Heart and Soul

Warning: this article is not really about spinning. It’s about friendship. And musical theater. And, okay, a little bit of spinning.

It’s no secret that I love to spin.  I joined the indoor cycling movement in the late 1990’s, mostly because pedaling fast to loud music was the only exercise I didn’t hate with a passion.  By the time my husband, Brett, and I moved to Westchester from Brooklyn in 2001, I had become somewhat hooked on spinning and began searching for just the right class here in suburbia.  I tried many, including those at big gyms and small cycling studios, and was content, but never wowed.  In fact, there were times I felt so frustrated with a teacher’s lame music or an uninspired workout that I considered getting certified by Mad Dogg himself, creator of the indoor cycling program.  If I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I reasoned, I’d just do it myself!

But then, along came SoulCycle, and humanity was saved from having me as a spin instructor.

I’m not writing this to tell you how awesome SoulCycle is, although awesome it is.  The level of instruction is incredible, the music choice always interesting, and the energy in the room high.  It’s a place that challenges me to be my best while also accepting me for whatever I am.  Instead, I’m writing this to tell you that I was spinning there for almost a year before I realized I knew one of the owners very well.

It was a Sunday morning in October, 2010.  Brett and I were sharing sections of The New York Times and successfully ignoring our children.  “Hey, look,” Brett said, holding up a large article featured in the Styles section.  “This is all about SoulCycle.  You have to read it when I’m done.”

I got closer to Brett and inspected the paper.  I squinted at the page.  I turned my head left and right, examining not the article, but the image of two women in the center of it.  Then I snatched the newspaper from his hands, my heart beating fast.  “This is not about the founders of SoulCycle, Brett.”  I said.  “It’s about one of my best friends from high school!”

The caption read “Elizabeth Cutler, left, and Julie Rice of SoulCycle.”  But what I saw was Julie Taylor, formerly of Ardsley High School and Woodlands Community Temple.  Julie Taylor, my partner in crime for shopping trips to the Canal Jean Company, temple retreats to Camp Kutz, and, most importantly, anything and everything having to do with theater.

Our love of musical theater is really what bound us together as best friends.  In 9th grade, we auditioned for and were accepted into an exclusive program at the local Y called By Audition Only.  We rehearsed nonstop for months, practicing harmony for original songs composed by our director and running lines for our monologues and scenes.

Julie acquired an agent from her work at that ensemble performance.  Another friend of ours in the company – David Lasher – went on to have a successful acting career, with roles in Blossom and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

And me?  Well, I got to meet Christopher Atkins of Blue Lagoon fame.  He came to that performance with his agent, although I’m not really sure why he was at the Y.  But we took a photo together, which I carried in my wallet until that wallet was stolen.

The only time I have ever been featured in The New York Times – on the cover of the Westchester section in 1985, singing at a piano – was with Julie Taylor by my side.

Obviously, we had not been in touch for years.

“Are you going to call her?”  Brett asked.  “Email?”  I was typing furiously into my phone, but not in order to reach Julie.  I wanted to alert some other friends from high school/temple/my life in the 1980’s to check out Julie’s picture in the Times. “You should reach out,” Brett said.

I shrugged, like maybe I’d consider it.  But I knew I wouldn’t.

You see, Julie and I had been best friends, but we had also broken up a few times.  The friendship could be wonderful and it could also be strained. It’s natural to have ups and downs with girlfriends, of course, and it can be very hard to keep a solid friendship intact for 20 or more years.  If I remember correctly, we had some kind of falling out during college, but then came back together for a Hamptons share house when we were 23 or so.  That was a great summer, but I made my friends and she made hers, and we found ourselves drifting apart again.

At some point, I heard that Julie had moved to the West Coast.  And then, at some other point, I heard she was back.

And now, here she was, smiling at me from the folded newspaper.  Definitely back.

But we were 40 now, and our lives had moved on.  I had kids, a husband, a world in the ‘dale.  Also, I didn’t need to reach out to her, because, in a way, I felt her presence every time I exercised.  I mean, a Glee theme ride?  The motivational, snappy SoulCycle emails I received every week?  That’s total Julie.  It suddenly made perfect sense that I loved SoulCycle, because so much of it came from my old friend.

No, I decided.  Best to leave the past in the past.

And then, in July of 2011, some friends and I went on a spin excursion in the city:  a 9:30 SoulBands class (don’t ask) in TriBeCa followed by showers, shopping, and lunch.  Home for camp pick up at 3:30.  A perfect day.

We parked the minivan in a lot and walked across the street and into the bright studio.  Leaning against the front desk, cell phone to her ear, was Julie.

She took one look at me and smiled.  “I’m gonna have to call you back,” she said, disconnecting her call.

We hugged, we laughed, we talked over each other.  “What are you doing here?” she asked.

Like everything else, it could be a long story or a short one, depending on how I told it. I summarized in one quick breath.  “I-live-in-Scarsdale-and-I-love-SoulCycle-and-I-spin-all-the-time-and-I-couldn’t-believe-it-when-I-saw-you-own-this-place!”

“And-I-just-had-a-baby-a-few-weeks-ago-and-what-am-I-doing-having-a-baby-at-forty?” Came her response.

“Wow-that’s-crazy-you-look-great!”

We had to talk fast because we both like to talk fast and because class was starting in three minutes.

Although three minutes was not nearly enough time to tell her about all the ways that I have changed and all the ways I am the same, we were able to go right to a shorthand language that did the job.  (“And your brother?”  I asked.  “You know, same,” she shrugged.)

We exchanged information and promised to keep in touch.

As I cycled that morning, my mind wandered, and I wondered, if I got to re-know Julie, would she ever truly see me for who I am now, or would we both be constantly judging each other against standards from the past?

It’s a different kind of friendship now, less of the let’s talk about boys over the phone every night and more of the let’s have lunch once or twice a year type of relationship, which seems to suit us both fine.  But, whenever I do see her, I am reminded of the me I used to be, the actress, the dreamer, the one who wondered how life would turn out for the two Julies as we shared a slice of chocolate mudslide cake at Renee’s Eatery in the Golden Horseshoe after a long rehearsal.

Turns out, our predictions were not so far off: she has her stage, and I have mine.

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