All of the Beignets, Forever and Ever

A couple of weeks ago, malady I managed to escape the soul-crushing spring snow in NYC for a trip down south to New Orleans. I hadn’t been to the Crescent City before, website and I had very few expectations going into the week. The reason for my visit was the annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week conference, story where I was to speak at a session and hold office hours for aspiring entrepreneurs and MBA students that need technology help.

The whole week was a huge inspiration and I met lots of very interesting people chock full of passion and big ideas. New Orleans really rolled out the red carpet for those of us in town volunteering — my expectations were blown away. The people were so friendly and warm and wonderful. The city itself is gorgeous and unique and so different from anywhere else I’ve been in the US. And the food. Oh, the food. Holy cow. Let’s just say that the trip has made me recommit myself to a very regular gym schedule. I want all of the beignets, forever and ever. (Why doesn’t this exist in New York? Someone needs to get on that.)

This past week I was finally able to get all my film developed and I’m pretty excited to share. While my edits are underway, I thought I’d share some Instagrams. I can’t wait to return again next year!

Commander's PalaceBeignets and Chicory Coffee
Lafayette Square
Jackson SquareLafayette Square - Wednesdays in the Park
Jackson Square
The French QuarterTchoupitoulas
The French Market
Whitney BankGallier Hall
Cafe Du Monde

City by the Bay

This past week, viagra I’ve been on my annual work pilgrimage to San Francisco for the increasingly giant Dreamforce technology conference. I’ve made the trip for seven consecutive years, medicine and it’s always mind-blowing how much bigger / better / crazier the event has become. The first year I came out, roughly 2,500 people attended — and this year, a staggering crowd of 90,000 swarmed the Bay Area for the week-long conference. (!)

Thanks to the insanity of that many people trying to cram into the Union Square / SoMa neighborhoods, hotels have been exploiting the situation by offering rack rates for simple rooms, and commanding $700/night! So, after scouring Airbnb for what seemed like a month, Zach and I stayed for the first time at a lovely condo in Mission Bay. I’ve gotta say it’s been so much more relaxing than crashing at a hotel. Plus, the fantastic Philz Coffee is right around the corner, and I’m scared of the imminent mocha tesora withdrawal. I’ve never spent any time in Mission Bay before, so it’s been nice to explore a new ‘hood and check out a new corner of San Francisco, especially all the funky modern architecture.

September always seems like the perfect time to visit San Francisco. Warm days, brisk nights, lots of that California sunshine. Does it get any better?! It certainly doesn’t do anything to assuage my bicoastal disorder. The light is so glorious out here. Nevertheless, this week of keynotes, seminars, and late-night parties has taken its toll, so we are headed up to wine country for a quick overnight before our redeye back to New York this weekend. I can’t wait. Neither can my Mamiya.

See you soon!

Chicago, My First True Love

Twelve years ago this week, cheap I packed up the car with my most valuable possessions – lots and lots of CDs, sales a brand new computer installed with Windows ME and Napster, cheap my best band hoodies and sheltered small-town Midwestern sensibilities – and drove ten hours north. I was headed off to college in the big city. FREEEEDOMMMMM.

I knew that everything was about to change. What I didn’t know at the time was how deeply in love I was about to fall, and that my first true love was going to be a city. I recently headed back to Chicago to begin work with a new client, and I totally had butterflies for two weeks beforehand. I do a lot of business travel, but there’s always something special about going back to Chi-town — the anticipation, flying in over the lake, seeing downtown stretch out. The Hancock tower rising on the north end. The Sears tower on the south. It feels a million miles away from Brooklyn. And it always feels like I’m coming home to welcome arms.

It was one of those perfect weeks. Warm sunshine and golden light during the day, a cool breeze at night. None of the stifling humidity or pavement-melting heat that you grow to expect in the Chicago summertime. The last few times I’ve been back, it’s been perfect. Eighty degrees in October for the marathon, a warm spell in February, and now this. The year I moved there, it snowed the first weekend of October and didn’t stop until March. Chicago, why you tryin’ to woo me back?

This trip, I stayed downtown on State Street and made some time to take photographs and commune with the city a bit — I don’t know if that makes sense, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I do the same thing in New York. Walking around alone in contemplation, observing the ebb and flow of the urban landscape, wandering aimlessly. Watching the way light plays off the buildings, off the sidewalks, catching commuters’ long shadows in the intersections between concrete caverns. There’s something spiritual about the experience, and for me it’s an incredibly important part of being connected to the places you live and love.

I’ve always thought that Chicago is one of the — if not THE — most beautiful city in the US. The compactness of downtown, the consistency of the architecture thanks to the Chicago School, the river that winds slowly through the city and the beautiful industrial bridges that pass over it. Though I’ve never called downtown Chicago my home, in my first year of school I used to stay over a lot with a close friend who lived at the top of the Marina Towers (the corncob buildings above). I spent many hours sitting on his balcony on the 59th floor (or was it the 61st?) just staring out over the city, even in the freezing cold.

Chicago seemed endless. The city stretched out for what seemed like miles, and I could see forever. The sun cast long shadows to the west in the mornings as only the tallest buildings basked in the thin light. At midday you could look straight down and see the precise urban grid bustling with activity. At sunset, the flat western suburban plains turned golden and the colors of the sky melted into Lake Michigan.

And then at night, the lights came on. Oh, who am I kidding. I’m still in love with you, Chicago.

Aloha means a lot of things

For the last twelve glorious days, stuff the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make involved what beach to spend the day at, what reef to snorkel, and what camera might I like to use. Zach and I just got back from our first real vacation in years and I don’t want to go back to the real world. Where is my Mai Tai?!

A couple of months ago, we decided to go to the Big Island and blast through a boatload of credit card points we’ve racked up over the years. We’ve been to Hawaii once before, on a trip I won at a tech conference (!), and managed to see Oahu, Kauai, and Maui on a whirlwind tour. This time, we stuck it out on one island and I’m so glad we did — the landscapes are so diverse and raw and beautiful, and I feel like we could’ve spent a month there and not seen everything.

from where i standfrom where i stand

On a whim, I only booked the first four nights of our trip before we left and decided to chance the rest. I used to travel that way quite a bit, not knowing where I would end up next. That spirit has taken me to some of my most memorable destinations — to the south of Sweden, to remote beach towns in Goa, to Casablanca and Marrakesh, to a tiny town on the Italian Riviera where I hung out with old men playing bocce ball during a train strike.

It seems I’ve become much more of a control freak over the years because the thought of NOT KNOWING EVERY MINUTE of our itinerary was making me crazy. My inner dialogue was more of a screaming match, and my blank Google calendar taunted me every day. WHAT WERE WE GOING TO DO?! In the end, I chilled out, did my research, and felt at peace with a little ‘planned’ spontaneity. Plus, I ordered this book. It’s AWESOME.

from where i standfrom where i stand

In the end, the decision to play it by ear turned out incredibly well. After our first four nights at a VRBO house in South Kona, our spontaneity earned us a ridiculously low price on an oceanview room at a swanky resort (thanks, Hotwire!) and a last-minute opening at a lovely private house on the Kohala Coast. There were black sand beaches, green sand beaches, volcanoes, sunsets and humu­humu­nuku­nuku­?pua?a. We drank freshly-roasted and locally-grown Kona coffee every morning watching the geckos, tasted tropical fruits and veggies I’ve never even heard of before, and grilled dinner nearly every night at home. And OH! the snorkeling.

Of course there were a few bumps along the road as we both tried to relax into vacation mode and re-learn how to spend 24/7 with each other. The trip gave me a lot of time to think about my health, my creative projects, and our (stalled) renovation. It made me want to work less and play more. To spend more time with friends and family. To watch less television and get off the internet. To read and to write more. To make big checklists and cross things off, things I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

from where i standfrom where i stand

This vacation was a much-needed opportunity to begin thinking about how to recalibrate the balance in my life. At certain times during the past year, I’ve felt like I’m in a crazy workaholic spiral, which is not healthy for my body or my mind. It’s time to reconnect, to create, to turn off the distractions and get moving.

Thinking is only the beginning. Now it’s time to get off the couch and DO.