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.

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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.

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Facing North-ish

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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…

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24 hours in Brooklyn

After my morning run, it was time to prepare for my Thanksgiving contributions, but first means shopping.  Headed downtown Brooklyn to the newish Trader Joes, despite the often ridiculously long and winding lines, I love that place.  I always go with a mental note of what to buy and leave with much more.  “I’d like to try this” or “this looks interesting” along with the chocolate peanut butter cups leads to many impulse purchases.  Most get used but some, unfortunately, end up in the freezer cemetery for no other reason than either forgotten or never got around to eating which leads to being forgotten.

After Trader Joes, I went to DSW in a panic over having warm shoes.  I bought some duck shoes of a famous name brand (I try to reserve name brand-dropping for running stuff ;), however if this shoes somehow end up being magical, you will hear about them). Then I went to Flatbush to catch a dolla van and head home to start my cooking marathon (sprint).  Crossing the street (with the sign flashing “don’t walk” as New Yorkers do–in Calgary they actually wait for the walk sign. Even with neither cars nor bikes nor squirrels in sight. Bothers the impatient New Yorker in me to no end–I saw a sign in the sky that connected Brooklyn to Calgary–a reverse Chinook:

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Seriously, look:

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Calgary is on the left in case you are left guessing.

Let the cooking begin however, not before catching a club night with some colleague-besties.

Headed to the city to get some house music all night long (until midnight) I got off at 14th to transfer to the L.  Descending the platform I heard the sweet sound of salsa music echoing from below.  It is a sound that for me has defined my life as a New Yorker. It is a rhythm that says, “These my peeps, yo,” it is a comforting sound of what was and is rapidly disappearing Nueva York.  In NY it seems we all end up being both Puerto Rican and Jewish by default, intersected with your own ethnic identity and/or the identity of the community in which you grew up. Because you are a New Yorker, you know how and where to schlepp in order to get some arepas (and know that it is not pronounced ah-ray-pas).

El Salsero on the platform was one of those old-school tios, the ones you heard on the streets near Calle 116 in Spanish Harlem and still see on the boardwalk at Coney Island. The ones who’s partner always had some arroz con pollo, pasteles y coquito (no matter what time of year) for sale in a cooler.  He had his maracas y guiro painted in the colors of the bandera and I could not help myself but join in the dance. See my man:

Beautiful. Even more so when thinking about the destruction and current hardship that has befallen La Isla de Encanta and the strength of Caribbean people.  However, even strong people have their limits and we need to always remember those who have suffered this hurricane season. Although the headlines have faded, people are still struggling to rebuild.

From this emotional moment, I moved on to the Meatpacking District to meet up with some friends/colleagues to head to Club Cielo for a night of house music.  It must have been old-skool-post-disco-pre-deep-house night because for the first hour or so it felt like we went back in time to the legendary Paradise Garage.  And I am sure some of the dancers were the original patrons.  Check out this brother:

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Scroll through for the full effect, light up shirt and laces and all.  After the hour plus of discoish house, the beat pumped up and it was time to close our eyes and get lost in the music.  After sweating for another hour and half, my colleague/friend and I remembered the Thanksgiving dinner that we had to cook later that day.  We shared a taxi, headed through the tunnel back to our borough.

But before cooking, I had to be in Prospect Park at 6am for my volunteer gig with PPTC.  Next entry!