In my normal life I’m in bed by 10:30 and up at 6. So when my family obligations in New York finished early, I figured my five free nights in NYC could tip the scales toward a more balanced yearly average for nighttime social interaction. Can binge-partying for a week make up for a year of almost no real parties? I thought so, but since coming home last week I‘ve been recovering. Maybe social balance should be sought in the same way as a yoga practice: regularly and over a long period of time without breaks.
A comedy improv show is hit or miss but for $5 with no drink minimum (it’s a theater, not a bar) and many shows to choose from, it’s a brilliant way to start a night. One night we attended the Upright Citizen’s Brigade 8pm improv show. The host had a joke that require I (sitting in the front row) answer a couple of questions. First, what’s my favorite drink for a celebration? I don’t drink alcohol or things with bubbles, milk is only good with cereal and coffee smells bad. So I said, “water,” and the crowd roared. (I’ve since had time to think and a mango smoothie is my new answer.) Then he asked what is my least favorite form of exercise. I love physical activity and the first thing that popped into my head was my mother’s weight-loss trampoline. It’s only two feet in diameter and has a handle to prevent you from bouncing off and breaking your ankle on the coffee table. I couldn’t explain all of that so when I answered, “trampolining,” I became the joke.
After the show we ate fried oreos (tastes like funnel cake with a little chocolate inside) in Tompkins Square Park and I walked my cohorts to the L train. Then I wandered back to the theatre for their 11pm free show which was hosted by the hilarious Matteo Lane. He spent at least 5 minutes making fun of the couple in the front row who were on their first date. The woman’s name was Marandy, giving him fodder for mock names like Martini, and the pair had met at a bar when her friends dared her to grab his ass. Matteo made a fuss over them meeting in “real life.” Who meets in real life anymore? You might meet on J-date or Tinder, but face-to-face? He makes a good point. There’s no more stigma attached to meeting your partner online and now it’s novel if your first introduction is in person.
The whole week I wasn’t in the mood for giant techno clubs with bridge-and-tunnel clientele (picture Night at the Roxbury- it’s a real thing) so I went to local bars that had dance floor space (Monster, Stonewall and Henrietta Hudson to name a few.) I never invested in a cover charge so I could bounce around. What I already knew was confirmed: I can dance to anything but prefer 80s pop. Beyonce will do in a pinch and 70s soul is a big downer.
The crowd determines the club’s fun potential. My favorite club in the world, San Francisco’s Cat Club on Thursday nights, is an eclectic mix of hipsters, old people, a guy in a wheelchair and tourists from the youth hostel down the block. Last week in New York I spent an hour talking to the bouncer of the Cubby Hole, a small lesbian bar. (It was almost 3am so he wasn’t busy checking IDs.) He told me that in his 25 years working security for clubs and events, he has noticed a drastic downswing in the amount of actual fun happening inside. He said everyone’s staring at their phones or posing for the perfect selfie. What did we do in the 90s or even in 2003 when no one had a cell phone? How did we handle awkward social situations without looking down and pretending to be busy? I think we just shut up and danced.
At home, I’m relatively healthy (kale is still gross but I’m active and don’t eat sugar.) In New York I averaged only three yoga poses a day when my leg muscles would seize up to voice their neglect. New Yorkers walk miles in the cold with their skinny jeans constricting the range of movement, and they never properly stretch out. Being “normal” in that society physically hurts.
My diet took the biggest hit. I went right for sense-gratification, exactly what the Hare Krishnas warn us against. It doesn’t lead to happiness. But a $3 slice of pizza in the middle of the night at a rib-high table with no stools? That’s the epitome of NY and it did make me happy. I also didn’t bother resisting ravioli, cannoli, eclairs and those fried oreos that are worth mentioning twice.
I’m home again, which means back to practicing, and my practice seems virtually unchanged. So were my NYC activities good for me? Did I find some balance in my life by binge partying? Instead of avoiding pizza because it would make for a painful pashasana, I disregarded the future and enjoyed the damn pizza. (Also, I knew I wouldn’t be attempting pashasana the next day anyway.)
But now I’ve been sick for a week (possibly unrelated but who knows.) Maybe binging doesn’t help strike balance because being alive should not resemble the drastic fluctuations of a heart rhythm graph.
So what’s the timeline for balance-analysis? Weekly? Monthly? Maybe we can’t measure a balanced life and it’s just a general feeling we get. I had to binge in NYC because I don’t have time to do so in my regular life. While that may not be balanced, at least I grabbed the opportunity when it was presented.