Weekend in New York

Weekend in New York

IMG_6213

In one of my favorite books, 84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff wrote: “I remember years ago a guy I knew told me that people going to England find exactly what they go looking for. I said I’d go looking for the England of English Literature, and he nodded and said: “It’s there.”

I could say the same thing about New York City.

I was 13 the first time I went to Manhattan.  I had hardly been out of suburban San Diego, was VERY into hairspray, Esprit bags, Guess jeans and riding horses.  We climbed up to the Statue of Liberty’s crown, watched the Macy’s Day Parade floats being blown up the night before, looked out from the top of the Empire State Building and ate pretzels from a street vendor before shopping on 5th Avenue.

I fell in love with the city.

I’ve been back multiple times with friends and on my own.  I ran around the market floor of the New York Stock Exchange and met the trader for Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway stock.  (His advice?  Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something and always be nice to people.)

Over the years I found a favorite restaurant in Greenwich Village that had the most amazing mac & cheese and chocolate pudding; watched someone hit for the cycle at a Mets game; wandered aimlessly through museums; had a champagne lunch before walking the leafy streets of the Upper East Side; and on the way to the airport talked on the phone to a cab driver’s sister just because he thought we could friends.

It felt so good being back in the city, holding hands with Stephen and striking out to new-to-us places.  We walked over 15 miles, watched snow fall over Central Park, found the perfect Christmas tree ornament and are already talking about when we’re headed back.

Here’s a list of where we stayed, ate and played while we were there last weekend.

Where We Stayed

IMG_6140

We stayed in an Airbnb on 5th Avenue near Union Square and it was a little jewel.  It was less than $200/night, on the 20th floor with a terrace and had one of the kindest hosts we’ve met in our Airbnb experiences.  We got to come back to this view every night:

IMG_6158

Where We Ate

IMG_6366

(East Village photo courtesy of Stephen)

Masala Wala

Our hands down favorite meal was on our last night in the city.  It had been snowing all day and we were exhausted.  We hopped in an Uber to the Lower East Side and walked into the tiniest Indian restaurant you can imagine.  We were greeted by a gracious host, wedged ourselves into a small table by the kitchen and settled into some of the best food I’ve had in a while.  Crisp samosas topped with chickpeas, chutney, yogurt and mint.  Spicy lamb vindaloo.  Bright basil chicken tucked into soft garlic naan.  We finished off the evening with warm chai tea and homemade pistachio ice cream.  It was all so good, highly highly recommend.

IMG_6365

Toby’s Estate Coffee 

My other favorite was the cutest little coffee shop, Toby’s Estate Coffee on 5th.  It was basically like sipping coffee in my dream kitchen and also happened to be located right next to the Strand Bookstore.

IMG_6159

Cafe Cluny

My favorite little restaurant in Greenwich Village, Home, closed and I was so bummed!  We tried Cafe Cluny and while it wasn’t my Home, it was delicious.  I had a great kale salad and pappardelle pasta and Stephen had tomato soup and short ribs.  We ended the meal with a cheese tray as frankly all great meals should end.

We also had solid dim sum at Nom Wah’s Tea Parlor and pickles, matzo ball soup and pastrami at Fine & Shapiro.

(We tried a couple of “famous” spots for bagels and pizza but both of us found them just meh.  Murray’s Bagels and Joe’s Pizza if you’re curious.)

What We Did

Rockefeller Center

IMG_6268

The first time I went to the city was for Thanksgiving.  I had always wanted to go back for Christmas.  Stephen and I had both watched the tree lighting every year so it was really cool to be able to see it in person, but I don’t know that either one of us wants to do it again any time soon.  There were SO MANY PEOPLE.  We went and saw a show, Wicked at the Gershwin Theater, which was wonderful.  That gave us just enough time to catch the tree, a few of the shop windows and see Saks 5th Avenue’s crazy light show.  As a friend of a friend used to say, “good to do.  Good to have done.”

Central Park

IMG_6309

Central Park is a favorite any time of year, but this was the first time I had seen it covered in snow.  It was so peaceful, stunningly beautiful and after we bought me a hat, decidedly less wet.  Strolling through holding hands is one of our favorite memories of the trip and something I’ll always remember.

Lower Manhattan

IMG_6175

I hadn’t been to the September 11th Memorial before and immediately started crying the moment we set foot near the pools.  I couldn’t bear to go in the museum, but next time I’d like to.  I still get choked up looking at this picture and probably always will.

Stephen remembered St. Paul’s Chapel from when he visited the city in high school and I had never seen it, so we walked over.

IMG_6189

The gravestones are so old, they no longer have the names and dates of those buried.  The church was built in 1766 and was once the tallest building in Manhattan.  More recently it has become known as “The Little Chapel that Stood.”  The chapel had no damage from September 11th and became a haven for rescue workers.

Staten Island Ferry

IMG_6222

In all my years of going to the city, I had never taken the free Staten Island Ferry!  We were so close, so we ran down and hopped on for the 25 minute ride.  It was a great (cold!) way to view the skyline and Statue of Liberty.  Bonus was the mix of people that ride it.  Tourists, residents and random dudes with huge, deep, knife scars on their face.  Welcome to New York!

Dim Sum in Chinatown

IMG_6242

I loved the narrow, small streets of Chinatown.  We had to direct our cab driver to the restaurant as it was tucked away on a tiny street he had never heard of.  We saddled up family style to busy tables as plates of noodles, dumplings and egg rolls were set in front of us one right after the other.

Museum of Natural History

Attach0 copy

One of my favorite stories of Stephen’s is when his former kindergartner teacher (Miss May, who we still see up at the local barbecue place her son owns) asked if he would come and talk about dinosaurs to her class.  He loved and studied them so much, she thought the kids in her class would benefit.  “What grade were you in?” I asked him, thinking he had put in years of elementary school research.  “First.”

I had the best time watching kids at the museum.  The looks on their faces as they took in the massive size of the fossils was priceless.  Knowing Stephen was just as enamored was another highlight of the trip.  He kept it in a little better, but I could still see it.

IMG_6301

My Cup Runneth Over

My Cup Runneth Over

The mornings have been foggy all week.  We wake sluggishly and pad downstairs.  Coffee is mandatory.  I’ve deemed it our couch cafe–we take one couch, Fisher curls up and takes the other.

IMG_5973

I bought this Santa mug at Target two years ago.  I tend to buy things in pairs, but in this case hadn’t, regretted it and immediately went back to the store to find another.  And. COULDN’T.

I told Stephen about it one night.  What started out as a passing comment turned into an ode to the Santa mug and the quest finding a second one had become.  They were sold out online!  The store was out! What would I do without matching mugs?! Should I take this one back and look elsewhere for a matching set?! But then what if that left me without ANY Santa mugs and why was I suddenly so crazy about mugs?!

A few days later my sister and I rushed up to Seattle to be with our dad.  We had a final weekend together before he passed away.  We talked cars and eggnog by day and by night we had the conversations only sisters can have as we navigated I-405, my dad’s townhouse and saying goodbye.

It was painful, but in that beautiful way endings can be.  Moments were strung together by an awareness time was slipping and the only thing we could do was let go and try to savor each moment.  The moments were pure and connected.  Rich with sadness, gratitude, forgiveness, love and support.  Until finally the moments with him were gone.

On our last night in Seattle, just days until Christmas, Amy and I were walking through Target so we could pick up some last minute gifts before I headed back to Portland and she headed back to California.  I turned a corner, looked up and saw something that made me tear up and laugh at the same time.

It was one Santa mug. The last mug left.

Last year as I packed up my house, two Santa mugs were wrapped in about 50 sheets of bubble wrap for the move from Oregon to Georgia.  I pulled them out last Christmas when my new house had no furniture and I was still using a Garmin to find the grocery store.  The mugs came out again this year and will be used every morning until January.

My dad still is around.  The alarm on his ever present Timex which used to go off every hour stopped and now only beeps in perfect, quiet moments where I’m talking about him or missing him.  I walked out of the airport to Stephen’s new car which had a randomly issued license place with RAY as the first three letters, my dad’s name.  But my favorite is when he shows up in my dreams.  We just talk.  About nothing. And everything.  The way that we did.  The way that we still do.

Snapshots of Fall 2017

Snapshots of Fall 2017

Fall 2017 marked Stephen and my second anniversary and my first year living in the south.

Image

It had some of the prettiest sunsets I’ve ever seen.

IMG_5739 copyIMG_4892

It was the start of my second season watching the Falcons.

IMG_2115

And I got a new roommate…

IMG_5529

…he’s pretty cute and makes a mean fire.

IMG_5676

It was the fall of the first Oktoberfest at the local brewery and the band playing at the amphitheater in town.

IMG_5169

It was also the fall we learned the band was going to be uncles!  Eva (singer) and Kelley (drummer) are expecting twin girls this spring ❤ ❤

We showed off Atlanta to our Portland houseguest.

IMG_5485

Before I jumped on planes myself and went to Minneapolis and Portland.

IMG_5809

We drove to Birmingham for possibly the best named early Thanksgiving, “Turkey in the Ham,” a 35+ year family tradition I’m in my second year attending.  We were hungry just in time for Thanksgiving with local family I consider myself very fortunate to have found myself a part of.

IMG_5926

(I have no other pictures because I was either too busy stuffing my face, talking, or holding the cutest baby imaginable.)

It was the fall of knitting a blanket larger than I intended while audio-booking the Maisie Dobbs series and picking up pumpkins at my favorite little church.

IMG_5631

There were trivia nights and candlelight.  Halloween parties, housewarming parties and our councilman won parties (!).  But more importantly, tucked in amongst all of the pictures of things and places are the people I am grateful to have met, continue to get to know and that show me such kindness I move through this world able to call a lot of places home.

The Magic of Timing

The Magic of Timing

A couple of weeks ago Stephen and I went to dinner at a new to us place.  I attempted sushi for the first time since I moved (it wasn’t the west coast’s, but it was good!).  We talked about how fast the last year has gone.

The change to fall immediately made me feel more settled.  Fall is my favorite time of year and I was finally experiencing something in Georgia for the second time around.

As we walked out of the restaurant a light rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds.  We quickly jumped in the car and took off for some of our favorite country roads.

FullSizeRender copy 8

The sky was orange and mist rose over open fields.  Around each corner I thought we had reached the pinnacle of beauty until we’d turn the next corner and I realized we hadn’t.

IMG_5739 copy

We drive these roads all the time, but I had never seen them like this.  It was a gift we were lucky to experience by being in the right spot at the right time.

FullSizeRender copy 3

Sometimes timing can feel off.  Someone’s having a bad day.  I’m having a bad day.  Expectations don’t match reality.  Reality may feel way too real.

I thought as I got older I’d get wiser.  But the older I get, the less I know.  It’s scary but sometimes liberating.  Some days I go from freedom to fear in the same moment.

And then sometimes all of that gets pushed aside and magic just shows up without any input from me.

FullSizeRender copy 4

Maybe you’re traveling for Thanksgiving.  Maybe you’re not.  Maybe you’ll be surrounded by people.  Maybe you won’t.  Maybe this right now feels like precisely your time in life.  Or maybe right now this absolutely does not feel like the right time in your life.  Holidays have a way of bringing expectations to the foreground.  Sometimes that can be magic.  Sometimes it can be crushing.

While I don’t know much, I do know this.  We all get our share of magic, it’s just a matter of timing.  Wherever you are, I wish you well.  If you’re in the magic, enjoy.  If you’re in the fog, keep going.  And if you need a break, take it but come back soon.  We need you.

 

The Things I Carry

The Things I Carry

IMG_1005

I took this picture over a year ago on one of my last mornings living in Portland.  Fisher and I were on a walk and stumbled upon these little heart leaves that dotted our path the whole way home. Yesterday I got back from a few days in Portland.  It was the first time I had been back since I moved to Georgia last year.

I was curious how I would feel.  I lived in Portland for 12 years and Seattle for a few years prior.  I love the Pacific Northwest.  I have amazing friends, colleagues and memories in that part of the country.   I wondered if I’d have a hard time leaving, if somehow my thoughts or feelings about Georgia would change.

Moving to Georgia was big.  It was a move of opposing forces.  It was both weighty and also the simplest decision I’ve ever made.  I could tell it made almost everyone feel uneasy, yet there was also a lot of excitement for Stephen and me.  I was giving up roots and stability to move somewhere completely new.  The climate was going to be changing–both politically and weather-ily (totally a word).

As I was flying home yesterday, 30,000 feet up in the air with my only distraction being the question of whether or not I should watch Anchorman again, I looked out the window and thought about how I carry both places with me, along with everywhere I’ve been.

And this is the wonder, the thing I keep coming back to.  Even though everything is different, it’s all the same.  It doesn’t matter where I am.  I love the Northwest and I love Georgia.  I love cool weather and I hate the heat.  I love sunny mornings and Saturdays, people who are thoughtful, kind and care about others and their community.  I hate close-mindedness in all of its forms.  I both love and hate that I was so careful for so long.  When opportunity presented itself, I could take a risk and be just fine but what else have I missed out on by waiting?

The three of us walk now.  Around the lake we crunch through golden leaves made brighter by dappled sunshine.  We talk. We plan. We crack jokes and then stumble upon hearts that dot our path here too.  We stop for a moment to appreciate them before moving along quietly.  We’ve picked up something new to carry.

Attach0

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

e.e. cummings
from i carry your heart with me

Poe

Poe

FullSizeRender copy 2

It is common for the small towns around here to have a commercial square at their center.  I have written about our town’s square before.  It’s one of my favorite places–home to two bookstores, trivia nights at the bars, and a great little coffee shop where we warmed up all last winter and played cards.

Today I introduce you to Poe, unofficial square ambassador.

Poe belongs to the oldest bookstore in Georgia–a shop with dark hardwood floors and old drugstore shelves that contain books on local history amongst the latest best sellers and classic children’s literature.  There is a knitting group that meets once a month in the cozy basement downstairs and a fireplace tucked away a corner.

Every morning Poe leaves the bookshop to spend his days in the Square.  He looks both ways before crossing the street, waits for the owner of the barbecue joint so he can traipse to her car where he gets treats.  Some days he forgoes the routine all together and just lays on top of her car swishing his tail and waiting.

The bookshop takes in foster kittens from the local humane society, but Poe seems to prefer the company of people on the square.  He’ll sit in chairs across from solo diners, give you a single, gravelly, Tom Waits style meow when you say hello and occasionally presents his belly for scratches.

Every night the bookshop owner’s daughter comes looking for him asking if he wants to go home.  He allows her to pick him up and carry him back to the shop so he can rise and do it all over again tomorrow.

Miss Mayhayley

Miss Mayhayley

57fe8ebd3e2f9.image

One sunny Saturday afternoon, Stephen and I struck out to find the grave of Miss Mayhayley Lancaster.  We followed the directions, as only directions can be given in this town, “you know that first road right outside the county line with the two gas stations?  Turn right there and it’s pretty much a straight shot.”

I get a kick out of hearing people give directions here.  “Turn at Jeff’s Exxon,” yet another gas station reference that sounds simple but is slightly more complicated as the gas station is no longer an Exxon, nor is it another gas station called Jeff’s, but a BP that used to be Jeff’s Exxon.  Got it?  Neither do I.  That’s why Stephen does the country driving and I do the city driving.

Miss Amanda Mayhayley Lancaster is a local legend in West Georgia.  There’s a healthy mix of curiosity, fear and lore that still surround her even 60 years after she passed.  Me? I’m a sucker for quirk and a story.  My interest has been piqued since the day I first heard the name.

Miss Mayhayley was born in Georgia in 1875 and had a pretty impressive career path.  Midwife, lawyer, teacher, politico and, you know, fortune teller/oracle.  She never married, dressed in military jackets and hats, had a marble eye and stuffed all kinds of cash in the backyard of the small shack where she lived with her dogs and sister.  Stephen said if you were alive during 1875 to 1955 and lived around here you had a Mayhayley story.  Lost items?  She could tell you where to find them.  Missing persons?  Yes.  Aaaaand dead bodies?  Yep, them too.

Miss Mayhayley was a witness for the prosecution in a big murder case that was made into a TV movie, Murder in Coweta County, which starred Johnny Cash and Andy Griffith.  June Carter Cash played Miss Mayhayley (it’s on Amazon Prime if you want to check it out.)  She was able to tell the prosecution where to find the body.  The body, or parts of the body, eventually led to the conviction of a local landowner/bully who had taken over an entire town.

I’ve heard teenage stories of going to visit her grave where you cross over three bridges and only come back over two.  People have been in car wrecks after defacing her grave.  There is a great, local “swamp, gypsy, rag-time band” called Mayhayley’s Grave in town.  And now I have my own story.

FullSizeRender

One sunny day, we went out to pay our respects to Miss Lancaster.  We turned right on the road just outside the county line by the two gas stations and parked in the quiet parking lot of a pretty white church.  We left $1.10 on top of her grave stone, which was what she charged.  $1 for her and $0.10 for her dogs.  Her gravestone reads “for neither did his brethren believe in him” but I have a feeling people still believe in Miss Mayhayley far more than she thought possible.

(Mayhayley Lancaster Photo Source)