Thursday, September 13, 2012

Return to Gotham

After days spent being a pd visa courier, I finally got back to the big apple.  While I was in DC, I did get to have a nice time at the Zeb and Haniya lecture at Georgetown, organized by Amb. Cynthia Schneider.  Zeb and Haniya are in the U.S. on the Center Stage program, and stopped into Georgetown to discuss their beginnings and their role in the South Asia music scene.  They spoke of beginning to play together while they were in college in the U.S. (at Smith and Mt. Holyoke, respectively), and using their music to conjure up the world they missed while studying far from home.  They spoke about how their music had unexpectedly connected with musicians and musical traditions of both South and Central Asia.  They also spoke of using their music to fight against a hopelessness in Pakistan that is borne out of perception not reality.  They were lovely, and it was an enjoyable program (complete with some delicious South Asian cuisine!).

I also was around to say goodbye to a dear colleague, Liz Murphy, who we have worked with on the American Music Abroad program.  After ten years in the Court of Uncle Sam, including tours in Azerbaijan and Mexico, Liz is leaving to help run a new program at MIT that deals with the intersection of science and culture.  State Department loses a tremendous asset, and we lose a real friend and terrific colleague to work with, but I am happy for her as it is time for Liz to move on.

I caught an early bus back to New York, and spent a chunk of the ride chatting with an opera singer and a filmmaker about dating, and the nature of boys and girls.  I arrived back in New York, and was welcomed back with a toasted everything bagel with creamcheese, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers.  Delicious.  I passed through the streets with various folks speaking to their inner and outer demons.

I knew I was really back in Gotham when I descended into the subway and saw a woman playing a saw.  Not of the RAST variety, but rather playing it with a steel bow, kind-of like a harp.  She plucked the silver teeth and she bent the saw to make the sound undulate in a classical fashion.  Welcome back to a city that always offers external stimulation.

I returned back to my apartment, but was emitting stress still.  I tried to work through it, and finally decided that I could use a foot massage.  I hopped the train down to Chinatown, and found my favorite massage parlor.  An hour of foot binding and kneading for $22, not bad.  I listened to Amelie play rain as my feet were massaged.  The woman who gave me the foot massage the last time I was there came over and remembered me.  I guess a gringo who speaks a smidgen of Mandarin is a bit of an oddity.  The ladies told me in Chinese that I had pretty eyelashes.  The ladies convinced me to get a full body massage ($36 for an hour).  I tried to negotiate a combo package of foot and body, but to no avail.

Since I was still a bit tense, I decided that the body massage was a good idea.  After the foot massage ended, I switched over the the body massage room.  I disrobed and put on a towel, and lied face down for my pressing.  When the woman moved my towel, I started giggling and so did she.  She smacked my butt and told me in Chinese I had a cute tuchkis.  I got a wonderful massage and only blushed a few more times. It did wonders to chase away all the tension.

After two hours of massage and a stress free Bao Loa made his way back to the streets of Chinatown.  I passed ladies doing Chinese line dancing in the park, and I stopped for some dumpings at a hole-in-the-wall called Prosperity Dumplings.  8 steamed veggie dumplings for $2.50.  Light, flavorful and delicious.  As I departed, I added a sesame pancake ($1) which was like fried dough that was greasy, sesame and filled with spring onion.  Yum.

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