In Which There is Much Merrymaking and No Small Bit of Soupmaking

It’s boxing day here and apparently that’s not really a thing in America. I was surprised to find it replaced by St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland, but somehow I never imagined that the US would ever pass up on an opportunity to celebrate the excesses of consumerism. I may have misjudged them. So now I’m lying on my bed looking out the window at a rather dreary, drizzly day trying to talk myself out of napping and into blogging. We’ll see how we get on.

Last Monday was really not of note, so we’ll just glide on past to something rather more interesting, namely my Tuesday 6 train adventures. Come Tuesday night I plunged out of work into the cold and set off to find a dance class. Ever since I saw their men’s team perform at Halloween I’ve been dying to take a class with D’Cor dance, but they’re located up in East Harlem which is a rather long journey for a weeknight. But it was my birthday week, and they had a discount on their classes, so I decided to make that journey.

After a twelve minute walk through a very crisp evening, I found myself standing amongst the crowd in a very busy Spring St. Station. After only a few minutes the train pulled up. I’m a very spoiled individual who mostly rides the F train, against the direction of commute. This was not the F train, and it was not against the flow. Instead I found myself crammed into a tin can of tired, frustrated commuters suffering through the slow journey of the 6 local train. It was hot and uncomfortable, but somewhere around the Upper East Side, things started to clear out and it seemed like we might have an alright journey for the last couple stops. It was not to be. No, as soon as there was breathing room, an older fellow seated bulkily over several seats began what was initially a promotion of his radio station’s Christmas music program, but then it began to turn. You see, his station plays real Christmas music, the music of the bible, not that fake Frosty the Snowman, or Rudolph nonsense. The rest of the ride was a sonorous diatribe as to why we all ought to follow the bible and how no other religion could possibly be as pure as Christianity because none of them have a book written by God. There are times when you pray for your stop to arrive, prayer seemed especially fitting in that case.

When I finally made it to the studio I found that the holidays had definitely impacted attendance, but the classes were good. In fact, I may have found precisely the partner work class I’ve been looking for, but by god the 6 train. Yes, the return to the city, though less crowded was nonetheless exciting. Across from me sat a couple who believed themselves to be culturally different from the rest of us. I would have placed their difference in a more socio-economic category, but nonetheless their blend of bickering, violence, and affection certainly did not match my social or cultural expectations for train-board behaviour.

Midweek would see me on another dance adventure, but not before I frantically raced up and down the aisles of Trader Joe’s and my nearest Chinese grocery store to stock up on soup supplies. I had gotten it into my head that I would make soup on Christmas Day and I was afraid that shops might be closed so I had to get out and get the ingredients before the weekend. I came home with a variety spices and far more vegetables than have likely been in this flat in years. Once everything was squared away (read: left in an untidy pile on the kitchen table), I changed, spackled on some makeup, and headed out to the Westie Cafe. There are certainly worse ways to stay out irresponsibly late on a workday.

Thursday brought me flowers, cards, and an even more excellent and more irresponsible evening. There are three of us in the office with December 22nd birthdays and so we all banded together to ensure that none of us was left alone on our uncomfortably-close-to-Christmas birthday. We grabbed dinner and drinks at a pub near mine before making our way to Mission Escape Rooms.

Our group did the HydeOut which was a Jekyll and Hyde themed room with a glorious mix of chemistry, code breaking, and general knowledge. We did use all of our clues but we also got out with 13 minutes to spare, so not bad for a herd of beginners. After the triumphant escape, I parted ways with my colleagues, and set off to catch what I firmly believe was a birthday miracle.

You see, Wednesday night Facebook had, completely randomly, delivered a bit of magic to my newsfeed. Yes, it told me, that the world famous trombonist and band leader Jimmy Bosch would be playing at a small salsa club in New York with $10 cover. Utter madness, but I wasn’t about to miss out. So, after leaving my colleagues, I walked up to Gonzales y Gonzales and settled in for the night. I’ll admit I wasn’t in the mood to be manhandled, even by dancers, so I did far less dancing than might have been expected. Instead I spent most of the night entranced by the music, praying that no one would ask me to dance and therefore prevent me watching the magic on stage.

During the break, the night one upped itself again. I was sitting by the bar, next to a pair of older women, one of whom grabbed Jimmy as he was going by to compliment him on the music, I suppose he thought I was with them because after shaking her hand, he moved on to me and I took the chance to do a little bit of Salsa Caliente name dropping. He later asked me to dance the end of a song and was very complimentary, so apparently name dropping works very well. Either way, the music was incredible, and it really was a tiny club show where we could easily stand less than a metre from the band, watching positively brilliant performances and listening to a very tight sextet with the sassiest trombone lines. I have a terrible soft spot for the trombone, exemplified by my fondness for Larry Harlow’s Coco May May. I may be the only person in the world who loves that song.

So for the third night in a row, I was out late enjoying the city. Perhaps it was because I was tired, or maybe it was just dance oversaturation, but come Friday I couldn’t actually make a choice about which of the myriad Christmas dance parties to attend, so I stayed in and made five batches of soup. It’s very yummy soup and now my freezer is full of food that will hopefully carry me through until February at least.

Saturday morning I carried on with my domesticity with a thorough house clean and a few loads of laundry. There is nothing so good for fitness as doing laundry in this city. five flights of stairs down, three blocks over, five flights back, repeat in 30 minutes to switch it to a dryer, and then again in 30 more minutes to bring the whole pile home. It’s such a delight.

Later that day, a friend from long ago who I haven’t seen in at least five years, landed in New York. She’s a flight attendant so she was only in the city for 24 hours, but what a 24 hours it was. We started in a hotel room with the rest of the flight crew and three bottles of bubbly. From there it was on to the hotel bar where I awkwardly discovered that my Canadian ID had expired on my birthday. Fortunately the bouncer let me in anyway and I enjoyed a very nice blackberry and gin cocktail with all manner of delicious surprises including a splash of balsamic vinegar. Well lubricated, we headed back down to the street and slipped into the Italian restaurant next-door for dinner. There was complimentary cava, delicious bread and appies, and the most delicious pasta dish I’ve had in years. It was so perfectly balanced, from the filling of gorgonzola, fontina, and pears, to the perfectly tender pasta wrapping, all the way to the creamy buttery white sauce that enrobed each morsel. It was heaven. It was apparently also a creation of a chef who once won Chopped, a fact that we discovered on the dessert menu which featured his winning dish. It was yummy but nothing can touch the pasta.

From dinner, we went up to the Rockefeller to look at the tree, and then down to Times Square to look at the lights. By then the crew were baying for drinks so we set off to find a bar. Our first landing point was a Scottish joint which was closing in 20 minutes. So we downed a pint each and made our way on to a nearby gay club which claimed to be open until 4am. It was.

So from about 12:30 through until 3:30 we drank and danced, did jello shots delivered by a fantastic queen, and met a fellow from Kosovo who I bonded with over immigration questions and Trump fears. He’s in rather a worse position than I, but he’s also doing a much better job of hunting a green card.

And so that’s how I spent my Christmas Eve with pilots and flight attendants, flamboyant men and beautifully extreme queens. On my way home I stopped to grab a bagel from a deli and I think that might have been my saving grace because I should have, by all rights, been painfully hungover the next morning, and my friend was, but I was somehow magically awake at 9:15am feeling bright as a daisy.

I made breakfast and we camped on the floor for a while while Melissa worked through her hangover. We eventually made to a park, and I bought some dill pickles and some pickled pineapples from the famous Pickle Guys which we stumbled upon while making out slow journey back to Melissa’s hotel. Once there we watched an episode of Sherlock and then I headed home to rest. Sometime later I got up, dropped by my boss’s apartment to feed her guinea pigs, and then came home to make myself a lovely little dinner of soup, and crepes, and salad. It was a very merry little Christmas and I went to bed thinking ‘ah perfect, tomorrow I’ll wake up early and go to yoga.’

Alas what actually happened was much more along the lines flying sleeplessly in bed while someone in the street screamed and cried and shrieked into her phone at what I can only presume was her boyfriend who she wanted to spend Christmas night with but who was far more interested in being with his boys. There was literal honest to goodness screaming. I seriously contemplated a call to the police, but then I thought about the effort of calling anyone and just smushed my pillow down over my head and hoped that her phone battery would die.

This morning, I woke up groggy and exhausted thanks to the theatrics of the night before and so did not go to yoga. Instead I spent the morning relaxing and reading before setting out this afternoon to make use of a gift certificate that was given me for Christmas. It was for a dance shoe store. I am now the proud owner of a new pair of swing shoes, but also am now at risk of spending far too much of my money on dance equipment. I dragged myself out of the shop before I overspent too badly but then was out on the sidewalk in the Garment District and there’s a lot of beautiful fabric in every window, often accompanied by sale signs. So there I was wandering down the sidewalk reminding myself “you don’t have a sewing machine, you do not fabric, you don’t have a sewing machine, you hate hand sewing, and you don’t have a sewing machine, so don’t you dare go in any of those shops” which quickly turned into, “should I buy a sewing machine?” It was a very dangerous few blocks for my poor wallet, but by strength of will alone, I made it through without a single bolt of fabric.

Once I got back to my own neighbourhood, I was treated to the quirky, charming idiosyncrasy of this city. As I was walking down the street I heard salsa music and there on the sidewalk across from me, a group of rather ragged fellows were sitting around listening to a boombox playing salsa while two of them danced together. It was a strange and yet very beautiful sight.

And now I’m here trying to gather the energy to go out to Taj tonight to catch Pete Nater, but I think perhaps a nap will be critical if I’m to actually make it out.

With love and warm wishes for the holidays,
The Salsa Girl


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