Craving a new thrill and cross-training activity, I immediately got excited (and scared) when a co-worker suggested we take a boxing lesson at Trinity Boxing Club in downtown NYC.
To all the various types of workouts my figure skating career took me, somehow I was never lead into a punching match or better yet, an enclosed space in which one learned to punch others (realistically this aggression extractor would have been useful).
After work we headed over to get acquainted with Trinity. This no-nonsense establishment brings Fight Club to mind and does not bring peace of mind to those of us who don’t box for a living.
We met our instructor, informed him of workout goals (break at least a bit of sweat) and got a good chuckle.
What followed over the next hour was one of the best workouts of my life.
We warmed up by jump roping for way too long (its not like riding a bike!). We did sit ups into boxing jabs. We learned various fight formations. We beat up punching bags. We learned how to move, block, and punch by sparring with our instructor. We did not stop moving for an hour and were pushed to our limit.
It was empowering.
To aid in the inspiration, the gym was surrounded by various quotes that hung down from the ceiling.
The following is a short list of my favorite ones:
You can become a winner only if you are willing to walk over the edge – Damon Runyon
Success in life comes not from holding a good hand, but in playing a poor hand well – Denis Waitley
Being on the tightrope is living. Everything else is waiting – Karl Wallenda
Filled with inspiration and energy from spending two weeks at home, I decided I would love to prepare a feast of my favorite Russian home-cooking for some close friends.
A small dinner party was organized and I set out preparing the menu.
3 days of slave labor (and phone calls at midnight to my family asking for help) later, I had enough food to feed a small army (just like home!) and wasn’t hungry at all (really takes it out of you).
The fact that this kind of table is set for my siblings and me every time we are home and in multiple locations is mind-boggling.
I GREATLY appreciate my mother, father, grandmothers, grandfather, aunt, parents’ best friends, neighbors who are culturally close to Eastern Europe and just random people who spend/have spent time preparing food for my arrival… (and don’t just outright tell me off on the phone when I demand certain foods are made)
Without further delay, I present the menu served:
Red caviar on traditional black bread
Russian Havarti and “Doctorskaya Kalbasa” plate (type of sausage)
Pelmeni with sour cream (hand rolled dough filled with different types of meats)
Olivier Salad (type of Russian potato salad that includes egg, potato and bologna among other ingredients and too much mayo. This is my favorite food by far)
Chicken Cutlets (admittedly these were a bit overcooked)
Chicken Liver Pate
Russian Waffle Cake
Russian Chocolate Candy (The favorite candy of my childhood: “mishka and “belachka”)
Vodka (“Russian Standard”)
Wine (every kind)
We laughed at the sheer amount of food (“what were you thinking about quantity here?!?!”). We ate until we couldn’t move. We told stories (Customary). We planned future get-togethers and laughed until we cried.
On Day 31 (the milestone is here!!) I found myself on a large floating vessel docked on the Hudson River looking out onto the Statue of Liberty.
How did I end up here?
I took a chance. On impulse.
Walking by a marina during lunch time, I noticed a couple individuals on a gorgeous boat. We exchanged waves and smiles. There were introductory hand gestures, sign language and awkward giggling.
A minute later I decided that life was too short not to run over and make some new friends. And run I did (ok it was more like a trot in heels and a pencil skirt, mobility was limited).
We shook hands. We gave our 1-minute life stories. We planned a possible rendezvous on the yacht (my people will meet your people).
Thus, on this 31st experience, I learned loud and clear what I suspect I’ve been learning all along: 1) life is too short not to live in the moment and go with experiences that are presented and 2) you never know what the day will bring.
I met some incredibly interesting and nice people. I spent time aboard ship! I got a totally different perspective on New York from the water. I Learned about film-making, poetry, new technology and the latest Kardashian issues (I had no choice in the matter).
As I stood out on the deck, I thought about my journey thus far on these first kick-ass 31 days. It’s amazing all the experiences I’ve had just by doing what I love (dancing), experiencing my own culture (Russian events) and letting loose and relaxing (spa anyone?). Who would have thought when I awoke (late as usual) on this “typical” work day that I would end up discussing the art of film-making aboard a beautiful ship.
There’s a lot more to come… but for now: I raise my glass of white wine to the journey.
On Day 30, I found myself at a Russian rooftop concert wildly dancing in circles and singing along with other Eastern-European vodka-drinking twenty somethings.
Upon first glance, you’d think that I attend these types of events frequently.
Although I hailed from the Soviet Union, I rarely find myself gravitating towards the youth of my Ukrainian past. There are several reasons for this. One is that I was a small child at the time of our arrival to the Land of the Brave. Another is that my parents never pushed me to necessarily hang out with other former Russian/Ukrainian children.
Nevertheless, one important lesson was learned here: you can take the girl out of the Russian-Jewish land but you cannot take the Russian-Jew (culturally speaking) out of the girl. There’s nothing I can do (believe me I’ve tried). The only thing left to do is have a drink and sing along.
I went with it. I clapped, I abused wine, I swooned at the music of my parents generation (which I still love). The highlights are as follows:
We danced (as previously mentioned) holding hands in circles, kicking our feet up, turning from side to side (let’s be honest, if you’re at a Jewish event and you’re not running around in a circle, you’re lost. Leave and find the correct address)… if you’ve been to a bar mitzvah, you know what I’m talking about. All we needed was an MC handing out inflatable toys for best kick and I would’ve been in middle school heaven
We drank vodka like it was water (and chased it with watermelon) and made sure to toast to family, friendship and being together … le’chayim! (means: To Life… Yes, I looked up the spelling)
We spontaneously burst into song recalling famous Russian songs and rhymes… one particularly loved one about birthdays. The band started singing along as well and we all swayed to the music as one bonded group, as if we’d all known each other for years.
There was hilarity, there was wine, there was fruit, there was bonding of sorts, song, dance, laughter and vodka shots. As we stood there on this rooftop overlooking Manhattan, I felt surprisingly and yet totally predictably… at home.
On day 29 I put away my cell phone, put on a cotton pink “uniform” and spent 9 hours sweating, relaxing and channeling serenity at the Korean Spa.
A friend invited me along under the pretense that it would be “amazing” and that this special spa had become one of her favorite pastimes. I had no idea what I was in for…
I also had no idea I could exist in the New York area without my cell phone(s) and doing virtually nothing but relaxing for 9 hours.
I’m happy to report that we went into the spa at around 4pm and did not emerge (skin soft and body and soul rejuvenated) until 1:00am.
Let me share the important highlights:
This is no ordinary spa. It’s culturally a traditional Korean experience. You pay admission up front. You put on a large over-sized comfy uniform. You put away your stuff. You enter 40,000 square feet of lounge areas, food areas, saunas, steam rooms, jacuzzies, showers and scrubbing areas (more on this later)
Each Sauna (shaped like a Smurf’s dream house) has different beneficial holistic properties. Basically you sweat your buns off while revitalizing “Inner energy” and cleansing the skin
This facility boasts a “BULHANJEUNGOAK” sauna: dome shaped smurf house of doom used in Korean culture for 500 years to heal different illnesses where the floor is made of yellow soil and the temperature is 200 Celsius. You read that right. They bake eggs in there (and sell them). Consider it the Olympics of sauna-ing. 5 minutes in that hut and you’ll take care of detoxification for the next year
You’ve never been washed or massaged until you’ve had the scrub/massage experience at a Korean spa. Let me break this down succinctly: modesty is not an option; you may lose 2-3 layers of skin; showering may not be required for a couple days after (you’re THAT clean!!!)
We chatted about nothing important for 7 hours (2 of them involved skin removal in the buff), we ate yummy food, we drank fresh made juice, we laid on huge beds and watched Olympic coverage, we took naps in infrared rooms, we jaccuzied and cooled off in a cold pool. Putting away worries, stresses and text messaging responsibilities for the equivalent of a work day was brilliant. and glorious. and… AWESOME.
I’ve been glued to the tv screen over the past week… watching the Olympics.
The athletes inspire me, they remind me of my own young Olympic dreams once upon a time and their stories make me believe that anything is possible.
Having found myself in a hotel with a pool open 24/7… I watched the end of the olympic coverage, fished out my suit from my bag… and did laps at around midnight.
Truth is, I had a little stint as a future olympic swimmer at the age of 11. I’M KIDDING. I couldn’t have been slower on that swim team. Fortunately, my figure skating coach at the time told my mom that figure skaters couldn’t be swimmers (different muscle groups yada yada yada)… SO that short lived dream ended quickly.
But as mentioned before… I still love swimming.
And aside from the fact that hotel staff thought I was crazy (it’s open 24/7 for a reason!!), I lapped around doing the breath stroke happily.
Day 27’s awesome is about organic living. Organic food. Organic kindness. And organic friendship.
By organic I mean: without toxins or chemicals, in the case of food; without agenda, in the case of kind strangers; and straight fun with a good friend.
This week I indulged in a simple, healthy and organic meal with ingredients from local farms, was comforted on a bumpy flight by a stranger and celebrated a friend’s kick-ass promotion with some wine and a feast.
The restaurant? – The Fat Radish (NYC) (I may have come close to trying everything on the menu)
The flight? – A bumpy one heading south from New York. (recently I’ve become a weeee bit of a nervous flyer)… add on some storms and a holding pattern over our destination, and I was ready to strap on a parachute and finish the job myself. Fortunately, the individual next to me sensed my tense composure and went to lengths to distract me: ask me questions, drink some vodka with me and listen to me recount my life story…
The celebration? – involved lots of laughter, an empty bottle of wine, a feast of great (Italian) proportions and some seriously great gelato (and some new friends). Naturally.