In Which There is West Coast on the East Coast

Lemme tell ya, sometimes you come home from work all full of good intentions. You’re going to make food for the rest of the week, tidy your room, write your blog, go to bed early, and then you casually open your mailbox as you walk through the entryway and out falls a big old envelop of fear and hell. I guess my little fiasco with the CRA over the last two weeks set their little noses a twitching and now I’m being audited. Bonus points for a $3 typo, an error caused by the tax software you used, and a wholly different return when you put basically all the identical information back into the same program. I have 30 days. I will probably spend this weekend huddled over a desk covered in paperwork trying to figure this whole mess out and praying that by the time I sort the audit, the CRA has sorted my residency and we can all play nice again until next tax season. Remind me next February that I could just hire an accountant and that would not be a terrible way to spend a small pile of my precious little hoard of savings.

So now it’s 10:30, I’m not exactly in the best possible form, and I really need to get to sleep at some point because I am frighteningly swungover, bear with me?

Last Tuesday, blithely convinced that I’d solved all of my problems on my lunch break, I left work, wandered up to my chiropractor and then bounced off into Midtown for dance. It was an entirely average sort of a day wherein I probably stayed up too late, but it was fine, it was Tuesday, I had all the time in the world before I needed to be ready to go to DC on Friday morning. Sometimes I apparently tempt fate.

The following morning I would find my workload rather dramatically increased in the most irresistible way. I mean, I hadn’t nearly enough time, but one does not say no to an offer of authorship, so I settled in to scrounge data, crunch numbers, and try to chew my way through a replication paper in rather fewer days than one might hope for. I left the office in a bit of a daze, ran home to switch bags and change for dance, and headed into Midtown for dinner and drinks with some lovely lady friends. I was not the only one who found herself fleeing the office rather later than expected and I was afraid that I would have to run off to a dance class before one of my dinner companions arrived but, rather conveniently, it turned out that the dance class I’d expected wasn’t actually on at all. Instead we sat, drank, ate, and got all manner of gossiping and amusement out of our systems.

It’s been a bit of a while since I last had good lady friends living in the same city as me, and I have to say that I love it. There is something so deeply good and whole hearted about spending an evening talking about everything and nothing, perfectly openly, with warm, intelligent, and endlessly amusing friends—it feeds my soul like little else.

Sometime later, we drifted over to dance where we stayed right until the very last song before wandering back out into the night to find a train home. And then in almost no time at all it was the next day and I was in the office learning about the space between optimism and reality. Of course, the data I was trying to collect proved absolutely intractable and there I was spending hour after hour trawling the internet for all the little fragments I needed to compose the narrative. Somewhere around 4:30 I emerged from my data haze, saw the time, and fled from the office like a shot! I made it to the chiropractor with barely a minute to spare, got my neck all snapped and crackled, and then schlepped over to a cafe to settle in for an hour or two more of obsessive work. You see when you end up spending the entire day in a manic data delirium, you may find that you’ve reached the end of the day and still not managed to fit in the half a dozen quick little tasks you swore you’d do before the all consuming obsession that decided to walk into your day.

Fortunately, I found a relaxed little Australian/Argentinian cafe where they make a damn fine chai latte, so the work went quickly and soon I was dodging the clean up crew as I paid my bill and skedaddled out into the night. We will not talk about how late I was lying on my bed running descriptive statistics and pawing through publications and CVs, but by the time I closed my laptop and set to packing, I had all the data I needed and most of the analyses.

I stuffed about a week’s worth of clothing into my backpack, cursed myself for not managing to fetch snacks from a grocery store, and collapsed into bed.

The following morning I grabbed a selection of snacks from the bodega and hopped a bus up to Gramercy Park to meet my carpool crew for the drive to DC and dance! I met the first in a coffee shop where we caffeinated and chatted until the driver arrived and we all piled in (only sort of blocking the street) and set out on the road to Swing Fling. As is always the way when you have somewhere to be, we hit some beastly bits of traffic and skimmed into the hotel just in time for me to check in, change, and hit the dance floor for Strictlies.

I have never actually had a consistent competition partner before and I have to say that my current arrangement suits me very well. We’ve only managed to fit one practice in thus far, what with travel schedules and all, but when we stepped onto the floor in our matching black and grey, it felt so good to be competing with someone whose lead I know and trust. Certainly, we weren’t without flaws, but we were connected to each other and to the music and to be honest, that’s the bit that matters most to me. We left the floor feeling fairly good and set off to scrape up supper. As the event was in an airport hotel, there was nothing nearby and the rain was starting to fall so we placed an order at a Thai place and I set off with another partner in crime to slip in a grocery run. We got all manner of food, booze, and soaking wet. The rain had turned into a down pour and, clever creature that I am, I’d forgotten my umbrella. So we ran through the rain and arrived back to the hotel just in time for Thai.

After stuffing our faces, Patrick and I were back to the ballroom for finals. We had a bit of a rough go on our second song when we happened to land on a piece of floor far better described as ice. We could barely keep our feet beneath us but we hung on hard and redeemed ourselves as best we could with our final song. We left the floor utterly uncertain as to the result and could only wait for awards later that night.

Sometime later, while Patrick slept off some late night gigging from the night before, I sat in the ballroom waiting to hear the verdict. Unlike Liberty, they were only announcing the top three not the top five. I resigned myself to anonymity. They announced 3rd. Not us. I thought, ah we must have gotten fifth again, or maybe 4th. They announced 2nd. Not us, and I thought, well of course, I mean we wouldn’t have made top two. And then they announced 1st and I sprang off the floor like the happiest of puppies and loped out onto the floor to collect my first ever first place win! Based on the free pass that composed half of my prize, I guess I’m going to Upstate. Yup, because I am the most responsible of adults, I will be doing three dance weekends in a row starting just two weeks from now. You may keep your opinions of my sanity to yourself, please.

After the prizes we had some whiskey and gin and headed down to dance the night away. I made it just past 4am before my week of exhaustion pulled me down and I fell unceremoniously into bed.

The following morning it was time for a few classes before another round of competing, this time in Jack ’n’ Jills. My very first partner was a lovely fellow with whom I had danced to a very similar song in comps at Liberty. He might be one of my favourite people to draw in prelims. He’s just very solid and clean and vanilla in the best possible way. We take no risks, we make no (okay, fine not many) mistakes, and we have a lovely time. Two partners later, I was waiting to see if my garbled name would make its way onto the semi-finals screen. Lo and behold, when the followers list popped up, so did my beloved apostrophic failure of a last name O&#8217Neill. It’s been suggested that I could go by O-f*ck-Neill at events, and by about the 3rd time I see my poor apostrophe thus mangled, I become terribly tempted.

Semis were a bit of an adventure and I must admit that I had no real expectations of making the finals, but I guess the world smiled on me and the judges looked at the right moments because later that night I was once again to see the mass of ASCII that I’ve come to know as my swing name.

Prior to that happy finding, however, we took a zouk class, collected the crew and headed to the grocery store to buy rotisserie chicken. We’d done it up in Boston earlier this year, and it was just the best! When you’re exhausted and hungry and sitting in a hotel room, there is just nothing like the ever so affordable spread of a couple grocery store rotisserie chickens and few tubs of potato salad. This time we up skilled with some chips, dip, and veggies, but the real prize was the chicken and the passion fruit moscato. We sat and we ate and we drank and we watched the comps and shows on the live stream from the comfort of the couch.

As the last of the shows ended, I thought I’d have a quick nap before I headed down to dance. Three hours later, at quarter to four in the morning, I woke up having completely missed my alarm to the hurried preparations of my partner in napping crime who was on her way down to DJ.

I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, slipped back into my sandals and went down to dance. I am told that, by following my roommate down to her DJ set, I had arrived at exactly the right time and, though I don’t know what came before, I can definitely attest to the excellence of what came after! Sometime around 6:30 I elected to bring my dancing and chatting to an end and take my sleepy face to bed so that I’d have a hope of performing with some level of skill in my final the following day.

When I rolled out of bed the next morning, it was time to tidy up the warzone of food and drink that was our room before agonizing over an outfit, swiping on makeup, and heading down to compete. Sometimes you get an amazing draw whose lead just meshes with your follow perfectly, sometimes you just have fun. To put it concisely, 9th out of 15 was a shock, and a pleasant one no less. Following that particular adventure, I was lured out into the lobby by donuts and later out into the sun by good company. I spent most of the rest of the afternoon roaming around, chatting and lounging and eating until it was time to pile back into the car and head back to the city.

We had a great carpool crew with lots of good conversation ranging from utter hilarity to rather deep discussions about life, values, etc. It’s a long drive to be sure, but it didn’t feel nearly as long as it might have in that company. We stopped briefly to pick up some kungpao chicken, and then before we knew it, the Manhattan skyline was swinging up on our left lit by the unearthly glow of a massive harvest moon. I remember seeing the big, heavy, golden orb hanging over my childhood fields and forests but I’d never seen one suspended between skyscrapers before. We almost didn’t believe it was the moon it looked so huge and unreal. And then, as harvest moons tend to do, it soon slipped away to a more normal size, though still shining a brilliant, tangerine glow.

Just as the moon began to shrink we began our crawl through the Holland Tunnel and with one lane closed we eventually made out last slow stretch under the Hudson and back to the city. Mandy and I had great ambitions of pizza, but alas, my apparently-not-actually-24-hour pizza joint was closed so we parted ways and I went immediately home to crash.

And then today happened. I dragged my exhausted, swungover self manfully through a long, and fairly full-on day at work with the promise of a relaxed evening and an early night. But I guess the CRA got the memo and didn’t want me to get complacent so instead I spent my evening trying hopelessly to work out the mess that my choice of tax software made. It would have been far too easy for them to audit me on a year when I knew exactly what I was doing and that I was right.

I shall consider this an exercise in developing an unshakeable state of calm. I will also refrain from measuring my blood pressure this week.

Swungover so hard,
The Salsa Girl

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