Running and Dancing

I am back in smokey Calgary (British Columbia wildfires) and reflecting on a particular active weekend during my last visit home.

I am at the initial phase of my 18ish week marathon training, which means gradually increasing mileage and strength and doing my best to remain injury free.  I love doing my long runs in NYC on the weekends because a) there is always an interesting spot to end, b) with a Metrocard I don’t have to do a loop in order to return home and c) everyone seems to be marathon training during the mid to late summer.  I was lucky because my August NY home days corresponded with Summer Streets, three Saturdays in August where 7 miles of NYC streets are closed to traffic (to encourage biking, walking and, of course, running!).  During this event, runners take advantage of logging the long run miles. I started at my Brooklyn apartment, headed down Flatbush and over the Brooklyn Bridge to enter the Summer Streets in lower Manhattan.


Save runners and a few tourists, the Brooklyn Bridge was uncharacteristically empty. I did not have to dodge the usual throngs of tourists and bikers.  I don’t know if it was because it was so early (around 7 am) or the impending storms (clouds were dark over New Jersey) but it was nice to have so much space on the Bridge.  I came off the Bridge and entered Manhattan and joined the stream of early morning Summer Streets runners.


Facing North-ish


Facing South-ish 

One of the things I love about marathon training in NYC is that it feels like everyone is doing it.  On the Summer Streets there were runners of all shapes and sizes in characteristic bright colored running gear and race shirts.  The configurations ranged from individuals (like myself) to small groups to larger ones, like the charity groups running for some cause (Fred’s Team was a notable one in their bright orange singlets).

As we were running, it started to lightly rain,  a welcome reprieve from the heat and humidity.  As I passed Union Square and approached Park Ave, the rain grew steadily harder and eventually a full-on down pour.  Because it was hot, the rain was welcome, but still challenging as it was pounding and my socks and sneakers became water-logged (as did my clothing). I could not avoid running through puddles (which were more like small seas).  Even in this heavy rain, the runners continued to plug (or plunge) forward.  The bikes all but disappeared and the walkers tucked under doorways and awnings.  But the runners kept splashing ahead.


The rain eventually slowed then ceased.  I was drenched.  In between the rain and the ceasing, I stopped by the sponsors area and tried samples of Nuun, an energy drink, iced tea and jerkys.  I also could not resist the free yogurt and coconut water. I took one bottle of each.  I still had two point five more miles to go.  I got a free reusable bag from NYC recycles and continued with bag in hand. Not the most efficient run, but I did not want to pass on the free goodies.

I finished my drenched run, 12 miles, at approximately the halfway point of the Brooklyn Bridge.  I was happy with my run and happier to enjoy walking the rest of the bridge and reminiscing about walks with my siblings and Dad across the same bridge many decades earlier.


Post run, is it rain or sweat???

Kittening and Gogoing

When I finished run, I took out my phone and noticed a message from my burlesque group seeking a replacement for a stage kitten for the evening performance. Maybe it was low blood sugar, runner’s high or elation with finishing a long run, I responded with an “I’m available, please call me.”  Foxy Belle Afriq, the producer of the show called me about 5 minutes later, just as I was walking through the Fulton Mall.  She explained to me the details of the show, which would also include go-go dancing.  Go-go dancing??? “Will I have to take off my clothes?” “No” she responded, the continued to explain that my role, as a go-go dancer, was to help keep the crowd hyped in between burlesque performers.  I accepted the position. My first thought soon after went to what to wear. For this Flatbush never fails for providing affordable bling-bling and the numerous dancehall oriented boutiques.  I found a halter unitard at a store that would be soon closing, probably due to the rampant gentrification in the area.  It would totally suck to loose these stores as they always come through in a pinch for a visibly spectacular outfit.

I became a peripheral part of the burlesque community last summer with the completion of a burlesque workshop and performance with Brown Girls Burlesque Broad Squad.  It was an 8-week introduction to burlesque, including the history of Black women in burlesque and the opportunity to create your own choreography and costume.  Costumes are all about the bling…glitter, sequins and shiny things.   Perfect for my alter ego as my day-to-day self minimizes the bling and attention-getting.

My stage name is ZeineBruja Broadreach shortened to ZeineBruja.  In this space, the burlesque space, I am referred to by this name.  As I am not in this space as often as I would like to be, I sometimes forget, like when Belle Afriq (who probably does not remember my birth name) had to call “Bruja” several times before my brain made the connection that she was referring to me.


As a stage kitten, my job is to make it easier for the performers.  On the stage, you will see the stage kitten cleaning up after the dancer, picking up all of her/his clothing after the strip-tease, but there is much more behind the scenes.  Tasks include, helping to get the dancers dressed, grabbing drinks for the dancers from the bar, selling raffles, communicating between the producer, M.C., performers, Djays, etc. etc. etc.  I enjoyed the running around, even with my left ankle being stiff and sore from the morning run.

“What song do you want to dance to?” I did not realize that I had to come with my own songs. When I am at home and dancing like nobody’s watching, there are numerous songs that I think, “I would love to dance to this.”  Of course at this moment my music brain farts. Saved by Grace, I thought of “My Jamaican Guy.”    Perfect for Go-Go dancing and classic enough to be recognized by many.  However, the DJ was a hot mess (he mis-played several songs for the burlesque dancers) and played my song during the intermission.  So I had to think quickly.  Still at the altar of Grace, I chose “Pull up to my Bumper.”


As the song began to play, I made my way to the stage and gyrated my way through the song.  I worked the crowd.  Although I am an introvert by nature in my love of solo time and being low-key, put some music on, give me a stage and an audience and I am in my alter element. I get a high from performing, it is like I am in an alternate universe of self when all eyes are on me–dancing.  Of course, there are moments of self-consciousness–not wanting to appear “too sexual” or questioning doing this at “my  age”; if the audience is questioning my age on the stage, do they know how old I am on this stage…all kinds of internal dialogues, but thankfully the music drowns them as quick as they surface. I was tipped. It as a small crowd but I still made 5 bucks.  Five well-earned bucks.  Five cherished bucks because something I did resonated with a member of the audience.


When I got home I Googled “go-go dancer.” I learned that it originated in the 60s (something I intuitively knew) that they are hired to keep the energy going in crowds in nightclubs and at concerts and shows.  This is to be filed in career-I-wish-I-knew-about-decades-earlier.  Now I wonder if it could be a viable side-hustle at my age???

After the show, we walked a little through East Village and came across the Pyramid Club.  With everything that gave the East Village its edgy and creative character disappearing or turning into yet another sanitized franchise, it is nice that this club still stands.  Many memories…




FEMSS Wedding

As I’ve mentioned before, Coney Island is a magical place. It is even more so in those dusky/dawny hours add a wedding and exponentially up the magic factor.


Capri, the doyenne of open water swimming, always posts about the summer Friday Early Morning Sunrise Swims. Since I saw the first posting, I’ve to-do listed it. However because the sun rises early in the summer, which means catching the Q train at somewhere between 4:30 and 5 am, the FEMSS remained unticked. That is until I saw that my aquaphilic friend Bonnie posted about her desire to to this as well. After a few back and forth comments, we made the loose commitment to go, “I’ll try to set my alarm…”

Commitments became more firm when we found out that two CIBBOWS members were going to tie the knot during the upcoming FEMSS. I found out during my volunteer stint with CIBBOWS for the Grimaldo mile, I told Bonnie who also knew one of the to-be brides; this tightened the loose commitment.

As I boarded the train at almost 4:45 (after waiting for 20 minutes) I reminisced about my association with Coney Island and the subway at this hour, it was usually a return home after a night of rides, sideshows, fireworks and boardwalk people-watching. Now I’m on the way there to swim, frolick in the ocean at this duppy hour.


Pre-dawn wedding crowd on the boardwalk


Ready for the wedding (c) Bonnie Frogma’s camera

Group and ParachuteJump

Getting ready for a pre-dawn swim (c) Bonnie Frogma 

When I was told about the wedding I envisioned a small, very informal gathering. Two people who fell in love in/near the ocean and this beach and deciding to celebrate this life event there. The first hint that this was more were the candles in the sand creating a path to the water. As we approached the waters edge, we saw the crowd, many of them swimmers but most of them not, gathered around a lifeguard chair. This was more than a small, intimate gathering. While not huge, the couple had gathered an impressive group of friends, family and swimmers to share this moment, at this early Friday morning before sunrise hour.


Path to the altar 


Ready to jump in! (c) Bonnie Frogma 

Some of us, including Bonnie and myself, jumped into the surf as we waited for the events to unfold. The water was a little chilly so I got wet up to my knees while Bonnie and others dove straight in. Just when I was about to get in above my knees, the crowd moved towards the chuppah that was placed where the candle path ended and the ocean began.

Flanked by a few family/friends, Alison and Kathleen walked down the candlelit path towards the officiant. They had a beautiful ceremony which ended with more friends/family creating and umbrella bridge that led them to their first dip in the ocean as a married couple. This was followed by a celebratory swim for much of the guests-jumping in the waves in celebration of love. Showing care for their loved ones, the couple hired lifeguards to keep an eye on swimmers from the shore (the City lifeguards were not on duty until 9 or 10).


Happy Brides! 


Umbrella Archway! 

Eventually the crowd in the ocean thinned leaving a few of us to swim, tread and negotiate ocean waves. After a few minutes of shivering, the ocean felt nice and refreshing. I treaded, did some dolphin flips (or flops in my case) and counted strokes along with the other open water swimmers.  While we were treading and chatting, the issue of “food trucks” kept popping up.  “I heard that they hired food trucks.” “I don’t know but [I forget who was named] always goes to the one in the Home Depot parking lot afterwards.  Maybe that is it.” We continued “playing” in the water until the inevitable, people had to leave for work. Bonnie left around 6:30 we all followed soon after.  I worked from home that day so had a relatively flexible schedule and was torn between staying and leaving.  With deadlines looming like shark fins, I decided to leave.

As I approached the boardwalk, I saw the wedding crowd gathered in a boardwalk ally…and…food trucks!!!! Dilemma…should I crash or should I head home for some blueberries in the fridge? I saw a couple of familiar faces in the crowd so I decided to blend in.

Full on gourmet breakfast from a food truck–omelette station, fresh fruit, pastries, grits, BACON, fresh squeezed orange juice, juice station (beets, ginger, kale, etc.), another station for egg sandwiches, corned beef hash…food, glorious food.  I had a plate full, toasted the brides and ate some more.

As I was about to leave (and before I gave the brides hugs and well-wishes) I noticed a tattoo on the calf of one of them. It is a tattoo I noticed and admired when I saw her swim last year and I paraphrase, “always keep swimming.” A nice metaphor for the morning and reminder for me.  (Schmaltz alert): They are two people of age who were in each other’s circles for a while (from what I heard) and never had the chance to connect until about a year ago.  When I say of age, they are women who have experienced life, met many people, most likely have had prior relationships (and possibly even marriages), I think one of them has adult children. Both of them have managed to “keep swimming” and found each other, find happiness and love through doing the things that they love.  As long as you are living, keep swimming because there are always new adventures ahead!