In Which A Nor’ Easter Blows In

Though it’s not yet been a week since I finally got around to writing the last blog, it feels like it’s been ages! I’ve dodged a frightful Nor’ Easter, danced well beyond dawn, and even dragged my butt back to the office after lovely long weekend away. We’re now gearing up for yet another Nor’ Easter but before we get there, let catch you all up on the last few days of shenanigans.

Thursday evening, I was predictably overbooked and so sped out of work, full tilt on my way to not only catch a talk but also prepare for a weekend of dance. My first stop was Essex Market to pick up a bag of chestnuts a la Mandy. Yes, it’s a thing now. Every since Mandy brought a bag of chestnuts to an event, our little posse has determined chestnuts to be a necessary addition to every dance weekend and since I am the only one now living on the Lowe East Side, chestnuts collection falls to me. I also needed to grab some porridge and instant noodles so it was no great inconvenience, but the fact that Essex Market closes at 7pm meant slipping my visit into the very narrow margin between work and chiropractic care. I made it work, in only barely, and skidded into my chiropractor’s office just in time. He managed to get most of my kinks worked out but alas my dastardly right shoulder proved intractable and I left without the satisfying release that comes along with the pop of my shoulder bouncing back into place. I dream of a day when my shoulders will be functional and pain free. I may always dream of that.

Once I’d been bent back into some approximation of shape, I headed over to NYU’s Law School for another excellent talk at the Center on Race, Inequality, and Justice. I am endlessly impressed by the excellence of their speakers and remain ever a novice in the understanding of both race relations and justice in the USA. The best/worst bit of living in NYC is how fully and richly I have become aware of my own intellectual blindspots and knowledge deficits. There is so much I don’t know and so many people so much wiser and more knowledgable than I am. Fortunately they are also inspiring and leave me with quotes like:

Hope is a good thing but it’s not a strategy. ~Tony Thompson

Our lives are not our own, they belong to those who need us desperately. ~Stephen Bright quoting Elie Wiesel

Post-enlightenment, I headed home to fill a backpack and tumble into bed in anticipation of the coming weekend of dance. I will someday learn to pack only what I need for a dance weekend and at that point will be able to carry a much more reasonably sized weekender, but until that time should come, my hiking backpack and I will remain the very best of friends.

Friday morning, I rolled myself out of bed, tidied the apartment and headed out into the questionable weather to Penn. Yes, a Nor Easter was rolling in bringing sleet, snow, rain, and high winds. The LES was mostly subject to snow, but by the time I got to Midtown, the high winds had begun to assert themselves, making for a well and truly frigid journey from Herald Square to Penn Station. Being the most neurotic, I was there plenty early. Early enough to pick up a few doughnuts from Under West, including the delicious Carwash doughnut which is glazed with squiggles of pastel and flavoured with lavender. My two partners in crime, were unfortunately struck by some delightful subway luck and found themselves skidding into Penn just in time to hop onto our planned NJT train. Had they been even a minute later, we likely would have had to wait another 15 minutes for the next train, which, as you will soon discover, could have proved disastrous.

Ten minutes later, we were at Secaucus, crawling into Jessie’s car for the drive to Baltimore. The winds were rising and the rain and sleet were swirling but it was still manageable and the roads were good, until suddenly Google Maps told us to reroute. It’s suggested rerouting seemed like absolute madness, leading us out into the wilderness over only 4 little accidents on the 95. So we ignored it an pressed on, switching to Waze to track the status of the crashes. Two were quickly cleared but the other two stubbornly remained, and then we passed a truck parked across an exit with a very improvised looking sign indicating that the 95 North was closed. It was at that point that we decided that maybe Google and Waze had a valid point and took their most recent advice for a diversion. It was a smaller diversion than originally suggested but a diversion nonetheless. We could not have chosen a better moment to change tack. Mere minutes after we left the 95 Google reported the road closed in both directions across the Susquehanna. We made our way across the bridge on the 40 which would soon close behind us, and pottered down to Baltimore through slightly heavier than expected, but nonetheless manageable traffic. Expecting a 3 hour trip and ending up with a 4.5 hour trip was not ideal and nearly made one of our party miss one of her comps, but we would soon find out that we were the luckiest of New York ducks.

As the evening evolved, we first heard from a friend who was intending to take Amtrak: all Amtrak service had been cancelled for the Northeast Corridor. He would not be making it down until the morning. Then we heard from the first of the bussers. They had intended to arrive at 4pm but were now stuck in an increasingly convoluted mass of detours. They were, however, fortunately possessed of a very dedicated driver who valiantly rerouted over every necessary backroad to get them across the only remaining open bridge cross the Susquehanna. Around the same time, we heard from another friend who was driving and was stuck in traffic watching the livestream of the event as a proxy. Though his party had made the correct rerouting decision and was headed for the bridge on Route 1, they were accompanied by everyone else who had had to reroute and so were crawling through bumper to bumper along with the aforementioned bus.

Next to call in their embattled situation was another friend on a bus with a less magnificent driver. This particular soul was dedicated to his route and would not consider any alternative so they were packed into the gridlock that lay before the now very much closed bridge on the 95. For hours their bus sat and the poor stranded friend sent screenshot after screenshot of her Google Maps which showed no movement at all.

As we continued to follow the drama on the bus on the 95, another friend checked in to say that his carpool was taking the long way around via backroad after backroad and was meeting ever more detours as each attempted reroute was foiled by downed trees and powerlines. At the point of contact, he was sitting in a traffic jam with the wind blowing the cars as if to move them even as they sat in total gridlock. As the evening went on I spoke to another group of friends who had left the city at 8:30am but ended up only reaching Baltimore at 4:30pm. Another reported that it had taken him 8 hours on the road, while we heard of folks from as close as Philly stuck on the highway for 7+ hours. When the aforementioned friend in traffic on the 95 finally made it to us at 5am after getting on the bus at 1pm, we truly understood our luck. I have no idea what magic we pulled, but I shall thank timing, Waze, and the fact that we managed to catch our 9:46 NJT despite the best efforts of the MTA to hold my travel buddies hostage.

In and amongst all the travel drama, we also got be a very proud batch of New Yorkers. One of our crew who normally follows, after plenty of partnering chaos thanks to the travel fiascos that surrounded us from every direction, ended up leading in Advanced Strictly and won! He was spectacular!

After watching comps, we danced until about 5am (yes, we met our poor 16 hour bus rider racing into the hotel to DJ just as we were leaving the ballroom), crashed for a few hours, and then rolled out of bed for another day of competition. MADJam is such an insane event. There were over 1500 contest entries and I’ve never had such consistently good social dances. So it really was a miracle that I managed to make semi finals. Out of a field of 94 intermediate followers, I made 22nd in prelims, but apparently was less effective in semis where I fell to 37th out of 46. In the first, all but one of the judges called me back, in the latter only the California judge, so my theory holds. I must dance like a Californian. But let that not make any of you think that I’m about to go compete in Cali and expect anything other than disaster. I may dance like a Californian, but not a good Californian. I have plenty of work still before me and I cannot blame my draws in the slightest–they were on aggregate the highest calibre leaders I’ve ever drawn in a competition.

After comps, we ate sushi at a painfully trendy restaurant next to the hotel and settled in to watch showcase. We managed to keep our eyes open for both the amazing Showcase and Classic routine divisions but then passed out for the 45 intervening minutes before the Champions Jack n Jill division. Forty five minutes of sleep was massively insufficient and I barely kept my drooping eyelids open, despite the degree of awesome that was taking place before me. Literally moments after the final song, I flopped back into unconsciousness for a few hours before waking up at almost 4am to head to the ballroom. It was still as full as an average event at 1am. It was madness. We stayed out dancing until they kicked us all out of the ballroom for floor trials at 8am. There were at least 50 people still in the ballroom when they finally booted us out.

Fools that we are, Jessie, Patrick, and I decided that we would wander out into the outside world in search of breakfast. Though we did end up with cheaper and tastier food than we would likely have found in the hotel, we were also met by a bone chilling wind that handily cut through all the layers I had at my disposal. It was bracing to say the least and thank heavens it ended with warm breakfast sandwiches in a cozy cafe. Once fed, we braved the cold once more and once back at the hotel, collapsed unceremoniously back into bed for another few hours of sleep before check out at noon.

Sunday saw us taking in the last of the finals and dancing in the intermissions. The All Star Jack n Jill was fabulous with two of my favourite followers absolutely killing it and grabbing 1st and 2nd for their efforts! Finally it was time for the JT Swing team exhibition immediately after which Patrick and I Manhattaned our way to the luggage holding area to collect all our carpool’s things before meeting our awesome JT Swing performers for the drive home. We made a quick stop for gas in the ghetto–yes, there were random dudes sitting on the curb shouting at anyone who got out to gas up and throwing things at an occasional car–before hitting the highway and heading homewards.

We made a quick stop for burgers and milkshakes before watching a beautiful big old golden moon rise through the trees to guide us home. Jessie dropped the three of us at Secaucus where we got to watch the dysfunction of NJT before our very eyes while our planned 11:17 train stopped dead 16 minutes from the station and sat there. We eventually caught the 11:25 train while the 11:17 still read “16 minutes away” and I couldn’t help but wonder what was up on the Northeast Corridor line that I used to ride so often.

This morning I rolled out of my coma at an indulgent 9am. I’d taken the morning off to attempt to evade illness and I’m optimistic that it might have worked. I met my boss in Lower Manhattan at 11:45 to get my marching orders for the week, then dropped down into Brooklyn, and powered through as much as I could in the entirely too few hours left in the day. There’s just never enough time for my to-do list!

After work, I headed to Read718 where my tutee and I went for a soft start with lots of games before easing into the work for the day. It was much smoother than the past few sessions so here’s hoping that it continues. Leaving that, I headed for the Square to attend a fascinating talk on neuroscience and art…which occurred on February 5th. I’m good at calendaring, I swear.

So now I’m back in my cozy little 5th floor room eating consolation pizza and macarons and writing to you all. The long is above and the short is: goddamn MADJam is a great event, worth every ounce of resulting exhaustion! Kay and Dave put on a very crisp, well produced convention and even a brutal Nor Easter that closes half the North East can’t get them down!

Post-congress bluesing just a lil bit,
The Salsa Girl


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