National Geographic Traveler: French New York

For a Parisian-style staycation in the Big Apple, visit my new column on the Intelligent Travel Blog
Stay tuned for more tips on how to travel the world without ever leaving New York City! 
Next up, Italian New York.

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My New York Bucklist: Top 40 Must-Dos in the Big Apple

In no particular order, a girlfriend and I have amassed a gigantic list of all the top things to do in New York City, some of them popular, some of them less known about. This list of best New York attractions is based on information I have been given by locals and other city transplants such as myself. Those crossed out have been completed!

1. Eat artichoke pizza at Artichoke Pizza, walk the Chelsea High Line, go to the Chelsea Market

2. Go to a Yankees and/or Mets game (I heard if you take the water taxi sometime the captains let the girls drive the boats).

Chelsea High Line

3. Run Brooklyn Bridge back and forth

4. Have a picnic at the Bronx Botanical Garden

5. Climb the 354 stairs to the top of the Statue of Liberty

6. Have drinks at the rooftop bar at The Met

7. Go to an open air concert at Central Park

8. Go to a concert at Madison Square Garden (Saw Prince and Simbad)

9. Attend a church service in Harlem on Sunday and photograph all the women in their beautiful hats.

10. Take a “free” wine and art tour of all the Chelsea galleries

11. See the secret subway station off the 6 local uptown.

12. Run the perimeter of Central Park

13. Shove my face at Shake Shack

14. Get into the Boom Boom Room at The Standard Hotel

15. Take a trapeze class

16. Go to the Fulton fish market early in the morning and meet the legendary fish mongers

17. Take the gondola to Roosevelt Island

18. Visit the China Town ice cream factory

19. Tour the Chrysler and Empire State buildings

The Chrysler Building

20. Take a dance class at Broadway Dance Center

21. Go to a charity ball.

22. Kayak the Hudson River

23. See a freak show at Coney Island, then ride the roller coaster and eat a hot dog at Nathan’s

24. Get waited on by transvestites at Lucky Cheng’s restaurant

25. Find out about New York’s connection to the bagel and write a story about it

26. Get pampered at the Spa Castle and then visit a Hindu Temple in Flushing, Queens

27. Take singing lessons with someone who trains for Broadway

28. Tour the real Little Italy in the Bronx, stroll Arthur Avenue

29. Do a jazz tour in Harlem

30. Have summertime fun at a water taxi beach

31. Eat at the Latin American food trucks in Red Hook, watch a soccer game

32. Rent a row boat in Central Park and ride across the river

33. Live it up in the Hamptons

34. Gamble in Atlantic City

35. Participate in an Improv Everywhere stunt

36. Volunteer to help replant oysters in New York waterways

37. Participate in at least 10 New York Caresprojects

Coney Island

38. Photograph hipsters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

39. Take a Bollywood dancing class then eat Indian food in Curry Hill

40. Dance salsa under the stars in front of Lincoln Center during the Midsummer Night Swing series. Visit to see the line up.

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Change Requires Action, Perhaps Becoming the Cork Dork

In the past couple weeks, I have learned that life change doesn’t mean focusing on getting rid of the things you don’t want, but instead filling your life up with the things you do want until they take up all space. The process of getting where you want to be requires action, forward-moving momentum, at best taken in stride with baby steps: the easiest way to form new habits and change behavior.

Personally, I may not see myself in the restaurant industry forever, but I am doing everything I can to make it a positive experience until I fully progress toward something else. For example, I use downtime before the customer rush to study vocabulary words, which makes me feel more empowered about my writing. So far, I have memorized approximately 135 new words from moiré and lugubrious to obsequious and redolent. And I’ve gotten the other servers involved, bringing out there inner sesquipedalian by holding story writing and word rhyming competitions. We recently debated the difference between decimate, eradicate, extirpate, exterminate, obliterate, annihilate, and eviscerate.

In my most recent endeavor to create something positive in my current lifestyle, I’ve also become the stresstaurant cork dork. In honor of Earth Day, I am collecting all of the corks at the stresstaurant for one week and will either donate them to charities for the creation of green projects or will make them into art projects, sell them, and then donate the money to charity.

If all goes well, I plan to expand and continue running the project.

Why do this? Well, I realized that I write and preach about leading a positive lifestyle, being generous, and giving, but felt I wasn’t fully living this prophecy. Therefore, I wanted to start doing things that would make a difference by starting where I currently am. Action. So much of the time we say, “I will start X as soon as…” or “Someday I will…” But why not start today?

Internationally, 340 tons of cork are produced each year, and it has been painful for me to watch as we send cork after cork to the landfill when I know already that they could easily be reused. Corks can be ground back down to make floor and wall coverings, shoe platforms, moisture-retaining mulch, woodwind instruments, the interior of baseballs, and more.

This for me is about thinking creatively about everyday things, looking at something average and making it extraordinary.

And when it comes to trying something new, start now. Why not? The worst thing that could happen is never having the chance to have tried.

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Courage from The Daily Love

Every day, Mastin Kipp, founder of The Daily Love, delivers personal emails to my inbox that encourage me to be a stronger, happier person. What a great way to start the day! Today’s email I felt compelled to share because he communicated something I currently struggling with: following your intuition in spite of fear and insecurity. Subscribe to The Daily Love, it’s free!

Enter Mastin:

Living your dreams takes courage, it just does. On the one hand you have your heart, your soul and your intuition nudging you in one direction. On the other hand you have your personality and your mind desiring to stay in your comfort zone.

Living life on the edge in pursuit of your dreams happens as you take action from your intuition and you stay with the fear as your mind and personality resist, cry, act fearful and want to quit.

Accept that it’s totally natural for your mind and personality to be fearful, sad, angry and unsure about listening to your intuition and heart.

Deep down you know that everything IS and WILL BE okay. But the mind doesn’t always agree with this knowing.

Stepping onto The Path and living life at your Highest Potential will challenge you to let go of the limiting beliefs that your mind is telling you about what’s possible for you and ask you to make choices and take action from a deeper place of knowing.

Take risk. Take CALCULATED risk on your heart’s behalf. Let your intuition guide you into the unknown and scary places. Instead of disaster, you will find new horizons.

Don’t ask for your intuition and heart to give you guidance on how to be safe, secure and still live your dreams. Instead, ask for the courage to truly listen to your heart and intuition and cultivate the required mental attitude to make it happen and stay calm in the middle of the unknown storm.

Your dreams are counting on it.




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Achieve Anything: Begin Half-Way There

Spandex pants and socks on: check. Bag and shoes by the door: check. Lights out.

Last night, I went to bed wearing gym clothes so that I would wake up ready for a morning workout. Since I set myself up for the next day’s activity in advance, I left my mind with no way out. If I had woken up  ready for the gym and decided not to go, I would  feel guilty all day. Ah, the pressure of structured commitment.

This is often something I do to encourage a new habit: I’ll fence myself in with something that holds me to it, and then feel forced to follow through. If I’m quitting a job or ending a relationship, I will call my friends and tell them I already did it before I have actually done it. I’ll go ahead and buy tickets for a trip, which makes me prioritize vacation time and work out itinerary details leading up to the departure date.

Following through on big decisions is easier with a strong motivator in place. So, avoid “someday” by taking small actions that will set you up for big results today.


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Two Hundred Years of Remarkable Development

I first saw Hans Rosling’s video 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes during a third world development class in college. I recently rediscovered it at Ode Magazine and definitely think it is something everyone should watch.

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The Power of Positive Thinking and Avoiding the Actors’ Scenario

I twirled my fingers over each other, shifted right foot to left, paced nervously. Another night at the stresstaurant and all I could think about was a new job I applied for, how badly I want it, and how nervous I am waiting to hear back.

One of my fellow waiters was staring at me and I could tell he sensed my anxiety.

“Yo’ what’s your deal?” he asked.

“I just … this job I am applying for means everything to me. Seriously. And I feel really nervous because I have to have it.”

“Listen,” he said. “As an actor, I will tell you this. Forget about. You can’t waste your life hoping things will happen. You try and then you move on to the next thing telling your self ‘oh well, I probably didn’t get it anyway.’ So, if you do get it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

I was looking for positive reinforcement from a source who deals with regular rejection. The actors’ scenario. While ambitious, talented, and good looking, actors get it handed to them on a daily basis. They don’t have the right look or the right voice or their head shots don’t convey the right expression or it’s simply “no” for no reason. So, I could understand how he developed this practice as a means to cope. And that evening another actor at the stresstaurant told me the exact same thing. Perhaps it’s the nature of the acting industry that cultivates this behavior, I personally will never understand because I don’t act. I have a hard enough time pretending to be myself day to day.

Either way, I refuse to give up. I believe a lot more in the power of positive thinking and focusing energy on a single performance to produce results. I.e. instead of applying for multiple jobs and saying to myself “I probably won’t get hired anyway,” I have applied for only the one I really want and I tell myself “you can do this.” Call me naive because I am putting all my eggs in one basket. Call me crazy as well, but I will always encourage people to keep their dreams alive.

So even if you are an actor, writer, chemical engineer, or airplane stewardess keep dreaming. If we give ourselves over to defeat before the things we want to happen have even had a chance to come to fruition then we are underestimating our ability to create the lives we imagine for ourselves. You are fantastic. You are valuable. You are unique and indisposible and can never be traded out by anyone else to play any other role but your own. Own your life, your dreams, and your accomplishments. Stay focused on what you want. Visualize it happening. Talk to others as if it has already happened. And remember to be thankful for where you already are and what you already have created.


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How to Appreciate the Small Things and Why I’m Thankful for My Bed

Eight-thirty a.m. and I’m running around the stresstaurant naked and upset that I can’t carry a tray because my arms are concealing my breasts. Suddenly, from some distant, otherworldly portal I hear a foreboding chime, one that sounds like the countdown to a bomb explosion. I open my eyes and realize: it’s my alarm clock.

Where is it? Where’s my phone? I threw it into bed with me last night and now I can’t find it, though I hear it crying out in just as offensive a tone as the baby that screams all the time next door. All … the … time. I crawl from one edge of the bed to the other tossing pillows to the ground, untangling and shaking the sheets, straightening out the blankets, and then finally reaching inside of my duvet cover to find the crying phone tucked inside. How the heck did it get in there? I guess my subconscious moved it while I tossed and turned playing out a fictitious worse case scenario in my sleep.
And so after such a chaotic waking up, I proceed to roll over and then roll over and then roll over and then roll over and then roll over to reach the other side of my Texas-sized bed. Such luxury! I bought this mattress when I moved to New York to enhance my big dreams in the big city, treating myself to a lavish experience I haven’t had in years; the last time I actually owned larger than a twin-sized mattress was about eight years ago. And this one is so gargantuan that it’s stretchy queen sheets look stressed out all the time, pulling over the bed’s curves like the taut skin on Jane River’s face. How rare an opportunity to have a behemoth of a bed for one small person. Sometimes I feel guilty when I remember I’m fortunate enough even to have a place to sleep and that the money I make can buy me this.

But I am most thankful for my bed because I know that I can live without it. I can sleep anywhere, though perhaps not as comfortably: on airport floors, in bus stations, at tables with my face on top of my bag, in frigid trailers without heaters during snowstorms, on straw ticks. My mom and I often recall her first days of making it on her own when she slept for many nights in a beanbag chair and we laugh about my first days in New York when I slept with my jacket over my head because I couldn’t afford to buy blankets. But we’re both so proud because these times remind us of freedom. Independence. Sometimes having fewer things can make you feel wealthier.
So when I wake up in the morning hearing my muffled alarm clock call me back to reality I still at first feel disgruntled but then I realize I am alive another day and I feel so lucky. Lucky to live somewhere that I feel free. Lucky to be surrounded by people I love who also love me. They are the ones that remind me when I feel guilty for owning a big bed that I deserve it and when I become boastful for owning a big bed that I shouldn’t take anything for granted.

Don’t wait until your arm is broken to have faith in the function of your hands. Don’t wait until you are living without running water in northern Peru to be thankful for showers. Let us over joy in the simple things we grant ourselves everyday, whether they be tangible objects or something impalpable.


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Bumblebee Ladies and Purple Cows: Seth Godin on the Art of Getting Noticed

Most days during my perfunctory commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan, all I can think about is the destination: where I am going, how I’m going to get there, how long it will take me, how infuriated I am if we pause due to train traffic ahead, how someone else is doing the driving, how someone else is in control of my getting my where I want to be. I crowd into the subway with other commuters in their puffer coats, and though we are so close we say nothing to each other. Everyone in winter shades of dark blue, black, and brown. Everyone looking down, looking away. One day, on the uptown 2 local train, the Bumble Bee Lady takes a seat. This woman is living life out loud and can’t be ignored, her hair pixie cut then color treated to look like a canary floundering in a tar pit: deep black streaks smeared over every-which-way yellow feathers lost to and fro in a sticky amalgam of cheap hair spray. And it was not the yellow of under processed bleach or smokers’ teeth, it was the yellow of bananas, of taxi cabs, of Oz brick roads.

While Tim Gunn would quickly quip her aberration from fashion norms, I surreptitiously cheered her on. That hairstyle was wicked. And the most important thing: good or bad reception, she gets noticed!

Seth Godin — marketing guru and author of numerous amazing international best sellers — would refer to the Bumble Bee Lady as a Purple Cow: something phenomenal, counterintuitive, exciting, or remarkable. Something that has something about it that can’t be ignored. In a pasture full of brown cows, how could you ignore the one purple cow? In a train car filled with plain-vanilla passengers, how could you ignore the woman with the Steelers fan black and yellow hairstyle?

So, I started thinking, perhaps in my entrepreneurial idea paralysis, my problem has not necessarily been that I can not choose the right idea, but that none of my ideas have been that remarkable. Furthermore, the ideas I have generated are for the “everyone” kind of crowd, not a particular niche market, a move both Ferriss and Godin have claimed to be self-destructive. Find a market then create a product for them. Be the Bumblebee Lady, be the Purple Cow. Just don’t expect me, personally, to change my hairstyle anytime soon; I kind of like my ordinary haircut … even though I am actually considering going red.


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