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…

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

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

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

50 New Things Before 50

I set a goal of trying to do 50 new things before I turned 50 and it meant that I got to accomplish many of the things on my bucket list. I even made it to 55 things!

“You don’t stop doing things because you get old. You get old because you stop doing things.” - Rosalind Pilcher
  1. Rang in the New Year in Times Square
  2. Spent the night glamping on Governors Island
  3. Jumped into icy cold water during the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge
  4. Flew above NYC on a helicopter tour
  5. Risked my life Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua
  6. Finally made it to Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park
  7. Traveled around the world at Epcot
  8. Went to the Westminster Dog Show
  9. Leaped around a trampoline park
  10. Smoked a hookah in NYC
  11. Attended a live taping of a sitcom, Murphy Brown
  12. Navigated a crazy crowd at the July 4th Nathan’s hotdog eating contest
  13. Zoomed around San Antonio on an electric scooter
  14. Saw the Vatican, but didn’t see the Pope. :(
  15. Took a zorb out for a spin in Wildwood, NJ
  16. Prayed at a megachurch at Greater Allen AME Cathedral
  17. Drank many espressos bars in Italy
  18. Visited Rome
  19. Visited Florence
  20. Cuddled with cats at the Brooklyn Cat Cafe
  21. Watched taping of a music video
  22. Following NoHo trends and drank matcha
  23. Devoured cotton candy ice cream
  24. First witness of spontaneous marriage proposal at Cape May Point Lighthouse
  25. Danced at a silent disco in Astor Place
  26. Ate a rainbow bagel
  27. Crunched on fried Reeses in Wildwood
  28. Rode in a monster truck
  29. Took a picture on a giant beach chair
  30. Ate Dragon’s Breath
  31. Danced The Twist outside the Doo Wop Museum
  32. San Gennaro Meatball Eating Contest
  33. Attended the Mile-Long Opera on the High Line
  34. Slept in Queens
  35. Honored Las Vegas history at the Neon Boneyard
  36. Watched a full moon at the Cape May Point Lighthouse
  37. Tasted chocolate whiskey at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn
  38. Visited San Antonio, Texas
  39. Learned some American History at the Alamo
  40. Toilet Seat Art Museum
  41. Puffy tacos at Ray’s Drive Inn in San Antonio
  42. Drank a tuna (ie. prickly pear) margarita in San Antonio
  43. Political campaigned for Beto in Texas
  44. Used free wifi on a plane
  45. Got pampered a Canyon Ranch Las Vegas
  46. Ate breakfast tacos in Texas
  47. Sipped paloma’s in San Antonio
  48. Went to the Hoover Dam
  49. Danced through the Brooklyn at Flatfoot Flatbush
  50. Adopted a Jackson Heights diet and started eating parathas for breakfast
  51. Checked out classic golf carts and life in Florida retirement communities at The Villages
  52. Visited the House of Speed Museum Mt Dora
  53. Chased another trend and drank CBD/hemp oil infused seltzer at Recess
  54. Ate a SpongeBob ice cream
  55. Getting a senior discount

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Year End Letter

Hello Friends!

What a year 2018 has been! I happily rose again after a few years of deaths and illnesses. Dick and Jane would want me to continue living and in their honor that is what I have been doing!  

Workwise, my second year as Executive Director of the NoHo Business Improvement District has gone great. I’m getting in the groove learning more about our businesses, property owners and history and thinking about how it all leads to what the neighborhood will be like in the future. It’s fun to be on the cutting edge of ideas like experiential retail and pop-ups and to be in a neighborhood where high fashion is a norm. I swear, some people are walking works of art in their own right. 

Meanwhile after almost 25 years on the Upper West Side, I moved to Jackson Heights, Queens, a very different type of neighborhood, where diversity rules. They say it’s the most ethically diverse zip code in America and I love the variety. On my way to work I see multiple different types of traditional dress and I get to gorge myself with so many different kinds of food. I also love how vibrant it’s main streets are, with lots of mom and pop merchants selling anything I need. It’s a bit of a step back in time from Manhattan and that is such a pleasant daily surprise.

I traveled back to Nicaragua for the first time since my mom and I went on a life changing trip there after it’s revolution in 1989. This time I went for Semana Santa or Holy Week, where elaborate processions roam the streets re-enacting Jesus’ last days. I also got to enjoy nature, dive into local culture, jump in the waves. In May, I joined my sister Annie and her family in Rome and Florence for my first time. I loved it and became very addicted to quick stops for espressos along the way. In October I went to San Antonio, Texas for a work conference of the International Downtown Association, and as you can imagine, a city geek like me loved exploring their city through the eyes of our hosts. After the conference was done, I stuck around to volunteer getting out the vote for Beto O'Rourke, which introduced me to different places and people. I call it political tourism and its a great way to get to know a place. 

As for activism, the year started with another awe-inspiring Women's March, and continued with meeting and supporting great women candidates running throughout the country and campaigning in New York, New Jersey and Texas. Election Night was a bit of a nailbiter, but in the end I was happy to hear about so many newly election folks from local office all the way up to Congress and the state houses. 40 House wins, hopefully shows that not all of America is ok with Trump's behavior and policies. We still have a lot of work ahead of us though.

Because I believe the secret to happiness is life long learning, I did another cohort leadership program with the Coro New York Leadership Center called Neighborhood Leaders. This time it was specifically related to my job.  Our group learned from and inspired each other to tackle new challenges and grow and thus serve our communities better.

This has been a year of saying yes and trying to stay open to new experiences, honoring the way my mom always lived. In 2019, I turn 50, which feels a bit daunting, so I have been figuring out ways to prepare. One thing I came up with is doing 50 new things before 50. It’s been a fun way to push myself. Highlights so far are bouncing around a trampoline park, volcano boarding, and glamping on Governor’s Island. Another highlight will be finally going to Times Square for New Years Eve and doing the Polar Bear Plunge New Years Day at Coney Island! 

I have an extra bedroom in Jackson Heights and would love to show anyone around.  My new address is 76-15 35th Avenue, #3M, Jackson Heights, NY 11372. Come visit!

Wishing you all wonderful things in 2019!  And like I always say, do something everyday that scares you!

Friday, September 07, 2018

Glamping on Governors Island

Last night I went glamping on Governor’s Island. I felt like I was on safari in a far off land and yet I was right under the NY skyline. Waking up watching ferries rush by was pure nirvana. Thank you NYC for always having something new and exciting up your sleeve. You continue to enchant me. #50before50 (and forgive me for having too many pictures, but there were so many nice moments to capture.)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Couchsurfing with the Taliban New York Times - June 8, 2018

I was listening to an interview with Anthony Bourdain and he was reflecting on the division in American politics today and how people have trouble finding connections to others who have different views than themselves and that what he experienced when he traveled was he could sit down and eat and share life’s basic pleasures with others around the world even when their politics were totally opposed. I had a chance to sit down with some Taliban in Afghanistan and hear their issues as humans dealing with war before I knew they were “Taliban.” It was an eye opening, life changing experience for me, in that, it was very normal and human. I travel because I continue to yearn to get deeper than the stereotypes I read about. It’s why I also do political stuff in places like rural Iowa. Underneath it all people have similar needs and wants and we have to remember that before we demonize other. If you can’t go to Afghanistan go out and buy a Trump voter a drink, you’ll feel better about the world.

Couchsurfing with the Taliban New York Times, June 8, 2018

Friday, May 25, 2018

World Cup Fever Hits New York

2018 World Cup Fever is beginning. Last weekend I stumbled upon a corner in Jackson Heights, Queens where there was fierce trading of team stickers going on. I decided to dive in and bought a book and many packets of stickers. Now I’m addicted! The goal is to get all the player’s stickers. It’s so fun to see all the different countries player’s faces and names. I can’t wait for the games to begin.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Rome and Florence, Italy - May 2018

I decided to join my sister in Italy for a quick jetsetter jaunt, since I have never been to Rome or Florence before. Architecture, history and food! Fantastic! I enjoyed seeing the sites and making new memories together! 

Click HERE to see pictures from my trip to Rome and Florence

Monday, April 30, 2018

Nicaragua Photos

Beautiful Diverse Nicaragua
Nicaragua has been on everyone’s must visit list for the last few years and I finally made the trek. Combining beach time, history and Semana Santa (Easter) festivities makes for a lot of things to do. It feels vastly different than when I was last here in 1989, during the post Revolution/Contra war times.

Click HERE to see photos from my recent trip to Nicaragua

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

David Bowie at Broadway Lafayette Subway Station

The Broadway Lafayette Subway Station has been transformed into a mini museum and been wrapped with images of David Bowie, inspired by the show at Brooklyn Museum. It’s dramatic! Come see it and then stop by my office and say hi! #explorenoho

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Making friends in Nicaragua

When I travel I always keep a few toys in my purse for times that I’m sitting near kids and want to make friends. On this night in Leon, Nicaragua, we were sitting along the route of the procession, waiting and waiting for it to come, feeling board and restless, so I took out a little racing car and played for a while with these two boys. At first they looked so afraid of me, but I won them over. 

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Easter Morning in Leon, Nicaragua

All of Leon, celebrates Semana Santa (Holy Week) in a huge way. Processions weave around the city throughout the week. On Easter Sunday at 6am there is a procession at the main cathedral in Plaza Central where Mary and Jesus meet again and proceed back into the church together.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Semana Santa in Leon, Nicaragua

On Good Friday in Barrio Sutiaba in Leon, Nicaragua, resident artists spend all afternoon creating sawdust carpets in preparation for the evening procession that marks the final carrying of the crosses during the Semana Santa, the Catholic Holy Week. The procession walks over the carpets and then later they are all swept up and disposed of, but for hours people can enjoy the art and the messages, as well as, lots of street food. Along the sides of the roads residents also create altars, including some live ones celebrating Jesus.

Back in Nicaragua after 29 years

I’m back in Nicaragua after 29 years. My first visit was during the Sandinista revolutionary times. It changed my worldview and showed me how to travel in a deep exploratory way. I am so happy to finally be here again and trying to dig deeper. Funnily once again the same guy is in charge, but this time apparently as a capitalist when back then he was a socialist leader of the Revolution. 🤭So much for the ideals of the Revolution that felt so profound to me back then.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Farewell to 2017

Hello friends one and all!

It’s time to say goodbye to 2017 and hope 2018 brings much brighter things.

The biggest thing that happened this year was I had to say goodbye to my mother. In May, with no warning, she was diagnosed with cancer and given 2-4 weeks to live. Together we decided to follow the principle “if you only have two weeks to live...," which led to a profound 4 weeks of love and celebration of life that let my mom live out her last days surrounded by friends and family and delicious food, music and dance. The most meaningful moment was when her dance group came to dance for her can get a glimpse of here and here.

I had major gastrointestinal surgery in March, which honestly wasn't that bad, since it meant laying low at home recovering for a month and finally ending the terrible pain I had been in since my emergency surgery the year before.  

Beyond health and family, the year also will also be remembered for how my country and I responded to the Trump Presidency. After the 2016 election, I pledged to work on immigration issues and I have found a great group doing important work where I am volunteering now. It is called CUNY Citizenship Now! and it helps people with Green Cards apply for citizenship, a difficult process. I have spent some very meaningful Saturdays helping immigrants from all over the world fill out their paperwork and enjoyed seeing the changing face of America. It bolsters me against the racist anti-immigrant rhetoric being shouted from the White House. 

My political action switched from proactive Get Out The Vote work to resistance.  Reading the news these days feels unreal, as the values of our country get assaulted on a daily basis, but there is something amazing building below the surface which hopefully will lead to positive change in the long run. Attending the Women's March in DC with one million others was one of the great experiences of my life. It really solidified my thoughts about the power of women to make change and I believe we will reap the rewards of the energy it gathered for years as more women stand up. I have been marching throughout the year in NYC for science, immigrant rights, criminal justice and more and have watched many new coalitions form.  Although my surgery and mother's death have slowed me down a lot, I am keeping a close eye on the resistance and appreciate the people who have been newly engaged. Us oldtimers need the backup. In 2018, I ask each of you to find a new local candidate and help support their rise. We all have to engage in the rebuilding of our democracy from the ground up. 

Everyone expects me to travel and unfortunately my illness grounded me for 18 months, but I am finally flying away again, this time I spent a week with two high school friends in Germany to take in the excitement of the Christmas markets, along with the great street art in Berlin.  After I spent the holidays with my sister Catsou and her family in London.  

As much as, its been a really rough year, I'm doing ok. I'm finding my stride at the NoHo Business Improvement District, enjoying learning its history and watching its hip, trendy, fashionable future unfold. I continue to embrace fun things around me as Dick and Jane would expect. I’m very appreciative of all the support I received throughout these difficult times. 

May you all find love and community when you need it. 

And onward to a bright new year...


Thursday, December 28, 2017

London Street Art

I spent Christmas week with my sister and her family in London.  That gave me a chance to take another swing around and see the new street art.  Once again London's art wowed me!

You can see my online album HERE.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Berlin Street Art

Berlin is one of THE street art cities and that meant lots of exploring and plenty to see.

You can see my full album HERE.