Monday, July 02, 2012

Sober contemplation

My weekend was quite solitary, as it turned out.  I don’t think I intended for it to be so at the outset; however, now that I think back on it, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Saturday was a bit of a slow start, after a tiring week and a Friday capped off with a couple of relaxed beers in the summer heat. I was supposed to do a half-day Buddhist meditation class on Saturday morning, and I was out of bed in time for it.  But when you combine a lack of motivation to get ready with missed buses and bad traffic, I got to the meditation centre quite late.  The monk greeted me with a serene “Namaste” and I realised too late that my altogether Catholic reply (“and also with you”) probably wasn’t totally ideal.   But what can I say?  I was flustered.  If the monk minded, he didn't show it.  Instead, he quietly explained that the workshop was already well underway and the students were participating in their first full meditation exercise.  I was welcome to go in of course - the choice was entirely mine.  I really did think about it, but I’d already missed so much of the preamble I didn’t want to dive in unprepared.  I didn't want to interrupt the other students either, so I decided not to enter.  The monk said he understood and suggested that I was welcome to come back next weekend instead.  I vowed to do so (and made a mental note to set my alarm clock at a more appropriate hour then).

Returning to the dry heat and sunshine of the early morning, I walked on the shaded side of the street from the meditation center to Chelsea Market.  The walk wasn’t far, but I purposely took myself a few blocks out of my way so I could wander through the cobbled side-streets of the Meatpacking District first.  I don’t know that area well at all, but I like the idea of being amongst what I feel is so "old New York" – close to the concrete jungle but nestled amongst converted warehouses, fashion boutiques and fabulous yet understated hotels.  But then something pricked my nostrils.  What was that smell?  At first I thought it was hay or horses (or both), but then the odour took on a distinct cow poo stink.  Is meat packing LITERALLY still done out here?  Gross.  I need to get my Google on for that one, no question.  And before you get all up in arms about me being a giant snob, it’s not that the smell of the countryside offends me, not in the least.  It’s just that it seemed so out of place – I couldn’t hear horses or cows, but I could certainly smell them, and that was really strange to me.  Nobody else seemed phased, so I wasn’t worried – just curious.  All that neighbourhood wonder aside, I was ultimately relieved to take refuge from the summer sun and rural smells and pop into the gorgeously urban warehouse that is Chelsea Market. 

At that time of the morning, the stores were only just waking up but I could already smell coffee beans, bacon and fresh fruit & vegetables.  Now THOSE are morning smells!  I picked up a take-away coffee Ninth Street Espresso and a grilled cheddar cheese and fig panini from Lucy's Whey and found an empty table at which to enjoy my breakfast and people-watching session.  I regretted not bringing my book, because I could have happily whiled away the time there.  To round out my market experience though, I made a quick stop at Anthropologie for me (where I bought a book, among other things), then a visit to Inglot cosmetics for my mum & baby sis.  As the market filled up with tourists and locals alike, I made my escape.

I was going to have a beer at the Standard Hotel, but it wasn’t yet midday and the beer garden was still closed.  So I walked around the corner to the famously chic eatery Pastis and I sat outside and ordered a glass of wine and a fruit salad instead.  An eclectic snack perhaps, but it certainly hit the spot and made me feel quite mellow.  I could still smell the farmyard, but I quickly accustomed to it.  Reading my book for about an hour, the sunshine had warmed me all the way down to my bones and it was time to move on.

I decided to cool off by visiting the cinema so I took myself off to see the new Pixar movie, “Brave”.   I loved it, even though (or perhaps because) my cinema was full of kids who were mesmerised by the movie.  Kids are so funny at the movies because they get so invested in them (look who’s talking!).  But every funny bit, they belly laugh and every sad bit, they stage-whisper their concerns to anyone who will listen, or to nobody in particular.  There is something really nice about that, because I think it shows they are really engaged in the movie.  Whatever – move along, old lady.

When I left the cinema around 6pm, the heat of the day was still very much there.  Fortunately the walk home wasn’t long, and before I knew it I was hanging my face over the living room air conditioner and enjoying an ice-cold beer from the fridge.  I ended up having two beers that night, knowing they would be my last for at least a month. I’ve signed up to the Dry July challenge in Australia.  Not only is this a health and well-being challenge, it’s also a fundraising opportunity with the proceeds going to cancer research in Adelaide (self-selected, as it is my home town).  I will definitely need all the help and encouragement I can get on this month-long path to sobriety so if you are feeling particularly generous, please donate here.

Sunday morning was a long and languid affair, with no alarm clock to wake me up.  I munched a home-made breakfast of bagel & avocado, a strong coffee, orange juice, and yoghurt and fruit.  It was all very tasty and made all the more delicious by the fact I was in my pyjamas, on the couch, in an air-conditioned room.  It was all so good.  I thought about doing the laundry, but that’s about as far as I got on that task. 

Time sped by, as it tends to do on Sundays, and next thing I knew I was hitting the streets to get to Times Square to see “One Man, Two Guvnors” at Irving Berlin’s Music Box Theater.  If there’s one thing you don’t want to do in New York EVER, it’s go to Times Square in the middle of summer on a weekend.  It is like the mouth of hell, only worse.  What a treat it was to escape that madness and hide out in a chilly Broadway theatre and laugh myself stupid to some slapstick and farcical British comedy.  James Corden definitely deserved his recent Tony Award for Best Actor - he was fantastic!  But the entire ensemble cast was great too and they all put on a really good show, with just as much improvised comedy as scripted, which was a lot of fun.

A nap on the sofa on Sunday evening was the perfect prelude to a quiet, booze-free night in.  With stomach, heart and head completely happy after a lovely weekend, I gave myself an early night and tried not to think too much about Monday morning.

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