October in New York is fantastic. The best month of the year. And this was actually my first time experiencing an October in New York!
Last October was split between Poland, Germany, France, Luxembourg, and Australia. I think October is a fantastic month to travel, especially to Europe, but after a big Eurotrip last month it was time to sit still and spend time in one place.
It was a month of Halloween goodness, exciting opportunities, and a surprising number of visits to Staten Island. It was a month of admiring the decorations throughout Harlem and enjoying far-warmer-than-usual weather. This month rocked!
New York and Croton-on-Hudson, New York
Tybee Island and Savannah, Georgia
Jersey City, New Jersey
The new? Tybee Island. The old favorite? Savannah. Don’t worry, Jersey City — you’re nice, too.
The other half of my dad’s visit to New York. My dad visited over a long weekend and I talked about the September half of his visit in last month’s recap. On this part of the trip, we got dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Chinatown, walked around the 9/11 Memorial and downtown Manhattan. We cut through Brookfield Place and did a walk-through of Le District (it’s essentially the French Eataly) and I can’t wait to go back for a proper meal! Post-Whole30, of course…
We also got a trip in to Staten Island — the only borough Dad hadn’t visited. And we introduced him to one of my absolute favorite things to do in New York: drinking on the Staten Island Ferry. As on every trip to Staten Island, we walked to the Flagship Brewery and had a few beers before getting back on the ferry to Manhattan. Topping it off? Fraunces Tavern (a very cool place and one of my favorite bars in the city) and John’s Pizzeria (Bleecker Street), which I’m starting to think is my favorite New York-style pizza in the city.
And before Dad left on Monday, I introduced him to the quintessential New York breakfast: the bodega bacon, egg and cheese and a coffee. He loved it.
A beautiful beach getaway to Tybee. October is still beach season in Tybee Island, Georgia, and I enjoyed temperatures in the mid-80s. I even got a tan! I’ve written a lot about that trip already, so I won’t repeat myself here. It was also lovely to spend a day in Savannah, one of my favorite cities in the world.
Traveling to Jersey City for amazing pizza. Jersey City is a short PATH train ride from Manhattan, but I had never been before — until I read a New York Times piece asking, “Is New York’s Best Pizza in New Jersey?” The place is called Razza and it’s pretty damn good pizza. Not classic New York pizza, but I’d definitely place it in my top five for the city. Maybe even the top three.
What makes Razza pizza great? Amazing crust, a delicate thinness, and unusual and inventive toppings, many of them locally sourced from New Jersey. My favorite was the Panna with tomato sauce, mozzarella, local grass-fed cow’s cream, arugula, and parmigiano. Cream on a pizza is a stroke of brilliance. It’s like burrata. So yes — go to Razza! It’s absolutely worth the trip to Jersey City. It’s very popular and they don’t take reservations, so try to go at an off-peak time. I had to wait an hour on a Monday night.
Golden Girls Trivia at the Golden Girls Cafe. I made my first visit to Rue la Rue Cafe, the Golden Girls-themed cafe in Washington Heights, for a wild night of Golden Girls trivia. The owner, Michael La Rue, was close to Rue McClanahan and inherited much of her estate, some of which is on display at the cafe. Even the phone from the set! He gave away some of Rue’s things as prizes — things like one of Rue’s canceled checks, one of her coffee cups, and even the script from the George Clooney episode that George himself drew on!
And man, these were serious Golden Girls fans who showed up. (My sister is a hardcore fan and she aced two rounds of trivia.) I was very happy that the grand prize winner was the guy who took the midnight bus from Baltimore and showed up in Blanche Devereaux drag!
Visiting the Chihuly exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden. The exhibit is now closed, and I’m glad I made it there. I love the New York Botanical Garden and Chihuly is such a great fit for a natural environment.
Visiting The Blaze in Croton-on-Hudson. Every year, the Hudson Valley town of Croton-on-Hudson does a giant jack-o-lantern display. There were a merry-go-round, a Tappan Zee Bridge, and a Statue of Liberty all made out of pumpkins. And they’re still doing it through November!
It’s a nice little getaway from the city, and there’s a nonstop train during rush hour. Just 35 minutes from Harlem-125th and 40 minutes from Grand Central. And while the website says the walk from the train station is “not pedestrian-friendly,” don’t let that stop you — the walk is easy and the cabs are both expensive and communal. (Me: “What is this, a marshrutka?”)
Visiting Staten Island a whopping three times. Once with my dad, once to cheer my sister on in the Staten Island Half Marathon (her first half marathon ever and she did amazing!), and once with the Knights. More on the Knights below.
Halloween festivities in Hamilton Heights! This year my neighborhood’s running group, of which I’m kind of an honorary non-running member, put on a Halloween dog parade and 5K fun run. I photographed the event for them. The costumed dogs were adorable and I really enjoyed getting to know more of my neighbors. Stay tuned for a Halloween dog post next week!
And I went out in my neighborhood as trick-or-treating was in full swing. I went to Broadway in Hamilton Heights, and you guys, I’ve never seen trick-or-treating that crazy. Hundreds of kids and their parents filled the streets. In the city, they trick-or-treat at businesses, and I wouldn’t be surprised if business owners invested in upwards of 1000 pieces of candy!
Also, my friend Jessie threw an impromptu fall celebration party at her apartment with pumpkin painting. You are never too old to paint pumpkins!
Let me just say that I am so happy that I got to experience a lot of Halloween fun this year, after missing so many Halloweens due to my travels. I love this holiday so much!
A fun and creative gig with Visit Kissimmee. On the thirteenth, I spent the day with the team from Visit Kissimmee in Florida, traveling around the city with knights from Medieval Times, taking hilarious videos of them for Snapchat, interviewing people on the street, and getting people to sign up to win trips. First of all, I laughed harder this day than I have in a long time, and second, it was deeply gratifying to have so much creative control from a first-time partner.
On the professional front, very exciting things are happening. The rest of 2017 will be on the quiet side but I’ve got two big trips planned for next year. Both will be cold and snowy trips. One is to a place I’ve been before and the other is to a place I have never been but has long been a goal of mine to visit. The first trip isn’t until late January so I’ll be revealing it in the next few weeks.
One hint: I’ll be visiting a city that hosted the Winter Olympics in my lifetime, and it’s not Sochi or Albertville. Any guesses?
My flight back from Savannah was delayed upon delayed upon delayed. I soon realized I could have gone to dinner in Savannah! Missing a meal in one of my favorite food cities made me sad. Eh, what can you do.
I had a bad cold this month. One of those help-me-I-can’t-do-anything, stay-inside-my-house-and-not-move-for-three-days, please-let-my-sense-of-smell-come-back colds. It happens once or twice a year; I hope this means I’m good for awhile.
When the challenges are that minimal, you know you are a very lucky person indeed.
Most Popular Post
How Men Can Fight Toxic Masculinity and Rape Culture — I’m so glad that finally this conversation is being taken seriously by the media.
What’s It Like to Tour Chernobyl Today? — It was a beautiful, haunting, and life-affirming experience.
Finland in the Summer: Quirky, Isolated, and Pretty — My Finnish trip took in air guitar championships, deep wilderness, and a pretty town just outside Helsinki.
A Getaway to Tybee Island: Savannah’s Beach — Everything that I got up to in Tybee, including the most beautiful sunrise ever.
Most Popular Instagram Photo
This was the easiest shot I took this month — I woke up at 6:45 AM on Tybee Island, reached over to my camera on the nightstand, and shot this photo through the glass door without even getting up. For more live updates from my travels in life and New York, follow me on Instagram at @adventurouskate.
What I Read This Month
With my reading challenge over with, I’m still sticking to my informal goals each month: one work of fiction, one work of nonfiction, one work by an author of color, and one work published in 2017. Now that I’m spending a lot more time cooking and cleaning (more on that below), I haven’t had as much time to read, but I still got four books in. Three fiction, one nonfiction, three authors of color, and all four published in 2017! Not to mention two of the five finalists for the National Book Award in Fiction (The Leavers and Sing, Unburied, Sing).
The Leavers by Lisa Ko (2017) — I chose this novel from Book of the Month. What a beautiful and unusual story; what a tragedy that means so much in our world today. In this novel, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, is living in the Bronx with her American-born 11-year-old son Deming. Suddenly Polly disappears out of the blue. Deming is placed with white foster parents who eventually adopt and rename him Daniel. The book picks up a decade later as Deming/Daniel is still dealing with the trauma of losing his mother, the anguish over her abandoning him, and he starts trying to find out what happened to her.
I don’t want to give anything away. But this book terrified me, and it showed that immigration reform needs to be tackled in so many different ways. Because the way it exists right now, people are being denied their humanity. As I always say, reading is the way to compassion, and this book will grab you hard and not let go.
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (2017) — “Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.” That quote kept surfacing in my mind as I read this book. One of the most notable debuts of the year, and receiving far-ranging praise from both the media and legends like Stephen King, I thought that I was in for an extraordinary novel. Nope. It was terrible, it was a mess, and I’m bewildered that it was even published in the first place.
A thirteen-year-old girl named Turtle is living in the wilderness of Mendocino, California, with her survivalist father. He is a sadist who sexually abuses her. Turtle begins to think that there’s more to life than her small world with her father, and when she makes friends with one boy in particular, her father is furious.
Let’s see. What did I hate about this book the most? The fact that fifteen-year-olds talk like pretentious philosophy professors, even trying to be witty when facing life-or-death situations. Has Tallent even met a teenager before? I couldn’t stand the complete disassociation from characters and their emotions, similar to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Turtle was the protagonist, but nothing about her emotions was ever revealed, only her behaviors. Nothing about her resembles any girl I’ve ever known (or been), and that’s not “because she’s so different” — it’s a glaring error. And finally, while the father was a sadist who reveled in torturing his daughter, I feel like Tallent himself was a sadist, writing grotesque scenes for shock value and nothing more.
I’ll give Tallent one thing: he knows nature very well. He himself grew up spending extensive time in the California wilderness and his book lends a level of expertise not unlike Andy Weir’s scientific knowledge in The Martian. I think I would have appreciated it had it been put to use in a different kind of novel.
Most importantly: if you’re a privileged man writing from the point of view of a sexually abused young girl, you need to knock it out of the park. Tallent didn’t even make contact with the ball.
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (2017) — One of the biggest releases of the year and another Book of the Month pick for me, Sing, Unburied, Sing is so many stories wound into one. It’s a story about the relationships between children and their parents. It’s a supernatural tale of ghosts and spirits. It’s about race and addiction and police brutality and economic insecurity. It’s about love and guilt and duty. It’s a wonder.
Jojo is a thirteen-year-old boy living in Southern Mississippi with his grandfather, whom he emulates; his grandmother, who is dying of cancer; his baby sister, for whom he is the primary caregiver; and occasionally his mother, a drug addict. His mother takes him and his sister on a road trip to pick up his father from prison in Northern Mississippi, where Jojo meets a ghost who served time there as a child and was protected by his grandfather, also a former inmate there.
Every now and then I read a novel that makes me marvel at just how creative fiction can be. This is one of them.
Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well by Lola A. Åkerström (2017) — It’s no secret that I am enamored with the Nordic lifestyle. From the löyly of the Finns to the hygge of the Danes, this month I dipped into the Swedish lifestyle. Lagom is a word roughly meaning balance and equilibrium, and it’s a guiding force in many aspects of Swedish life. Swedes indulge but don’t overeat; they build fitness into their daily lives; they buy investment pieces but not ostentatious ones, and they don’t boast but lift each other up. In short, Swedes are so goddamn sensible and I wish I had the fortitude to be more like them. Reading this book was a start at how I can do that.
Lola is a friend of mine, a pillar of the travel blogging community, and one of the foremost authorities on Stockholm. Most excitingly, this week she was named the Society of American Travel Writers’ 2018 Photographer of the Year — check out the portfolio that won her the prize here. Another bonus: Lagom makes a great coffee table book because it’s a small and adorable hardcover book. Perfect for stacking on larger books, as you can see in the photo below.
Fitness Update — and Whole 30
I started Whole30 this month! 30 days of no sugar, no alcohol, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no natural sweeteners other than fruit, no artificial flavors, no processed foods, no “technically compliant” versions of unhealthy treats, no snacking, no weighing yourself. Learn more about it here. Many of my friends have done it and I’ve wanted to try it for quite some time, but my hectic travel schedule made it impossible, since you need to prepare nearly everything you eat yourself. With 30 free days in October and November, I decided to go for it, embracing it as a disciplinary challenge.
(“But whole grains and legumes are healthy!” you say. To be honest, whole grains and legumes both cause inflammation, and this is an anti-inflammatory diet. Keep in mind that no one diet is perfect for everyone on the planet, and for me, this is just an experiment to see how it makes me feel. But I think we can all agree that sugar is bad and Americans eat way too much of it.)
How has it been? It’s been pretty awesome, actually! It hasn’t been remotely a struggle. And I’m so happy I’ve broken some of my more harmful food habits, like ordering takeout way too often and snacking out of boredom, and I’m making more of an effort to cook nearly all my meals. Every morning I have two poached eggs and a sweet potato for breakfast and I love it.
Additionally, I’ve decided to step up my workouts during this month. I already do personal training twice a week (and let me tell you that twice a week makes SUCH a bigger impact than once a week) and Zumba twice a week, but I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit in terms of other stuff, so I’m adding in more classes and more cardio. I also took Pilates for the first time ever and I loved it! Faster and less boring than yoga and not the cruel and unusual torture that is barre!
Day 30 is scheduled to be November 19 for me, but I’m going to keep it up until November 21 so my trainer and I can do a proper weigh-in and body composition analysis. We did one beforehand as well, so it will be interesting to compare.
What I Listened To This Month
I like listening to podcasts when I cook and clean. And if you do Whole30, you will be doing a hell of a lot of cooking and washing dishes!
Dirty John is the podcast of the moment, and I binge-listened and highly recommend it. It’s the story of a con man and the effect he had on one well-to-do woman and her family. A lot of people have been saying that they can’t believe how stupid the woman was — but I disagree. I know first-hand how abusers can completely warp your sense of what is good and/or normal. They’ve had a lot of practice at it, too.
Other than that, I’ve recently started listening to The Daily from the New York Times every morning while I cook breakfast (it’s just 20 minutes, which is perfect). I also love Pod Save America for politics — it’s basically like listening to your best friends gab and riff on all political issues, only they happen to be incredibly smart and knowledgeable. All the guys used to work for Obama.
What I Watched This Month
This month I started watching a new-to-me series on Netflix: Lovesick (formerly Scrotal Recall). It’s a British comedy with plenty of sweet and heartfelt moments. The series begins when the main character, Dylan, is diagnosed with chlamydia and has to inform his past sexual partners. (Stay with me here, it gets good.) Each episode focuses on one partner in particular and what happened with them. The stories tie in with his two best friends and their relationships with each other.
This show is wonderful. It’s hilarious but also very sweet, and it reminds me a lot of Master of None. It also makes me miss Britain a lot. Put it on your watch list — the pilot is one of the funniest pilots I’ve ever seen.
Coming Up in November 2017
I’m going back to Vegas for the first time since 2009!! Can you believe it? My friends and I were Vegas regulars when we were in our early twenties. So why not go back in our early thirties? And yes, I’m including the picture of us with Ice-T and Coco because it’s one of my favorite photos of all time. This was taken at XS at the Encore back in 2009.
This will just be a quick weekend visit, but I’m excited to see all we can get up to as four classy grown women. Less bursting out of after-hours clubs at 6:00 AM, more high-end cocktail bars, and maybe finally getting to see Celine…
And to end on a somber note — this month we lost one of our own. Billie Frank of Santa Fe Travelers passed away unexpectedly. Billie was passionate about sharing the best of Santa Fe with visitors and she was a huge proponent of getting Baby Boomers to travel more.
Her husband and partner in life, Steve, wrote a beautiful eulogy on their site. Here is an excerpt:
“She wasn’t easy. We met at a time when men’s attitudes towards women were changing. It didn’t take long to figure out where she was coming from. Many men were intimidated by the force of her personality. Those men who had the misfortune to patronize her soon found the error of their ways. There are lots of definitions of masculinity and I don’t necessarily subscribe to most of them but I believe it takes a strong man to be with a strong woman. I’d like to think that I was a strong man with her strong woman. I loved the idea that for her, being liberated was non-negotiable. We were partners in the truest sense of the word. Not only was she strong in living her convictions, she supported her sisters along the way.”
Billie and I never met in real life, but we’ve been Facebook friends for years and chatted often. Prior to that (and prior to my own blog’s existence!), we were both part of the BootsnAll message board community. Over the years she was always eager to help whenever I had an issue, especially when I moved to her native New York. I still can’t believe she’s gone.
My thoughts are with Steve, their son, and all those who loved her. We’ll miss you, Billie.