Author: Heather

I love travel, ballet, cats and my hometown of NYC.

Election Night 2012

I’ll admit, I’ve been a little jaded about U.S. politics during the past few years. (In my opinion, all the divisiveness makes it hard for our government to be progressive or super-productive.) But one thing I will never take for granted is my right to vote. Millions of people around the world don’t have that opportunity, and it’s never more apparent than when you travel abroad, talk to others and hear about the political strife they’ve lived through—or are still experiencing.

So this morning, I waited in line to vote for almost an hour at my local polling place in Washington Heights. While there was never any doubt that New York would go Democratic, I still wanted to make my voice heard—and was happy to see that so many others did, as well.

On my walk across town this evening, I passed Rockefeller Center all lit up as NBC prepared to tally the electoral votes on the side of their building. As much as I’d like to go to sleep soon, I know I’ll be up until they call the election!*

rockefeller center, election night 2012

rockefeller center, election night 2012

rockefeller center, election night 2012

rockefeller center, election night 2012

Did you vote today?

PS – Happy, happy birthday, E! I love!

*Just as I hit “publish,” the election was called! рџ™‚

A New Beginning in November

backflip

You probably wouldn’t have guessed from my entries over the past few weeks, but October was a bit of a tough month for me. Nothing spectacularly bad or life-changing happened. I was just under the weather for almost four weeks, which felt like an eternity—and not feeling well for that long had me feeling down and out of sorts. (First I had a horrible cold, then caught whatever Mal had at the Grand Canyon, then had my wisdom teeth removed and experienced a complication with one, then the hurricane hit…)

I’ve found that when I’m feeling down about something, it helps me to look ahead—literally, to flip through the months in my iPhone calendar—and choose a date when I know I will be out of the situation and feeling much better. And while I’m moving forward, I’ll look to that date as often as I need to and remember that things are improving. Earlier this year, I was going through a particularly trying time. I gave myself three months to feel mostly better and six months to be 100% healed. This time, I didn’t need nearly as long. I chose November 1 as my all-better day.

Sure, illnesses and natural disasters are out of my control. But just reminding myself that happier days are ahead did boost my mood a great deal. And now that we’re a few days into November, I can happily report that my colds are gone, all my wisdom teeth have healed and I was super-lucky to have made it through the hurricane without any major troubles.

This quote, which I stumbled upon via Shoko’s blog a few weeks ago, puts it perfectly:

no feeling it final

Definitely wise words to keep in mind!

How do you deal with trying times? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And thanks to everyone who reached out to me during the hurricane—I was touched by your concerns and good wishes!

(Top photo via Travel, Culture, Books and Tea—though if you know the photographer or the setting of this shot, please share! Bottom image via Shoko.)

NOLA to New York

While we’re on the topic of the kindness of strangers after Hurricane Sandy, here’s another example that gave me the warm-fuzzies. Andy Kopsa currently lives in NYC but once called New Orleans home. She was in New Orleans this past week when Hurricane Sandy hit and left her unable to return to the Big Apple. While waiting and worrying about her husband, friends and city, she created “NOLA to New York,” a Tumbler where Katrina survivors offer hope and words of wisdom to New Yorkers.

As Andy describes it:

Who better than the people of New Orleans to talk to the people of NYC right now. They know, they lived through Katrina. They are still living with it seven years later.

Each entry features a New Orleans resident’s tale of living through Katrina and a photo of him or her holding a sign with a handwritten message to New Yorkers.

A few of my favorites:

it's not about the material things

inner strength

be resilient

Have a safe and dry weekend!

(Images via NOLA to New York)

The Kindness of Strangers

It’s been days since Hurricane Sandy hit, but we’re still feeling the effects of it, here in NYC. Downtown Manhattan and many other neighborhoods are still dark. Mal and Peter and lots of my friends and co-workers are still without power and hot water. And, very tragically, one of the storm’s victims was a friend of the family and another was a friend’s former classmate—which has made this event all the more sad.

As for me, I was definitely one of the lucky ones. Sure, I wasВ cooped up in my apartmentВ for a few days, trying not to go stir crazy. But I never lost power, hot water, cell phone service or the internet—so I really have nothing to complain about.

Throughout all this, I was touched by the ways New Yorkers helped each other out—like in the photo below. I heard many stories of friends who opened their apartments to others and offered showers, dinner, flashlights and electricity to those who’ve been going without.

free power

I had a moment of my own yesterday, when a stranger’s words made my day and helped me forget my hurricane-related stress. Since buses were running in Manhattan, I felt that I had to go to work, despite the fact that I live way uptown on the west side, not anywhere near my midtown east office. Plus, I wanted to get out of my apartment. So in the morning, I boarded a bus and hoped for the best.

I walked into my office 4 hours later.

Traffic was insane. I stood for hours and listened to episodes of “This American Life” as the bus crawled through Harlem; we spent more than an hour going from west to east on 110th Street, alone. At 86th and 5th, I finally gave up and walked the home stretch to 50th and 3rd.

I was fried from that commute. The thought of having the same experience going home was so daunting that I decided to go to ballet and head back late, after rush hour was over. It turned out to be a good plan. At 10:30 p.m., I was tired, hungry and worried about how long it would take to go the 130 blocks home, but I managed to squeeze onto a packed bus. The driver was super-nice and, at every stop, implored everyone to move back so he wouldn’t have to “leave any New Yorker behind.” At one point, I scored a coveted seat, but then gave it up when I saw an older gentleman and his female companion get on.

While I stood next to their seats, the woman turned to me and said, “I would be happy to take your bag on my lap. It looks so heavy!” And then, when she saw that it was full of ballet stuff, she asked if I was a dancer at the Met.

I declined her offer but was so touched by her kindness (not to mention flattered that I’d been mistaken for a professional ballet dancer) that I was smiling for the rest of my trip home—which included waiting in the cold for another bus, dealing with a very not-nice driver who cursed at every rider who got on, unexpectedly being dropped off at 135th Street when that driver decided he was done for the night, waiting for another bus, then finally giving up and hailing a gypsy cab that almost got into a fight with another gypsy cab who bumped our car.

It’s amazing how powerful a few unexpected, kind words are.

How have you weathered the storm? I hope you stayed safe and dry. And if you were affected, my thoughts are with you.

(Photo by Velojoy via SwissMiss)

Housebound

rainy day

Like millions of others along the east coast, I’m housebound today—and probably the next few days, too—thanks to Hurricane Sandy.

It’s crazy windy now, but I’m still hoping that this storm won’t be as bad as predicted. I don’t want anyone to be in danger, or for any places to get destroyed. (Though, it doesn’t look too good for Atlantic City and the Maryland coast, where Mal used to live right now…)

And on a more selfish note, I don’t know how many days I can last in my apartment without going stir-crazy!В I don’t deal well with excessive amounts of downtime. I’ve already cleaned my entire apartment, washed all my dirty clothing, worked from home, chatted with friends and family on the phone and on gchat, read (I’m really sucked into this book right now) and baked a huge (healthy-ish) mac and cheese. I’m not sure how many more things I can come up with to do tomorrow.

Though I suppose there is an optimistic way to look at it:

monday frankenstorm

But in all seriousness, stay safe and dry! And if you have any book or movie recommendations, or other ways to beat housebound-boredom, please let me know. рџ™‚

(Top photo via The Little Hermitage via Pinterest; bottom photo via someecards)

Beijing NYC

beijing nyc

I recently stumbled across a blog post whose intriguing photos caught my eye. They were the work of John Clang, a Chinese artist from Singapore who splits his time between there and NYC. In his project “Beijing NYC,”В Clang took photos of ordinary Beijing citizens, printed and cut them out, then taped the tiny figures onto different locations around NYC. The juxtapositions are striking.

According to Clang:

For me, the actual Chinese citizens being used [in the photographs] demonstrate a dream yet to be fulfilled.

As the granddaughter of Chinese immigrants who came to NYC many years ago, I think that’s what drew me to these photos and made them feel so poignant. Plus, there’s something both wistful and whimsical about them that really depict feeling like a stranger in a new place.

beijing nyc

beijing nyc

beijing nyc

(Photos by John Clang via Open City)

A Long Weekend at the Grand Canyon

Two Tuesdays ago, I returned from my long weekend trip to the Grand Canyon. It was exactly the quick escape I’d been craving, but it wasn’t as idyllic as we’d planned. While I was able to deal with my cold enough to get outside and enjoy myself, poor Mal, unfortunately, was battling some awful ailment that worsened as the trip progressed and kept her hotel-bound for most of the trip.

Peter, his brother, Paul, and I still got in a few hikes, despite felling bad that she couldn’t join us. (Mal insisted that we all go without her.) And luckily, Mal was able to see the canyon a few times from the rim—and that alone, I think, made the trip worth it for her. I think. And in the end, she got all of us sick, anyway, and I was still glad we went!

Anyway, here are some highlights from the trip:

The car we rented.В I don’t even drive, so I feel weird saying that our car was one of the best things about the weekend, but it really was. Before our trip, Mal and Peter had reserved an economy car from Hertz. But when we flew into Phoenix very late on Friday night, the rental agents informed us that they had run out of small cars—and would we mind a free upgrade to a Mustang convertible? Um, you can probably guess what our response was.

After spending the night at the Aloft by the airport, we set out to the GC via Flagstaff with the top down and the music up. Within minutes, we stopped feeling like ridiculous tools and were loving driving in the open air. It kind of reminded me of being in the back of a pickup truck in Guatemala—but way safer and more comfortable!

mal and peter

windblown

It was also a tad windy at times!

Once we left the Phoenix city limits, the scenery became more desert-like, as the highway wound through cacti-covered hills and scruffy, rural land. I am so easily wowed by any non-urban landscape, and really enjoyed the views.

on the road to flagstaff

on the road to flagstaff

Flagstaff. Paul drove to Arizona from Albuquerque, and we met up with him in Flagstaff. We only had a few hours to spend there, but I wished we’d had more time to explore. The historic downtown runs along Route 66 and has lots of funky little cafes, coffee shops and boutiques.

flagstaff

We were in the mood to sample some local brews, so we opted for lunch outside at Beaver Street Brewery.В I had the (very girly) raspberry-flavored Bramble Berry Brew and a wood-fired pizza. It was tasty—and it ended up being the best meal of the trip. By far. (More about the underwhelming food later in the post!)

beaver street brewery

mal and peter at beaver street

The Bright Angel Trail. On Sunday, Peter, Paul and I met up with Drew and Britney, two of Mal and Peter’s friends who live in Arizona and met us for a day. They only had a short time to hike, so we did a portion of the Bright Angel trail, which descends into the canyon, eventually ending at the bottom.

As a do-something-all-the-way-or-don’t-do-it-at-all girl, I, of course, was tempted to make it to the bottom and back in one day—nevermind that we started hiking a noon. But notices all over the park and the NPS website warn against it, probably because they’re sick of rescuing too many overly ambitious tourists from the canyon. In fact, at every trailhead, there’s a sign that asks, “Can you run the Boston Marathon?” and tells the horrible story of Margaret Bradley, an athletic med student who ran a 3-hour Boston Marathon, but died from heat exhaustion while hiking the canyon in 2004. (The trail she was on was nearly twice as long as she thought and she didn’t have enough food or water for such a long hike.) A fair warning, but, wow, a morbid way to begin a trek. (Though I’m sure tons of people have made it to the bottom and back in one day—Britney’s parents did once! And really—when would you ever see a sign like that in another country?)

can you run the boston marathon?

The Bright Angel trail is well-trodden and people of all ages were walking it. I’ll admit, I was a little unnerved when I first set foot onto it, though. I’m used to hiking mountains and volcanoes without steep dropoffs. Seeing how deep the canyon goes was a little freaky, at first! But within a few minutes, my fears were gone and I just enjoyed the views.

view from the bright angel trail

view from the bright angel trail

Sunset at Desert View Point. We made the 25-mile drive to check out the Watchtower. ItВ was built in 1932 but now houses a.gif"ltr" style="text-align:center;">desert view watchtower

the view near the watchtower

the view near the watchtower

South Kaibab Trail. Honestly, I think we picked this hike because while we were reading all the trail descriptions, we nicknamed this one the “Kabob Trail”—and were more amused at that than we should have been. Plus, a fellow travel blogger, Drew, recommended it because it takes you through a good portion of the canyon. He was right—the scenery varies quite a bit within a short distance, so it was the perfect afternoon hike.

south kaibab trail

south kaibab trail

ooh ahh point

A very aptly named point on the trail!

We hiked down to a point called Cedar Ridge. We’d decided on that as our turn-around point because…there was a bathroom there.

cedar ridge

cedar ridge

Then, we headed back up and out of the canyon.

the grand canyon

burgs hiking

…So what was the worst part of the Grand Canyon? The food! Tusayan, the nearest “town,” where we stayed, is really lacking in good restaurants. Everything we ate was mediocre, at best. (No joke, we had two meals at a place called “We Cook Pizza and Pasta”—though not very well, I might add.) Can someone please open up a good brewpub there?

Have you been to the GC? What was the highlight of your trip?