Class Conscious

Accidental learning through leisure activities

One of the truly wretched things about being a grown-up is not getting summer vacations. Happily, one of adulthood's great perks is getting to decide for yourself what to do with your time. And since there's no official summer vacation for most of the post-collegiate set, those long weekends, summer half-days, and other downtime hours are precious, indeed. Use them to tone your body, expand your mind, or just plain have fun—without the heavy time commitments and stressful schedules full-time training courses often have. Come fall, you'll really have something to talk about. —LD Beghtol

In deep
photo: Greg Miller

Upwardly mobile:Get fit for summer at Stacy's Boot Camp in Central Park.
photo: Greg Miller
Upwardly mobile:Get fit for summer at Stacy's Boot Camp in Central Park.

SCUBA DIVING is nature's other way of telling you you're making too much money. Expect to spend at least $450 on tuition and gear for introductory classes, offered at several pools in Manhattan. Buying your own equipment (wet suit, buoyancy-control device, regulators, dive computer, and much more) and a customized rolling bag to carry it in can run another two grand. You'll have to absorb a ton of physics and physiology to pass written certification exams. Then there's dive travel: The Northeast offers decent conditions only a few months a year, so it's off to southern locations like the Galápagos, the Great Barrier Reef, or the Caribbean.

But your first open-water dive hooks you. Scuba lets you dance with nature; all the preparation leads you under the sea as a cautious intruder in the realm of fish, coral, and other wonders you've previously encountered only in photos or on a dinner plate. It's a quiet pastime; you always dive with a buddy, but you're alone with your thoughts and the spectacular vistas. Vanity falls away—you look silly, but nobody's watching you.

Most local dive shops offer training. Pan Aqua [460 West 43rd Street, 212-736-DIVE] holds frequent evening pool classes (with the first session a free "try scuba" night) and hooks you up with the Dutch Springs quarry in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to complete the open-water portion of the certification process. If you're over 10 and can float for 10 minutes and swim 200 yards, you can sign up. —Elizabeth Zimmer

Back to the future
Hologram: Jason Sapan's Holographic Studios

In the late '60s, when it was first publicly exhibited, the shimmering hologram looked like the future. Now, after appearances at mall boutiques and on cereal boxes, it's as quaint as Granny's patchwork quilts. For a groovy blast from the psychedelic past, MAKE YOUR OWN HOLOGRAMS at Jason Sapan's Holographic Studios (240 East 26th Street, 212-686-9397), where the master offers beginner classes in which you learn the basics and then take home your own gem. From $150. —Chad Smith

photo: Brian Kennedy

Cast off your winter doldrums and get at those household projects you've been putting off. First, check out the DIY CLASSES at your neighborhood Home Depot: Recent optimistically titled courses include "You Can Lay Ceramic Tile," "You Can Organize Your Closets," and "You Can Create Outdoor Living Space"—which is sure to confuse most Manhattanites. The Furniture Joint [182 Avenue B, 212-598-4260] offers a monthly four-session course in furniture re-upholstery and repair. For basic wood- and metalworking techniques, visit the Educational Alliance [] on East Broadway; the Manhattan YWCA on Lexington Avenue [] offers more advanced classes. —C.S.

The G-Team
photo: Brian Kennedy

Beyond such factors as age, race, ethnicity, and location, and conditionals including intelligence, physical strength, and sexual orientation, what really sets men apart is team sports: You either love 'em or hate 'em. If you're a gay New York sports lover in search of like-minded men, see Out of Bounds [], a comprehensive site for GAY MEN'S SPORTS ORGANIZATIONS, including links and an excellent calendar of events. HX magazine also offers coverage and listings in its print and online versions. And for armchair enthusiasts we recommend cruising— oops—surfing these sites: the Gotham Knights Rugby Football Club [], Knickerbocker Sailing Association [], and the Metro Wrestling Alliance []. —Leigh Jerman

Self-guided by voices

If traditional walking tours put you off, Soundwalk's PRE-RECORDED WALKING TOURS [] are a great alternative. These audio guides—available in CD and MP3 formats—transcend the predictable. Soundwalk's neighborhood-specific programs weave through both well-known haunts and off-the-map spots, giving listeners the inside dope on what makes an area tick. Each tour is voiced by an eminent local: Vinny Vella (a/k/a the mayor of Elizabeth Street) does Little Italy, Johnny T. (of Goldman Sachs) divulges secrets of the trading floor, and celebrity tour guide Timothy "Speed" Levitch conducts you through Times Square. All address the listener as a confidant, freely disclosing neighborhood scuttlebutt in refreshingly candid language. —Eddie Mullins

Winging it
photo: Brian Kennedy

The Atlantic flyway is a crucial bird migration route, and New York is right in its path. Central and Prospect parks offer the best-known URBAN BIRDING (try the Ramble or the Vale of Cashmere, respectively), but terrific sightings happen year 'round in all five boroughs: a great blue heron poised on an ice floe in the Hudson, a snowy owl lording it by Jamaica Bay, barn swallows artfully pursuing mosquitoes over the East River in summer heat. Peterson Field Guides are the classics; others, like the New York City Audubon Society's Guide to Finding Birds in the Metropolitan Area, are more site specific. For newcomers, provides maps, rare-bird alerts, New York City clubs, hot spots, and a local birding forum. —Laura Bell

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