Hi! Is this thing still on?
I’ve just returned from a little under a week in Chicago and San Francisco, the former for my father’s 70th birthday and the latter for some meetings which went pretty well.
(You don’t care about my meetings, I know this- but I felt the need to share).
And now I am back in the snowy tundra that is New York, thankfully working kicking off this morning working from home while the wind roars outside of my window. Thanks to a unique-to-New-York-problemo, our radiators are operating in overdrive and my apartment is a sauna. But I can’t open the balcony door lest a foot of snow blow into the apartment, so I am working half clothed today, which adds a certain je ne sai quoi to the day.
Some favorite moments from the last week:
Presenting our gift to my Dad, which was 4 tickets to the New York Phil when they play Beethoven’s 9th in the spring. It has been his favorite piece since the dawn of time and we walked down the aisle to it together at my wedding and the stars have never aligned to see it in person. I am so thrilled to have he and my Mom in town for the weekend and to share what i hope will be an incredible night at Lincoln Center!!
My nieces and nephews, always and forever. We have 8 (soon to be 9) and they are all an absolute dream. My God baby decided to wage war on my husband this weekend which was kind of hilarious, so there was alot of animated back and forth between them. Case in point: Her: “You not a good person. You not good”, Him: “I’m watching you” (as he pointed to his eyes and then to her, which was hysterical).
After dinner at my brother’s house Friday night, the kids turned off the lights in the living room and turned up the dance music and had a full on disco. Of course, one by one we all joined in and danced, my Mom and Dad, my siblings and me. It was the perfect Friday night.
My Mom’s food, as per usual. I swear it tastes better every time we go home. I must have eaten 25 kibbehs over the course of the weekend- NOT mad about it.
Being home sitting in front of the fireplace- it was the perfect reset I needed after this crazy January that was so full of stress about our political situation. I was reminded that so long as I have my family, I have everything,
San Francisco was lovely too, albeit completely drowned in rain. I don’t see the outside of offices or restaurants anyhow when I’m there so I was kind of feeling the moody, dark vibe. We had a particularly awesome dinner at Hakkassan with a group of clients I have truly never loved more, so that was pretty clutch. Sometimes life gives you lemonade straight out.
On that note, I have to get back to it. All of my love and promise to come back with more pictures later (and a new layout soon because this one is horrific. Thanks for nothing WordPress.)
Yesterday was Blue Monday, otherwise known as the most depressing day of the year. The day is a calculation of a number of factors, including the weather, days since the holidays, aggregate debt levels, time since Christmas and time since we failed our resolutions. It is also the day where people feel the loneliest. It also marks the beginning of Obama’s last week as president, the week our hope came to die, the beginning of the rise of our very own Reich. It is the week before major meetings I am running in London and a week after returning from another long haul to SF. Needless to say, yesterday was the culmination of a very intense week. All of this to say I apologize for my absence.
I wanted to write today about something that has been on my mind this weekend, and that is the concept of feeling known.
Two years ago, I was going through a catastrophic time at work – a massive initiative I had built with my own hands was unapologetically torn out of my hands and handed to a colleague with an uncomfortably close relationship with our CEO. I had to stand on stage before the entire company and peacefully transition it to her; needless to say I had never felt more humiliated, distraught or betrayed in my entire life. Everyone around me tried and failed at their sympathy; they would never know what it felt like to have something torn from your because you were seen as too defiant, too vocal, too much of an individual working in what amounted to a dictatorship. I did the only thing I could do and booked tickets to spend a week in Dubai with my dearest friends. And over dinner there as I was recounting what had happened and my utter despair, my friend J turned to me, surprised. “Your intelligence and your career are the least defining things about you,” he said, which was a revelation to me. “The people in your life love you because you are full of life- always easy to laugh and eager to explore and eager to dance and enjoy. And that energy is electric and addictive to those around you. That is what you need to remember.” And I remember the tears rolling down my cheeks through the smiles- the thank yous- because I always reduce myself to the most common denominator. I don’t see who I am or how my friends or family view me, and it is more often than not the cause of my despair. I don’t have to be the smartest all the time, and no one cares if I am anyway. That was incredibly freeing for me.
Another moment that I will never forget in my entire life was my best friend’s speech at our Rehearsal Dinner this August. She spoke of my contradictions- my old soul and young heart, my love for classical music and Kanye, celebrated literature and celebrity gossip alike, my love for travel and home, my adoration to my nieces and nephews and my cutting words and enveloping hugs. I was blown away by her ability to describe me; she made me feel more known than I ever have in my life. To a child who grows up as a “Third Culture Kid”- always straddling two countries, two value systems, two cultures and sets of expectations and never fitting into one or the other, having someone understand and appreciate your contradictions and embrace them is the ultimate validation.
I am reflecting on these instances because this weekend the opposite happened. I was having dinner with someone very close to me, and we were talking about regrets. And I told him one of my largest regrets- an instance I think about all the time despite its seeming insignificance- involving my Father and an umbrella. My father was visiting me in New York, and it was raining out, and he was trying to open one of the cheap bodega umbrellas I had available. And after what seemed to me an interminable amount of time struggling with it (realistically perhaps only a few moments) I yanked it out of his hand, just in time for its sharp edge to slice his finger. I beat myself up about this instance all the time – how could I disrespect my father like this and have caused him pain? I recounted this story to this person with tears in my eyes, so deep was my self disgust. And he replied “Well, you’re always like that.” And something inside of me died a little. Because for all of my good moments, for the innumerable times I showed my parents and friends and colleagues deference and respect, it was this instance that defined me. My impatience, my brutality, my disregard for others. That’s all he could see; maybe all he ever would ever see. And I felt deeply lost and out to sea in that moment, and I couldn’t recover. I am a terrible person after all, I thought. A cruel person, entitled, a failure. If this person who is so close to me feels that way, it is unequivocally true.
And that’s the state I went into yesterday in. I took myself uptown to the D. Porthault sale, and surrounded by Upper East Side wives fighting over 1200 sets of hand-wash-only sheets, I cried. I dumped my haul and ran, took myself to lunch at Bloomingdales, surrounded by old women- all alone, all eating their salads in silence. That will be me, I thought. That is me, today. A sea of unknowns. Of souls yearning to be held and understood, of ones whose time had passed. Maybe in the next life, I thought.
Today is a new day, and though I never though that work would provide a welcome respite from anything, lately it has been the case, whether I am escaping politics or anything, and I am supremely grateful for it. It is something I can dive into that is mine, that has of late been such a wonderful thing full of opportunity and kind recognition, and I’m happy to have this thing to lean on. Maybe I can allow it to define me when I am tired of being defined wrongly.
What did you get up to this weekend? Friday night we went for dinner at the LIbrary at the Public Theatre, which I became a Partner of earlier this year in a successful attempt to get opening night tickets to Shakespeare in the Park, only to never return for an actual show. So dinner was a pretty good compromise and we feasted on fish and chips which was somehow perfect for how frigid of a night it was and how cozy it was indoors at the theatre.
I had pretty grand aspirations of Saturday which involved going to the New Museum to see the final weekend of the Pipolotti’s Rist exhibition, but faced with a snowstorm that came out of nowhere and no one to go with, I opted not to, which I now regret. I often don’t mind going to museum’s alone but it is infinitely more enjoyable to go with someone. I decided to turn the snowstorm into lemonade though and invite over friends for a rib sticking dinner of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut salad and a gorgeous Lamb and Date Tagine. Followed by ice cream sundaes and a rousing game of Apples to Apples, because we are officially not in our 20s anymore.
Sunday we went to see Manchester by the Sea at the Angelika, which is incredible if not the most depressing movie of the year. But it’s awards season and I get really into seeing all of the nominated movies, so M was nice enough to surprise me with tickets and we snuck in lunch and watched it Sunday afternoon.
Today I am off to San Francisco for a few days of meetings, and I’m not sad at all about going back to California. I hope you’re all staying warm wherever you are and I will post from there shortly!
I’ve been cooking a lot lately which is further testament to the fact that I am superwoman. One of my more favorite discoveries has been the New York Times Cooking Section. I highly recommend signing up for their daily newsletter which takes the decision fatigue out of what to cook and make me want to get back in the kitchen more often than not. It’s also what led me to discover Marcella Hazan and her incredible pasta sauces. We recently had a few friends to dinner and I made her Bolognese which is exceptionally rich and delicious, and on New Year’s eve I made her tomato sauce which transported us straight back to Italy. The latter is the easiest recipe I have legitimately ever made so I am going to share it here in hopes of putting Ragu out of business.
(Per the NYT)
2 cups tomatoes, in addition to their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
5 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.
Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.
Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.
That’s it. I saved the onion which was absurdly tasty and munched on it while I was preparing other things (I am imminently kissable), and also took an immersion blender to the pasta until it had the consistency of a chunky vodka sauce. Because I’m smoove like dat.
There you go- the best meal on earth. Double the portions, you’re going to need it.
We just got back from Los Angeles yesterday and it was honestly one of the most relaxing, joyful, wonderful trips in recent memory. We absolutely love LA, and every trip is a little different. But this is our 3rd time celebrating the New Year there and it is the best way to unwind from the intensity of the Holiday Season and start the New Year feeling refreshed.
A few of the many highlights from our trip:
1. The View from our terrace at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. It, and the hotel, were absolutely heavenly. Our first morning, we had breakfast set up with the french doors open and it was unbelievable.
2. The pool at the hotel, which we frequented every day while the weather was gorgeous, ordering up Diet Cokes and quinoa salads and feeling like a million bucks. There was an open air gym to the right as well that was so lovely, working out with the breeze coming through was as close to amazing as any workout could possibly be.
3. Christmas decorations at the hotel, which were absolutely gorgeous. Lots of white hydrangeas, gold ornaments, and lights as far as the eye could see. It was really unique and so gorgeous.
4. Afternoon walks around Beverly Hills (after we had our fill of the pool), which is absurdly beautiful and pristine and basically felt like Little Arabia given how few Americans and how very many Arabs were there. I’ll take it.
5. The greatest photography gallery, La Mouche, on Beverly Drive. It made me want a house with tons of big white walls to fill with their incredible photographs.
6. The best Bat Mitzvah gift I’v ever seen, for the special little lady in your life. Spotted at Kitross on Robertson Boulevard.
7. The most incredible interiors store I’ve ever seen in my life; I wanted to spend hours here and it took me straight back to the Amalfi coast. And other promising interiors in Venice.
8. Returning to the scene of our engagement exactly 1 year later, on the Palisades Park. We will never, ever, forget how incredible that day was.
9. Spending the weekend with our dear friends in Santa Monica, ringing in the New Year with a massive feast that we made from scratch. We started the night with a variety of cheeses, moved onto caviar and blinis with creme freche and shrimp cocktail, followed by fresh pasta with homemade tomato sauce, grilled steak with smashed potatoes and lemony dijon salad, and the piece de resistance: flourless chocolate cake. It was the most epic dinner of all time, and we enjoyed every bite of it over the course of the 4 hours we spent ingesting it, alternately warming up around the fire place and returning to the table for our next course.
10. Returning to Venice to walk the canals and our pleasant surprise at how much they had refilled since the drought; this time last year they were almost completely dried up. A great reminder of how precarious our environment is and how important it is to conserve the resources we have. Also a reminder of how much we want one of those insane houses.
11. The beaches of Santa Monica (1) and Malibu (2- Westward Beach). New Years day at Westward Beach was a particular treat; we took a beautiful hike up the cliffs and then came back down to the most beautiful day on the beach. My husband and friend Z from business school also did a polar bear’s swim in the icy pacific, while Z’s wife and I looked on from our sunny and warm blankets. It was the perfect way to kick off the new year. Stopping at the Reel Inn for fish tacos on the way back was icing on the cake.
And with those wonderful memories and our quickly diminishing tans- we bid farewell to 2016 and California, and bid hello to 2017 and all of you in this New Year! I hope you all had an incredible final few weeks of the New Year, and a great start to what is sure to be- at the least- a very interesting one.
3. Uptown at christmas
Given it’s Christmas Eve, I’d be remiss not to note my abiding and borderline obsessive love up Christmas and one of my top 10 favorite things about New York- our annual pilgrimage to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
New York, like Chicago, really does Christmas exquisitely. The streets are decked with lights and the sidewalks filled with Christmas trees being sold by the Christmas tree vendors, and everywhere there is a feeling of excitement and joy. But my absolute favorite journey in New York is the one to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Yes, it is crowded and filled with tourists, but that is also what is so incredibly magical about it. We live in a place everyone else dreams about one day seeing, and we make it worth their while with the most fantastic tree any city has ever seen.
For years I went either alone or with friends or colleagues; it was always an incredible time. Now that I’m married, my husband- if not, happily, then with all the enthusiasm he can muster- makes it a special day to remember. Last year, we started with dinner at the Peninsula, followed by a stroll down to the tree, where we we knocked dead in our tracks by the musical lightshow Saks put on across the way. Afterward, we took a brisk walk up the Palace to see their tree, which is smaller but no less gorgeous. This year’s was a daytime affair and considerably more crowded, but it was absolutely breathtaking and a reminder of just how incredible New York is at this time of year.
The Rockefeller tree is a longstanding tradition in New York, dating to 1931. I found this picture of the first tree erected there with the accompanying text by Time, which is absolutely fascinating.
“Today it’s a multimillion-dollar extravaganza that attracts thousands of tourists every year, but the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree hasn’t always been so glamorous. On Christmas Eve 1931, with the nation mired in the Great Depression, a group of construction workers erected a 20-ft. tree on the muddy site of what would become one of the city’s greatest architectural and commercial monuments. Despite their grim faces, the men had cause to celebrate. Unlike most of their colleagues, they were about to get paid. (Notice the wooden crate at the foot of the tree and the clerk behind it dispensing checks.) Two years later, a Rockefeller Center publicist organized the first official tree-lighting ceremony.”
Humbler beginnings indeed. Other notable mentions of the tree’s history:
In 1942, Rockefeller Center unveiled 3 small trees versus one large one, in patriotic red, white ad blue. These trees were the first to be replanted after the holiday season.
In 1944, keeping with wartime blackout regulations, the trees at Rock center, like every other tree in the city, were mandated to remain unlit. After the war’s end in 1945, organizers made up for previous years of darkness by using six ultraviolet light projectors to make all 700 fluorescent globes on that year’s tree appear to glow in the dark.
Finally, Rockefeller Center recycled its first Christmas Tree in 1971, turning it into 30 three bushel bags of mulch for the nature trails of upper Manhattan.
In 2005, the wood from the Rockefeller Center tree was used to make door frames for Habitat for Humanity homes in New York, Louisiana, India and Brazil!
I love this beautiful time of the year and no other emblem of this season is so clearly marked in my memory or in the city’s than this beautiful tree. It’s such a lovely experience to go and see it and a great excuse to get uptown and feel the vitality of the city at Christmas.
And with that, the merriest of Christmases to all of you! I will be back after the holiday to finish this trip down memory lane, and share some more immediate memories of our time in Boston (where we are currently) and LA, where we are thrilled to be headed on Monday!
Love to all of you (and Joy to the world),
If I had to think of one place that was a constant in our first few years in New York, it was this place. This is apparently what it looked like when well lit, which is news to me. But when I found this photo it all came back: the long hallway that was just long enough for you to shed your layers before your GRAND APPEARANCE, the entre into the thumping club, clearing the bystanders off your table and feeling subsequently important for no reason, and then getting down to the business of fun. I all of a sudden remembered our regular tables, and the tables we got when celebrating birthdays (pictured at bottom). Through some sort of muscle memory I recall it’s hallways, grooves and curves.
Before the 27th street location there was another location further south in Chelsea and not to worry, we frequented that place every weekend too. This was our Central Perk, our Studio 54, our gym and our church all rolled up into one. We absolutely lived there, which is questionable given we made no money whatsoever (many thanks due to our guy friends for that one. You know who you are).
It was a circus in the best way, and there were always stories being made. By the time the smoke machine blared it’s cold steam onto the dancefloor (timed exactly with some insane techno crescendo), at least 3 members of your party would be making out with total strangers, one would be slumped on against a speaker trying to talk himself into hitting on a girl, another would be chucking ice at the waitress to get her attention. And always, about 4 or 5 of us in teetering heels, dancing to our hearts content on the table. We celebrated multiple birthdays there, and multiple breakups too. When you brought a +1 into the pink crew, everyone knew it was surrious. Conversely, upon being invited into the crew, they never dated us for long. But that’s neither here nor there, is it?
Bottom line, there was nothing better than dancing the night away with your best friends to great music in a great place. We had that at Pink every night and I will never forget that crazy phase of our lives where having fun was the only achievement worth having.
Last night, one of our ranks came back into town from Paris and I put on a dinner for her. We reminisced about our nights at Pink; she was an assistant at Vogue at the time and often had a black car waiting out front for her. We thought it was all so glamorous! We were also so full of ourselves, but looking back, it was.
Now we are spread all over the world, our little crew. London, Paris, New York, Jordan, Dubai, and Peru. But back then we had the distinct joy of spending every night together, and we knew exactly how good we had it. We know now it didn’t matter where we were; it could have been anywhere. But for those years in the aughts, it was Pink, and it was ours.
To Pink. I never clubbed another club as much or since. And it’s probably best that way.
This week I celebrate 10 years in New York City. TEN YEARS.
I’ve never spent 10 years anywhere in my entire life, including my childhood home. We moved twice during my childhood, and then it was onto boarding school, then college, a brief stint in Chicago, and finally, a move here. I arrived here on December 18, 2006 with two suitcases and went straight for my sister’s apartment in Cobble Hill. I gave myself 2 weeks to find an apartment and get on my own two feet before the year began.
Ten years is an awfully long time, but here, it’s felt like a fleeting moment. It’s a testament to this exciting and incredible city and the rapid pace that it takes on every day. It’s also a testament to my peter pan syndrome and having convinced myself that life hasn’t changed at all since my early days. I suppose everyone in New York has a bit of Peter Pan syndrome, it’s what keeps us young mind, body and soul. Mine is perhaps more severe than most.
To commemorate these 10 years, I wanted to spend this week recapping 10 of my favorite memories here. First up, my first apartment on Bank Street.
1. Bank Street
Anyone who knows how completely motherfucking anal I am will think the following is insane, but I found my first apartment on Craig’s List, and lived with two complete strangers and a DOG. Above a restaurant. I wanted to be in the room where it happens and to me that room was a glorified casket above a transvestite bar in the west village, with no closet, no reliable heat, and a rodent problem that would gross out even the least squeamish of people.
I can’t properly convey how out of control our mouse problem was. They were insatiable. We would put out a box of poison a week, and they would tear through it with glee. Once, we put peanut butter in one of those traps where a door closes behind the mouses when it enters for what should be it’s final meal. These super mice ate the peanut butter, than ATE THEIR WAY UP THROUGH THE PLASTIC. They were relentless.
And I was terrified. I was a consultant at the time, so I opted to take a project in Houston so I could spend 4 nights a week in a Westin. The 3 nights I repatriated, however, were always full of terror. I put towels under the door of the bathroom when I took a shower, and under my bedroom door when I slept. More often than not, I would call my friend Hani crying; and Hani would come pack me a bag and walk this fragile snowflake back to his place to crash on his couch around the corner. Hani saved me so many times that year. I don’t think I would have survived without it.
But I also had great times in that disgusting apartment. It was right next to the Waverly Inn, and when I’d get back from Houston Thursdays at midnight, I would meet my friends by the fireplace there to kick off our Thursday night (THAT’s how young we were, a midnight pregame). It was near Taim, my favorite falafel place, and right next to the Gym so i could go for a steam whenever I pleased.
One day, my father came to New York and I wanted to show him my place. There, on the stoop, was a man wearing a corset, fishnets and 6 inch heels. “HAY HONEY,” he called out to my father as we ascended the stairs. When we got up to the apartment and he saw my bedroom, I saw a tear form in his eye. “Neva, please pack your things and come to the hotel with me tonight,” he said sternly. And I did.
Needless to say my days in that place were numbered. The transvestite bar is now an upscale tapas joint, and St. Vincent’s Hospital around the corner has been converted to luxury apartments starting at 3.6 MM for a “fully serviced studio.” But that place is where I kicked off this grand adventure, and it is a testament to the fact that I wanted to be here so badly that I gleefully withstood that dump. For as long as I could at least.
Which wasn’t very long, really. Just long enough to justify tell my children about the hardships I withstood on the mean streets of the west village.
Which is just long enough for me.
This week has been 100%, certifiably, unapologetically insane. Apologies for my extended absence. Work has been popping off at unprecedented levels and nights have been filled with holiday outings (they’re all mandatory, even when you have a choice). It’s funny how everyone wants to get together before the holidays as if we are all boarding wagons for the Oregon trail and may not survive the journey. Like, I’m going to LA for New Years, let’s all just chill for a minute. I’ll be back on the 2nd like everyone else.
At any rate, I’m excited for the weekend. My OCD really loves this time of year because there is never any shortage of addresses to shake people down for (am I too late for this?), christmas cards to send (almost done), gifts to wrap, and loose ends to tie up. We have a midday birthday at a Brewery, complete with a bevy of 1 year olds (welcome to New York), a formal cocktail party in Tribeca, and a very proper Christmas feast uptown on Sunday. I’m crossing my fingers for a snowy Saturday that doesn’t turn to rain, and maybe dinner with my husband who I haven’t seen in about a week? That last one might be the hardest to nail down…
A few things I have bookmarked to read this weekend as well as a few thoughts that I thought you might enjoy:
Hacked Yahoo data is for sale on dark web. Reassuring.
Longread’s Best Longreads of 2016. Cozy up.
Yeezy is pretty much dead to me this week, which has been the death of another thing I used to hold dear (remember democracy?) Mourning this because My Beautiful, Dark Twisted Fantasy is truly best album of all time after Beethoven’s Symphony number 9.
Finally, only 5 hospitals remain for the 300,000 citizens of Aleppo who are under siege. What has happened in Syria these last 5 years, and particularly in Aleppo this week, is difficult for the human mind to comprehend. But we cannot forget them. The Syrian American Medical Society has treated 2.6 MM Syrians this year and has been critical to relief in Aleppo.
Please donate what you can here.