In Which There is Even More Dancing Than Usual

When I left you last I was freshly back from a dance weekend and nearly recovered from a cold. Rather a lot has happened since then, but let’s start with Tuesday, a day in which very little happened.

Yes, Tuesday was a standard busy day at work which was meant to be followed by my attending a showcase night for a machine learning school here in the city. I had all the best intentions, but by the time I was ready to head back out to the event, the unseasonable weather had swung over to the wetter end of the spectrum and it was pouring rain. Blessedly, the event was streamed live online so I snuggled up under my duvet with soup and and my laptop to learn about a few more fun, but fundamentally consumerism driven machine learning apps.

I get that we all want to make money, and it’s easy to work on problems in our own daily lives, but some how I’d really like to see more applications of these technologies that have a goal other than slightly improving the daily convenience of already affluent individuals who just can’t decide on a beer or really want to know what brand of sneakers that cool guy on the train is wearing. That said, I suppose, until I commit the time and energy to learn all the requisite skills, I’m really in no place to criticize what those who have dedicated years to it choose to do. It’s probably for the best that I was watching from afar. I might have struggled to suppress my uncomfortable questions.

The following day I returned to safer turf for my evening’s entertainment. I began with a jianbing from my beloved Bing Kitchen. If you haven’t yet heard my rant about it, the short version is: after 5 years of missing Beijing jianbing horribly and never finding anything that quite lived up to my expectations outside of China, I happen to be living less than a block from the single most authentic bing place I’ve ever encountered outside of mainland China. It is heaven.

So, once I was fuelled up on fried, eggy, crispy Chinese food heaven, I hopped on the train and headed for Columbus Circle. You see, Karel Flores was in town and there is no one quite like her. I’d taken her classes at congresses, but catching her here in New York is different. She works us substantially harder for one and she’s full of energy and honesty and dance philosophy. After an hour and half of dancing my thighs half to death, I hurried out of the studio with a heart rate that had almost stopped desperately fluttering, and made my way a few train stations south for west coast swing. Yes. Insane is probably a good word for it. But in my defence, some of my dearest friends here in the city were there and I am really trying to take advantage of more of the dance here. So I danced for a few more hours before stumbling my way home. As you can imagine, by the time I made it to the top of my own personal mountain and fell into bed, my thighs were utterly destroyed.

Friday I was tired, a bit sore, and bracing myself for the day. Yep, that day, the one where his great orangeness would take the throne of America: Inauguration Day. Fortunately I was fantastically busy so I managed to stay away from most of the media, but I like to listen to a news radio station at work and I got out of a meeting at just the right moment, so I heard the speech. It’s not often I feel nauseous just listening to someone talk, but the pit of my stomach seemed to have acquired a cold little lump of warning that just kept getting heavier and colder. I’ve tried to stay optimistic but as I see the secretary picks, and hear him chant “America first. America first. America…” well I’m starting to feel the thin veil of hope begin to tear. I seem to be in the wrong place at the right time.

Thursday night my roommate left for Washington to protest. I haven’t heard from him since so I hope he’s alright. I wonder if I ought to be doing something, anything, to voice my concern, but I had to work on Friday and I was helping with a dance class on Saturday, and so, filled with guilt, I must admit that I’ve, as yet, done nothing. I’ve never been a mass demonstrations kind of person, but this might be the moment in history where I have to learn to be one. We will see.

But, back to less ominous things, because I really did do a lot of dancing this week and it was very enjoyable and almost entirely divorced from the current political climate. On Friday I went to Candela where I danced for a few hours, chatted with some friends, and then went home to bed so that Saturday could be dedicated to bread.

I am still on my mad freak about perfecting an artisan loaf and you know what, miserable as my current high hydration dough is to work with, the texture is very nearly there. I suspect that if I were to increase the protein level in my flour, I might actually find myself satisfied. For now, however, my 1:5 ratio of all purpose to whole wheat flour is doing quite well and sticky and frustrating as my dough tends to be, it gets beautiful oven spring, a lovely open tender crumb, and even a half decent crust. The short version of how I’ve gotten this far in only two rounds of bread making is:
a) ridiculously much water — the hydration level has to be over the top high
b) no more kneading — I only fold my dough
c) a long, slow overnight proof in my very chilly fridge
d) an absurdly hot bake (500˚) in a preheated dutch oven — it’s all about the steam

Anyway, once my bread was safely squared away in the fridge to rise, I set off into the city to help with a West Coast Swing intensive. I never say no to more floor time, so I spent three hours switching between leading in the class and demoing as a follow. Following that I made a pilgrimage to the almighty home of affordable groceries: Trader Joe’s. It’s the most affordable grocery option in the city but god is it a trial. The queue loops the store and the clever people bring a friend who can stand in said queue and hold a place while the other bustles about the store collecting groceries. I do not have a convenient arrangement like this so I usually fight my way through all the aisles, get frustrated, find most of the things I want, and then go queue for 20 minutes or so before I can actually buy the contents of my basket. Of all the things in New York city that people complain about, I am amazed that queueing for groceries is not a more prominent figure in the list, because it is my least favourite chore and always seems to end with me buying chocolate to bribe myself into staying in line until I can actually buy all my things.

That evening I attempted to go to a birthday party, but the tiny little bars in the East Village are exactly the opposite of what I consider a good time. They are packed to the gills with people and as a result they are mostly hot, stuffy, and loud and I was just tired enough that pushing through a crowd of people five deep just to get a drink was completely out of the question. So I made my apologies and scurried off to dance where I had a very pleasant evening dancing and chatting with a few of my dancer friends until the music stopped and we all wandered back out into the cool, foggy night.

This morning, I woke up, I baked my bread, and then out I went for a food tour of my neighbourhood, courtesy of my big sister. Our guide was a charming actor named Frank who lead us around the Lower East Side adding a few fun extra local tips for me when I divulged that I lived less than 10 minutes away. We ate knish, pickled herring, rugelach, pastrami, halvah, bialys, pickles, and doughnuts. And now I have a brain full of dangerous information that may or may not facilitate my gaining ten pounds without ever leaving my neighbourhood.

After the tour, I realized just how tired I was, by passing out rather unintentionally the instant I climbed under my quilt for warmth. When I finally woke up, I converted myself into a salsa girl and set out for La Vieja Guardia afternoon social. It was a busy and really enjoyable evening but the floor at that place may be the death of me. It’s laid directly on the concrete and as a result I usually leave with the sorest of feet and ankles. I hate to be a floor snob, but my god do I appreciate a good sprung floor after exhausting my ankles on that particular slab.

And now I am home, typing away and waiting for the fearsome Nor’Easter that they’ve promised will roll in tonight. I rather hope I’m asleep by the time it does.

The Salsa Girl


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