In Which Things get Sniffley

So it’s Wednesday. Yup, Wednesday, and I’m just now starting this blog thing. It’s not laziness though I rather wish it were, because a mild scolding for laziness would be so much less awful than my current state of drippy and congested. I felt this particular foulness sneaking up on my last week but somehow thought that the solution was to just keep on keeping on, complete with lots of dance and late nights. That may not have been the best plan of attack.

By the time I woke up on Monday in Framingham, I was absolutely beat and once I got back to the city on Monday night, I was undeniably on the road to an awful cold. Now, normally I just carry on with the sniffles and the coughing, but by tomorrow night, I need to be ready for the biggest salsa congress on my calendar so I’m trying very hard to take it easy and sleep as much as possible—hence the delay in this blog. But now let’s get to it because, sick or not, I have a lot of ground to cover.

Way back on Tuesday, I left the office en route to my biweekly snap-crackle-pop after which it was time for 1.5 hours of dance education. Yes, I decided to start taking a footwork and partnerwork class at Piel Canela. It’s a good workout and a fun time surrounded by lots of good people, but I have to say that there are some aspects of followers technique which rather diverge from anything I’ve ever encountered before. Most worryingly of all, the instructor had no idea what I was talking about when I asked about the differences in technique. Despite my small bits of skepticism, I left the class pleasantly tired and thoroughly soaked. I rather think I wouldn’t believe I’d actually taken a salsa class if I didn’t need to change afterwards.

The following day, after a fantastically stressful and exhausting day at work, I decided to subject my sleep deprived body to another round of mental and physical exhaustion. This time, my particular poison was Karel Flores’ Ladies styling class. It was an hour and a half of full on, all in dancing in a room absolutely packed to the gills with people. To say it was hot and sweaty would be a massive understatement. I may have been dripping when I left.

Once salsa’d into submission, I slipped off to westie cafe where I conducted a full quick change and dry-off in the washroom before making my way onto the dance floor. Exhausted as I was, somehow I still ended up staying out until the end of the night and then spending even more time chatting with friends on the sidewalk. Who needs sleep when you’ve got dance and friends?

Come Thursday, my throat was starting to feel a little tickly but there were Irish in town so there was to be no rest for the wicked. After work I quickly threw some clothes in a bag for the weekend and bounced off into Midtown to meet a salsa friend from Ireland. She was only in New York for about a week so it was salsa every night and Thursday was to be no exception. We started the evening with another New York friend at a restaurant in K-Town where we all got our full of hot and spicy before heading one block south for salsa. It was Eddie’s monthly social so, despite finishing dinner rather later than usual (read: somewhere around 11pm), we couldn’t miss it. And it was wonderful! For only $8 we found ourselves in a room full of fun and friendly dancers with the one and only Mambo King, Eddie Torres, on the decks. As if that was not enough, every few dances, Eddie would get up (with Eddie Jr. right behind him) and do shines at the front of the studio welcoming any who wished to follow along. It’s such a magical thing just to watch him dance. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the sight.

After the social wrapped up around 1am, we decided we still weren’t done, so the three of us headed up to a rooftop bar tucked in amongst the skyscrapers of Midtown to sip and stare at the gorgeous skyline lights. We chatted and caught up until they kicked us out and we rode the elevator back to the street in the company of a very affectionate couple. Once back at ground level, trains were found and taxis hailed and off we went into our own respective nights. I won’t even begin to put a time stamp of the point at which I finally found my bed, but it was such a good night, I don’t even care if it was a catalyst in my current illness.

And then, at last, it was Friday. I’d taken the day off to use up a few vacation days before the end of summer cut-off, so I slept in a bit, finished packing for the weekend and then set out to meet some more visitors from past lives and locations. A pair of Victoria friends were in the city so I met them at the subway and took them on a little adventure around my neighbourhood during which I discovered that, even on a Friday morning, brunch is a hot commodity on the Lower East Side and there will be a wait. We eventually put our names on a list for The Egg Shop and settled into the cafe next door to caffeinate and wait. Twenty minutes later we were staring overwhelmed at the menu and trying to settle on meals. We eventually managed to make our choices and scarfed down a delicious meal before wandering back out into downtown Manhattan. We moseyed through the Bowery and Chinatown before turning up Broadway and into the shopping.

I left them at Broome and Broadway, heading home to tidy the apartment and prep some food for the weekend before, finally, at 3pm hopping on a train towards Grand Central Station. There I met two westie friends and we hopped on Metro North to meet the last member of our posse and head north to Summer Hummer. As is always the way, by the time we got out of the city, the traffic was insane so we wound through backroads playing car games and managed to get to the hotel almost exactly when planned even with the disruption of a gas-less rest stop that left us staring down all the scary “empty” lights for the last few miles of our drive.

When we arrived at the hotel, I headed off to meet my most excellent posse of Houston roomies. They were a positively wonderful crew of welcoming westies who would make my entire weekend better with their warmth.

After checking in with my roommates, I stuffed some food in my face and headed back to the ballroom to watch comps and dance the night away. Saturday morning saw me peeling myself out of bed to dance dummy for a friend in his private lesson. I have to say that I was amused to be recruited purposefully because I am so much taller than the dancer in question, but I also must say that I am endlessly impressed by this particular lead. He makes every effort to make dances with me comfortable and fun despite our strikingly non-traditional height ratio. After spending much of my dance life being avoided for my height or having shorter leads conduct a ridiculous song and dance about being on their toes when they lead me to the floor, it is truly lovely to be appreciated and enjoyed for my height.

After helping with the privates, I dropped into Brandi’s class hoping for some technique tips. The class was good, but I have to say I’m not such a fan of this charming phenomenon of turning a group class instructor into a guru. Rather than taking a class wherein this brilliant individual was able to teach the things she felt we needed, we sat in on an expert Q&A while the bolder students in the class tossed out question after question until our hour was up. As perhaps you can tell, I have opinions.

After a quick lunch, I then changed and set off to the ballroom to compete. Once my comps were over for the day, I filmed my friends, watched the comps, and danced a bit before heading out to the pool deck for the famous Summer Hummer Pool Party. There was a barbecue and free beer, a hula hoop contest, and a seriously bad-ass limbo competition, followed by camp shows from the pros and a quick talent contest with one hell of a beat-boxer. Some three hours later as we lost the sun and started to get cold, it was time to head back in, change again, and head to the ballroom for shows, choreography comps, and social dancing. One of my roommates was competing in the Rising Star contest, and I have to say her choreo blew my mind! Look out West Coast westies, y’all got competition out here (or rather in Texas, but shhhh).

After dancing until 4am, I rolled out of bed on Sunday in time to take two classes before returning to the room to change for finals. Yes, I made finals! I was pretty pleased with myself but a bit nervous for my results so I headed down to the staging area a bit early and found someone to warm up with. He was a friendly fellow with a nice clear lead and it was a very effective warm up. Little did I know that sometime later when we finally hit the floor, the very same leader would be my draw for partner! We had so much fun. Our dances weren’t exactly perfect and we took a few risks that might have been too risky but we were smiling and laughing the whole time and then, in the end, we got 3rd! I’m still hankering for a win, but I’m not about to complain about 10 swing points a cheque that covers my contest fee!

At the end of a triumphant weekend, with almost all the New Yorkers gone home before me, I headed out with the Houston crew for Sunday night seafood. The food was fantastic, but Ive definitely had better service before. I’m telling myself that our server was new and still learning, because if he wasn’t? Oh heaven help him!

For myself, I ate a lobster bisque which was creamy and rich and full of big meaty chunks of lobster and a plate of thai style calamari. I really should have picked a different style of calamari but the event director had recommended this one so I gave it a go. It was very VERY rich and sweet but underneath all the pineapple and thai sweet chilli sauce the calamari were so tender and perfectly prepared, I can only imagine them on their own dipped lightly in tzatziki. Following my seafood, I enjoyed a gorgeous dark chocolate mousse and then it was time to shuffle off back to the hotel for a final night of dance.

It was a Sunday night—my favourite night at events—and I spent it alternating between dancing, chatting with new found friends, and lounging on the floor stretching out my stiffening body. It was a most excellent evening, but the illness and exhaustion was creeping up on me in the form of a third night of headaches in a row so I turned in and tied to grab a little sleep before Monday morning.

On Monday, I packed my gear, met my friend of height differential fame, and headed south to the city. We chatted all the way back but I was fading, dripping into a sluggish and incoherent state of mind. By the time I climbed aboard a Metro North train in Poughkeepsie, I was done for. Fortunately, the train was not too full, so I curled up on a pari of seats and dozed all the way down to the city. With bleary eyes and fuzzy head, I grabbed an F train and headed down to the LES. Two slices of my favourite pizza in hand, i stumbled up the stairs to my flat and promptly passed out. And that’s been about the size of it since then. I’m fighting off sinus congestion and a nasty cough which together are driving a bit of a sore throat and a desperate need for sleep, which is, of course, why I will leave you here. Trust me, the last two days have been nothing by sleep, tissues, and misery, you’re not missing anything for my lack of description and I am, once again, inexorably drifting into sleep.

Only dying a little,
The Salsa Girl

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In Which There is Nostalgia Food

After starting my week with a fun little letter from my favourite Canadian institution, I must concede that I did not have a super active, enthusiastic, or fun loving few days. I went to my chiropractor but only long enough to get myself bent back into shape before I schlepped on home to face the paperwork. The following day, I managed to break out of my slump purely by accident. I was in the city for a training session for work and as I was leaving I thought: Oh, I should just walk on down to Broadway-Lafayette so I get a bit of fresh air and spend slightly less time in the sardine tin that is a rush hour train outer-borough-bound. I was cruising innocently down Broadway when, there it was, looming before me was that mansion of temptation, The Strand.

I don’t even have to go inside. In fact, I can’t even walk past the place without finding myself inexorably drawn into the carts upon carts of $1 books. They’re so cheap I don’t even begrudge myself the cost, but the hours I’ve lost and the bookshelves I’ve filled? The books are stacked in with no order what so ever and it’s just catnip to me. I mean, who know’s what gems I might find with a small bit of water damage and a $1 sticker? Suffice to say that Union Square is a veritable black hole for me and I never seem to make it in or out without an armload of books—treasures scavenged and scrounged from the unlikeliest of company.

I got away with less than $7 in books. I consider that a win. I have no idea where I’ll put them.

Having sated my inner bibliophile once more, I then set out to dance the night away at Westie cafe.

The following day, I delivered myself to my chiropractor, fetched some fresh fish and vegetable from the market and returned to my fiscal hell. I’m not sure whether I can say I got it sorted or just that I got tired but at some point, one of my exciting new novels captured my focus and I read about Sarajevo until entirely too late. Who needs sleep when there’s fiction to be had?

Friday, my bad behaviour caught up with me, and I was altogether exhausted (once again, are you catching the theme here?). But I had it in my head that I was going to go learn about AI, so I went off to learn about AI. Sadly, though the people involved seemed very intelligent, the audience was sparse to say the least, and the moderator was really not well prepared to moderate. To tell the truth, I think perhaps the main guest speaker planned the event and had just brought the others along to create the illusion of a conversation when really he just wanted to share. I rather wish he’d just caved to his own inclinations because he seemed very knowledgable and was only held back by attempts to encourage the other two to participate. I guess you can’t win them all.

As I left the talk, I dropped by Trader Joe’s and, though unable to find a single ripe avocado, managed to find some guacamole, corn tortillas, and a queue that didn’t actually wrap all the way round the store. So I flounced through the till, and jumped back on a train back to my flat where tortillas and guac turned into pineapple and tuna ceviche tacos with guac and goat cheese. I wouldn’t say I ate four, but I ate four.

Once fed, I headed out to salsa to see Karel Flores’s new choreo and, unbeknwonst to me, to scare all the westies. You see there was a small westie event in the back room and one or two of them drifted out into salsaland for a drink only to find a whole different dancer out on the floor. It’s always amusing to see the effect of the differing aesthetics in my life on people who only know me from one of them.

At some point I made my way home and might have read for a bit before I finally turned in, which should have resulted in a lie in, but my brain doesn’t love me so I was up by 9 and bouncing off to do laundry. Having not done laundry for two whole weeks during which I went to a dance event, I may have had a bit of an impressive pile. Who needs gym when you can spend your Saturday hauling kilos and kilos of laundry up and down five flights of stairs.

While the laundry spun, I tidied the apartment, faced down another leg of the tax saga, and lazed about the house. Once I’d conquered as much as I thought I was likely to do, I headed to the subway to meet Mandy and begin our quest to Queens. We’d had a chat about the famous Flushing food of authentic Chinese fame and had made a plan to take the trip out in search of my most beloved Shanghainese snack: 生煎包. The day before, by complete fluke, a friend from the far west of Canada had sent me a link for the Queens Night Market. Turns out it was the same evening we were already planning to be in the neighbourhood, so our search of 生煎包 turned into a foodie adventure.

We took the F to the 7 to the end of the line and soon found ourselves in the middle of a VERY China shopping centre. According to Google maps it was meant to be the home of the fabled 生煎包 shop, but after a full tour of the food court, it was no where to be found. So Mandy quizzed the workers and eventually we were rerouted a block away to another slightly less chaotic shopping centre which soon yielded up its deliciousness.

The 包 were a little less fresh than one might have hoped, so the juice had all soaked into the wrapper, but the flavours and the textures were on point! So on point that all I could think about was how perfect it would be if the soup had still been sloshing about inside. It would probably be fair to call me obsessed.

After the first step in our quest, we hopped back on the 7 and rode two stops back to Corona. Where Flushing is all China all the time, Corona is muy latino! The sidewalks were filled with elote, aguas frescas, and limonata. But once we stepped into the night market, it was a whole world of food. Overwhelmed by our choices, we leaned east and settled on jasmine tea and 串儿. It’s a fair bit pricier than it ever was in China but there was lamb and squid and it was all roasty and barbecued and delicious. We ate and we sat; we listened to music and played with puppy dogs and then we found our train and headed back home to the Lower East Side.

Sunday morning started with modified migas made with the remains of my Friday taco time, followed by all the laziness. After a few hours of reading I wandered down to the market to pick up some snacks. Ostensibly I was there to get supplies for a friend’s barbecue but I might have maybe accidentally fallen into the cheese shop and gotten a bit caught up in sheep gouda and figs. They made a lovely meal while I turned coco lime into a whole new hipster adventure. I was finding the coco lime a little too rich for such a hot day so I chucked in a couple kirby cucumbers and grabbed a bottle of club soda and set out to the garden party.

We drank and chatted, ate pie and even danced a bit, and right around the time it was getting too dark to see, those of us that remained, set out in search of chicken. When the originator of rotisserie chickonomics tells you it’s gonna be good chicken, you don’t argue, you just follow. 10 blocks later we were all in possession of a little piece of poultry heaven. The chicken was spectacular and the sauces were even better.

Eventually I found myself on the six train with a tummy full of tasty, and a head in need of pillow. It was not, however to be that easy. I got inside, attempted to quickly check my emails, and soon found myself in a particular sort of technological hell—the discovery of a mac trojan. This particular virus’s modus operandi was uncontrolled scrolling in every direction which makes it very challenging to find, download, install, and run anti-virus software to fix the problem. Sometime around 1am I was virus free and ready to collapse.

Today I was suffering from sleep deprivation and a healthy bit of work stress so by the time I got home I was in sore need of a nap. I fried up a piece of grouper, drizzled it with maple syrup and crashed into bed. About an hour later, I headed into midtown to get my ass handed to me at an audition. I always feel like, given how long I’ve been dancing, I really ought to be a bit better, but I seem to be missing a certain something. I’m not sure what it is, but I think I should probably figure it out before I put myself on display again.

And in all that sleepiness and emotion, I forgot to mention the 70% eclipse and the lovely locals sharing their eye protection around. It was pretty rad but now it’s time for bed.

Crashing hard-core,
The Salsa Girl

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

In Which Insomnia Proves Intractable

Maybe it wasn’t actually jet lag last week. Perhaps it was only the delightful resurgence of my old nocturnal nemesis, insomnia. I postulate this as I find that now another week has passed and I am still struggling mightily to convince my cantankerous cranium to cede to sleep anytime even close to sensible. At this point, with a dance weekend rising quickly on the horizon, I think I might just leave it to it’s rebellion and deal with my sleep habits when I get back. I fully intend to blame this sleep deprivation for any typos, non-sequiturs or otherwise, inelegant utterances herein.

What is it that I did while sleep deprived? Well first I went to my chiropractor, then headed off to dance class, and then rinsed and repeated. Well not entirely. On Wednesday, I left work and decided to try once more to track down a decent 生煎包. There’s a place near my work that’s tantalizingly titled Yaso Tangbao so I decided to give it a go. The seasonal vegetable dish was absolutely perfect garlic sautéed gai lan but alas the buns still fell short of remembered deliciousness. They are fantastically difficult to make, but I have to believe that there is somewhere in New York where I can find the answer to my dreamy gustatory nostalgia. Keep your eyes open for an upcoming trip to Flushing.

Once fed, I headed to Read 718, a local non-profit which runs literacy tutoring for low-income children. It was the first step in the journey to become one of their tutors and now I can only wait to hear if they have a match for me. Following my diversions in Brooklyn, I whipped home, jumped into dance gear and bounded into Midtown for westie. It was an RnB and blues night which I must admit runs rather counter to my taste in music, but I stayed out nearly to the end then climbed sleepily onto a train, looking enthusiastically forward to my bed.

When I reached the top of my mountain of stairs I placed my hand on the knob, leaned in and started to twist. But the knob wouldn’t twist! My bedroom, which I never lock (I don’t have the key) was locked! Obviously, my first thought was that someone was in there so I knocked. No reply. I knocked again. Still no reply. At that point I did a 180 and tapped on my roommate’s door. He had no explanation for the locked door, and after hunting all through the apartment found that he didn’t have the key either.

We tried the card trick, and a knife trick, and all manner of lock opening hacks but all to no avail so I gritted my teeth, apologized to my bank account, and called a locksmith. On the phone, they quoted a call out fee and a minimum service fee that nearly made my eyes water, but it was within the realm of possibility so I asked them to send someone.

Nearly an hour of reading at the kitchen table later, the locksmith puffed his way up the stairs and knocked on my door. He set his toolbox on the floor, took a cursory look at the door and quoted me a number that I was certain I must have misheard. He repeated it. I blanched, gasped, and prepared to spend the night on the kitchen floor. When I told him that I simply could not afford it and that he would have to just take the call out fee and be gone, however, he seemed to think I was being utterly unreasonable. When I pointed out that his number was more than 4X what I’d been told was the starting price, for a wee ickle indoor lock, he told me I was free to call whoever quoted that to me and learn that I was wrong.

He would have been far better off if he’d not provoked my temper with his own indignance at my inability to pay four times the expected price. But he made his choice and I made mine. I called up his dispatcher and delivered a few choice words about transparency and good business practices. At that point, he asked me to pass the phone to the locksmith in my kitchen. They negotiated in a language I didn’t understand and came back with a 50% reduction. Seeing no other way forward, I agreed.

30 seconds and one air pocket based tool later, my door was popped open and I was not the least bit happy to be charged a fee premised on the “high likelihood” that he’d have to drill the lock. Perhaps my response makes me a bad person, but it was 2am, I was tired, and I felt that I had been completely taken advantage of and lied to at every step in the process. So I told the locksmith that, though I would pay our agreed fee, I was not happy. I was in fact quite unhappy to come so directly face to face with such deceptive an opaque business practices. He tried to tell me that “everyone does it this way” and I may have reminded him that that is no excuse for misrepresentation. We settled on a slightly lower price that was at once far more than I want to pay and far less than he wanted to make.

It turns out that when you express your frustrations, and use your emotional energy to convey your perspective, occasionally you can assert yourself in a position which feels rather powerless. I still felt like a horrid person after he left though. Just as I need to have enough money to get to the end of the month, so too does he, deceptive pricing or not. We do what we must when backed into a fiscal corner I suppose.

After a very short sleep on Wednesday, I got home from the chiropractor on Thursday with every intention of an early night to bed. Instead, neuroses struck. I’ve been trying to get a hold of the Canadian tax agency for over a month to try to sort out a little non-resident tangle and hadn’t been able to get through to them any of the times I called. So instead of making up for a sleepless Wednesday, I had a sleepless Thursday too. Bonus points for the fact that I “fixed” it Friday but now just 5 minutes ago realized that I didn’t need to and that by “fixing” it I’ve probably made more of a mess. Somedays I could just smack myself.

Early Friday morning I was released from my tortured, neurotic sleep but one of the loudest thunderstorms I’ve heard in years. It was as if the entire storm was in my room with me—everything but the rain. So I gave up on sleep, headed into work, and did my very best to stay awake.

Perhaps we can blame my tiredness and stress for my botched “remedy” of my tax situation. Anyway, once I’d “gotten that sorted” I fell into an exhausted pile and accidentally slept my entire evening away, waking up around 10pm, just in time to decide that going out wasn’t worth it and crawl back under the covers.

On Saturday, I engaged in my usual lazy rigamarole of laundry, house cleaning, and shopping mixed with a few documentaries, a bit of reading, and some very delicious food. I bought grouper from my local market, and let me tell you, panfried grouper with a balsamic glaze is pretty spectacular.

Since it was Member’s Appreciation day at the monthly westie party, I set out to dance rather earlier than usual to catch the workshops. The leads were in short supply so I jumped in as a leader and three hours later was wandering off the floor with a very full and seriously exhausted brain. When you’re used to following, leading really is a trial!

I spent the rest of the evening, following, chatting, and otherwise enjoying the night before finishing it all off around 1:30am with a deli smoothie and even more good conversation.

Come Sunday, I indulged in a bit of a lie in before eventually booting my butt out the door to a dance practice. It was a really solid practice session wherein I felt progress was made but all too soon it was over and I was wandering southwards again. I stopped at Home Depot to buy a new knob/lock for my miscreant door.

Sometime later, I had a new lock, a week’s worth of lunches, and no desire to do anything other than laze about in my room. And so that’s what I did. I started a new book, I listened to some music, and then I went to bed.

Today was a perfectly ordinary day right up until the point I realized that I’d mucked up my taxes again at which point I descended back into my current state of nerves blended with a ferocious desire to just sort it out. 13 hours left until the phones open at the Canadian Revenue Agency and hopefully I can get it all worked out.

Falling (mostly) forward,
The Salsa Girl

In Which There is Jet Lag

You know, I never get jet lag when I fly half way around the planet. Give me an 8 hour time change and I’m right as rain, but fly me across a continent and expect me to adjust to a 3 hour difference, even after only a week? Well, suffice to say, I’m not going to have a good time of it. As an innately nocturnal being, I find it terribly challenging to convince my charming cerebrum that it really is bedtime at 12am when it has the plausible deniability of a 3 hour time change. Not unexpectedly, I’ve been a bit tired this last week, what with being in the office by 8am and all that delightful good stuff.

I must admit however, that I may have exacerbated the problem with a bit of a maniacal plunge back into dance land. On Tuesday, once snapped, crackled, and popped a little closer to alignment, I bounded off into Midtown to check out a new dance school: Piel Canela. It’s conveniently located in Midtown alongside most of my other regular dance venues and it came recommended by my former director whose opinion on salsa is as good as gospel in my humble opinion.

Unused to the formality of a large dance school in a shared venue I rather botched the whole business of registration, which is to say that I didn’t do it at all initially but after talking my way into a Partnerwork Styling class, I was set aright by a fellow student and lead off to another studio where I was to pay. Everyone was ready to call it a night and go home so they elected not to bother with the actual registration. I suppose I’ll find out what that entails tomorrow. Yes, it was good enough that I’m going back for more even though I still struggle to stomach the $20/hour premium that NYC dance class seem to command.

Wednesday was the usual westie adventure, after the even more predictable duet of work and chiropractic treatment. Likely related to the aforementioned jet lag, I may have stayed out until the final song and maybe might have spent a good long while chatting on the sidewalk with a friend who happens to take the same train. There is little more satisfying than a good chat, except of course a good chat which provides an excuse to stay out well past one’s bedtime.

I did, however, suffer somewhat for my indulgent evening as the following night saw me entirely too tired to meet my planned dance obligations. Fortunately, there is always next week and I’ve all the very best intentions to make it out to Eddie’s intermediate class this coming Thursday.

Despite staying in the night before, Friday found me sleepy as ever, trying manfully to power my way through a busy day at work. I was doing admirably until about 4pm, when I headed over to the lab where I’d left a student seemingly happily conducting an experiment with soundless chemical demolition agents. Around 3 o’clock I’d helped him mix the cement and pour measured quantities into tubes and then I’d stripped off my safety gear and headed back to the office to get a bit more done before the day wrapped up. An hour later, I headed back to provide him some documentation. As I was walking down the hallway, I got an ominous text from the student wondering if perhaps his Professor was available. Moments later, I walked in to see one tube lying on its side, half melted and surrounded by a suspicious quantity of cement. Before I could even ask what had happened a second tube popped loudly and sprayed fragments of cement every which way. Mere minutes later, the third went up, blasting a ceiling tile into oblivion while the other two continued to puff contentedly away spewing little clouds of cement dust with each explosive burp.

Apparently, the room was too hot for expansive cements and this wasn’t the first time that one of my boss’s students has found their experiment punctuated by a blow out, but this was certainly one of the more dramatic ones. I left the student to supervise the still scalding pile of cement powder that laid all over the lab bench and I went off to collect ice-cream for the undergrads’ sundae party. Predictably, I bought entirely too much ice-cream, but, as I lost the receipt and so cannot get it reimbursed, I am now rewarding myself with morning affogati until I finally work my way through the tubs of frozen yumminess.

Following the feast of ice-cream covered in every imaginable topping, we tidied up the room we’d borrowed and I headed to Prospect Park for free music. Amongst the multitude of delightful free things that populate a New York summer, one of the most impressive options is the cavalcade of free music that comprises the Celebrate Brooklyn Festival. The festival features bands from The Shins to Lake Street Dive, and Fleet Foxes. For my part I was there to take in the indie-ful sounds of Andrew Bird. When I arrived at 6:15 for gates at 6:30, the queue already stretched all over inside of the park and three blocks up the street. And that was just the 9th St entrance. But there was free yogurt and the promise of music so I settled in to queue.

When we finally got in, I claimed a spot on the more dirt than grass hill and plopped down for the opening act. Esperanza Spalding put on an excellent jazz set rich with bass and saxophone and then, it was time for the main event. A crowd had gathered on the path directly behind the highly coveted rows of chairs so I rose to join them and found that, being the giant that I am, I was able to look easily over the heads of nearly everyone. A moment later it began. One doesn’t usually stop to appreciate the range of auditory possibilities inherent in a violin, but Andrew Bird uses them all and then some. As an accompaniment to his layered and looped violin, he not only sang but also whistled like bird of rare skill. For the first few songs it was only him, his violin, and a spinning double horned phonograph which lends the most ethereal tone to it all, and then the band joined in.

It was magic from start to finish. When the band hit the stage they alternated between creative indie rock masterpieces and folksy bluegrass tunes with all the whistling and violin picking one could wish for and then were was the encore. What an encore it was! First both Andrew and Esperanza returned to the stage for a jazzy bit of play, blending whistling, scatting, and a gorgeous walking bassline, and then Bird’s band retook the stage. It was the most rousing (revised) rendition of Table and Chairs that I had ever heard transitioning seamlessly into my very favourite Andrew Bird song: Fake Palindromes. It was so very delicious.

Saturday morning, my nocturnal tendencies caught up with me and I ended up indulging in a bit of a lie-in. I did however, manage to get up with enough day left to do laundry, clean the flat, buy groceries, and prep all my lunches for the week, so I’m going to call it a win. I may have been bit silly in my shopping however as I found myself at home with an armload of vegetables and a very peculiar (on sale) tropical fruit. It turns out that mamey sapota is very tasty but also very fibrous and not exactly conducive to a contented tummy. Smaller doses next time I think.

I then spent the evening attempting to dye my hair exciting colours while actually just discovering that my hair is now too dark a blonde to take semi-permanent colour. My disappointment with this development is more keen than I can say.

With faintly strawberry blonde hair, I soon found myself on the humble D train rocketing down the rails to the Bronx. Why the Bronx? Why else but Yamulee? Yes, it was their monthly social and I was there like the dirtiest of shirts. I just cannot stay away. Nowhere else in the city has quite such consistently skilled dancers and even though it takes the better part of an hour to get there and the dance doesn’t actually kick off until 11:30, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. As the best kind of bonus, a swing friend, formerly of the salsa persuasion met me there with a few of her old salsa friends. Not only was it great to see her and meet them, but she also emboldened me with her fearless nature.

I am so shy about asking good dancers to dance but she has no such qualms. She blithely approaches whomever she chooses and seems to have such confidence and certainty of her self-worth that no salsa snob scares her. So, guided by her example, I was bold enough to ask a few leads who I’ve been watching with great admiration for months. And the best bit? They even seemed to enjoy it! If there was a cure for shyness and the fear of impropriety, I’d be downing every bottle I could find, and don’t you dare say alcohol: I’ve tried it and it’s not nearly strong enough for my particular affliction.

When the dance finally wound down, we headed back to the D train which was far less forlorn with company. It’s a long old ride alone at 2:30am, but with company it hardly seems so at all. At last we reached the LES where hunger crossed paths with my favourite pizza joint. Chatting and gossiping about life, the universe and everything over the best pizza in my neighbourhood carried us from 3:30 on past 4:30 and by the time I actually made it back to my apartment it was gone 5am.

I suppose it won’t surprise you to hear that I slept until 1:30pm the next day but let me tell you it surprised the pants right off me! I haven’t had such an indulgent lie-in in years! So I decided to keep the indulgence train rolling and headed to my local market for treats. I was all out of olive oil so I started at the shop which specializes in spices and oils. The shopkeeper fed me a smorgasbord of oil samples from truffle to basil to a house special with parmesan, chilies, garlic, and some other form of heaven that I don’t quite know the name for. But of course, my own weaknesses were soon swiftly found and I fell head over heels in love with a saffron scented oil. It has got to be one of my favourite flavours, neither too faint nor too strong and complimentary with nearly everything including chocolate.

I think the shopkeeper finally got a bead on me when I nearly swooned over the saffron and, clever man that he was, he next cajoled me into trying three beautiful balsamics. The first was a fig and vanilla vinegar and it took every ounce of self-control I possessed not to walk away with a bottle. It was like syrup, so thick and rich and sweet, balanced with just the right acidity. I will buy a bottle eventually, but for now, let’s pretend that I am not actually such a slave to flavour. Following that bit of magic, I was fed a coconut balsamic and an aged balsamic which seemed hardly to be vinegar at all! They were so sweet and nuanced and absolutely to die for which is why I will probably have to start putting my pennies away into an oil and vinegar fund. Incorrigible is one word.

Having pocketed my bottle of oil, I drifted past the artisan bakery where I acquired a pound of ciabatta before making the most indulgent stop of the day: the imported cheese shop. I had thought to hold myself to a simple chèvre (cows milk cheese doesn’t tend to play all that nicely with my digestive tract), but I had grievously underestimated. As I waited in the queue I realized that my choices in the tone of goat numbered at least 10. They had everything from fresh creamy chèvre to every imaginable variety of hard cheese and just as I thought I might get lost entirely, the keeper of this particular shop reached over the counter to hand me a shred of the most beautiful prosciutto—a slice not quite to her standard for packing into paper for the fellow in front of me.

When it was finally my turn I tasted a Chèvre Haut-Bearn, a hard but mild cheese of French extraction, before meeting my match in a beautiful goat’s milk Brabander. It was almost pinkish in colour, so obviously I was intrigued and when I tasted it? It was the perfect nutty, rich cheese with enough character to keep me intrigued without drifting into the dangerous territory where fragrant turns to smelly. I nearly made it out with just my 1/4lb of cheese but then at the counter I spotted French caramels. When I tossed one onto my cheese, the shopkeeper murmured approvingly “oh good choice, that’s a good pairing” and I bounded off to find out whether that just marketing or truth. Spoiler alert: it was truth.

As soon as I got home from the market I settled in with a pot of tea, a few slices of bread, a bowl of oil, a jar of my mom’s homemade jam, and, of course, my cheese and caramel. I cannot even begin to put into words the joy that that food brought me. There is something so sublime about eating bread and oil, and cheese and caramel may soon reach the same elevated status in my mind. The nuttiness of the cheese played beautifully on the sweetness of the caramel while, texturally, the soft caramel seemed to enrobe the fragments of firm, nearly squeaky cheese as I alternated bites. I would gush more but I’m salivating already and I really can’t afford to go buying $25/lb cheese on the regular, even if it is the tummy-safe goat variety.

Having whiled away the afternoon over food, I then headed out to Jimmy Anton’s social. It was the first time I’d been since the studio replaced their floor. I had always loved the events at Stepping Out but every time I left with ankles in agony and knees complaining bitterly. Apparently a floating floor really does make a difference because after an evening of dance that left me dripping with sweat, my joints were unfazed. Small victories.

And then it was time to head home and, as luck would have it, I crossed paths with another dance friend who happened to be heading to Delancey as well. So another train journey home was spent gossiping idly about dance and enjoying the small luxury of companionship while riding trains in this big bad city I love.

Today it was work, then chiropractic followed by the last bits of blended carrot soup that had been living in my freezer for months and now I am lying in bed listening to music and writing to all you lovelies. I’m trying to keep Mondays as my night off so that I actually get these blogs out on time, but I make no promises as to how long that will last.

Forever a gourmande,
The Salsa Girl

In Which the Island Beckons

It’s the end of my vacation and I’m sitting in YVR with hours to kill. My air travel neuroses met up with my ferry neuroses and now I’m sitting here, horrifyingly punctually (read: early) wondering if I will ever convince myself that I don’t need 1hr of buffer time for each mode of transport employed. Despite my obsession with contingency time, I am about to hop onto a red eye that will see me stumble into Montreal tomorrow morning with only an hour to pre-clear and shoehorn myself into my flight to LGA. It is possible that I have over neurosed this leg of the journey in a lame attempt to compensate for the lack of flex in my connection, but let’s not think about that. If all goes to plan, I’ll be back in the office just after lunch tomorrow. If not? Well I’ll figure that out if/when I get there.

I suspect, however, that you didn’t come here to hear about how fun it is to catch flights with me, so let’s head on back to where I left you last Wednesday with a full belly and an increasing caffeine load in Vancouver.

Once I hit publish on last week’s summary, I lazed around for a bit longer in the coffee shop before setting out on foot towards the skytrain. In theory a bus could have carried me very nearly door to door, but I had the time and the weather was divine so I moseyed out onto the corner of Main and Broadway and turned east towards The Drive. I dropped into a few second hand stores, basked in the sun, and was soon at Commercial Drive entirely too early to catch the train out to Burnaby for my coffee plans in a relatively featureless industrial park. There is a pizzeria at which I enjoyed several years ago, somewhere on The Drive so I decided to kill time by seeing if I could find it. I couldn’t, but I did find a fantastic little dress shop full of the most adorable little dresses. Everything was pin-uppy and a little retro and I was in love! I might have tried on about half the store but about half an hour later I was flouncing back out onto the sidewalk having finally found a dress for the upcoming wedding! As a bonus of the highest degree, it was also on sale! I’ve heard that the dopamine response to getting something on sale is comparable to achieving orgasm. I won’t make any conclusive statements in that direction, but I can certainly see how they came up with the research idea.

Equipped with my brand new polka dots, I set off for Burnaby where I settled into a coffee shop for $1 coffee and complimentary bruschetta with a dance friend. We were both job hunting at the same time about a year and a half ago and now we’re both gainfully employed so it seemed like an excellent time to compare notes.

Caffeinated nearly beyond sense and health, I soon found myself heading back towards Granville for a delicious dinner with a high school friend. She has been adulting in all manner of fantastic forms and is about to embark on a whole new exciting, adventure with career prospects and spouse and all manner of other clever put-togetherness. As someone who lives by a policy of perennially pursuing the next best thing that happens to arise, I am always so impressed by people who seem to have a sensible forward trajectory and the lifestyle to prove it’s working. In other news, Lebanese food is spectacular and JamJar is definitely worth a visit.

As it was my last day in the city, I was (obviously) a bit overbooked, so when I bid my dinner date adieu, I was immediately met by another dancer friend for drinks and patter in a nearby bar. I am both delighted and incredibly envious whenever I hear about other people’s travel plans and this was no exception! Much as I love visiting all the folks that live in places I’ve already been, I live in a constant battle with the call of the unknown and it is only my bank account and my need for some employment stability that keeps my feet on North American soil. I’ve already pondered what likely amounts to at least 2 solid years of travel, and I’ve not the faintest idea when I might fit that in. Perhaps I ought to start buying lottery tickets.

And then, finally, it was time to get myself over the water to the island. I caught the 8am and by noon I was in Victoria filling my face with the best buddhist food in the city and catching up with yet another dance friend. She was on a bit of a tight schedule so as soon as our faces were full, we parted ways and I headed home to chill with my mom and my sweet little cockapoo, Taffy. After some snuggles with the puppy and conversation with my mom, I headed to my old teaching partner’s place for a bit of dancing and a lot of chatting and lounging in his living room. It’s interesting to dance with someone whose lead you are VERY familiar with after almost a year apart. Fundamentally it feels the same, but the layers above that foundation are ever shifting and changing. It’s a bit like returning to an old apartment after it’s been renovated by someone else. All the bones are there but nothing is quite the same.

And, as if I hadn’t had enough dancing already, I then headed out to Casablanca to check in with the salsa crowd. Being summer (and the day before Salsa Caliente was to leave for Puerto Rico) it was a bit of a low key evening, but I had excellent chats, a few fun dances, and just enough of a teaser that now all I can think about is how much I wish I was also on my way to Puerto Rico!

I have just discovered that my flight from Vancouver is delayed. My 1hr connection just contracted down to 30min.

I am now back from a mad run around the airport, hoping for standby on the flight leaving basically right now. Cross your fingers for me.

So let’s go back to happy times in Victoria. Friday morning I headed into town to visit my old haunt: Russell Books. There are plenty of new people but still a few of the old faithfuls which resulted in me spending almost an hour roaming from floor to floor catching up with people and sharing stories of New York. It was a wonderful way to start a day and was immediately followed by a quick visit to the inimitable Chocolat where I got entirely carried away reliving all of my favourite flavours.

After some seriously crazy rushing about and crossing of fingers, I managed to get wedged into an earlier flight and, as a result, am now in YUL with time to spare. This may seem like a ridiculously small thing to some of you, but I’m very proud of myself for taking the situation in hand and requesting a solution rather than just praying that I was able to make the connection in half the time. Thank you Air Canada for hearing my concern and responding so efficiently and effectively!

But back to Victoria and Friday. After stuffing my face full of artisan chocolates, I took a mosey around the inner harbour and soon found myself at the location of my old favourite sushi haunt. It’s a different restaurant entirely now, but they still do sushi so I dropped in to see. It was fine enough but the tempura dipping sauce tasted suspiciously of autumn, the rolls were made with white (rather than brown) rice, and it just wasn’t my beloved old Kaz Sushi. I suspect that there will just never be an adequate replacement for anything so thoroughly loved in those formative undergraduate years.

Once fed, I caught up with another friend over coffee before wandering home to grab my dance bag before I set out for dinner. I took a dangerous route though, and soon found myself leaving the local dance shop with new shoes and a new pair of pants. In my defence, I did have a discount card that needed to be used up. That the things which I bought were already clearance items that were not eligible for the discount should not diminish the sensibleness of my visit.

Sometime later, I found myself in Spinnakers enjoying a local saison and an absolutely stunning pasta dish. A tangled coil of handmade linguine was delicately coated in a cream sauce and topped with a tumbling pile of spinach, parmesan, and smoked oysters, and the company wasn’t half bad either! A former roommate and I caught up over our beers before wandering out into the fresh evening air to walk and chat off our rather powerful local brews. It turns out that, despite being a veritable cocktail fiend, I have entirely lost the ability to drink beer and am noticeably tipsy within a pint. My liver has apparently decided to discourage me from any reenactments of Ireland.

Having sobered up somewhat, I headed down to Swing City to see the ballroom crowd. Alas, there were no UVic dancers to be found but I had a few dances and a lovely conversation with my old ballroom dance instructor before drifting back out into the night to find a bus home.

At this point I climbed on the second leg of my flight and passed out for another precious hour of sleep before hauling myself into the office for the day. I have now woken up from another collapse of nearly four hours after work and am going to get this cracked out over my NYC pizza slices before I climb back into bed. 

Come Saturday morning, we set out up the highway towards Courtenay and another wedding. Traffic was thick before we even left Victoria, but we were unprepared for the bumper to bumper crawl up the Malahat. Though construction is stalled on the weekends, the highway still remains a lane short and so the crawl is apparently perennial. When we finally got free of the traffic, it was a butt scuttle and a half to Courtenay but we made it! I stepped out of the car just in time to walk to the ceremony site and settle in for another beautiful wedding of a wonderful woman from my undergraduate days.

The bride, Alysse is a practical, efficient type so the wedding was well planned and executed under a beautiful spreading oak tree. The reception was a gorgeous sea of greenery, wood, and subtle lights with homemade wedding cake made from the recipe that we all remember from late nights chatting on Alysse’s floor and afternoon teas at her kitchen table.

As the bridesmaid (also a good friend) shared in her toast, almost every memory of good times with Alysse comes packaged up with homemade food and love. We spent perhaps an unreasonable amount of time in her kitchen at all times of the day and night making cookies, drinking tea (from her giant tub of fancy loose leaf teas), and waiting around optimistically for fresh made baguette and other forms of culinary affection. Along with the food came solid life advice, compassion, caring, and of course all manner of silliness. I will forever have fond memories of midnight trips to the beach to dance in the pouring rain, singing show tunes on buses (I declined to join in lest the entire bus be deafened by my lack of vocal skill), and always being enveloped in the warmth of dancing, friendship, and food.

It was so lovely to see such an excellent friend marry the man she seemed so destined to be with and really, it was just so lovely to see her again, and to see her so happy. Alysse has come to visit me in China and London and I can only hope to see both her and Fraser in New York soon.

And then suddenly it was Sunday and my time on the West Coast was drawing swiftly to a close. As we drove back down to the ferry we stopped for a walk with the dog on the beach, fish and chips in Sidney, and conversation in the shade, before I bid my mom and the dog farewell and bundled myself onto the ferry. From the ferry it was the bus and the skytrain to the airport where I began the saga that you’ve seen in the italics. Combined with a screaming infant on the red eye (dear parents, if you have to fly with a child and a daytime flight is available, please consider leaving the sleeping flight for sleeping), a full, busy afternoon of work knocked me right out and now I’m just waking up and feeding myself before, most likely, crawling right back into bed.

Exhausted but so happy to have gone,
The Salsa Girl

In Which there is a Wedding in the West

I did warn you that I might be negligent this week and I really did attempt not to be, but holidays are holidays and it’s very hard to blog when there are so many lovely people to talk to instead. So it’s late, mea culpa, you’ll live.

Last week was, for the most part just a whirlwind of work as I frantically strove to get everything done before my much anticipated exodus from the city. On Tuesday I bustled from work, to my chiropractor, to the disaster that was my bedroom to pack a backpack for BC. By Wednesday, with all my things packed I stayed late at work, hurried off to my chiropractor at the last possible moment and then drifted in to Midtown for dinner and dancing. I grabbed Korean food from a fantastic little counter service place with two dance friends, one of whom was soon to deploy. It’s a strange thing this deployment business. I’ve never actually known anyone on active duty before so this was the first time I had ever wished someone well on their way to a war zone. It makes a person think and makes it painfully clear to one, just how much that person means to one. Suffice to say, that evening at dance involved a deeply heartfelt send off and no small number of hugs and admonitions to “take care of yourself”. Perhaps this is just part and parcel of the American experience.

The following day I was up bright and early and into the office well before 8am so that I could be sure that everything was wrapped up before I headed off to Newark that afternoon. I suppose I probably did leave the office earlier than I needed to (see Exhibit A: Spending 3 hours in the airport) but the trains have been so ill mannered of late that I didn’t dare risk it! It was not the happiest airport I’ve ever been in. There were growing crowds of travellers waiting irritably for planes delayed by storms. I blithely assumed that, since the boards still said my plane was on time, I’d be just fine. I was a fool to under-estimate our inestimable national carrier. With the savvy that only an old Canadian airline could muster, Air Canada piled us into the plane exactly on time, taxied out off the apron and out of cell service, and then sat for 45 minutes while we waited for a take off time. Wily old devils altogether.

By the time I rolled into Vancouver I was tired, a bit badly tempered, and very glad that I still had money on my compass card. My patient host woke up to let me in, and I collapsed in a pile in bed.

Friday morning I set out on a mad last minute attempt to gather my wits for a wedding. I needed a card at least and a nicer top if possible, and all before I caught my bus at noon. The card I found quickly enough; the top seemed an impossible quest. I searched everywhere but to no avail and so with half an hour to spare, resigned myself to the bus station where, amongst the hockey jerseys and maple syrup in the kitschy little gift shop, I found the most unbelievably perfect bright peach scarf. It was exactly the same colour as the lighter coral in my skirt and a perfectly acceptable weight for summer wear! Needless to say, it came with me.

As per usual, the bus was running a bit late, but fortunately, so was my lift from the bus station to the camp so I was able to make a stop at the good ol’ BCL to stock up for the weekend. Sometime later with several six packs of cider, we headed out to Camp Tie a Knot to join the wedding prep/celebrations. Within 2 minutes of stepping out of the truck, I was covered in mosquito bites. 2 minutes later I unceremoniously dumped my load of luggage and sleeping supplies and soaked myself in Off. I would smell consistently of bug spray for the rest of my weekend but would avoid too many more itchy little encounters with the Canadian mosquito. After some table dressing and furniture/flower distribution we all headed off to bed and I bunked down with the bridesmaids.

The following morning we were up bright and early to get the bridal party all beautified and dressed before the 11 o’clock ceremony. Fortunately, my own preparations were quick so I spent a good portion of the morning lounging around chatting and drinking breakfast champagne, before eventually being recruited to curl hair and run errands that the now fully bedecked bridesmaids could not.

The ceremony site was a bit of a hot sunny patch of field but the ceremony was heartbreakingly beautiful. They read Tyler Knott Gregson poems to each other and suffused the entire area with their friendship and love.

After the ceremony and the champagne lunch, where I met some fascinating new friends, we all wandered off towards the beaches. In true Okanagan fashion, I rapidly turned my pasty back to a lightly grilled and impressively toasty pink but by god was it ever nice to just lie in the sun with no obligations and no emails hanging over my head. Following our beach adventures, there was some napping and some changing and finally the reception. Again, the thickness of the love made it nearly hard to breathe and definitely hard not to cry. Thank heavens for waterproof makeup! I don’t think I could have survived the reading of the groom’s journal from the day he met the bride without being able to indulge in some conspicuous leaking from the eyes. Despite the unromantic nature of my own existence, I am, unashamedly, a romantic and I am instantly in tears when I encounter such full, open hearted love. I shall let my internal cynic duke it out with the weepies and whimsy that this weekend has inspired.

As we moved from our delicious dinner to the dance floor, we were in for an even greater gift. The bride was treating us to a dance. I have not seen Julia dance for many years, but having seen it once or twice early in our friendship, I have always hoped to have the chance to witness it again. I have seen a lot of dance numbers in my time. World class dancers of every style from bellydance to ballet, salsa to modern, and in all that time, I have never seen a single performer with more engaging and compelling stage presence than Julia. I can’t quite put it in to words and I am certain I shall never be able to emulate it, but the best explanation that I can give is that, when I see Julia perform, it feels like she is dancing just for me. Somehow, despite being surrounded by the whole rest of the smitten audience, I feel like I’m alone in the seats, watching a show put on just for my pleasure. I’ve asked others since, and I’m not alone in feeling this way: there is something magic in her movement and her smile and though we may never know quite why, I think it is safe to say that we are all incredibly grateful just to see her dance.

Having now shown my ridiculous adulation for her dancing, I should probably tell you a little more about how wonderful Julia is in general. I met her in first year university. I was a shy awkward small town kid convinced I was too big and too tall to ever be feminine or sexy, and then I met Julia. She towered over me and was the very embodiment of femininity, both effervescently friendly and incredibly alluring. She taught me to drink rose and love life, to shimmy and to teach others the same. We spent many nights of our undergraduate degrees wine drunk (or more drunk) and happy whether celebrating Lucia, or just making it through to another Friday. And as if she had not already done enough to help me blossom into the dancer that you all now know, she also introduced me to a whole troupe of fantastic ladies who, though all different and unique, shared a common strength, sensibility, and feminism that still inspires me to demand more from life and refuse to be devalued or patronized because of my X chromosomes.

Thus, this past weekend was not just the stunningly beautiful marriage of a much loved friend, but also a chance to be reminded of some values that I had perhaps let slide longer than I ought. If I could still look at champagne without a slight glaze of fear settling over my stomach, I’d raise a glass to Canadian women, and the men that love and respect them as equals.

Sunday morning I rolled out of the bunkhouse just in time to shove a few pancakes into my face and commence the clean up. We returned the camp to its wilder state, packed no small number of vehicles full of decorations, gifts, and people, and headed into Penticton. On the way, we stopped for some hang-over helpers. My partner in crime settled into a Taco Time burrito while I dug my spoon into a strawberry cheesecake blizzard. Ridiculous as this may be, I miss DQ more than any other Canadian institution. There is just something particularly magical about their ice-cream and especially their cakes!

Once fed and handling our hangovers with ever so slightly more grace, we arrived at the bride’s parent’s house for the gift opening. After a few more hours sitting lazily in the warm shade, I was shuttled back to Summerland to catch my bus. It’s never a good sign when the bus is already 30 minutes late before it even gets to you, and when your bus driver gets lost in Merritt? Not unexpectedly, we got into Vancouver VERY late, but at least my fellow passengers were amusing if a bit too loud to allow me any sleep.

Back in Vancouver, I spent Monday morning taking advantage of the relative value of the dollar I am paid in and the dollar I could shop in. To be honest, even without the imbalance, I would have still made a trek to Winners. I am not the most “on trend” of individuals and I have never liked skinny jeans. I like the wide leg jeans but I’m not nearly svelte enough for that business, so I am a dedicated wearer of bootcut and flares and for many years now, the only place I’ve ever been able to find a decent pair of jeans for less than $100 has been the Winners on Granville St. This excursion was no exception so now I can finally toss my poor woeful prior pair with inner thighs worn to pieces by the friction of my frantic stride.

Triumphant after my shopping adventure, I met a friend for lunch by the waterfront where we ate pizza and quaffed beer and apparently discovered that I had not eaten enough that day. One beer in about 45 minutes with only half a pizza to absorb it was apparently enough to do me in. I would spend the rest of the afternoon tipsily wandering through Metrotown hoping to find a nice dress for next weekend’s wedding while praying that none of the patient sales clerks could tell how hard I was finding it to focus.

That night, my lovely host Martina and I grabbed dinner and a gossip session at Fable Kitchen. It was a 10-15 minute walk from her apartment and everything they make is fresh, local, and phenomenal. I had a pork belly and scallops that defied all previous understandings of just how delicious either of those things could be. And if that wasn’t enough already, we finished with a lemon meringue parfait which featured custardy perfection topped with earl grey ice-cream and perfectly torched meringue. To say it was delicious does not even begin to explain.

Tuesday I had great ambitions of writing this all up for you but I maybe got distracted and instead had more adventures. I started my day with brunch at an unassuming little diner in Kits with two more good friends from UVic days. We ate fried chicken and waffles eggs benedict which is absolutely as crazy and as delicious as you might imagine. We then roamed around Kits until we could move comfortably again and they headed off to attend to their busy lives while I returned to the dress hunt. Apparently the combination of being cheap and being my size in Vancouver is just untenable because I found myself still empty handed back downtown at 4:30 for coffee with an acquaintance from my ballroom dancing days. It’s always so interesting to see people again several years older and wiser and hear how they’ve managed to stride or fumble their way through.

And then finally, it was dancing time! The evening started with a 1.5 hour lesson from the inimitable Myles and Tessa and ended with some magnificent dances with the smooth as silk Vancouver swing crowd. I have missed the way they feel. I find that I cannot put it into words, but there is something fundamentally different in how the folks out East dance versus the people here in the West. Someday I hope to define it but, until then, I will have to settle for saying that they way they bring me out of my anchor out here just feels so damn good I don’t even have words for it. They are also a lovely bunch of folk and treated me to more than enough flattery to leave me glowing like a Christmas tree when it came time for me to head back out into the night in search of a bus.

That about brings us up to date and leads me to where I am now, sitting in Kafka across from my latest brunch buddy who I caught up with over insane roast duck pancakes and a coffee milkshake. He needed to get some work done and I badly needed to get this blog written so I’m here using the presence of another person as guilt induction should I stop tapping away on my keyboard for too long, and lo and behold, from this has birthed a blog! It’s been a wonderful adventure thus far and I’ve still another wedding and all of Victoria to catch up with! I’ll try to be more prompt next week, but no promises.

See you on the flip side,
The Salsa Girl