlled. You will have to ask the other dancers for commentary on my actual efficacy.

Post-workshops, we all headed back out onto the streets of Midtown to find dinner. Our destination was about 14 blocks up and entirely worth the walk. When we reached the doors of the restaurant, by Chloe, we found delicious counter serve vegan food and the inimitable Alanna. It was a very enjoyable hour or so of eating and chatting, but I was reaching the very limits of my ability to bear the world so, while the others headed back to Gotham for the swing social, I found a train and headed home to attempt to drown my oncoming migraine in sleep.

It was a noisy night on the Lower East Side but when I woke up from my second night of over 10 hours in bed (not necessarily sleeping but certainly trying), I was no longer plagued by dry eyes, illusion spewing optical nerves, fuzzy thoughts, or lurking pain racing across the right side of my skull. I’m tentatively convinced that I managed to sleep my way out of a migraine, but I am resisting smugness because that might just be too much for the world to bear and I haven’t time to tolerate whatever retribution it might mete out.

Sunday saw me, rolling out of bed, scarfing breakfast, and heading to Grand Central. It was a pleasant walk up the East side, with a short detour to a coffee shop for a cup of very bold, molasses-y brew and a pleasing little spiced apple cider cake doughnut. I really do need to find ways to keep more walking in my life. It’s no wonder that so many great thinkers have spoken so highly of walking. Though I’ve no pretensions as to the quality of the thoughts I sort through while walking, it is significantly more productive than any other way I’ve found of thinking through whatever might happen to be haunting my synapses.

Some 40 minutes after reaching Grand Central, I found myself once again taking over Jessie’s White Plains kitchen, but this time with ambitions of pierogi. The fillings came out beautifully but whether because of the altitude, the humidity, or perhaps just my inaccurate measuring, the dough was unbelievably tender and sticky. I must give kudos to the crew of lovely dancer people who braved the sticky dough to learn to fold pierogies for the very first time. we had some delightfully idiosyncratic shapes, but given the added challenge of the dough texture, I have to say that they did very well, and of the entire batch, only one pierogi burst when boiling! Sometime between pierogies and Jessie’s delicious apple pie duo, we drifted down to the club floor where we chatted, hot tubbed, and eventually practiced. As always, I have many battles yet to fight and even more that I’ve begun to engage but have yet to beat. That said, despite certain work related distractions, it was a productive practice and it was great to work with such a large group of dedicated dancer folk!

We spent the balance of the evening eating pie, drinking sangria, and lounging about Jessie’s apartment until the siren call of the city and the trains to take us there, dislodged us and sent us scuttling towards the station. I definitely undid any sleep reparations I’d earned through falling back the night before, and on top of my own irresponsibility, I was treated to the most delightful creature of the night. I am not sure whether he was an uber driver or a drug dealer, but he was very happy to be camped out beneath my window playing music loudly through open car doors and having voluminous conversations in what might have been a pleasantly deep voice if it hadn’t been sliding through my window at 4am. Right about the time I was trying to compose myself to call 311 and report the nuisance, he disappeared. For an hour. He was back again at 5am and I really should have called it in, but by that point I was resigned to exhaustion and irritation so I just put my pillow over my head and grumpily dozed in and out of the trap music blaring outside.

Predictably enough, Monday was a challenge. There’s something about only getting 4 hours of decent sleep that just makes Monday even more torturous than usual. But I dragged my way through, snatched a few moments of sleep, and headed off to dance. After our usual warm up and body movement training, the universe was generous and we got to work on some cha cha cha. Much as I love salsa, I love cha cha cha even more. It’s so groovy, so cool, so deliciously creative. Obviously, I still have much to learn, but that’s half the fun!

And then it was today. More big things are in the works and I am maybe panicking, just a little bit… But for now I am stretching my straddle against the wall and eating peanut M&Ms after rehearsal. It’s a pretty good life.

More (or less) flexible everyday,
The Salsa Girl

In Which There is Schmoozing and Snoozing

It’s been a long week again and there’s no sign of respite for a good three weeks or so. You have no idea how hard I’m going to crash this Christmas. Expect radio silence from the 22nd straight through the other side of New Years. But before that happens, I still have all of November and the entire Christmas card writing season to claw my way through. Look forward to lots of exhaustion. That’s probably enough looking ahead though, let’s look back to my past week and my last weekend of unstructured time until late November.

Tuesday started on the highest of high notes. By some bizarre combination of good planning and pure tenacity, I managed to drag myself out of bed by 6:30am which meant that I had time to walk to work. We talked about walking and its effects on my mental health last week, and Tuesday’s walk across the Manhattan Bridge was no disappointment. It was however to be my only foot-powered commute of the week. Something something sleep and scheduling.

Having begun my day with “fresh” air and endorphins, Tuesday was significantly more manageable than expected. I may have even felt relaxed when I got home that evening. I puttered about and eventually headed out to rehearsal to burn off any lingering energy that may have remained. In theory that would be a healthy way to live, but then that would be so boring, which is to say that Wednesday was nothing like that.

On Wednesday, I woke up, put on a suit, and headed down to the New York Academy of Science to rub shoulders with health care and big data folks. It was an interesting morning up on the 40th floor of 250 Greenwich St. Those of you that are familiar with Lower Manhattan, will know that 250 Greenwich St is one of those tall, magnificent, Financial District skyscraper next door to the One World Trade Center. So the views were nice. The talks weren’t half bad either.

By noon I was riding the elevator back to the street level and pounding the pavements towards a train, when my phone went absolutely berserk and informed me that if I was anywhere near 58th St. I should get indoors and shelter in place immediately. Now, the Financial District is a long way from 58th St., but when bad things are going down in this city, they tend to have a way of apparating amongst the Wall St types down at the South end of the island, and I was about to enter the subway system—-that’d be metal trains, long tunnels, and hoards of humans—-not exactly a great place to be if bad things are going down.

But it’s New York and the underlying creed of this city is “whatever the fuck this is, it better not get in the way of my work”, so I hopped on the train and headed up to Washington Square for the next talk I was set to attend that day. The alert turned out to be the result of the CNN package bomb which, fortunately, did not go off, and I made it safely to hear the former Prime Minister of New Zealand talk about better use of government data and then schlepped on over to the library to take in the last few hours of Data Services Day (we’ve got collaborators that needed to see my face). One might call it a hectic day and it wasn’t done yet.

From Data Services Day, I raced home to trade laptops for dance shoes, and head back to 250 Greenwich for a “formal dinner”. “Business dress required”. I hate receptions, but I had decided to make it happen so I gritted my teeth, grabbed a glass of red wine and waded in. I will admit to having spent a fairly significant chunk of time staring out at the heavy golden harvest moon from 40 floors up, but I did eventually manage to make a contact and then blessedly it was time for dinner. Knowing absolutely no one there, I decided to just pick a table with people and beg my way in. By fluke, I ended up picking a table full of NYU folks. They were from the other end of the city, but they were NYU and they welcomed me to their table so I wasn’t about to complain.

It turned out that my table mates were all bioethicists with varying allegiances to empiricism and more theoretical, rational, philosophy. For about 4 whole heartbeats, I thought I might have something to offer to the conversation. And then the gulf of expertise and domain experience yawned wide between us and I sat back to listen, learn, and be enviably humbled. Yes, enviably. Amongst all the myriad of inevitable typos, that is not one of them. One of the things I like best about New York is the sheer probability of being humbled on any given day. And I don’t mean by arrogant Wall St types or tech bros, no, I refer to the type of humility that hits you when someone graciously hears you out and then responds with such a depth of knowledge and insight that, without them ever having said a single snotty word to you, you know that you are massively intellectually or artistically or experientially outgunned. And then you sit and you listen and you absorb as much as you possibly can and hope that someday you’ll have accrued even a drop from the ocean of wisdom you’re swimming in. I’ve always been into futile striving.

After the bioethicists and three glasses of wine, I gathered my things and headed to Westie Cafe, because no matter how tired you are or how busy your day has been you don’t. miss. westie. cafe. I’ve definitely danced better, but three glasses of wine is definitely teetering on the edge of tipsy, so I shall blame my exhaustion and mild inebriation and carry on.

Of course, come Thursday, I had to pay for my 17 hours of constant motion the day before. By the time I left the office, I was a puddle of exhaustion and precariously hovering ill temper. Contrary to most of my usual practices, I was sensible and took a nap. It turns out that my body gets tired when I run it into the ground. After my rather indulgent nap, I peeled myself back out of bed and headed for Bed Stuy. We’re working on a bookends choreo for Swingin’ New England, and practices sort of haven’t been happening. There are a lot of schedules and commutes to harmonize. So Jes and I got together to do a bit of choreo over conversation and wine—-which may be why I was home late again, and almost certainly contributed to the negation of my nap.

Friday saw me spending my lunch hour, turning away from work, and tuning into a conversation with a mentor from my linguistics days. I’m slowly wandering my way back, but I’m bad at asking for help so I’ve been doing it almost entirely on my own. I know how irrational that is, especially in today’s networked world, but asking for mentorship is terrifying and stressful—-kind of like facing that big, looming question of “yeah, but what do you actually want to do with your life?” So I asked for help, and I couldn’t have asked for a better conversation or more helpful suggestions and insights. I’m still scared witless and am kind of dragging my feet on the next steps, especially because the next step is even more vulnerable than the last and I feel like I’m already a bit late and a bit behind, and heaven help me, I’ll get there eventually. Hopefully soon.

After work, I grabbed a birthday cake from the inimitable Mia’s Brooklyn Bakery, and some chips and salsa from Trader Joes, and headed out to Queens. I so seldom get to Queens—-it really looks like a whole different city out there, and I invariably lose my sense of direction for at least a moment or two. Once I’d gotten myself turned in the right direction and walked down only one dubious back alley, I found myself at Isa’s for her surprise birthday party. To say it was a good night, would be an astounding understatement. There was good food, great people, and lots of fun. We played Taboo which is right up there with Cranium in my list of favourite games ever, and chatted the night away. Around 11pm, I bid the excellent folks in Queens good night and headed back into the city to meet up with the westies. By the time I reached them, they’d transitioned from dancing to drinking and just as soon as I’d gotten a double shot of tequila down my throat, they turned from drinking to devouring. We were ostensibly going to one of the many kitschy speak-easies in the East Village, but as so few remain “easy” we actually found ourselves chilling in the hot dog shack that serves as a front for the bar. Multiple baskets of fries later, we gathered ourselves out the door and into the rain.

A Nor’easter had blown in so our walk across East Village was blustery and damp to say the least. Around 2nd Ave we left the guys at a subway station, and Alanna, Jenny, and I headed back to mine to sober up for driving, dry out for schlepping, and put a tired body to sleep respectively. Somehow we were still sitting on my bed drinking water and chatting each others’ ears off at 4am. I have no regrets. It was a wonderful night of womanly bonding and affirming conversation. There’re a lot of amazing ladies in my life these days, and I really don’t take nearly enough tie to appreciate their awesome.

Some entirely too few hours later, I crawled out of bed and headed out for broga. It was an arm balance heavy day and I was dying, but blessedly (I blame the wet, windy weather) there was a spot left in the restorative class that immediately followed. I think I even managed to actually relax for a moment, or at least that’s the most plausible reason I can think of for almost falling asleep in class. After those 3 hours of yoga, I headed back home through the rain and promptly slept the day away. I’ve been feeling worn down for ages and a bit sick for about a week, so I think I needed it. My body gets so damn tired just from living—-I wish I was one of those unicorns that could survive on 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Instead I find I am one of the more pedestrian types that suffers even with 6-7 hours. So I slept, woke up with a headache right around the time I’d intended to head out to salsa, and then crawled right back into bed to sleep the remains of the day away. Had it not been for the riotous chaos of the Halloween celebrations below my window, I might very well have slept right through to the morning.

After my indulgence on Saturday, I spent Sunday catching up on all the little necessities of life. I baked another orange vanilla upside-down cake for our work Halloween party (it feels terribly together to have a ‘go-to’ party cake), swept the floors, did my laundry, read some linguistics, and attended to a few of those oh so charming vulnerability inducing little bits of personal progress that are always waiting for my attention every time I turn around. You see, I’m trying to make some changes, and I’m never going to make them successfully until I tackle the dysfunction that underlies it all. So I am working on finding it in myself to truly, and unsuperficially believe, not just say, but truly believe, that I am enough.

I don’t think I’ve ever believed that I was enough, there was always someone better to be dangled before me, or some armful of fatal flaws to be flung in my face. So I internalized it. I built an ethos around it and determined that I could only justify my continued consumption of oxygen and calories if I was eternally striving to earn my right to exist amongst the worthy, always crawling on my belly, inch by inch towards enough. But a lifetime always spent trying to earn the right to be, is a lifetime of crippling fear and insecurity, a life of constant panicked spackling over every newly discovered inadequacy, lest we prove unworthy of our daily ration of time and space. I’d hazard a guess that it’s had some role in the ever increasing neuroses that seem to trail along behind and before me. And I’ll never figure out what I want, and how to be happy, until I can let go of the grasping for worthiness and know in my soul, that I am enough. I share this not because I’ve tackled it, not because I want anyone to praise or be proud of me, I’m sharing this so that I stay accountable and keep fighting through all my shit and baggage to believe that, despite my own estimations or the words of the world, I am enough. Just as I am. It’s going to be a journey.

And on that entirely too honest note, let’s bounce back to our regular program. Sunday evening saw me schlepping into Union Square to meet Jes, Jenny, and Allie for another excellent night of drinks, food, and conversation with fabulous New York ladies. We started at ABC Cocina with elegant, inspired margaritas and absolutely delicious small plates. From there, we wandered southward and eventually ended up in a cozy, yet airy little fern bar in the East Village drinking hot toddies (with a chamomile tea bag—-ask me later, it was a revelation) and beers brought to us by a charming server who found himself pouring water and delivering drinks through all manner of entirely TMI conversations. He was a class act. I’d like to say that I was responsible and went to bed early, but as you may have surmised from the foregoing, I was, once again, out late in excellent company.

Come Monday, I took on a somewhat busy day at work, topped by the office Halloween party, and dance. It was a good night: from beers and candy, playing celebrities with my coworkers, to stepping out of my dance comfort zone into both afro and dancehall. And that about brings us up to the present where I find myself sitting at a book launch at the Humanities Center here at NYU counting the minutes before I have to run for the train and another night of rehearsing. It’s never a dull night.

Still working on it,
The Salsa Girl

In Which the Linguist is Unleashed

It’s been a while since I last let my inner linguist out. She hides inside greedily collecting tokens of interesting linguistic features and interjecting with unhelpful assessments of every sound and word choice. She’s fun. I swear. She just doesn’t get out much. So I was terribly excited to take her out for a little adventure into the academic heart of sociolinguistics, NWAV. But before we dive into all the nerdy linguistic goodness, let’s get the first half of the week squared away.

In a delightful twist of fate, Tuesday answered to my itinerate Librarian tendencies with a workshop on research impact hosted by the engineering library. Better yet, my boss had asked me to go, before I even saw it! It was a pleasant little intermission in my day and almost made me feel like I might know a thing or two about bibliometrics. When I got home, I spent another short while chatting with Mandy before she headed off to dinner and I set off for salsa rehearsal.

Come Wednesday, I hurried home from work to spend a final few hours hanging out with Mandy. In a mere matter of hours she would be back on a plane heading for London with naught but adventure before her. I’d be lying if I said my novelty seeking soul wasn’t just a tiny bit envious.

After saying goodbye to Mandy, I headed off to JT Swing rehearsal. I think maybe I was tired, because it felt like a lot. Maybe just too many people and too much noise all in one medium sized studio. Either way, by the time we got to the end of rehearsal, I was teetering on the edge of my social ability for the day and very nearly bailed on westie cafe. Fortunately, however, I am a creature of habit so I didn’t have to do much to resist the urge for sleep and drag my straggling self to the social. I slowly made my way back from the brink of anti-sociality and then somehow, even ended up popping over to a local dive bar after dance to celebrate Jes Ann’s birthday. Somewhere between a screwdriver, a tequila shot, and a whole lot of good conversation, I ended up staying out until almost 3am. Let’s pretend that’s not as irresponsible as it sounds.

Truth be told, it wasn’t actually as irresponsible as it would have been on any other Wednesday night because on Thursday, I was headed to NWAV. It was held here in New York at CUNY and NYU this year and the first day only started at 11:45am. I attended two fascinating workshops, met new people, reconnected with a mentor from UVic, and just soaked it all in! The inner linguist was beside herself with joy. After the workshops, it was off to the plenary which was followed by a reception and an open bar. Yes, they gave us an open bar. Fortunately for the caterers, three beers was more than enough for me and I had a fantastic evening of hanging out and chatting with a dancing linguist friend, Jamie, and a few of his academic siblings (i.e. students of the same supervisor). It was an excellent first day.

Friday started at 8am and ran straight through to 6pm with mountains of talks, posters, and other heavenly indulgences for the nerdiest amongst us. It was so exciting to be amongst my people again, perhaps for the first time since I finished my BA in 2013. I realized as my body relaxed into the environment that, much as I love libraries, linguists are much more my intellectual kin. The constant observation and pattern finding mixed with most familiar blend of talkativeness and shyness, it really is the feeling of home.

Saturday morning I was back at it, full force. After two sessions of talks, it was time to meet up with a mentor I had been assigned as a part of the pop-up mentorship program featured at the event. After a bit of confusion finding each other, my mentor proved to be a very kind and helpful soul. He provided some helpful perspective and what I suppose you would call a bit of encouragement. I’m waffling and wobbling and oh god help me the PhD is looming ever more imposingly above me.

Two more sessions later, we were off to the plenary. I was exhausted, but I’m so glad I stayed. The plenary speaker, the legendary John R. Rickford, delivered such an inspiring talk, reminding us that linguists have the power to fight for recognition and equality across genders, ethnicities, social classes, and so much more. Being from Guyana, Dr. Rickford also has the most wonderful soft musically accented voice, and he’s just so jovial. It was really wholehearted and inspired and once again I was reminded that I am a social scientist. Technology is great and all, but when it all comes down to it, it’s about the people.

After a quick bit of quiet and rest at home, it was back to NYU for the famed NWAV Party. They had rented out the Rosenthal Pavilion which overlooks Washington Square park from 10 floors above the street, and filled it with food, drink, and music. The music was provided by an afro-caribbean band that traded in pulsing beats and polyrhythms galore. It was a lot of fun. It was also an amusing opportunity for anthropological observation as all the terrifically nerdy linguists unabashedly took to the dance floor. I’ve never seen a group pf academics so uninhibited with so little alcohol. I guess when you study language and communication, often in field work settings, you have to be a bit of an adventurous and enthusiastic soul.

And then, all too soon, it was Sunday. I walked up to the Square and sunk my teeth into two more sessions before it was time to start saying farewells as the wheelie bags made their way to the airports. I wandered around for a while and somehow ended up in a tiny bakery eating an use cupcake and reading about algorithms. It was an excellent way to kill an hour. After that little dose of solo time, it was back to the linguistics department for one more round of shenanigans before the conference was actually over. We walked all the way from the Square up past Union Square and on to Macy’s and Saks. Why were we walking through the brisk autumn wind to New York’s most famous department stores? We were replicating a famous sociolinguistics experiment via walking tour, namely Labov’s famous r-dropping study where he went to three social classes’ department stores—-Klein’s, Macy’s, and Saks—-and asked sales people to direct him to something that he knew was on the fourth floor. He then recorded whether or not the sales person pronounced the ‘r’ in both ‘fourth’ and ‘floor’ and repeated the process. He ultimately found that the pronunciation of ‘r’ patterns with social class in New York English, but more importantly he laid the groundwork for so much of the sociolinguistic research that followed him. Since Klein’s is no more, we could only test Macy’s and Saks and we only did a very small sample, but it was a fun little adventure in very good company.

As we headed back south by subway, I decided to part ways with the last of the linguists at 14th St. For those of you that know New York, you already know what sin I was about to commit. Yes, I was headed to The Strand and its tantalizing dollar carts. If you have any illusions about what I did there, you really don’t know me all that well. Without really meaning to, I left with 8 books. But I spent less than $10 so I’m going to call it a win.

Now, I’m home after another Monday in the office. I was feeling the stuffiness of the indoor life and yearning for another face to face encounter with the city, so I left the office and headed for the bridge. I’m not so much of a masochist as to brave the Brooklyn Bridge, but I decided to risk my eardrums and head for the big beefy metal span of the Manhattan Bridge and it’s plethora of subway trains rattling across the water. Potential hearing loss notwithstanding, the walk was beautiful. From the journey through the graffitied and slowly decaying buildings alongside the beginning and end of he bridge to the beautiful views of Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge through the middle of the span it was perfect—-not to mention the perfectly crisp and cool autumn weather that almost stopped me sweating. I often feel like I’m too busy and too tired to walk these days, but I’ve really got to stop listening to that part of my brain, because there is nothing so sanifying and favourable for thinking—-really thinking, not just panicking at regular intervals. And so, weather permitting, I shall endeavour to keep walking at least as often as I can. We shall see how long that holds up. For now, it’s back to my book.

Serenely,
The Salsa Girl

In Which Autumn Arrives

It’s finally happened. After a month and a half of wild waffling, the weather has finally turned to fall for good. Or so it would seem. I will admit that I half hoped that my decision to uninstall my AC from my window this weekend would precipitate a change of heart, but alas we seem now to be lodged firmly into the terrible purgatory between the first appearance of cold autumn nights and building management’s decision to finally turn on the heat. Such is the joy of an antique steam heated apartment.

A week ago, things were not so frigid, but that didn’t stop them being busy and exhausting. Tuesday, I spent my lunch hour listening to a lecture at the engineering school while tucking into free Chinese takeaway–you can draw your own conclusions as to my motivations for attendance–then scrambled through the rest of the day and on home to change, feed myself, and hop off to dance. I have gotten into a somewhat unhealthy and certainly not frugal habit of buying granola bars and ready made protein shakes for dinner on nights when between work and dance I somehow lack the motivation to cook or even more effectively scavenge. Shamefully I must admit that last Tuesday was one of those occasions. Efforts at mitigation have now extended to the purchase of several boxes of protein granola bars and a jug of protein enhanced milk. If I’m going to do it anyways, it may as well be cheaper than buying them one by one. We shall see how long the boxes last.

Come Wednesday, however, despite the exhaustion of work and life, I was kind of bouncing off the walls. Why you ask? Well my former LES partner in wine, gossip, and shenanigans was back in town for a quick visit on her way from China to London. After enduring a fairly New York amount of traffic, Mandy landed on my doorstep just exactly as vivacious and excellent as when she left. I have so missed having a buddy on the LES for unplanned late night chat sessions, tea, and snacks–it’s so good to have her back even if only for a short time.

Once we got the suitcases carted upstairs, it was time to freshen up and head into midtown to meet Patrick for dinner. We decided on my beloved Turkish restaurant right near Westie Cafe. The woman who might be the owner probably knows me by name and definitely knows me by sight. I consider that a testament to my singular Canadianness and loyalty. Most realistically, it speaks to how often I find myself unable to resist falafel and baba ganoush. I never claimed to be good at self deprivation. Following food and a bit more catching up, we all turned the corner and headed up to Westie Cafe where we would dance the night almost entirely away before eventually heading back to the train to sweep us on down to the LES.

Thursday morning, I headed to work and Mandy headed to Philly for a weekend visit in more southerly parts. When I got out of the office, I headed up for a quick trip to the snapple crack before a planned rendezvous with Patrick to drink tea and return a stray water bottle. Alas, the weather had other opinions. I stepped out of the chiropractor’s office into a veritable monsoon. 5 minutes later it had slackened to just a torrential downpour so I unfurled my umbrella and headed for the train. I’d had grand ambitions of a lovely little walk through the East Village down to Soho, but somehow in the sheets of rain, it just wasn’t quite as appealing. I emerged on Spring to a brief respite and dodged hurriedly through the crowds to the tea shop. Patrick was not so lucky. He reached the tea shop, mere blocks from his office, soaked to the skin in the midst of a heavy spell of rain. Isn’t weather just such a delight?

Once teas had been tasted and acquired, we headed to the train and our respective north south directions. I had been going to top my evening off with a spinning class, but as it was cancelled, I shamelessly surrendered myself to the delights of doing nearly nothing. It was excellent.

Despite my lazy Thursday night, Friday saw me fatigued again and I promptly passed out within a few hours of getting home from the office. I was very tempted to just call it a night after that, but I had done so little moving during the day that I figured I should at least slip in a little walk. So I walked to Chelsea, unencumbered by anything but keys, credit card, and phone to collect a thing or two for my halloween costume. For now it remains a sort of surprise, but if your familiar with my derpy sense of humour, it will not surprise you that word play is involved. Stay tuned for pictures as the halloween parties begin to roll in.

Saturday morning I rolled my lazy butt out of bed, made a quick egg breakfast, and headed in to Washington Square for the almighty broga. Someday, I will go to broga and I won’t feel like I might collapse, but that will not be for a long time yet. We pushed our legs right about to the limit and then as a break worked on arm balances. Let me tell you about things that are not a “break”. Post broga, I did a bit more stretching and then honest to goodness just decided to chill. I thought about hauling myself out to a salsa night, but then I pushed the FOMO out of the way and just relaxed into a moment of “holy wow I needed to rest”. I probably still need to rest, but at least I had one Saturday composed almost entirely of youtube and books alternating along with the pots of tea. I think there was a time once when I didn’t feel guilty about such things. I’d like to get back there someday.

After a totally lazy Saturday, Sunday necessarily included laundry. But other than the laundry, it was nearly as lazy. I chilled as much as I could bear and then set to tidying and eventually, that most menacing of tasks, removing my AC from the window. I live in unaccountable fear that I will accidentally dump it out of the window rather than managing to pull it in, but when I am reasonable with myself I realize that it is well balanced, not too heavy for my robust frame, and previously retrieved with next to no difficulty. I nonetheless tied the cord off on my radiator and fretted assiduously as I prepared myself for the moment of truth. It should be noted that the AC was removed without incident and I even figured out how it’s actually meant to be packed back into the box rendering my closet a much tidier place than it was last winter. Small wins.

Come late afternoon, Mandy was headed back to the city and we were both headed up to Patrick’s for a critique session dialing in Jessie who was in Canada for Montreal Westie Fest, and Brian who was in Connecticut because he lives there. We ate Indian food while we watched and critiqued each of our respective videos. It’s really helpful to hear everyone else’s opinion of your dance and it tends to inspire reinvigorated practice as you watch the list of areas of improvement grow, so it’s really a helpful exercise, if occasionally intimidating as all hell when people who are both your friends and also in higher divisions are asked to turn a critical eye to your very imperfect attempts at dance. We eventually made our way back to the LES via unusually favourable MTA luck and crashed into bed.

Today was back to the office for me. I don’t feel like I do allll that much and I really only work 8 hours a day, but my gosh does it ever tire me out! I was for a hot second wishing that I could just go home to my bed and crash, but that thought was swiftly dismissed when I returned to my apartment and the opportunity of chilling and chatting with Mandy instead. There’s something so nice about the effortlessness of just laying about, working on your own things (i.e. this blog), and conversing at random in whatever size snippets seem best with a good friend. Anti-social and solitary as I can sometimes be, I do enjoy sharing space with people who understand the joy of co-existing without necessarily needing to constantly converse and entertain.

And on that note, I should get myself pulled together for dance so that I can come straight home afterwards to indulge a bit of wine, pizza, and more conversation.

Feeling the fall,
The Salsa Girl