Category Archives: video

Dance Day 13, Equillibium

7:48 pm

I was going to write than dance but I will dance first.  I need inspiration and perspiration.

Thomas Edison said “Genius is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration”.

I thought Paul Simon said that, but I just found out he was quoting Edison.  Yura bought Thomas Edison bulbs and earlier in the day he asked me to transport them from the office to our house.  More synchronicity.  Everyday I find one or two.  Some are small like this one, some are more impressive.  I keep my eyes open and enjoy the smallest ones.

around 9:30pm

I danced and cleaned.  This song came up on my iTunes.  Take it Easy.  As I danced, my mind raced through time.  Last night I made a  list of most of the Gasies (people who work at GAS) for the last five years.  I was mourning my leaving friend but today I feel light and happy.  No tears, no doubts.  The coincidences are feeding me with strength and I wore my red lipstick today.

I worked at GAS today.  I love the feeling I have when I enter the space.  It is filled with good vibes.  Every time I walk in I also remember that it would not be there if it was not for me.  That makes me feel even better.  I love walking in when people are already busy at work.  The cleaning lady came on Wednesday so it was organized.  It was not what I painted it in my mind yesterday.

My mind went back while I danced.  Back to the beginning, five years ago.  I did not know what it was to run a space.  I did not know if anyone would want to join me at GAS and pay me rent for a space.  I did not know if I would have to close my crazy venture in few months.  I knew that I could not find a space that I could call my home, so I needed to create one.  When saw it the first time, the walls were shiny black and red, the bathrooms were terrible, we found little bags of white powder behind the walls, the roof access was closed off, the floors were black and red linoleum.  I wish I had a before picture.

With a three thousand dollar budget that went over(which was a lot of money for me to risk), a friend of a friend renovated it with his construction friends, on weekends and after work.  It took over a month, three weeks over the allotted time.  As they were finishing, I started working there on a single table in the middle of the room, facing the window.  My splurge was a custom-made L shaped desk that looks like a giant wave, I wanted no sharp edges.   Slathered with Polyurethane five times to get it perfect amount of shiny.

At the time, I lived on the same block as GAS.  Even when I was alone, I was so happy on my daily half a block commute to work.  I knew that having this space would get me to my next level of jewelry designer. And it did.  Only a month into it, I stood in line at Henri Bendel’s Open See and was picked.  It was not as simple as that last sentence.  I can write a while about what Henri Bendel did not give me but I say what it did.  It gave me confidence in my work.  Every weekend, I stood there showing my work and like clockwork people came to buy it.  Every sale was a small miracle for me.  In that fancy shmancy store, they were choosing my work over all the other stuff there.  There was a lot of stuff there.  Three floors of stuff.  And they were buying it at 3.3 times the cost.  I was embarrassed every time someone asked me how much a piece was.

I remember dreadfully posting online the ad for GAS.  I think I still have it somewhere.  I advertised the environment that I wanted to have, support, collaboration, creativity, later I added someone to eat lunch with.  I kept saying in my head, “If you build it, they will come.”   The doubts came too.  What if they don’t like the space.   What if they do not like me.  What if they are real artists and I am not and they see that.  They came.  One by one.  One beautiful face after another.  All creative entrepreneurs who were successful enough to afford to pay rent.  That is successful for the art world.  I learned to trust my intuition.  After a few minutes of conversation, I would have to choose whether I should hand over the keys to my space for them to become a part of it.  I did not have to choose, the ones who wanted the space, were the right ones.

I knew I was creating that environment, I knew it was hard to dislike each other when I was around.  I wanted GAS to be a warm place.  I wanted them to feel accepted.  I did my best to smooth out the conflicts by facing them head on and it worked most times.

I think of all the Gasies who came and stayed and those who went and I can think a while.  I do not know what impact I had on them, but I can say what impact they had on me.  To meet a person off the street and love them within a few days of working together is a great feeling.  I learned how to feel comfortable around people.  At first I felt a pain in my stomach each time I took in a GASie.  It felt that every time I became comfortable with the ones I had, a new one would come and throw off my equilibrium.  But that was a lie to unlearn.  Every new Gasie brought with them their world.   I learned that my equilibrium is not my comfort zone.

My friend was the last shred of that comfort zone.  Take your time, take it easy, no need to hurry.

10:51 pm


Dance Day 7, You can Ring my Bell

9:19 pm

I did Zumba today in Miami.  There was a studio in Aventura that I always wanted to go to.  Finally, I got a chance to take a class.  The teacher was a small woman in her fifties.  She danced with her back to us, most Zumba teachers do, it’s easier to follow dance moves.  The great thing about this studio was that it had the floor to ceiling mirrors on all sides.  In our Park Slope yoga studio, there are no mirrors so when we are dancing we can’t see our teacher’s face expressions, just her amazing moving butt.

The only disadvantages to the mirrors was that I would think this teacher was in her early twenties if it wasn’t for the mirrors.  I walked in late when the class was already going.  In my busy baby life, I am often late to Zumba classes.  Short Zumba is better than no Zumba.  The teacher was one of those salsa dancing ladies who don’t smile.  She smiled to great me but most of the class her face was serious.  Salsa is serious business, I agree.  She would yell “Salsa” in a commanding voice or clap for us to switch moves.  Even in my first class, I could follow.  She was clear and she was watching us through the mirror.  At one point I was using my left foot instead of my right and she yelled, “Switch feet.”  I liked it, she cared.  In my NY class I could be sleeping behind her back, the teacher would never know.

Out of all the Zumba songs, Ring my Bell by Anita Ward came on in the middle.  Ding, Ding, Ding (literally) a synchronous event letting me know that I am in the right place at the right time!  I was not prepared when leaving NY for my dancethon so I didn’t have appropriate music in my iPod.   Right now it’s mostly filled with Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Johnny Cash, Jeff Buckley, Lots of baby music, Russian music and random mixes.  Ring my Bell happens to be on my iPod so it’s the song that I’ve been dancing to a lot.  I’ve been working on my moves for that song.  It’s also not a Zumba song.  Zumba music is usually Latin inspired or world music.  Ring my Bell is straight disco.  So not bad, yesterday synchronicity and today.  I am finally doing something right.

One of the things I love about Capitalism is Zumba.  From what I am gathering, Zumba is a franchise.  It seems crazy that you can franchise dancing to music but you can.  And you should if that helps people dance more.  Same thing happened to Bikram.  I am not going to look it up but I am willing to bet that more people have tried Bikram Yoga than regular yoga.  I am totally guessing here.  I have tried Bikram Yoga and I usually hate/love it (sorry Elizabeth and Jamie).  For ME, it takes out everything pure and holy about yoga.  The quiet voice of the teacher, the gentle approach to one’s body, the calming of the mind.  Bikram is a great workout but it’s not a spiritual practice for me.  The only spiritual benefit I get out of it is the sauna effect of sweating out all my impurities.  I get upset that its called Yoga because Yoga means the body and mind connection.  Sorry Bikram.

I only realized it was a franchise from another yoga teacher who was upset about Bikram not following the rules of “real” yoga.  He could not swallow the fact that Bikram is a franchise.  How can you franchise yoga?  I used to agree with that teacher and I am still torn about that topic to be honest.  But the fact that Bikram is spreading like wildfire is amazing!  More people than ever get a chance to experience some form of yoga.  And bad yoga is better than no yoga.

What franchise is selling here is an easy package for the teacher to follow.  They don’t have to create anything from scratch, there is a cake mix.  If they want to teach yoga, they just have to take a course, follow the instructions, get a certificate and voila.  They just plug themselves into an existing system that is already efficient.  If they want to dance Zumba, get a Zumba certificate and teach in every gym in the country.

For the purist in me,  I wish I could find that special dance class or that special yoga class with that teacher who is has invented their own brilliant technique.  For the realist in me, thank god for those franchises that help to make yoga and dance accessible to all.  And all these Zumba teachers who I am meeting are really good in their own way.  You can make a franchise but the fact that people are teaching it makes every class individual.  Maybe if tango was franchised, more people would know how to dance it.

I want to apply these theories to myself.  It’s great to have good ideas but no one will see my ideas unless I have a business backing them.  A way to get out the good ideas into the world.  Sometimes, I make an awesome piece of jewelry.  Really awesome by all human standards, I think 🙂  And then I sell like 3 of pieces of it total, and end up retiring it and giving the sample away to my sister (she can appreciate the true brilliance of my work).  Thank god for good sisters 🙂

I think Buddha and Jesus are some of the earliest franchisees.  They found a way to package their story so that its attainable to other people and then trained people in their craft.  Jesus had 12 disciples.  They were his personal staff.  Buddha taught a very rigid methodology of enlightenment.  These guys didn’t sit alone in their rooms pondering.  They were out on business trips all day long, training people.  The franchises that they created are still with us today.  How nice it would be to learn from them directly the methodology, but once again, bad enlightenment is better than no enlightenment.

10:57 pm

disclaimer:  please don’t take that last line seriously, it only works in the context

Dance Day 6, There is no such thing as free lunch.

(I was introduced to this image by Ray Troll later by my friend Mommy Theorist, it’s perfect, thank you.  If you have a second browse his work online and buy a poster, they are awesome.  I am thinking about the Pink Dolphin one for our house).

8:09 pm

When I was 22, I graduated college, went on a spiritual journey to Israel for the summer, came back and got a job at Salomon Smith Barney.  An investment bank on Wall Street.  I didn’t even know at that time that Wall Street is an abstract term and doesn’t actually mean its on Wall St.  My headquarters were in Tribecca, 380 Greenwich St.  I was hired as an analyst to work in Government Bonds Quantitative Strategy Group.  To this day, I am not sure why and how I got the job.  I didn’t know anything about Government Bonds or Quantitative Strategy.

I had two rounds of interviews.  The first round, I was interviewed by 8 people in 15-30 minute segments.  I could feel that some key players liked me so I wasn’t that surprised when I got called for the second round, even though I bombed some of the questions.  The second round was shorter three interviews that seemed more like introduction to the company by the people I would be working the closest with.  George Cherpelis., Bulent Baygun. and Janet Showers.

The whole thing was so scary.  I didn’t think I was so scared of people until I started working there.  Working there I learned about companies that operate on fear.

My first day, I dressed in my finest of button down collared shirts with a black pant suit.  I looked hideous and I was uncomfortable.  I just came back from Israel where I acted like a Jewish hippie with long skirts and braids in my hair.  In my new getup I was pretending to be an awkward man, all I needed was a tie and a set of balls.  This was proper attire.  I resented blending in.  Inside I was shouting, I am not one of you.  I don’t belong here, can’t you see I am an impostor.

But I was 22 and convinced that this was the way to “make it.”   I was going to make it at all costs and my cost was 55K year starting salary with a bonus which I found out was 10K at the end of the year for a mediocre job.  Maybe it would be more if I was one of those “big swinging dicks” from Liars Poker, but I don’t think anyone would call me a “big swinging dick”.   I felt so lucky that I got this job even up until this first day.

On this day I found out from my “welcoming” committee of cubicle pop ins that I was the only one in my group without a masters or a PhD or a diploma from an Ivy League school.  The first question everyone asked me was what school I am coming from.  I proudly answered, CS major with a business minor from Boston University.  This I could tell was surprising to the “welcoming committee.”  I became a little less proud with my answers.  Maybe being mysterious could be my approach, I thought.

George C. was short, chubby, proudly Greek orthodox  and really cute.  He was in his mid thirties and not married at the time.  He was probably the one most responsible for getting me hired.  He took me in during the first interview.  I would work for him, doing the jobs he didn’t want to do anymore.  Jobs he had been doing for the last five plus years.  He was open and honest.  He told me who is who and what’s where.  All the gossip and stories that I needed to know to feel acclimated.  He talked and talked at me, with me nodding and exclaiming “wow” or “really” at the appropriate breaks in conversation.  I could tell he made a lot of wrong assumptions about me.  He assumed that because I was a Russian immigrant I would be an amazing programmer, a hard worker who spent my nights and weekends at the office and I would be obedient and quiet while doing it.  Unfortunately for him and me, he was wrong on all three accounts.

My first day, the group took me to the most uncomfortable lunch of my life.  I am not exaggerating, I can’t think of a single more uncomfortable lunch.  It was a nice place with starched cloth napkins.  Something about the starch in my napkin made me even more uncomfortable then I already was.  It was so stiff, it was hard to wipe myself with it and I felt even more out of place.  I was stiffer.  This was worse then the eight interviews.  Now they were all around me stronger by their mass, they were not my people as a group, maybe as individuals, but not as a group.

They talked, mostly amongst themselves and I tried to fit in.  I tried jokes but they didn’t get a laugh.  My jokes were stiff and forced.  They were not genuine.  They were about stuff I didn’t care about, but thought that they might care about.  “They” felt like adults.  I felt small and childlike in their presence that day.  After working there for two years, the tables turned.  George mentioned with a grin that Janet Showers couldn’t come to lunch.  They all made sounds and rolled their eyes as if she was too good to go to lunch to “welcome” a lowly analysts.  I tried to roll my eyes too even though I had no idea what they were talking about.  I did know a little bit.  George told me some stories in our interview.  She was the main boss.  The boss of the bosses.  She was the boss of our group in which everyone was my boss.  She was also the boss of the all of Fixed Income Research, which was all of 10th floor and had some real-estate on the trading floor (the only real-estate that really counts).

I met her before.  She was the last person to interview me in the second round.  George warned me that she is super tough before I went into the room.  She was a scary lady he told me in not so many words.  I was frightened in that office.  Her lips were clenched.  I felt like I could barely breath in her presence.  There was no room to even make a nervous joke.  This was a place for short answers without eye contact.  She stared through me.  I was an object and an annoying one at best.  She had no feelings for me.  I was small, miserable, young, inexperienced and probably poor.  I was even too inexperienced to realize who she was and that was probably the most annoying part for her.  I don’t remember that interview, I think she was too busy to listen to the answers to her questions.  So I got the job.

After lunch, George knocked on Janet’s big window office door, “Hey Janet, today is Olga Toporovsky’s first day.  She is the new analyst in our group.  We just took her out for lunch.”  Janet looked up at me as I was trying to peek my face in through the cracked door.  She said,” There is no such thing as free lunch,” and went back to work.  George closed the door and made a smirk at me, sympathizing.

I knew that moment would stay with me for an eternity.  I knew, from the first second I heard her name that Janet Showers would become a teacher in my mind’s eye.  I think of her.  The few encounters I had with her in those two years, she managed to say something that was powerful.  She was powerful.  When she walked into the elevator, everyone stopped breathing.   They exhaled and continued to talk only when she left.  One time we were joking in the bathroom by the mirrors and then Janet Showers walked out of the stall.  It was scary.  I didn’t even know she was human enough to use the bathroom and not just bathroom but the same bathroom I use.

But that first phrase really hit home.  I knew that would be the story of my life at Salomon Smith Barney.  I thought I was getting a deal.  A big starting salary, all the benefits one can want, a ticket to a future of wealth and power.  Luckily Janet warned me on my first day, “There is no such thing as free lunch.”

I think of this now because I am in Miami.  We stayed here last year for five months and we are here now for a week.  Yura’s dad has a condo here that we are free to use when we want to.  I wish I could enjoy it more.  I wish I would not be assaulted by the waste all around me.  I wish I could be like my mom and think this is beautiful.  All the fancy cars.  I wish I can look past the 18 year old boy walking out of his dad’s Bentley with his Gucci shoes inverted so that all the G’s are showing properly.  I wish I could smile at the old over-tanned ladies with too much lipstick, angry that the valet is taking too long to get their car so that they can go to the Aventura mall.  I wish I could enjoy myself on the beach while the oversize, first to be built, six star luxury superplex condos and hotel all in one is going up right behind me, blocking all the view to the “public” beach.  I wish that I can not feel sorry for the towel guys, whose only job all day is to bring the towels to the people who live her.  It is not a hotel.  These people own towels.  I wish that this was my idea of luxury.  I wish I could ignore the mall across the street, known for being the most expensive mall in the country.  I wish I could feel sorry for the the unhappy anorexic faces of the teenage girls and their anorexic moms, clutching their super sized designer bags.  I wish I can look at the thousand dollar lobby flower arrangement that gets tossed before it can even begin to wilt and say “Wow, that’s beautiful.”

When Josh and Jenn came here last year to visit with Wavy, Josh could not help but voice some of these things in my head.  Yura turned to him and said, “Are you happy anywhere?”, Josh thought about it and then said, “No.”  Yura said it to him but he was talking to our own voices that were loudly screaming in our heads.  We can keep them inside but Josh had to go and say it.  Yura wished for us to enjoy the luxury we were getting here.  I would have answered, “Yes.”

My idea of luxury is an unspoiled beach with running water, it doesn’t even have to be hot.  This beach is spoiled and I feel spoiled being on it.

My friends Marina and Elyse came here last year at different times.  They both said to me, “I can’t see you living here, Olia, this place is so not you.”  They were right, they will not see me living here, not even for free.  Thanks to you Janet Showers, I always remember that there is no such thing as free lunch.

For the next six days I will carve out a piece of sand to do my dance routine and some time in the over heated pool for us to enjoy, knowing that its not free.

11:32 pm

Video Inspiration for the day. The Light of Life from daihei shibata on Vimeo found on