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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!

All the nieces and nephews on my side of the family — Nico, Ava, Lydia, Leigh, Jasmine, Jamal, and Molly

Summer in New York gets hot and muggy. So it was nice that we had planned a 3-week summer “vacation” in Greece nearly a year ago. We planned the trip around a week-long family get together for my immediate family — my parents, their four kids, their spouses, and all seven grandchildren. Jim and I added a week onto each end on our own.

For many years we’ve said that our favorite country to travel in is Italy. But during this sojourn in Greece, we seriously discussed whether Greece has overtaken Italy as our favorite. Greek islands are about as close to heaven as it gets. Who needs anything more than a perfect taverna on a bright blue stretch of Mediterranean beach?

And every Greek island has its own personality. We made it to four islands in the Cyclades on this trip, and we loved every one of them.

Paros

Our first stop was the island of Paros, where we stayed in the lovely town of Naoussa at the northern tip of the island. The town just reeked with charm. We’d easily get lost in the narrow streets full of great restaurants, elegant outdoor bars, and appealing shops.

One of many amazing bars in the charming town of Naoussa

From Naoussa, you could hop a water taxi to a handful of beaches across the bay

Arriving at a beach by water taxi. Oh that water!

Did I mention the water?

I am very happy in Greece

Approaching the town again by water ferry after a morning at the beach

A seaside lunch spot on Naoussa town

Mykonos

Mykonos (and Santorini) are different from the other Cycladic islands. Each is incredible in its own way, but they are both considerably more touristy, crowded, and expensive than all the other islands. But it was a good choice for our family get together for a few reasons.

First, it’s hard to find a really nice rental house that can accommodate 17 people without anybody being stuck in a crappy room. I scored by finding a pair of houses with common outdoor spaces and two beautiful pools in a very nice part of Mykonos. Second, Mykonos is relatively easy to get to, with direct flights coming from various parts of Europe. And finally, there are so many beaches to visit for all flavors of tourists. Nobody is going to be bored here.

The place worked out well, and I’m confident everyone had a great week here. It’s the second year in a row that we got all 17 of us together (Tuscany last summer). And I consider myself quite fortunate because I really like every one of these wonderful people. I know that Jim and I had a great time this week, and I’m pretty confident we all did.

Me and the glorious views from our villa

There was lots of fun to be had on the day we discovered that you could sip Metaxa in the pool.

With my fabulous sisters-in-law, Jenny and Alma

Lunch with my parents at a taverna on a beautiful beach in a remote corner of Mykonos

With my sister Jeanne

The Ann Arbor Sullivans — Molly, Jenny, Pat, and Lydia

One day most of us drove to a beach a half hour away. But Jim and Jenny decided to hike there. It was apparently somewhat treacherous.

Nico and I and our very Greeky shirts

Dinner at the villa was a fine affair every evening

Our chef displays the evening’s catch

Leigh and I trying to lure a sweet little kitten onto our patio

Lydia at an elegant lunch spot over the beach close to our villa

The San Francisco Sullivans — Nico, Jasmine, John, Alma, and Ava

A hug from my mother!

Tinos

A short ferry hop from Mykonos took us to the island of Tinos. Here we stayed at hotel up in the mountains near a tiny little town called Triantaros. The town only had a couple restaurants, but they were truly gems. During the day, we hiked about an hour to get from the town down to a beach. It was a really beautiful hike, if you can overlook the part where Jim got stung by a wasp.

At a charming, but unassuming little restaurant in little Triantaros village…

…where we were amazed by the quality of the food.

And this was my seat mate at that place!

The view from the restaurant out toward the sea

Charming decor

Oh. My. God.

Syros

Yet another short ferry ride took us to the glorious island of Syros. Here we stayed in the main port town called Ermoupoli. This elegant town serves as the capital of the Cyclades, and perhaps for that reason seemed less touristy and more like a real city than most Greek island cities.

On our first full day here we decided to take a taxi to a particular beach a half hour away. We rode out of town and up, up, up a mountain, with beautiful views, and then descended down, down, down to a tiny beach town. The beach was calm and lovely. And nearby was a restaurant with great reviews — though some reviewers criticized the place as awfully expensive. With some reluctance we decided to try it anyway.

We love Greek food in general, but the food here was extraordinary — way beyond what you expect at a seaside taverna in a little town. And not that expensive really — cheaper than anything in Mykonos!

What did we do on days two, three, four, and five here in Syros? Made the same drive over the mountain, to the same postcard-perfect little beach, and ate at the same incredible restaurant. When you find perfection, why mess with it?

For some reason we have very few photos from Syros, but this shot of a calamari dish we ordered at our lunch spot pretty well sums it up

And let’s close out with one more shot of that kitten from Tinos

Happy WorldPride!

Like I said, lots of rainbows everywhere in New York this month

People like to visit New York. We didn’t travel at all in June, but we saw lots of friends and family. And somehow stayed very busy. We did plenty of cultural things. We started seriously shopping for furniture for our new condo. And we continued to wait and wait for the condo board to approve our building plans.

June was an especially fun and colorful month to be in New York because the city hosted WorldPride, a month-long LGBTQ pride celebration. New York was the 6th city to host WorldPride since it began in Rome in 2000. The city was decked out in rainbows everywhere for the month. And it all culminated in the June 28 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, considered the birthplace of the gay rights movement.

[Note: Speaking of building plans, we expect the last step of our endless approval processes to happen by mid-September. That is why we are now hurrying to get the blog caught up to the present day. By the time we start our construction process in a couple of weeks we really want to be blogging in real time again!]

Jim’s sister Rebecca made her second appearance in New York this year, this time with her daughter Lily. Here we are on the roof of our future condo.

Becky and Lily could not resist posing by this great big AOC in graffiti just around the corner from our apartment

The Staten Island Ferry is a very economical way (free) to take a boat ride and get a nice glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Or to just settle into a corner and read.

There’s Becky on our roof again!

Laura Migliorino is an old friend of Jim’s from Minneapolis. She was in town following an exhibit opening of her photography in the Hudson Valley. We hadn’t seen her in 25 years, but she was spunky as ever! We also enjoyed getting to know her New York friend, Ryan.

Speaking of graffiti — also just around the corner from our apartment

Our friend Thomas is a board member of the Trevor Project, a great non-profit that helps prevent suicide among gay people. Thomas and Anthony came up from DC for a big New York fundraiser, and here we are walking the red carpet.

We’ve spent a lot of time furniture shopping lately. It’s a grueling process because we hate most of what we see. I did somewhat dig this silvery couch.

This is at Poliform, one of the few furniture stores in New York that we really like. A variant of this very couch might well end up in our media room (which Jim says I’m not allowed to call the “TV room”).

We also had a visit from the Germains this month — Laura, Dan, and Elizabeth. Here Dan enjoys the view from the “window” at the old school Italian place we like in the Theatre District, after seeing the Broadway version of To Kill a Mockingbird.

And Laura tried on some fun glasses. Couldn’t convince here to buy them.

Here is Elizabeth, working to find the perfect little succulent for her dorm room at William and Mary, where she’ll be a freshman this fall

Here we are with our friend Sven (pink tie) and his brother Ralph (left) and Ralph’s son (right). Visiting from Munich, Ralph is an architect and was keen to see our new condo. So two Gierlinger families all came up and it turned into a fun, spontaneous party.

This is our neighbor Gregory. His search for a condo was featured in the New York Times and, fortunately, landed him in our building. You can read about it here.

My brother Pat and his wife Jenny came back to NYC so Jenny could run in the Pride Run

Jim, too, signed up for the Pride Run. The crowds were hellish, but the event did make the Guiness Book of Records for the largest ever pride charity run — with over 10,000 runners.

Here we are at the Stonewall Inn on the 50th anniversary of the uprising

Jenny and Pat pose with Blondie

Pat & Jenny’s visit overlapped with our friend Susan Shaer’s. We got caught up in all the excitement of the huge Pride march.

Susan and I get ready for the Broadway revival of Oklahoma!