In Which The Salsa Girl Gets Sick

Alas the vitamin C was unsuccessful and I am now stumbling out of a haze of sinus horribleness into a barking asthmatic cough. It’s beautiful. I’m exhausted. Sadly, grant deadlines wait for no one. If you’re not quite catching my drift, I feel quite monstrous and hence this blog might be concise. But you never know, it might ramble too.

Tuesday heralded the slow creep of the current cold via nasal congestion and a stiff neck that leapt quite suddenly to screaming nerve pinching discomfort when I chose a less than ergonomic seat at Data Driven. Yes, it was that time of month again when I race out of work and leap on a 4 train up to Bloomberg to listen to data scientists talk, eat free pizza, drink free wine, and chatter with all manner of people. Unfortunately I chose a seat rather far right of the podium and halfway through the evening my neck decided to throw a shoe. Being the best type of hypochondriac, I missed half of the next talk frantically googling symptoms before, in the last five percent of battery, I eventually caved and messaged the doctor sister. Turns out I wasn’t having a stroke, which is always a pleasant discovery.

After the talks ended and I was filling my face with pizza, I decided that my nearly ill self and I should probably find a place to sit, which was how I ended up spending the evening chatting with two amazing women investors who were so busy and vibrant I could hardly believe it. It really puts things in perspective when a 70 year old has more energy than you do.

By Wednesday morning, my slight sniffle and stiffness had grown into a rather imposing head cold. I moped my way through the work day, mustered just enough energy to do some tutoring and then promptly collapsed head first into bed to attempt to assuage my sinus situation with sleep. Results were mixed.

Now you know it’s serious if I miss dance, and I missed dance on Wednesday so I really should have taken a sick day on Thursday, but deadlines were looming so I settled for working from home on the promise that I could sleep until 8am, nap on my lunch break, and then crash back into bed immediately after my work day ended. Because I’m so good at work life balance, I ended up working straight through from 8am to 5:15pm without taking a break at all, let alone a nap. But at least it was all done in pyjamas under my quilt.

After my snap crackle pop appointment at 6pm, I grabbed a juicy beef on challah sandwich from Cheeky’s and then replayed Wednesday and flopped directly into bed.

Friday morning, it was back to the office coughing and snuffling my way through more grant prep. I had grand ambitions of salsa at Yamulee, but as the head cold marched on, I decided that perhaps sleep should be the order of the day and passed out directly. You see, I needed energy for Saturday!

Yes, come Saturday it was time to peel my headachy sinus self out of bed and schlep up to White Plains to make cheesecake. I’d bragged a bit too much about past cheesecake adventures and so my skills were being put to the test in Jessie’s slightly larger that Manhattan, Westchester kitchen. I started with a decadent chocolate crust filled sky-high with spiced orange cheesecake filling. Once that was in the oven, I started poaching pears to be paired with ginger snap crush and a basic cheesecake filling. While the cheesecakes were cooling, I decided that I really needed to use up the two leftover egg whites from the first (incredibly rich) cake, which is how I ended up making blackberry meringues. Somewhere around the pear poaching, the rest of the party arrived and food was ordered, and somehow I found myself full of sushi with a dark n stormy in my left hand, stirring a red wine reduction with my right.

When everything was finally assembled, we had a mulled wine inspired cheesecake composed of the most decadent chocolate crust ever imagined, 2.5 spectacular inches of spiced orange cheesecake, and a gorgeous red wine and star anise reduction which dyed the entire top a brilliant burgundy. Resting next to this beautiful monstrosity, there lay a rather more modest but no less delicious concoction of ginger snap crust layered with spiced poached pears, and a light frothy cheese cake topping. Next time I think I’d give the mulled wine cake about 15 minutes longer in the oven but for now I’ll call it good enough and leave it at that.


With bellies absolutely crammed with decadence we then sat around playing video games and socializing until the last Metro North train of the night. I was a horrible snuffly mess by the end, but I’m terrible proud of myself for having managed to not pet and snuggle and love the ball of allergens that is Jessie’s ragdoll cat. He is such a lovely kitty, but he’s absolutely anathema to my allergies. That said, I usually cave and just snuggle the ball of loving fur up regardless. Self control wouldn’t be a strong suit, but somehow, last Saturday I managed to restrain myself and only pet him once just before I was leaving. I shall consider this great success.

Having gotten back to the Lower East Side rather impressively late, I found myself lying in bed feeling very sorry for myself right up until 11:30am on Sunday. The cold was back in full force and I nearly missed another day of dance, but I love contemporary so much that I decided to drag myself out regardless. It was the right choice. We had a substitute teacher again and the choreography was well and truly beyond my ken, but it was terribly fun, and ended with our little posse wandering down to the East Village to eat gelato and wasabi ciabatta sandwiches at the inimitable Fresco gelateria. The chats were most excellent and I even managed to get myself home in time to finally get my laundry done. And then, surprise, surprise, I dumped myself into bed and passed out.

Today saw me sulking through another day of work and hacking phlegmatic cough before making my way to yoga where I discovered that no amount of dance and stairs can keep my quads in yoga shape. Humble warrior nearly ended me. But in spite of whimpering quads, I made it all the way through an hour and ten minutes of yoga with only a few indelicate snuffles, and then, then it was time for savasana. Yes, the peaceful relaxing, silent and still savasana, during which my horrid lungs decided a coughing fit was very much in order. The other yogis loved me so much… And now you find me here, scribbling away and staring lustily at my pillow. Give me ten and I’ll be passed out upon it.

Still coughing,
The Salsa Girl


In Which The Climate Proves Impressively Changeable

As we thrash and dive between frigid cold and unseasonable warmth, I find myself swaddled in more layers than I would have ever thought possible, either sweating or shivering regardless the arrangement of clothing. Hence, I have spent entirely too much time whining about climate change and cursing my feeble and overstressed immune system. I’m hovering on the edge of a cold pretending that vitamin C packets will counteract the vacillations of the weather. Wish me luck.

This impending cold is also my excuse for the relatively unremarkable week that I’m about to relay to you all here. You’ll also be delighted to know that if you wade through the mundanity of the first three days, you’ll find yourself reading about an absolutely lovely dance weekend. So bear with me, or skip to the end if you’d prefer. I won’t mind.

Tuesday saw me attempting to catch up on the laundry situation that was rapidly devolving into chaos in the corner of my room. I should have dealt with it over the weekend, but it was just so darn cold I couldn’t bring myself to schelp a whole bag of laundry back and forth through the weather. Fortunately, by the time Tuesday came ‘round we were moving back into more temperate climes and I was able to reduce my layer situation to a single sweater and jacket pairing. Regardless the weather, after hauling laundry up and down the stairs all evening, I elected to spend the rest of my night lounging about watching stand up comedy and reading. There are worse ways to spend a night especially when the following morning requires you to be functional enough to schmooze with business types by 8:30am. Spoiler alert: despite my restful evening, my schmoozing could definitely still use some work.

Yes, come Wednesday morning, I was at work from 8am until it came time to step out to Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce event. The event ran late and I was beginning to feel the first tickles of a sore throat so I may have bailed a bit on the networking. But hey, there was good information in the talk and free breakfast on the table so it was still net positive. After wrapping up the rest of my day at work, I headed down to my literacy gig for an hour and fifteen before it was time to head into the city to change for a very busy night of dance. Karel Flores is back in town so it was time to get my salsera on for an intense hour and a half before hopping off to westie. As always, the class was an excellent blend of full on body movement, fantastically fast footwork, and enough direction changes to make your head spin. I loved it. As per usual, this also meant that my silly butt arrived to westie in no condition to behave. I was a ball of spazzy, endorphin fuelled energy which is seldom conducive to good west coast swing dancing. I did however to try a friend’s jazz boots which might just be the best thing to ever happen to my feet. They are so tired of being poured into scrappy dance sandals and so I have been wearing ballet flats, but ballet flats with their complete absence of heel have been stressing my hamstrings more than is entirely comfortable. The happy little half inch on the heel of the jazz boots however? It’s perfection. I liked them so well that I ordered a pair of my own the very next day. (They arrived today and I’m terribly excited to wear them at westie this week).

Delightfully, after dance I got to take an exciting adventure through the bowels of the MTA and by the time I finally made it home through all the diversions, there was very little time left for sleep. I suspect that this may have played some role in the fact that, come Thursday evening, I was feeling a little snuffly and sore-throated which is my main excuse for spending the entire evening at home packing for the weekend and wandering across the trackless savannah that is It was not the most productive evening.

And then finally it was Friday. It was bagel day at work so my efforts to be healthy were already foiled which of course meant that, once I got out of work, I grabbed some pizza, fetched my bags and headed into Soho to collect the first of my dance weekend buddies from work. From Patrick’s office, we dropped into Target, then fought the crowds through Penn, dumped ourselves on a crowed NJT train and shortly thereafter found ourselves at Secaucus Junction waiting for the rest of our party. Rather later we were on the road to Philly with an awesome posse of westie people (Jessie, Kevin, Patrick, et moi), ready for Freedom Swing. We grabbed some dinner on the drive and arrived into the event hotel around 10:40pm. Being responsible types, we spent sometime chilling in the room resting and recovering before heading down to dance the entire night away. Yes, the entire night. We ate breakfast when the hotel restaurant opened at 7am and then dumped our danced out carcasses into bed.

A few hours later, I woke up to have my shoulders kneaded into submission by the inimitable Bonnie Cannon-Subey. She’s a magician of body work and if I was somewhat less broken I might have even been cured entirely. As it stands she got me sorted out enough to survive the weekend but I definitely still need work if I ever hope to be fully free of roving tension headaches and scapular agony. However, I do now have exercises and hopefully the motivation to do them, so we might yet make progress.

Once I was loosened up, it was time to compete and I must admit that it was a very mixed bag. Regardless, I managed to make finals and now have my first intermediate point. Let’s not talk about the draw or the placement that got me there. Fortunately, at Freedom the finals and awards are on the same day as the prelims so the entire anxiety inducing agony is over by Saturday evening and you are free to behave as irresponsibly as you’d like. I used that freedom to drink copiously with Edem, scream loudly for the shows, and then crash for about an hour and a half before peeling my sobered up self out of bed and onto the dance floor for the rest of the night. Yup. We were up until breakfast again and it was excellent. I had all the fun, crazy dances with all the best company and we even fit in a bit of stretching so I’m only mostly broken today.

Sunday morning we crawled out of bed in time to make check out and got back in the car to drive back home. It was a lively drive full of all the chats despite our various levels of exhaustion and the incredible frigidity of the outdoors. Sometime around late afternoon, after schlepping through the cold and confusion of the MTA, I found myself back in my humble apartment eating a grilled cheese sandwich and plotting a nap. I attempted to keep my napping to a reasonable minimum to avoid ruining my sleep schedule but honestly could probably have just slept all the way through. I woke up this morning feeling somewhat refreshed but even closer to a cold so, after a bit of grocery shopping and meal prep, I have dedicated the day to napping, reading, and attempting to recover. I have grand ambitions of being entirely recovered by 8am tomorrow but somehow it seems unlikely. Wish me luck.

And on that note, I’m going to slither back into bed and pretend that another pack of vitamin C will tip me over into health.

Con Amore,
The Salsa Girl

In Which Things Get Blizzardy

So here’s the thing guys, I had a long, frigid day followed by some standard issue MTA delays in the icebox that is Bergen St, so I might just be curled up in bed watching dance videos that maybe might be a tiny bit distracting. Consider it a sign of how much I like you all that I’m even attempting the weekly scribble tonight.

In spite of how cold my day was, I am now deliciously toasty in my cozy apartment after an inordinate amount of squats and leg lifts. Yup, it’s that time of the year again. I’m breaking up with high fat, stomach churning dairy products and getting it on with two of the myriad new year new you exercise initiatives that have sprung up all over the internet. I don’t waste my money or frustrate myself with gym memberships, but when it comes to virtuous masochism for free.99, I’m so on board. So I’m doing a daily core challenge and a daily butt challenge. In theory I’m also stretching towards splits but they are so very far away that it’s proven nearly impossible to talk myself into the agony that lies between now and them. And yes, I did start this all two days late, don’t judge me. I was swungover. On the topic of which, we probably ought to wander back to Wednesday and talk about all the shenanigans that have kept me busy since.

Wednesday was that soul crushing day known as “the first day back at work after Christmas.” It’s never a great day but I think I was extra bitter on account of having papered during my precious break and so I worked and sulked and worked and sulked. It would all be so much better if there was coffee in the office but since there’s not, my options are limited to intravenous tea, caffeine headaches, or sacrificing half my paycheque to the Starbucks gods. I’ve never felt like quite so much of an addict but on the plus side, I begin to understand the criticality of smoke breaks for those of a nicotine persuasion.

Once out of the office, it was time to drop some documents at my boss’s house, say hi to her adorable dogs, and get my crippled spine to the chiropractor. I do so love the feeling of release that follows the corporeal percussion of an adjustment. Alas, no amount of snap crackle pop could save me from the after effects of not only watching my dance videos but also taking a fairly full on private lesson. The girl that made her way to Westie Cafe last Wednesday was a broken westie of the overthinking kind. It’s got to be the hardest part of dance because no matter how on board your brain is, your muscle memory just will not oblige and, at least initially, the correction always feels icky to the nth degree. And should you happen to be a sensitive little flower like a certain someone we know, that icky is likely to translate into the worst sort of ill humour tinged with mild to moderate aversion. So we’re doing lots of home practice and hoping for the best. Keep your fingers crossed for me at Freedom this coming weekend.

And then it was Thursday, and as if the world knew I wasn’t quite ready to adult just yet, it was a that most blessed of days, a snow day! I used to use snow days as intended (for snuggling up indulgently under my quilt with hot beverages all day) but work won’t do itself so I spent this snow day under my quilt with a steady stream of hot cocoa and my work laptop. Let’s not talk about it, k? Instead, let’s talk about the wind! It was wild! We got about six inches of snow which my Canadian brain is not the slightest bit impressed by, but then we got the wind and six inches of snow swiftly turned into white out conditions accompanied by that oh so characteristic blizzard howl. Not having to go out into it at all, I enjoyed the drama of the weather immensely, but I would have vastly different opinions if I’d had to shovel, or even just go outside.

Tragically, our pretty little blizzard was apparently just a harbinger of real winter because by Friday morning we were well and truly into a deep freeze that has declined to let up since. In theory, 17 years of Fort St John winters should have made me immune to this, but after a nearly a decade in profoundly temperate places, I’ve turned into a terrible wuss without any real winter clothing. Am I even a real Canadian anymore? Either way, my hibernating instincts are still in good trim as, almost immediately after I got home from work, I collapsed into an accidental nap that carried me right up until salsa time. Yes, the salsa girl finally got herself back out to salsa.

It’s hard to balance dance loyalties but I was missing my salsa self so I slicked on the makeup and headed out to Candela. I guess salsa hasn’t appreciated my abandonment because, like a cantankerous cat, it bit back. Yes, walking to the floor for my first dance of the night, I was blessed by an encounter with that most spectacular bit of salsa stabby: the stiletto heel. A nice red scrape opened up so cutely on the tender side bit of my foot and then I guess we were good again because salsa let me alone and served up a fairly standard night with a very nice bachata tucked in the middle. And then I braved the madness of weekend MTA and collapsed into bed around the 2am mark.

Saturday morning saw me up suspiciously early, up to my elbows in flour. I so love my sourdough, even when it wakes me up at way-too-early-am. Between rounds of folding, I cleaned the apartment and came to terms with being awake so that once 10:30 rolled around I was ready to face the cold and head uptown for coffee with a nomadic friend of the swing dancing and bee keeping extraction. We grabbed a coffee at the mundanely named “Little Collins.” It had a very good rating on Google Maps so I decided to give it a try and we were not to be disappointed! From the accented baristas to the perfectly divine coffee, I’d say Australia represented itself most admirably in that little coffee shop.

Rather later, after baking bread and lazing about, it was time to get myself to Gotham. Gotham is New York’s monthly west coast swing dance and I am very loyal to it, but alas this month I was still very much a broken westie. I was in full on internal sulk as everything felt weird and wrong and then Patrick saved me from myself with a most excellent dance featuring a downright silly number of successful one-foot turns in a row. The poor man has to be on his very tip toes to get above me but he does it so well I would never know and remains one of the best darn turn leads around. And thus I survived until the last song sent me roaming out into the night to do battle with the MTA again. They’ve rerouted both of my main trains for weekends in January which means that I’m now getting to hate all sorts of exciting trains that I never used to ride!

The next morning I rolled out of bed and headed out to find some groceries to keep my fridge from looking quite so empty and sad. I usually buy my groceries at a hispanic stall in Essex Market and regularly play the game where they tell me the price in Spanish and I say “on Mastercard” in English and everyone understands but no one has to speak their second language, but this was to be much more full on. It was not one of the usual female cashiers, no it was a friendly fella of the “charming” variety and he was not content to scan my groceries in silence. Apparently my halting Spanish explanation of how bad my Spanish is, was far preferable. These things are good for me right? And besides, apparently I’m evidence that pretty girls are smart too. Let’s not go there today.

After filling my vegetable crisper, I headed into Midtown an hour earlier than entirely necessary because I have trust issues with trains and I love Tisserie. It’s a lovely little cafe I’ve found only one a few blocks from Ailey which makes good chai lattes and divine guava pastry. I justify the indulgence by the hour and a half of studio time that always follows it. Plus it’s a great spot to just sit and read for awhile.

Once I got to contemporary, I more than worked it off with another fantastic combo from Chris Jackson. I love his class so much it’s enough to just be there, but this time was extra special. Firstly, our crew of two westies grew to six and then Chris gave me a nod in the foot technique section! Me! With my ugly feet that do not point worth a damn! And I got a nod! And as if that wasn’t enough, I even stuck some double pirouettes! Seriously, the studio gods were smiling on me that day.

After dance we headed to our usual Bolivian haunt for a snack before three of our posse headed home and the remaining three braved Times Square for the shopping. The trouble with dance events is that you need clothing for them and I mean, I do need to do laundry, but I also need to not wear the same shirt for competition for a fourth event in a row. Fortunately, I’m not alone in this so we all wandered together to buy basically disposable clothing for as few dollars as possible. Yeah, you can judge us.

And then it was time to schlep to Harlem for a critique session. We settled in before the big screen, steeled our egos for the task, and skyped in Mandy. It’s at once very VERY good and very VERY scary to have your friends critique your dancing, and it’s even more frightening to critique theirs. But somehow we’ve now managed to pull it off twice with very positive results. We don’t hate each other, and we’ve all learned things so it seems to be working. Besides which, it’s so nice to reunite our dancer crew even if only for a few hours over Skype. I will blame the train journey +15minute walk home for the fact that I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight which is my excuse for how tired I was today, though I could probably equally blame my hibernation instinct.

The office was frigid! And without a steady stream of easily accessible coffee, I ended up bundled up in a sweater, scarf, and blanket, and I still wasn’t warm. I have to give my body credit though, it’s a practical creature and its answer to eight hours of freezing was: sleep? Sleep would be nice and it would help us conserve energy! I only wish I could have listened.

When I left the office, it was time to head down to READ718 for the new term of literacy tutoring. I’m working with a new student and he’s such a sweetheart but the list of challenges is long and my goodness, all I can say is that I must have done alright last term. New years resolution: lean into the challenges and channel Georgia.

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

The Salsa Girl


In Which the Blog is Very VERY Late: A Story of Two Weeks

Due to an astounding lack of self-discipline, this blog is coming to you from the far side of New Year’s Day. Yes, it’s been more than two weeks since you last heard from me and I’ve no excuse but exhaustion and indulgence, which I am now paying for with the daunting task of writing two weeks worth of blog all in a Tuesday afternoon. As a bonus, so much has happened that I hardly recall where I last left you all on a Monday night mid-December. Let’s wander back and see, shall we?

Way back before Christmas, it was a perfectly average Tuesday until I got home from work and found my mail. Yes, the annual parcel from Finland had arrived and I was the proud owner of a beautiful new pair of hand knitted royal blue socks. I’ve heard some very mixed opinions on socks for Christmas, but I for one will never complain about them, especially when they are warm, wonderful, and handmade by the inimitable Henna-Leena. They also fit perfectly which remains a mysterious wonder to me. I’ve received socks, gloves, shorts, and even a top from this woman and each and every time she gets the size perfectly despite having never taken my measurements and not seen me since 2015. I can only dream of someday being so competent at a craft.

The following day saw me wandering out into the world after work in search of snacks, but not just any snacks, snacks from the Christmas market at Union Square where I’d been promised I would find magical fried balls of rice filled with everything from mac ’n’ cheese to nutella. Accompanied by an obliging dance friend, I made my way on over to the Arancini Bros booth and faced down not only a substantial queue but also a terribly challenging decision. There were far too many flavours and all sounded so delicious but my stomach has a finite extent so a choice had to be made. I ended up settling on a traditional ragu filling, a not so traditional mac ’n’ cheese filling (because there is nothing so comforting as ooey-gooey mac on a cold evening, and of course the “famous” nutella. To gratuitously quote myself from my report back to the Pennsylvanian friend who had instigated this entire adventure (he saw the balls on reddit but couldn’t make it to the city to get them) “the Nutella was strange and disorienting but delicious and the others were just straight up tasty times.” Honestly, that about sums it up.


After eating our arancini out in the icy night, Patrick grabbed some empanadas and I caved to Spanish hot chocolate before beginning our trek uptown to dance. It was not the warmest night, but the company was good and the food was fun so I endured the wind and scurried into the warm dance studio just as soon as I could. Westie Cafe was the usual shenanigans complete with staying out way too late and suffering from all the best sorts of train shenanigans. I had a train buddy again but her presence did not stop the trains from indulging in a purely insane diversion from the norm. We caught an E train on the F line at 34th but had to change at W4 where the E stopped being an F. From there we hopped on a F train, only to be informed that it was running over the D line while if we wanted we could head upstairs to the A platform to catch a D running over the F line. While we waited indefinitely in the station, I did consider trying to run upstairs for the D that was an F but I trust the MTA very very little and so decided to at least stay on the train that I knew I was actually on. Transit in this city is such a wild adventure.

Thursday was the second last day in the office before Christmas which meant that for many people it was the last day in the office before Christmas. This is the only possible explanation for our polishing off about 5 bottles of wine between 7 of us in the upstairs open meeting room before heading out to happy hour at a nearby brewery. We will not talk about the time at which this began, but it will probably suffice to say that we were all wandering towards trains in alcoholic hazes, fearing hangovers before 8pm.

And then in a flash it was Friday. I spent the workday alternating between maniacally powering through all the last bits of work and staring blankly at my screen in that utter apathy that so often co-occurs with the last day before a break. I like to think that I left everything in a sensible state, but I expect I’ll find out otherwise when I finally make it back into the office tomorrow. Let’s not think about that now, though. I’ve still a good few hours before I have to return to that part of my life.

After work, I met up with a few of the folks still in the city for Christmas for a very German birthday celebration. We met at the Ginger Man where there were beers and pretzels a plenty. I obviously ate far too much especially after convincing half of those wishing to buy me drinks that sharing a pretzel was a far nicer birthday gift for this particular glutton. Once we were quite full up, we paid our tabs and headed down to a dance party. Perhaps I was too tired, or perhaps it was because of the holiday driven variation in just who attends west coast swing events, but I must admit I just wasn’t feeling it, so after a few hours of sitting on the floor with a few of my beloved friends, I decided to take my gloomy butt home and get a nice birthday beauty sleep.

The next morning was impressively rainy but it suited my mood so I wasn’t the slightest bit offended to head out into the watery morning to conquer groceries and a few errands. Once back inside and relatively dry, I mixed up another batch of coquito and fought off an impending headache. I do so love my intermittent tension headaches, especially when I’m trying to write a paper. Yes, I had not found the time while actually in the office so it was to be my Christmas project. I’d like to say I made more progress, but between the headache and the laziness, I soon found myself prissing up for a Christmas raclette party with very little paper writing to show for myself.

Riding the train with a very full jug of coquito, I soon found myself somewhere in the Upper West, eating raclette, drinking mulled wine, cider, and coquito and playing with the most adorable cats. Yes, I am allergic to cats. No, I am not a responsible individual. Despite the runny nose, asthma, and hives that often follow feline interactions, I simply love them and cannot be convinced to let them alone when they are already begging for my attention. My personal favourites of the four are the little grey male who is a bit challenged but very lovey and always chasing after things only he can see, and the big cream coloured Cashew who might be half canine. Cashew is a shocking fetch enthusiast. You can throw a toy for him all day and in very un-cat-like fashion, he will continue to fetch it and return it to you for another throw. I convinced myself that fetch was less likely to stir my allergies than snuggles and thus justified entirely too much time spent playing with the delightful furry menace. Predictably enough, before the night was out, I was one hot allergy ridden mess, and somewhere between the spectacular grilled peaches and dessert raclette prepared by Masterchef Edem, and the races game of Cards Against Humanity, my tension headache decided to return in force. It is a testament to how much fun I was having that I still stayed until sometime after 2am.

Sunday morning, I woke slowly and tiredly. After a certain period of failing to work in my room, I wandered over to my favourite patisserie, Ceci Cela and bribed myself to work with une petite bouche noel, a mocha, and a crocque monsieur. Several hours later, a wave of exhaustion hit me and I headed home to nap before really settling in to my nearly all night writing session.

I wrapped up the first draft of the paper on Christmas morning and then, after sending if off to my boss, headed out into the icy afternoon en route to Friendsmas. On the way, I picked up a few more pastries from Ceci Cela and arrived only somewhat late to another dance friend’s very pretty Upper East Side apartment. By the time we all arrived, we numbered five and we five were soon curled up on various pieces of floor and furniture watching The Nightmare Before Christmas. We took a brief break to eat Bon Chon chicken and snacks before digging into some classic Bob Ross followed by Balto. It was a very relaxing Christmas afternoon indeed.

When we finally all dispersed, my back and I schlepped up to Harlem to borrow an obliging friend’s bathtub for a bit. As my own apartment has only a shower, I hadn’t actually had a bath in over a year and I’d nearly forgotten how much I love them. It’s so nice to just soak in peace a bit. It’s especially nice when followed up by a solid gossip mesh with a good friend and episodes of the Great British Bake-Off. Mary Berry is pure perfection.

On Tuesday, I started my morning by schlepping back down from Harlem to Skype with the family from the comfort of my own apartment. After a nice catch up with my mom and sister, I headed back up town for my quadri-annual blood donation in the eerily abandoned American Red Cross building. It’s very large and grand with plenty of floor space and terrifically high ceilings, but only a small set of three classroom like spaces are lit and you must walk down a very grand but ominously dim hallway to reach them. The phlebotomists are absolutely lovely but I must admit I’ve not quite yet gotten used to the generally abandoned feeling of the place of the place. Once bled rather drier than before, I returned to Washington Square area to fill up on French onion soup and macarons at a beautiful little cafe, staffed by the most friendly barista and famous for its millefeuille.

Once fed, I set off to collect my charges for a night of dog sitting. It was to be a bit of an adventure. When the doggie daycare delivered the dogs unto my care, I found myself holding onto one very shy little dear in the midst of a nervous pee, and another older, bolder, and rather bigger fellow absolutely chomping at the bit to go. I only wish I’d had skis so that I could have made better use of their enthusiasm to get home. After over an hour of gentle acclimatization for the shyer of the two, I spent the evening curled up on the couch with them both. It was very nice to be around dogs again despite the hives that rose when I’d petted them too enthusiastically. I know a wise woman would just avoid her allergens, but I’m not that wise woman, and I love animals entirely too much to let them out of my life entirely.

On Wednesday morning, I dropped the dogs off at doggie daycare and headed home to rest a bit. Two nights of sleep in beds that were not my own had left me rather tireder than I might have hoped. After a relatively lazy afternoon, I set off for my usual night of Wednesday westie. It was a most wonderful night. There were some very fun out-of-towners in and we had all manner of delightful steal dances and dance jams. And as if that wasn’t fun enough, since not all of us had to work the next day, I found company for an adventure to a piano bar to see my competition partner, Patrick, play. He’s a professional pianist but, I’d yet to see him play so I recruited my dance friend Edem to join me for a few drinks and a lot of excellent music. To say it was fun, would be the grossest understatement. We danced, Edem and Patrick sang, and some how we stayed out until the bar closed and then some. This is not the first time that partying with Edem has ended in a diner at 5am, and somehow I don’t think it will be the last. You could say we’re irresponsible, but I prefer to think that we’re just fun.

Perhaps predictably, Thursday was a very slow start. I did however manage to do laundry and contemplate packing before I headed up to the East Village to meet up with an old friend from my China days. While I waited for her to get off work, I sat in my favourite Argentinian-Australian coffee shop. I always seem to see the same barista there. He’s a friendly vivacious skater boi type and this time he was there with a coworker who quickly seemed to forget I was present in the corner near the window. While I sat drinking my tea, they rehashed a recent work event wherein a female patron had left a rather scathing review of the shop, complaining exclusively and extensively about the “saddest barista” and wondering why he couldn’t even manage a smile. Yes, the entire review was whining about how, the male barista had seemed sad and hadn’t been smiley enough. The winds of change are indeed blowing, but I don’t think the cure to sexism is to spread the abuse more evenly across both genders.

Once Erin and I met up, we left the coffee shop and wandered a few blocks north for dinner. I’d read about B&H Dairy sometime ago when researching vegetarian spots but had not yet had a chance to visit. Thus, with a lover of all things culinary at my side, it was time to venture into the land of kosher vegetarian. The Dairy is a narrow and unassuming joint in the East Village with a counter on one side and a row of tiny tables on the other. The passage between the two is only wide enough to sidle in sideways but it’s worth the sidle. B&H has been serving up kosher food since 1938 and with the first spoon of borscht their longevity makes perfect sense. It’s the most beautifully nuanced broth filled with cabbage, carrots, beets, and flavour. Paired with thick fluffy slices of challah, it might be the best winter food in the city. I followed my soup with blinzes—one cheese, one apple—while Erin ate pierogi and we both left satisfied. We could have sat there chatting all night, but were soon removed to make way for the next batch of customers and so found our way to a little matcha tea shop to continue our catch up. I often forget how very many lovely little places can be found in the East Village but I’m always delighted by what I find when I happen to be there.

When Erin and I finally parted ways, I dropped by Whole Foods to pick up some last minute groceries for the weekend. I then headed home to pack before collapsing into bed in hopes of getting a little sleep before a very full weekend.

And then it was Friday and time to head to Boston for a weekend of westie, party, and the company of all the most excellent people. The carpool crew met in White Plains and headed north! Some hours later, we stopped for a late lunch at an Italian place with spectacular pasta before eventually checking into our rooms for the weekend. I’d just received revisions from my boss, so I was nestled in bed papering away but only until it was time to compete in the Strictly Swing competitions. There weren’t enough competitors for a prelim so Patrick and I went straight to a very competitive finals round. That we had lots of fun and managed to avoid last place will have to do for now.

After competing, I papered a bit more until the next draft was sent off to my boss and I was finally free to social dance the night away. I normally keep fairly good track of when I go to sleep at westie weekends, but in this case, all I know is that it was sometime after 4am and I was absolutely exhausted.

My Saturday started with a workshop followed by a certain degree of primping before it was time to brave the intermediate Jack n Jill division for a third time. The first time I danced in intermediate I managed to snag second alternate for finals in a mid-sized division. The second time, in a rather larger division, I made semifinals with flying colours but utterly bombed in the semis and didn’t come near a slot in the finals. This time, I found myself in a quite small and sickeningly skilled division where I could hardly fathom managing any sort of distinction at all. Somehow, despite the excellence of the contenders, I actually managed to make finals! I was quite close to the cut off point, but let’s not think about that, shall we? Finals were to be danced on the Sunday and they were in spotlight format which means that unlike most Jack ’n’ Jills where everyone is on the floor at once, this final would see each couple taking the stage solo for a song. It’s nerve wracking at best so I decided tavern responsibly dance and party the night away, aiming to distract myself from Sunday’s impending competition. We danced, we drank, we listened to Patrick on the piano in the hotel hallway with all manner of talented accompanists, and sometime after 5am we finally tumbled into bed to snatch a few hours of sleep before it was time for both my friend Jessie and I to debut in our first intermediate finals.

Sunday morning saw me climbing out of bed to practice and take a private lesson with Patrick before readying myself for competition. The private lesson was absolutely excellent. Bonnie and Jerome gave us lots to work on and hopefully next time we see them we’ll be kicking rather more butt in comps as a result of their assistance.

After the lesson, I prepared myself to face the spotlights. Back stage, I found that I was part of one of the most warm and loving crews of finalists. Everyone was so glad to be there and was so encouraging. I could hardly believe how welcomed I felt amongst all these terribly talented followers. When we hit the floor, the talent of my co-competitors became very clear but somehow I didn’t feel all that nervous. My only goal was to get a point and that only required I get tenth place or above. I was fortunate enough to draw a leader who I’d practiced with while waiting for the competition, but I was not fortunate enough to keep my head or my technique. Just as it was in my salsa performance days, the moment I had an audience, the whole world narrowed to their pleasure and the music. Unfortunately, unlike back in my salsa days when I had choreography to keep me on track, in an improvisational style, I apparently need to maintain slightly more self-regulation lest my technique be entirely sacrificed for the applause that comes from dramatic movements and exciting shapes. I shall quietly tell myself that, despite my dismal placement, I was a crowd favourite and besides that, I so enjoyed the clarity of oblivion that always meets me onstage.

Once intermediate had concluded, it was time for advanced where one of our friends (another Patrick) was competing as a follower. He was spectacular! So musical and clever and sassy and the crowd loved him. It was my favourite kind of dancing. And then once we’d all wrapped up our comps, it was time to change into our finery for New Year’s Eve. All glammed up in suits and gowns, we ate a delicious dinner, watched fantastic shows, and rang in the new year in the best of company. We were even able to Skype Mandy to join us in welcoming 2018 amongst the warmest and loveliest group of friends. I could not be more grateful for the friends that I am fortunate enough to enter 2018 with and I cannot thank Bill and Yuna enough for putting on such a great event so full of opportunity and love. A year after my first time in Boston, my first time attending an event on the East Coast, and my first brush with the ineffable warmth and welcome of the Boston dance crew, I was there again, feeling all the same love and more. And then we stayed out social dancing and hallway jamming until sometime around 7 in the morning.

Come Monday, we indulged in a blessedly late check out time and I wrapped up the final revisions on the paper before we hit the road back to the city. I’ve a lot to process from this weekend. I learned so much and felt so much and did so much and feel so blessed to have done it amongst my beloved westie friends. My body is fantastically crunchy in the aftermath, but I fed my soul with companionship and my tummy with a few slices of Williamsburg Pizza before bed.

And now it’s Tuesday, and I could not be more glad of a day off if I tried. I slept in until 10:30am and then with the astounding competence of a true adult, nearly set my coffee pot on fire. Now the entire apartment smells of uncomfortably melty plastic—you’re welcome roomie, I know, I’m just the best—but the fridge is full and I’m a little less tired and a little less sore than I was when I crawled out of bed this morning. I had intended to do more today, but all things considered, I think I’ll be satisfied with a blog, a bag of groceries, and a slightly less broken body.

Swung over and fresh off the Boston Love Fest,
The Salsa Girl

In Which Christmas Looms

It’s been one heck of an autumn. I don’t think I’ve stopped moving for more than a moment or two since the summer. It’s just been a constant rush from grants to papers to visitors to dance, and then, all of a sudden, we’re a week from Christmas and I’ve no idea how we got here. By some insane fluke, I’ve managed to get all my Christmas cards out and the very very few gifts that actually needed to look after bought and sent. So really all that remains is the panicked downhill slide to the holiday break as I try desperately to wrap up my to-do list before the university closes for Christmas. This week promises to be a joy. But before I leap onto the holiday slip and slide, let me roll back to last week’s Christmas parties, dancing, and other forms of chaos.

Despite the fact that Tuesday is entirely too early in the week for a Christmas Party, Tuesday afternoon saw half the office schlepping across the street to the Tandon Holiday Party. It’s one heck of a party. There’s a free bar and fancy backdrops, mood lighting, a dance floor, DJs, and tons of amazing food. Oh and there was a chocolate fountain this year too. We wandered around stuffing our faces for about an hour before trouping back to the office to wrap up a few more things before slipping out for the day. I escaped via the post office where I discovered that they no longer sell international stamps at the Brooklyn Heights USPS outlet. Bonus points: not only do they not sell international stamps, but when you buy your custom postage from the beastly machine, it will only print 5 labels at a time. We will not discuss the ridiculous number of USPS entries on my bank statement this month.

Once I’d posted my Christmas cards I headed up to the Financial District for Data Driven NYC. Data Driven used to be hosted at Bloomberg up on Lex, but it recently moved down to Moody’s and this was my first time attending it at the new venue. The pizza and drinks were as good as ever, but I have to admit that the sound system was a bit of a head wreck for me. You know how normally speakers at talks are located at the edges of the room and so the sound has a directionality and loudness that makes sense? Well not at Moody’s. At moody’s the ceiling is studded with small circular speakers each of which emits a suspiciously muted tone as if the presenter were standing just next to you, speaking softly. I found it decidedly unnerving which rather distracted me from the content. Being exhausted didn’t help either.

Wednesday was a much lower key day with the standard round of work, chiropractics, and eventually westie at the inimitable Westie Cafe. I would like to say that I went to bed early to address the whole sleepiness thing, but we all know that’s a lie.

The following day, it was back into the Christmas party fray with the official office Holiday Party. Our usual party animals were at a conference so it was a rather mellow event but there was plenty of food and some very pleasant conversation and nary a drop of my coquito left by the end of the night. Immediately afterwards, I hopped on a 2 train to the Brooklyn Museum for a spot of salsa. As I climbed up the stairs from the subway, I was met by a massive blowup statue of Trump. To say it was an unflattering depiction would be a spectacular understatement. I expect that its replacement by a police car within a matter of hours might have been related to the very nature of that depiction.


Inside the museum, I found a number of the usual suspects as well as a very unanticipated Vancouverite! It’s such fun when an unexpected salsero mambos into one’s midst! I also had a lovely encounter with this older lady who seems to drop into my existence every time I dance in Brooklyn. She’s endearingly fond of my dancing but always appears, compliments, and disappears so quickly that I don’t even know her name. I am grateful regardless. Sometime later a westie friend who also leans towards salsa showed up and we had a few dances before it was time for me to head home. Because I am such a clever bunny, I realized I’d forgotten my shoe bag just as the doors of the subway were closing. I probably could have texted my friend and asked him to grab them for me, but that shoe bag contained not only my favourite salsa shoes, but also my shoe glue, my scissors, and my shoe brush, and what if he didn’t check his phone! So back I went, slipping through the doors just as the music ended and scooping up my shoes before bounding back out into the night. From there, I decided that a girl who couldn’t even remember to grab her shoe bag was probably too tired for more shenanigans so I hauled myself home and plopped directly into bed.

To call Friday a chaotic work day would be very generous. I think I would probably use the word insane. But regardless, by the time 4:30 came around I was wombling out into the world hoping against hope that my brain would consent to a wee nap before the night’s dance adventures. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

Fortunately, despite the lack of nap, I managed to gather the energy to head out into the snow to Friday night westie at Dardo Galletto. Dardo Galletto is right near Times Square so getting there without ending up hypertensive was a very delicate operation involving careful train selection and lots of side streets. It was a bit of a quiet night on account of the snow but we had plenty of fun regardless. When it came time for the nightly dance competition, as the only two people neither competing nor judging, Patrick and I had great fun sitting cross legged on the floor screaming our lungs out for each of the competitors. We also got into all manner of shenanigans doing contemporary at the side of the floor and diving into some well and truly crazy adventures in dancing with more than the usual number of partners. It was an altogether entertaining evening which I ended with two, yes TWO, train buddies on my way back to the LES, and two, yes TWO, slices of Williamsburg pizza to keep me company on the way back to my apartment. The hedonist was happy.

Saturday saw me up unaccountably early to head into Midtown to practice with the other Patrick. Two hours of dance and critique later, I wandered home to watch the World Latin Dance Cup and procrastinate on doing my laundry. The laundry did eventually get done but only because I was almost entirely out of socks. I will admit that I nearly skipped laundry and went to the dollar store instead but I decided to adult and clean the socks that I already own.

Come evening, I trouped back into Midtown for dinner followed by tea and all the chats with a few friends in K-town. Though we had some ordering challenges, the kimchi pancake was pure heaven and the bon chon was tops. I had no complaints but my dining partners both ended up with something very different from what they had expected. Sometime much later than planned, I was back at home kneading my sourdough into submission before chucking it into the fridge until morning. Yes, I messed up the feeding schedule so there I was making dough in the middle of the night so the poor thing wouldn’t disown me entirely. I never claimed my personal life was well organized.

I started my Sunday morning with the intoxicating scent of baking bread and would nearly have forgiven myself my ill advised bread making schedule had it not been for the incredible exhaustion that would dog me for the rest of the day. While the bread baked, I tidied the flat a bit, rested, read, and pretended that I had nothing else I ought to be doing. Once the bread came out of the oven, I headed towards Ailey. Last week you may recall I ended up skidding into class late after some not entirely unpredictable train troubles, so I decided to go early. It was probably a good idea overall but it did facilitate my indulging a certain sweet tooth which said “hell yes!” to a latte and a guava pasty on my way to the studio.

The class itself was a bit of an adventure. The usual instructor was out so we had a different fellow leading us. He was a spectacular mover and a very interesting choreographer but nothing about that combo made sense to my silly body. There was a bit more weirdness and a lot more rhythmic bounce and my body was baffled. Just as soon as I got any sort of a handle on the moves, my timing went to pot. I can only assume that this means it was very good for me. I have decided to run on the theory that the instant a dance class feels too comfortable, you’re probably not learning anymore so being thrown into the deep end of discomfort is probably a very good thing.

After dance, our slowly expanding posse (we now number three) made another pilgrimage to Bolivian heaven riding on salteñas and a new delight: cuñapes. Delicious doesn’t even begin to describe.

And then, because I live such an exciting life, I went home to rest. I was in bed by 8pm and plagued by bizarre dreams and frequent waking until 6:45am, so good and bad. I feel utterly betrayed by how exhausted I am today, though!

As for today? Well I made it home from the office and sat down diligently to write because I’ve a dinner in Greenpoint tonight! My first adventure to Greenpoint and for an excellent friend’s birthday. My only complaint is the unavoidability of busses on the journey there. I’m turning into such a transit snob. But you’ll forgive me, right?

Slouching toward Christmas,
The Salsa Girl

In Which Winter Visits New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watching the sky for snow,
The Salsa Girl


In Which London Giveth and London Taketh Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slipping towards sleep,
The Salsa Girl