To Vegas With Love

Over the years, I’ve had many wonderful times in Las Vegas. Like everyone else, I was heartbroken about last Sunday’s tragic events. And a little unnerved because, during my recent visit a few weeks ago, I stayed right next door to Mandalay Bay. It was a sobering reminder of how fragile life is–and how important it is to live every day fully, as tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.

Vegas has always been a place about making the most of every moment, by experiencing the joys of good hospitality, great entertainment and fantastic food. I was fortunate to enjoy all three during my recent weekend getaway.

I had already been to Sin City with family, friends and significant others. This was the first big trip with my beloved dog Benji. And it couldn’t have been more perfect.

Our JetBlue flight was easy breezy, as both Benj and I slept for the duration. Upon arriving at the swanky Delano Hotel, our host for one night, I knew immediately this would be a much more relaxing stay than I’ve had at other Vegas properties.

Benji relaxing in our suite with his Delano welcome amenity: biscuits, a poop bag and leather toy

A non-gaming, non-smoking hotel, the Delano has an inviting boutique vibe that makes you forget you’re right on the Strip. Spacious accommodations, first class staff and pet-friendly amenities—including dog walking services and a pet relief area right in front—made for a perfect night (full hotel review coming soon in 25A Magazine!).

One of the major highlights—Rivea, the Delano’s Alain Ducasse rooftop restaurant on the 64th floor.

Rivea: the terrace view from 64 stories above

Joining me for a decadent multi-course dinner on the terrace was college friend Tiffany. Though we hadn’t seen each other in about twenty years, that time melted away as we talked about life, work, singlehood and getting through tough times. We talked for hours and didn’t want the night to end.

Tiff and me and my first-ever bubble tea

Friday, Benji and I moved to the Residence Inn across from the Convention Center. Part of a complex of three Marriott properties, the all-suite hotel is an ideal choice if you want to be off the Strip but still in a central, convenient location.

As soon as we arrived, I was treated to the warmth and home away from home atmosphere for which Marriott is known. I checked in with an upset stomach and having just caught my finger painfully in a door. The kind front desk agent offered Band Aids, first aid ointment and a handful of herbal tea packets.

Our spacious digs at the Residence Inn

We were upgraded to a penthouse suite—a spacious loft with a living room, eat-in, fully-equipped kitchen, loft bedroom and two full bathrooms. Plenty of room for Benji and me to roam around and kick back. The pool was modest but well maintained, and blissfully quiet compared to the loud, crowded scene at most Sin City resort pools.

The Residence Inn’s pool: a low-key haven of relaxation

Much like trips to Vegas with my parents back in the 80’s, this one afforded the opportunity to see some amazing entertainers.

Despite lip synching for most of her 90-minute set, Jennifer Lopez dazzled with flawless dancing and eye-popping costumes, performing most of her hits and an unexpectedly beautiful cover of Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.” My beloved Ricky Martin–the reason for my trip–blew the roof off of the Park Theater with incredible singing and dancing, playing an energetic mix of his signature pop tunes and soulful ballads.

All In: Ricky’s Vegas show was one of his best productions ever

For the last show of the weekend, I went old school with Tiffany (and Benji too!), visiting the Tropicana’s Laugh Factory to see Rich Little. At 78, the legendary comedian is just as hilarious as I remembered him to be when I saw him decades ago. And I had the pleasure of telling him so at a meet and greet afterward.

Rich Little and me

Definitely a memorable, exhilaratingly fun weekend from start to finish.

Sending so much love to everyone in this amazing city–and praying for healing.

 

An Important Anniversary

One year ago today, I found myself somewhere I never thought I would be–the inside of a psychiatric ward. Like 16 million other Americans, I was suffering from depression, one that seemed to only intensify with each passing minute.

As days stretched into weeks, I reached a point where I thought I would never feel like myself again. Which made the prospect of not living anymore seem frighteningly appealing. In reflecting on how far I have come since then, I am also thinking a lot about what it took to pull me back from the brink. Along with my strong spiritual faith, what carried me to the other side more than anything was the tremendous support and care that I received from loved ones.

Family drew in close. Most especially my aunts, Titi Nancy and Titi Lydia, cousins Aidita, Alexandra, Andrew, Carla and Marcella, sisters-in-law Barb and Pris and, of course, siblings Ray, Steve and Hilary.

Friends near and far rallied around me. I am profoundly grateful to Molly, for being my lifeline when the darkness took over while I was in L.A. I am beyond thankful to Julie, Tiffany, Natalie, Sara, Guida, Viva, Heidi, Jackie, Cindy, Caroline, Marilyn, Pam, Jenn, Donna, Lee, Bobbi, Lauren, Louise, Dave, JP and Steve. And forever indebted to my two Lisas–Lisa R. for giving me a home and TLC when I needed it desperately; Lisa L. for brightening up so many of my long days in the hospital. And every single person who reached out to me after I shared on here what I was going through.

March 31st, 2017: A selfie to commemorate the turning point of three consecutive days not feeling depressed.

Many years ago, a wise person told me the redemptive part of going through trials in life is it makes you more empathetic to other’s hardships. It also heightens to a visceral place your appreciation for the fragility of life–and desire to make the most of the time you’re given.

One of the high points after returning to my beloved NYC was going to see the musical “On Your Feet” with dear friend Natalie. There’s a part of the show that deals with singer Gloria Estefan’s bus accident. As her post-recovery anthem, “Coming Out of The Dark” played, the words resonated with me on a much deeper level—

Starting again is part of the plan
And I’ll be so much stronger holding your hand
Step by step I’ll make it through I know I can
It may not make it easier but I have felt you
Near all the way
Coming out of the dark, I finally see the light now
And it’s shining on me
I see the light
Coming out of the dark I know the love that saved me
You’re sharing with me

Thank God for new beginnings.

Finding The Ideal Partner

Since adopting my beloved dog Benji last month, I have found myself thinking about how the Internet (petfinder.com, specifically) made it so easy to find him. The same can’t be said about finding a mate.

A Perfect Match: Benji and me

I’ve often said that online dating is like the Powerball–there are the lucky few who win and then there’s the rest of us. I truly hit the jackpot with Benji. He was my first choice of just two dogs I liked online. Just three weeks later, he was officially my fur baby. No hesitation on his part or mine, no second guessing or thinking there’s something better out there. Just gratitude and joy that we found each other.

When it comes to online dating, constant questioning and interminable searching are par for the course. For as much as it enables you to meet people you wouldn’t otherwise, it has also made dating a commodity–engendering the idea that someone better is always right around the corner and diminishing the value of mutual chemistry. Not to mention causing a certain degree of apathy about putting in the effort it takes to make a good first impression.

Case in point–I recently exchanged emails with a boating aficionado who suggested meeting after work for coffee or drinks. He suddenly shifts gears and proposes I meet him out of the city for an afternoon of sailing. Which would be lovely–with someone who wasn’t a total stranger. When I demurred, he griped that he was “tired of having to prove” he has good intentions.

Then there was Mark, the divorced dad of two who actually did plan a great first date, choosing a cozy bar and lounge on the Lower East Side. Conversation and compliments flowed freely. Apart from his lengthy tangent about other online dating experiences–another unfortunately common and decidedly unromantic post-modern practice–it was a perfect evening. We walked and talked for hours and even kissed goodnight.

He texted the next day and several times while he was out of town. Upon his return, he was pretty effusive during our second date–telling me he was taking his profile down (which he did), talking about going away together, etc etc. Experience has taught me to be wary when someone comes on too strong too quickly, and alas, it turned out I had reason to be.

Mark proceeds to disappear for a week, resurfacing with this text–

“How’s your weekend going cutie?!”

He said he wanted to see me and he would call me later that day.

I never heard from him again.

That’s the thing about dating, especially online dating, today. It doesn’t matter if you (seem to) have a connection with someone. Because most singles believe they can just log on and find the next distraction. And in New York, for better and worse, there’s no stigma attached to being single. Which creates a kind of Peter Pan mindset.

God knows being unmarried and childless certainly isn’t a tragedy of epic proportions. What it is for me, though, is an unnerving irony. Not just because I have put so much into looking for a life partner, but because the lasting relationship gene is literally in my DNA.

My late parents had the kind of enduring love that exemplifies happily ever after. Both of my brothers have been devotedly married for many years, while my sister is in a happy long term relationship. Sometimes, it’s hard to be the last solo sibling standing.

All this is not to say that I have not had great romance and big love in my life. I have felt it and received it in return. During our early days together, an old boyfriend once said to me —

“People live a lifetime on less than what we’ve already shared.”

I’m thankful for these experiences. And, after the terrible depression and upheaval I’ve been through over the last year, I am no longer allowing my single status to define me. I am, as my wise mother always encouraged, learning to be content with what I have. My health. Amazing family and friends. A job I adore. The best dog.

And, of course, my most longstanding love–NYC.

Reuniting With A Dear Friend

Twenty two years ago, I embarked on a whirlwind three-week Contiki tour around Europe. The trip introduced me to two wonderful people who became cherished friends–Australians Sue and Dave. This week, I had the great pleasure of being reunited with Dave, for the first time since my last visit Down Under in 2009.

Way back when: Dave, me and Sue in Europe, May 1994.

As soon as I saw Dave, it felt like no time at all had passed. We picked up right where we left off–enjoying some beloved NYC haunts along the way.

Dave and me at the Gansevoort Hotel’s rooftop bar Plunge

We brunched outside at neighborhood eateries Beach Cafe and Five Napkin Burger, both of which I love even more now because they’re dog-friendly. My sweet Benji joined me and Dave, quietly taking in the scenery while we ate.

Dave took this photo of me and Benji at Beach Café

Taking advantage of picture perfect weather, Dave and I also strolled around Central Park and the High Line, and did rooftop drinks at Meatpacking District hipster hotspot the Gansevoort Hotel. For dinner, we lingered at The Plaza’s Food Hall by Todd English (epic truffled lobster mac and cheese), savored the Greek delights of Gramercy bistro Barbounia and indulged in Italian fare at favorite UES Bottega restaurant (Tiramisu to die for).

Truffled lobster mac and cheese at The Plaza Hotel’s Food Hall. Yum!!!

Throughout the delicious meals and engaging local sights, Dave and I shared wonderful, soul-soothing conversations about life, love, loss, careers and travel. I was in awe when Dave told me about his post-tsunami volunteer work in Sri Lanka. And he listened with compassion as I confided what I have been through over the last year.

I’m a big believer in the saying that friends are the family we choose for ourselves. God has truly blessed me in my extended family–and I am so thankful Dave is a part of it.

Til next time, my dear friend.

All About My Dream Job

When it comes to one’s career, my brother Ray is fond of repeating Confucius’ wise words–find something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. A wonderful truth I’ve been reminded of every day since starting at The Pierre Hotel almost three months ago.

One of my first assignments: A Vogue magazine photo shoot with Kendall Jenner

It’s no accident that this hotel is one of just a few in the U.S. to be consistently recognized with both AAA’s Five Diamond Award and Forbes’ Five Star rating. You can feel how deserving it is of these sought after accolades from the minute you step onto this majestic, iconic property.

Every single staff member you interact with is welcoming and warm. In addition to grand event spaces and elegant rooms with unparalleled city and Central Park views, this extraordinary level of hospitality is what keeps guests coming back. And one of many reasons I feel so fortunate to work at such a storied hotel.

A spectacular view from one of The Pierre’s guestrooms

From the General Manager to my boss and every other colleague, I spend my days with talented, smart, dedicated people who genuinely care about the guest experience and preserving the rich legacy of the Pierre.

And what a legacy it is. This is where the likes of Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor have stayed. Where many of New York’s most prestigious events have been held year after year since the hotel opened in 1930. And where many, many couples say their I dos. You can feel that history walking through legendary spaces like The Rotunda. Or the Cotillion Room (fun fact: Scent of A Woman’s tango scene with Al Pacino was filmed there). It’s like being transported to another era.

I am both proud and honored to be part of the team tasked with telling The Pierre’s story. My job has reinforced what a blessing it is to have a gig that combines what I love and, ahem, what I think I’m good at.

I’ve often said that looking back on my career, I couldn’t have planned it any better–even though I never imagined my circuitous professional path would lead me here. Every single job I’ve had–from TV news reporting/producing to PR Agency Account Supervisor–has prepared me for what I do now. I get to utilize my experience and skills in a way that makes the workdays fly by. Being an avid traveler, I am beyond thrilled I get to do that inside what a former boss accurately dubbed one of the most renowned establishments in the world.

Benji enjoying the scenery inside The Rotunda

An unexpectedly wonderful bonus — The Pierre is a pet friendly hotel. I brought my beloved Benji in when I had to work a Vogue Taiwan photo shoot one weekend. From the front desk to security, IT and food and beverage, my colleagues gave Benji a first-class welcome (along with a few treats). And after seeing this photo of my pup in The Rotunda, my awesome boss said Benji could be the star of our next pet-inspired photo shoot on property. Really–it doesn’t get any better than this.

Actually, it does. Because every day I get to experience the magic of The Pierre all over again. How lucky can a New York City gal get?

My New Best Friend

Last fall, when I was in the midst of a very painful depression, my brother and sister in law suggested I get a dog. The idea stayed with me–surprisingly given my personal history with canines.

Growing up, our family pet was my grandparents’ dog Teddy. A French poodle whose bark (or rather growl) was as bad as his bite, Teddy lacked the warmth for which most dogs are known. I nicknamed him Cujo–as in the rabid character from Stephen King’s novel of the same name–that’s how unfriendly he was.

Years later, I became intimately acquainted with larger canines when I dated a guy whose world revolved around short-haired pointer Miles and Weimaraner Jasmine. As crazy as it sounds, they became an obstacle to the relationship. My ex never stayed over because of them, while Jasmine was visibly jealous and possessive (Miles and I, however, bonded over being third wheels). When we were on a road trip, he called out “there’s my beautiful girl.” Imagine my surprise when I turned toward him and realized the compliment was directed not at me but at Jasmine.

Because of that canine-induced drama, I swore I would never get a dog. Ironically, it took another man to completely reverse my thinking.

As soon as I met this guy’s beautiful white mutt Zoe, I knew that she was a different, more loving breed of animal. In getting to know and love her, I also found myself feeling a surge of longing toward dogs I passed in the street.

Watching Zoe jump into this lake in The Berkshires was a delight

Knowing that I wanted a rescue pup, I visited two NYC shelters and a pet adoption fair–with no luck.

“You don’t choose the dog, the dog chooses you,” Zoe’s dad told me.

He also encouraged me to look on Petfinder.com, which was how he had found Zoe. That’s where I discovered Benji and applied online to adopt him.

A few days later, a lovely woman from Second Chance Rescue called me. The road to adoption would include a phone interview, providing two references and a virtual home visit. I was both impressed and heartened by her obvious care and commitment to finding pets a good second home. I can’t say enough good things about Second Chance.

The more that I heard about Benji, the more I felt–even without meeting him–that he was the pup for me. Especially because of what happened upon receiving the good news that I was approved to adopt him.

I had a dream about my late, beloved parents. Benji was in it too, happily roaming around our family home, getting lots of love from Mom and Dad. It was the first time in a while that I dreamt about them. I knew in my heart they were saying Benji was indeed meant for me.

Who could resist this face?

When I went to pick him up, he came right to me, jumped into the car with no fuss, then slept all the way home (probably tuckered out from his journey up here from Georgia). And just like that, this 19 pound bundle of shih tzu sweetness stole my heart.

Over the last week, every day with Benji has brought a joyful new surprise. Playing fetch with him. Curling up on the couch together. Sleeping side by side. I understand now what so many people have told me over the years about the unconditional love and comfort that a pet gives you. It’s so wonderful coming home to my little guy. He brightens up every day and is already teaching me so much.

I feel so blessed to have Benji. He’s everything I wanted in a dog and more—including being a great traveler. I have a feeling that on future trips, pet-friendly is going to top the list of amenities I look for!

Welcome home, Benj.

Why I’m Smitten All Over Again

Years ago, during my Single Gal In The City days, a blog reviewer astutely identified my most successful love affair. That love affair is blossoming anew as I rediscover the many joys of life in the Big Apple.

Even on a cloudy day, still the world’s most beautiful skyline.

Though I’ve been back in NYC since September, it’s only in the last couple of months that I have fully reconnected with my hometown. The depression that gripped me during the intervening period made it difficult to enjoy being home again. But as I started to come out of the despair, I kept thinking about something my late and beloved mom once said—that in the darkest times of her life, walking the streets of New York gave her strength. In the course of helping me find my way back to the light, my hometown has stolen my heart all over again.
Fluctuating temperatures notwithstanding, this has been a new season for me in so many ways.
One month into my job at the legendary Pierre Hotel, I am truly savoring every workday. From a picturesque location directly across from Central Park to talented and welcoming colleagues—The Pierre has reminded me why I love what I do. Hospitality attracts creative, dedicated and generous people. And it offers the opportunity to be immersed in everything that makes the Big Apple so special.

Girls Night Out: With dear friends Sara (left) and Natalie (right) and my beloved cousin Alexandra.

Over the last week, I’ve been to three Broadway shows (Present Laughter, On Your Feet and Cats—all must sees!). I’ve taken in the sweeping views from Top of The Rock and walked the High Line with one of my best friends. I’ve enjoyed a girls night out that included dinner at Rosa Mexicano in Union Square and seeing the always awesome Jessie’s Girl. And I’ve enjoyed a beer garden and five-star cheese shop in Williamsburg. On the work front, I’ve helped to launch an exciting upcoming outdoor event and I’ve become acquainted with a delightful, accomplished opera singer who shares my passion for all things NYC.

Jessie’s Girl: the best 80’s band period.

I feel like I am looking at every Big Apple adventure through fresh eyes. Before my five-month stint last year in L.A., my vision was more than a little cloudy when it came to NYC. Now, I know with every fiber of my being that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. In the city so great they named it twice. The concrete jungle where dreams are made of.

And where it’s never, ever too late to begin again.

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.

 

 

 

 

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