City Pulse

By Lili Eros-Sarnyai

When one of last week’s Miss Universe competitors declared that her hobbies included “sliding on wooden floors in my socks,” I knew something was wrong – very wrong. Before we go into the finer details, let’s just remember that (overlooking the fact that they all inevitably want world peace), these are independent-minded, intelligent, kind young women who pride themselves on living life to the full. But, if one of these ladies is unable to come up with a better ‘interest’ than that, even with that tiara gleaming alluringly in her mind’s eye, is there really any hope for the rest of us? And more importantly, if there isn’t, do you need to buy special socks for “sliding”? (Oh, and do they come in pink?)

Before you all rush out to buy your new socks in a last-ditch attempt at alleviating the boredom that tends to set in on lazy summer afternoons, consider this: after speaking to various fellow New Yorkers, it appears that many of us don’t really have interests outside of the nine-to-five grind. (And no, shopping does not count; as we all know, that sacred activity constitutes a life force on a whole other level.) So if the very word ‘hobby’ leaves you in dire need of a rather large and preferably brightly colored cocktail, conjuring up images of sitting alone in a dingy room surrounded by model trains, then this is for you.

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image from villagevoice.com: photographer, Greg Miller

For all you fitness fanatics who are sick of sweating it out at the gym (who wants to be stuck inside on the treadmill in this beautiful weather, feeling and unfortunately often looking like an overheated hamster?), get your Rocky groove on and head out to Stacy’s Boot Camp (www.stacysbootcamp.com). This gruelling workout in the great outdoors is definitely one of the most challenging you will ever have: running, squats, lunges, abs work, push ups…the list goes on and on. So if you’re looking for a relaxing fitness program, this may be one to skip; boot camp is not for lazy gym bunnies looking for an excuse to forego the Stairmaster and frolic around in cute workout gear with the main aim of getting a tan, or that cute guy’s phone number or a modelling contract with Nike.With classes in various parks around the city, it’s convenient no matter where you live, and the price tag of $250 for nine one-hour sessions isn’t actually that unreasonable when you think about it. Come on, how badly do you want that six-pack?

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image from downtownboathouse.org

Alternatively, you could forego the sweat and tears and running make-up and opt for a more pain free approach to keeping on-track with that healthy lifestyle by giving kayaking a try for free with New York City Boathouse (www.downtownboathouse.org). For those who immediately recoil at the thought, thanks to vivid memories of summer camp embarrassments which no amount of therapy will resolve, remember that this is no ordinary paddle fest: it’s a tranquil glide on the majestic Hudson, with incomparably beautiful views of the city and a feeling of inexplicable peace – that is, until you’re rudely awoken from your reverie by an aggressive speedboat no doubt belonging to someone who earns more in a month than you do in five years. Nevertheless, you will come away with a new perspective on the city and a chic new skill, as well as a new set of friends who have the added advantage of being able to save you from drowning.

Speaking of which, for the very brave and perhaps slightly delusional individuals who mistake themselves for white, furry arctic creatures, there’s always the famed Coney Island Polar Bear Club. Proudly declaring itself “the oldest winter bathing organization in the US,” its members swim in the Atlantic Ocean at Coney Island every Sunday from October to March. What with the imminent threat of global warming, I would definitely recommend you go for a dip next winter before it’s too late. And rest assured that those few extra winter pounds won’t matter in the slightest; everyone will be too preoccupied with doing their utmost to avoid getting hypothermia to notice or make catty comments.

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image from jungleboyentertainment.com

If you fancy a slightly less daredevil option, head to the green oasis that is Central Park on the weekends and get ready to release your inhibitions. Drumming, tango, inline skating/roller boogie – pick and choose what you like, you’ll be welcome anywhere. Just go along, join in and relax and watch the new, confident, free-spirited you appear (just be careful what you wear – it’s surprisingly easy to end up looking like a rather overenthusiastic extra from Hair). The African dancing and drumming takes place near the Band shell every weekend as does the rollerblading (in various locales), and the free tango heats up the park every Saturday, rain or shine, between 6 and 9 p.m. at the Shakespeare statue (at the beginning of Literary Mall). And for all you demure damsels who fear your (lack of) passionate dancing skills spell nothing less than public humiliation, there’s even a free tango lesson at 7:30 to put you in that Latin frame of mind.

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image from artisanalcheese.com

If these ideas still don’t hit the spot, then how about just getting cheesy? What better excuse to ditch that ridiculous non-dairy diet than a few classes at the Artisanal Premium Cheese Center (www.artisanalcheese.com) in midtown? Amateur gourmands, established uptown hostesses and haggled, sleep-deprived NYU students mingle over hundreds of cheeses, sampling, appreciating, and sampling some more, learning about each cheese’s provenance and history (as well as the importance of being able to maneuver that last piece of brie towards you when no one’s looking). There are a variety of intriguing classes which include such gems as ‘Women Cheesemakers of the World” and the correct wine-cheese pairings. The advantages of being a veritable cheese connoisseur are indisputable; your new hobby guarantees an instant innate sophistication and will provide ample material for cocktail party small-talk as you amaze your acquaintances by sporadically peppering the conversation with little-known cheese facts.

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image from: knittingmeetup.com

Finally, if you’re more the creative-type, then sharpen your needles and join one of the many knitting groups springing up all over the city. These friendly, informal circles of creativity not only teach you a valuable and fashionable skill (apparently numerous actresses have been spotted clicking away with their needles on set), but they also tend to bring together the most diverse group of New Yorkers possible; broaden your social horizons as you chat to doctors, stressed-out lawyers, time-poor Wall Street types, out-of-work actors and feisty single moms. What’s more, this is an easily transportable hobby that you can take with you on the go: a few minutes knitting on the subway, a bit while you’re waiting online at the post office, while you’re getting a pedicure – you’ll never be bored again! Do try and ignore any funny looks you may get; these people are evidently on a much lower level of individual creativity and probably wouldn’t know what to do with a pair of knitting needles anyway (oh, and avoid the urge to poke them).

So no more excuses. You have here a list of possible hobbies, and no doubt will have a few ideas of your own. Go out and try them all, or choose what you like and give it a go. And if you’re feeling uncertain or shy remember that this is New York; eccentricity is more or less a prerequisite. And if after all that you still feel uninspired and find yourself flicking listlessly between channels or ever so slowly migrating towards Zara, remember the timeless example of our beauty pageant queen – grab a pair of socks, put some classic hairbrush hits on full volume, and start sliding!

Originally published June 2007
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