In Which the Salsa Girl Finally Wins Something

After I left you all last Wednesday, I set out to catch some live music at the Lincoln Center. I’m always game for live music, but Don Perignon for $17? Well that was just too good to resist so I hopped on a train and headed up to the Lincoln Center. When I got there I found an outdoor dance floor and one of my favourite salsa bands setting up on stage. I probably should have danced more but it was just too hard to tear myself away from the stage so I spent most of the evening with my eyes glued to the musicians and a goofy delighted grin on my face. There is just nothing quite so nice as live music, especially music that’s as complex and interesting as salsa. Once the band wrapped up, I was back on a train headed for Midtown where I spent the balance of my evening at dancing west coast swing and chatting with friends.

On Thursday I wandered sleepily home from work, made a quick trip to the chiropractor and then spent the rest of the evening packing and preparing for a weekend of dance! You see, it was Liberty Swing weekend and I hadn’t a single extra second between work and trains on Friday if I had a hope of making it out to New Brunswick in time for the Strictly Swing competitions. So I went into work at 7am, veritably flew out of the office at 3pm and took the fastest slow train to New Jersey. I arrived in time to check in, change, and head to the dance floor to compete in Novice Strictlys with the one and only jazz pianist extraordinaire, Patrick Connolly. I had no notion that competing could feel so comfortable and solid. I may be spoiled forever now. We never once fell off time! And by hook or by crook we managed to snag 5th! I will admit that, being a perfectionist, I am not exactly “satisfied” but I was certainly very pleased to have finally placed in SOMETHING in west coast swing.

The following day I managed to get to semi-finals in the Jack ’n’ Jill though I didn’t make it through to the finals. Sometimes you get 5th, sometimes you just feel glad you made semis. Either way, after weeks of insomnia and with a constantly aching shoulder, I was in no shape for all night dancing so I actually took it fairly easy, went to bed comparatively early, and left just after midday on Sunday to get back into the city in time to take the undergrads to a play.

It’s been years since I read 1984 and to be perfectly honest I found it dry and painful to read, but it’s been translated into theatre and the undergrads wanted to go, so I thought, ah what the heck. What the heck indeed. It was one hell of a play! Like the book it was disorienting, nesting truths within falsehoods within truths and never letting you settle for a moment on one true story line. And the soundtrack was perfect. It kept a person so tightly wound that every flash-bang, ever blackout, every crash seemed almost too much to bear. And then they got to Room 101. I was not ready for Room 101. I suppose it would be hard to ever be ready for that scene, even in the book, but it was so brutal and so real and the moment they broke the fourth wall, I was practically shaking. But that was nothing compared to the climax of that scene. I won’t spoiler it for you, but I will say that I cried desperate, heartbroken, panicked tears at that moment, and if I wasn’t a well trained, polite, quiet Canadian, I might have cried out at the brutal realism of that moment.

I don’t know if I was more woke or shook, but I cannot pretend that I wasn’t affected. That said, I don’t know if I can recommend it. It will horrify and scare you and perhaps even rip your heart out through your throat, all the while keeping you painfully on the knife-edge of truth and lies, but maybe we need that. Maybe that’s what art is for.

So after as good a night’s sleep as I could manage (the back pain and the insomnia continue to conspire against me), I headed into a very quiet office for the day between Sunday and July 4th. I rather like when the office is quiet. It’s so peaceful up there alone with the skyline. I will miss it when we move.

Leaving work, I was struck by a fit of whimsy and so I took the F train in the opposite direction down to the Sean Casey Animal Rescue. I guess I didn’t know what to expect, but coming from places where animal shelters are massive blocky buildings with plenty of space for kennels, I didn’t expect such a tiny little storefront with most of the activity taking place on the street. They asked me whether I wanted a large dog, small dog, or medium dog. I replied: any dog who needs a walk. So they gave me “Lab 1”. Lab 1 was full of spastic energy but she had no desire to leave the shelter. I negotiated with her and cuddled her for about 10 minutes before I shamefacedly had to catch the eye of the attendant and ask for a different dog. I was given “Lab 2”, the equally spastic, but somewhat more tractable sibling of the first.

I don’t know how old Lab 2 was but she was absolutely nuts. She wanted to chase birds, and cars, and dogs. She wanted to sniff everything and run everywhere and if at all possible to lunge into the street whenever she saw an opening. I was only meant to take her out for 15-45 minutes but she just had so much energy (and I might have gotten a little lost and disoriented in the park), so we only made it back to the shelter an hour later. And even after an hour of dragging on the end of the leash while I speed-walked behind her, Lab 2 was still almost as hyper as before. I’m tempted to make a habit of walking her and see if we can at least get some manners into her, even if I can never quite tire the silly little thing out.

And now I’m home, lying on my bed, very grateful for my air conditioner as I rest and gather strength for tomorrow. Yes, I’ve a crazy plan for tomorrow, but you’ll have to wait until next week to hear what it is!

Covered in dog hair,
The Salsa Girl

 

In Which the Blog is Very VERY Late

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Late is such an ugly word, surely we don’t really need it. At least not to describe an amusing little scribble like this… I’m all fairness, I had a draft by Sunday night but then life happened and here we are. If I tell you that the coming month is full of travel and therefore likely also to be filmed with late blogs will you agree to just bear with me? Or actually, don’t answer that. I haven’t looked at my blog analytics in months and have no intention of doing so anytime soon so you all can stop reading whenever you please and I’ll never know. Ah the bliss of the anonymous internet!

But let’s wander back all those many days to last Tuesday. In the maelstrom that is my work inbox, I happened to stumble across a notice advertising a talk on NLP and language variation. Yes, variation that oh so social sciencey linguistics topic that so seldom appears at computer science colloquia. I had to go. Now it wasn’t exactly the sort of variationist work I tend to gravitate towards but there were dialects and registers and I’ll take what I can get! In this era of NLP dominance I was, dare I say it, inspired by the mere possibility that I might, maybe be able to do some of the linguistics research I care about within the hot new fundable paradigm! All that lies between me and grandiose research projects is coding. Well. It may be some time before I find my way back to linguistic relevance.

Almost immediately after work, I hopped off to Hardwired NYC to learn about all the hottest new start ups in the hardware space. People always ask me why I’m there—they’re there because they make hardware or they want to make hardware—and I never know quite what to say. I usually end up settling for some variation on: I’m curious and I like to listen to clever people talk about things they’re passionately excited about. I guess that’s sufficient?

On the topic of clever people talking excitedly, I left Hardwired just before the pizza came out to meet Chuck for burgers. and math. Every now and then we end up wandering into mathematics and my near decade of no math education leaves me rather at a loss. Tuesday was matrices. I will not tell you how many hours we spent hunched over a restaurant table as I floundered about in matrix land, but you know what? I learned something and it even came in handy in journal club the following day when my brain managed to cling to the life raft we’d built the night before while trying to follow even more terribly intelligent people talking about machine learning models. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing worse than the litost of facing your own stupidity, is not facing it and leaving others to suffer your ignorance.

After another sleepless night, Wednesday finally saw me drag myself to the chiropractor. It’s good for me and I know that but it’s also not cheap nor entirely enjoyable so I’d been putting it off. Based on the discomfort I was in and the tension headache that had been teasing around my temples for most of the day, I should not have been. So after X-rays and assessments and a quick adjustment, I bounded off to dance optimistic that I was cured. Yes, I know it takes more than one treatment, but I really wanted the headache to go away before dance. I survived a dumpling dinner, waiting for my headache to fade, and a few hours of dance, waiting for my headache to fade, and then I realized, it was going no where. As the tension headache paddled towards migraine land, I caught the train to a quiet place where I could curl up in the dark until my throbbing skull decided to take a break. Because my body is delightful, that break did not arrive until the following day around noon, but I did manage to pass out, just long enough to get me through the next day.

The next day featured a VERY tired girl being very tempted to hibernate but dragging herself out for an after dinner walk anyway, because as we all know 吃饭后,百步走,生命到,九十九. So I wandered down Allen St to South St which lead me all the way up to the Williamsburg Bridge at which point, somewhere between my squeaking shoes and the mosquitos I had a mad thought: I should circumnavigate Manhattan. Yes. For some perverse reason, the idea delights me and I just might do it! Further research indicates that it will take around 10 hours and I will definitely need better shoes but, by god wouldn’t it be satisfying! Stay tuned for the moment when this idiot decides to see how much of her body she can cover in blisters and sunburn.

Friday was the start of a hackathon for Chuck so I met him for dinner up near Grand Central. I had heard much about the famous Grand Central Oyster Bar with its Gustavino tiles and oyster stew so we thought, why not? It was pretty as a picture but the service was mediocre and the food? The food was not up to scratch. The clams were giant mutants with entirely too much chew, while my oyster stew was a cream and paprika broth poured over 6 sad little oysters and nothing else. But the real piece de resistance was Chuck’s salmon eggs benedict. I do not know what they did to their Hollandaise, but it was inedible. Never have I tasted such a foul sauce, and certainly never over such woefully soggy english muffins. And so we were reminded the hard way that famous does not equal delicious.

On Saturday I was monstrously productive conquering laundry, prescriptions, grocery collection from the Essex St market (yes I spent too much money on coffee and smoked fish, no you do not need to comment on that), a few coding lessons, and another run at a piece of choreography. I felt mighty smug when I finally settled into the train that would take me into Midtown for Salsamania and, as if the world knew I was on a win streak, I had a fantastic night of dance! It wasn’t as busy as usual but I danced with all manner of folk and ended my evening with that delicious sort of dance that never wanders into predictability, not even for a second. I haven’t had a salsa night that good in a while.

Sunday morning I woke up early (well, I mean, “early”) and headed down to the depths of Brooklyn to take the undergrads for dimsum. After a 45 minute wait, we got a table and found that English was not spoken. I was the only member of the group that spoke any Chinese dialect so my rusty Mandarin got a workout. I badly need to practice.

Once fed, the undergrads dispersed and I headed down to Coney Island to see if I could catch some boardwalk salsa. There is however, something incredibly dangerous about a boardwalk in the sun. It’s like a conveyor belt to me and next thing I know I’m marching off into the sunset without nearly enough sunscreen, which is how I walked the length of the boardwalk, got a sunburn, and then skipped the salsa on account of my desperate need for shade. Yeah. I’m clever like that.

On Monday I got out of work and set off for Data Driven NYC which may be my favourite tech event in New York. I got on an F train at Jay St with a medical emergency on the adjacent platform. To take up the passengers from the now stalled A train, we were informed that we would be riding over the A line to West 4th. When we got to West 4th I could have sworn they said we were an F again but then somewhere after Penn we seemed to have turned into an E train? It was all a great adventure during which we never really knew which stop we’d visit next. I did eventually make it to my event but it was definitely the least standard route I’ve ridden in a long while.

Yesterday I left work and immediately headed off to appointment, the most exciting of which involved looking at my spinal X-rays and learning that my neck has almost no curvature! It’s pretty snazzy and the price tag on fixing it is nearly as shocking, but if it will reduce the headaches, I’ll do it, so here I am, booked into my chiropractor for the foreseeable and planning which organ I want to see to afford it. I jest, but really, it’s not a cheap adventure.

After I’d been cracked back into shape, I headed up the Heights to help Chuck pack up his apartment and then fell straight into bed. Tonight I’m off to see Don Perignon at the Lincoln Center before my usual Westie Wednesdays. If I tell you life is busy but good, would you think that was okay?

Cracked, but only a little,
The Salsa Girl

In Which a Diversity of Asian Cuisine is Eaten

I didn’t really think about it until just now as I sat down to write this, but I seem to have taken a tour of Asia this week without ever leaving New York. I started with an indulgent three hour Murakami session on a bench by the river in the heat of a Tuesday night. But it wasn’t my usual Murakami, no, this was Ryu not Haruki and it was a whole new level. I would dare to suggest, that Ryu is the Quentin Tarantino of Murakamis, and when the spine doesn’t specify a first name, you may be in for quite a shock. In contrast to Haruki’s bizarre but ultimately delightful surrealism, Ryu is dark and occasionally a bit sickening and scary. It was an interesting three hours and by the end I’d devoured a book whole, a pair of fishermen had cast their rods at least a few dozen times each, and all of the fish in the river had swum away unaffected.

The following day, I took a pivot to Southeast Asia when Chuck and I stopped by the Thai place across from dance to scarf down dinner before I bounded off to Ripley Grier for another amazing class with Karel Flores. There is just nothing in the world half so satisfying as being absolutely destroyed by a dance class, and Karel has an uncanny way of orchestrating just that. Even when the moves are manageable, the speed just takes your breath away, literally. And that’s how I ended up at Westie, soaked in sweat and absolutely giddy. Endorphins are a spectacular drug. So spectacular in fact that I was still bouncing all the way to the train at the end of the night.

Having conquered hump day in fantastic style, I wandered through Thursday and right on into the square to meet Chuck at the library. We grabbed falafel at Mamoun’s and jumped on a train north to the Metropolitan Opera. Uncharacteristically for me, we arrived stylishly not-early and found our seats just in time for the show. Some day I will be comfortable with just-in-time arrivals, until then, I am learning. There were no arias and no sopranos only Tchaikovsky and prima ballerinas. Somewhat to my chagrin, they were not perfectly in synch, but their cannons were divine and dancer who played Von Rothbart had an incredible crispness of movement.

And then it was off to the Heights to catch a few Zs before we finally found our way into Friday. Which brings me to the next stop in my Asian culinary tour on Friday when we met friends at a Vietnamese place near my apartment. We ate cllllllllll the vermicelli and at least a few spring rolls before a change of scenery to the dark and quirky basement bar that is Nitecap. Our waiter was a hipster of the friendly but a small bit odd variety who relished in telling us all about carcinogens and things that aren’t really carcinogens just triggers for a natural predisposition before hurrying off to fetch our drinks which were both equally odd and utterly divine.

My drink was the Rendezvous in Chennai which was somewhere deliciously lost between lassi, curry, and chai. It was also made with gin. I might have fallen in love.

As soon as we finished our drinks we hoped in an Uber to Jersey to chat with another friend for a bit before eventually wandering our way back to the LES to sleep.

Saturday was hot and lazy and I, by some insane fluke, managed to get groceries! I might have bribed myself with dumplings and Doughnut Plant, but I did also buy groceries so I think I get credit for that. Let’s not talk about the rest of the day which I spent lounging around reading.

Sunday followed rather the same mould as Saturday, but by mid-afternoon I decided to get myself out into the sunshine to finally cave and purchase a set of sheets that actually fit my bed. Yes, real adult that I am, I’ve been using queen sheets on a double bed for about eight months. So I finally set out to a home store in hopes of finding affordable black sheets to match my quilt. Pro Tip: Crate & Barrel is not that place. Bed, Bath & Beyond on the other hand, well I now have black cotton sheets with a decent thread count that actually fit my bed. I consider it a triumph despite the amount of sweating that ensued as I dragged my prize halfway across the city after being foiled by a re-routed F train that said did not deign to stop where it normally does.

After a few hours of blessed air conditioning, we headed back into Midtown to meet Heik and his girlfriend for Bonchon and thus rounded out my tour d’asie with crispy spicy Korean fried chicken. We laughed, we chatted, we went to Schmackery’s for giant cookies and then we parted ways and all went home to bed. It was a lovely night.

Today however, I woke up impressively tired thanks to my wroth filled spine and its unwillingness to ever let me sleep. I’m never sure who starts the game but whether it’s my left hip or right shoulder that provokes it, the other always follows quickly and soon I’m a crippled agonized mess. So I finally caved and booked a chiropractic appointment. If I’m still here writing next week, we’ll know he didn’t break me.

So as I sat cursing my ill tempered body at my desk I ended up staying a bit late at work only to find that in that one extra hour it had gone from a perfectly average sunny summer day to an absolute torrential downpour. In the 30 second journey from the door of my building to the subway I was soaked to the skin and deafened by the thunder. When I emerged from the train in the LES however, the rain had abated so I decided to stop by my favourite pizza place for a slice. I was standing in the shop waiting while they heated up my slice when suddenly I saw raindrops and they were getting thicker. I advised the staff that cold pizza was just fine, grabbed the box, and ran. I did not beat the onslaught of water, but I did get in the door before my pizza box turned to mush so I will call it a win.

And now I’m sitting in my room listening contentedly to the thunder with a belly full of pizza. Overall, life’s pretty alright.

Storm watching from a 6th floor window,
The Salsa Girl

 

In Which the Summer Appears to Maybe, Kinda Sorta, be on it’s Way

Finally! FINALLY! We might, maybe be getting within shouting distance of summer. I don’t want to jinx it, but after two days of 90˚F and another two promised, I am almost ready to believe that summer might be in the cards after all. As I sit here eating ice cream and basking in the heat, I guess I owe you all a blog.

So let’s wander back to Wednesday when we found our way, as usual to Excellent Dumpling House, but this time we branched out. We only ordered one tray of dumplings and decided to try some fried noodles, ramen, and tofu. It was tasty enough—especially for the chef’s first attempt at ramen—but I think next time we’ll dawdle back towards the dim sum. I guess when it’s called Excellent Dumpling House, it should be pretty obvious that the thing you ought to order is dumplings. And then after dumplings, it was off to dance and eventually back home to sleep.

Thursday was another day of dance, but first it was happy hour with colleagues in the french cafe below our office. It was a small group but the conversation was good, the drinks were strong, and the servers all spoke French—it was the perfect appetizer for another night of salsa at the Brooklyn Museum.

As always it was an entertaining evening with fun shows, fun dances, and a beautiful, if somewhat less than acoustically ideal, space. Around 9pm, as my feet got tired from the concrete, I climbed back on a train and headed home.

And then, just as quickly as the week had begun, it was over and I was somersaulting into the warm weekend in brash, flashy New York style! I spent an hour enjoying the sun in the park before being joined by Chuck for dumplings and some more sitting in the sun before we bounced whimsically into Midtown to see if we could catch a show. And we did! There’s something fantastically stylish about buying tickets literally as the show is meant to be starting in order to catch a one off, unfilmed, multimedia spectacular also known as Pop-Up Magazine. There was live music, comedy, absurdity, touching stories of humanity and truth. Seriously, if you ever get a chance to catch one of their shows, do! Even if you do only manage to get your tickets at the last possible second.

Following the show, we met up with Chuck’s buddy and his date and moseyed through Midtown to a pub where wings were eaten and whiskey quaffed. There we sat, chatting the night away until sometime after midnight and I felt, despite my general lack of fashion, incredibly stylish.

The next morning we did get up, but not until after 11 when my caffeine needs peeled me out of bed in search of coffee. After a cup of coffee and a bowl of muesli, we may or may not have allowed the couch to swallow us whole and much of the rest of the afternoon somehow ended up turning into a nap. We eventually found our way out of the upholstery but only after the call of $1 oysters got too loud to ignore.

We hopped a train down to the LES and nestled into the inimitable Ten Bells for a stupid quantity of oysters, a cheap glass of dine, and las papas bravas. It really is one of my favourite bars in the city. It might not have a rooftop, but it does have antique tin panelled ceilings, charming servers, and an amazing happy hour vibe. Having eaten round about eight oysters each we stumbled out into the sun for a bit before joining another dance friend for more dumplings in the park before another night of dance.

I tend to prefer the Wednesday Westie over the Saturday, but this Saturday we got the big room and that made one heck of a difference. Things were marching along quite well indeed before I found myself winkled out of a corner and dragged into the middle of the room to partake in a strictly competition. I will not say that I was delighted, but I survived, they didn’t actually give ranks or scores, and so I shall move on as gracefully as possible.

Sunday morning, I rolled lazily out of bed and lounged about until noon when it was time to head out into the heat to lunch with yet another dance friend. We had planned to go to the oyster bar in Grand Central but they seem to be closed on Sundays so we ended up at a quaint oyster joint in Chelsea, and since it was only in Chelsea, I walked. The sun was hot and I was sweltering in shorts and about half a shirt. I can see why this becomes a city of braless women in the summer. It’s entirely too hot for extra padding.

Around about 28th Street, I met Chuck and Kevin in front of the restaurant and we headed into to find ourselves right in the middle of Sisters’ Drag Brunch. It was divine! We ate oysters and burgers and crab cake hollandaise and as if the food wasn’t already insanely delicious, it was accompanied by two sassy, energetic queens singing everything from Katy Perry to honest to goodness opera. Yes, Gilda Wabbit is a classically trained opera singer and Gina Tonic is just a ball of beautiful cotton candy coloured hair and all the energy! It was an insanely good time.

Perhaps inspired by our entertainment filled Sunday lunch, we then set off in search of a costume store with hopes of cheap, fun wigs. We didn’t find any that were quite in our price range but we did enjoy the hats and boas and all the delicious campy party gear. And so we’ll be going to Amazon for the wigs and leave the party stores for amusement alone.

And then it was home to do laundry, buy groceries, and attempt to be responsible. I sort of succeeded? I spent too much money on groceries but I now have healthy, fresh food prepped for the entire week! Is this an adult I see in the mirror? Unlikely, but we can dream.

Today, I got off work, ate a nice chilled salad and headed up to the law school to be inspired. Peter Sellars spoke on inter-cultural exchange, art, and all things wonderfully East and West. I wish I could do it more justice, but as with so many of these things that move me, I cannot put it into words so I’ll leave you with a quote:

“The test of being human: how do you hear what people are not telling you.”

And as I floated away on a cloud of inspiration, I kind of accidentally maybe fell into the library and might have maybe gotten lost and come across the Murakami and the Chinese literature. And don’t look now, but I might have a stack of eight shiny new-to-me books sitting on my table right now. Shhhh, say nothing.

Drowning happily in books,
The Salsa Girl

In Which Summer Continues to Elude

I keep hoping that somehow we will get a summer, and the weather has been teasing a bit with slivers of warmth and sunlight, but for the most part it’s been cold, drizzly, and really quite frustrating. But of course that didn’t stop the shenanigans—I had guests to entertain.

On Tuesday I left work and turned towards Midtown where I met Mom and Janis at The Playwright. Yes, we had ended up at one of the infinitely many Midtown Irish bars. I haven’t made a study of it, but I’d wager there are more Irish bars in Manhattan than in all of Ireland. It’s a veritable obsession here, but blessedly most at least seem to be run by actual Irish people who can pull a half decent pint. After eating our giant plates of pub food, Janis and Mom headed off to the theatre and I, lazy thing that I am, went home to lounge around in bed and read. If I’m perfectly honest, lying around reading in bed is definitely in my top ten favourite ways to spend an evening. I guess I’ll always be a librarian at heart.

The following day we met Chuck on the sunny steps of the Post Office next to Penn and set off for supper. We had intended to try a Peruvian place but it was terrifically busy and only had a pending food safety grade so we headed next door to a Thai place that has fed many a dancer without any evidence of illness. There was an awful lot of mango and avocado on that menu and somehow I didn’t end up with any of either. What can y’do? Once fed we headed off to dance where Janis and Mom learned a bit about west coast swing and hopefully had a nice time before they headed back home and I carried on dancing.

Come Thursday while my charges were out on a night tour, I took the opportunity to pass out at home and attempt to offset my current round of insomnia with an early night. The results were mixed.

Finally it was Friday and I wandered out of work and into Nolita in search of that ambrosial liquid: wine. It’s not often you see somewhere in New York with 4.9 stars on Google Maps, but Nolita Wine Merchants is one of those rare beasts that do. It was a simple store but the staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and amusingly excited about their picks. I left with a red from France near Switzerland, a white from the heel of Italy, and a rather large stupid grin on my face. I so enjoy sales people who are passionate about what they sell.

Shortly thereafter, my wine and I were running for the Path train with Chuck to visit friends in Jersey City for supper. They just moved into a terribly posh apartment and had invited us over to see it. To contextualize, we got lost in the lobby and were “helped” by the most hipster barista I have ever encountered. “Um, where do we find the lobby?” “mhm.” “Oh, so this is the lobby?” “mhm.”

We only wandered around for a few minutes before eventually finding the Information desk where we were at last given directions to where the coffeeshop/lounge space turned into an actual apartment building. When we finally outwitted the ever so high tech door (someone let us in as they were leaving), we found ourselves before one of those hideously clever elevator banks that ask you where you want to go, make a few optimization calculations, and then send you to a specific elevator that will take you most efficiently to your floor. There ain’t nothing like a buttonless elevator to unnerve a person. Bonus points, this one tells you what floor it will be stopping on by illuminating sections of an art piece on the wall which just happens to contain the numbers from 1 to how ever many floors there are.

But once you wrangle all the high tech, it’s pure minimalist luxury with a view of midtown, a pool, a roof deck, and all the accoutrements of the good life. For our part, we sat on the floor and ate a wonderful meal of salmon, zucchini, and potatoes paired with probably too much of those lovely Nolita wines. I hate to go on, but I really must tell you about the one. I had never previously had a Poulsard but the salesperson had been so terribly excited about it and it was on sale, so I went for it and I have no regrets whatsoever! It was a light red with bright berry flavours and an almost peppery body with hints of heaven only knows what. It was heaven in a glass and I might need more.

And there we sat in a wine haze, at the edge of a food coma, with the lights of Manhattan gleaming out the window beside us until nearly 2am when we headed back to the Path that carried us into the city to sleep.

The next morning we were up at 10 to meet mom in the local cafe where we slurped down our caffeine in matcha form before drifting down to Ceci-Cela for their inimitable pastries. We then picked up Janis and hopped on the train with ambitions of Prospect Park. Right about the time the train whipped through the Prospect Ave station without even a hint of deceleration, I began to sense that something was amiss. This is why, no matter what app you follow, come the weekend in New York, it’s The Weekender or sheer disaster on the trains.

When we finally made it to the park, we found it chockablock full of families, dogs, and sports. Mom and Janis took the grand self-guided tour de parque while Chuck and I contentedly passed out on the lawn. Contentedly that is, until we were nearly mown down by a swarming herd of small ones. They had been playing baseball, but then the game ended and the parents weren’t ready to reintroduce their children to the confines of their flat, so the dads got a game of football going and there ain’t nothing like a whole crew of excited 6 year olds playing football to create chaos.

Once Mom and Janis had finished with the park, we headed to my favourite bagel shop for lunch. I found the place on my first week in Brooklyn and by god is it ever good! The prices are right, the menu is extensive, and the bagels are hand-rolled perfection. If you’re ever in Windsor Terrace with an empty tummy, Terrace Bagels is the place to go. I had a breakfast bagel and left terrifically full and not a bit hungry.

From one park to another we then caught a train up to 57th where we made a quick stop at both the Carnegie Hall and the Plaza Hotel before finding our way into Central Park. It seems all the brides come out in June. Within five minutes of entering the park we had seen three different wedding parties and would continue to see more the duration of the day.

As we wandered Northwards we were amused by the rowboats—some of which were blowing through the water stern first with rowers who seemed none the wiser, relaxed by the Ramble, and delighted by a roller skating party that surpassed all expectations for roller skating in the park. The bulk of the people participating were 50+ and they were not just roller blading around, they were dancing! It was a total party scene and all these middle aged folks were out rocking out like I’m sure they did as teenagers and young adults. It was a beautiful thing to see and many of them were insanely skillful as they glided and bopped around on their ancient roller skates.

After more wandering and a wide range of happy dogs, I left Janis and Mom to attend a free concert while I headed home. Before I even got out of the park, however, I was distracted by open air argentine tango. The majority of the folks there fell on the average side of the dance world, but there were a few who were just divine, so I sat and I watched, and sometime later I eventually peeled my bottom off the bench and went home to put food in my face and sleep.

Sunday morning saw me up bright and early for breakfast with Mom. We were up so early that most of the brunch spots still hadn’t opened their doors, fortunately Russ & Daughters Cafe had. We cozied into the retro diner decorated space and settled into a feast of Jewish cuisine. Mom had an omelet with onions and lox which somehow tasted so much better than all those things normally do when combined. For my own part I ate latkes, fried egg, and lox. Between these eggy, salmony delights, we also munched on bagels, bialys, challah, and rye. And then in a mighty fit of whimsy we tried the drinks. Mom had an egg cream which is essentially milk mixed with seltzer and I had a cucumber soda. Both were unexpectedly delicious.

We spent the rest of the morning chatting at my place before wandering over to meet Janis and conduct a quick tour of the LES. We ate North Dumplings, visited the Pickle Guys and Kossar’s, Doughnut Plant and Economy Candy. Outside Economy Candy I actually saw the guide who’s route I’ve stolen with only the smallest variations, and I did feel a small bit sheepish, but he neither recognized me nor seemed to find me suspicious so I carried quietly on.

And then it was on to Russ and Daughters Appetizing Shop before Mom and Janis headed into Midtown to catch a show.

I caught up with them again a few hours later for a wander into Hell’s Kitchen in search of Peruvian. We ended up in the highly reviewed Pio Pio 8 which from an unassuming entryway opened into a giant basement with twig lined walls, brown paper clad tables, loud music, and an aura of trendiness nearly to thick to penetrate. Normally “trendy” tends to turn me off, but when you can get 1/4 of a rotisserie chicken and a giant plate of tostones for $10? Well count me in! And it was downright delicious with such a savoury crispy skin! From there we moseyed on down to Bryant Park where we stumbled on a MAC launch with flashing lights, salsa dancers, and glitter galore! And then it was time to get my guests off to the Rockefeller and I was off to the Heights.

Monday morning began with a longer than usual commute and ended with a looming migraine and a pile of pastrami. It was one of those days with high humidity and low cloud and by mid afternoon I was steeping in a mountain of nausea and neck tension that could only possibly mean migraine. I bailed out of my evening obligations and crashed into bed for an hour and a half long nap. Somewhere out the other side, I was functional but in no way ready for excitement so we set salsa aside, and headed to Katz for comfort food and deliciousness. There is just no pastrami like Katz pastrami! And then it was home to bed to sleep of the dregs of the migraine.

Today was mad busy followed by mad frustrating followed by mad excellent. I left work in a cloud of papers and ran to the optometrist to get my contacts checked only to find that my optometrist is no longer “in-network” so I can’t use my insurance to buy contacts from them. Charming, right? So then I spent an hour sorting out where on earth to buy my lenses. Fortunately, my evening quickly looked up as I met a dance friend for dinner at an oh so trendy little Mexican joint. We got in on account of a cancelation and filled up on tequila drinks blended with corn puree, fish tacos, spicy shrimps sandwiches, and succotash! And it’s the cutest little restaurant too with paper cuttings strung from the ceiling like Tibetan prayer flags and the most charming, attentive servers.

Come time to clear out for the next reservation, we wandered back to my friend’s flat for tea and gossip until after 11:00 which is why this is coming to you so very late. Please believe that the delay was necessary to my sanity and health?

Late but not forgotten,
The Salsa Girl

In Which There are Visitors

Just when the dust cleared from my last batch of visitors, some Californians trotted into town and hot on their heels, a couple of Canadians. So things have been busy and will likely continue to be for the foreseeable. So what exactly have I been doing to keep so busy? To be honest, mostly food.

On Tuesday we took advantage of the smaller queues on a weekday evening and finally tasted the absurdly popular Tim Ho Wan. It was good but if I’m perfectly honest, it wasn’t all that much better than Jing Fong and since it is possible to get a table in Jing Fong on a weekend around the actual dim sum hour, I might steer my loyalties thusly. I do have to give it to them though, their steamed cake was absolutely stunning and I’ve never had one even half so good anywhere else. So yes to the steamed cake, no to the queueing. Whether or not I shall ever return remains to be decided.

Following food, we wandered down through the East Village towards my neck of the culinary woods. It was a peaceful walk down treelined streets that ended delightfully enough in a Doughnut Plant where we shared two tasty doughnuts before plopping our bottoms down on a bench in Seward Park. It was a bit of a quiet night in the park, peaceful and cool, and very soon accompanied by the inimitable North Dumplings.

Just as it was getting dark, we hopped on the bus that swept us across Chinatown and down to the Staten Island Ferry. We caught it at the perfect moment. Just as we pulled out of the berth, the sky caught flame. It was a brilliant blaze of scarlet and indigo painted across the horizon behind Jersey City. It was, with full awareness of the cliche, just like a movie as we leaned over the rail and gazed at the fleeting trails of the descending sun. It was indescribable.

The following night, I traded food for education and attended a two hour class on Python for data scientists. It was more of a lecture than a class but the material was slid and now I have a whole slide deck of things to pretend that I’m going to learn just as soon as I have a second in which to do so. Afterwards I went to dance.

On Thursday, somewhere between work and pouring rain, my mom arrived in the city for almost two weeks of adventure. We started her New York holiday with spicy delicious Sri Lankan Kottu from Kottu House a mere half block from my apartment. With our mouths on fire, we then wandered over to the Cocoa Bar where we ate ridiculous desserts and drank exotic hot chocolate. I had a cassis and white chocolate mousse cake paired with a matcha white hot chocolate while mom had a cinnamon hot chocolate and a chocolate dipped coconut macaroon.

The next day, having taken the day off work, we started the day with breakfast at Egg Shop where I ate a deliciously bizarre sandwich composed of fried egg, fried chicken, picked carrots and cucumber and some manner of heavenly aioli. It was not the most orthodox breakfast but it was delicious! Once fed we set out for the East River where we walked along the parkway towards the northern edge of the East Village. Truth be told, I don’t know exactly what constitutes the north edge of the East Village but by the time we returned to the streets we were north of 10th and ready to head south again.

As we wandered through Alphabet City and into the Village, we stumbled across my favourite gelateria: Fresco. They have all the most exciting flavours of gelato and sorbet and somehow I never seem to get up there to eat it—my waistline thanks my laziness for keeping me in my existing pair of jeans. Mom tried my personal favourite, lemon and basil, in a waffle cone while I mixed a lemon and poppyseed gelato with a dill and cucumber sorbet. It may seem strange but trust me, it’s delicious. I am currently dreaming of gin and tonic with sorbet instead of cucumbers and tonic. You can call me an alcoholic but you can’t say I’m uncreative!

After the gelato we stopped by Essex market for a quick tour of the local fish and fruit before eventually finding our way down through Chinatown to Columbus Park. If I thought Seward park savoured of Shanghai, Columbus Park makes it pale in comparison. Every available seat was filled with an aging bottom playing cards or mahjongg and chatting away in every imaginable dialect. I was in heaven.

Five minutes later we were checking into mom’s BnB and about five minutes after that we were back out on the sidewalk strolling through Soho. We stopped at a posh little boutique and an adorable tea shop and then somehow ended up back on the Lower East Side eating rugelach and black and white cookies at Russ and Daughters.

Sometime and a few more miles of walking later, Mom’s friend had arrived from JFK and we were seated in Puglia, an Italian restaurant circa 1919. The food was fantastic but the ambiance was rather less so. Round about the arrival of our entrees, the back of the restaurant burst into birthday karaoke while the intervening full of the shrillest of young women gossiped so loudly it seemed a miracle that it remained incomprehensible. To round out the room, in trooped a cluster of young ladies very much “ready for the club”. From the stars and stripes scarf knotted jauntily around one of these charming creatures’ throat, one might assume that they were on the prowl for seamen freshly ashore for fleet week. One wouldn’t want to say for certain though. Perhaps they and their sequins and skirts were only out to mark Memorial Day.

The next morning we headed off to Washington Square Park in search of local colour. It was still fairly early and therefore quite quiet so we wandered through and set off through Greenwich Village to the Hudson River. We moseyed our way down the parkway in a light breeze past Jersey City towards the Statue of Liberty. As we reached Battery Park City, we cut in from the river towards One World Trade where we stopped to contemplate the memorial before wandering off through the great whale’s belly that is the Oculus. Once out the other side we found our way into an adorable little French cafe tucked in a side street between banks and bankers. The quiche was divine!

Filled with salmon and custard, we set out into the Financial District past Trinity Church, down Wall St past the Stock Exchange, and eventually on to the famous Charging Bull. How anyone ever gets a picture of that particular statue may forever be a mystery for when we came upon it it was absolutely mobbed by tourists of every extraction posing and pawing at their leisure. We did not stop long.

Further south we found Battery Park and the strange installation that calls itself the Sea Glass Carousel. It is the most otherworldly and almost eerie assemblage of coloured glass and ethereal music and it’s meant for children. I have no explanation. Beyond Battery, we strolled along South St towards the South Street Seaport where we found a tall ship, a cute little tugboat, and about half a dozen blocks of shops and restaurants all tucked into old store buildings. We stopped into a cafe called Patoro where we took a moment to rest our feet and refuel ourselves.

After the cafe it was on to the municipal buildings and courts where we wandered amongst the curious melange of ornate and brutalist until eventually winding our way down into the new City Hall subway station. There is an old one but it is now no long in use on account of an impractically curved platform leaving far too much of a gap. I had heard that it was possible to view this abandoned station by riding a certain train past the turn around, but I’ve never quite been bold enough to try. I decided that now was as good a time as any so I piled us onto the train just as everyone else was streaming off and we rode, the only passengers on the train, past the end of the track and around the corner into the most beautiful bit of history.

The skylights have been reopened lighting the chandeliers and Gustation tile ceilings with the glow of indirect sunlight. It’s gone almost as quickly as it arrives but, while it lasts, it is beautiful. It also feels tantalizingly secret and forbidden.

After our little adventure, the train swept us back up to Chinatown where we settled into the renowned Xi’an Famous Foods for some spicy noodles of the north western variety. They were spicy and delicious and savoured strongly of my favourite Shaanxi restaurant in Shanghai. So much so, in fact, that I have spent no small bit of time since then fantasizing about spinach noodles soaked in chilli oil and garnished with “flavouring not meat”.

In good Chinese tradition we then observed the 吃饭后/百步走/生命到/九十九 principle and wandered at least a hundred steps back up to Washington Square where we found much more colour than before. The park was filled with people, most notably, a rather nondescript fellow standing on a tarp surrounded by children as he brandished a magnificent bubble wand. It was more net than loop and the result of dipping it into the soap and lifting it to the wind was great clusters of bubbles which spread or clung with little predictability as they floated over the heads of awestruck children and adults alike.

Sunday morning we started our day just south of Union Square at the most dangerous place I know: The Strand. I managed to escape with only four books in my bag and two of the are for other people! Besides which, when they only cost a dollar it’s as good as impossible to resist. We then drifted through the park ogling statues until we found ourselves in the middle of the Taiwan festival. To say that it was bustling would be a dramatic understatement so we slipped through and set off to find lunch at the very highly regarded Union Fare.

I say lunch, but lunch might be a bit of a stretch. We had no thoughts of savoury or nutritious things, no we were there for Union Fare’s famously decadent croissants formed from flavoured pastry, topped with glazes and powdered sugar, and filled with the most decadent flavoured creams. We had a matcha, a red velvet, and a birthday cake and I honestly couldn’t pick a favourite. They were all so darn tasty! As was the blended mint and matcha drink I paired with mine. Fresh mint setting off the herbaceous loveliness of the matcha? Perfection.

Following our snack we set off up 5th Avenue right on up past the Empire State to the Schwarzmann Building and Bryant park. The library was closed, but the park was open so we set down for a while to ponder the skyline in the shady leafiness of the park. On our way back down Broadway, we stopped at Macy’s to ride the escalators all the way up to the top and then back on down. It’s a curious mix of all new escalators, half wooden escalators with modern metal treads, and completely wooden ones that may well have been in place since the dawn of time. It will be a shame if retail continues to tank to the point that Macy’s can justify ten block-sized floors no longer, but perhaps it’s just a sign of the times.

We had intended to stop at Eataly for dinner but when we got there, we found that half of Manhattan had had the same idea. It was a veritable melee of tourists and Manhattanites alike all swarming about buying pasta and cheeses. Someday I’ll eat at the chain that “redefined Italian cuisine even for Italians” but not if I have to queue in a crush for half an hour just to order.

Having failed in the Italian market, we drifted down to one of my favourite ramen joints near NYU, Mewmen. I’m not sure how much better their ramen is than elsewhere but the servers are the sweetest trio of young Japanese guys, the music is great, and their logo is just tops! Really. Look it up, it’s very well composed. With bellies full of ramen, we then wandered around the block towards my favourite macaron shop… only to find it CLOSED! FOREVER! This happens far too frequently here. A charming little restaurant that answers one particular need in my life appears and then winks out just as quickly as it came. I am only a small bit heartbroken.

So, macaron-less, we went back down to the bottom of the island where Mom and Janis returned to their accommodation and I to my apartment. I might need to find another meringue and ganache filled place to haunt.

And then it was today, Memorial Day, a rainy day, and yes, in all of our wisdom we thought it would be clever to go to the Met. You do not need to tell me what a silly idea that was. It was a bloody zoo! But zoo or not, I spent some quality time with Degas before slipping into the Irving Penn exhibit to stare at photography. Curiously enough, my favourite piece was one of the nudes.

Nudes are beautiful but I’m such a lover of fashion and textiles that no bare skin can beat the drapery of a perfectly formed frock, but this was different. The shot captured what can be best described as the elevation of a reclining woman from upper thigh through to her lower ribs. It was so sculptural and abstract that it looked more like a landscape than a body and even the darkness of pubis spoke more of vegetation than hair. It was a strange and illusory and I loved it.

Around mid-afternoon we took a break to eat bagels before I headed back to get a bit of work done before work tomorrow morning and Mom and Janis returned to the Met.

I was meant to attend a dance class tonight but it was cancelled somewhat last minute and so now I am lounging around reading and attempting to write this up for you all. Let’s not speak about how long it’s taken to get this far.

Indulgently,
The Salsa Girl

I Was Going To Write Something Nice

You know, I was going to write a frothy little blog about what I did last week. I might right it later but not right now. I just can’t. Why? I dunno, maybe because people have been killed at a goddamned pop concert tonight. Sure it’s a long way away from me, there’s a whole ocean between us, but for whatever reason, I just can’t ignore it anymore. For years I’ve heard about all the death and destruction all across the world but it didn’t really seem all that real and I didn’t really engage with it. I said “oh how sad” and moved on because I couldn’t feel all the pain in the world, I hadn’t the bandwidth.

Maybe it’s because I live in New York now, or because there’ve been too many too close to me, but I’m not able to shake it off anymore and tonight I am burning with anger. I’ve never been angry about something like this before. I’ve been sad and I’ve been scared but I’ve never felt like this. How on earth are we meant to make the world better or even stop it getting worse when we’re looking over our shoulders all the time. It’s not making us nicer or smarter, it’s making us scared, suspicious, and xenophobic.

The worst bit is that there seems to be nothing we can do. We’re in an awful bind where we either prove their point and radicalize more people, or we continue to live in a world where terrorist attacks seem increasingly de rigeur. And then we trample each other when we hear a taser go off because we’re so tuned to fight or flight. We’ve decided that this is not a world for calm consideration or rational study and we might be right, but I think we can do better.

It’s the awful confluence of thinking that we can do better and not having a single damn clue how to do it that’s made me feel so angry. I am helpless and increasingly vulnerable and everything I was taught about goodness and morality seems not to apply. So I’m left with very little to say but fuck you. Fuck you who drive cars down sidewalks and into crowds, fuck you who build bombs and kill innocent people, and fuck you who shoot innocent strangers.

And Steven Pinker, I don’t care about your stats, I don’t think the world’s getting safer or less violent—at least not anymore.

So, what did I do this week? Well I had trouble sleeping—whether from the heat or my own idiosyncrasies, who knows. I ate dumplings and a poké bowl, and some phenomenal french pastries. I went dancing, I went to the Met. I saw beautiful creative high fashion and beautiful ancient Chinese artefacts. I shared dinner with some of the dearest people I know at a housewarming in New York, and I worried about leaving the stove on or forgetting to send a work email. And now I’m too exhausted and too frustrated to make that sound all pretty and light. I’ve heard too many news reels that start with tragedy and end in terror and I’m really, really tired.

I don’t know if we can do better, but we’ve got to.

The Salsa Girl