Monday, January 26, 2009

Great Find: Broadway Dance Center

It's a new year--actually, if you're following the lunar calendar, today is New Year's Day. So happy new year. I love the "new" in new year because it's an opportunity to change my life for the better. Yes, I know, every moment can be a new beginning, today is the start of the rest of your life, blah blah, but there's something about having a clean slate that gives you that extra incentive to break the inertia.

In my life, I have this little list of not-quite-resolutions, i.e., things I'd like to attend to someday when other priorities in my life don't cut in line. Taking a dance class has been on that list for many years. I never missed a dance in high school or college, in my single days, I loved clubbing, and weddings, to me, are really an excuse for buttoned-up adults to let loose on the dance floor (thus, the popularity of the conga line.) I always assumed I was a pretty good dancer, but as I got older, I realized I didn't dance very often. When I did dance, I felt more self-conscious. I couldn't move like I used to. I felt like the tin man from Oz, and that's not very sexy.

NYC is THE dance capital of the country, and dance classes abound. So what, then, has held me back? The vision of my uncoordinated self flailing in a sea of perfectly svelte and graceful aspiring Broadway dancers--that's what. I'd researched and bookmarked some of the top studios in town years ago--Broadway Dance and Dance New Amsterdam, for example--but I'd always been suspect of how truly "beginner" the beginner classes were. Did "beginner" mean "I'm a professional ballerina, but have never taken hip-hop" or "I haven't taken a dance class since I was eight." (me)?

Which is why I was so overjoyed to find Broadway Dance's Absolute Beginner Workshops:

A tradition started in 1993, The Absolute Beginner Workshop offers introductory instruction in the beautifully diverse styles of dance — for ADULTS ONLY! This exceptional program will ignite your passion and spirit for dance. If you have always wanted to dance or dreamed of dancing, these workshops are created just for you!

They read my mind, I thought. Still doubtful, I had called to confirm that adults who haven't danced since they were eight years old were the core audience for this class, and the girl on the phone had assured me it was so.

Long story short, I've been taking a ten-week Hip-Hop workshop. I've had three classes so far, and it's exactly what I was looking for. The studios and facilities are immaculate and modern. I love getting there a little early and walking through the halls and watching the other classes in session through the glass windows. Very inspiring.

The class moves at a swift, but manageable pace, which means it doesn't coddle you but it's not leaving you in the dust. There are about 25 people in the class, and I love my instructor (Chio). You start with warm ups, do some basic moves, then work on a routine. You definitely sweat. After my first class, I was sore for days, but my body's getting used to moving in these strange new ways, so now I'm not sore at all. I think you have to be wiling to look like a fool in order to take this class, especially if you haven't had a lot of dance experience, but if you just focus on the instructor and keep telling yourself you can practice the moves later (i.e., your flailing is only temporary)--you'll enjoy yourself. It's so much fun, especially when you start to move like a real dancer.

When I get home from class, I do my routines for City Guy. He laughs and says I don't look very scary yet, but you just wait - seven weeks from now, I'll be fierce, yo!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Great Find: BLT Market

On a whim, City Guy and I went to lunch at Laurent Tourendel's "barnyard-fresh" restaurant BLT Market today. We had stopped at this office in midtown and thought, "hey, let's treat ourselves to lunch." Having eaten at BLT Fish before without being too impressed, we were unsure of what to expect, but we had a really great lunch. A bit pricey for $100 for the two of us (sans alcohol), but very tasty, and I like the idea of eating seasonally and locally.

The restaurant has a homey feel to it--beautifully paintings of produce on the walls, rustic furniture and table settings (a pot of rosemary on each table) and a layout that's open to the street view on 6th Avenue near Central Park South--conducive on a day like today to watching bundled tourists trundling by. The meal starts with the chef's version of pigs in a blanket - tasty little hot dog treat - and piping hot garlic bread with parsley butter. Yum. We started by sharing the chestnut, apple and celery root soup with wild mushroom toast and a foie gras topping and bacon. A perfectly creamy blend of sweet and savory, this was definitely the highlight of our meal.

For main courses, I had the rock shrimp risotto with cauliflower, topped with black truffle. The risotto was perfectly cooked, and the cauliflower pieces were lovely little treats buried in the rice. City Guy had the burger with blue cheese and rosemary fries--he liked the burger very much (you have to love blue cheese) and I couldn't keep my hands out of the fry cup. :) Dessert was the chocolate feuilletine rocky road with coffee cointreau cream glace. Not the most exciting dessert, but tasty enough. Good texture, although it wasn't very "rocky road"-y, as there were no marshmallows.

I love that every once in a while, we can treat ourselves to a really good meal for no reason at all. Love that about this city. There's never an end to the good food.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On My Mind: Laid Off And Hiding?

I finally got caught up on NY Mag's annual Where to Eat issue and came across "My Laid-off Life"--a series of first person profiles from recently laid-off New Yorkers. I feel for each of them, but reading their stories made me wonder: with the unemployment rate at 7.2%, how come I don't know anyone who's unemployed (involuntarily, that is)?

Point of comparison: Dot.bomb aftermath of 2001 in Los Angeles. After four or five rounds of layoffs, people were almost begging HR to end their misery. There's nothing like being left to repair the hull on a sinking ship. I remember going to Urth Cafe in West Hollywood in the middle of the day, and feeling the place pulsating with a kind of unemployment euphoria. I thought, "Hey, I didn't get the invite!" My point is everyone I knew seemed to be unemployed! It was emboldening. I quit my job in August 2001 to become a full-time freelance writer and was happy to be earning a small, though adequate salary. I reasoned I was better off relying on my own gumption than on the BD guys at the firm. I was young, and whatever I earned felt like a gift in an environment where many of my friends would be unemployed for a year or more. Many ended up making the life changes (career, relationship, geography) they never had the courage to make on their own. Everyone survived.

This time, I only know of a couple of former co-workers who were laid off--God willing, I won't know of more--but not any close friends. With all the news reports of rising unemployment, I have wondered if NY has been hit as hard as the rest of the country.

But after reading this NY Mag article, it dawned on me that the unemployed in NYC might be hiding at home. LA is a much more hospitable place to be unemployed in--you've got sunshine, beaches, mountains, yoga and new age spirituality. Here, well, look outside today. It's snowing. And the wind chill's in the negatives. And the city is still full of men and women in suits going to jobs they haven't yet lost, typing on their Blackberries, looking purposeful when you most lack purpose.

Working from home, I know a little about what the hidden unemployed must be going through. As hard as the loss of income in this gilded town is the loss of connection. We all derive so much of our identities from our job titles, the financial strength of our companies...when all of that is stripped away, who are you? Whether you choose to leave the rat race or are forced out on your own, that loss of identity can be disorienting, sometimes disheartening, but ultimately liberating.

At first, there's anger, loss, shame, maybe even despair, but when you've watched enough bad TV, had a good cry, eaten all the junk food you can stomach, there will be a moment, you'll figure it out...what comes next. There's no rational reason to believe it will be better than what came before, but never mind that. Believe anyway. It will get you out of bed in the morning.

If you've been laid off, and you're reading this, The Girl Next Door sends you a hug. If the past is any indication, she knows your future will be better than your past.

Monday, January 12, 2009

This NY Moment: "Panda-handling" In The Cold

Are we getting more days with temperatures below 20-degrees this winter or am I imagining it? Now that the holiday season is over, this snow and cold is not charming any more. It's just uncomfortable, and I really do dread going outside.

Nevertheless, I braved the cold yesterday for an open house up the street, and wouldn't you know it - the broker didn't show! This is not the first time a broker hasn't shown up to his own open house on a cold winter day. Why announce an open house on Street Easy if you're not going to show!

I was angry to say the least--I'll save my rant for a separate post--but if I hadn't been out, I wouldn't have encountered the panda standing on the street corner across the street from the Rector St stop of the R/W. A couple of girls -- don't know if they were just adoring tourists or his handlers--were taking pictures of him, but no one else was around. I would think I had imagined him, had I not had photographic proof. It's lovely random moments like this one that save me from gritting my teeth.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Perspective: Missing NYC

Hey all. I'm back! I was traveling between Christmas and New Year's and actually spent the last week enjoying 85-degree weather and blue Caribbean waters in Mexico.

I've written before about how hard it is for me to "re-enter" NYC after being away, but this time, something's different. For one, I've been reflecting on how proud I felt to be able to say I was from NYC when asked while traveling. I could really feel the admiration foreigners felt for my city (one woman asked me if it life here was really like "Sex and the City") and was grateful to be a small part of it.

What is it that non-New Yorkers admire about this city? Could it be the courage it requires to survive and thrive and be challenged by such a city? If Paris stands for beauty, fashion, sophistication, then maybe NYC stands for achievement, determination, courage and ingenuity? Or is it because NYC is THE cultural capital of the United States--not only because it's the US city the world sees portrayed most often in movies and TV, but also because for so many reasons it's the city they think of first when they think of America.

We really enjoyed Mexico. It was an adventure-filled, wonderful trip. We'll miss the warmth, the easygoing vibe and the minimal clothing. We gained a better understanding of and appreciation for Mexico, particularly its history, people and natural landscape, and we were sad to leave.

But when we walked through the door of our apartment on Saturday, I was happy to see my little apartment and sleep in my own bed. And once the laundry was done, the suitcase put away, and the photos from my trip downloaded onto my computer, I felt complete again.

I'm eager to start the New Year and look forward to all the beautiful things this year and this city have in store. I guess slowly but surely I am becoming a New Yorker...each time I leave and return, it feels more and more like home.

Happy New Year, everyone!