A New Chapter Begins

Two of my favorite things about living in NYC are discovering new favorite places and rediscovering old ones. Thursday, I got to experience both during a night out in Midtown with my good friend Derek and his boyfriend Ricardo.

The evening began at 230 Fifth, a happening hotspot for many years now, attracting a good looking crowd to its expansive rooftop with dazzling city views. This time, since it was overcast, I parked myself near the spacious indoor bar, enjoying a Shirley Temple with vodka. There’s something about drinking an adult version of my favorite mocktail as a child that hits all the right notes.

Boozy Shirley Temple = cocktail bliss!

 

Speaking of hitting high notes, our dining destination, Raymi did so and then some. The Peruvian restaurant offers warm ambience, friendly service and fare that’s truly delicioso. We started off with pisco sours and canchita, roasted unpopped popcorn that is sinfully addictive. I also savored my entree, arroz con mariscos (rice with seafood).

Over dinner and drinks, Derek, Ricardo and I talked about their upcoming European getaway, work and my exciting new job–Marketing Executive for The Pierre Hotel.

The five-star luxury property has a long and storied history of 87 years. It’s a registered historic landmark and one of the only hotels left offering white gloved service and elevator operators. I couldn’t be more proud to   help tell the Pierre’s rich story–and more grateful for the support family and friends gave me throughout the five-month job search process.

During this time, I did something I’ve never done in my professional life–worked in retail.

Thanks to a referral from longtime dear friend and style maven Heidi, I joined her in becoming a Brand Ambassador at Banana Republic’s Rockefeller Center location. The brand’s flagship store, it has a deservedly strong reputation for both product selection (3 floors of BR fashion) and service. Being part of the team gave me a much needed anchor when I was feeling very low. And I have an even deeper appreciation now for what it takes to work in a customer service role. It’s harder than you might think and I admire people who make a career of it.

I can’t wait to return to hospitality, my true passion. Thank God for new beginnings.

An Epic Girls Day Out

One of the high points of my five month stint in LA last year was getting to know my colleague Inga. We became fast friends while working at the SLS At Beverly Hills, bonding over our long distance then-boyfriends and efforts to acclimate to California life.

All smiles with Inga in L.A. last year

Inga later moved back to Hawaii, her home prior to LA. We got to catch up this week while she was in town, during a truly epic girls day out.

Our first stop was Vella, a wine bar that used to be a favorite of mine. Time hasn’t been kind to this Upper East Side venue. The hostess was surly when I asked if they could turn down the blaring house music more appropriate for a nightclub. We were given dirty glasses that had lipstick marks on them, as did the replacement ones. If you’re in the neighborhood, skip this place and visit the far superior Uva and Vero.

Enjoying wine at delightful Mela East Restaurant

Our second destination more than made up for the first. Mela East restaurant offers rustic charm, great Italian fare and wine selections, and fantastic service. Affable Italy-born host Enzo took great care of us.

While seated comfortably at the bar, Inga and I continued our wonderful, wide ranging conversation. We talked about career crossroads, why L.A. wasn’t for either for us, old flames, new crushes and the joys of having a pet (I’m planning to get a dog soon). About ten hours passed before we said goodnight.

Another dear friend bought me an engraving that says friendship brings the sun. As I come out of the darkness of depression, it is truly the light of all my friends that has gotten me to the other side. That and being back in the city I love more than ever.

Settling In Again

 

Time and again, I’m reminded how fortunate I am to have a large, loyal circle of friends both near and far. Last weekend, I had the pleasure of catching up with one of them, Lana.

Lana and me

Lana and I initially connected through Airbnb back in 2010, during my European Dating Blitz. Based in Paris, she last visited NYC in December 2013, so it was wonderful to see her again. We met up for a late afternoon brunch at The Smith’s East Village location. The popular bistro offers a hearty menu and friendly waitstaff.

Over a delicious meal (I had the truffled mushroom toast, yum), Lana and I talked about travel—she was just back from Brazil and Bolivia—and taking chances.

Lana was supportive of my decision to try living in L.A. last year, yet curious about why I left a city and a job that I love so much. Considering how difficult the move ended up being, it was surprisingly easy to make the leap. Choosing to return to NYC after only five months out West was harder.  I felt like I had failed somehow. And, as I mentioned in February, it’s taken some time for me to get my emotional bearings since coming back.

Thankfully, the comforts of being home and near loved ones has helped tremendously. I understand in much a more visceral way now why my mom said walking the streets of NYC gave her strength to weather life’s storms. I know this is where I belong and I am so grateful I found my way back to the Big Apple. As John Steinbeck once said–

“Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.”

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Fat Tuesday & A Return To The 80s

For over four years now, one of my favorite things to do in NYC is share a meal with my good friend Stacy. A foodie like me, Stacy has a knack for picking fabulous retaurants.

We headed over to CajunSea. Unexpectedly tucked away in Koreatown, CajunSea serves up  seafood and more with Southern flare. The restaurant also has  fantastic happy hour specials–including oysters and $5 martinis (the lychee martini is perfection). I enjoyed steamed lobster with corn and potatoes, while Stacy had a spicy seafood boil.

Over dinner, we talked about work, the Academy Awards and my recent big trip–on the second annual 80s cruise.

Jessie’s Girl rocked every concert they did on the 80s cruise. Best 80s cover band ever!

Like the inaugural sailing last year, this year’s itinerary featured nightly concerts with beloved 80s artists and awesome NYC-based cover band Jessie’s Girl, themed costume events (including neon night, Purple Rain and rock versus hip hop) and four Caribbean ports of call. It gave me the chance to reconnect with a lot of amazing people, most especially my dear friend Natalie, who I met on the 2016 cruise.

Natalie and me on neon beach party night

The week long journey was also a much-needed break from the negativity that seems to pervade so much of our national conversation these days. It was a beautiful reminder of the joy that comes from celebrating what connects us – particularly when that celebration has an 80s soundtrack. 

The Reason For My Hiatus

It’s been awhile. In fact, in the eight and half years that I’ve been blogging, this–three months– is the longest I have gone without posting anything.

When a longtime reader and friend  emailed to ask about the lapse in communication, I told her why. I also confided in another friend, and both of them encouraged me to share likewise here. So here goes…

The reason for my silence is that I’ve been going through a rough patch, navigating a difficult depression. I say difficult because, even though that qualifier sounds redundant and I have been through bouts of depression in years past, this one has been especially tough–intensified by the hard transitions ups and downs of the last year.

As anyone who’s gone through depression knows, it makes you feel isolated and hopeless–which is why I hesitated to write about it. Because I have always tried to offer positivity and joy on my blog. I didn’t want to let anyone down by admitting how much I’ve been struggling.

Thankfully, I have tremendous support from family and friends. Their love and understanding has given me strength when I felt I had none left, and reminded me how blessed I am to not be alone.

I still don’t feel quite like myself yet. And the adage one day at a time has never been more true for me. But I am grateful to be back in the city I love and surrounded by an incredible support system. They help me have faith that eventually, I’ll find my way again.

NYC Gal Once Again

When you travel out of your comfort zone, it makes you see your starting point with fresh eyes. That’s what’s happened for me with my move from NYC to L.A.

A new job in the sun soaked city of palm trees, beaches (and yes, traffic) was too powerful for me to pass up. Especially since I had several acquaintances and a few friends in L.A. Having moved away from NY multiple times before, I naively assumed the transition would be equally seamless once again.

As indicated in recent blog posts, that didn’t turn out to be the case.  Despite LA’s picture perfect weather, my fortysomething self had a much harder time adjusting to a new zip code than did my twentysomething counterpart. Trying to navigate a car-based city without wheels of my own (Uber notwithstanding) wasn’t easy, and neither was doing without the easy access to dear family and friends that has been a huge cornerstone of my life.

Then, there was the job I made the move for. The two colleagues whom I became most friendly with ended up resigning — as did my boss who was 80% of why I took the job in the first place. It was a perfect storm of events that made it impossible for me to feel settled in L.A. — and reinforced the fact that my heart and home are very much in NYC.

So very recently, for the second time in six months, I made a cross country move. And I am definitely looking at my hometown differently now. The things that I had grown tired of I now appreciate in a new way, having had a break from them. For example, the cranky crowds. There’s an intimacy that comes from living in such close proximity to one another that’s the opposite of LA’s sprawling nature. And I love love LOVE being able to walk or take public transportation everywhere again. Simply put, I am happy and grateful to be a New York City Gal once again.

There’s no place like home.

An Evening With My Best L.A. Buddy

One of the greatest blessings of moving to L.A. can be summed up in one word — Molly.

Molly and me enjoying a recent concert at the Greek Theater

My dear friend from high school, Molly has made it joyfully easy to pick up where we left off 25 years ago. She is a transcendent human being–loving, kind, funny–and a glorious reminder that good people remain good through all the seasons of life, period.

A talented, accomplished writer/editor and creative spirit, Molly is plugged into LA’s artistic scene. So I was delighted when she invited me to join her at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica for a gathering of the Young Literati Club.

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The Young Literati Club crowd

The fundraising event for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles attracted an engaging mix of Angelenos — and offered readings of Shakespeare from a high profile group. Among them: actors Colin Hanks, Mae Whitman, Shawn Hatosy and Constance Wu. The actors delivered energetic, witty takes on the Bard, making even literary criticism about him leap off the page.

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Actors Colin Hanks and Mae Whitman wowed the crowd

Molly and I were also delighted to find ourselve siing at a highboy table during the reception with 2 lovely ladies — one of whom, Alexa, turned out to be a fellow New York transplant too. A writer, former lead singer in a band and retired schoolteacher, Alexa had a flare and bon vivant charm that made me smile when she revealed she’s from the Big Apple.

There is an instant connection when you encounter a New Yorker outside of the Empire State. It’s like an instant understanding passes bewteen you, a bond you can only have with people from your beloved hometown. When that hometown is New York City, you take it with you wherever you go.

Like the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the city….

Catching Up With A Dear Friend

When you’re adjusting to life in a new city, reconnecting with family and friends makes all the difference. Welcoming loved ones makes you feel more like a local than a visitor. I was reminded of this over the weekend when my friend from college Pam visited from San Francisco.

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Pam and me at Dodger Stadium

Pam and I hadn’t seen each other since our 20th Mount Holyoke reunion last year so we had plenty to catch up on. We shared a lot of laughs and conversation about life, love, career and the swift passage of time. And we did it while exploring some of LA’s iconic attractions.

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Take me out to the ball game!

On Saturday, we headed over to Dodger Stadium to watch the Dodgers take on Pam’s beloved Red Sox. It was the first visit for both of us and we were impressed with the stadium’s retro design and pristine facilities. From oversized bobble head figurines to bright blue décor, Dodger Stadium harkens back to a time when venues were named for beloved teams instead of corporations.  And there’s no shortage of great food options too (Mexican fare and delicious fries among them).

After the game, we drove over to Santa Monica. I was pleasantly surprised and a little impressed that I was able to navigate us better than Waze or Google Maps.  Even though I’ve been more of an Uber/Lyft passenger than a driver over the last five months here, I’m definitely learning my way around! Santa Monica was packed with pedestrians and the odd street musician as we strolled around the Third Street Promenade.

We stopped for dinner at Italian bistro Trastevere—B-minus overall, Locando del Lago nearby is much better—before taking in the lively scene at Santa Monica’s historic pier and amusement park.  Then it was back to my place in West Hollywood for an evening of wine, watching the Olympics and more great conversation.

No matter how much time passes, you can always pick up right where you left off with true friends. So thankful that Pam is one of them.

Family Fun With My First L.A. Visitor

I recently hit the 90-day mark of my move to LA. And with it has come the inevitable bumps of the emotional roller coaster that accompanies relocating to a new city.

Friends who have made similar moves have said the 3-6 month mark is the toughest. Because the euphoria begins to wear off, replaced by the reality of having to build a life and cultivate a new support system. What I am learning is that it is much easier to do that when you’re in your twenties — as I did multiple times, moving to Bangor, Maine, Dover, Delaware and Sydney, Australia — than it is at this stage of life.

Still, the Facebook perception until recently was all was sunny literally and metaphorically for me in La La Land. Which is why I decided to come clean about the challenges I’ve been having. The outpouring of support truly lifted my spirits, as did welcoming my first visitor from back home, my beloved cousin Carla.

All smiles in Malibu with Carla

Our action-packed weekend together showed me how much I have learned in a short time about my adopted hometown, and that I have actually been here long enough now to have a small semblance of geographic bearings. It was such a joy to share amazing meals and decadent cocktails at my favorite eateries (Madeo, Sushi Mon, A.O.C. and Doheny Room) and to explore new venues (Mastro’s Ocean Club, Culina). And to indulge our inner child with a trip to Universal Studios. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a fan’s dream come true. The absolutely delicious frozen butterbeer concoction is a must.

My first visit here in more than two decades!

Carla and I also enjoyed a few brushes with celebrity over the long weekend. We had a quick drink at Craig’s on Melrose Avenue as papparazzi waited outside for Angelina Jolie and Jon Voight (whom we didn’t see). We were turned away from hotspot The Nice Guy because Dawsons Creek star James Van Der Beek was having a private party there. But the real A-list moment happened at Culina, when Carla spotted a guy in a white fedora seated a few tables away. Who was the hatted man? None other than Empire actor Terrence Howard.

During her visit, Carla surprised me with a silver bracelet engraved with the phrase, “Forever Family.” Seeing her was a much needed and comforting reminder of how true those words are. What a blessing.

Not Quite Home Yet

One of the great blessings that has helped in transitioning to life in LA is knowing some pretty awesome people out here. I was reminded of this during a recent girls night out with journalism school classmate Cole.

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A.O.C. in West Hollywood (photo courtesy: aocwinebar.com)

We met up at cozy West Hollywood wine bar A.O.C. Over some fantastic white wine and shared plates, Cole and I had a fantastic conversation about long distance love, leaving the TV news world behind and the emotional journey of moving from NYC to LA.

It felt so comforting to talk about shared experiences — from acclimating to LA’s significantly more sprawling layout and follow your bliss vibe to the high volume of aspiring celebrities waiting to be discovered at almost every bar/restaurant. And to have a sympathetic ear for the challenges of making such a huge life change.

I am thankful for the opportunity that brought me here and the great friends new and old in my new zip code. Still, LA doesn’t quite feel like home yet. That reality was apparent during two recent weekends away when I was asked by multiple Uber drivers where I am from.

“I’m from New York but I live in LA,” I replied.

I just couldn’t bring myself to say I am from LA. When you’ve spent most of your life in New York like I have, it is more than your hometown — it is a huge part of who you are.

Of course, it has only been 3 months since I left the Big Apple and I have barely scratched the surface of La La Land. But I know for sure that I will continue to carry NYC with me. Always.

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