Saturday, August 29, 2020

Pandemic Facebook Update - March - Present

September 7

Two more weeks in the new normal, but with everything being affected by covid its really hard to grasp what the new normal is. NYC is definitely waking up. Little signs of progress appear every day. Its great to see swarms of people with shopping bags again on Broadway and to hear the footsteps of other workers on my office floor. I know it's controversial to say, but I love seeing the NYU students back and the lobbies lit up and lines at the covid testing tent and the bookstore. I'm really praying they don't sick or even worse, get the rest of us sick. The weather finally is mellowing and it makes outdoor dining even more wonderful as more restaurants claim their outdoor seating and gussy up their enclosures.

September 4

Man, I’m definitely going to have to up my mask game if I want to keep up with my fellow New Yorkers! Well done! 👏👏👏

September 2

I don’t need a garden in the country when I have planters that need me in NoHo. While I mostly work with a landscaping firm, this time I wanted to get my hands a little dirty and replaced a few boxwoods myself. I had so much fun that I’m ordering some seasonal bulbs next! 🌷

August 29

Yesterday I checked off one of my Pandemic NY Staycation Bucket List items and FINALLY went to the Astoria Pool. Umm, wow! Why haven’t I been going there every weekend?? This giant pool is the largest in NY. It apparently fits 3000 people! There was plenty of space to float with lots of distance from others. NY is not dead! It’s marvels continue to unveil themselves. And thanks Robert Moses! #AllinNYC 

August 26

I know folks are hesitant to ride the subway, but I’m sad that you are missing all the MTA Covid-19 fun! Yesterday my entire train car was covered with different messages! 🙃 And for the record, this was the A train at 7pm and it was pretty empty. #wearamask #AllinNYC

August 21

It’s been almost 3 weeks since my last NY update. I can’t believe summer is almost over. Time moves so fast. Things are definitely improving. Most of the offices on my work floor are back. The subways are definitely much more crowded. The street life feels more upbeat. At moments I even forget Covid except for the masks. 34th Street was packed with shoppers yesterday. Street dining keeps improving, but the lack of a plan for indoor dining means more and more places are giving up. It’s great to see NYU students returning. I’m proud of NY for taking this seriously and getting our numbers so far down that we can lower our stress levels. If we can keep up like this maybe the new normal won’t be so bad. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Pandemic Summer Vacation: Maine and Massachusetts

Beautiful Maine. Walks in the woods. Lobster rolls everyday. Cute roadside statues. Beaches. Time with family and friends. And a little politics added in. 🤩 You all know me. I can’t help myself.

Massachusetts; Boston, Lexington and Marblehead: thanks for stirring my patriotic heart. So many things made me think about our nations founding in comparison to where we stand today. Monuments, the nautical coastland and beautiful old buildings made for beautiful eye candy on this trip.

And now why I really went. Sure cool temps and walks in the woods are alluring, but the real reason I went was because LaGuardia opened a new terminal during the pandemic and I wanted to see it and experience flying in these crazy times. I also was curious to see how different states are handling Covid. In general most people were wearing masks everywhere I went. It was fun to see more outdoor eating setups, especially the ones on big front lawns and parking lots. Both MA and ME have limited capacity indoor eating and on my last day I ate inside, albeit alone.  I continue to hope the legacy of the pandemic is much more outdoor dining. It really livens up all streets. All in all, I had successful hopefully virus free trip, pumped a little money into the tourist economy, got to experience travel during Covid times and got to eat a lot of lobster rolls. Good times.

If you want to see more pictures from my trip, click HERE.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Life in the Time of Coronavirus

During the Covid-19 pandemic, much of my existence has been within a 3-4 mile perimeter of my home. I've been walking around Queens at 7am every morning getting exercise before anyone comes out, the covid-safe way. I've been able to get to know the area on a very micro level and have been documenting it all in my walks. Now, these photos remind me how much has changed in such time. I'm happy to have a photo diary to look back at. And it's been fun to be able to share the local NY experience of living in the epicenter zip code of the pandemic. The photos can't capture the swirling sound of ambulances that felt nearly constant for a few weeks, but they do show signs of survival and perseverance. 

I loved Jackson Heights before, but now I feel like the Grinch as my heart has expanded multiple times. I feel so lucky to live in a place where the community was out there ready to respond to neighbors needs. You will see many photos of people standing in lines waiting for food, but you will also see us volunteering putting together those bags of food. I also love all the signs and rainbows people put in their windows. We are #JacksonHeightsStrong and #NYStrong.

As time has gone by I got on my bike and then on the subway and got back into Manhattan, so my weekly covid story because a tale of two very divergent neighborhoods. Bustling diverse Jackson Heights with many essential businesses and lots of people getting through their days in attempted socially distanced ways and NoHo, where the residents and workers have decamped and thus most everything is closed and quiet. And then when the looting happened NoHo showed even more despair. Tomorrow June 22nd, re-opening begins, and I hope NoHo will be able to wake up the way Jackson Heights has and that we all will be able to find a new covid normal going forward.

But whatever happens, I'll be here, being present and doing what I can to help the city I love.

Click HERE to see my Facebook Album of Photos from the Covid-19 Pandemic

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Experiencing Carnival in Trinidad

I wanted to go to Trinidad because my close friend is from there and it's a big part of her identity. I felt going there was part of being a real friend. She sees my white Connecticut world all the time and has vacationed with my family, so now it was my chance to meet more of hers and understand them better. It didn't hurt that the tradition of Carnival, that we see celebrated in Brazil, New Orleans and many other tropical islands, was originated in Trinidad and they celebrate in a BIG way! Festivities go on for a month, with the final long weekend before Lent having the biggest celebrations including all different fetes with music and costumes. 

To really participate in Carnival one joins a band and plays mas.  This means picking one of many bands/ groups way ahead of time and picking one of their costumes with photos online and getting one custom made for you. For two full days you hang with this crew and your food, beverages, music and bathrooms are taken care of. My Trini hostess wanted to play mas with Paparazzi Carnival. This band had 13 sections of elaborate feather and beaded styles. Each section has a theme. We decided to be part of Majestic, which they said stood for Empire Butterfly’s. Costumes come in two levels. Front line which are bigger and tend to have beautiful wings and larger feathers and cost a lot more. And back line with slightly less flash but the same colors and decorations so we all match. I originally dreamed of wearing big wings since I’d always admired them in the pictures, but Rhea warned me that wings are very hard to navigate in the dancing crowd, I went for a feather neck piece that made me feel a bit Disney Princess.

I've had a hard time matching words to the experience. It's just so different and immersing into a different cultural norm.  The biggest take away for me was the idea of body positive. I haven't worn a bikini since I was about 9. I've always considered myself chubby and now I guess I think I'm fat. So wrapping my head around the idea of wearing practically nothing out in public was pretty daunting. Maybe the scariest thing I've ever done. But once I picked my outfit, I just tried to dive in and get excited. The first day of Carnival, the dress is more casual and my band actually wore t-shirts and tiny shorts. Still pretty minimal, but a good way to get used to it. That day I saw women of all sizes letting everything hang out. They just radiated confidence and I could feel my perception of beauty literally changing. Heck, curves are beautiful. If they they can show off theirs then I can certainly show off mine. And so I did, and I had a wonderful life changing time.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

How does a prudish girl from America feel dressing up for Trinidad Carnival?

Looking at the costume choices was rather terrifying. They cover almost nothing and this chubby girl from the prudish USA who hasn’t even worn a bikini since I was about 9 was venturing WAY outside my comfort zone. I ordered my costume 8 months ahead and I am not lying to say I looked at the picture multiple times and looked at myself in the mirror and kept realizing while it was beautiful my body didn’t look like hers. I REALLY was scared at the prospect of trying to squeeze into it and be out in public. Then add that I didn’t actually get mine till I got to Trinidad, so it’s not like I could get used to it. Instead I bought a bikini top that I would wear around the house to at least get used to seeing all my skin and ripples. 

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Political Tourism in Iowa - 2020 Iowa Caucuses

My friend and travel companion on my trip to the 2020 Iowa Caucus wrote a great post about our exciting trip.  

Enjoy our story!

Monday, December 30, 2019

Farewell 2019!

Hello Friends -

I started off 2019 at a New Year's Eve party in Times Square, one of my favorite places on earth. It was my first time and it was an absolutely thrilling experience. Then on New Year's Day I leapt into the Atlantic Ocean, during the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge, which got the year started on quite an exhilarating pace, and I have been rolling ever since.

Working in a hip and trendy neighborhood at the NoHo Business Improvement District means constantly being surrounded by new things: far out fashion, experiential retail, design, art... so #funfridays are a major component to my week. Our office goes out to see whatever the week’s excitement is, so we can keep up with the trends. Combine that with long nights at community board meetings and days working with government advocating for my local businesses, along with doing whatever I can to create a clean, safe and fun neighborhood, my job continues to be exciting. I feel especially lucky to have the network of other BID people, who are both super fun to play with and a great resource for discussing work issues. 

Meanwhile my new home, Jackson Heights, continues to thrill me. It’s got a vibrant welcoming community and I’m beginning to make local friends. We have wonderful parades, festivals and street fairs all the time. I love being surrounded by people from all over the world. There is truly never a dull moment. Come visit! I'd love to show you around and show you the what the American melting pot looks like when it's allowed to flourish.

Turning 50 was fun. The race to complete #50before50 meant embracing anything new that I came across. Rainbow bagels ️ A helicopter ride over Manhattan ️ Being offered a senior discount 😣✔️Then I topped it off with a wonderful party surrounded with friends from all parts of my life. As they say, it's not the years in your life, its the life in your years and I've been living a pretty full life so far.

Travel has been a little less of a focus in my life these days, since my job makes it hard to take the kind of long trips I love. I did manage a fantastic long weekend in Vegas and another musical trip to New Orleans for Jazz Fest. I spent a week with my family exploring and doing a lot of great eating in Portugal and on the way home, I was able to drop into Morocco to experience one unforgettable night watching locals break the Ramadan fast on a huge open beach. I returned to Iowa for some more political tourism and got to see 19!!! of the Democratic Presidential candidates speak, as well as, enjoying the Iowa State Fair excitement, including the Sesame Street 50th birthday butter sculptures and more delicious foods on sticks. This year the International Downtown Association conference was in Baltimore, which gave me a chance to dig much more deeply, with an urban planning perspective, into a city I have been to many times before. I also got to attend a wonderful family wedding in Washington, DC. and visit many of my old haunts.

And because I can’t totally leave politics out of this, looking forward, may each of us dedicate a little time to registering and encouraging people to vote or supporting a new candidate in an effort to build our democracy back. Vote Democrat 2020! 

In the coming year, may we all stay open to new ideas and new experiences and keep LIVING


Sunday, December 22, 2019

A Whirlwind, Round-the-World Food Tour of Queens

With my current job, I don't get to travel as much and don't have the time to go to as many far off lands to try new things. Luckily I moved to Queens where far off lands are right on my doorstep. I have been able to experience so many interesting cultures right near home. Hundreds of languages are spoken in this zip code. There is an Indonesian food fair every month in a local church hall. Practically every week parades and street fairs showing off different traditional dress, dance and customs go by one block from my apartment. Jackson Heights storefronts are filled with immigrant businesses selling everything you can imagine from Latin America (Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Central America...) and South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Tibet...) Beautiful Hindu and Thai and Himalayan Buddhist temples are only a few blocks away.  And then the food... Ahh, the food...A Whirlwind, Round-the-World Food Tour of Queens

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

American Gothic Barn in Iowa

Five trips to Iowa and I finally made it to the American Gothic Barn. It was totally worth it. Little treasures like this are what makes travel extra fun! I love America and its diversity and creativity.

Fun at the Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State Fair has so many fun things to see and do beyond political sightings. I particularly like seeing all the animals and eating yummy things on sticks. But I also LOVED checking out RV’s, since someday I hope to putter around the country in one. (Many are bigger than most NY apartments!) And seeing all the giant tractors. I really try to soak it all in and hopefully understand America a little better.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

2019 Iowa Photos

Click HERE to see photos from my trip to Iowa

Wind Energy in Iowa

One cool Iowa update is wind energy is growing and growing. These giant wind turbines are being placed all over. Trucks kept driving by with blades on them and we saw this giant barge pushing them up the Mississippi. To get a sense of how big the blades are, check out tiny me standing beside one display one and remember that is half the radius.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Political Tourism in Iowa

I came back to Iowa to get some up close and personal time with the 2020 Presidential candidates. There is nowhere in America to experience retail Presidential politics like Iowa. Its citizens take vetting candidates very seriously and candidates spend real time talking to voters up close and personal. 

At the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding in Clear Lake in Northern Iowa, all the candidates (except Beto and Moulton) gave their 5 minute pitches. It was interesting to compare their styles and messages and see the reaction of the crowd and especially fun to get to meet most of them first hand. The volunteer excitement outside the place really jolted me back into campaign trail reality.

And yes, somehow I have become THAT person that dresses up in crazy ways for my political tourism trips. This Sheroes dress was created by artist TL Duryea and other versions of it can be purchased online at #womenpower

Monday, July 08, 2019

Rick Steves: Leaving America Makes Americans Better

Preach Rick Steves! 

This little essay is so relevant to me. I have had so many eye opening conversations when I was abroad that made me think about America’s core assumptions. Intense discussions about freedom, authoritarianism and democracy in Egypt after Tahrir Square, formative thoughts about the social safety net with a German in Africa many years ago, seeing US funded Contras in Nicaragua in the 90s and realizing the other side of our military intervention, sitting across a table from a group of Afghan Taliban elders at a human rights organization in Kabul and hearing their perception about how the military treated them and their families and about their friends in Guantanamo, and most recently so many discussions with Brits about Brexit vs Trump. 

The most relevant right now has to be volunteering at a shelter in the Mexican side of the border and spending the day speaking to be people who had just been deported and immigrants setting off to try to plan their path over the border. I was forever changed by that day and the whole week of migrant related different humanitarian experiences. Our policies are completely out of sync with the motivations there. And I will respect the people who take on that hard path to make a better life and to flea unfathomable horrors even more after seeing their faces up close.

I just wish more American’s traveled and then maybe there wouldn’t be a Trump Presidency…

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Eid in Jackson Heights

While Iftar suppers in Morocco are exciting, I once again proved that I can travel to different worlds within my own city, when I was able to experience Eid al-Fitr prayers early this morning on my way to work. I got up early to watch the 7am prayers celebrating the end of Ramadan in Diversity Plaza. After collecting donations for the less fortunate, the imam led the group in prayers and reflection and then the Eid celebrating can begin. Eid Mubarak!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Ramadan in Morocco 2019

Last week, I had a 20 hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco, on the way home from Portugal. I arrived a little before sunset and had hoped to find somewhere to watch locals break the Ramadan daily fast, since watching in Morocco once before was a moving memory, but when I got to my hotel it didn’t seem like there was anywhere to go to people watch. 

So instead I walked down towards the giant beach, the corniche, I was staying near to take a walk. As I got closer, I looked out and noticed that the beach was lined with tables and thousands of people were sitting with groups of friends and family waiting for the sun to set so they could break their fast. The tables were stacked with all kinds of food, and of course, plates of dates and plenty of water to replenish their bodies. There were horses and mini ponies on the beach for rides as everyone waited. Soccer balls flew in the air. 

It had the most celebratory feel. I was moved to tears and stunned by the perfect travel kismet that brought me there. It was an honor to be able to see this raw local joy first hand. It was such a beautiful view of Islam and the power of religion to build community traditions. 

Iftar suppers like this happen every night for a month on that beach and all over the world. I wish all the Americans that speak so badly about Islam could have been there with me. Eid Mubarak to all my friends who are celebrating!

Breaking the fast on a Casablanca beach

Iftar supper - Waiting for sunset - Casablanca, Morocco

Morning in the Casablanca Airport waiting for a flight to Saudi Arabia

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Portugal 2019

Thank you Portugal, for a wonderful trip. History, ornate tiles and beautiful architecture, great street art, lots of fresh seafood.

Click HERE to see a my photo album from the trip.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Spirituality and Healing at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima

Praying to Fatima for Healing
Today is the 3rd anniversary of my emergency gastric surgery in Beirut, Lebanon. Oddly, here in Portugal I was able to honor the anniversary in a strange way. I visited the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, which claimed it was the 4th most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. Wow! Who knew? 

So anyway, after checking out the cathedral and watching a prayer service out in the property grounds and being kind of awed by the size of the place and worshippers shuffling around on their knees in worship, I headed to the gift shop to get myself a candle. I always light candles when I go to new churches to try to honor the experience and spirit and take a moment to reflect. 

It was a giant gift shop filled with Fatima’s of all sizes and lots of rosaries, because worshipping Fatima seems to be all about the rosary. But beyond that, there were lots of candles and a very odd surprising thing: full size wax versions of body parts. There were feet, legs, arms, eyes, hearts, livers, kidneys, breasts and, wait for it, intestines! Well clearly, I had to participate in whatever this tradition was, so I got one and brought it out to the large fire area where everyone was burning candles and making prayers. 

This was not your average church candle rack, but instead a huge pulsing fire oven. I placed the intestines on to a rack, said a prayer asking Fátima to protect me from future flair ups and failures and stood back to watch it melt. As it began to melt the flames roared and enveloped it. It was shockingly dramatic and pretty moving. So dear Lady of Fatima 🙏🏻, I’d really appreciate if you can do everything in your obvious incredible power to prevent another horrible, painful incident of diverticulitis. Thank you!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Lisbon, Portugal

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos (the Discoveries Monument)
This city girl loved Lisbon. 😍 What I realized this trip is that cities take time to reveal themselves and if I give myself enough days in them, I fall in love and find the travel zen feeling I so yearn. It’s a relaxed feeling that doesn’t feel stress and always finds interesting corners and crevices. It’s having enough time to just wander with no agenda. After wishing farewell to my family, I headed off on my own. I stayed in a cool hostel, learned history while seeing some of the sites, walked for miles, scootered along the waterfront, ATE, hung with an old friend who happened to be in town, found a super cool arts compound, went off into the hills to a colorful palace called Sintra with random new travel friends, visited a far off neighborhood having a major street art festival and just mostly really soaked it all in. #livetotravel #theworldismyoyster