USA

Rob and Mel getting married with our new friend Mina officiating

August was a busy month for us, including lots of time waiting and waiting and waiting for a building permit so we could start the condo renovation. It was supposed to happen and then it got rejected because the reviewer didn’t see an item our architect had specifically included. And then they lost our file. And when they found it the inspector was out on vacation. So the month ended as it began, with no building permit.

Except for that we had lots of fun in August. The big excursion was an eight-day trip out to San Francisco and Napa County, ostensibly for a wedding but since we have family and friends we had lots to do there. First up was three nights in San Francisco. Lots of walking around and some last-minute clothes shopping for the wedding (it was a gay couple getting married and we couldn’t show up in the wrong outfits). Dinner one night with an old work colleague and friend of mine, a woman I worked with 30 years ago and have stayed in touch with since. That was great fun. And then one evening we took the trolley out to Mark’s brother’s house in the sunset where we enjoyed pre-dinner wine with John and Alma and their kids before going out to Third Cousin, and incredible restaurant where they did a tasting menu – a low-carb tasting menu – for us.

In graduate school Marie was a year ahead of Mark & me. Normally I wouldn’t have known her well or even at all except she was roommates with a classmate and great friend of ours. Then she was my coworker for two or three years and then even my boss for a while. Thirty-plus years later I still love hanging out with her.

From there it was up to Napa Valley for the wedding. It was a little strange insofar as we didn’t know anyone except the two grooms … and we didn’t know them that well. We’d met Rob & Mel back in the Seychelles where they were celebrating Mel’s 50th birthday. And then celebrating Rob’s proposal and Mel’s saying yes. We just really hit it off so when they invited us for the big event we had to go. The weather was hot but the wedding was beautiful. We even made some new friends.

Mark & Patricia. Like Rob she’s a surgeon. Except she’s an African American woman who grew up in Anacostia, the poorest section of DC. In other words, started with every disadvantage and today a surgeon. Pretty impressive!

And then we stayed in Napa for a few more nights on our own, moving to the Las Alcobas hotel just a few miles down the road from the wedding venue. The attraction to this particular hotel is that it’s owned by a friend of ours, a guy we met touring the Galapagos way back in 2002. We’d stayed at his hotel in Mexico City some years ago and it was fantastic (not surprising as at the time it was rated #1 on Trip Advisor) so we figured we’d give his newer California hotel a shot. And while Sam wasn’t around – he was down in Mexico – the hotel was great.

While we were there we did a day trip up to Healdsburg in Sonoma County to visit an old friend of mine from my Minneapolis days. Dan and Mark (Dan’s Mark, not mine) moved out to Sonoma four or five years ago and Dan telecommutes to his job in Minnesota. They have a great place with killer views but sadly we had so much fun visiting that I didn’t take any pictures.

Mark, Vlad, & Alex

Then it was back to New York. And after eight nights in the laid back Bay Area, it felt fabulous stepping out of Penn Station back in the intensity of New York. Except for waiting to get our building permit our time in New York included a visit from Boston friends Vlad & Alex and their very cute toddler Victoria. Plus a visit from Keith & Nic, and even a quick drop by from John Lee. Shakespeare in the Park one evening which we enjoyed even though neither of us are really Shakespeare types. Then there’s always the time hanging out in parks reading, going to the gym, cooking; all that normal stuff.

And just in case you’re wondering, eight months in and we’re enjoying New York and really not missing traveling. Of course, I supposed it’s easier to “not miss” traveling when you’re spring and summer have included London, Italy, Greece, and California.

Out for tapas with Nic and Keith

Virgin Mary Over the Toilet (seriously) at a mescal bar we love

Vlad, Alex, and Victoria. The little one kind of stole our hearts.

Mark and a pig. What else can you say?

I love that I’ve become the guy who can just hang out in Union Square in the middle of a perfect weekday and read

We celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary in August. How did Mark celebrate? By having a root canal on our anniversary!

Mary Beth & Sven had extra tickets to Shakespeare in the Park, so we were guests. Now that feels New York!

One night our former intern-programmer-project manager-lead project manager-COO-CTO, soon-to-be first-time father, and still great friend John Lee was in town and joined us for drinks at Excuse My French, our favorite neighborhood hangout

Mark and niece Ava, days before she was starting college

Me and Alma out for a great dinner

Mark out for a long walk in San Francisco

And me

Some siblings, in-laws, nieces, and nephews as we start our little hike to the Little Sucker River

A key part of our thinking in establishing a home in the U.S. again was to be closer to family. And what better time to visit family in northern Minnesota than over the 4th of July weekend? Not only is it a great holiday on its own but my Dad’s birthday was the 5th of July, making it always a big couple of days for us. So off to Duluth we went.

One of the highlights of the weekend was a cousin’s 40th wedding anniversary. I grew up amongst a large number of cousins and I figured going to her party would be a great way to see a lot of them at once. That all worked and while I probably enjoyed it more than Mark did (I come from a big extended family and he didn’t), it was great fun reconnecting. Or, in the case of some of their now-adult children, great fun getting to know them. Sadly, though, there were no good pictures as the bar where the party was held just didn’t lend itself to good photos.

A little pool formed by cascading water made for a great little break in the day

Another highlight was a family hike up to a little swimming hole on the Little Sucker River just outside Duluth. I laughed when I saw it and started playing around: Mark & I travel the world looking for just the right little isolated spot like that, and there it was in my old home town.

Otherwise the long weekend was just about hanging out with family. Mark & I took my mother out for lunch at a favorite restaurant up the North Shore. She always loves having guests even when – as in this case – she wasn’t at all sure who we were or why we were taking her out. Sad, but Alzheimer’s only goes in one direction and it’s not a good one. The rest of the family, though, is doing well.

Dropping off Mom at her assisted living facility after lunch

The Little Sucker River

Some years ago Duluth created a fabulous trail along the north shore of Lake Superior. Great for running and walking, you have views like this of the city.

A double rainbow over Lake Superior

Mark & Karen

Me and Rebecca, outside a cousin’s home in Superior. When I was a kid an uncle used to cook Sunday pancakes for whoever was there and while he has long since passed away, his kids keep the tradition going when there are cousins around. Such fun!

Anita with flowers from our hike

While the focus of our stay was to visit family I carved out dinner one night for Mary, an old graduate school classmate and friend of ours who lives in Duluth. Over the years she’s become friends with my sister Rebecca, so we made it a five-some along with Mary’s husband Bill.

And Mark taking the best selfie ever

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!