I didn’t have a traditional family upbringing with a homemaker mother and a businessman father. My parents, both college-educated, battled with personal demons and relied heavily on extended family members to rear me. Of course this wasn’t the ideal situation but I grew up with cousins that were more like siblings and aunt and uncles who took on the parental roles.
I recently attended a three-day family reunion in Texas and I was able catch up and be myself with the people who love me unconditionally. Now, it wasn’t a love feast, but I was filled with so much joy to be surrounded by the tribe who molded me and never let me go when I, a spoiled, tantrum prone adolescent, just needed to be reminded that I was loved.
Have you ever visited a childhood haunt as an adult and it looked totally different than how you remembered? This wasn’t my experience when I revisited Balmorhea State Park in West Texas this summer. It was still gorgeous and anchored by the biggest spring-feed swimming pool I’ve ever seen. Despite my fear, I mounted the high diving board, peered over its edge, and jumped into the coolest cerulean-hued water imaginable. When I surfaced, I wiped the water from my eyes and, for a moment, saw my past: a carefree adolescent needing no more than a swim to feel renewed.
Jay Z is a talented rapper but seeing him live isn’t the most moving experience. Watching him paired with his supernova wife, Beyoncé, during their co-headlined “On The Run” tour recently proved my belief. Jay was capable of inciting fans to throw up his signature Roc hand sign; Beyoncé commandeered the audience to swoon, sing and dance in the aisles. Am I biased? Hell yeah! I’m a Beyoncé sycophant and she solidified my allegiance when she performed a rousing rendition of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex Factor” during the show. Sure, the marquee read “ Jay Z & Beyoncé,” however, lets be honest: his sets were only necessary to give her more time for costume changes.
I’ve frequently walked by the Daryl Roth Theatre in Union Square and gazed at its billboards and thought, “ Dancers frolicking in water like sea nymphs is my type of party.” So I took the plunge and went to see the show touted as a tribal rave. After several scenes with impressive visuals, I couldn’t grasp if there was a plot. Maybe that was the point. However, after contorting my neck to see performers swinging over my head; constantly being shifted around the theatre to avoid being splashed by water; and having a Styrofoam sheet smashed over my head, I realized Wayra was an undercooked Cirque du Soleil knockoff.
Proclaiming the Silver Sands Motel & Beach Cottages as my preferred lodging in Greenport might be a lofty statement after only one visit. However, that’s all it took for me to fall in love with this rustic gem located in the North Fork of Long Island.
Situated less than five minutes outside Greenport, the Motel offers a swimming pool and a private beach as amenities. I initially booked double beds in the Motel but the front desk attendant, Terry, offered us a cottage instead. Don’t expect lavish lodgings but what you can expect is a comfortable and clean little bungalow with a living room, a bedroom and a small kitchen. Outside the cottage where I bunked for three nights, was a grill for barbecuing, lounge chairs for, well, you know, lounging, and a park bench for gathering with friends.
What I most enjoyed about the Motel is the warmth of the staff. Everyone is extremely affable and helpful. Each morning I was met outside by a smiling woman who would drop off continental breakfast items. The views of Shelter Island from the Motel are unobstructed and jaw-dropping. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, or a crash spot to explore the North Fork, I highly recommend the Silver Sands Motel & Beach Cottages for its bucolic setting and genial staff.
Road trips are one my favorite activities. I enjoy exploring new towns, new restaurants and well, new people. This month I joined two friends for a sojourn to Beacon, NY to visit Dia: Beacon, a museum on the banks of the Hudson River. Watch the above clip for highlights from our trip.
As I approached the Encore at Wynn, my driver asked, “ First time in Vegas? Are you staying in the suites?” I replied no, answering both questions quickly, not wanting to deviate from staring at this behemoth of a hotel located at the northern end of the Las Vegas Strip. Check-in was prompt (despite arriving six hours early), and I quickly headed to my room on the 27th floor to awe at the view of the mountains I was told would be breathtaking. Upon entry into my room, I didn’t lose consciousness due to lack of air, however I was impressed with the spaciousness of the suite, bathroom, the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the lack of noise from the Encore Beach Club.
I can be a bit inquisitive when I visit new hotels, so as soon as my companion joined me, we swapped our business attire for swim suits and proceeded to check out a few of the amenities: A casino, spa, shops and two pools (the European option is a favorite of topless beauties) are on the property. Encore’s sister property, Wynn, allows Encore guests to venture over and take advantage of their more impressive swimming holes. To be honest, I spent more time at the Wynn pool for its superior aesthetic. Do you like gambling? Encore’s got it. Like rowdy clubs that play EDM? Encore’s XS Nightclub will satiate your thirst for melody-less tunes. Overall, Encore provides enough activities (including water-themed extravaganza Le Reve) and dinning options that you’ll never have to venture off the property to have a pleasant stay in Sin City.
Every business trip I take I try to sneak away and explore the surrounding area. On a recent sojourn down south, I found myself trekking an hour outside Austin, TX to Pedernales Falls State Park. The park boasts activities including hiking, swimming, biking, boozing and the world famous Falls. Don’t get too excited. This body of water couldn’t beat Niagara in a wet t-shirt contest but its slow moving river and selfie-inducing views will calm any frenetic city dweller. And, after you’ve awed at God’s creation, head back towards the capital and stop off at Salt Lick for some of the best brisket in Texas Hill Country.
I don’t care about fashion. I only read The New York Times’ Sunday Styles section for the Modern Love column (I’m more romantic than trendy). Recently, a friend asked me to accompany her to the Brooklyn Museum to see the exhibit, The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, before it closed on February 23. My only knowledge of the designer was his cologne, Le Male, which my stepfather would wear religiously. Despite my ambivalence, I joined my friend and awed at 140 Gaultier ensembles, ranging from his earliest to most recent collections. My favorite haute couture outfit: A S&M getup I’d wear while forcing Anna Wintour to pick through the bargain bins at the Gap.
A recent outing during another blistering winter storm, led seven associates and myself to Momofuku Noodle Bar, an intimate Asian-inspired restaurant on 1st avenue. Since it’s opening in 2004, Momofuku has been serving foodies bowls of delicious ramen dishes with chunks of pork belly and Sichuan sausage. Before I ordered, I noticed several patrons slurping on what appeared to be a pork-based dish. Instead of inquiring and trying something new, we ordered the fried chicken dinner and gorged on the two whole fried birds (one southern styled, one Korean style). I should have stepped outside of my comfort zone and tried a pork/shiitake bun, but my gut shouted, “If you can’t identify it, don’t eat it, Jamil!”