Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Donald and Daisy Day

If you're a duck living in Manhattan, today would have been your ideal Sunday. The rain started late last night, continued while we all slept (though admittedly was broken up by some delightful thunder claps), and then proceeded to fall sans cesse during the daylight hours.

As we all know, I am not a duck and therefore today's weather pissed me off.

Okay let's be fair about this. I love rain and after the hot weather we've been having I guess on one level I was actually pleased to see the drop in temperature and the cool raindrops falling. But I don't own gumboots and the universe should know this. The universe should also be well aware that my jeans are perfectly hemmed so they almost - but not quite - touch the floor when I'm wearing flat shoes.

So Universe I ask you, why could you not just stop the rain for the 30 minutes it took me to get to the Museum of Modern Art (by bus mind you, because no friggin' cabs would stop for me)? But noooo - Mother Nature had to keep the drops coming! I got all the way to the front door of the MOMA too, only an hour after they opened this morning, but the line was already almost around the block. And my shoes were squelching and my jeans were literally soaked three inches from the ankles. I was so disheartened. So I did what any sooky baby would do and hailed a cab from outside MOMA to take me back home. Cause I had no trouble getting a cab there did I, Universe? You sick bastard.

My mood lifted somewhat once I got home and took off the wet clothes, stringing them around our apartment/Chinese laundry. Looking at my gym timetable, I realised there was a Pilates class starting in an hour, and I felt confident that would buoy my spirits too. Gym clothes on, and out the door, dodging the fattest raindrops and up the street to Club H.

I don't know what it was but I was terrible in today's class. This was a traditional Pilates Mat class so we did all our exercises on the floor. Lots of leg lifts, ab work and resistance with the Pilates ring. I just wasn't coordinated today and my hip joint kept popping and then my leg went dead at one point. Something was just off. I looked around the class (always a mistake) and off to my left was this woman who I'm sure was the New York Pilates Champion 2011 - all taut muscles and expert Pilates ring control. Bitch. Me, on the other hand, I struggled to remember to breathe (a sure sign I am distracted) but I did some good sit-ups and the instructor told me I had a "nice line" (I don't know what that means either). The hour lesson was over pretty quickly, but I was still not cheered. Some treadmill and weights work helped (ditto filling my head with the "Empire Records" soundtrack), and so when I left after about 45 minutes, the gym was starting to fill up and I was too tired to be grouchy anymore.

The rain however, had not changed a bit and I got splotched the whole way home. I'm looking outside at dark skies and rain that is falling straight down, and showing no signs of stopping. I'm not in a bad mood per se, I am just disappointed that the day turned into such a wash-out. Why can't it be like this when I'm cooped up in my office five days a week?!

Dames and Dresses

While my mouth was recovering from its peroxide treatment yesterday, I took myself to the Westside Theatre to see "Love, Loss and What I Wore", the new play by Nora Ephron ("When Harry Met Sally", "Julie and Julia") and her sister, Delia Ephron ("The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants", "You've Got Mail").

While I waited for the show to start, I looked around and realised that the average age of theatregoers yesterday was about 80. Not surprising for a matinee perhaps but it still made me smile (which didn't hurt my face). I could see mothers, daughters, grandmothers - generations of women were spending the day together and I just thought it was really nice.

The stage was set up very simply - just five barstool chairs, some music stands to hold script folders, and a clothes hanging stand.

In addition to the simple staging, the casting of this play is really smart. Every show has a cast of amazing female actors who play the roles for a month, and then a new group of actors comes in for the next month.

For my performance, the five actresses were Marylouise Burke, Emmanuelle Chirqui ("Entourage"), Ann Harada (who played Christmas Eve in "Avenue Q" - you must see this video clip), Rosalyn Ruff, and Yeardley Smith (yes, THE voice of Lisa Simpson).

The play itself doesn't have a plot so much, but it's a collection of really great stories about women and the clothes that have influenced their lives. Running through these stories is a common thread of Ginger's story - and how she remembers the dresses and outfits that she wore in her life from childhood, through her marriages, and into the dress-up box that her grand-daughter loves to ransack.

It's funny though because despite the age-range in the audience, I found myself laughing at just the same parts of the show that the 80 year old woman next to me found amusing. We all cringed at the story of the first bra, or the one about buying so many clothes in black - and I particularly liked the stories that involved all the actors, where they all pitched in and told the story together.

Even though the actors never even got off their chairs, I was still really transfixed by the stories and their performances. I wonder what energy the other actors would bring to these same stories - I get the impression that even though the actual script was the same, each group's performance would be subtly different. A really cool idea.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Champion Chompers

Whenever K goes out of town on a netball or business trip, I get these grand ideas about exploring the city on my own. I develop weekend itineraries that encourage me to set off early, roam the city, and return to the apartment utterly exhausted but a little better acquainted with New York than when I left that morning. Two or three days before these adventures however, I start to second guess my own abilities and so I go online and print out detailed maps and WALKING DIRECTIONS (for pity's sake) so that when I charge out my front door on the Saturday, I can look and feel confident.

To set the scene for this weekend's adventure, it's important to mention that I could hardly sleep last night. I am so excited about going home this coming Thursday, to start the celebrations for baby sister's wedding on August 27. I have been eating properly, kicking ass & taking names at the gym, and I have even scheduled a cut & colour with a celebrity hairstylist the morning that I fly home. See? Who can possibly sleep when there is such anticipation in the air?!

This morning I had an appointment in Greenwich Village to have my teeth whitened. Obnoxious, I know. And I probably never would have come up with the idea myself, but when I logged onto my email a few months ago, there was a Groupon certificate for two whitening sessions at Magic Smile and I figured I had nothing to lose. Plus I knew that with all the photos I'll have to be in at the wedding, a shiny white smile would certainly be a lovely accessory.

I chose the store/clinic in Greenwich Village because the other one is on the Upper West Side about a block away from my beloved Zabar's and I didn't want to go up there lest I be tempted into buying cinnamon rugelach or other goodies that I knew would not be part of my eating plan (always thinking, me).

So I left home this morning in plenty of time, walked up the hill to the nearest subway station, only to find that the Downtown route was shut and I would have to go Uptown to Grand Central and change from there. I did exactly that but managed to get myself completely spun around when it came to switching subway lines and given that time was ticking on, I gave up and grabbed a taxi. Catching every red light along the way, the taxi driver dropped me about 4 blocks from where I needed to be and I almost ran down Bleecker Street to my appointment.

Arriving hot, bothered and breathless 10 minutes late, I strapped myself in to the chair at the "surgery", the "nurse" explained how the procedure was going to work and made me sign a very long waiver to absolve Magic Smile of any liability should my teeth fall out, or I go blind, or my gums get dyed weird colours or whatever (I don't know - I skimmed it). I had to wedge a weird mouth guard into my face that did not feel good. It didn't look good either. I looked like my lips had been peeled right off leaving my teeth and gums totally exposed. Nursey then put a paper bib on me and began to paint my teeth with the whitening agent. I tried to concentrate on the Cooking Channel playing on the TV over my head, ignoring the tingling and kinda painful sensations going on in my mouth. Did the waiver cover this? Probably.

Just as I had acclimated to the tingles and pain, the slobbery spit started. Let's just say that it is very hard to remain ladylike and discrete when you have great gobs of drool sliding out the corner of your mouth, plus a mouthguard wedged in your face that makes it impossible to call out for help. Nursey heard me whimper and suspended one of those dentist spit-sucking things in the corner of my mouth to syphon the dribble away, but a fair portion of it slid down my chin and onto my bib anyway. So gross.

Donning a pair of pink sunglasses that were definitely not a fashion statement, Nursey wheeled over the UV light and stun-gunned my mouth for 15 minutes. It's not just a matter of lying there passively while all this business is going on either. You have to will your lips not to move. You have to make sure that your tongue doesn't lick your teeth (peroxide does not taste like toothpaste - trust me). You have to try and half-swallow drool that the spit-sucky thing can't get to, but not swallow so hard that your mouth involuntarily wants to close, which might make you gag or choke. All that concentration is exhausting!

After 15 minutes, Nursey asked me to rinse & spit and then we repeated everything for my second procedure of the day. By now I was an old hat, so to speak, and the second 15-minute bleaching exercise went very smoothly (and quickly).

I never did get to see the end of the schnitzel & potato salad recipe episode though.

As I readied to leave the surgery Nursey gave me a one-page list of instructions including all the things I should NOT eat in the first 24 hours (dark foods, fruit & vegetables, alcohol, coffee etc) and the things that ARE okay to eat (rice, pasta, bread, potatoes) are all the things I've sworn off on my eating plan. So typical.

All this aside, I have to say that I'm really fine with this food inconvenience because my teeth are now 4 shades whiter than when I went in this morning. I am really happy with the results and even though I have a splitting headache and major teeth sensitivity, I'm hoping that these symptoms will pass soon. My headache horse pills and Sensodyne toothpaste will help, I'm sure.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wrong Tracks, Three Rats, Hip Cats

A lot of people say that the best nights you have are the ones you don't plan. I'm a bit of a planner - okay, I'm a lot of a planner, but combine that with my dodgy geography and you usually get a choose-your-own-adventure sort of evening. Case in point: tonight.

I have a membership to the gorgeous American Museum of Natural History. I can say it's gorgeous because I have looked at it extensively online. I have never once set foot inside its doors. So when I scored two membership tickets to the Museum's almost-closed Brain: The Inside Story exhibit, I was excited to finally get down there and check the place out.

Starting the journey from the Bryant Park subway station (not far from my office) was simple enough. The tunnel to our platform smelled like most subway tunnels in the City (or anywhere in the world for that matter). Taking the B line would get us directly to the Museum's front door. Only the D train came along first. "Can we take that one?" asks PL. "Sure," says I - after a rudimentary scan of the adjacent subway map. B was next to D on the map, so why not?

Friends, let me tell you that the D train does indeed go to the Museum; it just doesn't stop there. Oh no, it goes shooting past the Museum at lightning speed and catapults you an additional forty blocks beyond it, ultimately depositing you in Harlem. Silence from PL - he is totally used to this with me. I just laughed - what more could I do?

Alighting at Harlem, we got on the Downtown platform and waited for the B train. I looked down to the tracks where PL was pointing and saw not one but three rats just going about their business. Up to this point, I had never even seen one rat, so three was a real (creepy) coup! Judging by their size they weren't particularly well-fed rats but I got a good enough gawk at them anyway.

The B train came along in a few minutes and got us back to the Museum smack at the time we were supposed to start our behind-the-scenes guided tour. Much to our chagrin all the obvious Museum entrances were bolted shut and entirely unattended. It became clear that we were not going to see the exhibit after all. Sad.

But as Reverend Mother used to say, "When God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window". And so it was that I suggested to PL that we head over to Broadway and check out my favourite, Zabars. I had been nagging him about this store for weeks. "Now then, which way to Broadway?" I asked, only somewhat rhetorically. We both pointed in opposite directions. Again, neither of us were surprised.

Doing gourmet foreign food shopping works up quite an appetite, so we walked Downtown past Lincoln Center and through Columbus Circle, and headed to Guantanamera where we cashed in one of my Groupon vouchers for dinner.

I remember buying the Groupon because the restaurant sounded so cool. The online menu looked great, but I was quite taken with the promise of a live band and cigars. The latter only appears on Friday & Saturday nights, but the band was on from 8.30pm tonight and they were fantastic. Reminiscent of the Buena Vista Social Club album that I love so much, the band had energy and talent to burn. The seafood stew and warm chocolate cake & ice cream dessert that I stuffed in were probably not on my eating plan but did I care? Hell no.

On the plan, tonight was supposed to be good but geeky. Instead I went to Harlem, saw my first NY rats, and escaped to Cuba through music and food. Who can complain about that?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Death By Reps

I had my first workout with a personal trainer tonight. I am blogging about it immediately afterwards because I fear that come tomorrow morning every muscle in my body will have seized up and even blinking will cripple me.

Years ago when I did Weight Watchers, the instructor (?) told us that when you go walking, you should be able to talk but not sing. I know that sounds really dumb but it's true and it has always stayed with me. So tonight while I was exercising, I was really conscious of working hard enough to talk to my personal trainer, but not serenading her. We solved all the world's problems tonight - wedding speeches; famine in Somalia; riots in London. No subject was off-limits and we got along really well.

Bearing in mind that I'm new to this weights game, some of these measures may seem sissy to you, but I really felt them working. My trainer reckons if I do this workout even twice a week (though three is better), I will see results.

  • Leg Press at 40lbs - 3 x 15 reps (not too tough, just need to remember to push from my ankles and not my knees, or I can forget about a Riverdance career);
  • Tricep Push at 10lbs - 3 x 10 reps (piece of cake at first, but gets a bit harder as you go along);
  • Side Cable at 10lbs - 3 x 10 reps (works the obliques and you need to be careful that the cable doesn't twang back and rip your arm off);
  • Bicep Curl at 7.5lbs - 3 x 10 reps (I didn't know I had biceps. Enough said);
  • Fish Tails (an abdominal exercise working the obliques where you lay down on your back and twist your body so you reach down and tap the side of your ankle. Manageable);
  • Step Ups at 15lbs - 3 x 10 reps (a basic step-up, step-down exercise while you hold onto some hand weights. A very natural motion for anyone's body but mine. I have no balance and need to concentrate on this one. Shameful);
  • Rowing at 12.5lbs - 3 x 10 reps (otherwise known as the "boobs out" exercise to maintain posture and stretch your shoulder blades. I am awesome at this one. Figures);
  • Leg Lifts - 3 x 10 reps (from the seated position, lean back and raise and lower both legs to 45 degree angle to work the abdominals. Again, I've got this one in the bag - thank you, Pilates);
  • Chest Press at 7.5lbs - 3 x 10 reps (tricky, complicated by the fact I am perching my head and shoulders rather precariously on a medicine ball, AND trying not to drop weights on my face at the same time);
  • Ball Between Legs (about as humiliating as it sounds. On your back, put your legs up in the air and the medicine ball between your calves, squeeze slightly and then reach up to tap the ball. Oddly enough - or not - I am good at this one);
  • Wide Squats at 5lbs - 3 x 10 reps (last week I squatted prodigiously but this time I was also holding weights and had to squat down far enough so my elbows touched my knees. And I had to remember to gawk at myself in the mirror at the same time, lest I fall forward and humiliate myself. Awkward);
  • Front-Side Laterals at 5lbs - 3 x 10 reps (arms were jelly at this point. Lost interest in talking to my trainer and just glared at her menacingly until even my eyeballs started to hurt);
  • Elbow to Knee Crunches - 3 x 10 reps (invented by sadists. Basic ab crunches except your knees are up at 90-degrees and with your elbows behind your head, you pull up so that elbows reach forward and touch your knees. Biologically impossible for me at this point but I did them all. Didn't complain because I couldn't form the words.)

After the workout my trainer stretched me and I had to lie on one of those massage tables in the middle of the weights area, looking like a proper athlete and everything. Pretty sweet.

I know I wasn't the most coordinated person in the gym tonight but I feel like the exercises we did are things I can do for myself and I'm just so proud I didn't die. Or worse, give up.

Let's see what tomorrow brings, shall we?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Meeting Mr Right On(line)

I am not sure if it is pretentious to subscribe to the New Yorker magazine, but I do. Admittedly I don't understand some of the articles - they rely a lot on the reader's local knowledge and awareness of City politics, art and culture. But I value the weekly magazine for its restaurant and theatre reviews, feature articles, amateur fiction efforts, and the silly caption contests. Simple pleasures.

In the July 4th issue I read an article about online dating. I thought it was quite amusing at the time that the magazine had put the feature in the "True Romance" department. Perhaps the New Yorker is an optimistic periodical after all, I thought. But as I read on, I realised that its author is not only a happily married man, he's never done any online dating for himself - other than the tinkering he did to research his article. So what I'd hoped was an article about a man's search for love online was really a study in the hardcore business, maths and science of online dating. And the article really got me wondering whether the internet has sucked the life out of romance, or whether romance itself was entirely overrated to begin with. Read the article for yourself here - and you can decide.

On the back of this feature article the New Yorker decided to focus its monthly Big Story event on the subject of internet dating. I dragged SK (a fellow romantic cynic) along for the ride.

We steeled ourself with a lovely dinner at the Chelsea Market first and shared stories about friends - and friends of friends - who had enjoyed success or otherwise in the online dating world. Never having done any online dating ourselves, it was interesting to compare stories with SK about why we've hitherto avoided it. I think we were both quite intrigued about what the lecture panelists might say and whether we'd ultimately be convinced to give online dating a try.

The event was held in cabaret-style format at the Highline Ballroom, and was actually pretty cool. Extremely well-subscribed, the night attracted people of all ages. The panel was moderated by the author of the New Yorker article and he was pretty terrible. I just don't think he had the charisma to engage his panel or generate sufficient debate on the pros and cons of online dating. Complicating matters was the fact that three of the four companies represented on the panel (, & OKCupid) are all owned by the same person. Biased much? The woman representing is also a Professor of Biological Anthropology at Rutgers University and she contributed some really interesting insights into what men & women are really looking for out of the dating experience (either online or in 'real life'). The fourth panelist was a woman who had been dating online for 11 years, with varying degrees of success. But by the very fact of being up there, doesn't she just demonstrate that despite all the mathematical matching and personality profiling involved in online dating, the system doesn't always work? It took balls for her to be up there, that's all I can say.

One of the other trends that stayed with me from the lecture was prompted by a question from the audience. I guy got up to say that he had subscribed to OKCupid and he was enjoying their new smart phone app. You log on via your phone and the website will use your location to flash up potential matches based on your geographical location (by zip code). So the OKCupid guy says that if you're standing in line at Starbucks, the app can tell you which of your fellow customers would be a good match for you, assuming the ladies are also registered on the site of course. I don't know about all that. I figure if you've got your eyeballs glued to your smart phone, aren't you missing the potential to lock eyes with someone on your own? If we're attracted to someone first and foremost by the way they look, why do we need a smart phone app to tell us when to look up?

Or am I too much of an old fuddy duddy and I should really just shut up and get with the times?

When Life Imitates Art

I probably should have been suspicious about Saturday, simply because of how well it started out. Any sunny weekend day that begins with a sleep-in and a couple of chapters of John Grisham, followed by a cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon, mushrooms and asparagus can surely only go downhill, right? Dude, you have no idea.

Well-rested and with full bellies we walked to Grand Central Station (which is always manic but beautiful) and bought our tickets for the 1.45pm Metra North train to Cold Spring, New York. This was the train line to Poughkeepsie, which incidentally is a lot of fun to say (and I love saying things that are fun to say – huevos rancheros, anyone?). Anyway we were going out to Cold Spring because we had tickets to see William Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” in a beautiful outdoor theatre, as part of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.

Meeting up on our carriage with Churley and Witt, the train pulled out of the platform and we settled in for the 80-minute journey to Cold Spring. K made some off-handed remark about wishing she had remembered the playing cards and/or iPad. I bemoaned not buying snacks. All timely regrets, as it turned out.

We made it about 3 minutes down the line, and were still in the tunnels, when the train stopped. Not only did it just stall, but the engine stopped and the air-conditioning went out. We all looked around at each other, not quite sure what was going on, but nevertheless grateful that the lights remained on.

After a couple of sporadic announcements, the conductor confirmed that we had lost power and would have to wait for another engine to come to our rescue and tow us back to the station. Groans all round, but mostly from me.

For the next hour (yes, a whole hour!), we poached in the near-airless train carriage, speculating on what was taking the engineers so damn long to reach us. I prayed aloud for the SWAT team or the NYPD, more out of perversity than practicality. Neither of them materialised. Nuts.

Just when I thought our carriage was going to descend into panic, cannibalism, or panic-induced cannibalism, the MTA Police appeared like guardian angels. They kicked us all off the train onto a narrow metal gangplank alongside, and shepherded us up a ladder, through a manhole, out onto Park Avenue. Like little urban voles we blinked at the afternoon sun, getting our bearings and cursing the train for only taking us 16 blocks from the station (we also quietly high-fived the idea of crawling through a manhole. So cool!).

A few minutes later, the MTA put we intrepid adventurers back down the manhole, back onto our broken train, and the replacement engine towed us back to Grand Central. Once at the station, we boarded our new train on the opposite platform and pretty soon, we were off and racing. We were almost 2 hours behind schedule.

The train journey along the Hudson River is actually really beautiful. Once you get across the bridge and off the island of Manhattan, you’re greeted with leafy green parks for cyclists, and the gunky but peaceful Hudson for the kayakers and jetskiers.

We pulled up at Ossining train station and saw an ugly grey building surrounded by rolled barbed wire. Thank heavens for Google and smart phones, because we determined that was Sing Sing prison (where Holly Golightly visited Sally Tomato each week, and then gave Mr O’Shaughnessy the weather report). Audrey Hepburn sure made it sound a lot more exciting cause in person, the prison – and the people visiting it – just looked rather sketchy. Well I guess maximum security penitentiaries aren't meant to be cute, are they?

A little further down the track, we could see the imposing US Military Academy at West Point, across the River from us. I thought it looked like the scary mental hospital in Shutter Island but perhaps I was a bit delirious by that point. I had given up seeing any men in uniform.

Ever so gently the train pulled into Cold Spring and the four of us piled out onto the platform, noting with some disappointment (though zero surprise) that it had started to rain. At any point I was expecting the locust plague to arrive and devour us all, but no such luck.

Weather aside, Cold Spring is a really charming little place. It’s very quiet, to be sure, but the lovely weatherboard houses with their wide porches and heritage-listed status give you the real impression you are 100 light years from Manhattan, not 100 miles. The air is cleaner there too – obviously, and I don’t know about the other girls but I know I really relaxed when I got there.

We walked down Main Street towards the River lookout and the gazebo, but by then the fat raindrops had started in earnest so we sought ‘restaurant refuge’. So we headed under the train station underpass to the other side of Main Street, past the almost-closed antique and jewellery stores, to see what food options were on offer.

As the rain fell heavier, we retreated into a little pub/restaurant where I think we all discovered we were hungrier than first thought. I even left enough room for the frozen yoghurt afterwards, which seemed an odd thing to eat while wearing a rain coat in steadily greying conditions.

By the time we got back to the station, our Lincoln town car had arrived to ferry us to the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival venue. Our driver was kind enough to stop off at a liquor store so we could equip ourselves with the necessary libations to see us through until the 8pm “curtain up”. A few minutes uphill and the car turned into a verdant sixty-acre estate called Boscobel.

The rain was falling heavier now but we were not going to be deterred. We found a spot underneath the sprawling boughs of a huge tree and set up our temporary drinking camp while we waited for the theatre/marquee to officially open.

A little before 8pm, we hustled into the theatre and took our seats. I quickly skimmed the program to refresh myself on the “Comedy of Errors” plot (a summary of which can be found here). Our play opened with the Duke of Ephesus in head-to-toe leopard print, with a black cape and gold crown. It was totally farcical and I loved it immediately.

My heart really went out to the actors, who almost had to shout their lines in order to be heard over the relentless, pounding rain. It seriously did not let up for the entire performance. But their energy and their perseverance really engaged the audience and we were all invested in the production. This was not a traditional Shakespeare play at all – the script was authentic of course (except for the insertion of songs like “Sea of Love”), but I thought those departures were so creative and they really made the production work.

I think that keeping the energy high like that was helpful to keep the young kids in our audience engaged too – they enjoyed the over-the-top costumes and the often slapstick comedy. Much like the groundlings in the Bard’s time would have, I suspect. The thunderous applause at the end of the show certainly suggested that everyone had a really good time.

Because the play finished at 10.15pm, we just missed a train back to the City, so we had to wait around for an hour until the next one came. Still, the rain did not let up. Again, I whined for my lack of forward-planning to purchase any drinks or snacks for after the show, and while waiting for the train I mumbled incoherently about the lack of vending machines on the platform.

Given how our day had transpired, “Comedy of Errors” was not just a play at all; it was our life! Crawling into bed just after 2am never felt so good.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Numbers Don't Lie

For the past few weeks I have been doing really well with my eating plan and have abstained from alcohol and caffeine for longer than ever before - in my whole life! I've been doing Pilates on the weekend (which I love) and I've joined a gym where they do Barrelates (ballet Pilates) and cardio work. As I stare headlong into baby sister's wedding I feel like I'm doing the right things.

So I was feeling nervous but optimistic about tonight - my first appointment with my personal trainer. I get two complimentary sessions as part of my gym membership, and tonight was just about taking vital statistics and doing a couple of strength and endurance tests.

Fortunately I was honest when it came to answering questions about my health and fitness history and habits. We talked about my problem areas and my short and long term goals. The trainer was happy about my Pilates work, as she is a certified instructor herself. She said my posture was great and the exercises I do in the classes will help with core strength, but I would need to supplement them with weights training. Fair call, no worries. So then we retired to the little room out the back to take measurements. Du-du-duuuuuuuuuh.

Quicker than I could say "I don't really feel fat, I just want to tone up", I had the results of my Body Fat Index test. Silence from my trainer and then she finally said "Yeah, we'll work on that - it's fine". Oh man.

Stepping on the scales, the numbers went up, up and then up some more. Deducting some pounds for my sneakers and the fact that at the end of the day we're all a bit puffy, the numbers were still higher than I would want. "Something we'll work on?" I asked, quietly. My trainer nodded.

As anxious as I was by this point, I aced the blood pressure test and then I got my body circumference measurements. I believe we will be working on my 36-24-36 body for a little while.

Then we went over to the floor to do some strength and endurance tests. We determined that I can squat prodigiously, and I'm a very good walking lunger. Thanks to my Pilates, I am also very good at abdominal crunches and can do the arm-chest-pulldown-thingy pretty well too.

After our floor workout was over, I agreed to meet up with my trainer for my proper workout next Tuesday. She left me doing some cardio work on the eliptical. I had no idea how to work the machine so she showed me and I was COMPLETELY uncoordinated. I felt like I was walking on the moon - and then when I thought about that, my legs got self-conscious and refused to work together.

Having spent 7 solid minutes on the eliptical, flailing around like a frog in a blender, I daintily alit the machine and headed for home - knowing full well that I have a lot of work to do.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Paris En Rose

So I finally got around to seeing "Midnight in Paris" tonight and I can honestly say that in my humble opinion, neither Paris nor Owen Wilson have ever been better.

I can usually take or leave Woody Allen but he made the City of Lights appropriately luminous - it leapt off the screen in colour and energy and if I could have closed my eyes and clicked my heels together, I would have given anything to be transported there (minus the guy who was periodically kicking the back of my seat).

Owen Wilson plays Gil, a successful screenplay writer in Hollywood whose aspirations of writing a breakout novel are frustrated by writers' block, disillusionment and anxiety. These stressors are compounded by his fiancee, Inez (played by Rachel McAdams) who can't help but point out Gil's flaws - whether he is in the room or not. The movie obviously starts at a point where the relationship between Gil and Inez is strained, though neither of them will openly admit it. At midnight, when Gil takes his walks through the quiet backstreets of Paris, he is transported back to the City in the 1920s, the time that Gil feels Paris was truly at its most inspirational.

Through Gil's time travels, we meet artistic luminaries like Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, Hemingway and others. It doesn't take much to be envious of Gil's adventures and to secretly wish to have been a fly on the wall at some of these riotous late-night creative gatherings.

The movie did get me thinking though, about what time period I would like to live in, if I could cherry pick such things. When I was a little girl, we used to visit Australian colonial settlements to see what life was like "in the olden days". I remember my cousin and I desperately yearned to live back then - to go to school and write on slate, ride horses, and wear those full skirts with aprons. Clearly the lack of sanitation, medicines and equal rights for women had not come into our thinking then.

Now if I had my choice, I'd be hard pressed to know when or where I'd like to quantum leap. I love the idea of old time Hollywood - the glory days of Marilyn, Bogart & Bacall, Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. Or the early years of my parents generation - with the Beatles, Elvis and the Stones in the charts and people went "necking" at the drive-in and to dances (in gloves!). Plus sanitation, medicines, and equal rights for women. Hmm.

If there was a moral in the Woody Allen film, I think it's more about the fact we're never completely satisfied living in our present. There is always something we'd change if we could, and other times and places can somehow seem more attractive than the reality we're currently living.

Still, for my money, tonight's reality of emerging from 1920 Paris into 2011 New York ain't half bad. I think I'll keep living that present for the time being, if you don't mind.