If there was ever a time to visit New York City, this is it.
Not only is Fall the prettiest time of the year in NY but there is a Mayoral race going on, so the city will be on its toes and putting all the bells and whistles out for the spotlight that this race will enjoy. If you can, visit NY right now. Bloomberg will get everything shipshape for this key election.
There are other reasons. Having lived there for 25 years, this is the best season, in my opinion. First of all, it is usually sunny, dry and cool, not yet cold. There is less precipitation in the Fall and the winds are not unusually brisk, though they can be just active enough to put a sparkle of energy in the air.
At some point, depending on the temperatures, the leaves will be turning. Many people do not realize how many parks and how much landscaping the city has. Everyone knows about Central Park, but there are so many others, like Battery Park, Union Square, Gramercy Park, just to name the most obvious ones. If you do a little Googling, you will get a full list of the hidden pocket parks. If you will be there for more than a few days, you may also want to head over to Brooklyn, which has gentrified considerably and rivals Manhattan in almost every significant way. Another fabulous thing to do is take the Henry Hudson Parkway up along the river and go to Tarrytown and Hastings-on-Hudson, among many old Yankee villages and Washington Irving’s stomping grounds; all points north along the river are pure magic at this time of the year.
The most important decision you will make when coming to NYC is where to stay. My recommendation would be two hotels. The first is my favorite and a secret that almost no one knows about. This is the Hotel Wales at Madison and 92nd Street. One of the prettiest, most convenient and safest, quietest neighborhoods in Manhattan is Carnegie Hill – the 90’s from Central Park to Lexington Avenue. The Wales is right in the middle of it. Built at the turn of the last century, when I stayed there it had elegant lobbies and rooms, good restaurant and room service and not only was immaculate but enjoyed exceptional European-style service, including tea served on the roof terrace with a view of the park. Best of all, it is probably one of the most affordable hotels you will ever stay in (priced below some motels in the vicinity) and considering it is in Manhattan, in the best residential neighborhood, overlooking Central Park, the price is unbelievable.
My other recommendation, if you have a bit more in your budget would be the Waldorf Astoria. I have stayed in almost all the top, established luxury hotels in NY (the Plaza, Pierre,Carlyle). My favorite is the Plaza but I have to say, for visitors, the location and beauty as well as history of the Waldorf would be my top recommendation. All of these hotels are expensive, but you can get a deal at the Waldorf and stay in the hotel choice of kings and queens. It is gorgeous, elegant and the service cannot be topped anywhere on this planet. In the East 50’s you can walk in every direction to many of the best attractions in midtown.
If you are flying in to the NY area, use Newark International Airport instead of JFK or La Guardia. Newark is the newest of the three, it is actually closer to Manhattan than JFK, far safer, and much less hectic. You will get to the city in less time than if you choose JFK. In every way, Newark is a pleasure. In fact, I like it so much and consider it to be so much safer than most airports that even when I am heading to Boston or Philadelphia, I fly into Newark and then take the train or rent a car and drive to those two cities. (Boston’s Logan Airport is a pure nightmare – avoid it at all costs: unsafe, bird strikes, terrible facilities, short runways – it is notorious for its inferiority as far as airports go, just take my word for it).
I do not need to give you all kinds of tourist destinations as there are thousands of places you can find these things. Let me instead recommend a strategy for ‘tackling’ NYC.
When I was in college, I had a boyfriend who worked in South America. He would invite me down to visit and see the sights and so I made some friends amongst the very educated, sophisticated people I met there. When a few of them came to visit in the City, I was excited to take them around. They had been all over the world, in many European cities like London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Zurich, etc. These were wealthy world travelers. But! When they got to Manhattan they were totally overwhelmed. The longstanding joke thereafter was that I could not get them to go above 34th Street (Macys).
NY has a palpable energy that makes some people thrive and others collapse. I have always said it is far easier to live (if you can afford it these days with one bedroom apartments starting at $600K) and work there than to visit. So how you approach the visit can be critical.
Knowing what I know now, I would not start people off downtown as I had done with my Latin American friends. If you are staying at the Wales, start with the upper east side of the Central Park district and work your way down, day by day until you hit Rockefeller Center. If you are staying at the Waldorf in mid town on the east side, start there, go to Rockefeller Plaza and work your way up Fifth Avenue your first day or days. In this area are also Radio City Music Hall on 6th Avenue and a lot of UN-frequented exotic ethnic restaurants, many of them with excellent costumed performances and shows during dinner, at no extra cost (a way to be entertained without high priced theater tickets).
The upper and middle parts of Manhattan, on the East Side are the easiest to absorb and get acclimated. They are beautiful, loaded with attractions including museums and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the best shopping and restaurants, etc. And of course they are incredibly safe, as is all Manhattan now, thanks to the last two Mayors (Bloomberg and Giuliani).
Toward the second half of the trip or at least after you are used to being in Manhattan, head to the 42nd Street area, stopping in at the New York Public Library, the Empire State Building, the Upper West Side (don’t forget to go to the Museum of Natural History), Lincoln Center, Columbus Circle, down to Battery Park and the 9/11 Memorial, South Street Seaport and if you can, take the Brooklyn Bridge by car, cab or train to Brooklyn and eat at the River Cafe, especially at sunset, for the most spectacular view of Manhattan anyone could want and fabulous food.
After that hit the Village (west side, Greenwich Village. If you are adventuresome and like ethic food, go the the East Village or better yet, Queens, but the latter may be for the end of a trip, not the beginning!), Washington Square, Soho and Tribeca. All of these areas are safe, loaded with personality and fabulous food and shops. Usually though, they are not first on people’s lists. I would avoid Chinatown and Little Italy unless you like Chinese food and getting down and basic. You are likely to find better Italian food in other parts of the city, especially Brooklyn. Think Moonstruck. If you are looking for inexpensive theater tickets check to see what is playing at the Barrow Street Theater. (Unfortunately, the Sullivan Street Playhouse that was home to The Fantasticks for 42 years, closed in 2012.)
If you have time left over, go to Bloomingdales on Lexington, Chelsea Pier over on the West side at 23rd, Gramercy Park on the East side around 18th Street, and up to the Bronx Zoo, which is in my opinion, the best one on the East Coast and rivals the famed San Diego Zoo for its quality and scientifically designed attractions.
If it isn’t too cold, take the Circle Line, but be prepared for part of it to be a bit boring – I have taken it when showing guests around the city and I fall asleep as it heads up to West Point. It is a three-hour trip, so take snacks because the last time I was there, the food on the boat was expensive junk. If you do take the Circle Line, you will pass the big luxury liners, Chelsea Pier, Battery Park, a spectacular view of Wall Street, South Street Seaport and the Statue of Liberty, the UN, as well as the bridges on the East River abutting Queens. You will see a lot that will help you determine whether or not you need to go to those individual attractions separately.
Do this and you will get a real flavor for the city. If you can, give yourself a week. You can do much of what I listed in three full days (with travel days on either side). Take it from a native, even in two weeks, you won’t see it all but if you go now, I promise you, you will have a spectacular experience.
Watch out. I am going to opine here. It seems appropriate for Friday the 13th in November. If this sort of thing makes the hairs on your eyebrows crackle, just tell me what you think of my autumn Valencia pictures. I will not be offended :-D
I don’t want to be negative or simplistic but we have some big issues to deal with right now. To me the top three are: the precarious environment, global warming and its adverse impact by human activity; the turmoil in the Middle East with its worldwide implications for terrorist threats; and the collapse of the middle class. These are global events and they are serious. Even so, we are being distracted with some very silly people. It would be comical if it weren’t so dangerous.
But, I also know that people are hurting and they have been, from what I can tell, for fifty years in a very particular way. Have some people thrived? Yes. Was there suffering prior to fifty years ago? Of course. This is a specific phenomenon, that I am referring to. I have to be brief about it because you and I are wildly busy, especially right now. Yet, I simply cannot let it go because merely watching this baffling spectacle unfold is difficult.
Our political season is not just silly, it is now, literally crazy. As a human behavior specialist, I try to understand what underlies the workings of social phenomena. Right now, it seems that the national fervor to reject the reality of life in 2015 has led to making decisions about leadership that are based on anything but sound judgments of competence.
One of our main contenders is running on a biography that he has been carefully crafting and marketing, for profit, for years. The fact that he threw his hat into the ring to me clearly demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of what it takes to run this country and that he is operating while missing a few key screws.
This man is not qualified to lead anything. He may be good with his hands, he may be good with physics and biology, but he is a ticking time bomb. And, that is understandable. You don’t have a deeply wounded childhood and then escape to adulthood unscathed. The fact that 24% of the electorate is willing to slavishly follow him down a path of failure and humiliation, speaks to how poorly we have educated the voters in America.
Presidential historian Jon Meacham has asked, astutely, since when has establishment (which is being categorically rejected) become exclusively synonymous with issue literacy? I would add in scientific evidence and experience to that concept. I have to assume that people are so desperately disappointed in their personal lives and looking for anything to grasp onto that allays their fears and tells them things will be OK, that they are casting about recklessly for anything ‘different’. Katrina van den Heuvel talks about our current time as a ‘post-truth, fact free’ era. To me that is very disturbing.
Janelle Ross has explained the Carson phenomenon very well here. And another article lays this baffling situation out for us. Naheisi Coates contends that white America loves the idea of an impoverished black man bootstrapping himself to fame and fortune without the need for any public (taxpayers’) assistance. And even the auto-promoting Donnie Deutsch, in a rare moment of self-consciousness, warns that there is no longer a siloing of media and politics and entertainment. They are all mixed together. Carson has cleverly blended the three and made millions doing it. I honestly don’t believe he anticipated the level of success he has enjoyed in this Presidential run. He is just as surprised by it as the rest of us are and is now scrambling to seem prepared and viable.
What started out as yet another avenue for generating revenue (something he has been incredibly successful at, hawking ‘inspirational’ and semi-fictitious iterations of his true biography to low-information readers, for almost two decades) has now taken on a life of its own, propelling this deeply flawed individual toward the prospect of actually winning the nomination and having to seem prepared to lead the world. He isn’t. If you listen to him fish for answers to questions you and I could answer reasonably well, just by reading headlines and ordinary articles on domestic and foreign affairs, it is clear he is over his head. Can he separate the brains of conjoined twins? Yes. Can he properly lead this country along the razor’s edge of upcoming challenges? No!
Neither can Trump. While we all just have to appreciate what the Donald has accomplished, the minute he starts talking Operation Wetback, we (again, the royal ‘we’ of even minimally intelligent and educated citizens) are brought back to our senses. No 2016 candidate can win the party nomination or the presidency talking like that!
Neither can Bernie Sanders. He is too white, socialist, Brooklyn, and grouchy to win in this vast, rather frightened, largely rural, media-influenced electorate (a lot of people don’t vote, that is why I carefully said, electorate). All of these traits may endear him to some of us incredibly, but he cannot win, no matter how much we may or may not think he represents the futuristic, post-modern aspirations of the Left. We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sanders.
Peggy Noonan, with whom I disagree on almost everything and whose very manner of speaking makes me cringe, has rightly observed that people want change. Since Nixon, their world has seemed to unravel and they blame it on the people in the government. I cannot disagree with that entirely — after all, these people are making decisions that infuriate all of us almost all the time. But, to equate the ills of the modern world with experience, training, mental and emotional stability and health, and goodness or kindness aka weakness in some people’s minds, is to get the situation very wrong. Electing the wrong person to the White House next year would be catastrophic.
As a child psychologist, I don’t want a man in that seat who calmly relates hammering his mother over the head. Forget about all the lies and distortions and ignorant statements he has made. For every trained behavioral scientist, that one action is enough to preclude this man from holding our lives in his hands.
As a world citizen, I do not want a man who believes we should round up millions of people in their homes and cart them off to camps in some other country. Does anyone remember the holocaust? Enough said.
As an urban, literate, practical person, I do not want a misanthropic, gun-supporting, idealist to take on the far right evangelical force in America. He can’t do it. He is just another Ralph Nader spoiler. Vote for Sanders and we will spend another eight years “in the bush”, as they say in Africa. None of us can afford to be there.
Images: Chez BeBe – our lake; enlargeable
I should have titled this, ‘Life in the slow lane’. I may use that for my memoires, LOL! My little respite from work ended abruptly with the onset of the busy season, from now through January. So, I will be grinding away from here on out — but not complaining. A little work, a little play, a little rest, that is what I consider to be the good life these days.
That said, last week we decided to take our annual stroll around the lake here in Valencia as the sun went down and see what people are doing for the autumn season by way of decorating. Isn’t it funny that things are in the air everywhere — whereas many people decorated last year, almost no one did this year.
We typically feature the lake neighborhood, which is adjacent to ours and just steps away on the paseos, at Halloween and our enclave at Christmas. So, I am sharing some photos here now and later, accordingly.
I am not sure why things are so subdued this year. We put out a couple of pumpkins, lit them and that was it. A far cry from our imaginative decorations in years past. One reason has to be the weather. When we first moved back to California two decades ago, October was cold and November was almost frigid. This year? Halloween saw 90F during the day.
Then, out of the blue, three days ago, it dropped 25 degrees and clouds appeared along with some rain. Wacky weather to go along with climate change. We never know what to expect. So, I made an executive decision that instead of seasonal lighting, we would put up one set of lights this year — white to simulate snow, or so I hoped — and that will be it all year long. Btw, we noticed some time back that most people in our neck of the woods use white lights, both on their Christmas trees and houses, whereas when I was growing up back East, we always used colored lights. It suddenly dawned on me that the reason for this discrepancy is the lack of snow here and the abundance of it in winter back there. White lights disappear against snow, and colored ones do the same in all this brilliant sunshine. QED!
In the past (foolish youth) I had an elaborate system of decorations marking the holiday of each month. Not necessarily with lights, but with certain types of annual flowers, and the symbols of each season, like pumpkins, autumn leaf wreaths, patriotic petunias in red, white and blue, outdoor Easter arrangements. You get the idea. I like to think they weren’t silly but elegant, but who knows. Now I am so done with all of that!
Thus, I decided on one set of lights to which, if the spirit moves us, we can add special decorative lighting or ornamentation depending on the season. What really prompted this was the fact that I ordered some things for Al from Home Depot this year (for the holidays — I always start in September at the latest, to remind myself that incessant heat will eventually subside – hah!) and sent Geoffrey to pick them up at the store.
Usually when he goes, he does spend an hour or more trawling for ideas for his work and comes back without anything but full of innovative improvements. He really is so tight with a dime. But! This time King G returned with these. OMG! What got into him? Mr. low key. Mr. low profile. Mr. I-don’t-want-to-be-noticed. No Facebook, no blogs, no pictures, no selfies, Mr. Invisible.
It would take 12 of those “light shows” to ring the roof of our house on both the upper and lower floors. We would be the neighborhood spectacle in our little spot. There are the huge houses in one area of our neighborhood where people hire professionals to trick out their yards. Those things get into House Beautiful and our local society rag. But our street is the location for dullards like us. People who peer out suspiciously whenever any dog barks. When we had our gorgeous and tasteful decorations up, our immediate neighbors relented and finally put up one tiny lit wreath in the window. Or one small electrified pumpkin.
Basta! One can only imagine their reaction had we indulged Geoff in what he conceived, in a momentary fugue state of Ralphy/Christmas Story insanity, would be the solution to our dilemma each year. One set of lights that has thousands of theatrical seasonal effects. Uh yeah, no!
So I sent him back to get plain, LED, “pure white” mini-lights to simulate snow, right? After we got them all up, top and bottom floors mind you, with a harrowing episode on the slippery slate roof (slanted, uneven, drizzly, of course) we both stood back to admire this carefully done installation and then realized that the street lights were warm white and made our icy lights look blue. Drat!! Up goes my patient spouse, down come all my lights laced with profuse apologizing and promises of making it up to him. Back to Home Depot, credit, new lights ordered online, twelve sets of warm white that look nothing like snow but do resemble cozy welcoming candles. More dare-devil capers on the roof and now, done! Forever, I hope.
Back to the lake. These are pictures I took with two of my four cameras. Some were in such low light that they are a bit more blurry than I would like. I could have brought my tripod but hate doing that and, as I have mentioned before, nothing makes people more suspicious than others taking pictures of their homes and neighborhoods.
That reminds me that we now have a social media site for our 1500 homes and flanking lake community’s 1100 homes. Reading it is a revelation about the minds of the kinds of people who want to chat and gossip with neighbors. I am not one of them and all it does is raise my blood pressure. For example, the guy that asked how to rid his street of crows that gather there at certain times of day (something I noted in a blog post here last year or the previous year). He got a variety of suggestions and then promptly volunteered that he would simply shoot them. I will leave you to imagine what I think of that idea. It’s illegal to so much as look at any of this wildlife funny, anyway. (What kind of person relishes killing birds?)
So, we embark on the upcoming two months with our new tree up and decorated, the Christmas room transformed into a cute guest suite with sofa beds and a desk and computer, and a TV as well as bathroom with new guest robes — his, hers, and little his or hers. :-D Our lights are up. Our xerigraphic plantings are in. Our gifts have all been ordered and are being stacked in the living room for wrapping — color coded by recipient. We stocked up on coffee and snacks. We are ready for the troops to arrive.
But, since the family is scattering to the four winds this Thanksgiving, for once, we are going to have that weekend to ourselves and will likely spend it at our favorite nearby getaway spot that I will be sharing in a week or two. Welcome November, thanks for stopping by, everyone and stay tuned for more holiday updates.
Images: Chez BeBe/the lake on October 30, 2015; enlargeable
Often when I post I will tell you I have had a busy week and this was thrown together. Well, this was the opposite. Other than planting more ground cover to replace lawn, I have been lazing around, reading a new book (that I will amplify on next week), watching the political spectacle unfolding here, and getting ready for Christmas. This is my shopping spree time and I truly relish it.
This summer we turned the Christmas room into a guest room and it looks really cute. Then we went out and got a new, smaller tree and put it in the living room. The other tree was around 10 feet high and enormous. This one is only seven and a half, pre-lit with sparkling white lights. I had fancy ornaments on the other one. This time I put up more folksy ones. They don’t match my formal 1930s furniture and Victorian antiques but somehow they make the room look like a turn of the century child’s fantasy. We packed up the big tree in a crate and are basking in all the extra room we made doing this.
That made me realize, once again, how lucky I am. For one thing, I have the cutest guy on earth here getting me my cup of coffee this morning and letting me spend the day, spending. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t for a minute forget what a privilege it is to have the support and the luck I have had my whole life, despite the smaller setbacks that temporarily make me forget to be grateful. And, as I said before, true fortune, like true beauty, has nothing to do with things or appearances. It comes from within and it is our human endowment, if we know where to find it. A whole subject in itself.
And that brings me back to California, embracing it, and loving my latest passion: Ventura, as I already shared a couple of weeks ago or so. What is it about Ventura that is so attractive, alluring to so many people? Well, first off, you might well ask how I know it is alluring to anyone else who is not on this same quest to find the perfect retirement town. I can tell by looking at the kinds of goods and services that I see there and the people walking on the street.
Rarely do I see a big (relatively, that is, 100,000 people live in Ventura) urban area with people walking around in beach wear. Back home in NY/NJ, the only place you see that is on the boardwalk. No one walks in shorts or, heaven forbid, a two-piece in the cities. They really don’t do that anywhere in California either, except right at the beach. I have mentioned the other great hidden secret, the South Bay beach cities of Manhattan, Redondo, and Hermosa beaches. Those are where the rich people play and there you see casual wear and a lot of skin right on the Strand but rarely anywhere even a few blocks from the water. It takes a certain sense of safety and security to walk around — at all ages, mind you — with hardly anything on.
As those of you who speak Spanish know, Buenaventura means — yup — good fortune or luck.
In Ventura, people are milling around as if they are in their backyard. These are not rich folks. These are — we have concluded — students, artists and university town people. Some of them work locally, some in LA, some in Santa Barbara. But what they all seem to have in common is a relaxed, quiet, cheerful, yet upbeat and energetic frame of mind. And that gives the whole area a welcoming and harmonious feel.
Something else I noticed along these lines. A distinct de-emphasis on barriers. Fewer fences and walls than in other places. Naturally, the more security and privacy people feel they must have, the more walls and fences decorate their neighborhoods. In Ventura I had a hard time finding any. There are fancy neighborhoods, but they emphasize ocean views, not separation from their neighbors. It was remarkable how close together the houses and apartments are. A modern anthropologist could probably do something interesting with this concept.
When we were last there a couple of weekends ago, Geoffrey wanted to hang out in one of the sports bars and just chat with the guys. I went around with the camera and he had a couple of beers. When we were talking about our day as we drove the mere 40 minutes back to the house he told me what he learned. Ventura is a long standing artists’ town. Not just visual, but poets and carpenters and metal workers and performing artists.
Instantly, I realized that was it. The ethnic restaurants, the casual dress, the many ‘spiritual’ book shops, the quiet meditative feel of the beaches are all the signatures of creative minds. Hence, the wide range of living options. Lots of museums, re-sale shops, bicycle repair places. It all fell into place knowing that.
And you see every type of character. Like Manhattan and Queens back home, you can be yourself in an artist’s community. Now, that is not to say that NYC is particularly known for art as its primary feature. I would have to say that the mighty dollar is the symbol of my hometown. But, if you think of it, and if you know New York, you will realize that one thing the dollar buys is art. So, the thriving theater community, the many museums and fine arts shops and ateliers. The original television industry. And, the incredible garment and fashion world still there on 7th and 9th avenues.
Now, I shouldn’t get carried away with this analogy as it will only take me so far. Ventura also has a very laid back surfer vibe. Lots of fishermen, wanderers, people who don’t need much and don’t have much, just hanging out. But rather than giving the town a down at the heels sense, it just makes it feel accepting and diverse. It is like salmagundi, or cioppino or bouillabaisse, a big aromatic watery soup with all kinds of interesting and unexpected tasty morsels.
So, here are some more glimpses of the many shots I took over the past few months. Maybe more will come and I will return to this topic. After all, I want to be sure this analysis holds up over time, since I tend to get enthusiastic and fall in love with a place, then obsess about it. I am a big girl now and have to make wise, big girl choices. So, let me just put these ideas out there this week and let them simmer.
Images: Chez Bebe, San Buenaventura, click to enlarge.