Blues Blaze 2010: NYC – After the fact…

The weekend in New York didn’t go precisely as planned.  A few major hitches got in the way of it being a perfect weekend.  Nonetheless, we did have a wonderful time, and we made lots of good memories.

Renata and I both flew to New York, and as it happens, both of our flights were delayed.  We arrived – very conveniently – at the airport within ten minutes of each other, collected Renata’s bag, and took a taxi to the evening dance venue.  As we stepped out of our taxi, the portion of our group who drove to New York walked into view.  We flew from Ann Arbor and Columbus, and they drove from Cleveland and Erie to Pittsburgh, through State College, PA, to New York City, and we arrived at the venue in the same twenty seconds. Who could have imagined that such a thing would happen in real life?

The Friday night dances were fun, but we had to leave early because of the early morning level testing on Saturday.  Even with leaving the late night dance early, we still didn’t get to sleep until 4:00am and I woke up at 7:30 because I had to shower before we rode the subway to the venue.  I danced fine during the level testing, and was placed in the intermediate level, which was not unexpected, and I enjoyed the workshops.  I do think they could have done the level testing differently.  They made a big deal about it and then they didn’t seem to take it very seriously.  If I had known that in advance, I would have gotten several more hours of much-needed sleep.  As it was, I slept that evening and missed a large portion of the evening dance, and all of Kim Massie‘s (assuredly) amazing performance.  David was kind enough to stay with me so that I wouldn’t have to travel through NYC alone at night, and I know that he was even more disappointed than I to have missed that performance.  Fortunately, we’ll be seeing her again in November at the Emerald City Blues Festival in Seattle, and we won’t miss a second of it. 

Before my nap, David, Jeff, Nick and I saw a bit of the city, including a visit to an enormous Toys ‘R’ Us.  I didn’t know toy stores came that big!  The most memorable moment in that store was a round of DDR – Dance Dance Revolution – that Jeff and David played.  I have to admit that I was a tiny bit horrified at how well David performed and highly amused by the amount of fun the two of them had with it.  The store also had some incredible Lego sculptures: the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and other miscellaneous really cool things. And they had a Ferris wheel (which we did not ride on) and a giant barbie house (into which the guys would not go.  I went anyway on my own.)

The Saturday late night was a lot of fun.  (And if I may say so) I had a fabulous outfit, which always improves my night.  I had dances with a fairly wide variety of folks, mostly intermediate to advanced dancers. Some were locals, some had traveled. Many of them I already knew, but some were folks I hadn’t met before.  I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to dance with people I don’t know.  For awhile when I started dancing, everyone I danced with was someone I didn’t know (because I didn’t know anyone), and then I gradually moved to where I was dancing almost exclusively with friends.  Now I’ve been trying to dance with as many new people as familiar people, because that’s how you meet new people. 

We closed out the late night at 5:00am, although I crashed about an hour before that and spent that hour sleeping on the couch under David’s jacket.  David came and got me for the last dance, and I put on his jacket and we had a really lovely, quiet dance. I was barefoot (my heels had tired my feet out early), and he kept the dance at a nice easy pace, both to suit the music and to suit my sleepiness.  Although I had some really extraordinary, complex, very connected dances during the evening, that last dance was my favorite.

Sunday morning, David, Renata, and I all elected to sleep in rather than attend the first two classes. I had hoped to make it to the second class, but on getting up, I quickly realized and accepted that there was no way that was going to happen. All three of us woke up and got ready very slowly, and when we finally left, we decided to find a nice, sit-down, I’m-eating-in-New-York-City-and-making-the-most-of-it kind of place.  We stopped in the Village and found a lovely French restaurant called The New French with outdoor seating and ordered coffee and tea while we looked over the menu.  I ordered savory crepes with salmon, cucumbers, and creme fraiche. It came, as well, with a salad of mixed greens and thinly sliced beets.  And it was to die for.  Renata had French toast, and David had crepes as well, with fresh fruit and nutella.  I can’t tell you how their food was, because I was in raptures over mine, and no other food could penetrate my consciousness at that time. 

Classes that afternoon were fine but not extraordinary.  Admittedly, we missed a lot of the first afternoon class (the food was good, but the service was unbelievably slow), and we sat through the first half of the second afternoon class before retiring to the cafe to have coffee and conversation. It was decided to have dinner at an Asian restaurant somewhere vaguely south of where we were, and we headed off in that direction after the classes and a vigorous round of goodbyes.  En route, Renata and I started to realize that our flights were in three hours, and as we had yet to get back to Marie Emma’s apartment, pack our stuff, and get to LaGuardia, we thought we ought to eat quickly. (What is truly astounding is that we did not, at this point, realize that we ought to skip dinner entirely.) So we snarfed some food (mediocre sushi), paid our bill, and ran out of the restaurant, agreeing with one another that “we really ought to take a cab.” 

Only it turns out that all the cabs on duty at 5:45pm on Sunday night are either brand new cabbies or about to go off shift, so it took us over a half hour (that we did not have to spare) to find a cab driver that would take us to Brooklyn.  Having found such a cab driver, we sat in traffic for an additional 15 minutes that we didn’t have, and eventually we arrived.  The driver agreed to wait and take us to the airport and we hurried in to throw our belongings into our suitcases however they would fit most quickly and haul them down two flights of stairs to the waiting cab… which had to wait a little longer because Renata’s suitcase’s zipper broke.  So we tied the scarves that we were both wearing around the suitcase and hauled ass down to the cab.  I had been in contact with David and the group with which he was driving back to Ohio, and when we arrived down at the waiting cab, my flight was scheduled to take off in thirty minutes (Renata still had an hour).  The group that was driving had one spot to spare in their car, and bless them, they agreed to take me.  I shoved a twenty in Renata’s hand for cab fare, wished her luck, and started walking to the subway to go and meet my group. 

Oh, and wouldn’t you know, five minutes into my walk, a cab pulls up and the driver asks if he can take me anywhere? A little peeved at circumstance, and too stressed to say no, I hop in the cab, and he gets me to the evening dance venue in fifteen minutes. 

I found my group in the bar that was the evening dance venue, and we stayed for a bit, enjoying a couple of drinks and visiting with each other and the other dancers.  We were particularly tickled to spend a large portion of the evening chatting with Damon Stone, who is an incredible instructor.  Nick spent most of the evening with Damon, discussing Nick’s efforts to strengthen his local scene and to improve his own dancing.  We spent a bit of time discussing Damon’s swing out (a Lindy move – this is not blues, which is what we were actually in New York for). I got to be the demonstration dummy so that Nick, David, and Jeff could correctly observe what it so spiffy about Damon’s swing out.  (I can’t actually tell you, because I spent a good portion of that time with my eyes closed so I would react to his movement and not to what I saw.) It’s always neat to spend time with “important” people – instructors, performers, “superstars” – and find that they’re just people and that they’re friendly and interested in sharing what they know and discussing the thing that they and you love.  (Which do you know, going into it, but knowing is not the same as finding out.)

So me missing my flight actually worked out. We all got a lot less sleep. And I had to make a really awful phone call to my boss to tell her that I missed my flight and wouldn’t be in a 9:00am the next morning. (Renata, by the way, also missed her flight, but there was a flight going to Detroit at 6:00am on Monday that would allow her to make it to work.  The earliest flight to Columbus left at 9:00am.)  But the upshot of it was that we had a great evening. 

And then we drove. And drove. And drove some more.  And I got a cold.  A really bad cold with sniffles and coughs, and not-quite-being-able-to-breath-correctly-s.  We dropped Annabel off in State College, PA (can you believe that’s the name of a town?  I was so confused about that for the longest time.) After we dropped her off, everyone, including (I’m sure) Annabel, felt much more comfortable, because although there were five seats in the car, it was made for four people and I was number five.  So the second half of the drive went a little more comfortably, and we got into Pittsburgh at 4:30am.  We all crashed for a bit, and then got up to head out, make some conference calls, eat some breakfast, and go home.  (Ok, so only David had to make a conference call, and it was only one call, but the rest of it we all did.) 

Oh, and let me tell you about this deli where we had breakfast.  I have no idea what it’s called, but if you’re in Pittsburgh, go there.  It’s a Jewish deli, and they make the most amazing food.  David and I got sandwiches there once before that were completely scrumptious, and breakfast on Monday was just as wonderful.  The potato pancakes and the home fries were really, really yummy, and everything just screamed “comfort food.”

And finally, at 4:00pm on Monday, we made it to Granville, where David and I both napped: me because I was dying of a cold, and David because he still had two and half hours of driving to do on really weird and insufficient amounts of sleep. David was incredible, by the way.  He went almost four hours out of his way to get me home, and I really, really appreciate it. 

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