In Which The Year of the Rooster Begins


As we make our way into the Year of the Rooster, I’ve been thinking a lot about a certain flamboyant politician who’s been crowing around a lot lately. Yes, we’re not even through the first month yet and already the funding cuts and immigration blocks are scaring the very wits out of academia. We are looking down the barrel of a very rough few years with many of students potentially unable to attend American institutions and therefore unable to contribute tuition to the support of the schools; many researchers unable to travel to share their work or contribute to American science; and all of us crying for lost grants. My timing for moving here and taking an academic job certainly could have been better.

Fortunately, despite the worrying news that trickles every day from the White House, I have spent the past week very busy and largely in the best of company company. Monday’s charming weather (a blustery, rainy, and really quite heavy Nor’easter) left me migraine ridden and fit only to stumble my way directly to bed as soon as the work day was done.

Tuesday saw me racing from an all day tunnelling conference to a Bloomberg event about data science and machine learning and schmoozing with all manner of folk over all manner of free food and drink. There are worse ways to spend a day.

Wednesday, I left work and found my way to a tequila bar where I did not in fact drink tequila on account of a general wariness of a drink that causes so much chaos and has perhaps left its mark on me a time or two before so I opted for the brandy spiked horchata. It was rich and creamy and only ever so slightly intoxicating which was perfect because almost as soon as I’d landed in the low lit bar, I was up and off again to attend a talk about Tchaikovsky. You see, the Philharmonic is putting on a Tchaikovsky festival, and in the lead up to it, they offered a free lecture with the conductor for the festival speaking about Tchaikovsky. There is no composer I love even half so much as I love Tchaikovsky, so obviously I went. Tchaikovsky was such an interesting character and, if the passages they read from his letters are any indication of his character, I feel that he and I might perhaps share a personality trait or two, or at least a flavouring of the same philosophy. The letters, by the way, are beautiful beyond belief: so thoughtful, perceptive, and remarkably contemporary. I may need to see if I can track down a book of them.

After getting my fill of classical music I hurried back to the subway for my final stop of the night: west coast swing. Despite being a weeknight, it’s always a great crowd and, since I’ve started making a concerted effort to appear at each one, I’m allowing myself to believe that I’m getting out of the westie rut that I had been living in since I moved here. So I went out expecting the usual cast of characters and who should I run into? None other than a Victoria westie! She was in town for business and thought she’d come out dancing so, between dances and a glass or two of wine, we got all caught up and then as quickly as it had begun, the evening was over and I was off to bed.

The following night was ever so slightly less busy as I only attended one event, in this case a talk about an art installation/data project to demonstrate the effect of sea level rise in New York. It was interesting and the brainstorming session attached to it was a pleasing opportunity to submit my whimsical creativity to the world even if the rest of the ideas were rather more serious. There was also free pizza and beer.

And then suddenly it was Friday and my workday was clouded by the miasma of frightening executive orders lurking under the boisterous noise of a launch event hosted in our institute. Suffice to say, close of business could hardly come soon enough for me, and almost as soon as it did, I was off like a shot to Midtown to meet a friend for half price dim sum. Now I am impressively incompetent when it comes to ordering dim sum. Give me a standard Chinese menu and I will pull together an entirely respectable collection of dishes, but hand me a dim sum sheet and I’m lost. Fortunately the friend in question is of Cantonese extraction so he managed the ordering and all I had to do was eat. After dinner, some very hipstery coffee (it was delicious), and several hours of good conversation, I set off back through Midtown towards the subway, but when I got to the subway I just kept walking. In fact, I walked all the way home. It was brisk but not an unpleasant night and the city never ceases to deliver up fresh new scenes and sights. Every time I step onto the sidewalk I notice something new so, whenever I have the time, I really ought to just walk.

On this particular jaunt, I drifted down 6th until a red light slowed my progress and I turned east to cut across Washington Square Park. At night the park is terribly striking as all is rather dark but for the bright white archway at the entrance which is lit to stunning effect by flood lights on all sides. Once through the park, I skimmed along the top of Little Italy and Chinatown and in no time at all was safely home in my warm apartment with tea and a book. Sometimes it is the simplest things.

The following morning I work up unexpectedly early on account of the delightful clatter of garbage collection. I tidied the apartment, lazed about, and eventually toddled out into the world for an acupuncture appointment. It was my first time trying acupuncture and by god is it a strange experience. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time as a potential option to improve my asthma situation, but in Canada had never done it on account of its impacts on blood donor eligibility. Having elected not to participate in the rather confusing mosaic of blood donation here in the US and having recently acquired and impressive set of knots in my right shoulder, it was time to try the pokey solution.

It’s strange because you can barely feel the needles but you can feel your body responding to them. There are twitches and the feel of something shifting and moving; some even seemed to radiate their effects a long way down whatever channels they are acting upon. After 40 minutes of nearly falling asleep while cleverly disguised like a pin cushion, I found myself not only impressively relaxed but also working with a rather more cooperative shoulder. Any improvement to the asthma was unquantifiable, but I’ve booked a few more sessions so hopefully, by the end, there will be some change.

After my little adventure into alternative wellness, I naively packed up all my laundry and hauled it down five flights of stairs and two blocks before turning around and reversing the process right back up to my flat. You see, I knew it was Chinese New Year, but I had somehow not managed to put two and two together in my brain to realize that, on Chinese New Year, my Chinese laundromat was not likely to be open. So I scavenged a clean set of clothes from my drawers and gave up on the laundry.

Sometime later, after another jaunt through a very busy Chinatown to collect a few last minute groceries, I found myself on a train to New Jersey to help cook and eat a Chinese New Year dinner. We spent the afternoon preparing a mise en place, which meant that I was handed a very pleasing kitchen knife and told to chop my little heart out. Once everything was prepped, we popped out for wine and chocolate before the rest of the party arrived and the frying began. It was a wonderful night of delicious dishes, lovely people, and Cards Against Humanity. I could not have asked for a better Saturday.

Today was rather indulgent and I will admit that the laundry remains undone but I’ve finished another book so that’s got to count for something. And if it doesn’t you’ll have to believe that lazy Sundays are occasionally necessary and this was one of those times.

Contentedly (if not with politics),
The Salsa Girl


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