veen on the road: new york 2020, part one.

i spent the first half of my recent visit to new york firmly ensconced in the world of maggie. maggie is one of my besties from grad school who just moved back to new york after a few years away. she recently – as in, a week before i went to visit – moved into a cute studio in sunnyside, queens, so for the first 3.5 days of my time in new york that was my home base.

it was a busy, fun week of exploring on my own and getting to catch up with some friends i’ve not seen in a long time, and i’m so glad i had those days to reacclimatize to one of my favorite cities.

below are all of the things i did from my arrival on monday through thursday night:


loved seeing this guy after so many years. queens, new york. march 2020.

i landed at laguardia and made my way over to maggie’s. our friend mark had been visiting over the weekend, so he let me into the building and we had an hour to quickly catch up before he had to leave for the airport. i hadn’t seen mark in close to 6 years, so it was great to have that time to chat about work and family and travel and all the things we’ve not gotten to talk about in all that time.

once mark left i had a little time to myself before i left to meet maggie for dinner. we knew we wanted to eat in chinatown, both because we love dumplings and because asian-owned businesses have been hit hard since the coronavirus outbreak hi [racism is weird, people]. the first place we tried to go was closed [it looked like for renovations, not because it’s out of business], but shanghai dumpling was a few doors down and looked promising so i headed there instead. we each got our own order of soup dumplings and shared some lo mein and had a grand old time chatting and catching up.

besties back together. new york, new york. march 2020.

after dinner we went back to sunnyside and had a drink and some fries at the lowery, an irish pub near maggie’s. from there it was back home to chill and watch love is blind because we’re cool like that.


so many colors. new york, new york. march 2020.

i was up early-ish on tuesday to head into manhattan to meet with abbe and jesse from the worker’s circle, a nonprofit that advocates for social justice issues through a secular jewish lens. they were planning to bring a group of their students to memphis in april and we were going to do some programming together, but unfortunately they had to cancel their trip. they were still kind enough to invite me to their office, however, and it was great to meet them and share stories about the work each of our organizations does and how it overlaps.

my favorite ramen. new york, new york. march 2020.

after we wrapped up i walked from their office near times square down to union square, one of my favorite areas in manhattan. my favorite ramen restaurant, ippudo, is near there, and while the line is always out the door for dinner i took advantage of a midday lull and headed there for lunch. i had the karaka spicy lunch special with spicy tuna, and it was so good. pro tip: if you want to go for dinner, make a reservation

from there it was time for my traditional visit to the strand bookstore. their tagline is “18 miles of books”, and i can spend hours perusing everything they have on offer. in addition to the books, however, they also have incredible gifts: socks, magnets, tote bags, postcards, mugs, bookmarks and on and on and on. i love picking up postcards small gifts for people there, and this time i also allowed myself to get three books. pro tip: explore all the floors, even if you’re not interested in the books, to see all the goodies and tchotchkes they have for sale

that famous arch. new york, new york. march 2020.

the weather was still nice when i left the strand, so i wandered over to washington square park to channel my inner jess mariano and read in the park. i sat amongst the nyu students and finished reading just kids and felt very new york about it all.

it was beginning to get a little cloudy, so i decided to go ahead and make my way to the upper west side and pass some time in a coffee shop near where i was to meet meg and ryan. i made it to new york basics just before the skies opened up, ordered a hot chocolate, and settled into a table in the corner to read, listen to podcasts, and write some postcards.

love this family. new york, new york. march 2020.

and then it was time to meet meg, ryan, and charlie! they moved to new york last year when ryan took a job as the quarterbacks’ coach at columbia; they live just north of the city in pelham, but meg was kind enough to bundle up charlie and come down to meet me in the city. first we went to koronet to have the biggest slices of pizza in new york, and then we strolled through columbia’s campus to arts & crafts beer parlor for drinks and snacks. it was so lovely to see the three of them and to learn more about their lives in new york, and i was still back home to maggie by 9.30.


divas and divas. queens, new york. march 2020.

i slept in a little on wednesday and then met maggie for lunch at thai diva before making my way into manhattan. i didn’t have a ton of stuff on my agenda and the weather was beautiful so after lunch i went to bryant park to people watch and read for a little while. there were people out for late lunches or just to soak up some sun, and it was so nice.

all the books. new york, new york. march 2020.

my coworker susanne knows how much i love books and libraries and recommended that i visit the morgan library and museum to see j. pierpont morgan’s personal collection. it was very cool to see his rooms set up how they were when he lived, but i missed some of the history because they were switching over to single-use headphones [remember this was the very beginning of the covid-19 outbreak in the states] so there were no audio guides available. pro tips: at $23 for admission it’s pretty steep, but if you are a book lover it’s a cool place to visit // there are also two temporary exhibits that rotate // if you don’t want to see the collection but would still like to see the inside of the building there is a light-filled café that looked good

from there i wandered over to grand central to grab some ice cream and then hopped on the subway up to the met. on a previous visit i had seen the islamic art and the egyptian exhibits, so this time i decided to check out the east and south asian sections and then made my way all the way downstairs to see the temporary “in pursuit of fashion” exhibit which was really cool. they were starting to close up and i had some time before needing to be at dinner, so i sat on the steps for a bit to do some more people-watching. there were others sitting on the steps, there were people out for walks and jogs, and there was a magician performing tricks, so i had a great time.

and then it was time for dinner! ian is one of my brother’s best friends from undergrad, and he and i met when he visited india in 2010 [and very generously sponsored a christmas carnival at the boys’ home]. we have kept in touch on and off over the years, and he always donates to my st jude fundraising, so i wanted to make sure and see him while in town. i met him, his wife courtney, and their daughter dakota at mexicoma for dinner, and we had a great time chatting and catching up. so many of my brother’s friends have essentially adopted me as their little sister, and i love the relationships that have blossomed because of it. and i especially love meeting their families and getting to know them as well. and once again, i was home to maggie by 9pm.


inside the transit museum. brooklyn, new york. march 2020.

i slept in again on thursday before making my way to brooklyn to visit the new york transit museum. i am a huge transportation nerd, and i am super fascinated by the public transit system in new york, so i purposely saved this visit for a day when i could take my time. all told i spent nearly 2 hours learning about the history of public transit in the city, how it expanded, and how all the different companies eventually combined into today’s mta. the pictures of the initial subway construction were incredible, especially the ones of entire streets being dug up and people simply walking around the giant holes. it was fascinating. i’m sure i drove everyone crazy the rest of the weekend with all of my transit “fun facts”, but i loved it. my only complaint is that they didn’t have any good postcards, because i was for sure ready to give them all my money. pro tips: the entrance is a little hidden, as it’s underground in an old subway station; the address is on schermerhorn st but peep the side street and you’ll see the stairs to enter

correcting inaccuracies. new york, new york. march 2020.

from there it was on to one of my favorite places in the city: the american museum of natural history. it’s such an interesting place to spend a few hours, and each time i go i try to explore a different area of the museum. i’m always a sucker for the dinosaurs, but this time i focused on the areas dedicated to native american culture as well as asia and india. i spent extra time in their spaces inviting visitors to look critically at their exhibits, in particular a diorama that has been updated to showcase inaccuracies and a study of the statue of teddy roosevelt that sits on the steps to the main entrance on central park west. i appreciate that the museum is up front about their mistakes and shortcomings and that they are encouraging visitors to engage in thoughtful dialogue about how they should proceed in updating these aspects. they will never please everyone, but i love that they are having the conversation. pro tip: the main lobby off the central park west entrance has the giant dinosaur skeletons and is mighty impressive, but if you want to avoid the crowds enter directly from the subway and enjoy shorter [or nonexistent on a thursday afternoon] lines

yes, they do. new york, new york. march 2020.

i had some time before i meeting maggie for dinner, so i went to the dead poet for a drink. i had a few bourbons and read a few chapters of my book and loved listening in on the conversations happening around me. it is very much a place i would spend a lot of time in if i lived in the neighborhood.

so delicious. new york, new york. march 2020.

and then. then it was time for saravanaa bhavan. one of my favorite indian restaurants in north america, i always make a visit to this spectacular spot when i am in the city. maggie and i saved it for our final night together, and we dined like royalty. i had a thali and consumed very nearly all of it, and maggie feasted on a masala dosa. everything they make is delicious, and we both stuffed ourselves silly.

most of our pictures together involve the subway. new york, new york. march 2020.

after dinner we went for a lovely stroll through the upper west side before making our way home to watch a little more love is blind.

and with that, the first half of my new york adventure comes to an end. stay tuned for all the antics i got up to once kat, alex, jeremy, and lauren joined me!


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