In Which Winter Visits New York

Visit being the operative word. Yes, we had one beautiful day of big fluffy, soft flakes floating lazily to the earth but by the following afternoon, there was nary a trace of snow to be seen. If the white Christmas map is to be believed, that’s probably the last we’ll have until January. And yes, some of you should be surprised. I’ve finally properly come around on snow. Now don’t go expecting me to love it if I’m ever responsible for removing it, but, provided that I live in a 5th floor apartment with a building manager who handles the shovelling, I’m prepared to fall quite madly in love with the romance of it. I have not however come to terms with carrying umbrellas in the snow. In 17 years of 6-8 months of snow a year, I never once saw someone face it with an umbrella, and I don’t intend to start doing so now. I do however intend to start doing a bit more sleeping because life’s been seriously exhausting of late.

Tuesday was the standard rigamarole of work and reading followed up by a nifty little bit of laziness but alas not sleep. Insomnia is such a charming thing. I especially like the part where my brain starts fighting my body and refusing to let go sufficiently to allow unconsciousness. It’s the most fun.

The following day I treated my frustrating noggin to a trip to The Strand. You’ll be very proud to note that I managed to resist pawing through every single discount book cart. I even managed to leave with only the two things I’d gone in to get. Trust me, even accounting for the 40 minutes that I entirely lost track of once inside, this counts as a win.

As a sort of concession to myself for my restraint in The Strand, I then stopped by the NYU library for a little treat. I returned one book and then bounced up immediately into the stacks to get another one. I traded the absolutely stunning Black Flower by Kim Young-Ha for Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. The former was a beautifully woven tapestry of love, politics, adventure, and mysticism, all bound up in straps of history and coloured richly with shadings of the human condition drawn from the most sensitive brush. Kim Young-Ha is like this. He writes with such clean, honest understanding of what it means to be human. To live, to die, to suffer, to love, and most of all to believe and to lose faith whether in love, religion, or politics. The previous two of his that I’d read were contemporary–nuanced and beautiful but now. This was something else entirely, resting on the edge of mythology and family saga but with such intimate, honest portraits of the human experience.

Man’s Search for Meaning, curiously enough has a similar tone. Though it steers clear of the saga, it deals tenderly and firmly with the hope and the pain inherent in living. It does not pretend that life will be great or that it will be pleasant, merely insists that it will be and it is our duty to live it as fully and truly as we can, whatever hand we’ve been dealt. I had heard that it was a powerful book but I had no notion how very powerful it was. I expect that I will be starting again from the beginning just as soon as I finish the end.

After trading one beautiful piece of literature for another, I headed home to stuff my face before making my way into dance. It was the first Wednesday sans Mandy and we all felt her absence. Have I mentioned that I miss her? It’s a funny little cosmopolitan life we all lead with friends in every corner of the earth that we see only occasionally but are forever bound to by education, work, travel, or dance.

A short sleep later, it was Thursday and time to go to work. I made my way through the day and on to the final session of the literacy program for this year. For my student it was his last session altogether. His mom has elected to prioritize math for now. While I know that has nothing to do with me, the combined evidence of his leaving and his only advancing one reading level where the program director had hoped he might make two, makes it very hard for me not to blame myself at least a little. For someone who has dared to pride herself on her ability to teach, it’s a bit of a blow to my confidence. Here’s hoping next semester is better?

After the emotional workout that was self-blame and mild disappointment, I then went home and exhausted my mental energy with 4 more hours of work. I love grant deadlines so. very. much. I cannot even begin to explain.

Friday was work from home day. Our office was being moved so after several weeks of gradually packing everything up, the movers were schlepping it all over to the new office and we were all banished for the day. I will freely admit that I took full advantage of the situation. I spent the entire day in pajamas working from beneath the comfort of my quilt and only leaving the house to fetch lunch and coquito supplies from Essex Street Market. After work, I turned coquito supplies into coquito and then settled down with my book and read the night away. There are worse ways to spend a Friday night.

Having had a lazy night in, I was actually able to wake up early and tend to my long neglected sourdough. It’s been months since I made bread so the sourdough is cantankerous at best and my patience was limited. The result is mediocre bread. The crumb is nicely hydrated but too tight and the crust is crisp but a touch too thick and sadly lacking in that beautiful flakey peel that artisan breads from bakeries always have. I’ve apparently a good bit more work to do. Nonetheless, I had fresh bread, hot coffee, rich coquito, and a beautiful snowy scene out my window. The flakes were so big they seemed to hang in the air before falling, heavy but weightless.

I popped out briefly for pizza but was soon driven back to my flat by the threat of heavily inebriated Santas. Yes, it was Santa Con, that spectacular bit of idiocy that involves hoards of humans dressed up as Santas and drunk since 11am. The sheer quantity of drunk screaming and incoherent babbling was alarming at best. After a brief recovery from the Santa chaos, I braved the outside world once again to meet up with Martina and Eloy. It would not have been so bad, but the F train had a door issue, and the passengers had a common sense issue, which resulted in a loss of nearly 30 minutes of my life on a platform and/or crammed into a tin can with entitled idiots who clearly don’t take the train on the regular. To say I got a bit New York would be a massive understatement.

When I finally escaped the dreaded F train and caught a D into Midtown, I found myself crossing 50th, with 6 avenues between me and where I wanted to be. Good god the crowds, and being tourists they had no sense of how to navigate a sidewalk, stay close to their companions, or properly keep track of children. I cut a line through the hoard and was the first across every intersection only pausing long enough to acknowledge the NYPD who stood on every corner protecting the tourists from the folly of following New Yorkers into a crossing.

By the time I got to Martina and Eloy, I was spitting fire and frustration, but fortunately my most excellent Italian immediately understood. Martina and I have very similar frustrations with people in large and unwieldy groups. After a short chat at a coffee shop, we made our way down to Grand Central where I showed them the ceiling and the whispering gallery and was pleased to see them appropriately awed by its beauty and grandeur. We topped off our evening together with a drink at District Social amongst the dregs of the Santas before they headed off to rest before their flight, and I headed off to dance.

Though I still missed my usual F train companion, I found myself a lovely new train buddy in the form of a French lecturer (also at NYU) who just happens to dance WCS and tap. The night train is always nicer with a friend.

On Sunday, I indulged in a slow easy morning with fresh bread, avocado, and eggs. Round about early afternoon, I set off to face the MTA again and was soon very glad for my relaxing morning. The train was already 10 minutes late when it reached me and then over the course of a typically 16 minute journey we picked up another 10 minutes of delay. When I finally hit solid ground, I found myself with less than 5 minutes to get to dance class. Taking that train ought to have gotten me to the door of the studio with 15 minutes to spare, but instead I was bolting down sidewalks to skid into class a mere two minutes late. At least I was well warmed up.

By the time we finished our warm up and stretch, I had forgotten the chaos of the trains and was well and truly into the class. It’s just such a phenomenal class. The instructor is lovable, sassy, and warm and his choreography just feels. so. damn. good. Every breath, every step has a place in the music, each extension or contraction feels like it could never have been anything else. This week’s class was a piece to Ending by Isak Danielson and it was so beautiful. Gentle, beautiful things are not usually my strength in dance—I tend to do better with sass and aggression—but this felt so good, I forgave my body its edges and angles and tried my hardest to just breathe into the music. It was heaven and I am so very lucky to live in a city where dancers like this are available to teach beginners like me.

After dance, Patrick and I dropped by a Bolivian cafe to replenish our lost calories with salteñas and mac n cheese. Delicious doesn’t even begin to describe. I have no idea what they make the salteña dough from, but it’s perfect, and the filling was even better, all rich and savoury with just a kiss of spice. Thank goodness, the cafe is nowhere near where I live or I’d have a whole new budgetary problem on my hands.

Today was back to the office, or rather into the new office for the first time. It was a busy day and the coffee machine has yet to be set up, so it was trying at best. But coffee or not, I now have an office and a comfy chair so I’ll be alright.

Watching the sky for snow,
The Salsa Girl



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