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

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Jazz Fest in New Orleans

Jazz Fest is an amazing experience every time I go. Music all day and night. Incredible New Orleans culture and food! Lots of sweet tea to survive the heat. Bumping into random friends. And then NOLA charms of colorful architecture and southern hospitality. Can’t wait till the next one!

Click HERE to see a few more pictures from New Orleans

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

Friday, March 01, 2019

Las Vegas Neon Boneyard

as Vegas is all about the neon signs, but as the pace of development speeds up, old buildings and signs are getting torn down and history is disappearing. The Neon Boneyard was set up to collect and bring some signs back to life to preserve the old Vegas memories! Their evening light show was AMAZING!