In Which There is Jet Lag

You know, I never get jet lag when I fly half way around the planet. Give me an 8 hour time change and I’m right as rain, but fly me across a continent and expect me to adjust to a 3 hour difference, even after only a week? Well, suffice to say, I’m not going to have a good time of it. As an innately nocturnal being, I find it terribly challenging to convince my charming cerebrum that it really is bedtime at 12am when it has the plausible deniability of a 3 hour time change. Not unexpectedly, I’ve been a bit tired this last week, what with being in the office by 8am and all that delightful good stuff.

I must admit however, that I may have exacerbated the problem with a bit of a maniacal plunge back into dance land. On Tuesday, once snapped, crackled, and popped a little closer to alignment, I bounded off into Midtown to check out a new dance school: Piel Canela. It’s conveniently located in Midtown alongside most of my other regular dance venues and it came recommended by my former director whose opinion on salsa is as good as gospel in my humble opinion.

Unused to the formality of a large dance school in a shared venue I rather botched the whole business of registration, which is to say that I didn’t do it at all initially but after talking my way into a Partnerwork Styling class, I was set aright by a fellow student and lead off to another studio where I was to pay. Everyone was ready to call it a night and go home so they elected not to bother with the actual registration. I suppose I’ll find out what that entails tomorrow. Yes, it was good enough that I’m going back for more even though I still struggle to stomach the $20/hour premium that NYC dance class seem to command.

Wednesday was the usual westie adventure, after the even more predictable duet of work and chiropractic treatment. Likely related to the aforementioned jet lag, I may have stayed out until the final song and maybe might have spent a good long while chatting on the sidewalk with a friend who happens to take the same train. There is little more satisfying than a good chat, except of course a good chat which provides an excuse to stay out well past one’s bedtime.

I did, however, suffer somewhat for my indulgent evening as the following night saw me entirely too tired to meet my planned dance obligations. Fortunately, there is always next week and I’ve all the very best intentions to make it out to Eddie’s intermediate class this coming Thursday.

Despite staying in the night before, Friday found me sleepy as ever, trying manfully to power my way through a busy day at work. I was doing admirably until about 4pm, when I headed over to the lab where I’d left a student seemingly happily conducting an experiment with soundless chemical demolition agents. Around 3 o’clock I’d helped him mix the cement and pour measured quantities into tubes and then I’d stripped off my safety gear and headed back to the office to get a bit more done before the day wrapped up. An hour later, I headed back to provide him some documentation. As I was walking down the hallway, I got an ominous text from the student wondering if perhaps his Professor was available. Moments later, I walked in to see one tube lying on its side, half melted and surrounded by a suspicious quantity of cement. Before I could even ask what had happened a second tube popped loudly and sprayed fragments of cement every which way. Mere minutes later, the third went up, blasting a ceiling tile into oblivion while the other two continued to puff contentedly away spewing little clouds of cement dust with each explosive burp.

Apparently, the room was too hot for expansive cements and this wasn’t the first time that one of my boss’s students has found their experiment punctuated by a blow out, but this was certainly one of the more dramatic ones. I left the student to supervise the still scalding pile of cement powder that laid all over the lab bench and I went off to collect ice-cream for the undergrads’ sundae party. Predictably, I bought entirely too much ice-cream, but, as I lost the receipt and so cannot get it reimbursed, I am now rewarding myself with morning affogati until I finally work my way through the tubs of frozen yumminess.

Following the feast of ice-cream covered in every imaginable topping, we tidied up the room we’d borrowed and I headed to Prospect Park for free music. Amongst the multitude of delightful free things that populate a New York summer, one of the most impressive options is the cavalcade of free music that comprises the Celebrate Brooklyn Festival. The festival features bands from The Shins to Lake Street Dive, and Fleet Foxes. For my part I was there to take in the indie-ful sounds of Andrew Bird. When I arrived at 6:15 for gates at 6:30, the queue already stretched all over inside of the park and three blocks up the street. And that was just the 9th St entrance. But there was free yogurt and the promise of music so I settled in to queue.

When we finally got in, I claimed a spot on the more dirt than grass hill and plopped down for the opening act. Esperanza Spalding put on an excellent jazz set rich with bass and saxophone and then, it was time for the main event. A crowd had gathered on the path directly behind the highly coveted rows of chairs so I rose to join them and found that, being the giant that I am, I was able to look easily over the heads of nearly everyone. A moment later it began. One doesn’t usually stop to appreciate the range of auditory possibilities inherent in a violin, but Andrew Bird uses them all and then some. As an accompaniment to his layered and looped violin, he not only sang but also whistled like bird of rare skill. For the first few songs it was only him, his violin, and a spinning double horned phonograph which lends the most ethereal tone to it all, and then the band joined in.

It was magic from start to finish. When the band hit the stage they alternated between creative indie rock masterpieces and folksy bluegrass tunes with all the whistling and violin picking one could wish for and then were was the encore. What an encore it was! First both Andrew and Esperanza returned to the stage for a jazzy bit of play, blending whistling, scatting, and a gorgeous walking bassline, and then Bird’s band retook the stage. It was the most rousing (revised) rendition of Table and Chairs that I had ever heard transitioning seamlessly into my very favourite Andrew Bird song: Fake Palindromes. It was so very delicious.

Saturday morning, my nocturnal tendencies caught up with me and I ended up indulging in a bit of a lie-in. I did however, manage to get up with enough day left to do laundry, clean the flat, buy groceries, and prep all my lunches for the week, so I’m going to call it a win. I may have been bit silly in my shopping however as I found myself at home with an armload of vegetables and a very peculiar (on sale) tropical fruit. It turns out that mamey sapota is very tasty but also very fibrous and not exactly conducive to a contented tummy. Smaller doses next time I think.

I then spent the evening attempting to dye my hair exciting colours while actually just discovering that my hair is now too dark a blonde to take semi-permanent colour. My disappointment with this development is more keen than I can say.

With faintly strawberry blonde hair, I soon found myself on the humble D train rocketing down the rails to the Bronx. Why the Bronx? Why else but Yamulee? Yes, it was their monthly social and I was there like the dirtiest of shirts. I just cannot stay away. Nowhere else in the city has quite such consistently skilled dancers and even though it takes the better part of an hour to get there and the dance doesn’t actually kick off until 11:30, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. As the best kind of bonus, a swing friend, formerly of the salsa persuasion met me there with a few of her old salsa friends. Not only was it great to see her and meet them, but she also emboldened me with her fearless nature.

I am so shy about asking good dancers to dance but she has no such qualms. She blithely approaches whomever she chooses and seems to have such confidence and certainty of her self-worth that no salsa snob scares her. So, guided by her example, I was bold enough to ask a few leads who I’ve been watching with great admiration for months. And the best bit? They even seemed to enjoy it! If there was a cure for shyness and the fear of impropriety, I’d be downing every bottle I could find, and don’t you dare say alcohol: I’ve tried it and it’s not nearly strong enough for my particular affliction.

When the dance finally wound down, we headed back to the D train which was far less forlorn with company. It’s a long old ride alone at 2:30am, but with company it hardly seems so at all. At last we reached the LES where hunger crossed paths with my favourite pizza joint. Chatting and gossiping about life, the universe and everything over the best pizza in my neighbourhood carried us from 3:30 on past 4:30 and by the time I actually made it back to my apartment it was gone 5am.

I suppose it won’t surprise you to hear that I slept until 1:30pm the next day but let me tell you it surprised the pants right off me! I haven’t had such an indulgent lie-in in years! So I decided to keep the indulgence train rolling and headed to my local market for treats. I was all out of olive oil so I started at the shop which specializes in spices and oils. The shopkeeper fed me a smorgasbord of oil samples from truffle to basil to a house special with parmesan, chilies, garlic, and some other form of heaven that I don’t quite know the name for. But of course, my own weaknesses were soon swiftly found and I fell head over heels in love with a saffron scented oil. It has got to be one of my favourite flavours, neither too faint nor too strong and complimentary with nearly everything including chocolate.

I think the shopkeeper finally got a bead on me when I nearly swooned over the saffron and, clever man that he was, he next cajoled me into trying three beautiful balsamics. The first was a fig and vanilla vinegar and it took every ounce of self-control I possessed not to walk away with a bottle. It was like syrup, so thick and rich and sweet, balanced with just the right acidity. I will buy a bottle eventually, but for now, let’s pretend that I am not actually such a slave to flavour. Following that bit of magic, I was fed a coconut balsamic and an aged balsamic which seemed hardly to be vinegar at all! They were so sweet and nuanced and absolutely to die for which is why I will probably have to start putting my pennies away into an oil and vinegar fund. Incorrigible is one word.

Having pocketed my bottle of oil, I drifted past the artisan bakery where I acquired a pound of ciabatta before making the most indulgent stop of the day: the imported cheese shop. I had thought to hold myself to a simple chèvre (cows milk cheese doesn’t tend to play all that nicely with my digestive tract), but I had grievously underestimated. As I waited in the queue I realized that my choices in the tone of goat numbered at least 10. They had everything from fresh creamy chèvre to every imaginable variety of hard cheese and just as I thought I might get lost entirely, the keeper of this particular shop reached over the counter to hand me a shred of the most beautiful prosciutto—a slice not quite to her standard for packing into paper for the fellow in front of me.

When it was finally my turn I tasted a Chèvre Haut-Bearn, a hard but mild cheese of French extraction, before meeting my match in a beautiful goat’s milk Brabander. It was almost pinkish in colour, so obviously I was intrigued and when I tasted it? It was the perfect nutty, rich cheese with enough character to keep me intrigued without drifting into the dangerous territory where fragrant turns to smelly. I nearly made it out with just my 1/4lb of cheese but then at the counter I spotted French caramels. When I tossed one onto my cheese, the shopkeeper murmured approvingly “oh good choice, that’s a good pairing” and I bounded off to find out whether that just marketing or truth. Spoiler alert: it was truth.

As soon as I got home from the market I settled in with a pot of tea, a few slices of bread, a bowl of oil, a jar of my mom’s homemade jam, and, of course, my cheese and caramel. I cannot even begin to put into words the joy that that food brought me. There is something so sublime about eating bread and oil, and cheese and caramel may soon reach the same elevated status in my mind. The nuttiness of the cheese played beautifully on the sweetness of the caramel while, texturally, the soft caramel seemed to enrobe the fragments of firm, nearly squeaky cheese as I alternated bites. I would gush more but I’m salivating already and I really can’t afford to go buying $25/lb cheese on the regular, even if it is the tummy-safe goat variety.

Having whiled away the afternoon over food, I then headed out to Jimmy Anton’s social. It was the first time I’d been since the studio replaced their floor. I had always loved the events at Stepping Out but every time I left with ankles in agony and knees complaining bitterly. Apparently a floating floor really does make a difference because after an evening of dance that left me dripping with sweat, my joints were unfazed. Small victories.

And then it was time to head home and, as luck would have it, I crossed paths with another dance friend who happened to be heading to Delancey as well. So another train journey home was spent gossiping idly about dance and enjoying the small luxury of companionship while riding trains in this big bad city I love.

Today it was work, then chiropractic followed by the last bits of blended carrot soup that had been living in my freezer for months and now I am lying in bed listening to music and writing to all you lovelies. I’m trying to keep Mondays as my night off so that I actually get these blogs out on time, but I make no promises as to how long that will last.

Forever a gourmande,
The Salsa Girl

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