I recently started to keep an offline gratitude journal to note good experiences with people and places. Having a positive outlook has been hard since my Dad died in August. Expressing thanks for small pleasures is one way I’m trying to overcome my grief. My travels often make me happy and I list them in this journal, especially “travels in my backyard” near my home in New York City.
Topping the list this autumn were walks in Isham Park and Inwood Hill Park close to my apartment. The foliage and fresh air helped to clear my mind. I walked every weekend from mid-October to mid-November and saw the gradual change in the colors of the leaves on the trees. On the blue trail that slopes up through Inwood Hill Park and overlooks the Spuyten Duyvil Creek, I escaped in the solitude of the forest. On one of these walks, I emerged from the forest to find upper Manhattan awash in pink dusk.
Autumn also included some “firsts.” I ate Himalayan dumplings for the first time at Momo Crave in Woodside, Queens, a Nepalese eatery reviewed in the Hungry City column written by Ligaya Mishan for The New York Times. This weekly column is a resource for underrated restaurants that serve diverse ethnic cuisine throughout the city’s five boroughs. Woodside is far from Inwood, so I waited until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to go there en route to the Jamaica LIRR station on my way to Long Island for the holiday. The dumplings were worth the detour. I savored chaat momo, which came in a semi-spicy yogurt sauce topped with banana chips. Another first was my visit to the Grand Bazaar NYC, a flea market open every Sunday on W. 77th Street at Columbus Avenue in Manhattan. It is one of those places I somehow overlooked until now (the market has been there since 1982). I searched for vintage dress gloves to wear to my cousin’s wedding in Prague. I left empty-handed but enjoyed browsing around. The bazaar is a good place to shop for the holidays. You’ll find antiques and vintage jewelry and housewares that make unique gifts for family and friends.
Art always raises my spirits and was part of my autumnal travels as well. I saw the exhibits “Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today” at the Wallach Art Gallery (through Feb. 10, 2019) and “It’s Alive! Frankenstein at 200” at the The Morgan Library and Museum (through Jan. 27, 2019). I also went to a (now closed) show at the Inwood Art Works pop-up gallery at 4857 Broadway in my neighborhood (next up is “What the World Needs Now” from Nov. 30 to Dec. 23). I came upon Marta Blair’s paintings on display at Darling, my local coffee shop, and the happenstance of seeing something beautiful and unexpected in a familiar place was such a reward. All of this was free (minus my morning latte). The only space that has an admissions fee is The Morgan, but if you go on Friday from 7 to 9 pm, as I did, there is no cost. I more than made up for the bargain art with one film ticket at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 near Columbus Circle. I watched “A Private War” about the brave journalist Marie Colvin. At $20, the ticket was pricier than all the art and momos combined. Luckily, I liked the film.
Beyond New York City, I spent a week in Croatia followed by my second trip to the Czech Republic (more about both soon) in October. I smiled a lot—it felt noticeably good—and even had some laughs, such as when I gave a toast at my cousin’s wedding and there was a glitch with its translation from English into Italian and Czech.
As autumn turns to winter, I am looking forward to more meaningful travels. I have a new membership to the New York Botanical Garden and plan to see the annual holiday train show (for the first time). I signed up for a painting class at The Art Students League of New York and will serve as a volunteer bird-watcher in Central Park this December. And the more I travel, the more I connect with my Dad. He would want me to continue exploring and having experiences. He always pushed me to learn new things and be curious, and for his love and encouragement, I am most grateful.