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I used to freak out whenever I spent a month without leaving the confines of New York City. It brings to mind that episode of Sex and the City when Miranda briefly dates the guy who hasn’t left Manhattan in a decade.
These days, it happens about once a year, but I don’t mind anymore. It’s nice to have that respite from trips and concentrate on the things that mean most to me — spending time with friends and family, working out, and enjoying my routines.
And of all months to spend ensconced in New York, April is one of the best. It’s cherry blossom season!
New York, New York
Meeting Julián Castro and Stacey Abrams and attending a fundraiser with Pete and Chasten Buttigieg. What an awesome month for meeting the future of the Democratic Party!
Julián Castro appeared for a speech at 92Y, where I love attending lectures. I just wanted to hear him speak, then I was elated to learn that he was doing a meet and greet afterward! I took that time to tell him I was a donor, to tell him my favorite part of his book, An Unlikely Journey, and to talk to him about what it’s like to run a small business today.
I told him about my site and all the people I know who have quit their jobs to run small digital businesses, often boot-strapped businesses. People often talk about the gig economy, Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts, but not as much about digital entrepreneurs. As exhilarating as the freedom is to run your own business, we almost no protections if things go south. And as more and more people choose this method of employment, we need our leaders to prioritize our care. You shouldn’t have to be independently wealthy to run a small business and survive a trip to the hospital. Julián agreed wholeheartedly with me and said that we need to have a safety net — good healthcare, childcare, and more.
Julián has always fought for the rights of the most vulnerable. I respect him enormously and we would be well served with him as president. He is also JUST short of the 65,000 unique donors he needs to qualify for the debates — if you’ve got an extra $5, please consider sending it his way. He’s an important voice and we need him in the debates.
Stacey Abrams was incredible. She also spoke at 92Y. And I say this without exaggeration — I haven’t been this electrified in a theater since the first time I saw Hamilton. I was buzzing with excitement. Stacey is hilarious — she was cracking us up nonstop — and heartfelt, and so incredibly smart. She has got that magical quality. We would be so well served with her and it’s a tragedy that voter suppression kept her out of the Georgia governor’s office.
I met Stacey briefly for a book signing. She was a lot more personal than the other signings I’ve been to, like John Kerry’s and Cecile Richards’s. We chatted for a minute and I told her, “Anything you decide to do, you’ve got my money and you’ve got my volunteer hours.”
I was thrilled to snag tickets to Pete Buttigieg’s fundraiser in Brooklyn. And even more thrilled when I realized that his husband Chasten would be speaking there too!
The fundraiser, held at the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, was pretty basic — Pete took questions from the audience (including mine, on behalf of my friend Beth, about paid family leave!) and the answers lined up with pretty much anything you’d expect.
But it was great to be there surrounded by Pete fans and enjoy the phenomenon of his unlikely candidacy. I was only 15 feet from him. And I loved when he and Chasten bickered over loading and unloading the dishwasher. I never thought that in 2019 that we would have a viable gay candidate for president and have his relationship with his husband be not only a prominent part of the campaign, but so beautifully normal.
Spending a month on Whole30. I really enjoyed Whole30 the first time I did it, and I felt the need to do it again this year because I had a free month with no travel plans and I could tell my eating habits had gotten a lot worse over the winter. It’s been great to get myself back into positive eating habits. I did it for 35 days in total, from March 29 until May 1.
My first boxing classes. I’ve really upped my workouts this month, from four times per week to six times per week, and I’ve added a new class: boxing! And I really like it! It’s higher-intensity than the classes I usually do and I sweat absolute buckets, especially when doing the rounds of push-ups and burpees in between. And it’s awesome going to town on a giant sandbag and pretending it’s Mitch McConnell.
Celebrating the first birthday of a special little boy. Just a year ago, I was telling you in my recap that I became an auntie for the first time ever! Since then, two more babies have become part of my life, and this month my first practically-a-nephew turned one as he ate a cupcake, clapped for everyone, pointed at dogs while yelling, “Da,” and tried to stick his hand in the burning candle.
Seeing two great Broadway shows: Oklahoma! and Beetlejuice. Lately I’ve been getting complimentary tickets to Broadway shows and these two shows were comped. First I saw a new and offbeat version of Oklahoma! at the Circle in the Square theater.
I always thought Oklahoma! was a cheesy show, which isn’t my thing, but I appreciated how much they modernized the musical. There were some absolutely CRAZY moments in the show — like a Tarantino-esque moment that sent me to Wikipedia because surely that could not be in the original Oklahoma! The lights are on and everyone faces each other; it feels like a community meeting in a barn. The dream sequence dance is different from anything you’ve ever seen. They even serve chili and cornbread at intermission!
The highlight of the cast was Ali Stroker, who played Ado Annie — and Ali uses a wheelchair. In fact, she was the first Broadway actor who uses a wheelchair to be cast in a Broadway show (she debuted in Spring Awakening). She was the most hilarious one in a show that, frankly, is very dated, and the fact that she made us laugh uproariously from those 1943 lines is a testament to how good she is. Most importantly, her wheelchair was never played for laughs. She was just herself. And yes, she danced — on her own and with the whole cast.
Secondly, I saw Beetlejuice and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS SHOW. It was so hilarious! I had actually never seen the movie, so I got in a quick viewing (it’s on Amazon Prime for free) and was delighted to see that the show improved upon the movie in every way possible! It’s totally updated for 2019 and they break the fourth wall frequently to make fun of other shows and say how different it is from the movie.
One thing I especially appreciated was how they updated Beetlejuice’s marriage to Lydia, who is a CHILD. In the movie, it’s extremely creepy; in the show, Beetlejuice points out how creepy it is and says that it’s like a green card thing!
Best of all? Beetlejuice is queer as hell. Seriously. Yes, this Beetlejuice loves the ladies but he loves the dudes (and one dude in particular) even more, and that just makes perfect sense. Go see this show. You’ll laugh hard.
Enjoying cherry blossom season. It’s one of my favorite times of year in New York.
Getting my passport renewed. It was time — I only had a few spots left. It’s unnerving to have a brand new, unblemished passport. My old passport was the one I had been using since mid-2010.
Seeing Notre-Dame burn. It broke my heart and I know it broke a lot of yours, too.
When I was a high school sophomore, my drama club wrote our own version of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. We called it Le Bossu and performed it at Dramafest in 2000. I played a gypsy (I wince at the use of the word today and also the fact that my school was so white that I was one of the darkest people in the cast).
That was my play. I was such a francophile and I lived for drama club — Le Bossu was my favorite play we did in all four years. I attempted to read it in the original French and gave up each time. And the following year, I went on my first trip overseas, the school trip to France. At that time, the French musical Notre-Dame de Paris was popular and it became my soundtrack for the rest of high school. Seeing Notre-Dame in person moved me so much.
One of my friends on the trip, Chris, had been in Le Bossu as well. We decided to climb the towers of Notre-Dame, even though we knew we didn’t have enough time. We called it “Chez Quasi” and squealed with delight when we got to the top. It was one of my favorite moments of that pivotal trip.
Chris and I got back — and our teachers were PISSED. We nearly made everyone late getting our train back to Rouen. We were reamed out in front of the whole group. It was absolutely worth it. Looking back, though, I’m so glad we didn’t miss our train!
Blog Posts of the Month
What’s it Really Like to Travel Guyana? — Not surprisingly, everyone wants to know!
Solo Female Travel in Central America — Is it Safe? — I unravel the truth about this misunderstood region.
How to Survive #Whole30 — 20 Best Tips to Changing Your Eating Habits — Required reading before you attempt 30 days of eating clean!
Quote of the Month
Six-year-old girl: “Kate, do you like Friends?”
Me: “I LOVE Friends.”
Six-year-old girl: “Paper! Snow! A ghost!”
What I Watched This Month
I mostly stayed off TV and movies this month. Wake me up when The Handmaid’s Tale comes back.
I’ll give you a few tidbits from what I searched for on YouTube this month: “snake juice,” “how to clean a cast iron skillet,” “kevin covais part time lover,” “how to wrap hands for boxing,” “aoc green new deal.”
What I Listened to This Month
Lots of podcasts! I really enjoyed To Live and Die in LA, a story about a missing woman in Los Angeles that goes in a lot of directions you wouldn’t predict.
Blackout is really interesting — it’s an episodic drama starring Rami Malek about what happens when the United States loses all electrical power. It takes place in a far northern New Hampshire town and as you would expect, mayhem breaks out. The sound quality is gorgeous and the New England accents are atrociously authentic. I say that with affection. And I could listen to Rami Malek talk about anything for hours. Also, I was listening to the credits and was surprised to hear that my dad’s friend, a voice actor, plays the mayor!
Another one I enjoyed was Rachel Maddow’s Bag Man, about Nixon’s criminal vice president, Spiro Agnew. What a story!! I didn’t know anything about Spiro Agnew, in part because as soon as my AP US History class got to the sixties, it became time to drill for the AP exam. This guy was insanely corrupt and there are so many parallels to Trump today. It’s an entertaining listen.
What I Read This Month
I’m continuing to read up a storm, and this month, I started borrowing audiobooks from the library. Why haven’t I been doing this all along?! I can get through so many books this way! I listen to them while I cook and clean, while I commute, and even when doing cardio at the gym!
So far I have read 42 books in 2019, which blows my mind. My record is 72 within a year and at the end of April I’m already more than halfway there. That’s what joining a library will do for you.
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (2017) — Comedian Tiffany Haddish burst onto the national scene in 2017 when she debuted in Girls Trip and stole every scene she was in. Shortly after, she became one of the funniest guests on late night shows, telling such insane stories that Trevor Noah and Jimmy Kimmel lost it, repeatedly. This book is a collection of the funniest, strangest, and most unbelievable stories of her life, from her childhood as a foster kid to her high school years as a team mascot to when she decided to work in comedy — and lots of tales along the way.
THIS IS ONE OF THE FUNNIEST BOOKS I HAVE EVER READ. And I implore you to listen to the Audiobook version, because Tiffany’s voice is hilarious and she adds SO much to her stories. The story about Roscoe in particular has received a lot of press, and justifiably so — there is no book like Tiffany’s out there because there is nobody like HER out there!! I am SO happy for her success because SHE DESERVES IT, and I hope she is starring in films for decades to come. Also, interestingly, her co-writer for this book was Tucker Max. I LOVED Tucker Max back in the day, though looking back he was so problematic, so if you loved his crazy stories, you will love these ones too. Listen to this book!!!
Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010) — When Patti Smith moved to New York City, she was young, broke, and had nowhere to go. Again and again, she ran into an equally young and broke artist named Robert Mapplethorpe. They became friends, and lovers, and soulmates who acted as muse and artist, inspiring each other to create the best work possible while living in the most rundown conditions. This is the story of their relationship — an unconventional relationship, but one of two true soulmates.
This is one of the best books about New York City I have ever read. And it was so beautifully written. I love Patti Smith’s gentle, ethereal words — it reminds me a lot of Steve Martin’s writing, actually. I love a memoir that is centered on nostalgia, and this is pure nostalgia. It made me cry a few times from the very beginning. They were so young. They were so poor. They cared about nothing but art and each other. They lived in a New York that existed for a moment in time, a New York that we will never get back. New York is a playground for the rich these days, and I wonder if art will ever be able to flourish here the way it once did.
Atomic Habits by James Clear (2018) — We all have habits that we want to develop. But what allows us to start habits that we will actually keep up? We all fail at developing positive habits because we are focused on our goal, when really we should be focusing on our systems. The best habits are developed just a tiny bit each day — you could call it the atomic level.
This is one of the most useful books I’ve read in a very long time. It’s dense and packed with so many thoughtful tips — like stacking habits, where you make sure you do a set of things in a specific order, ending with a reward. And sometimes just starting is the best thing you can do. (It reminds me of Terry Crews’s tip that when you join a gym, if there’s a lounge or cafe, just go and hang out there for a few days without working out. It will get you in the habit.) Especially helpful was learning how to design your environment to let you achieve your goals. This is a great book, it really helped me, and I bet it will help you too.
Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs by Dave Holmes (2016) — Most people know Dave Holmes from when he came in second in MTV’s Wanna Be a VJ contest in 1998. That was the golden age of MTV, when the Backstreet Boys, N Sync and Korn were duking it out for the #1 spot on TRL. Dave was the smart, knowledgeable music geek and this memoir tells the story of being a perpetual outsider who found happiness in music, pop culture, and life.
I LOVED this book, and not just because I was MTV-crazed in those days. Dave is so smart and has a wonderful way of looking back at his life. I love that he basically talked and networked his way into an MTV job. I love how he wrote about the difficulties of coming out as a student at Holy Cross. I love that he blazed his own trail, was sometimes disgusted by the culture at MTV, and eventually carved out a life that fulfilled what was important to him. And I love that the book ends with revelations from a day doing San Pedro in a canyon! I listened to this book as an audiobook, which I highly recommend. As a fellow perpetual outsider who nodded my head more or less constantly while listening to him talk, I feel like Dave and I would be friends if we knew each other in real life.
The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People by Dan Buettner (2015) — There are places in the world where people tend to live to an extraordinarily old age, often while staying very healthy — places like Okinawa, Japan; the hills of Sardinia; Ikaria, Greece; the Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, California. This book calls them the Blue Zones and finds out what connects them: a mostly vegan diet with lots of beans and very little fish, meat, and dairy; constant, moderate physical activity; and a strong family and community. The book also tries to turn American communities into healthier zones.
This was a fascinating read and it gave me a lot to think about nutrition-wise, especially while doing a Whole30, which is very different from the diet prescribed in this book. What they do have in common is that sugar is almost never consumed — only for very special occasions. Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are EXTREMELY important. I was surprised that fish isn’t eaten that often. I think the most important takeaways from this book are that we need to start doing things the hard way — like mixing things by hand rather than using a mixer — to get used to being physically active all the time. And having a close community matters. In Okinawa, groups of five, called “moais,” stay close friends their entire lives and visit each other almost daily. I wonder if my constant text message chat with my three best friends from home has a similar effect.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (2018) — This young adult novel, written in verse, won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2018. Xiomara is a teenager living in a Dominican community in Harlem. She hates being catcalled by the men in her neighborhood — but she channels her frustrations into writing poetry. When Xiomara falls for a boy at her school — something forbidden by her devoutly Catholic mother — she is forced to choose what kind of life she wants to have, and what kind of person she wants to be.
I was so excited to read this book because I live in the Dominican part of Harlem. These are my neighbors! This is a beautifully told story, and I love how it’s written in verse — every word, every beat, is thoughtfully chosen. This is a fantastic coming-of-age novel told from a point of view that isn’t heard often enough in America. The book also had a very satisfying ending, going in a direction that I didn’t think could even be possible. I highly recommend this book, especially for the teenagers in your life.
The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy (2017) — When Ariel Levy left for a writing assignment in Mongolia, she was married, five months pregnant, and financially secure. By the time she returned home, she was no longer any of those things. While that event is the center of this book, this is also a memoir that tells the story about how a girl found her escape in writing, and ended up turning it into a career. It’s the story of marriage and infidelity and addiction and choosing an unconventional life.
I’m conflicted about this book. It’s extremely well-written and I appreciate it for what it is. As David Sedaris pointed out, this book turns grief into art. But at the same time, it’s just so sad. It’s not just about losing her baby; everything in this book has an undercurrent of sadness to it. I like having someone I can root for, and it wasn’t that she wasn’t likable (though at times she certainly wasn’t likable), but things just kept getting bad over and over again. I wish the book had more of a narrative arc and built to something; it seemed quite flat.
The ONE Thing by Gary Keller (2013) — When it comes to their businesses and their lives, people are often too unfocused, trying to manage several things at once. This book recommends choosing your ONE THING instead and focusing exclusively on that to get your results. Make your focus narrow instead of broad. Eliminate all other things from your life.
Have you ever had a meeting that could have been an email? Well, this is a book that could have been a blog post. It boggles my mind that it sold so many copies. It’s a good concept, yes, and I did find some tips from this book that I can use in my business. But so much of the book is filled with fluff (and it’s only 133 pages) that I would have gotten much more out of this had it been a meaty blog post. Prioritize the most important thing. Lesson learned.
Coming Up in May 2019
I’m going to Antigua! I’m so excited — I vowed to see more of the Caribbean in 2019 and Antigua and Barbuda will be my 79th country! I’m attending the weeklong Traverse event, which is part conference and part unstructured press trip.
In addition to be spending a week at an all-inclusive with 40 of my friends, and learning new skills, I’m excited to check out the island. I’ve heard from many people that Antigua is one of the best Caribbean islands — it has so much beauty and variety. I especially hope to take a trip to Barbuda, which has been uninhabited since Hurricane Irma annihilated it in 2017, and report on what it’s like today.
That is my only trip for May, unless something springs up at the last minute. June will be very busy so I doubt I’ll do much more in May.