Touring New York during Covid (!)

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(This post is back-dated and obviously a trip that happened before the recent flooding from Hurricane Ida. I’m praying for safety for everyone. Please let this be my tribute to the wonderful city that keeps on going during all kinds of hardships. My heart goes out to everyone that is there in the thick of it.)

We went to New York! During covid! During the worst time of year to go! In spite of all the negatives we actually really enjoyed it. In fact, we had a really good time. Of course, it would have been better if there wasn’t a pandemic going on and I wasn’t riddled with anxiety over how unsafe we were and if we weren’t there during a sweltering hot summer heatwave… but we managed and we had a great time.

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The first thing we noticed about New York as we stepped off the airplane into the passenger boarding bridge was the WALL of hot, humid air. I knew it was going to be hot and I prepared. I packed every single hot-weather outfit I have and phew, I’m glad I did. The kids were not so prepared. They packed sweatshirts, their usual. I should draw a cartoon of Joon’s fashion choices for the seasons. It would be four panels of exactly the same thing: black sweatshirts. But I digress. I made just as weird choices when I was a kid!

We immediately Ubered to our hotel in Long Island where we would spend the night and attend our first ever PERSIAN WEDDING the next day!

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First-ever to me, Bug and Joon, that is. Payam has been to Persian weddings before. He had told us the wedding would be lavish and exciting and fun but I really had no idea. We had bought and packed ball gowns in preparation for this wedding and as we got ready the next day, I kept asking Payam, “Are you sure we are not overdressed?” I was sure I’d show up and be the only one in a full-length ball gown but nope! Payam was right. Ballgowns were exactly the attire and I was not embarrassed by my floofiness at all! In fact, it was perfect.

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I love my dress! It’s giant and light and airy and I danced all night in it without a care in the world. Have I shared that I’m training for a half marathon by running 2-3 miles every other day and dancing is so easy when you are in better shape? I don’t even remember sweating in my dress, which is my usual reason for slowing down on the dance floor. I wish I had a photo of me whooping it up but maybe it’s better in my imagination than it would ever be in real life anyway.

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The girls were dressed to the nines as well, not counting Bug’s hightops Converse underneath her long pretty gown. Really, she was the most sensible one. She did have fancy high heels but since both she and Joon were attending the bride all day, those heels were ditched in minutes.06-NewYorkNewYork-dancing-the-night-away

I love this photo of Bug and Payam dancing. They are often at odds with each other as Bug transitions into adulthood and it’s really heartwarming when I see them getting along. They do get along well because they both have great senses of humor BUT they are both natural alphas so you can see how that goes when they don’t agree.

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There was drinking and dancing and so much food! The cocktail hour put Las Vegas buffets to shame with its myriad of mini foods to try.  Sliders, tiny mac and cheese bites, cheesecake, fillet mignon, a noodle bar…I can go on for days about how much food there was. I hear a large buffet is a New York thing but I wouldn’t know. And then there was a full dinner too!

I think I danced all my calories off.

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The next day we stopped at Payam’s cousin’s highrise apartment in Hudson Yard on the Westside. Wow, what a view they have. I could sit there and just stare and stare, taking in all the tiny details of life going on below.

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We spent the night there curled up on couches because of a mix-up with our hotel reservations. A little backstory: I haven’t mentioned that the Persian wedding was for Payam’s cousin. This cousin was supposed to get married in 2020 but you know how that went. Everyone (including us) bought their plane tickets and reserved their hotel rooms in 2019 only to postpone it multiple times as Covid wrecked everyone’s plans in 2020. It was such a hard year, especially for Payam’s cousin. The festivities would have been called off for good (they still got married at the courthouse) but their venue wouldn’t give them their money back so here we are in 2021 having a wedding after all!

The beautiful thing is that we got to stay in the newlywed’s apartment the day after the wedding. Who does that? Really good cousins I guess. It was an amazing time catching up with the bride and groom right after the big event and then we got to wake up to that amazing view!

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The next day I woke up early to explore. How could I not?!

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While everyone else slept I got coffee with a friend (safely distanced of course) and toured The Vessel.

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The sad story of The Vessel is that it had to be closed because so many people jumped from the top to their deaths. It’s such a tragedy because this building is so beautiful. It was meant to be explored and wandered about but now all we can do is take pictures of it like the great big piece of art that it is.

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New York is full of art!

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My days are a little mixed up but we actually had walked to The Vessel as a family the night before on our way to see Times Square.

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I’m just going to gloss over how afraid I was of germs while in Times Square. I’m glad the kids got to experience it but it was nothing like the usual experience. We avoided crowds and didn’t linger.

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We still saw a lot and the kid’s eyes bugged out of their heads.  While Bug and I kind of got the creeps, Joon loved it. She thrives on being over-stimulated. She’s fallen in love with New York and plans to go to college there, which I think is awesome.

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The next day we walked The High Line. I love the High Line. I’m so glad there were so many things to do outdoors.

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It was still quite hot but there was shade and even water features to put our feet in!

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Then that night we traveled to Harlem to stay in our very own Airbnb brownstone! We were a bit hesitant to go here because we’ve heard so many stories about it being unsafe but it was actually really safe and an amazing experience. I’m so glad the girls got to see this side of New York.

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Our apartment was amazing and the pizza a block over was even more amazing. Is there any bad food in New York?

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I attempted to draw one skinny building but it took forever. If I lived here I would challenge myself to draw a building a day. I’m not the most patient sketcher so that would be a BIG challenge for me.

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Then we walked through Central Park from Harlem to The Met. That was a lot of walking! Central Park is big!

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I was happy we squeezed in a museum and it was really nice and cool to wander around looking at paintings. I realized that I could spend hours reading all the plaques but I also realized my family was NOT down for that. I made a mental note to take myself by myself to museums in the future.

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We whizzed through the Persian section and I got to check out an exhibit on women in photography through history which was pretty interesting. Then we went back to Central Park for a bike tour (my favorite!).

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Central Park is amazing. Even when it’s hot and sweaty. Actually, it’s a great way to escape the heat of the streets.

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I felt bad for the poor guy pedaling (we aren’t a light bunch, even broken up into two parties)  but it is the best way to see all the best spots with the wind blowing through our hair.

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Of course “The Friends Fountain” was a necessary stop for Joon who is a super fan of the show. She was predictably disappointed by how inaccurate the fountain was even though we all know the real one is on a set in Burbank California.

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We also got to see a snippet of the new Blues Clues being filmed. Watching something being filmed is always a fun part of visiting New York.

Then we were off to our last hotel of the great New York trip: The Citizen M!

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Payam and I stayed there when we last visited New York and I knew we had to take the kids there too. It’s such a cool way to experience downtown Manhattan. The rooms are small pods with just a bed and a window and a shower that lights up different colors depending on what mood you select on your provided Ipad. It’s all very cool. The girls got their own pod and partied all night I’m sure.

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Then the next morning we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel AND down the street at our favorite bakery cafe! You can never have too many lattes and pastries when in New York I say!

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Payam took one for the team (so we could photograph it) and ordered the pig pastry that was filled with lychee cream and green tea cake.

We did some touristy stuff and bought the obligatory souvineers.

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And then we made our way to the 911 Memorial.

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The museum was closed for Covid precautions but that didn’t matter to us. The dual reverse fountains demand reverence and we stood there for such a long time just feeling sadness and respect for the great loss that was September 11th and those buildings that fell. The fountains are like giant gaping holes where the buildings used to be and the sound of all that water rushing towards a hole in the middle that you can’t see where it goes to, it’s eery and large and sobering. I can’t think of a better way to remember such an awful thing that happened. It’s beautiful and somber, awe-inspiring. It’s also really hard to describe!

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Next to it was this great big mall structure that was also pretty awe-inspiring. We went in but it was a ghost town as everyone in New York prepared for another big lock-down.

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After that, we headed to the Staten Island ferry for the free tour of the Statue of Liberty.

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I’ve taken this ferry before when I was sixteen and my family took the great cross-country RV trip but it was special to show the kids. Payam especially appreciated it and even choked up a little. I think the Statue of Liberty always means a little more to immigrants.

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Lastly, we toured the Rockerfeller building and let the kids do a tiny bit of back-to-school shopping on Fifth Avenue with some gift money they had received just for the trip. It’s not often that you can go back-to-school shopping on Fifth Avenue in the flagship stores of your favorite stores from back home. So that was fun. And then before we knew it it was time to catch a taxi to the airport so we could fly back home in time for the kids to go to school the very next day!

That’s how we roll.

 

Visiting Susan

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You’ll have to forgive me. I’m blogging about something that happened in May, in July. I refuse to give up blogging even though life is clearly trying to tell me that it’s not as important to me as it used to be. So, yes, this last May I took a little trip to Northern California to visit my good friend and fairy godmother, Susan.

They say you should have someone older in your life who can mentor you and someone younger who you can mentor. Susan is definitely my mentor. We’ve been talking about everything under the sun and encouraging each other for twenty years. TWENTY YEARS!!!

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Those of you who know Susan, know exactly what I’m talking about when I say that Susan is full of life. She buzzes on a higher frequency than the rest of us. She is like a hummingbird, or in my case a fairy godmother, leaving love bombs everywhere she flits. She’s been taking care of me for so long with gifts and little thoughtful acts of kindness,  I have to stop her now because I don’t need so much as I used to. I used to need her care desperately. From haircuts and loans to childcare to long walks and phone calls through tear strung marriage difficulties and clients that sucked my will to live…she has always been there for me. I wish everyone had a fairy godmother.

But also she is just my friend. A kindred spirit. No matter what we do together, we always have fun. Twenty years is a long time to have fun.

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Whenever I’m struggling with life, I like to pop in on Susan and rest up in her home that feels like a retreat. In fact, I hosted my 40th birthday retreat there and I’m contemplating hosting my 50th there as well.  Her home is so welcoming and unique. No matter what size your party, whether it’s one person or 50, that house can fit everyone like a hug.

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I’m sorry to keep bragging but Susan and I have been postcard buddies for a really, really, really long time. It started out as a way to keep in touch when she was recovering from a broken back but I just never stopped sending them. That’s twenty years of postcards! Susan has kept every single one. She brought them out when I was there and it was eye-widening. I didn’t read every single one but I perused them and with each card, I caught myself reliving chapters and chapters of my life. So much has changed over the years…

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We organized them and put them in a new box. It felt like I was looking over a manuscript. Who knows, maybe they will play a part in a memoir I might write someday.

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So many memories.

But as I said, I was at Susan’s to rest and recharge. I needed a little break from my regular life to get a new perspective on some thought problems that have been plaguing me. Nothing too serious or anything that I can really share but you know how life can twist and turn and you find yourself changing in ways you never thought you would…  I’ve been seeing a therapist for a while now and it’s making me stronger and stronger. I’m taking on changes that my old self wouldn’t even acknowledge. It’s a very weird and new place for me to be.

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Some of my growing pains have decided to manifest themselves physically in my back. I creak and ache and one hip likes to get really really cranky. I don’t like it at all. I thought I could stay young and spry forever but add a combination of weight gain, bad posture, and way too much anxiety and I think my age is starting to show against my will

Susan decided I needed time on her “bio-mat,” a heated yoga mat made of tubes with crystals inside them. Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical of woo-woo crystals but I dutifully did my time as Susan prescribed: Ten to 15 minutes every morning and night. It took a lot of patience in the morning to stay still and at night I fell asleep on it. I’m such a morning person that I run out of energy like a dying cell phone as soon as the sun goes down. If you ask me to watch a movie or lay on the floor on a heated mat, I am out in less than a minute. Susan would wake me up after fifteen minutes and I’d hobble off to bed.

But it did work! The pain in my back got less and less every day. I’m not sure if it was the crystals or just being cared for by Susan.

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On my second day, we visited a warehouse sale of Japanese artifacts. This sale only happens twice a year and Susan is on the mailing list of special customers who wait for these things. I was very happy to tag along!

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My mom lived in Japan when she was growing up so I have a soft spot for Japanese tchotchkes. I have fond memories of opening my mom’s cedar chest, breathing in that cedar smell, and looking through all of her treasures… I’d try on her wooden geta shoes, finger her silk obe, marvel at the tiny kimonoed figurines and kokeshi dolls… I love it all. It was really fun to walk around the warehouse and take pictures of things to text to my mom that might bring back memories of her childhood.

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I wished I was an interior decorator with a massive budget and a shipping container because I would love to ship this whole wall of wooden drawers and chests back to my house. Isn’t it amazing? I did buy a few small things that could fit in my suitcase but no furniture for me.

Then in true Susan fashion, she whisked me off for some more retail therapy in Nevada City. We meandered through the usual touristy shops (which we both found so strange after being cooped up all year) and then hit up her favorite thrift store.

Have I shown you Susan’s yard? Retreat is the theme here:

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Everywhere you look in Susan’s yard there is something to see. Angel statues, gazing balls, twinkling wind chimes, stacked rocks, rose gardens and flowers everywhere…

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In the very back corner of Susan’s yard is a strange installation that looks like a small oblong spaceship made out of copper pipes. It’s called The Omega. I don’t understand it completely but Susan described it as a series of pipes that encapsulate crystals that are pointed in a strategic direction to beam positive energy at all the negative energy in the world. Kind of like if there is a war in the middle east then this sculpture is beaming positive crystal energy at it. I know, it sounds crazy but there are crazier ideas in the world and this has good intentions so let’s just go with it. It’s installed by a guru of some sort who has all the coordinates figured out. In fact, Susan accidentally moved a plant in her yard and he called her up distressed. Apparently, he could tell with his spidey sense that something was not right in the crystal energy field as it were and by triangulation, he narrowed it down to a plant that was obstructing the beam. Go figure!

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I’m not a convert yet but I did find it incredibly interesting and maybe I might have picked up on something because when I stood next to it I felt a weird buzzing sensation in my chest. Or it could just be the power of suggestion. Either way, it was weird!

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It’s always good to have a friend who’s into woo-woo stuff.

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On our third day, we headed out to nature. Because everyone knows nature is good for healing all that ails.

 

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It was hot. But I’m glad we went because now it’s even hotter.

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There is nothing I like better than a hike through the wilderness along a stream. The flowers! The dying fauna…

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California is such a beautiful state. I’m sure all the other states have their beauty too but I am very proud of my California girl status.

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It just suits me. Or I suit it. I’m not sure.

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After hiking quite a bit we cooled ourselves off in our own little “Mermaid Grotto”  of giant boulders half-submerged in the stream. It was so nice to hide in the shade and let our feet cool in the icy cold water. It was just what I needed.

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Then we headed back home for our traditional glass of wine on her front porch. Susan has the best view. Unfortunately the mosquitos like it too so we didn’t stay out there too long.

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The next day we gardened! I mean, we’ve hit all the other R and R menu items so gardening falls in there somewhere!

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Susan had a small spot in her yard that was in need of some TLC so we built a little rock garden with pebbles and river rocks she had around.

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She also has a pretty nice collection of clay figures that a friend gave her so we placed them around.

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Can you tell Susan loves her garden?  We spent the rest of the mornings and afternoons there soaking up the tranquility. It’s the perfect little spot to sit and chat while you sip on a cup of coffee.

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At the end of my visit, I felt completely rested and recharged and ready to deal with the big decisions I needed to take care of when I got home.

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We finished off the perfect week with a parting dinner at one of Susan’s favorite Italian restaurants. You can’t really go home from visiting an Italian without having at least one superb pasta dish, right? It was delicious of course and I can’t wait to go back.  But I got what I came for: some restorative advice from a trusted friend. Now to take on the rest of my life!