What is this? A TUESDAY blog? Yes. I am slipping. But the trouble was, every time I planned to sit down and write, another exciting opportunity would come up and I’d tell myself, well I’ll just wait until after this and then my blog will be even better! So fingers crossed what you’re about to read is even a tiny fraction as wonderful as these last 9 days have been. So let’s get to it.
Monday saw me making my way out of work and straight into the slick white expanse of the Mozilla Glass Room, a convenient 10 minute walk from my apartment. Having found myself working in a whole institute of people who spend their days (and probably nights) thinking about cities, buildings, all the things inside of them, and all the ways to analyze them, I figured it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to attend a talk about using deep learning in the power industry. There may have also been free pizza.
The glass room is an altar to data privacy concerns and informed internet use. It’s also very glossy and modern and spare. I enjoyed the aesthetic while I lazily networked, listened, and then trotted off home.
The following night I decided to try to do it all, so I left work at 4:30 in a flutter of coats and scarves to catch a venture capitalist showcase at the business school. After listening to entrepreneurs and investors talk med tech, drone racing, and content creation, I threw myself back out into the now pouring wet night in search of a more philosophical event: an ethical tech meetup featuring a panel discussion on the ethics of algorithms. The panel was composed of three intelligent, educated, and successful women and, I presume, an equally intelligent, educated, and successful man employed by the mighty book of faces, and by god was he ever a a drinker of the koolaid.
The company line formed the spine of every sentence he uttered and if we are to believe him, Facebook will save the world with its data while giving every user a free and open choice as to how their precious personal data is employed. I wish that were true, but to hear its empty echo over and over again, well I got impatient and irritable, especially given that he was completely dominating the Q&A leaving no room for any of the other panelists to say a word. I’ve never been strong on shutting up and putting up so up went my silly, foolish hand and next thing I knew I was demanding that someone who WASN’T entrenched in a major global corporation offer up an opinion on the inefficacy of regulation for these major multinationals. I won’t say I made a scene when Mr. Facebook tried to jump in again, but I certainly got noticed and I’d say it was 50/50 between those who thought I was an awful indelicate thing and those who were delighted by my tenacity. As a result I met and chatted with all manner of people after, including a real, honest-to-goodness philosopher, like someone whose job is to philosophize! It was one heck of an evening and there were even free tacos!
Continuing my run of excellent evenings, Wednesday night started with the most decadent gelato and ended with the best kind of intense dance. After work, I headed up to Fresco in the East Village to eat rosewater and lemon basil gelato while catching up with a pair of entrepreneurs that I met at a networking event not that long ago. They are both friendly and fascinating and are even working on a project that is somewhat related to what I’ve been doing. So we chatted for an hour or so before I zipped off again to change, gather my dance shoes, and hop the train to Columbus Circle for Karel Flores’ last dance class of the year. The class was the best kind of intense but I suspect that perhaps I was not sufficiently hydrated that night because right around the end of the class my heart started doing that really charming thing where it stops beating normally and instead flutters thinly and frantically until I sit down, drink some water and get my system under control. We will not dwell on how much I didn’t do any of that—it was a good class.
After my own dance adventure on Wednesday, I dedicated Thursday night to the appreciation of others’ athleticism. My German colleague Pia and I went to see the Rockettes at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and it WAS spectacular. The precision of those dancers! Every extension, every hit, every little movement was perfectly coordinated. And the costumes! Heaven help me, the rhinestones! and the sequins! I am such a magpie.
In addition to the famous Rockettes, the show also featured tableaus, stories (with more emphasis than I would have placed on believing in santa), musical numbers, comic dance pieces, and even figure skaters. Yes, they had a miniature ice rink on stage. It was such a trip. I’m not sure what I was most enamoured of, the fur suit rendition of the nutcracker, the thousand santa dance, or the divine beautiful perfectly rehearsed Rockettes themselves—they really are the best. And all of that doesn’t even begin to take into account the beauty and the size of the music hall itself. The bathrooms have lounges attached! Spacious lounges!
Following all the glitz and glamour of the night, I wove my way through the crowd to the subway and, as if by some form of Christmas magic, just as I hit the platform, the train pulled up and I was whisked back through Midtown to the Lower East Side.
Friday night was another New York institution: Katz Deli, another short ten minute walk from my flat. I’ve never paid $20 for a sandwich before, and I may never do it again, but it was worth it for that one heavenly stack of pastrami, swiss, and sauerkraut soaked in Russian sauce and deliciousness. It’s a crowded old place, the last remaining shop front in an empty lot. As I’ve heard it, the place was purchased by a developer for complete, ground up redevelopment, but they just couldn’t take down Katz. So now the rest of the block has been torn down and only Katz remains with the plan for the developer to rebuild around them. I suppose when it’s been owned and operated by the same family since 1888, you can’t really go kicking them out.
Once fed, one of our partners in crime headed off to a goodbye party, and Pia and I set off through the VERY brisk night air towards the Washington Square campus to catch a free concert. We only caught the second half and, to be honest, the first piece was entirely too avant garde for my taste. The second piece was pleasant and pretty, but then the third piece, well it was heaven. A cellist, a violinist, and pianist: all virtuosos with a fantastic sense for music as a performance art, not just something you listen to but something you see and feel and experience. It was divine. It also gave us the opportunity to catch up with another cluster of colleagues who we then accompanied to a local pub for drinks and conversation. I had a cranberry cider (sadly from a can) which was shockingly good. Very complex and interesting altogether without being either too dry or too sweet. By the time we finished drinks, it was gone midnight so I skipped dance and headed home to bed.
Saturday started with my usual roster of chores after which I took it in my head to go to a sample sale. I really had such great intentions, but then well, there was a little shop at the subway station where nothing was more than $10, can you say heaven? Plus, once I actually got to the sample sale, there was a queue! A queue! I do not queue for the privilege of entering a store where I may or may not find something I like and almost certainly won’t find something I can comfortably afford. So my haul of $5-10 clothing and I skipped the sample sale, hopped back on the train, and scuttled home to bake my bread, and get ready for westie!
Once a month this fabulous city hosts a dance night with three rooms: ballroom, hustle, and my favourite, West Coast Swing. I kind of thought that I might check out the other rooms, but I really should have known better. I never left the swing room. Westies are such warm welcoming people and somehow, in this city, I’m dancing with advanced dancers only a point or two away from allstar designation as if I wasn’t just a wee ickle novice. It’s heavenly. It was also followed up by a (I must admit) rather mediocre encounter with all night diner Boston cream pie. Fortunately, the milkshake, the good company, and the general all night diner-y-ness that accompanied my pie more than made up for the slight disappointment of the Boston cream. I guess the doughnuts are just way better.
Sunday morning I peeled myself out of bed after five hours of sleep at nearly 11am to make french toast for brunch with the roomie. I’m notorious for hardly knowing my roommates, but it is good to know that the person in the room across the hall is passionate about music, rural education in his home country, and making the world a better place—I appear to have stumbled across a good person.
As the crisp morning turned into a snowy afternoon, I headed up to Times Square for Dough Doughnuts with Pia to gather our strength before heading down to Dyker Heights to see the Christmas lights. Dough is a New York classic with big, soft, chewy, oily rings of dough smeared with all manner of exotic glazes from hibiscus to passion fruit, dulce de leche to mocha. They are terrifyingly tasty and probably contain about a thousand calories each—perfect fuel for a cold night of roaming about South Brooklyn looking for lights.
After getting more than a little lost on our way (in our defence Google Maps lied about the location of a very critical bus stop) we made it to that famous little patch of Christmas cheer nestled between Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst and what we found was far more intense than I could ever have imagined: flashing lights, christmas carols, giant blow up characters, and enough illumination to light up half of New York. It was so American it hurt, and we loved it! After a few hours roaming through the night ogling insanity (much of which appeared to be of a Greek American extraction), we got back onto the train and and headed back to normalcy in the city proper.
Monday was back to the grind and I really did intend to write as soon as I got home from work, but then I thought, ah I might as well wait until after dinner…
You see, dinner was an 8:15 reservation at the Modern with my beloved Shanghai partner in crime — Erin. I have more fond memories of China adventures with Erin than I can begin to count, and now they are being joined by New York memories. You see, Erin works at The Modern, and The Modern has two Michelin stars. We went with the tasting menu and I can honestly say I haven’t eaten anything that nice since Salsa Caliente took me to Le Bernardin in 2013. It was spectacular from the first course of egg on egg (caviar, egg yolk, and hollandaise with brioche) to the box of cookies that we were given as we left. The wine I drank was heaven, the food perfection, and having had cauliflower the way they prepared it, I may never eat a pedestrian cauliflower again. And then as if we weren’t already having the best food of our lives, they invited us into the kitchen to the chef’s table for our final three courses. Yes. The chef’s table. Whose life am I even living right now? Because somewhere between the crisp green apple themed pre-dessert and the dessert course featuring items not on the menu, it really didn’t seem like the life of a rural, small town Canadian girl. I have come a long way and have made the most wonderful friends along my path. I hate to say I’m blessed, but I really felt blessed in that beautiful space with a fantastic friend, amazing staff, and simply unbelievable food.
By the time we finally parted ways on 53rd, it was past midnight, so I came home and flopped into bed, and you all didn’t get a blog. Now I intended to write it on my lunch today but, then there were actually people in the lunch room so I decided to eat my lunch with conversation and good company and then it was time for the office Christmas party where mild but still terribly enjoyable shenanigans were had and much spiked hot chocolate was drunk, before I finally made my way home. And just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, there was a package waiting for me in the lobby, filled with jam, Christmas pudding, rusks, and cookies.
So now I’m here in my room, putting the last few sentences on a rather delayed blog. My stomach is so full of delicious, rich foods and my head is full of happy, sleepy Baileys that I think once I get a few photos into this thing, I might just go to bed.
Living the dream,
The Salsa Girl