Monday, August 16, 2010


"The dance is a poem of which each movement is a word."

--Mata Hari

Natasha Wang, who won the Amateur poler category in the East Meets West Tri-polar competition this weekend.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beauty secrets

So this past weekend while in Chicago, I had an amazing makeup lesson from Julia Hamilton, who is a trainer for Smashbox Cosmetics in the midwest and an absolutely ridiculously talented makeup artist. She taught me how to apply makeup to my Asian hooded mono-lids in a way that ACTUALLY looks good! She also let me in on a little trade secret:

There exists a makeup brush company out of the midwest called Crown Brush. Compare one of their "studio series" brushes to one by Stila and you will find... they are... exactly the same. Because Crown makes the private-label brushes that other companies stamp and sell! And check on Crown's website and you will find that brushes... are $2-5 each.... and those exact same brushes.... are sold for $20-30 by Stila and the other companies! So, if you don't mind having a brush without a logo on it, and are looking for high quality without the price, they are a great resource for brushes.

This 23-piece kit sells for only $55!

Too good not to share this kind of info =)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

And, breathe.

Off to Chicago tonight for a 4-day weekend! In an effort to curtail my usual over-packing, I have made a list of clothing that I am bringing with me. And it only includes ONE pair of shoes? I may have to do something about that.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Some pieces transcend dance. And you stop seeing the steps, and you start feeling the heartbeat, and you start hearing the dialogue. And you know, when it ends, you want to know what happens next.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Revisiting the past

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about first loves. It’s a complicated thing, this whole ‘first love’ business. The first person who was the welcome recipient of your heart on a silver platter. The first time you had the thoughts that maybe, just maybe, relationships could work out. The one you could spend hours with and never tire of, even after the honeymoon and the legendary ‘one year bumps’ had been passed. The one who, even when you fought, you both understood that the relationship wasn’t at stake, that it was a point that you were arguing over and that no matter what the love was still there. The person who had you before you had baggage from breaking up with them and having your heart broken. The first person who, instead of judging, you simply accepted for who they were. And loved them for it.

The problem is, your first love is your first experience at having a real relationship. Neither of us knew how to really handle love, or problems, or commitment or arguments. We did the best we could, but what experience did we have to tell us, ‘yes this is typical, this is expected, this is normal.’ Because despite not wanting to be average... you want the reassurance of knowing other people go through this too, and this is how they deal with it. And when growing up knocked on our door, neither of us knew how to answer it. Real life, graduation, jobs, finding an apartment. And so we broke up.

He still has yet to be replaced, and he never will be, because he was the original that the mold was formed from. The only thing I can do is to change the mold, little by little, using what I’ve realized since then. I see my past with him as a huge learning experience, one that I’m glad for and that I would do all over again in a heartbeat-but still, a past, one that I hope to move on and grow from. Because if I were to ever go back… it would be out of fear that I can’t do better. Out of fear that I will fail. Out of fear of giving my heart away again. Out of fear of getting hurt. And more then anything, I don’t want to live with that guiding me. I want to do things that cause me to continue to grow and mature.

I know a part of me will always love him, no matter how he feels about me or whether or not we talk or see each other. But I know that our eventual break-up came simply because it was time, because we had learned all we could from one another and given all we could to each other.

In Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, there are a series of reincarnations. With each one you learn, with each one you grow until you reach enlightenment, always in a constant state of change and evolution. And the idea of reincarnation, the idea of recycling, rejects the idea that there is one true love. It rejects the idea that there is only one person out there for you. It is more about becoming the kind of person who can be loved, and how to love, so that when a person comes along that fits, you can adjust and form to each other until you’re no longer two separate pieces, but a whole.

That's my idea of being a romantic.

That's my ideal.

Monday, July 26, 2010

One Hundred Sonnets of Love XVII

by Pablo Neruda

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep

**I have always loved this poem. I was reminded of it going through my old blog entries. It strikes a chord today, and I thought I would share.

Friday, July 23, 2010


I have been thinking a little bit more recently about what I am drawn to in other people's movement, and what I am going to aspire to more as I develop as a dancer.

I've been fortunate enough to live in a city where there are amazing dance companies and choreographers, and over the past 8 or 9 months especially I've been trying to broaden my horizons, watching pieces by the New York City Ballet, Christopher Wheeldon, Alvin Ailey, Alvin Ailey II, the Cedar Lake Dance company, Savion Glover & the OtherZ, the Batsheva Dance company, Paul Taylor, the Boston Ballet, the Australian Ballet, Sang Jijia, and Diana Vishneva.

I may not necessarily understand the themes in all the works I have seen, but it has educated me more in the breadth and scope of what dance can be. I think it will also inform the influences that I absorb in my own movement, and shape the kind of dancer I will be moving forward.

Dance, to me, is:

Movement driven by breath.
Not necessarily beautiful. Pain is not beautiful. Hurt is not beautiful.
A means of communication and expression for the dancer, music, or choreographer.
Most intriguing when it is improvised.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Catching Bees

In my last job, I was basically a glorified personal assistant. I had a big role in running the company, but I was also obligated to help the owner and CEO of the company with his niggling annoying personal tasks to free up his time to do other things. Every once in a while he would hand me a bill and simply tell me to get whoever sent it to reduce their fees. I got pretty good at arguing with people and steamrolling them. I thought that those talents would help me in my current job, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

At work, my job is essentially to mediate between the wants of the people who are paying me, and the people who are supplying the labor and materials that make the wants a reality. This often requires arguments over money, responsibility, and work that was done to one party’s standards but not another. Further, this can involve ugly contract disputes, withholding of payments, and severed professional relationships. Working with the alpha-male personality types that are frequent in my industry means, surprisingly, being sensitive to the hurt egos that seem to abound. Often, even if you are telling someone that they didn’t do their job properly and need to re-do it at their own cost, if you deliver the message with empathy, then you are more likely to get what you want.

A lot of calming an agitated situation is simply listening. Letting every party know that they are being heard, and that you are not trying to lay blame or place responsibility, only solve the problem. It’s tempting, in a lot of instances, to point fingers, but that often leads to anger, or defensiveness. Invariably, the easiest way to getting things done is to get buy-in from all parties involved. And that’s really, to me, the essence of power. Not forcing people to your will.

This is a skill that I am still developing, and I think I will continue to work on throughout the rest of my adult life. For a long time, I thought that getting your own way was all about pushing people around. It’s really humbling to see people who are able to conduct themselves in a way (even through difficult situations) that maintains respect in the relationship, builds loyalty, and creates a learning experience for all parties involved.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Another day in The Office

RH: Did you know bears are the most widespread animal on the planet? They’re on all the continents. Except Antarctica. No, except Australia. Wait, is Australia a continent? What are the seven continents again?
(answers are shouted out while I laugh helplessly at my desk)
RH: Ok, North America, South America. Ok, Africa. Asia. Europe.
Random shout: Eurasia!
RH: [continuing uninterrupted] Antarctica…
BL: Arctica?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Party Monsters

I firmly believe that at the root of many of the more complex interpersonal issues that I have experienced (and many of our personality quirks) with both men and women, is insecurity. Insecurity manifests itself in so many ways: coldly ignoring someone for a minor perceived slight, dependence on someone for reassurance all the time, constantly criticizing everyone else, fighting with a significant other because of jealousy.

I started thinking about this the other day. On Saturdays, at my dance studio, I typically teach anywhere from 3-4 bachelorette and birthday parties for women. It’s an interesting little cross section of women in general; put a bunch of women in a strange situation, with “stripper poles” (I prefer the term “dance poles” myself), and try to get them to act sexy and it’s like some kind of instant insecurity amplifier. I believe that your truest self comes out under duress and there is nothing like a possibly very uncomfortable situation to show your real colors.

Now keep in mind that in a typical group of friends, there is a wide range of physical ability, and this is no exception; there are always some women who are much more fit and able than others. Other archetypes that seem to pop up in every group are: the shy one who just wants to stand in the corner and watch, the one who’s idea it was in the first place (and this is usually the person who is most excited to be there and wearing the smallest shorts), and the one who was dragged in and doesn’t really think this is such a good idea.

And then there is the woman who is beautiful, thin, and has no idea how to use her raw female power. I see so many women who have no idea how to move their hips in a circle, let alone run their hand through their hair or down their body sensually. It’s as though their beauty has been placed in a crystal box, and they’ve never opened it, content to just look and how pretty it is through the glass. They are always supremely aware of their awkwardness, and the expression on their face is that of a deer in headlights. You want me to do what?

I love, love, love the joyous woman. The one who is a consumer of all things delicious in her life: usually she has hips, and curves, and after just a little coaxing she is pushing them out and walking with her hand sassily perched on her hip. She laughs, pokes fun at herself, has come to peace with herself and knows that her body is just the dressing, the sauce, to the beauty, however flawed, that is inside of her. I look forward to having these women in class. They are the most enjoyable, the most gracious.

There is the type A overachiever. Usually she does yoga, or has dance experience. Often her friends joke with her, subtly putting her under pressure to be the "best". She is competitive with herself, and the disappointment and frustration rolls off her in waves if she can't get things quite right. Usually she set up the party, and will sign up for additional classes after.  My heart aches for this woman. I want to tell her to relax and have fun, that there is plenty of time to get everything perfect. But I don't.

And then. I don’t know why this is, but in every group of white women-- and only white women-- there is always one woman who does the moves alongside me obligingly, but at some point, when she starts realizing how uncomfortable she is, she starts making a joke of it. Mocking movements, over exaggerating a hip thrust, distracting the rest of the group into laughing. She changes the tone of the class at some point. When this woman is present, she takes all the sexuality out of it, takes her own discomfort and expresses it negatively, turns it on the activity and makes fun of the dancing, reminding everyone else in the room that they should be uncomfortable as well. Making them feel foolish for trying any harder than she is. I have come to dread the appearance of this woman, who usually body-snatches someone about halfway through the warmup and transforms the group into a party that I honestly would rather not teach.

I’m pretty sure that if you take that woman, that Chelsea Handler-esque woman, and get her at a coffee shop on any typical day, and talk to her about her life, she is a funny, sharp, engaging, and interesting person. I realize that it's really negative to say that a person can be summarized by their faults, or the worst aspects of their personality. And I have been working harder at seeing the good in everyone. But when you take someone outside of their comfort zone, you see so much of the dark underbelly of their personality. You see the person that they are when they are at their worst. And unfortunately, sometimes that is all that you see. It reminds me, no matter how stressed or uneasy I may be in a situation or on a particular day, to try a little bit harder to be genuine. To not put up walls around myself. To try not to let my own insecurity manifest in a way that might affect someone else.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I want to remember...

It's noon in Manhattan. A walk to the neighborhood bagel shop, he gets in the line that snakes past the counter and around the walls inside. I'm sitting outside with the dog, waiting. The summer heat beats down. It's a brick oven on Broadway and I'm standing in it. He gets out of the store, bagels in hand, and asks me: "are you sure you don't want to go upstate just for the day?"

An hour later, we're loaded into a car, one overnight bag each, packed with a bathing suit and not much else. I'm wearing a sundress and flip flops and a hundred miles can't pass soon enough. I have a little less than twenty-four hours of freedom.

Two hours pass, and he's in the pool and I'm laying on the lawn. Mountain breezes are drifting through my hair. The sun is peeking through the trees as though not to offend. The heat is different here. I almost don't need to get in the water to cool off but when I do, it's delicious and smooth. I can feel myself exhale and it's a deeper breath than I've had all week. When I get out of the pool everything sheets off my skin.

The grass is more shade than sun by the time we unwrap sandwiches, crisp white butcher paper unfurling to reveal food that is delicious the way that only after-swim food is delicious. Sitting on lawn chairs we eat sushi rolls with our fingers. I lay down on my towel and fall asleep watching boys, barefoot, run back and forth over the lawn after a soccer ball, frolicking like puppies.

Dinner at a restaurant in town. Sitting outside, sipping lemonade blueberry cocktails with crushed ice. Somehow food tastes better out here. You can focus on one sense at a time, and the air is clean. Conversation lingers and in the car on the ride home, we see heat lightning illuminating the sky. A thunderstorm, somewhere, is casting light so bright that it's reflecting off clouds and reaching us with no hint of thunder.

On the porch, beers in hand, staring up into stars. I love this man for understanding my soul. I'm so glad we came. Last minute trips are the best ones. In eight hours, I'll be on a bus back to the city, but for now, I feel the wind, and smell the summer.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Books I've read since I received WunderKindle (Circa Jan 2010)

List to be updated periodically. If you have any recommendations, I'm open to them!

(last updated 8/24/10)

The Subject Steve- Sam Lipsyte
The Lost Symbol- Dan Brown
Norwegian Wood- Haruki Murakami
Kafka on the Shore- Haruki Murakami
Heart Shaped Box- Joe Hill
Horns- Joe Hill
The Song is You- Arthur Phillips
Juliet, Naked- Nick Hornby
Last Night in Twisted River- John Irving
Too Much Happiness- Alice Munro
Nocturnes- Kazuo Ishiguro
Wicked Lovely- Melissa Marr
The Imperfectionists- Tom Rachman
The Elementary Particles- Michel Houellebecq
In the Heart of the Canyon- Elisabeth Hyde
Then we Came to the End- Joshua Ferris
The Passage- Justin Cronin
The Glass Castle- Jeannette Walls

The Checklist Manifesto- Atul Gawande
Open- Andre Agassi
Knives at Dawn- Andrew Friedman
Inside of a Dog- Alexandra Horowitz
Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven- Susan Jane Gilman
Born Round- Frank Bruni
Making Rounds with Oscar- David Dosa
Born to Run- Christopher McDougall
Knives at Dawn (the Bocuse D'or)- Andrew Friedman

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fuel for the Fire

Last year, after reading a couple books on the slow-food, sustainable food, and locavore movements, I was inspired to live a life that more closely reflected my new-found political and ideological perspectives on food. I’m not trying to convince anyone in any way, but the books that I read did a lot to open up my eyes to the world of mass-produced food. I wanted to do my part to purchase organic groceries, grown on farms close to me instead of half a world away, and to support beef and poultry that was humanely raised and slaughtered. After doing a lot of research, I decided to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in my area. Unfortunately (due to a breakup and a new apartment in a different borough of Manhattan) that didn’t come to fruition until this year, but now that I’ve been part of my CSA for a while, I wanted to share a little more about it, and how happy I am that I joined.

Being part of a CSA is basically agreeing to buy a “share” in all the produce that comes from a local farm for the growing season. That means that for better or for worse, tomato blight or drought or cold weather aside (crossing my fingers that won’t happen) you are supporting them and agreeing to give them a certain amount of money up front. That takes a load of stress off the farm, giving them guaranteed income no matter what their output, and also gives you an opportunity to have delicious, farm-fresh produce for about 20 weeks of the summer. There are many CSAs that you can join in the NYC area, and all of them get their supplies from one of a few farms in the tri-state area. You go to a pre-designated place every week to pick up your allotment, and you can also buy fruit, egg, meat, or milk shares from your farm as well.

The growing season for my CSA (Merchant’s Gate) began about a month ago. I only bought one share, but it’s perfect for three nicely-sized vegetable sides for a couple throughout the week. I’m glad that it’s not larger or I would have to throw stuff out, since I’m not home often enough to make a home-cooked meal every night realistic. So far I’ve gotten interesting stuff like garlic scapes and fava beans, which is fun to learn to cook with, as well as awesome fresh garlic, red onions, radishes, lettuce, arugula, zucchini, and other basic greens. I’ve learned to really appreciate not needing to go grocery shopping, and it’s fun to challenge myself to use everything every week.

As I’ve become much more physically active over the past year, I’ve found that my body craves more nutritionally complete food. It makes me think a little bit about the vicious circle that is overweight America—Overprocessed foods with artificial flavorings and high sodium and sugars are consumed by people who lead mostly sedentary lifestyles, which encourages more calorie-binging and weight gain. Rinse and repeat. Chinese take-out and fast food gets less and less appealing (although it does have it’s place in my heart) and I find myself actually craving salads. What a turnaround from a year ago, when I had my first cobb salad and became a convert to the world of leafy greens in a bowl as a meal. When you listen to your body, you will find that it’s telling you what it needs. Right now mine needs tons of fresh veggies and protein, with lots of water and fruits—and with fresh groceries in the fridge every week to pick from, it’s become so much simpler to eat well.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

If the shoe fits...

Recently I had a small mini-revelation. I was reading a friend's blog and she was discussing some recent wardrobe addition she had made, and then said something like: "but even though it's a little loose in the hips, I get all my clothing altered anyway so..."

HOLD THE PHONE! Really? Really.

This friend of mine, who always fits so beautifully in everything that she wears, gets almost everything TAILORED. She told me: her chest is large but her torso is short and her waist is small, so everything she buys that fits in the bust is too big everywhere else. And all this time I just thought she was a super shopper that happened to somehow find a magical clothing store where everything was just her size.

Now, given that this isn't necessarily the cheapest way to shop, it does however open up a whole new universe for me. Because hardly anything ever fits me perfectly, but for some reason I only ever thought of tailors as being there to fix a ripped seam, or bring up a hem. Today I dropped off this beauty:

I love the fabric (lightweight jersey) but wasn't loving the super billowy (almost maternity-dress-y) cut... so I'm having it hemmed and taken in, and restitched to be a little less ruched below the bust, and since I bought it on super sale it's like getting a dress that perfectly fits me for the price of a regularly priced piece! I love it. And I've finally found a tailor I like (who knows how to do a REAL original hem on a pair of jeans) so I trust them with stuff like this.

I mean, really: how many pieces do you have in your closet that you really like, but that you never wear because it doesn't quite fit? Our body is perfectly fine shaped exactly the way it is, and it can look lovely in everything, you just need the right tailor.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tick tock

I'm a regular subscriber to NY Magazine and the latest issue had an article that literally stopped me in my tracks: "Why Parents Hate Parenting". The upshot of the article is that based on a lot of research, having children doesn't make you happier. Married couples find that they become more unhappy after having children, with this finding exacerbated the later in life that the children are born. So then why are so many people still having kids? Because people who don't have children report having more regret and are less fulfilled than people who have children.

I'm almost 30. That's not too old to have kids, by any means, but it is old enough that thinking about whether to have kids or not is something that is on my radar. I have a coworker who is in his mid-50s, with a wife in her early 30's, and they just had their first child earlier last year. For about 8 months he came in looking like death warmed over every day, completely sleep deprived, and all of a sudden this year he's trying to convince me every other day of how wonderful having children is, he can't wait to have another one. "Amy, you've got to get yourself one of these." I've been asked what I would name my children, and when I say I have never thought about it or picked a name, I get complete disbelief.

The truth is, I've never been excited about having children. I had two younger brothers born much later than me, so I was changing diapers in 7th grade and the default, free babysitter all through high school. I've never found stranger's children to be cute, and I've never, ever gone gooey-eyed over a baby. It's just not in me. My ex was very into children, and loved spending time with them. It was always a little awkward between the two of us when the topic came up. I've always openly admitted that I don't like other people's children, but I felt that it would be different if I had one of my own.

Over the past year, however, I've become a little bit more firm in the thought that I really don't want to have children. Ideally you should have children by the time you are 35, biologically speaking. And who wants to be trying to retire when they are having to worry about paying for a college tuition? But the closer that I get to that age, the less and less I want to sacrifice any part of the next 5 years to having a child. I have only recently found a job that I like, and a part time job that I like even more, and to get pregnant now when I have so much left that I want to achieve would be putting a big fat pause on my future plans and forget all the traveling I still want to do. In other words, instead of thinking about the long-term feelings of fulfillment that a child could give me, I prefer to prioritize the short-term fulfillment of my 30's. Besides the fact that I find the responsibility of a child completely horrifying. Honestly, I'd rather have a puppy, but I don't even know if I could handle that. The only issue with my plans is the what-if: What if I get to be 40, and regret not having a family? I guess I could always adopt but at this point in time, that doesn't seem like an attractive... "substitute"... to having children of my own.

An interesting idea that the article touches on is that not so long ago, people were having children straight out of college. Life wasn't so much about finding yourself, or following your career, there was a much more regimented expectation of the timeline that you were supposed to follow. Now that we have so many more choices in our lives, having a baby often means loss of freedom to people and it's that loss that is so paralyzing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project is a self-help book that I'm currently about 1/6 of the way through. Honestly I doubt I'll finish it, since I have a bad track record with completing self-help books, but  for the most part this is an interesting read, primarily because the author supports her arguments and statements so well with research from a lot of different areas of thought (middle eastern philosophy, ancient Socratic discourse, psychological, anthropological, modern fiction). One of the statements she made in the book is that: "In fact, for both men and women—and this finding struck me as highly significant—the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women. Time spent with men doesn’t make a difference." She doesn't list a reference but it's something that has been completely and totally proven in my own experience.

When I was in high school, I was friends with a lot of women but I didn't feel a sense of loyalty with most of them. High school was a dramatic time and it felt like friendships were made and broken every other week. Recently I lugged out a box of notes that I had passed back and forth with friends in high school, and it was amazing how allegiances changed from week to week. In one note it would talk about how mad I was at Ashley for doing X Y and Z, and then two weeks later there would be a note between me and Ashley about Erin.

In college, I joined a sorority. It was a great experience that taught me a lot about working with and interacting with people, especially Asian people (who I had zero experience with), but I didn't really find any life-long friendships there. Mostly I hung out with my male friends, but I always felt strangely dissatisfied. Men are great people to spend time with--at the time, I found them to be much less critical and catty than women. (little did I know that that isn't necessarily true) but I still felt like there was something missing--there isn't as much deep dialogue about feelings with men as there is with women. I still sought out interactions with women that were fulfilling.

I think that part of the female experience is feeling like you have people who understand you. When I talk to my male friends or my boyfriend about their thoughts on life or themselves, when they ask me for advice it's rarely to resolve conflicting feelings or how to move forward given their emotions on a particular issue. It's usually very concrete: given these factors, what should I do? My boyfriend rarely vents to me, but when he does, it rarely includes an explanation of why he felt a certain way, it's always a breakdown of someone's actions and how they directly affected him or his work. I love him and I talk to him about a lot of things, but I've come to understand very quickly that there are just some things that are more gratifying to discuss with my female friends instead.

In the past few years, thanks to pole dancing, I've found women to be a rich infusion into my daily life (working in a male-dominated industry means I can literally go a full day without female interaction). Whether it is talking or emailing with some of the women who I've truly opened my heart to, or teaching a class full of women I barely know, I think it's definitely true that I've never felt so fulfilled and surrounded with love as I do now.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Shoe madness

My current obsession for summer are wedges. Sky high preferably.

After lusting after these D&G wedges (sold out) on Rumi:

I found these Jeffrey Campbells.... YUM! (pony hair is pictured but I snagged black suede in the last pair of 8's they had... hope they fit!)

My next goal is to find the pair of perfect nude bandage wedges... At a wallet-friendly price. May not do so well with the wallet-friendly part. Especially since these are bound to get dirty no matter how much I scotch-gard, but oh so beautiful:

Givenchy: $638

Asos: $202

Sketchy eBay seller: $60

Monday, July 5, 2010

Remember that thing?

Do you remember that toy, that was like a ball, but it had a platform on it, and you stood on the platform and squeezed the bouncy top half of the ball between your feet, and boinged up and down?

We were talking about this at work today. I had to share with you all the magic of Google (and also in the process show why I am a super surfer, and the pre-eminent chooser of search keywords):

First hit. Amazing! I present to you, Pogo Ball:

I had blisters in between my feet for months from overuse of this thing. I don't think it was particularly physically strenuous, but I couldn't seem to leave it alone.

Thinking back on  toys of that era, there was also the infamous skip-it... the slip-n-slide... the invention of the super soaker... Why does it seem like all the fun things to do back then required getting up, and moving around, usually outdoors? Whereas now we have PS3. And...what else? the iPhone. What do kids play with nowadays? Facebook? Are toys outdated?

I'm reading a book about running (Born to Run), and the book describes a tribe of people in Mexico who have had ultra distance running (100+ miles at a time, some up to 400 miles straight) in their blood for centuries: the Tarahumara. They are absolutely fascinating. Even in tribes, they live miles apart, preferring privacy. They live in canyons and on cliffsides, in homes carved into the mountains. Subscribing to the theory that the best way to avoid conflict is to run, and run fast, they have taken care to criss cross their home territories with trails and encampments that are nearly invisible to the human eye, running pell-mell down steep ravines that others would go down with a rope, and up again. They hunt by running their prey to exhaustion. They run with simple thong sandals, without carb loading, without gel packs, without stretching or doing any tapering or training at all, and routinely run 50+ miles at a time (this sort of sounds like the Dos Equis man commercials but it's all completely true). Their principle entertainment is a game that is basically a marathon version of soccer, kicking a small ball for hundreds of miles in two teams. They will take off for a run with no planning or forethought- just with the sandals on their feet, and no fear, and a soft and easy confidence in the self to be able to run out of or through any problems that may come up.

In the book, one of the men influenced by the Tarahumara (a running coach for elite Olympic level athletes) makes an interesting connection: many of the greatest runners of all time are described as compassionate, loving, joyful. They run because they love to. Not because they are trying to get fit, or lose weight, or win. They run because it is something that is in their souls that brings them enjoyment. I'm not quite able to grasp this completely, because I have only ever thought of running as a complete chore, but I can understand this idea. If you are putting your time into something for the wrong reasons, you will not excel. In order to win, you have to not want to win. And that attitude, that desire to simply participate and revel in an activity, to truly love it for what it is-- whether it be a prerequisite or a byproduct, that attitude seems to propagate and infiltrate a person's very being.

So, you look around at our society today. We have gone from slip-n-sliding down choice hills, enthralled by the feeling of wet grass under our feet and plastic slipping smoothly under our bellies (small rocks underneath notwithstanding) to cloistered in dark rooms with plastic controllers that make our thumbs sore, and moving images on a screen where we are always competing for a higher score, a win, a... what?

Friday, July 2, 2010

The restorative properties of saltwater tinged air

This is my calendar for July. Red and blue indicate after work/weekend plans. Just looking at it for too long makes me feel a little claustrophobic.

Because my calendar looks like that,  I am really looking forward to this:

Off to the boyfriend's house @ Martha's Vineyard (with the dog) for an extended 4th of July weekend! Will update with pictures when I get back, but I have a post or two scheduled to upload while I'm away... so that you can read new stuff while I'm busy relaxing on the back deck with a vodka tonic looking at this:

Enjoy your weekends everyone! I know I will =)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I've become a fashion victim

Lord help me.

I bought jeggings. Yes, jean leggings.

I never thought this would happen... but I love them. Oh my god they are so comfortable.

Judge away. I almost can't stand myself.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I was asked by my new studio to create a short video clip showing some of my movement.

Attempt #1: After teaching the climb for 2 hours straight, the top of my foot somehow managed to find a very scratched up section of pole and cut myself open. Bleeding, bloody painful foot doesn't go well with attempting to film a graceful video. Abort.

Attempt #2: After bandaging up the foot, a couple days later I'm back on the horse. Set up my video camera, get some GREAT footage, 2 minutes in, the door opens, they need the studio. Sigh. Okay, fine

Attempt #3: Get to the studio. It's 90 degrees and 70% humidity outside. It's also 90 degrees and 70% humidity inside, thanks to full sunlight exposures and a studio that wasn't in use (and therefore the ACs weren't on at all that day). Have 30 minutes to try to sweat through a video that is decent enough to post on the studio website. Slipping and sliding off the pole was no fun, but here is the result of that attempt. I see a lot of flaws here but for progress, I post.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Singing through stretching

Ready for some pictures?

I have very, very tight hip flexors. This means that when I sit on the ground in a straddle stretch, like so:

I don't even come close to having the angle between my legs be 180 degrees, like this....
....because my hips will not move that far apart without popping and pain. However, one thing that I have realized is that given the number of days a week when I'm either in class or teaching, I'm getting closer and closer to being able to get my stomach and chest on the ground in what's called a pancake straddle, like this:
which is HUGE for me. I can get my face on the ground but when I'm using proper form, the goal is to get your stomach on the ground-- and I'm about an inch away.

I've also noticed similar gains in my side splits, by working on oversplits (placing a block under the front foot, to push your body past a split), like so (top pic):

Yesterday, in class, working on my side splits on my back--like this (which is great for working on your true split, without gravity or weight to assist you)--
I realized that on my left side (my "good" side), I was able to get my leg ALMOST TO MY FACE. Literally maybe 6 inches away. I was astonished. My teacher was astonished. I was having a very bendy day, feeling very strong and flexible, and I was completely warmed up (the 90 degree weather walk to the studio may have been a positively contributing factor).

Stretching for splits is a funny thing. On the one hand, splits are such a random, useless-in-real-life thing. When is a split ever going to come in handy? Maybe if I'm running to catch a boat pulling away from a pier, cartoon-style? Or if I want to be able to kick myself in the face? I mean really, let's be vain here: the only reason to be able to do a split is so that your body lines are prettier when you dance.

For a long time, a big part of me resisted actually working on flexibility. I was honestly too lazy, didn't see the instantaneous gains that I needed to stay focused, and found it to be a boring, boring chore. Holding a stretch for a long time is boring. BORING!

But with my newfound dedication and mentality on learning, I've found that something has shifted slightly in my perspective on stretching as well. Yesterday I found I was pushing myself harder, harder, harder. Concentrating on technique and form, and trying to really breathe into each stretch. It became meditative: Sitting in my side split, feeling the undersides of my knees and hips screaming at me to release the stretch, feeling sweat drip down my back, breathing slowly and evenly, forcing my core to fully engage to keep my torso upright with my chest up, I found myself sinking into a kind of zen meditative state. Stretching, I think, is somewhat equivalent to the mentality of long distance running: Just. Keep. Going. Breathe. The pain is only temporary. Somewhere in there, I realized that the point of stretching isn't necessarily to get into splits, but also to have the fortitude and dedication to push yourself physically in a way that, if you're doing it right, is honestly uncomfortable. It's almost being a masochist for the sake of knowing that you can, but moreover, it's about the process. Can you handle that process?

I have been reading a book about growth and happiness (interspersed with a few others, thanks to Kindle) and the author threw out a quote that really struck me (yet another sign that the teacher finds you when you are truly ready to learn)-- from Nietzsche: "Not every end is the goal. The end of a melody is not its goal, and yet if a melody has not reached its end, it has not reached its goal. A parable." Remarkable, isn't it?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Real Life

I think it’s hilarious how strangely disconnected college and work are. We put all this effort into tests, and exams, and reading and writing papers on the effects of operant conditioning in the context of long-term memory, or personification of animal life in Ulysses and his journeys, and what they don’t tell you, or teach you, is how to deal with all the crazy fucking people you will spend 8 hours (if you’re lucky) a day with, 5 days a week.

Because there's a lot of crazy fucking people in this world. And work is not about getting your job done. It's about navigating through all the crazies in the most efficient way possible.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Is the essence of competition to put yourself out there and display your skills as best as you can, and enjoy the sport, or is it to win?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

HELLO, my name is….

And I’m addicted to pole dancing.
This is what I have learned.

In regards to pole dancing: if you are not making progress, you are losing strength. It's frustrating to take a week off from class or real practice and see a marked change in your technical abilities. Recently I was unable to take class or really push myself in a practice for 2 weeks and it was incredibly frustrating to come back to such a quick and obvious degradation.

If I want to see continued progress in my physical abilities, I can’t hit pause. I have to continue to invest time and resources towards improving myself and even more time in tracking my progress and researching how to best proceed. I need to have directed practices with lists of things to work on; intermediate and my lists of “today” goals that are baby steps towards larger ones.

If you’re not moving forward, you are moving backwards. So simple, right? How many other things in life are this cut and dry? I feel like my life has become inordinately complex in the past decade or so, and it’s almost a relief to have such a clear relationship between effort expended and rewards reaped. Almost linear. And how can you say that about anything in life anymore?

Being a student means continuing to challenge oneself. Whether that is in learning new skills, or perfecting old ones, this is a humbling reminder.

It’s also an interesting learning point for me, in that in most of my life, I have gravitated towards working on what comes easily to me. I found an early affinity to running, and was good at hurdles the first time I tried. So, I joined the track team. Throughout my life I can trace an exhibition of natural talent to development of that ability into a hobby or a career. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I have found that taking the wussy route to develop oneself leads to amplified frustration when a roadblock eventually presents itself. Having stick-to-it-ness is not something that comes easily to me, and is something that I have had to really stop and face as I come to understand myself better. I have to shake off and work through the bad practices, where I’m slipping and sliding or too grippy or hungover or just not feeling 100% and think always about tomorrow. And Tomorrow. And Tomorrow.

Being a student is life long. It is a commitment to the very act of accumulating knowledge and skills, whether or not the learner succeeds in mastering them.

The difficulty, of course, when the focus is on the future, and the present, is that your time-orientation prohibits your ability to remember where you’ve come from. It’s tough to have perspective on everything you’ve managed to accomplish and to properly celebrate that when it’s always about: what’s next? I think of myself as having a healthy amount of self-confidence, but it’s tough to not get caught up in what you can’t do when the focus is on reducing the list of the “can’t”s one at a time.

I had an awakening not too long ago. I went to a pole convention (yes, they have those) and found that the focus of the event was not on celebrating each pole dancer as an individual, but as a part of the industry. The majority of the performers, while undoubtedly technically advanced, were doing the same (very very difficult) tricks and after a while it seemed to all blend in together. I found myself wishing that instead of focusing on the technical, we were asked to focus, as observers, on the artistic- maybe it would have changed the quality of the performances. It seemed like the performers felt obligated to whip out the big guns and hardest tricks that they could, rather than entertaining us. Where was the individuality? Where was the focus on personality?

Sitting in the audience on that weekend, I remembered: I am not here to be as good as anyone else. I am here because I love this hobby of mine, and passionate about it. Not because I want to be like anyone else, but because I love what it makes me feel when I free my mind and body to react to a piece of music in a way that is true to my movement. My list of “can’t”s is my own, and no one else’s. And I don’t have to put anyone’s “can”s on my list, if I don’t want to. I am not here to be better than anyone, except who I was a month ago.

Being a student is also appreciating what you have come to learn. And not losing sight of the reason why you are in love with your learning.

Part of the process of learning, for me, has been learning how to learn. Not just consuming the new but recognizing what role the past has in shaping my understanding of my own learning processes. I have been self-taught for the majority of my serious pole “career” and all the mistakes I have made and corrections I have discovered have been invaluable, it turns out, in teaching others. By setting out on the journey of teaching I have discovered, in turn, how to be a better learner.

By using trial and error to discover how to make a position more stable, or how to make a specific transition, I can explain to someone: you want to do this, because if you do that instead, then this does or does not happen. And when someone asks me a question that has me stumped, something that I need to figure out for myself, it leads to a more nuanced awareness of what it is that really works. It changes the perspective you have in moving forward, because you want to not only be able to accomplish something—you want to internalize. You want to understand the reasons why.

It’s funny to me that I have gone through pretty much all of my life to date without really focusing my energies on something so whole-heartedly and passionately. Only now am I realizing how much more I could have accomplished, in general, if I had been so dedicated to the process behind the learning and not just winning, or taking that test, or landing that job, or writing that paper.

“True humility is intelligent self respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. It makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come short of what we can be.” Ralph W. Sockman

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it" - Charles Swindoll

On Sunday I was in full-on enjoy-the-outdoors-mode.

Grab the blanket-in-a-bag, grab the dog, grab a towel and make a high speed switch into the leopard print bikini (first public outing) to rush over to the park for a nice summer lay out.

Get to the park, enjoy the sun, enjoy the clouds, wait, more clouds, wait, now the sky is just white….

Okay. So, retreat. Zip the blanket back into bag mode, toss everything into the bag, corral the reluctant dog, and high-tail it back to the apartment. Less than one hour round trip time. Fine, still got to get some sun in, still got some outdoors and nature in, so the jaunt wasn’t a total loss.

Get ready to go to run an errand or two. Grab the keys, go to grab the wallet….

Wait, where’s the wallet?

Check the bag, check the purse, check the counter, no wallet.


Check the bag, check the purse, check the counter, check the bed, check the fridge. Still no wallet.

Grab the umbrella, run outside, run to the park, check the grass. Still no wallet. Kick the wet grass. Still no wallet.

I have never, ever lost a wallet. Or a phone. Or keys. It is completely outside the realm of possibility for me that this has happened. I am stunned. I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve exhausted all possibilities for where it might be. It’s clearly gone. I must have dropped it somewhere in the back and forth and just not realized it. My thoughts are just tumbling over themselves. I look, again, although in a studio apartment there is only so much looking you can do.

Finally I suck it up and make the phone calls: debit card, credit cards. I go to run my errands and begrudgingly buy a new monthly metrocard. As I feed the bills (since I’m now on a cash-stash-only basis until my new bank card comes in) I am thinking: Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. And when the machine tells me it only gives a maximum of $6 change, and I have to go back above ground to find someone to break a $20, I’m cursing myself again. Who uses cash anymore? Damn useless stupid paper!

I barely keep anything in my wallet (it’s more of the card-case variety with the bare minimums, and I am notorious for only ever having a few bucks in cash on my person at once). The money isn’t really the issue: it’s the pride. Did I seriously just manage to lose my wallet on a 3-block walk to the park and back?

Sunday night passes. I’m still kicking myself about the lost wallet.

Monday passes. I’m thinking: hm. Well, that wallet was really tired and used anyway. How long have I even had that thing? Maybe it’s time to get a new one anyway. Hm, maybe I’ll check and see if Balenciaga has a cute little wallet. I mean, I never lose them, so I might as well spend a little on one that I actually like….

Enter some online window shopping at work. Shopping can put a bright shiny mask on even the most annoying of situations. Suddenly I have gone from being out one wallet to having a world of new-wallet possibility opened up before me.

Monday night passes. I’m not quite so annoyed. I mean, what did I really lose? A grimy old Coach card case (that I didn’t like) with barely anything in it. Yep, time for a new change. It’s not such a big deal, anyway.

Today (Tuesday) morning I’m bringing the recycling downstairs. I run into my super. “Hey! Hey I found your wallet in the hallway the other day….”

I smile, nod, effusively thank him. And suddenly I have back in my possession a wallet that I no longer want.

Sigh. Talk about the grass is greener…