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.
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…