Exploring the NYC Public Library

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View from our room at The Andaz-perfect hotel and perfect location!

SHHHHHH….the librarian tour guide at the NYC Public Library glared at Thom and I as we quietly discussed a salient point to what she was elaborating on.  DO. NOT. TALK.  The message was clear and, properly chastised, we tried to remain silent for the rest of the one hour tour.  Damn, it’s hard to be silent.  Ranging in age from super old to ridiculously youthful, our tour group cohorts smirked at us including giving us the “oh no you didn’t” shameful sign.  Being quiet did allow us to learn ALOT about the NYC library along the way on our recent stay in NYC.   Silence is golden.  Well, to most people.

Opened in 1911,  the unofficial “People’s Palace” was built on the site of a former reservoir that featured a promenade around it for the ladies with hats and gents could stroll back in the day.  NYC Public Library is a library of record that has many collection rooms scattered throughout featuring the good, bad and truthful record of people over time.  We saw rooms for ancestory, the top 10 map collections in the world, historical records including an archive of menus from NYC to record our appetite timeline for posterity.

As you first enter, the grand Astor Hall was made out of marble, 65% of which was rejected because only the best would do for this magnificent structure.  The intricate carved ceilings in the outer hallways was created in plaster to look like wood and it does.  Why aren’t modern buildings built with more interesting ceiling features?  Look up at the NYC PL because there are stunning murals in many of the main halls.  Other fun things to check out:

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Lions are everywhere from the huge statutes out front to the small heads by what were the water fountains before they discovered the pipes were lead and not safe-now just for show.  They used to put wreaths at the holidays around the lion heads until some idiot set them on fire so no more holiday decorations for these lions.  Damn fools.

Pooh lives here.  Who knew?  You can see the real stuffed animals that inspired the Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

In Room 328 Rare Books, you can see letters from Columbus, who thought he was by the New China Sea when he was checking out the US.  I guess people were disappointed that he didn’t discover human monstrosities on his tour.  Of course, Trump hadn’t been born yet.

Also in Room 328 is Thomas Jefferson’s original declaration of independence before the Continental Congress took it over and revised it.  Also kept here is the world’s most valuable baseball card.  What ball player you may ask??  Honus Wagner.  Never heard of him.  That’s probably blasphemous but just true.  Our trusty tour guide told us that baseball cards used to come with cigarettes purchases.  Yep, encourage the kids to light up and collect cards.

Of course, we had to check out the famous Gutenberg bible on display-one of 2 copies that are rotated to keep them in top shape, changing the pages open regularly.  The black ink is typeset but the red letters were hand written.  While the Rose Main reading room (iconic site used in Ghostbusters movie) was closed for renovation after parts of the aging ceiling fell down, there were so many other areas to check out that I didn’t miss it.  On previous visits, that is usually all we saw.  Well, besides the convenient public bathroom on the 2nd floor that we knew was there and used when in the neighborhood touring and needed a facility.

There is a quite extensive collection exhibited on Alexander Hamilton who is now a rock star thanks to the Broadway hit.  Seeing the letters he wrote to his wife and all the official work he did for this country was very interesting, being the scholar and scoundrel that he was most definitely in real life.

As the tour wound down, our tour guide shared that the NYC PL was really all about inspiring life long learning and a passion for the community–one of the last bastion of civilizations–and sternly told us that libraries will never be obsolete. I hope not.  My fondest childhood memories are of the Noblesville Public Library, a downtown brick multi-level joy that is no longer used as a library, but where I could escape and become immersed in a different world with my beloved books.  A Wrinkle in Time was my all-time favorite book.  I’ve shared my love of reading with my family who all think that the best present you can give is a book and the best place you can spend your day is immersed in a great library.

Andaz is Special, Park Hyatt Not So Much

Through the generous offer of two free nights at any Hyatt property (all categories) with the opening of a Hyatt credit card, we were set for our NYC trip.  Booking one night at the Andaz Fifth Avenue and one night at the very pricey Park Hyatt (up to $1200/night), we had two very different experiences.   Andaz treated us like royalty even using points.  Park Hyatt, you disappointed and treated us like ugly stepchildren.  Andaz, you win hands down!  You have now got my loyalty for life–even as a paying customer.

Having stayed for two months at the Andaz in Shanghai for our transition housing when we moved to China, I did have high expectations.  The Shanghai Andaz had the most amazing service and amenities, including complimentary snacks, beverages, nightly wine and morning buffet.  In addition the rooms were lavish and service over-the-top.  Checking into the Andaz Fifth Avenue felt like coming home–no counter between myself and the Andaz host.  Without even asking:  Bottled water?  Yes please.  Early check-in and late check-out?  Yes please.  Even though we weren’t “paying” customers, we had a view of the NYC Public Library with a spacious especially by NYC standards, luxurious room featuring 20 foot ceilings, a marble bathroom with a shower bigger than most bathrooms and separate foot bowl/foot shower, great after a long day of walking around Manhattan.  At our last hotel, while they provided nice postcards, they did not have stamps available.  Of course the Andaz not only had stamps for our postcards but no charge and happy to mail them for us.  Classy and convenient.  We got in a little after the free wine happy hour last night so the bottles were put away but when I asked, they quickly poured me a complimentary glass to go to the room.  Ahhh….love the Andaz so much I would gladly pay the $300-400 a night to stay there if I was out of free Hyatt points, which I am now.

Now, on today to the Park Hyatt where there seemed to be a lack of service altogether and at up to $1200 a night, you would expect more.  Finding our way up to the check-in, there was no offer of water and no early check-in.  Yes, I’m spoiled.  The lobby was teeny tiny and I was already missing my Andaz.  But wait…the Park Hyatt decided to favor us with the worst room at the inn with a brick wall/construction/air vent view in a room so small you can hardly walk around the bed, which is typical for a NYC hotel but I thought the Park Hyatt would be different.  Guess I was wrong.

Now, the high tech tv in the bathroom mirror with remote control was cool and the tub is nice but don’t eat those snacks, Thom, because they surely aren’t free.  No complimentary wine for you, Ms. George!  So, we quickly escaped to the top floor pool that we had heard was very nice and it was.  Thom is taking his nap now while I write this and then we’ll enjoy the lap pool, cucumber water and hot tub.

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Park Hyatt Pool is nice

Tonight it’s off to dinner with Ronnie and Andrea, old friends, and then Dublin tomorrow night.  Vacation is THE BEST and yes, I appreciate it even looking at a brick wall.  Life is good.

Two Gutenbergs in One Day

The theme for Friday’s Manhattan adventure was a deep dive into literature so it was only fitting that we got to see two Gutenberg Bibles in one day-first at the NYC Public Library and then in the evening at the Morgan Library.  Just blocks apart, these masterpieces are two of only 49 left of their kind, the first major book printed around 1450 using mass-produced movable type.  A beautiful and historic book to behold and the Morgan Library has 3 copies that they rotate to preserve.  wp_20160916_20_03_13_richThey’ve done a good job because it is in great repair for being so old and enduring many adventures among owners in the past before being acquired in 1815 for the Morgan Library.moran-2

Taking advantage of the free Friday deal to visit the Morgan, we sought out Rembrandt’s first masterpiece, Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver, which is considered to be his first mature work.  Perhaps we are a little jaded from seeing so many Rembrandts on our Amsterdam tour but still it was impressive, along with other pieces of his work on display.  moran-1

More interesting to me though was the Charlotte Bronte exhibit that showcased all her talents from drawing to writing.  She and her sisters started early in life by creating tiny books telling stories to each other.  Charlotte was a strong liberated woman for her day (with a teeny tiny 18 inch waist-dress pic) and wanted only to write and not be a teacher or governess as the culture would dictate her to be in the early 1800’s.  She declared herself “a free human being with an independent will”.  Unfortunately, it’s still hard to make a living being a writer even in this day and age.  I respect her fortitude to follow her passion and share her talents with the world.

After soaking up the opulent Morgan Library with it’s iron staircases leading to even more books on the upper floors interspersed with tapestries and paintings and, of course, an elegant ceiling, we enjoyed a jazz trio treating the crowd to a spirited jam session.  Resting before the walk home, Thom and I smiled and agreed it was another perfect day in NYC.

 

A Tale of Two Rats-A NYC Fairy Tale

There once lived two rats in very different parts of the big city that never sleeps.  Lucky me, I got to see them both up close and personal while out having Manhattan adventures.  One rat, we’ll call him Junior due to his petite size, lived by the lake in Central Park with a view to die for.  The other deserves a loftier title, perhaps Pony, as he was large enough to saddle up, and lives in Madison Square Park near the iconic Flatiron Building.

Now in the early fall in the Big Apple, they had very different experiences.  Junior was doing who knows what but got stuck in the sidewalk swell and was rescued by a tourist with no sense of self preservation or hygiene.  Slowing down to see why there was a crowd gathered, Thom and I stopped in our tracks when we saw this gent pick up Junior by the tip of his tail, freeing him from whatever he was trapped by and gently swinging him over to the bushes to set him free.  Run, Junior, run.  Run, Melinda, run.

Now Pony didn’t experience the same type of kindness by strangers.  Walking from Happy Hour at the Flat Iron Room to Fishs Eddy to shop, we were drawn into Madison Park, our old neighborhood haunt where Thom would take Izaak every day to play in the dog park when we lived at 27th and 7th in Chelsea.  Observing all the dogs playing was great but then, streaking from the dog area to the bushes in the middle of the park  right in front of us was a small dog or was that…wait a minute, that’s no dog.  Running like a bat (or rat in this case) out of Hell, Pony, aka the largest rat I have ever seen, took off like a shot from the fenced dog area probably after one of the dogs decided he had found a new playmate or tasty snack.  Run, Pony, run.  Run, Melinda, run.

Ultimately, both rats lived to see another day in the city that I love.  Who knows, maybe next time I visit we’ll meet again.  Or not.

 

Living the Literary Life at The Algonquin

Stepping back into the 1920’s era of rich wood paneling where The Round Table met to discuss news of the day was a treat as we checked into The Algonquin hotel in NYC and were promptly greeted by the legendary house cat, Matilda.  Fat and sassy, the current Matilda is one of many felines who have graced the lobby starting with the original anointed “Hamlet” (boy cats are named Hamlet and girl cats are Matilda) by legendary thespian John Barrymore back in the day.  They even have a “chief cat officer” on staff to assist Matilda with her busy schedule and social media accounts.  Yes, this lucky cat has a Facebook page:  Matilda-The Algonquin Cat.

 

Aside from Matilda, this hotel reeks of history and luxury.  Enjoying Day 1 of our NYC/Ireland vacation, we couldn’t wait to check in and hit the streets to see our favorite Manhattan haunts.  While the rooms are small, they make up for it with top of the line furnishings from the backlit photographic headboard to the marble bathroom, this hotel experience is worth it.  Grab a complimentary espresso and sit in the lobby where classic tunes play and snuggle into the leather chairs for a quiet reading experience that is a very worthwhile use of time.

Stepping outside on 44th Street right into the middle of the hectic Manhattan experience, it’s an easy walk to all the landmark attractions like Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Times Square and even, for those of you like me who have to get 10,000 steps a day, it’s a nice long walk to Central Park.  We hit over 20,000 steps yesterday as we took it all in and walked through lush Central Park in the throes of an Indian Summer day with blue skies and temps in the 70’s.

After a long day of walking, we were still tired from the redeye flight from Hell where we fidgeted and twitched for 5 long hours but certainly didn’t sleep.  The front desk of the Algonquin couldn’t have been nicer, checking us in early at 9 a.m. when we finally arrived after a long, traffic-congested Uber ride from JFK.  Of course, Thom became best buddies with our driver, talking New York sports the whole way while I napped.  So fun meeting and talking to new people.  Our Uber guy in Seattle to the airport was from Vietnam and was so excited we had visited his country so we chatted all things Hanoi and Saigon.  Enjoying the journey!

World Series Time-Thom’s Dream Comes True!

I made the decision that Thom MUST go to the World Series if the Mets, by some miracle, beat the Goat-cursed Cubs. It wasn’t a hard decision.  A lifelong survivor of so many losing seasons, this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Okay, twice in a lifetime, since he went to the World Series the last time the Mets made it–way back in 1986 when tickets were $30.  DAMN, he’s old!  My daughter Hannah, who is also married to a huge Mets fan, had the very same idea  and called me to collaborate on what could be the best father-in-law/son-in-law road trip of all times.  THEY’RE GOING TO NYC TO THE WORLD SERIES!

Mets going to the World Series!
Mets going to the World Series!

Miracle of all miracles, the 7 Line company that sells Mets gear sponsored a lottery for true fans (and customers) but only had 589 tickets for each of the three games at CitField.  After they sent out 25,000 fan codes to access the site, it was all up to luck and good bandwith to “win” the opportunity to buy max of 2 of these $250 tickets.  SCORE!  My son-in-law got through and so on Saturday, October 31st, Thom and Mike will spend Halloween cheering on their Mets to victory in NYC.

The agony of waiting for the end to come!
The agony of waiting for the end to come!

Personally, I can’t wait for it all to be over.  The stress is so overwhelming at times that Thom’s face is bright red and he can hardly function.  I have my fingers poised to dial 911 at all times during games just in case of a stress-induced medical emergency.   We had to wrap an ice wrap around his neck to cool him down at one point during an especially close game.  Pathetic–over a silly ball game!  He is constantly texting his NYC friends during games, sharing the excitement and pain as the players cause anxiety galore among all.

Game-induced stress = ice wrap around the neck
Game-induced stress = ice wrap around the neck

On Thursday night, when the Mets were set to sweep the Cubs in game 4 of the NLCS, when Thom would normally be glued to the television, we were instead sitting at Century Link Field cheering on the FIFA WC USA women’s team playing Brazil, tickets purchased when the thought of the Mets playing in post-season was just a dream.  Earbuds in, I warned Thom not to shout out random profanity as he listened to the game moving closer to it’s conclusion.  AT LAST, the smile lite up his face like a small child experiencing their first Christmas morning.  Flights now booked, they will arrive in time to watch the game with loyal fans on Friday night at legendary Mets sports bar, McFadden’s with hundreds of other fanatics and go to the game on Saturday.  Send good karma to the Mets and pray that Thom makes it through the series with his blood pressure intact.  GO METS!

Savoring the Manhattan Experience One More Time

Back in NYC after a business trip to Orlando (in July…HELLO, event planner, what were you thinking???–so hot and humid I was always moist) I couldn’t help but immediately take to the  streets.  It’s what I do and makes my FitBit so happy.   On the way to work on Sunday morning, yes I work 24/7, I managed to walk by Rockefeller Center, the LOVE sculpture, Central Park and St. Pat’s Cathedral.  Only in Manhattan is that all in a morning’s walk.

FishEddy's is my go-to store every time I am in NYC
Fishes Eddy is my go-to store every time I am in NYC
St. Pat's Io's always awe-inspiring and iconic
St. Pat’s Io’s always awe-inspiring and iconic

Waiting for Thom to join me later in the week so we can celebrate out 27th Wedding Anniversary, I wanted to save the fun stuff so we could do it together but I did manage a walk to my favorite store, Fishs Eddy, on Sunday.  The lure of kitschy hand towels, Hillary mugs, and fun stuff always has me leaving with a bag of goodies to bring home.  Putting in 17,000+ steps = 7+ miles on Sunday left the feet hot and tired for sure but, fueled by my beloved $1 cheese pizza, I just kept on walking, walking, walking….

With Thom finally here, we set off for the TKTS booth in Times Square to get a deal on Broadway tickets.  Having scoped out the Tony Awards and the NYTimes reviews, I knew exactly what shows I wanted to see and, sure enough, at 7:00 p.m. last night we scored 50% off 4th row seats to see Taye Diggs in Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  AMAZING.  GO.  He’s only been the lead for 7 shows yet I can’t imagine anyone else pulling off that story with the grit and sassy bravado he showed off in this explosive drama musical.  We were just shy of the water spout he shot out into the crowd and three rows away from him grinding on me like he did the lucky gal in the first row who really was into it.  That’s cool–little too up close and personal for me anyway.

Despite some microphone miscues, Taye just rolled with it and shook his fist at the so-called ghost who haunts the Belasco Theater and cussed him out.  Leaping out into the audience, he picked on the preppy guy in the second row, licking his glasses and then politely handing them back.  Sharing spit is caring!  This is the type of show I could go to again and enjoy it even more.  If you’re in NYC, go to TKTS, get your tickets at 50% off and enjoy it–may want to avoid that third row middle seat, however, unless you wear a raincoat.

Classic theater and explosive drama musical
Classic theater and explosive drama musical
Adding to my Broadway sippy cup collection makes me so happy!
Adding to my Broadway sippy cup collection makes me so happy!

Today, we celebrate our 27th anniversary.  Seems like yesterday that I was in NYC at the Cadillac Bar picking up the cute guy with the long hair, earring and fur-lined leather jacket.  We went dancing the night away at the trendy Limelight Bar in an old church and have never stopped the adventure of enjoying our lives together.  While I had to work today, Thom braved the rain and got to see his Mets play (and lose-pity!) but enjoyed the experience thoroughly.  Tonight we will go to Toshi’s, our favorite bar in the Flatiron District with Hello Brooklyn singing on stage and will thoroughly enjoy the Presidential Suite the lovely Grand Hyatt just upgraded us to.

Using my many Diamond status perks, we had been promised last night to be moved but there were Secret Service here who took priority, watching over somebody far more important than us.   Hmmm… wonder who??  Could Thom be wearing the very hotel robe that a foreign President just wore???  Yes, we are not only blessed with ridiculous adventures but, more importantly, we have each other.   I don’t have to worry about anything because, no matter what, I know Thom has my back and will be there to support me and love me and, really, what else matters??  Best friends and soulmates for the last 27 years.  How lucky I am.

Presidential Suite at the Grand Hyatt is amazing!
Presidential Suite at the Grand Hyatt is amazing!
The adventure continues...
The adventure continues…

New York, Here We Come!

$1 Pizza… top of the “to do” list…. bagels from a street cart…a must… live music at City Winery…VIP seats at $28 each…. oh what fun we will have-carbs and wine, oh my!  Thom and I are off to NYC on a business trip for a few days and we will revel in being back where we belong.   When we moved out of our Chelsea apartment after my assignment ended there in 2/2012, we weren’t quite as sad as when we left Shanghai because we knew we would be able to go back.  China, probably not.  Since that move out of Manhattan, we have been lucky enough to enjoy our favorite urban setting a few times, always taking advantage of the local delicacies.  Nothing fancy for us–one dollar will buy you a huge slice of cheesy heaven or a chewy bagel buttered thick and eaten on the street while you’re walking around the city.  I’m salivating as I type…YUM!  Good thing that we walk miles when we are there or I would be in serious trouble.  Have you ever had a true NYC Black and White cookie???  The sugar content just coats your tongue and overwhelms the senses in an amazing sugar coma way.   They are THE bomb!

Black and whites are NYC.
Black and whites are NYC.

Shopping is a must so after I finish working and while Thom hangs at a Mets game with his buddies from kindergarten (no kidding-they are still besties!), I will be walking downtown to FishsEddy, the most fantastic quirky store that I love so much at 19th and Broadway.  What do they have that’s so unique?  Well, I have gotten NYC theme salt & pepper, soap dish, towels, etc. that sound cheesy but they do them in a really cool way and the classic Hillary Clinton mug that Hannah loves, the naughty nude lady mug that I just had to give as a Christmas present to my sis’s hubster, and the list goes on and on.  Note to self:  MUST bring empty bag to carry back all the stuff I just have to buy.  We were thrilled to see that West Elm now carries a little boutique of FishsEddy stuff in Seattle (see, I told you they were cool) but I still want to shop at the original in NYC.  I think my favorite item is their ceramic hand collection.  I have a small one that holds my most precious rings on my very cluttered jewelry display.

Give FishsEddy a Hand!  Best store in NYC.
Give FishsEddy a Hand! Best store in NYC.

First night in town, we already have tickets to a concert at City WInery to see Griffin House, an indie bluesy singer out of Nashville,  I had never heard of him but love the venue so I downloaded some of his songs and he’s really good.  So, tickets purchased, I look forward to sipping some wine in a lively intimate environment down in SoHo.  On our way down to the concert, we just have to stop by our favorite Barnes & Noble in Union Square and go to a book signing for the authors of the Dr. Who books.  Thom is a Dr. Who freak who even got a Tardis tattoo on his arm, so he will geek out seeing these guys.  My husband is so weird and wonderful.  Just saying…

Yes, I will be adding to my Broadway Booze sippy cup collection
Yes, I will be adding to my Broadway Booze sippy cup collection

A Broadway play is a given for another night with TKTS providing a great bargain for people like us who wait till the last minute and take whatever is left on a week night.  Musical, drama, I don’t care as long as it’s Broadway, baby, it’s good!  I remember the last time we were there we took one of my China peers to see Kinky Boots.  As he was drooling over the babes kicking up their heels on stage, I leaned over and told him they were all dudes.  The look on his face was priceless and he proclaimed that he would never see such a thing in China.  He is probably still telling stories in Beijing about his Broadway experience.

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My Happy Place

The Met is on the list as the Temple of Dendur is my happy place.  When Thom and I lived in NYC, we were members of the Met and went there almost every week to gaze upon the Monets and enjoy so many wondrous works of art.  Love it!!!  Of course, we will see friends and Thom will get to see his beloved Mets play on Sunday before we go home.  We will walk through Central Park after the Met and visit Madison Square Park where Izaak spent his days frolicking with the pups when we lived here.  Ahhhhh….the smell of urine-soaked gravel does bring back the memories.  NYC… Here we come!

My Destiny-Manhattan & Me

NY Post. Bagel Shops. $1 Pizza. Dog parks. Broadway. Interesting people-EVERYWHERE. Why do I love NYC so much? All that & more. You can never be bored here. I hate being bored. I want to be able to walk for miles and see something new and different, whether it be a store or people or a park, every day I am alive. I’m a walker and NYC is a walking paradise. Even in the downpour last night, we had fun dodging under scaffolding and running across broad avenues to reach the historic and wonderful theater where we saw Kinky Boots.

Broadway Baby-Kinky Boots Amazingly Fabulous!
Broadway Baby-Kinky Boots Amazingly Fabulous!

Enriching my colleague’s life with a night on Broadway, he was even more amazed when I leaned over and told him that those gorgeous ladies doing the high kicks in the skimpy outfits and kinky boots were all men. Priceless. He was still talking about it the next day and really appreciated the story line and talent displayed on stage. But never, ever would you or could you experience something like that in China.  I’m glad we could share that with him.  And, yes, those were Kinky Cocktails in sippy cups.  When I die and the grandkids are going through our crap, they’ll see my collection of sippy cups from all the Broadway plays we have gone to and think their Nai Nai was pretty cool and drank ALOT.  Oh, the stories they will tell but hopefully we will inspire them to see our big, wonderful world.

Today, after work we walked around the UN area between 49th and 55th and 2nd Avenue, wandering aimlessly with no destination in mind as we do everywhere we go.  Manhattan, we love you!  When we stumbled upon the Peter Detmold dog park by the East River and 51st Street we just felt like it was home.

Puppies galore!  I miss my Izaak so much!
Puppies galore! I miss my Izaak so much!

There were even Vizla’s playing among the many dogs with their owners chatting and enjoying the warm sunny day.  Ahhhhhhh….this is where we belong.  While there were no coal barges running up and down the river like in Shanghai, an apartment here would be awesome.  We favor a river view always, though whether we could afford one here is still to be determined.

Many of the buildings were very historic with beautiful stonework and rich details.  Doormen in their uniforms guarding the residences doesn’t bode well for affordability but does speak to feeling secure and pampered.  Many restaurants including Il Positino and other international restaurants due to the UN being so close made for a diverse atmosphere.  How can we make this happen?  Well, I have been known to be a planner and stubborn in my resolve to make things happen–it took me almost 4 years to get an international job, taking on the challenge of many different assignments to get to where we are now, so it’s in my wheelhouse to make this happen in the future for us as well.

We have no intention of cutting our current adventure short but we are restless vagabonds who long to have Manhattan as our base of operation some day, along with a nice abode in Boise, Idaho to visit often with the soon-to-be arriving Mia and her superb parents, Mike & Hannah, along with our son James who will probably stay in the damp, grey Seattle he favors.  When he graduates next year, I just may go back and get my MBA in China which could serve me well as a consultant in my future years should I go in that direction.  In the meantime, I will dream of living in the Big Apple with Thom and start saving to make the dream become a reality.  EVERYONE NEEDS TO DREAM BIG!!  That doesn’t mean, of course, that I’m giving up our VIP Membership at Dragonfly Massage in Shanghai.  A girl has to have her weekly foot massages.  I’m not a savage.

View from the dog park.  How do you beat this?
View from the dog park. How do you beat this?