What a luxury it is to live so close to New York City!
I can drive in from our suburban town and (if lucky!) be parked on the street within 30 to 40 minutes.
I seem to have tremendous parking karma — which means, very often, I’ll find a spot on the street where I don’t even have to pay (on Sunday, for example), saving me as much as $50 for garage parking for 3-5 hours in fancier neighborhoods.
So I drove in last Sunday to Lexington and 83d, a neighborhood called the Upper East Side, UES, to meet a young friend for brunch at the Lexington Candy Shop, which is a tiny diner on that corner that opened in 1925.
They’re touchy about guests staying too long and by noon there was a line-up.
Then it’s an easy walk west along 83d to the Metropolitan Museum, which, for now has timed admission you reserve in advance.
If you’ve never yet been to New York or to the Met, the whole experience of the UES is well worth it; even the walk, across Park and Madison leads you past elegant townhouses and uniformed doormen, a guy smoking a stogie leaning on a car, a dog-walker with a huge, shaggy something and two pugs. The people watching is always good, and there are so many lovely architectural details to enjoy — from flower-filled window-boxes to carved gargoyles to the wrought-iron frames of pre-war apartment building entrance doors.
The Met has wide steps that make great seating, and musicians — competing! — settle in to entertain. There are plenty of food trucks — for $14 I got a falafel wrap and a lemonade.
New York state residents can pay as little or as much as we want for the Met’s admission fees — everyone else pays $12 (students), $17 seniors over 65 or the full fare of $25.
It’s tempting to think you have to see everything there if you’re a tourist, but that would be impossible! If you really do pay attention to objects, and read labels and wall signs, you’ll soon feel overloaded.
I find it all so moving — the Roman marble family sculpture from a cemetery; the tiny metal pins in the shape of animals that Roman soldiers wore (!); red and black Greek pottery; exquisite enamels of the 17th c; medieval tapestries —- and that’s just a few main floor galleries!
What amazing things have been produced by so many people. To see them close up is such a joy.
I love to visit a pair of gold earrings I find totally enchanting.
The place is quiet and civilized and there are plenty of benches to rest on. Everyone must be masked.
You can have the oddest moment of looking at something millennia old — and stare out the Fifth Avenue windows at the millionaires’ apartments across the street.
The gift shop is full of gorgeous things, jewelry and scarves, pens and pencils and books and puzzles and posters.
I remember it being full of astounding art and art history books — but not now?
It’s an interesting reminder that, without rich people’s generosity, many museums (certainly in the U.S.), would have a lot less stuff to show us; labels tell you what an item is and how old and maybe what it was used for, but also when it was acquired and using what funds. So the Jayne Wrightsman Galleries, for example, are huge and full of very ornate French material, not my taste at all.
Every room in the Greek and Roman galleries had the name of some wealthy benefactor.
These eyes, which would have been added to Roman or Greek sculptures are creepy — but also amazing.
I wrote this post in 2012…and so lucky it all holds true, still.
I’ve updated it a bit to reflect a few changes.
I was born in Vancouver, Canada; moved at the age of two to London, England for three years; grew up in Toronto and also lived twice in Montreal, in rural New Hampshire, Cuernavaca, Mexico and — since 1989 — in Tarrytown, NY, a town of about 10,000, founded in 1648, that’s 25 miles north of Manhattan, whose lights we can see from our street.
As an ambitious writer, I wanted to be close to New York City and have ready access to its publishers, agents, editors and fellow writers.
I could never have afforded an apartment in NYC — or even in Toronto — like the one I bought, with a stunning and unobstructed tree-top view of the Hudson River, with a pool and tennis court. The building is red brick, from 1965, and not the least bit pretty. But the landscaping is and the location and the views.
So here I am, all these years later. Before this, I typically moved every few years. Between 1982 and 1989, I changed cities three times and countries (Canada, France, U.S.) as well.
Some reasons why I’m so happy here:
The Hudson River
This is the view from our apartment balcony. Tarrytown sits on the river’s eastern bank, and the river is easily accessible, for boating, or a picnic, bike ride or walk by the water. Sunsets are spectacular and the ever-changing skies mesmerizing.
A five-minute drive from home is a large reservoir with otters, ducks, swans, cormorants, egrets and turtles basking in the sun. You can lounge on a bench, skate in the coldest winters and safely walk around it in all seasons.
This great gourmet store and cafe is a treasure, filled with delicious treats offered by owner Hassan Jarane, who I also profiled in “Malled”, my book about retail. (You can see our funky street lamps in the window reflection.)
The Tarrytown Music Hall
Built in 1885 as a vaudeville hall, this 843-seat theatre hosts a wide range of concerts, mostly rock and folk. I saw British singer Richard Thompson there last year playing a two-hour solo set, and my fellow Canadian Bruce Cockburn. I can bop down on a Friday afternoon and snag a ticket for $25. Soon re-opening, I hope!
Yes, seriously. Having had four surgeries there and having been too many times to their emergency department, (broken finger, my husband’s concussion, a bad fall), I know it well. Small, friendly, well-run. It’s a little weird to like a hospital, but I’m really glad it’s a 10-minute drive from our door to theirs.
Our local diner, recently and attractively renovated.
A local indie since the 80s, great burgers and the best Caesar salad I’ve eaten anywhere.
The Warner Library
Its magnificent carved bronze doors come from an estate in Florence. Built of Vermont limestone with tall ceilings, enormous windows and a lovely quiet elegance, its reading rooms are airy and filled with light. It opened in 1929, a gift to the community from a local businessman, Mr. Warner.
Easy access to Manhattan
It’s a 38-minute train ride or 30 to 40 minute drive by car. I love being able to spend a day in the city — as we all refer to it — and come home broke, weary and happy. I can be at the Met Museum or see a Broadway show or just stroll Soho without stressing over the cost of airfare or hotel. Living in Manhattan is terrifyingly expensive and the air here is always about 10 to 15 degrees cooler and fresher.
The Rockefeller State Park Preserve
Yes, those Rockefellers, one of the wealthiest founding families of the nation. They donated this 750-acre piece of land, open to everyone, whose gently rolling hills, forests and lake feel like you’ve escaped to Devon or Vermont but only a 10-minute drive from my home. The lake is 22 acres and 180 species of birds have been seen there.
They shoot movies here!
Thanks to its small, low-scale downtown with a well-preserved set of Victorian or earlier buildings, Tarrytown offers a perfect streetscape for period films, often set in the 1940s or 1950s. I missed seeing Keanu Reeves and Julia Roberts when they were here, (“Mona Lisa Smile” was partly filmed here), but almost saw Matt Damon when they were shooting “The Good Shepherd”, one of my favorite movies. If you watch it, a scene where he is to meet his sweetie outside a theater — that’s really the Tarrytown Music Hall!
Greg’s great-grandfather founded the place and he lives upstairs. It’s extremely rare now to find a third or fourth-generation merchant still doing business and thriving, even with a Home Depot not far away. Also mentioned in “Malled.”
It’s fairly astonishing, in a relatively very young country like the United States, to drive past 18th. century history. A beautiful white stone house, mill and mill pond remain in town from this era. Here’s a bit of the history.
The Old Dutch Church
Built in 1697, it’s the second-oldest church — and still in use — in New York State. It’s technically in Sleepy Hollow (which is the old North Tarrytown.)
The EF Language School
Young students come from all over the world to this Swedish school’s Tarrytown campus to study English. It adds a seriously cosmopolitan flavor to our small town to overhear French, German, Italian, Swedish and Japanese spoken on our main street.
Our local coffee shop, with live music and great cappuccinos. Also Muddy Waters, a second coffee shop.
A diverse population
With a median income of $80,000, we’ve got both enormous Victorian mansions and three-family apartment houses. (Westchester county has towns nearby so wealthy their median income is more than $200,000. People like Martha Stewart and Glenn Close live out here.) But Tarrytown has remained blessedly down-to-earth, even as its Mini-Cooper count and yummy-mummy numbers have risen rapidly in recent years. We have Korean nail salons, Hispanic grocers, two Greek-owned restaurants, a Greek-owned florist and a car wash owned and run by an immigrant from Colombia. Hassan, who runs Mint, is from Morocco.
A Muslim family was out for a walk in London, Ontario, a regional city. Five went out and one returned — the rest mown down by a racist piece of garbage in his truck, who hated them for being…non-white. Non-Christian.
The sole survivor is a nine-year-old boy, orphaned.
And now a vicious and brutal attack on a gay man in Toronto for daring to be homosexual.
Not sure how I will celebrate Canada Day, July 1, this year.
Not sure I want to right now.
I haven’t been back to Canada since September 2019 because of Covid; the border has been closed ever since unless my travel is “essential” and it’s not.
Canadians so love to congratulate themselves for being polite and civil and compassionate, traditionally welcoming far more refugees and immigrants than the U.S. and many other countries.
Their social policies are generally much more generous than those in the U.S.
And they really enjoy making sure they are so much better than those nasty, violent racist Americans.
Today? I think not.
When I last lived in Toronto, the streetcar I took to the subway was filled with Caribbean Blacks, the bus down Spadina to my newspaper job filled with Vietnamese.
That was just normal life there.
No one noticed. No one sparked violence.
Pay your taxes, get along.
There isn’t a lot useful to say here, really, beyond expressing my horror and deep disappointment in my country of origin. Sadly, I just expect daily racism and violence in the U.S. It’s baked into the DNA here.
Canada is 100 years younger.
It did not have slavery — although its racist policies have destroyed generations of Inuit and indigenous lives.
Readers in England know what this post refers to — the recent horrific and shocking kidnap and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard, who walked home alone from a friend’s house but was waylaid, of all people, by a Met policeman, now allegedly her killer.
A public vigil held in in her honor became a site of rage and chaos as London police handcuffed women protestors and dragged them away.
Not exactly what anyone wanted.
Apparently, the constant fear and hyper-vigilance that women of all ages simply take for granted, is breaking news to some men.
We spend/waste so much of our lives making sure we are safe — we hope — by choosing a well-lit street or populated subway car, checking our car back seat before we get in.
Parking lots at night? No thanks!
Underground parking garages with no one around? No thanks!
Going for a run or a walk through woods or a forest or at dawn or dusk? No thanks!
Wearing headphones while out in public, just walking? No thanks!
Refusing the attentions, always unwanted, of some random man — Smile, sweetheart! –– can lead to a barrage of shouted filth, sometimes even a vicious physical attack.
almost one in three women in the UK will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime and women are far more likely to be killed by a partner than a stranger – so it’s not like keeping men in the house after 6pm would make women safe….
We’re used to women’s freedoms and women’s bodies being up for debate, you see. We’re used to women being told to modify our behaviour as a reaction to male violence. Women may not be under a formal curfew but you only need to look at the disgusting victim-blaming that went on with Sarah Everard to see that we’re under an informal one. Why was she out at 9.30 at night? Why did she walk home instead of taking a cab? What did she expect? Our freedom of movement after dark may not be restricted by the government, but we often don’t have the freedom to fully relax. We regulate our behaviour automatically; we keep our keys in our hands, we stay on high alert, we pay extra to take a cab because we’re worried about walking home. Street harassment is so common we brush it off as “nothing”; after all, it’s not like there’s anything that we can do we about it anyway. As a recent letter to the Guardian pointed out, “you can be fined for dropping litter in the UK, but not for harassing a woman or girl in public”.
The only time I was attacked was, bizarrely, in my own apartment, in downtown Toronto, never (thank God) on the street. I was not badly hurt, just scared enough to move within a few weeks.
However quaint the notion, most Western women now believe in two words to define how we want to, intend to, spend our lives — autonomy and agency.
But, funny thing, lived in homes and on streets and using public transit and public spaces overwhelmingly designed for the comfort and safety of men.
Some people live their entire childhoods in one home, maybe in a house, maybe an apartment, maybe a trailer. But it’s home. There’s no doubt.
They feel safe, welcome, happy and well-nurtured there. They can’t wait to get home and miss it terribly when they are away.
For others, it can be a place to flee, for a while or forever.
Here’s an astonishing essay about home and house keys from a writer who — oddly — recently moved into the same small coastal British Columbia town my mother lived in for many years.
It brought up so many feelings for me.
Like this passage:
I first visited my father’s house when I was sixteen; we’d not shared an address for fifteen years. A few months later, I moved in, having nowhere else to go.
I used the keys like a tenant on a month-to-month lease—non-committal, curfew-blind—as did everyone else there: my father; his second wife; his stepson; the woman from church his wife invited to stay; the woman from Mexico his wife brought back to stay.
The whole crew pushed off eventually. My father sold the place and took an apartment next door to his office. I slept in his RV for a December and a January, then left for a commune six-and-a-half thousand miles away.
It was already my observation that you can peg the quality and tenor of your in-house relationships by how you feel when you’re steps from the door, key in hand, about to let yourself in. Are you braced for a hurricane? Ready for the dull emptiness of dead air? Smiling before your foot crosses the threshold? Quiet like a mouse?
My parents split up when I was seven, and sold the large house we lived in in one of Toronto’s best neighborhoods, on a quiet street where I played with the neighboring kids. My mother and I moved into a two-bedroom apartment downtown and I went off to boarding school.
But at 14.5, I also plummeted, with almost no notice, into my father’s home, shared with his live-in girlfriend, only 13 years older — a 28-year-old poorly suited to nurturing a troubled teen. It was often challenging for all of us.
They sold the house we later lived in when I was in my second year at University of Toronto, giving me a month’s notice to move out and find a place to live at 19.
I found a ground-floor studio apartment, at the back of an alley in a not-great downtown neighborhood — the sort of place a more attentive parent would have immediately ruled out. But he didn’t.
I was attacked there, so I only lived there for about eight months, glad to flee.
Between 1982 and 1989, I changed my place of residence a lot: Toronto-Paris-Toronto-Montreal-New Hampshire-New York. That included two apartments in Toronto, a student dorm in Paris, a gorgeous two-bedroom apartment in Montreal, a farmhouse in New Hampshire and then, finally, a one-bedroom, top-floor apartment I bought, thankful to never deal with another landlord or rent increase or cracked window or drafty kitchen, in suburban New York.
I haven’t budged since.
I love this moment when the rising sun hits the windows across the river!
In this apartment, with a stunning view northwest up the Hudson River, I’ve been through plenty: a marriage, divorce, being victimized by a con man; two knee surgeries, a shoulder surgery, hip replacement, early stage breast cancer. Three recessions. Jobs won, jobs lost. Friendships gained, friendships that withered.
A happy second marriage, now almost 21 years!
Bu throughout all of this, it’s been a good home.
I love our street — atop the highest hill in our county. Across the street is a low-slung townhouse development (so never a blocked view) and downhill another two-story apartment complex. Our street is winding and quiet, with old growth trees and stone walls. At the bottom are dozens of raspberry bushes — and yet (!) we can also easily see the towers of downtown Manhattan, 25 miles south.
So, yes, it’s the suburbs, and yes it’s pretty damn boring. But also quiet, clean and beautiful. Our town is so attractive it’s often used for film and television locations. It’s diverse in age, ethnicity and income, unlike many others nearby.
Our town reservoir
So, for me, home isn’t just the physical structure where I sleep and eat and work, but a larger vibe where I and my husband, who is Hispanic and a winner of a team Pulitzer for The New York Times, feel welcome.
I keep trying to envision our next home — whether a second home or selling this and leaving — but haven’t seen anything yet (affordable for us) that makes my little heart sing.
I have always longed to live in a private house again, with a fireplace and a verandah and a bit of land and privacy, although I am also very wary of the costs of renovation and surprise/expensive maintenance. The one downside of living in our 100-apartment building is having neighbors who keep opposing its very badly needed renovations — which could easily boost our apartment’s market value by 50 percent.
Tell me about your home — the residence, your town or city or region.
I know many Broadside readers don’t live in the United States.
Right now, I wish I did as well.
Almost 40,000 Americans died two days ago of Covid.
Almost 10,000 people died in just my (largely affluent) suburban New York county.
The President cheers and laughs and lies and urges his base to wreak even more mayhem.
I won’t waste your time or mine trying to parse the insanity and violence and physical destruction and looting of the Capitol.
I listened this morning to a reporter, and former research librarian Brandy Zadrozny, explaining the utter bullshit these people believe and advocate.
This from a recent NPR interview:
Trump’s referring to – we call it a misinformation pipeline or, really, a feedback loop. And what it is – is, you know, over the last four years, he has built a really impressive machine. And what it does – it’s, you know, made up of social media, of cable news sites like Newsmax and OAN, talk radio and websites on the Internet that are all sort of under his influence. So the president can make some outlandish claims, and then all of these websites and news outlets parrot those claims back and then expand them with more conspiracy theories. And then the president can say, look at all of this proof, look at all of these people that think this, as evidence for his original claims.
There’s only so many pandemic months I can stand to live a cycle of apartment/gym/grocery store. Living in a small suburban town with virtually everything amusing closed for months is lonely and isolating!
So, occasionally, I drive the hour into Manhattan, find street parking (sometimes unpaid, when lucky) and wander a bit, savoring fresh air and sunshine and funky old buildings and stonework and little old ladies moving slowly down the block, hipsters in plaid coats and so many dog-walkers!
Carved red sandstone, exterior of an apartment building on Leroy Street
I parked this time on Leroy, a short north-south street in the heart of Greenwich Village, all residential, a mix of five and six-story walk-ups and several brick houses built in 1813.
Imagine! Who walked these streets then? What did they wear? Where were they going?
I was headed a block north to my favorite city street, Bleecker, an odd street that manages to run both north-south on its western edge (right?) then straight across to terminate at the Bowery.
The pandemic has closed many places, but a few great ones remain — so I hit Rocco’s Pastry and Murray’s Cheese, stocking up on delicacies like sfogliatelle and Brie. I ate brunch outdoors — the only way right now to eat there since indoor dining is banned again and it was cold! Like, 30 degrees cold.
Safely distanced, this is the only way to dine in New York right now, regardless of weather
So I read my Sunday New York Times and covered my coffee with its saucer to keep it hot and wore my lined leather gloves as I ate my baked eggs.
I drove southeast to the East Village and parked, again at no cost, on Ludlow Street, just to explore a different neighborhood a bit. I didn’t walk very far but was happy to see two great shops on Rivington are still there, Economy Candy and Edith Machinist, a terrific vintage clothing store. I also found out there’s two-hour metered parking for $10.75 on that street — a garage can easily cost three or four times that much.
I sat for a while on a park bench, soaking up some sunshine, watching locals wander by. It’s not a cool, trendy, hip part of the city, but a weathered neighborhood where people live who don’t work on Wall Street and flee to the Hamptons.
I enjoyed lunch, also outdoors, eavesdropping — a much missed habit! — on five guys, mostly in their 20s and 30s, clearly all really good friends, joking and laughing at the next table.
I so miss city energy.
So even if “all” I can enjoy — no ballet/opera/concerts/theater — is a sunny day walking, I’m happy with that.
It is, for sure, one of the most privileged things anyone can do — travel!
Even a short local road trip implies use of a safe, reliable private automobile.
It assumes having enough money to move past paying for basic necessities, and the health and strength to enjoy moving around and the time off to actually go anywhere. It’s no coincidence that Americans often show little interest in foreign travel, even if they make a lot of money, because taking even two consecutive weeks off is (sadly!) considered weird and lazy — while Europeans savor their annual six weeks.
In a normal year, barring being broke or ill, I love to get out of our small suburban New York town!
I like it and miss our view, but I also really need to get away from American…..everything. Especially, after the past four years, relentless politics, racism and violence.
Even if you don’t live it firsthand, it’s in every news report every day.
Here’s an alphabetical list where I’ve been so far (internationally):
My first visit there was age six or seven, my first solo flight, meeting my mother there. My parents had just split up. My second, decades later, was with my first husband.
Oh, what memories! I was flown to Vienna from Paris at 25 for the weekend by my 10-years-older antiques-dealer boyfriend. I had never been flown anywhere by a beau! We had a challenging time and I broke up with him there. We watched a woman descend the hotel stairs in a very expensive sable coat and he said: “I’d buy you one if you didn’t give me any trouble.” Tempting, but no.
A very expensive mistake! I had hoped, for my first book, to interview the female sailors competing in a round-the-world yacht race, in Sydney and Auckland. Instead, they totally shut me out and the trip cost me thousands. I visited Sydney and Melbourne, briefly, much preferring Melbourne in every way.
Nassau, a very long time ago.
Drove through it on an eight-day truck trip with a French truck driver for a story.
My home and native land.
Cartagena, just as it was first being developed as a tourist destination.
Visited my mother there, who traveled the world alone for years.
Loved it! Zagreb and Rovinj, a town on the Adriatic, July 2017.
At 25, I went to Copenhagen as part of my eight-month EU funded journalism fellowship. I took class with the Royal Danish Ballet (no pointe or center work!) as I was writing about them.
I lived in London ages two to five and have been back many, many times. But I have seen very little beyond London; a day trip to Dorset and a few trips to Bath when my mother lived there. I am so eager to see Cornwall, Yorkshire and Northumberland, for sure.
Thanks to my mother, on her journeys.
I can’t remember my first visit but I lived in Paris (in the 15th at Cite Universitaire) for eight months at 25, on an EU journalism fellowship. Have been back many times, for birthdays and a honeymoon and traveled alone at times. Still haven’t seen Alsace or the Atlantic coast, but know the Cote d’Azur, the Camargue, Corsica and tiny bit of Brittany and Normandy. Seeing the D-Day beaches and cemetery and the Bayeux tapestry was amazing.
I’ve only been to Munich, briefly, and Berlin, for 10 days in July 2017. I am eager to see more.
All of three days in Budapest, July 2017. Eager to go back.
Sigh. How I love Ireland! Have been five times, so far. My great grandfather was the schoolmaster of the one room schoolhouse in Rathmullan, Co. Donegal.
Have been three times, once for my 21st birthday in Venice (which I’ve been to three times.) I adored Sicily. Been to Rome, Florence, Siena but still so much more to see — especially the Dolomites, Lake Como, Puglia and Capri/Pantelleria.
One visit, with a friend who grew up there.
The best trip of my life, really — on safari.
I didn’t love Malta. I did love Mdina and a 15th century house-turned-hotel there.
I lived in Cuernavaca at 14 for a few months with my mother and have been back many times, but not since May 2006. I speak Spanish and miss the country!
A visit in my 20s, before the volcano.
An add-on to my Oz trip. I much preferred NZ to Australia, even though I was only there maybe 10 days and only on North Island. Much as I dislike long flights, I would definitely return.
March 2014, I did some reporting with a team from WaterAid in rural areas. Great adventures!
A quick day trip from Dublin to the (amazing!) Titanic Museum, well worth visiting.
A fantastic two-week trip with my mother — Lima, Cuzco, Puno, Arequipa and sunrise at Machu Picchu. Plus the scariest landing at Cuzco, true white knuckle stuff.
I started a four month journey, solo, in Lisbon, age 22, and traveled to Sinta, Beja, Evora, Albufeira. I loved Lisbon and remember it well — especially the Maneuline architecture and the spectacular Gulbenkian Museum.
Drove through it on our truck journey to Istanbul.
Swoon. I spent my 12th summer in a tiny white stone cottage in Monzievaird, near Crieff, Perthshire, staying with my best friend from sixth grade in Toronto who had just moved there after her parents’ divorce. It was a wild summer, with lots of sightseeing but some very tough arguments with a girl who really didn’t want her mother’s attention divided right then.
I spent six weeks there, alone, and loved it: Madrid, Toledo, Aranjuez, Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Ronda, Ibiza. My favorite part is Andalusia with all its Moorish influences. There are few places as lushly romantic as Seville when the orange trees are in full fragant blossom!
Oddly, a visit in late November, American Thanksgiving, thanks to a cheap-o courier flight. It was dark til 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. and dark again by 2:00 p.m. I loved everything about it: cobblestone streets, the Vasa Museum, the Butterfly House, the muted colors, candles everywhere. Very, very expensive but I would love to return.
Safari. Life changing beauty. So so grateful to have had the income and the time off (a month) to visit at 27 from Toronto.
Probably the best travel experiences of my life: gorgeous country, kind people, affordable lodging and domestic flights, delicious food. I flew courier for $700 from New York (the full ticket price, in 1994, was something like $4,000) and spent 21 days there. My first husband joined me and we visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son. I then went alone south by train to Krabi and took a two-hour boat ride to Ko Phi Phi. Spectacular! Can’t recommend it too highly.
This was a very generous gift from my husband Jose when I finished my first book in 2003; he gave me some money and said GO! So I flew to London then to Malta then to Tunis. I loved it — my enormous room at the Hotel Majestic was about $30 a night. I adore mosaics and Tunis holds the Bardo Museum, one of the world’s best collections of them,
Well….this was the final destination of my eight-day truck trip that began in Perpignan, France. I was exhausted and dirty (no showers for a week) and so happy to have a bed in a room and not in the truck. I only had three days there, alone, but what a city. I visited the Grand Bazaar and spent a day looking at rugs…which provoked the most severe allergic reaction (to dust, I had forgotten!) of my life. I feared I might die, alone and anonymously, in the Otel Harem. But I still use the copper jug I bought there every day in our bathroom.
Half my family are/were American, so I had been to this country many times before I moved to it, in 1988, thanks to a green card thanks to my mother’s American citizenship. I’ve seen quite a bit of it, with only about 11 states yet to explore (Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Indiana, Idaho, Oregon.) One of the best experiences of my life was traveling across the country by train. It is spectacular, with such tremendous variations in scale and beauty. Well worth doing!
Oh boy. This was another cheap-o courier flight and my then best friend joined me. We visited Caracas, Jaji. Los Roques and Merida — in a week! But I got the last flight out after the terrifying landslides and she got stuck for a while and had (!) to be rescued by the Venezuelan navy.
I met a gorgeous blue-eyed Welshman named Nigel on a Christmas Eve flight to Bristol and he took me away to Wales for a few days. That was fun!
This is a smart and powerful argument why the Democratic party needs to wise up fast — with mid-term elections within two years for both Senate and House seats.
Their abysmal failure to speak intelligently to — and listen carefully to — millions of Hispanic/Latino voters cost them a state they expected to sweep and didn’t, Florida.
As a white middle-class Canadian who grew up in two of the most racially and ethnically diverse cities — Toronto and Montreal — these persistent blind spots are both annoying as hell and depressingly consistent in American politics, at least at the federal level.
Expecting a wildly heterogeneous group — whose birthplace or ancestry maybe as disparate as Chile, Mexico (whose many regions are also wildly different from one another), Argentina, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic or even Spain — to somehow share aspirations, beliefs, education and other values is naive at best, desperately ignorant at worst.
There is tremendous racism (thanks to millions of undocumented Hispanics in the U.S.) and wilful ignorance, a toxic combination when formulating intelligent policy and trying to win votes.
I’ve seen it firsthand in a few terrible moments with my husband — a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist mistaken for (of course!) a day laborer.
Both are important jobs but never ever ever assume who anyone is based on the color of their skin!
Journalists and pundits who have spent some time in Latin America or interviewed a few Spanish speakers (and now fancy themselves experts) have suggested that machismo, and a desire to be closer to whiteness, is what drove these voters to support the man who promised to build a wall to keep caravans of Spanish-speaking brown people out. That may be true, but it’s far from the whole story.
It may sound ridiculous, but some of those voters are genuinely afraid of socialism, and he leaned into that. “We will never have a socialist country,” he promised. He understood that for Cubans and Venezuelans, the word is a reminder of the dysfunctional governments they left behind.
I know this firsthand because I live it — as a partner of 20 years with Jose Lopez, born in New Mexico and whose father was born in Mexico. Jose worked for 31 years as a photographer and photo editor and teacher within a bastion of American media power, The New York Times, where a former very senior colleague once said — to his face — “A preppy Mexican!” — when Jose wore khakis, the dull-but-safe East Coast uniform.
It was decades ago….but really?
Nor does Jose speak Spanish, which I do fluently enough to have worked in it.
Nor is he Catholic — his father was a Baptist minister and he is Buddhist, his sister Baha’i and one sister Catholic. Yes, even within one family, diversity. All three siblings married non-Hispanics. One has lived and worked all over the world.
I lived briefly in Mexico as a teenager and have been back many times, although not recently. I’ve also visited Peru, Colombia, Nicaragua, Cost Rica, Venezuela, and Spain.
It’s pretty obvious none of these countries resemble one another beyond a shared language — and even then, not really! I learned to be very careful with local idioms; the verb “coger” can mean quite different things!
I want to see — demand to see — a much much smarter parsing of what it really means to live and work and pay taxes and vote in the United States as someone of Latino or Hispanic heritage.
Canadians have just had their Thanksgiving and Americans are already geared up for Hallowe’en and their Thanksgiving, let alone other holidays and the (large) family gatherings usually expected and anticipated.
Jose’s parents are long gone, his nearest sister lives a four-hour drive away and my only close relative, my 91-year-old father, is in Canada, where my American husband is banned and I face a 14-day quarantine. I haven’t seen him in more than a year and haven’t crossed that border since late September 2019, when it was no big deal.
Every social gathering — let alone professional — is now so fraught with menace and fear, caution and basic human desperation for a damn hug!
This week we are joining two friends, outdoors (bringing a blanket!) for a two-person birthday celebration at a Manhattan restaurant. This weekend, we’re meeting three people, also outdoors, for lunch.
Who will wear a mask and when and for how long?
Who have they met with and how recently and under what circumstances?
Do we trust their friends — who we have never met?
We live in downstate New York, where daytime temperatures are still in the 60s or 70s but night-time plunging to the 40s, hardly a comfortable temperature for sitting anywhere for very long.
Our family’s first and only grandchildren are twins born in D.C. in May — and my father still hasn’t seen them. Nor have I, since my half-brother refuses all contact after a 13-year estrangement.
Millions of people have now lost loved ones to COVID and never had the chance to say good-bye.
Forget weddings and other groups….the latest NY crisis was the result of (!?) a Sweet 16 party, after a wedding in Maine had the same effect.
Our local church is now, finally, open again physically, with an indoor service (limited, it’s a small space) and outdoors at 4pm on the lawn. What I miss more than anything is belting out my favorite hymns…now a dangerous thing to do.
Yes, it’s hard and lonely to never see anyone.
Yes, it’s annoying and difficult to negotiate these times, especially with government “guidance” that shifts daily.