The view from our apartment is stunning every day, but maybe even more than usual as the leaves start to change

October has been a very busy month. You already know that Jim spent a week in Paris with my dad. And soon after that we spent a week in Barbados. The rest of the month we enjoyed mostly glorious (and some really crappy) fall weather here in New York.

This was also the month that saw the most visitors we’ve had yet. Plus construction began in earnest on our condominium. And we started to dabble more seriously than ever in art and music.

But let’s start with the fact that autumn in New York is wonderful. The cooling weather facilitates those long walks we love to do (when it’s not windy and rainy). The turning leaves are beautiful (like everywhere else I suppose). I’m pretty sure this is my favorite time to be here.

Even in the rain, the city can be so beautiful under fall colors

A jazz quartet livens up Washington Square Park on a glorious fall day

But nonetheless we did schedule a week away in mid-October, the week when we celebrate Jim’s birthday and our anniversary. We wanted to go someplace new and fun, and an obvious choice was Barbados. We could fly there direct and at convenient times. Plus it’s a country we’ve never been to. And if we hadn’t gone there this month, there was a threat that we wouldn’t make it to a single new country in 2019 — for the first time in 20 years.

So we booked a nice hotel on a beautiful beach and spent a week doing just about nothing — at least as long as you count sitting on the beach, reading, taking a swim, and eating as nothing. OK, I did make myself work out at the hotel gym every other day. But other than that, it was all about nothing.

This is the very spot between our room and the beach where most of the nothing took place

We’d occasionally get out of the beach chairs to cool off in the water

A view of the beach from our favorite lunch spot

Celebrating Jim’s birthday

Celebrating our anniversary — 32 years

With the exception of Barbados, we haven’t been planning to travel much at all as the construction on our condo finally got under way this month. A week of demolition cleared out the space and revealed some unexpected new challenges. Our architects quickly dreamed up solutions and redrew the plans. And then the construction team measured and measured and started building walls. We are thrilled to watch our new home finally starting to take shape!

As the walls begin to rise, we now turn our attention to finishing details. We’ve already ordered appliances, cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, flooring and tile. Now we’re turning to furniture, rugs, wall treatments, and art. It seems like the decision making never ends.

One of the last shots after demolition and before the actual construction began

Walls, glorious walls going up!

Unlike the last time we renovated, lasers now help make sure everything is level and in the exact right place

We meet every Monday to go over plans and make adjustments as needed. I’m reviewing drawings here with Naiky from the architectural team, Cesar the general contractor, and Alberto the project lead.

Our lead architect, Mitch, helps us make final selections of which slabs of stone and tile to use at a big warehouse in New Jersey. This very sheet of porcelain will become our kitchen counters.

Moving slabs of marble around so we can pick the perfect ones for our powder room sink and floor

As I mentioned, October was the busiest month yet for out-of-town visitors. We were rarely alone this month.

While Jim was in Paris I enjoyed a dinner and theater date with our friend Nina from Chicago

We had a wonderful weekend visit from our friends Jennifer and Bill (right) from St. Paul. Minnesota. We were joined one fun night by Natalia, left, who used to be my personal trainer.

Forty years ago, Shideh was my pen pal in Iran. We’ve enjoyed visiting her and her husband Lars in Sweden a few times, but this was the first time we ever met up in the US. It was great fun showing the condo to Shideh, who is an amazing architect.

We hosted dinner at our place for Shideh and Lars, along with my college friend Mary Beth

On the other side of the table…me with Lars and Sven

We also had a fun visit with James, who I worked with very closely for several years at NGP VAN. James now teaches journalism at the University of Missouri, and it was great to catch up. Hope next time he’ll bring Molly and his two cute daughters.

The visit by Shideh and Lars was especially timely as we start to think about buying art for our condo, which has a variety of spaces just begging for beautiful things. The four of us spent a long day touring the most important galleries in Chelsea, something of a global epicenter for acquiring art. On my own, I find this world pretty intimidating. But Lars, who happens to be one of the world’s leading art critics, really helped demystify some of it. It’s less intimidating in these galleries when the owners and artists all come running to welcome Lars into their spaces.

Shideh and Jim give perspective to this giant sculpture or whatever you’d call this

When you are wondering why this piece of masonite with white paint slapped on it is listed for $1.5 million, it’s great to hear Lars explain the important role that painter Robert Ryman played in the development of 20th century art. Genuinely super interesting, though we decided to keep looking.

This was one small piece of an amazing exhibit of paintings, video installations, and sculpture from the French artist Laurent Grasso. When the gallery owner heard that Lars was there, he soon introduced us to the artist himself for a personal tour of the show.

And that takes us to music. Over the last six months we have contemplated the prospect of acquiring a piano for our new condo — even though neither of us knows anything at all about playing. But the more we learn about pianos and piano culture, the more captivated we’ve become. And in October we took a big leap forward with the plan, as we both decided to start taking lessons right away. It’s useless to take lessons if you can’t practice, so we acquired a nice Yamaha keyboard to get us through the next six months of lessons.

We are fortunate that our friend Gena has agreed to take us on as her students. Gena is a spectacular pianist, teacher, and lover of music. She also teaches our friend Mary Beth’s son Luca, who is an incredibly gifted player. I had my first lesson at Gena’s house in Harlem on October 31. I think this is going to be an important part of my post-career life here in New York. It feels like a whole new world is about to open before us!

There it is, our new Yamaha keyboard that is opening up a new and exciting world to us

And speaking of music, we saw Tina: The Tina Turner Musical in previews on Broadway. What a show!

A selfie in front of City Hall, raincoat keeping me dry

A few weeks ago a friend was visiting and Mark was explaining to her how obsessed he is with our condo project. His dad wanted Mark to go to Paris with him, even if for just a few days, but Mark just didn’t want to be away. I looked at Mark and said “I’ll go to Paris with your dad.” I emailed him the next day and within about 24 hours we had flights booked and hotel rooms reserved.

I had a great time and did not miss daily visits to the construction site one bit. Mark and I have been to Paris at least once a year for probably the last eight or 10 years, and I’d thought I would break my streak this year but that was not meant to be.

The Luxembourg Gardens is always one of my favorite places. I walked down there on Sunday during a brief respite in the weather and found it locked up. Closed. There was a HUGE rally close by – some 70,000 freaks I later read – protesting a new French law that would give single women and lesbians the right to use in vitro fertilization to get pregnant. Obviously a communistic attack on the family. These were, I later learned, the same idiots who held massive protests against marriage equality a few years ago. How pathetic that they would waste a beautiful Sunday to try to interfere with other people’s happiness.

It was a reasonably short visit – out on a Friday night, back the following Thursday – but it was just about perfect. The weather was drizzly as you would expect for October, but it was Paris, right? I was so amused the first couple days: temperature in the upper 50s, drizzling on and off, and the outdoor cafés were packed. Who’s going to let a little damp weather interrupt the espressos, wines, and cigarettes that you’re supposed to enjoy on the weekends.

And visiting with Mark’s dad was great fun. We were both sleeping in a bit due to jet lag, but we’d have breakfast, go our separate ways for a few hours, meet for lunch some days, or just make plans to meet for drinks and dinner. Otherwise it was just walking, exploring all the beautiful neighborhoods that I know so well. Here are the photos.

I wasn’t thinking about the awful fire at Notre Dame when I came around the corner and saw this. Not that I’d forgotten, I just wasn’t thinking of it. My heart sank as I quickly saw that pieces were missing.

Food of course is a big deal in Paris. Here is Lidd at Balzar’s, a Left Bank bistro open on Sundays, with a plate of choucroute.

Lidd was in charge of making dinner reservations, but there was one place I wanted to suggest, a place where I had a great lunch when he just wasn’t hungry. I never got a chance to suggest it because that very night it was the restaurant he’d chosen for dinner. Great minds and all that.

Salad Niçoise the way it’s supposed to be made

An amazing fish dish

The Saturday market at Place Monge

After the awful anti-women protest was over the Luxembourg Gardens eventually opened

More from the Luxembourg Gardens

Parc Monceau, another of my favorites

The entrance to the Promenade Planteé, an old railway bed converted to a beautiful park. The precursor to New York’s Highline.

On a drizzly afternoon I had the gardens along the Champs-Élysées to myself

Rain adds a sheen of beauty to the Petit Palais

And one of the most amazing rainbows ever

The construction site of Notre Dame

Mark & I, along with much of his family, have been staying at the Agora St. Germain on the Left Bank for over 25 years. When I tried to make a reservation this time, though, it was closed – their last night of availability was the night I flew out of New York. We discovered that it was closed for renovation and here they are putting up the scaffolding to start what is supposed to be a six- or seven-month project.

Finally, on the last day of the month, after innumerable delays, they started tearing out the existing walls

At one point a month or two ago we were lamenting all the delays in getting our condo project underway and Mark observed that in the worst of circumstances – the worst – it would certainly be going by October. We finally received our building permit on September 11 and signed a contract with our general contractor the next day. Demolition was scheduled to start on September 23 and we planned a pre-demolition party for the 21st. Everything was set.

The party goes off without a hitch. It was relatively small because it was kind of a last-minute thing, but a lot of fun. People we’ve only recently met in New York, old friends from college and early career, two people we met on our travel extravaganza – one in Bali, the other in Morocco – who are New Yorkers and part of our new local network of friends. A lot of fun.

Party night with Hiro and Ann

But there was to be one more delay. On Friday evening, with demolition scheduled for Monday, the building super (the guy in charge of things day-to-day) mentioned to Mark that we couldn’t start on Monday because we didn’t have the electrical and plumbing permits. We had the building permits but not the subcontractors permits. What the …??

Well, the city doesn’t require it, but apparently our building requires you to have all the permits in place before you can start demolition. So Monday’s start date is pushed back a day so the subcontractors can pull their permits. Except on Monday the city’s online permit application system is broken. And it’s broken on Tuesday. And Wednesday. No permits, no demolition. Limbo.

The demolition crew had moved their equipment in the weekend before demolition was to begin but it just sat there unused for another week

By Thursday Mark and I have had it. We go to our city councilor’s office to lodge a complaint. How are we supposed to do a project when your system is broken? Mark files a complaint online with the Mayor’s office. And then we go our building super and beg. There’s no objective need for those permits, and the subcontractors are trying to pull them but the city’s system is broken with no indication when it will get fixed.

Eventually he relented. OK, you can have your guys get started. It takes a couple days of course to get the crews ready so finally on Monday, September 30, we broke ground so to speak. If the absolute worst case scenario was that we would start by October 1, well, we cut it pretty close. The project, though, is finally underway.

Day One. Just six or eight months to go now.

We’ll post more pictures from the demolition soon but meanwhile I should add that the rest of September, aside from the frustrations of construction delays, was a lot of fun. The first weekend we celebrated Mark’s sister’s birthday with Jeanne and her husband Jamal, along with our great friends Dan & Laura. Other highlights included an evening at the Metropolitan Museum for a members-only opportunity to view their exhibition on rock and roll instruments, an Elizabeth Warren volunteer event, lots of furniture shopping, the conclusion of Mark’s root canal (OK, that wasn’t fun), more house guests, and piano shopping.

Jamal, Jeanne, & Laura celebrating Jeanne’s 50th birthday

Oh yeah, and keeping with our efforts to be cultural we saw two plays over the course of September. First up was Sunday, a play that was pretty much boring. You just never cared about the characters or what was happening. Later in the month we saw Soft Power at the Public Theater, the famous theater immediately adjacent to our condo. If I described it as a musical about a Chinese-American who in 2016 meets the next president of the U.S. – Hillary Clinton! – and then changes the course of history, well, it would be true but wouldn’t do it justice. It was one of those shows that’s great to watch and then really gets under your skin so you can’t stop thinking about it. There’s a measurable chance it will be headed to broadway after its run at the Public, so stay tuned.

Stay tuned now, soon to come are more pictures from the condo demolition and renovation!

One more photo of destruction from Day One

By the end of the third day an enormous amount had been removed. There was still a lot more but it was exciting to see the space with almost no interior walls left.

Nic, Naiky, and Mitch, our architecture and design team, in one of the final pre-demolition meetings on site

Jeanne relaxing on our daybed with Manhattan spread out behind her. We’re excited about the condo project finally getting underway but we do love our little apartment.

Dan liked the space too

Dan & Laura at our favorite Greek restaurant

Mark and his baby sister Jeanne

The streets of Greenwich Village. There’s a lot to love about New York City.

At almost any moment walking the streets of Manhattan you can see one gorgeous building or another

Speaking of things to love in New York, we discovered an incredible little Italian restaurant in Alphabet City just a few blocks from our apartment. The heavily accented owner is from Rome and she really, really knows how to run a great restaurant.

We sat outside for our first lunch at this little Italian place, with the interior decorated pretty festively

Signs of fall coming to New York

What else do I love about New York? I spend a surprising amount of time down on the East River walking, running, reading … just enjoying it. That’s the Williamsburg bridge connecting over to Brooklyn. Interesting to note, though, that while I love the East River, it’s actually a tidal estuary, not a river. Big difference.

More from the party, here’s Mark with old college classmate Jane.

We brought chalk to the party knowing there would be some kids who would enjoy it. What we forgot is that the husband of a friend of a friend is an artist and that he would take a few moments to decorate the place.

And here’s Mark with Alex on the right, the rental agent we worked with to get our apartment, and Alex’s friend whose name I sadly forget

Other great moments in September included a members-only evening at the Met, where among other highlights was an exhibit of rock and roll instruments. You can tell who used this.

This gold piano was the one Jerry Lee Lewis (“Great Balls of Fire”) used in his house for sixty years, from 1957 to 2017

Lady Gaga’s piano. I think that would look stunning in our condo!

Speaking of pianos, we made a couple of trips up to the Steinway showroom, considering getting a piano for the condo. Neither of us play (yet) but the space just seems to beg for a grand piano. Here is Betsy, our salesperson, showing a used piece that someone had just bought. For what it’s worth, ours will be black. And it just may play itself.

Culture? After seeing the play “Soft Power” we went to a little after-show cocktail party open to members. Here Mark is with most of the cast. The guy standing just to his right was playing the lead, though he is normally the understudy. If the understudy was that good I can only imagine how good the normal lead actor must be.

Mark got all cultural and joined Ajay for the film Pain and Glory at the New York Film Festival. Here is director Pedro Almodóvar discussing the film afterward. He reports that the movie was incredibly beautiful.

Our friend Dara (right) had an extra ticket to Outstanding in the Field, a fun dinner that was held on a 2-acre rooftop farm in Brooklyn. So Mark joined her, along with her friend Carole and her nephew Jake. We’d heard Carole’s name for 30 years, though we’d never met. And we hadn’t seen Jake since he was about six. Both were so interesting and fun.

Jake and Carole made fun dining companions

Speaking of dining companions, here’s Meredith joining us for dinner and an overnight stay in our apartment. We last saw Meredith in Bali where she was dreaming of starting her own yoga business, running yoga retreats in exotic places around the world. We encouraged her, she took the leap, and started a successful business. Sadly, she then developed Lyme’s Disease which has really put a crimp in her ability to teach yoga. She’s still pushing though, and was with us on her way to Greece for one of her retreats.

I love this picture of Meredith and Mark

Finally, we closed the month with a fabulous visit from Tony and Sharon, a couple from Adelaide, Australia we met while biking in India. Hearing of our adventure they decided to pack it all in for a year and travel the world. I know, just a year. Sad. But they’re having a great time, and what would world travel be without a week in New York? And that’s right, no one should be surprised seeing them drinking Perfect Manhattans in our apartment.