words that travel

Election Night 2016 in New York City

Note: I wasn’t going to post anything about the election, but these tiny updates got a lot of love on Facebook, so I’m posting them here for more to see.

Part I: Sixth Avenue, Fox News to the Hilton

Fox News Studio, 2016 election night
The scene outside Fox Studio, election night 2016

There was no way I was going to watch the election returns from home, so at about 8:00 I hopped the F train into the city. My inadvertent first stop was the Fox News studio. I joined a small, civilized crowd chaperoned by counterterrorism police to watch Megyn Kelly and the gang analyze the initial returns as a giant map of the United States started to take on colors. There was nothing much to see, so I continued on to my next stop—the Hilton!

Trump moved his operations to the Hilton for the night, and I was dying to see what it looked like since the Hilton is home to my favorite public bathroom in Midtown. Television trucks lined Sixth Avenue, and I noticed several side streets blocked off by sanitation trucks filled to the brim with sand and what looked like pieces of concrete. I asked a cop why they were there, and he said the trucks were “for emergency.” His body language cut off any further questions so I left it at that and walked into the hotel lobby.

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The retirement life in Ajijic, Mexico

The view from behind my parents' house.
The view from behind my parents’ house.

After bonding with my parents over an episode of “My 600 Pound Life,” I changed the channel to watch the Cubs and Dodgers battle it out in Game Five of the National League playoffs. During a commercial break I got an update on the Curling World Championships, and was reminded the National Hockey League season just started, and I could watch every game courtesy of the new app from Rogers.

This is just an average night in the retirement community of Ajijic, Mexico—my parents’ home since 2008. I’ve visited every year since, and figured it’s about time to tell you all what it’s like.

They witness some pretty incredible sunsets
They witness some pretty incredible sunsets

While looking for an inexpensive place to retire, a realtor tipped my Mom off to the expat communities of Lake Chapala, home of Mexico’s largest lake. Money talks, and in Mexico, it practically screams. My parents did some research, visited Ajijic a couple of times, and bought a house in short order. It took a while to settle their affairs stateside since the real estate implosion was in its infancy, but they sold their house in the spring of 2008. Six weeks later, they drove cross-country to set up their new home in Mexico.

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Stockholm shopping at the scene of the crime

– For Patty Hearst

A happy trashcan in Stockholm
A happy trashcan in Stockholm

It was September and lovely, the windows still open in the café where I shook off my jetlag over lunch. As I paid $18 for a simple ham sandwich and small bottle of water, a woman’s cell phone rang out in ABBA (Take a Chance on Me).

Beautifully understated, incredibly expensive, and just a little bit nutty—this was my welcome to Stockholm. I loved it.

All of my past business trips weren’t to nondescript suburbs. When I heard I was headed to Stockholm for a work trip, I instantly added time to my stay so I’d have three days for work, and the weekend for me.

Stockholm street art
Man about town in Stockholm

I was dying to see what the city was like. My mother’s family is Norwegian, and my hometown of Worcester, MA has a healthy Swedish population. Goodies from the Crown Bakery were a staple growing up, and a detour to the Gift Chalet during Saturday errands made the day extra special. We had those tinkly, candle-powered Swedish angel chimes that blew my mind each Christmas, especially the year my mom placed them on a snowy field of cotton—the holiday’s decorative focal point—lit the candles, and screamed as her masterpiece turned into a tiny, Yuletide inferno.

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The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Mermaid mid-twirl
Letting it all hang out at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Grab your pasties, slap on some glitter, and don’t worry if your bathing suit and skirt don’t match or fit. You know what? It’s better if they don’t. Your only requirement at the Coney Island Mermaid parade is to have some fun and let it all hang out.

I love parades, especially ones with character. The best parades are rooted in some deep tradition no one can really remember, but morph each year as new twists are added to keep the crowds coming back. Two parades had a big impression on me.

Mummer mid-strut
Mummer mid-strut

I was hypnotized the first time I saw Hare Krishnas march down a Boston street, and I was a regular at the Mummers Parade when I lived in Philadelphia. The parades may seem very different: one celebrates religion, the other blue-collar union pride; but the differences end there. Participants of both have far-out clothes (drapey robes, feathers and parasols), play indigenous, folksy music (gongs and hand cymbals, string-band renditions of “Golden Slippers), toss things at crowds (marigolds, beaded necklaces) and can be seen as gateway events to other cults.

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Night of a Thousand Stevies

Night of a Thousand Stevies
Night of a Thousand Stevies 26

My friend and I have been talking about going for years. But like a lot of things, we kept putting it off. She got married and had kids, I moved and stayed restless, other stuff happened. Time flew.

Now her kids are finally older, and I’m more or less settled. At her birthday party last year we talked about going again, and about two months ago I thought about maybe getting tickets for this year. As the thought played around my head, iTunes served up “Gypsy” at random.

NOTS 26 fans
My friends and I finally made it to NOTS

Talk about a sign. A few mouse clicks and $70 later, I had two tickets to Night of a Thousand Stevies.

I love Stevie Nicks. For me she’s right up there with Cher, Debbie Harry, and Patti Smith: smart, strong, gorgeous women who do their own thing, and damn the men who can’t keep up. Some find Stevie too flaky and out there but I disagree. Her music skews to the pop side of rock for sure, but I don’t understand how people miss the darkness and melancholy under all that pop sheen.

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