In Which London Giveth and London Taketh Away

Though I’ve never lived in London, it has been creeping around the periphery of my existence for years and then all in one week, it both snatched a dear friend away, and delivered another. Yes, on Saturday I bid farewell my partner in Lower East Side shenanigans as she set off for London via Chengdu, a victim of protectionist policies rescued by a multinational with offices elsewhere. In the interest of not devolving into a miserable little sad sack for the rest of this blog, I shall leave it at: Imma miss her like crazy but have no doubts that she will take London by fantastic swing dancing storm! And then that very same night, a plane arrived from London delivering another beloved friend, this time one of my fantastic library ladies: Martina. This is not the same Canadian Martina who visited me earlier this year, no this is the passionate Italian Martina who I met while doing my masters in Ireland. So it has been a week of emotion, both happy and sad, and somehow London sits at the centre of it all.

But before we get into the whole great revolving door that is JFK, allow me to quickly catch you up.

On Tuesday I powered through another busy day at the office before popping off to try to keep my student awake enough to read. I feel like it’s probably nearly impossible to learn when the only way to stay awake is to stay standing. Yes, we read while standing up so that this poor kid wouldn’t pass out on the table. I can’t imagine being a classroom teacher knowing that your kids were falling behind, not because they weren’t capable but because they just weren’t rested. Breaks my heart a bit.

The following day at work saw me bouncing between Manhattan and Brooklyn like a veritable ping pong ball. I spent the morning in the office, popped up to Washington Square for a lunch talk, back to the office for the afternoon and another talk right after, and then back into Manhattan to buzz my apartment before heading up to Harlem. Yup, Harlem. 150 blocks later, I was curled up in a friend’s studio watching dance videos. It’s productive but painful to watch your own dance videos, but it’s got nothing on attending a critique session with friends. Yup, we watched ourselves dancing and traded feedback and as the worst westie in the room, I definitely got my ego resized. I’d like to say it motivated me to practice, and it did, but I just don’t have time!

So having pared down our self-images, of course, we went to dance. It’s always hard to dance well when you’re busy focussing on the million things that you hate that you do, but we did our best and in no time at all it was the last song and we were all headed to the trains.

Suffering from the usual Thursday malaise that follows a late night at dance, I wombled my way through the workday, tripped through tutoring, and almost by accident found myself in a small, dark Brooklyn bar sipping spectacular cocktails with the rest of the tutors. I met a girl who’d grown up between Hawaii, China, and who knows where else, and another working as a Russian translator and dancing argentine tango by night. It was a very pleasing evening altogether, and that was just the beginning. After cocktails, I returned to Manhattan to join the westies at a free social night in Greenwich Village. It’s not my favourite floor in the world but I had a lovely hot toddy, and was surrounded by fantastic friends so I mostly just socialized and left the dancing to the more enthusiastic types.

Finally, it was Friday. I was running around rather with my hair on fire, but we’re switching offices this week and I don’t trust movers with my beloved plants so I made time to join one of the tours of the space to deliver my over enthusiastic and much adored Epipremnum aureum into my new office. I will be dropping in at least a few times this week to check on it and make sure it’s still alright without my somewhat negligent but very well meaning care.

After work, I made my way to Mandy’s for a goodbye party/distribution of miscellaneous items that would otherwise be meeting the bin. It’s starting to get slightly depressing how often I’ve attended this very same sort of gathering wherein a fond friend is attempting to lighten their load before winging off across an ocean or so. It was a cozy evening with fun games and at least a few tears. My collection of nail polish has also grown precipitously.

Saturday morning, I woke up, tidied the flat and headed off to broga. Broga? you ask, What’s broga? Well, allow me to enlighten you. Broga is that magnificent thing which occurs when a big buff fella walks into your yoga class and takes the teacher’s position. Relaxation? Dancing through poses? Absolutely no! Instead it’s 90 minutes of burning muscles, endless reps, pouring sweat, and always an arm balance. It’s very good for me. It’s also very VERY hard. I left exhausted and fully aware of how much work my arms and especially my wrists yet require. Soon after I got home, Mandy dropped by with a few final items. We sipped some final cans of beer and chatted the afternoon away until I had to run away to a work thing and Mandy to final leaving preparations and JFK.

The work thing in question was a hackathon that I had agreed to help judge so I stopped by the empty Five Guys (it’s a business district—everything is empty of a Saturday) to treat myself to a burger before heading upstairs to put on my judging cap and attempt to ask intelligent questions of student with technical skills far and away above mine. Fortunately all three judges agreed and soon I was bounding back to Manhattan to change, rest, and head into Midtown for more dance. I had all the best intentions but ended up sitting more than dancing as I could feel the broga digging deeply into my left SI and decided that perhaps I ought not to chance it.

Sunday morning, I got up early-ish, did laundry and headed into Midtown to sip coffee and read just south of the park. By 2:30pm I was nervously warming up in a Contemporary Jazz class and by 4:00pm I was wandering out delighted. I have SO much to work on, but Chris Jackson at Ailey teaches a class to welcoming and empowering and full of sass that I cannot help but leave feeling stronger and brighter and more worthy than I ever imagine I will. It helped that as I was leaving the class, he told me how much he enjoyed how I really lived one of the sassiest moves in the piece. Ego, recovered.

Post dance, I headed North up the side of the park and in about 20 minutes, was finally reuniting with Martina. We haven’t seen each other in over two years so it was absolutely wonderful to see her again. We strolled all through and around the park, drifted down Park and Madison to 5th where we found beautiful Christmas windows and the bizarre American phenomenon that is the American Girl Doll store before eventually making our way to K-Town for supper. It was mandoo and bibimbop at Mandoo Bar and it was delicious—exactly the warm spicy food that one needs after a brisk winter walk around Midtown.

Of course once we were in K-Town, a trip to Cloud Bar was unavoidable. We rode the elevator up 17 floors and stepped out onto one of my favourite rooftop bars directly under the Empire State. In the winter it’s serene and beautiful with ample heat lamps and only slightly over-priced drinks. Being me, I fell victim to the seasonal drinks and settled in with a spiked hot chocolate. While we sat there, an Irish family drifted in and we helped them take pictures and had a brief chat before they necked their drinks and headed out into the night. The stereotype was strong with those three.

And that about brings us up to now. I floundered my way through the workday drowning in deadlines before meeting Martina and her traveling companion for dinner in Little Italy. We worked off our dinner with a walk about Lower Manhattan before I dropped them at Chambers Street station and headed home to clatter across my keyboard until the above emerged. I’ve really got to stop writing these thing hurriedly late at night, but until I do, bear with me, please?

Slipping towards sleep,
The Salsa Girl


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