It’s up to YOU! #NewYork, New York

🎼 If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere!

New York, in my mind, is the epitome of manifesting your dreams. Like starlets to Hollywood and guitar pickers to Nashville, the brazen are drawn to the struggle, the hustle, and the nearly impossible odds of New York City. Madonna Louise Ciccone was 19 years old when she moved to New York with only $35 in her pocket. The iconic move was a revered theme in fantasies of my own.

New York is where the serious get serious. When you come to New York, you are telling the universe you are ALL IN. It has a mystique about it, grit and glimmer at the same time. It was a place I personally never dreamed of. It was too big for me – too bold, too daring, too audacious.

World on your shoulders-1

 

And yet I found myself here, just by following my feet.

I think it is fitting that the universe would take me into the heart of Manhattan. As big a dreamer as I have been, I was afraid to go *too far*. I was afraid to be too gutsy, too defiant… too reckless. I wanted more from my life, but New York was over the top. I was content to settle for professional, the daily grind, careful to be grateful for every little scrap that came my way.

I was mouse, nosing around in the kitchen, scurrying for the crumbs, staying hidden in the corners, making my nest in the walls. I had the smallest, squeaky voice that was rarely really employed. I dreamed big dreams, but they were always confined in some way, unable to grow beyond my whiskers and my little nose.

New York Pink-1

But this mouse somehow found herself in New York City, as a driver even!, in the company of an artist, a fashion designer, a performer, and a producer. I felt the heartbeat of ambition in my bones. The grit and glitter fluttered in my belly. Sultry pulses sweat through my skin in the heat of the night. I dared not, but destiny drew me anyway, whispering it is bigger and sooo much better than you let yourself imagine. And you are welcome.

I strode the streets and drank it all in. I saw roots that broke up the concrete and buildings that scraped the sky. I saw beauty and grime, drive and despair, and I loved it all. I was a mouse among the masses, eating my cheese. Not just any cheese either – Raclette.

New York Fly-1

This all began with a single decision – to strip myself down to the barest essentials, seek out wild places, and uncover the primal truth of who I really am.

She Persisted-1

Advertisements

The *softer* side of New Orleans?

I came to New Orleans thinking this would be a fun place to log the Louisiana leg of our #1000Miles1Year challenge. I first visited New Orleans when I was in my 20’s, a young professional attending a convention with a few dozen colleagues over Halloween. I remembered the city as being sultry, electric, and pulsing with daring enthusiasm.

Twenty years later, now a solo female traveler with a pup in tow, I felt uneasy as I entered the city. New Orleans has a reputation for debauchery; as though the dark and the dirty make their home here. Where will I run? Will it be safe? What if it isn’t? What was I thinking???

new-orleans-1

New Orleans can be seriously intimidating to a first-time visitor. The French Quarter streets feel incredibly narrow as you creep along in thick traffic. The sky above is squeezed between second-level balconies protruding from many of the buildings. Cars are parallel parked, mish-mash style along the street-sides, sometimes impossible for two vehicles to pass each other in between. Crowds of revelers roam the iron jungle with plastic frothing cups. A shop front displays Mardi Gras masks with creepy pointed noses and a sign that winks “Deurty Boys.” You get the sense that everything existing here is intent on invading your space.

I almost drive right back out. The little voice in my head was screaming, “Absolutely nothing in me wants to be here right now!” But I knew that was really just fear trying to take the wheel, and the something that kept me was the mantra that *fear is not my master*. I was intent on pushing beyond my discomfort and taking in the sights and sounds of this city.

A little sleuthing eventually uncovered a hidden gem called the Bywater District.

new-orleans-3

I wouldn’t exactly call it soft, but The Big Easy has a more sophisticated side. Just beyond the French Quarter is the Bywater District. I first discovered Crescent Park, a 1.4 mile manicured masterpiece that hugs the mighty Mississippi River. With ample free parking and gates open at sunrise, Justice and I safely logged in our miles here every day. The park is popular with runners and dog walkers, but never really crowded at any hour of the day. There are water fountains, port-o-lets and a fenced dog run too. We stretched out our runs just east of the park to the Poland Street Port, where massive ships dwarf the dock as they gently come to rest.

new-orleans-2

The neighborhood streets have names like Piety, Louisa, Dauphine and Desire, a bold and soulful stroll with houses dressed in royal blue, pastel pink, lime green, purple punch and every other imagining. White lights and gold beads and red tinsel adorn the otherwise staunch, ornamental wrought iron fences, balconies and doorposts. A sign reads, “No Air BnB! Save our neighborhood.” The locals voice concern that their treasured, quiescent lifestyle will be impugned by the more typical NOLA party animals. There are a couple of Bed and Breakfast Inns that welcome guests to the Bywater District, and they exhibit a debonair grace and sophistication. The Maison de Macarty is an 1860s Victorian home, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It features six guest rooms in the main house, two private cottages, ensuite bath facilities and a mineral water swimming pool.

new-orleans-5

The Bywater District also has its own share of amazing eateries with convenient, meter-free street parking. The Satsuma Café is a great place to start the day, featuring fresh juices, breakfast and lunch dishes using local and organic ingredients. On the patio, a decorated seamstress bust stands next to a guest in a top hat, the sight of it just quirky enough to satisfy your appetite for the unusual. A few blocks down, The Joint offers true wood-smoked meat, landing it on top ten BBQ lists in publications from Bon Appétit to Zagat. In 2008, The Joint was featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” and folks still line up to dig in, with middle-aged professionals in button down oxfords seated at the bar next to free spirits sporting dreadlocks and nose piercings. Next to the shabby Bargain Mart is the classy Oxalis, a whiskey-focused gastropub where you can enjoy Happy Hour specials on small plates and drinks like the Sazerac, a local New Orleans variation of a cognac cocktail in a glass spritzed with absinthe.

I was delighted to spend three days exploring the heart of New Orleans without the debaucherous crowds and tawdry commercialism. Pets are welcome at all of the establishments mentioned above. As day three drew to a close, I concluded my visit at Piety Wharf. With iron pillars and concrete benches, Piety Wharf inspires with inscriptions that evoke the true spirit of New Orleans, like “Freedom: To move at will, to strive with confidence, to dream with a real expectation of achievement, and to be regarded with respect.”

new-orleans-7

Atlanta #cityscape from Piedmont Park

My friend, James Loving turned me on to city runs when I stayed with him and his wife, Pamela a week ago. The hook: the run from his house in Richmond to the Virginia State Capital was a six mile round trip, and he claimed the route was rated one of the prettiest streets in America.

I thought I would hate it. Let me clarify. I thought I would hate the distractions but maybe enjoy the scenery. I have to get into *the zone* when I am running, otherwise it is just all guts and no glory. All I could think about was all of those people and crosswalks and traffic. I pictured myself having to yank Justice out of the headlights, maneuvering around the suits hogging the sidewalk, and having to stop dead at every red intersection.

There was nothing at all in those imaginations that appealed to me. But having never done a city run before, I was intrigued. State capitals are usually designed to impress the dignitaries and tourists alike, and there is so much history alive in Richmond. With a name like Monument Avenue… how could I NOT run it? So what if it was distressing! It would be a unique experience.

I LOVED IT. And Justice was great!

The people and vehicles were actually quite courteous. I think it helps to have a cute pup in tow. Justice garners attention and adoration everywhere she goes. I’m just along for the ride, really.

I decided I MUST include city runs in my #1000Miles1Year challenge (run/walk/crawl via ilovetorun.org). Coming to Georgia in week four of my project, Atlanta was my number one pick. My fiance, Edward and I used to rendezvous there from time to time when he lived in Virgina and I in Florida. Some of our favorite memories are in that city.

Still, I was chicken to take to the streets alone. I Googled “safe places to run in Atlanta” and Piedmont Park topped the list. I chided myself for not having the guts to run the streets, but I chided gently, as I am a recovering perfectionist. “This is not exactly a city run,” I told myself as I sat cross-legged on the floor and scrolled through the Google hits. But the reviews touted beautiful scenes of the cityscape, a lake, sculptures and other objects of interest. I decided it was a good compromise. The address *was* in the city after all.

The trail maps showed three distinct loops – the active loop, the lake loop and the meadow – together totaling 2.5 miles. I figured we could run it twice. Or, if it was really pretty, we could run it once, collect the camera, and walk it a second time to play with some photos.

Turns out dogs are not permitted on the active loop, which is like a dirt track oval. I had to get creative to reach even 2.3 miles on our run. But it was indeed beautiful, and I could hardly wait to get my hands on my new camera.

Justice and I did another two miles walking, taking in the sights and having fun with digital film. It was a gorgeous day. It was everything I hoped for. I even got sun-kissed.