Thursday, May 24, 2012

SideTour: Dinner with a Banker-Turned-Monk

I had such a great time on my first SideTour that I've been checking their website constantly for new experiences. There was one that instantly caught my attention. A banker-turned-monk hosts a small group of people for dinner and conversation about his path. As someone who is constantly finding for my path or any path, I thought it would be a such an insightful experience. The sessions were sold out through the end of June, but I was lucky enough to find out that someone cancelled and I was able to sign up at the last minute for last night's dinner.

I was the first to arrive at The Bhakti Cafe on 2nd Street and 1st Avenue. It's on the ground floor of the monastery, which is located in the East Village. The monk,Rasanath Dasa, introduced himself - not quiet what I expected. He was wearing a hoodie and had a Blackberry. I guess I had envisioned flowy white robes and lots of beads. I have to plead ignorance. I was familiar with the culture at all.

Another monk made us a a delicious meal. We had rice, kale with coconut, some sort of vegetable dumpling and a veggie "meatball". I didn't catch what everything was called and I probably couldn't spell or pronounce it anyway. Bottom line, it was amazing! Plus the monk who made it was super hot. Is that wrong? Hmm..

After everyone had eaten, he started talking and I was almost entranced. He told us of his journey. He worked as a banker on Wall Street and began to see the cracks in the facade. People were so concerned with image and ego. It felt like he was talking only to me. The other people faded away and it was like he was answering the questions I have been asking myself for a while. He wasn't so much trying to recruit, but just share what he's learned in his own life. It's actually a little frustrating because I wanted answers. He talked about the Gita as the teachings his followings. I wanted him to pass out copies or let me sign up. LOL. But seriously, he seemed to have what I wanted.

I think that I'll probably even go to some of their seminars. They provide tools to help you grow and learn. And they make great food. It's a win / win. It was a really insightful and enlightening evening. It's experiences like this that make me so grateful to live in New York where I am surrounded by so many different people and cultures.

Monday, May 21, 2012

50 Shades of Grey

For the past few months, everyone seems to be talking about 50 Shades of Grey. They say it's steamy, kinky and oh so much fun. I'd heard great reviews and I'd heard terrible reviews, so I wasn't sure if it was worth picking up. When I finished The Hunger Games, I didn't really want to start back up again with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I decided I'd use 50 Shades as the perfect distraction. I wasn't sure what to expect. I figured it'd be a lot of juicy sex scenes with flat characters and little depth. I was pleasantly surprised that despite the flaws with the word choice or grammar, it was actually a very touching and emotional story that resonates because it features something we all want - to be desired.

Here's the background (thanks Amazon):
When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms. Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

There's something intriguing about about secrets. Christian doesn't like to be touch or to feel out of control. Slowly, Ana is able to learn that his mother was a crack addict and he was given up for adoption. Eventually we learn that he was a submissive for an older woman when he was 15. 50 Shades of fucked up, as Ana puts it, is right. He's dangerous and mysterious - that is what everyone finds so exciting. That's why everyone calls this book "mommy porn." Most people makes safe choices and it's devilish fun to consider other options.

I must say that I think that people aren't ready this book for the sex. Of course that's part of it, but I don't think it's the main reason. I know it wasn't the reason I couldn't put it down. What EL James creates so well is passion and tension. Christian makes Ana feel so beautiful and desired. He can't keep his hands off her. While not every one is interested in riding crops and shackles, everyone wants to feel wanted. Nothing is easy and nothing is simple. That is the allure of Christian Grey.

The first book ends so abruptly. It felt much more like the end of a chapter, rather than the end of the book. I was somewhat disappointed, but I know there is much more to come. I instantly reached for my iPhone and ordered a copy of the second book in the series - 50 Shades Darker.

Let's so how much more wicked it can get...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

SideTour: Pre-Prohibition Cocktails

Josh discovered this website, SideTour, and posted about it on the CitiHabitats Facebook page. He sent me the link and I started looking through all the different available "experiences." The different activities range from urban farming to dumpling tastings to a tour of Manhattan's great graffiti. We both thought Capture the Craft of Pre-Prohibition Cocktails with Modern Twists looked really interesting. Anyone can go to a bar to drink, but how could would it be to meet up with a small group and learn how to make some classic drinks. And for like $30 it was a bargain. We both signed up.

This past Saturday was the event. It was so much fun. We made our way to Brooklyn on the L train (a first for both of us). The SideTour was in Brian Quinn's apartment, which was gorgeous. He is an expert bartender and a wonderful teacher. You could feel his enthusiasm for the art / science of cocktails. I figured that it'd very academic - we'd sit and he'd "teach" us about the drinks and then he'd make them and we'd drink them. No! This was completely interactive.

There were seven us and we gathered around the large bar each had our own sets of mixologist tools (cups, strainers, jiggers). Brian would explain the fundamentals and then we'd make the drinks ourselves. I didn't really like the brown drinks - I think they were made with whiskey. But the drinks with gin were amazing. My favorite was a Gin Fizz - lemon juice, gin and and egg white. I thought it was going to be gross, but it was delicious.

Side note. There was a gay couple in the group. They were standing next to me and were absolutely adorable. I could see the way the one guy, Jordan, look into the other guy's eyes, Jordan. The look of pure happiness and love was sickeningly sweet. I just stood there and felt sad while reminiscing about my recent breakup.. It's such a precious feeling. Oh well. Good for them.

Afterwards, Josh and I went back to civilization...I mean Manhattan. Shockingly, I really enjoyed the hip, eclectic, hipster atmosphere of Williamsburg. It felt like a tight community of people who were anything but snobs - I loved that. We ended up going to a bar in Chelsea where we hung out for a while. He wasn't drinking and I continued sampling my new favorite drink. Eventually we ended up at Shake Shack, which I don't really remember.

It was such a fun night. I felt so young again. Just having a great time and being myself. The SideTour was a great experience. I highly recommend it to anyone. You'll learn, meet new people and have a great time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dhoonya Dance

There seems to have been some sort of flipped switch in my life. I love trying new things now. My friend from the office, Josh, mentioned trying a Bollywood dance / exercise class. Since it was only $20, I thought it'd be fun to give it a try. I also really like the idea of hanging out with a friend outside the office. So this past Saturday, we met up outside this performing arts center in Chelsea. I semi-panicked because I instantly wondered if I had to dance in front of others. But it turned out that the dance studio used a room on the third floor.

We walked into the room (me sans socks or shoes - I wanted the authentic experience) and awaited our embarrassing attempt at Bollywood dancing. The teacher was really sweet and a terrific dancer. The music was fast and fun. I loved the beat! There was a huge mirror in front of us, but luckily the curtain was bunched up in front of me. In my mind, I was a natural and flowing in sync with the rest of the class. In actuality, I was probably so goofy looking. So it was a good thing that I couldn't really stare at myself. The Indian guy in the front row was an expert and even had the professional, parachute pants.

I'm glad Josh was in front of me because he wasn't able to constantly see me looking silly. There were some sexy spins and hip gyrations. I thought, "oh, I know this move. I used to do it at Splash." I was also surprised how challenging the class was; much harder than I was expected. I could feel it in my lower body almost instantly. And, even though I always sweat, I sweated profusely.

I loved it! Now that I've gained enough weight (currently 181 lbs), I think I want to do some more to get more cut without losing any weight. An hour class like this is perfect because it's the perfect combination of strength and cardio.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Book Club

I guess you could say that turning 25 was a real quarter-life crisis. For the first time in almost 2 years I was single. I didn't really have a strong circle of friends, aside from my coworkers. It was a really lonely place. I felt bad about myself and I could feel myself retreating. But I honesty think that these past few months have been a new chapter (no pun intended).

One thing I know is that I really need to put myself out there and make friends. I really enjoy reading and I figured that it might be a good way to meet others. I did a quick search and found a book club on the Upper East Side. The organizer, Caitlin, emailed back a short while later and invited me to join the club. I was giddy. The group had met once to decide on a book. A Visit From The Goon Squad. First thing I did after reading her email was to order it on Amazon. It took me a while to finish the book. It wasn't quiet a page-turner. Every chapter was unrelated to the previous chapter. It just wasn't my style, but I'm glad that I finished it.

We met for the first time this past Wednesday to discuss the book and 50 Shades of Grey, which I had mentioned in one of our group emails. Shana, one of our members, offered to let us her apartment for our first meeting. As soon as I walked in the door, I could tell that she was a ball of fire. She was so excited and funny. Her energy is infectious. Caitlin rode the elevator up with with me and she was super fun too. Michelle arrived second and then Jennifer came last. We introduced each other and started to discuss the book. I was shocked at how easily it was to talk with everyone from the start. I could just tell that everyone was genuine.

We had some snacks and lots of wine and Skinny Girl Cosmos. Everyone agreed that the book was a little slow. Not much to discuss there. But we ended up talking about everything else. We discussed my former relationships, Shana's life, Michelle's marriage, and Jennifer's life in Queens. As the wine / cosmos flowed, so did the conversation. We talked about sex, soul mates, waxing, guys, etc. I LOVED IT! It was just an absolute blast. Eventually, Shana's boyfriend, Eric came over with beer and snacks. He was absolutely hot and yet, not a douche. It's so rare to find a hot guy who isn't a stuck up asshole. Good for Shana! He changed into some shorts and hung out with us. I hadn't drank beer in forever, but it reminded me of college. The good old days. I loved how easily I could be myself - fun, sassy and likable.

I know my pattern. I meet new people and instantly have this fantasy about brunches, and trips, dancing to Britney Spears and crying on their shoulders and eating ice cream while watching romantic dramas. It's just what I do; I project. But these girls seem like a lot of fun and they seem like good people. After our somewhat serious discussion of the state of my former relationship, we've decided to read Brida by Paula Coelho, who also wrote The Alchemist, which Eric said was life-changing. I hope to finish 50 Shades of Grey by Monday, so I can start the next book.

I need to not get my hopes up. Friendships take a long time to grow, but I'll just cross my fingers that each meeting of our book clubs is as much fun as our first.