~ Thursday, July 29, 2004 ~
~ Tuesday, July 06, 2004 ~
Two and a half more days, and I still don't believe I'm leaving New York. It's not as if I haven't had enough time to process the information--I *have* known since early June--it's just that I want to stay here so badly that I seem to have chosen not to believe I won't be. I am looking forward to starting school, of course--especially after registering for my classes (there's nothing like looking at classes and their descriptions on a bulletin to make me eager for the end of summer), but I wish I didn't have to leave, and that wish is so intense that I can't even visualize myself boarding the bus and heading to Philadephia. It's like trying to imagine walking into a strip club and applying for a job, in that I can try to put together a mental movie about it, but I don't honestly believe I'm ever going to do it.
I can't leave yet. It doesn't make sense. There's too much left to do here before I can go. I haven't bonded yet with Astor Place, or scoured all the vintage clothing stores north of 14th st., or gone to an all-night milonga at Triangulo, or been back to the Collective Unconscious to really explore and appreciate it (and it's too late now, anyway, because they're relocating). I haven't gotten to know Williamsburg yet. I never made it to the Sunday afternoon swing dance in Central Park. I never explored the fossil store on Columbus near 81st St. I didn't even go to the Met, for God's sake. Why did I let that happen?
All the infatuation that the city triggered in me when I first arrived hasn't faded in intensity, although it's shifted somewhat. I still love ambling through Central Park, but it doesn't seem quite so mysterious now, although it still holds just as much potential for surprise and delight. Times Square, with all its flashy lights and thronged sidewalks, is less breathtakingly impressive and more an annoying area to avoid walking through if I don't want to move down the sidewalk at the pace of a snail in a catsup bottle, but I kind of like knowing that I've gotten over the Wow Stage. The subway system doesn't seem quite as romantic as it did when I first arrived, but in exchange I know it a bit more. Still, I find it thrilling to be in stations I've never been in before and discovering their unique structure, antiquated tile mosaics, or accompanying works of art.
This city has an endless supply of offerings, only a tiny handful of which I have tasted. I am greedy, and want more before it slips out of reach. It isn't just unexperienced experiences, either; it's also people I've met here that I haven't had enough time to be with: Rob, of course, who is so intricately tied in my head to the essence of New York, with the essential frankness and intensity that they share, that at first I found it hard to separate them; Amy from Drisha, who has a sense of humor like a spring of clear cold water; Wendy, my fellow ringer of bell and the group that hovers around her at dances like fizz; Miss Amanda, with her glow of Charming Young Lady-ishness; and likewise Shana, who has less overt charm but more cityish sophistication; Talitha of the Inconquerable Spirit, who doesn't bother with sophistication, thank goodness, and who lives a few blocks north of me but belongs about 100 blocks south; and Dan, whose enthusiasm for this city comes not from being excited about its mysterious unchartedness, but from having personally explored almost every corner and loving all that he's found. (He ought to write his own guidebook someday.)
There is also a certain style of interaction that I have observed here, and I like it. People kibbitz. I have had many more brief conversational exchanges with total strangers here than anywhere else, except maybe airports. People have to go to much greater efforts to insulate themselves with books, newspapers, headphones, or scowls if they don't want to be spoken to by strangers. In general, the exchanges are wholesome, too. One night after dancing at Midsummer Night Swing, I went to Tavern on the Green with some Swing Accomplices (normally there's a cover charge, but it was late and so the Maitre d' let us in free after a little bit of negotiation) and one of the girls with us was wearing the sort of shoes that are lots of fun to wear for the first ten minutes, so since it had been several hours, she was in pain. One of the guys decided to carry her to the subway, across the park and a few blocks away, and she gleefully agreed and hopped into his arms. Out of Tavern on the Green we bounced, and one of the bums sitting on a darkish park bench remarked, "That place has great door prizes."
And then there is the way the city wears the seasons. I think I may have had my fill of Hot And Sticky, but I have *not* had enough of watching fireflies light up and wink at me in deliciously unpredictable patterns against the darkening green of the lawns, especially if it happens to be after hearing the New York Philharmonic play Sheherazade on the Great Lawn. I want to see Autumn on Central Park West again, with piles of leaves popping out from the dark grey hexagonal cobblestones, and shocks of brighter leaves popping out from the softer grey sky, and a ticklish wind sneaking in through the bottom of my coat and out through the sleeves. I want to spend another December evening admiring the bright crystal snow balanced on the filigreed wrought iron gates, reflecting colored Christmas lights from the houses nearby. (Who would have thought there was so much beauty to be found at the end of the R line?) I want to watch spring reveal itself in the Cherry Tree Esplanade in Brooklyn's Botanical Gardens, where all of a sudden everything is decked in shades of pink, and then I want to ride back to Manhattan and walk uptown looking at the windows on Madison Avenue, where all of a sudden everything is decked in shades of pink. One year is *not* long enough.
Current Music: Sheherazade, Rimsky-Korsakov
~ prattled by Miriam at 1:23 p.m. [+]
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Home again, home again, hustley hustle.
Sometimes, going out alone to a dance I've never been to before feels like a blind date with 50 strangers, and there's not even any guarantee my "date" will pay any attention to me at all. It can take a considerable act of will to decide I look sufficiently nice and to kick myself out the door. It's a bit easier now that I only have a little time left here, because I have the added motivation of "it's now or never" to spur me onward. Inspired by Gary, Rebecca, and the aforementioned "now or never" sentiment, I went to Dance Sport for a hustle night last night, for the first time ever, even though I've sort of been planning to go all year.
I'm glad I went. The dancers I followed led me through stuff I didn't know I could do and they were actually enthusiastic about teaching an (admittedly obvious) beginner. Apparently this is where the hustle teachers go to dance or something. It was doubly pleasurable because when I walked in I was sort of intimidated by the trashy gangster aesthetic most of the guys affected in their dress (to me, they looked like the people who started fights in high school, only older...the girls, for their part, looked more discofabulous than trashy, or perhaps I'm just more inured to girls looking trashy and I don't notice it) so I was hesitant to ask any of them to put their hands on me, even in the dance framework (haha) but really, all they cared about was dancing. Either that or they were all gay. :) There wasn't even any alcohol available, which is a marked anomaly; there was only a cooler filled with orange Hi-C (or some derivative) and a plate of sliced red apples drizzled with lemon juice so they wouldn't turn brown. Yum. Besides all that, it was only $7.
I was there for over two hours--a short evening, by most standards--and I only danced six dances with five guys, but that was because of a combination of three factors: first of all, I spent some time in the beginning being afraid to ask anyone, but content to watch the couples go; secondly, I later dove into a conversation about religion and human interaction with one of my partners, a civil engineer from Brooklyn who was dressed like a pimp and, I kid you not, said, "My friends call me Suede" (he was actually really cool--he wasn't at all surprised that I'm both rabbinate-bound and female, and he had some very interesting things to say about the difference between being a congregational rabbi and being a chaplain, which he compared to commercial and domestic engineering, and then to leading and following); and thirdly, the dances there just sort of go on until the dancers want to stop, because the DJ blends one song into the next. Each of these dances must have ranged between 10 and 20 minutes (not that I noticed the passage of time). My first dance was with a guy named Miguel who smelled of cigarettes, but for once I didn't mind so much. He gave me a lesson in technique which consisted of him saying things like, "Just relax," "Keep spotting on my forehead," and "Let your arms go free," and I really *was* able to follow much more easily than usual...though most of it was certainly due to his flawless leading. He said he wanted me to be in a performance group he's starting, which I declined (that's a little too rash, even for me, and anyway, I'm about to move to Philadelphia) and then he gave me his card and I learned he's both a teacher and a "world hustle champion".
I decided to walk home afterward--it was on Broadway and 60th, so it was a nice just-over-a-half-hour walk--and I was so glowingly buzzed and so in need of evaporating (yeah, I don't quite have the cool-and-effortless thing down yet) that I really had no desire to descend into a steamy subway and stand still for 15 minutes waiting for a train. Did I mention New York is a sauna now? Half the time the air is hot and drenched, and the other half of the time, the sun's out. Because they blast the AC in the subway cars, the heat from the AC units combines with the already high air temperature to make the subway stations like garbage cans for unwanted heat. Thus, I walked up CPW, where I was greeted with some appreciative comments coming from the park bench sitters (a little weird, but I was in such a good mood that I just felt flattered instead...one guy said I should sit down and talk with him if I had time, and when I grinned and kept walking, he just laughed and said , "Okay, have a good evening!" It was all good-natured like that, and not scary) AND, as if to crown the evening, just as I reached 97th St. a surplus of fireflies flitted out over the park wall to light my path for the last six blocks. Wheeeee.
~ prattled by Miriam at 1:42 p.m. [+]
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