The Pleasant Frontier

In New York, relaxation is an absolute joke. Who wants to take it easy? There’s tons of work to do, friends to meet, plays to write, operas to see, restaurants to try and books to read. New York is no French Rivera. However, for a few minutes a day that city transforms into St. Tropez.

From Bryant Park to Tompkins Square Park lies New York’s rendition of a five star resort, the park bench. For a brief moment in time, New Yorkers exhale from the daily grind. They sip on some coffee, read the Times and forget about the intense sounds of car horns and sirens.

I always enjoyed my park benches. Whenever, I wanted to drown out the world around me, I put on some music, took out a note pad and just doodled. Real world stresses went out the window for the few precious minutes. After a short holiday on the city’s many benches, the overwhelming feeling of relaxation permeated as I head to work.

My park bench retreat often followed me on holiday as well. I’d find quiet little corners in Tokyo away from the music videos on the big screens, people traffic and metro.

In London, I would typically take the tube up to Hampstead. On Hampstead high street, which resembles a hilly village with upmarket shops, I lounged on a favorite bench. I loved the calm and how enchanting the cold winds felt against my face. It was especially nice being away from busy tourist spots.

Holidays are typically expensive and require car/air travel. Finding a nice bench with book, newspaper and coffee has a momentary sense of escapism. It’s free relaxation without a yoga mat or passport needed.

The Merry Singleton

Rejection is like shit, it just happens. The gay archetype is smooth as butter, chiseled like a fine Renaissance statue and Milan fashion week chic. Even with the quintessential gay clone look, the inevitable fact of life, rejection looms.

I feared rejection like not finding my size at a Lacoste sample sale. Certainly, I am not the gay archetype. After all, I wake up with my stomach smiling back at me. Hello stomach, another date with Ben N’ Jerry’s I see. I’ve been a twink (skinny hairless gay guy) and a cub (hairy, chubby gay guy). Through both states of gayhood, I had lots of rejection.

When I turned twenty-five, my perception started to change. One particular date brought me into a new level of adulthood. On a beautiful winter night, I met Mr. Corporate finance on a gay site. He was handsome, charming and ready to mingle.

We met in Union Square and surprise; he really did look like the ideal corporate finance guy. Like any good first date in the city, we hit a few bars. As we sipped mixed cocktails in the furnace like heat of the Christopher street dives, conversation revolving around travel and current events persisted. He became more attractive with every sip of his Brooklyn lager.

However, something was missing from his end. I was smitten. He seemed distracted. I suggested hanging out in the East Village, he obliged. There we were in another humid dive bar, surrounded by men in flannel, beards and black rim glasses.

I grew some balls and asked him straight up ” are you not interested?” He quickly answered “no.” The rejection felt like a California earthquake running through me. I was shaken up. Then he smiled and offered to buy me a beer. I accepted.

I ran to the bathroom first and cried. There in this bathroom was a cute dark haired guy. “Hi I just got rejected. Will you make out with me?” He grabbed me and made out right there. I walked out of the bathroom, feeling triumphant, but the pangs of rejection ran rampant. The date ended awkwardly.

I went back to my modest apartment feeling blah. The next day, I did what any proper New York boy would do when rejection, feasted on gyros from the Greek place down the street and watched countless hours of NY1. That afternoon, I received a call from Mr. Corporate finance, checking up on me.

After a very dramatic first date, we ended becoming close friends. Although, I wanted more at first, having a buddy is always wonderful.

Rejection is tough business. Valuing oneself and knowing that shit happens softens the blow. At the end of a bad date, one must remember there’s always cable TV, Ben N’ Jerry’s and a gyro to make life sexy again.

Christmas In Summer

I once played a wise man for our Christmas show in elementary school. The costume was light blue and a golden crown adorned my dark curls. During those days, I was classified as a ham. As, I told my parents, I went great with the holiday season.

Christmas concerts were an integral part of my upbringing. I loved singing and always attempted to be the loudest voice in the ensemble. Most of all I sang for the love of Christmas carols. Rudolph the red nose reindeer, Frosty the snowman and even Charlie Brown were my Christmas idols. When their songs stopped playing on the radio and faded like slush on a Manhattan sidewalk, I wanted to cry.

Growing into adulthood, I lived in the Christmas capital of the world, New York. Working a half block from Fifth Avenue meant, holiday madness was inevitable. When the big crystal globe hovered over 57th and Fifth it not only marked Harry Winston’s interpretation of the moon, but the beginning of the holiday season.

The holiday crowds were always maddening. My memories of Midtown during the Christmas season involved pushing my way through the gaggle of tourists, stopping to take pictures of everything from St. Patrick’s Cathedral to a mailbox. Although, I played it cool. I did walk to Rockefeller Center to admire the Christmas tree. The Waitress’s “Christmas Wrapping” played on my iPod as it twinkled in the newly frosty New York skies. It was simply magical.

“Christmas Wrapping” was the only song I listened to during the holiday season. Anywhere, I walked the Waitresses’ song followed. After moving back to California, I discovered the joys of the Pandora Christmas station. My favorite Christmas song remained a staple, but soon I was reunited with my old friends Rudolph, Frosty and Charlie.

I traded the fancy window displays of Saks Fifth Avenue, roasted chestnuts and actual snow for quiet hilly streets with track homes competing for the coolest holiday decorations. The suburbs are uncool, but there’s something endearing about seeing the artistry that neighbors put into decorating their homes for holiday cheer. It’s the only time when track homes transform from drab to fab like a drag queen leaving her manly roots behind.

The cold air pressing against my face and the Christmas carols made my modest neighborhood as enchanting as my former home, New York. Once the holiday season ended, I stopped listening to carols. However, this past summer, I needed a little holiday cheer months in advance.

I re-downloaded the Christmas songs station on Pandora and was quickly transformed from palm trees and margaritas to Christmas trees and eggnog. It was a chilly relief from the heat wave.

Christmas is candy canes, eggnog, Santa Clause, hot chocolate with marshmallows, pine trees and most of all happy tunes. The Christmas soundtrack is like a Xanax for the soul. Regardless of the time of year, it’s happy music for a splendid season. Countdown to authentic holiday camp commences now.

Soup Season

When I was struggling in New York City. Judy would invite me over to her apartment in Brooklyn. She would cook me her famous linguini with clam sauce. Even after enjoying a hearty meal, she would pack me a bowl of the dish to go with a box of Entiments’ coffee cake. The F train smelled like a fancy Italian bistro on the way home, but I feasted well.

A few years later, Judy and I were both living in California, since her family had migrated west. One afternoon, she invited me over to her daughter Jackie’s apartment, where she wanted to introduce me to the art of making the family’s legendary Italian chicken soup.

I drove to Winchester, which is close to Temecula and about an hour from San Diego. We went to the local Stater Bros, where we gathered the recipes. Of course, it was more of a scavenger hunt trying to find the ingredients in Winchester, than Brooklyn, but we managed. I was excited to learn how to cook, especially Italian. When I stood in line my neurosis came out.

I kept looking at the chicken’s packaging making sure nothing had been punctured. Judy laughed. I had never touched a raw chicken, but not all good things come easy. We went back to Jackie’s apartment. She was several months pregnant and had a craving for the homey soup.

We drank a ton of coffee, then began cooking the Italian feast. Judy kept trying to show me how to skin the carrots, using the knife in an upward motion. Unfortunately, I grew frightened of the knife. Instead I was put to work in the chopping department. I did great chopping. All the celery and carrots came out perfectly sliced.

The chicken cooked. Soon the veggies were placed in the pot with the broth steaming and then small bits of pasta added. The apartment smelled of garlic and tomato, a most romantic scent. We waited for the soup to cook. After it was finished, we served ourselves. The taste was truly remarkable. To make an excellent soup even better, we added Parmesan. It gave it a delicious cheesiness, which complimented the Italian flavoring

After cake and more coffee, I was officially stuffed. I drove through the rural fields and dark canyons of Winchester, well fed. I didn’t necessarily graduate to the ranks of an Italian chef, but had a great time cooking with Judy and Jackie. I am looking forward to the winter cold for another dose of Italian chicken soup.

From A Bus Window

In New York, I typically took the subway as opposed to cabs and the buses. It was just quicker, even though I didn’t get the magnificent views, which the city has to offer. When I wanted to just go to the office or apartment, scenery did not matter much.

When my friend Nicole moved to the city temporarily, she was eager to see all the sights. New York never left me quite so jaded. So when Nicole wanted to take the bus everywhere to better understand Manhattan I obliged.

We usually, took the 2nd Avenue bus downtown. It was fun seeing parts of Manhattan, I would ignore including Murray Hill and Gramercy Park. Soon, we would go to meet ups on Park Avenue South, grocery shopping in Union Square and coffee in the East Village all on the bus. The subway began to feel more like a foreign place.

No matter how many times, we passed the Flatiron Building, Union Square and Grand Central Station, the appeal of New York never faded. I didn’t give up the subway, but I learned with a little patience and spare time I could have a laid back experience in frenetically paced New York.

Lost in London

The clock strikes 3 am in California. I don’t have anywhere to power walk. In fact, I must put on a whole lavish Broadway production to keep myself entertained. Insomnia is not my friend. That’s why I love the big cities of the world; I could take walks at 3 am and even grab a coffee.

On my most recent trip to London, I arrived with a ton of energy. London is one of my favorite places in the world. It brings back wonderful memories. I love the vibe, fashion, history and culture. On my first night back in London, I took the tube to Camden Town. I had a wonderful time, enjoying trivia night at the pub with a beer and steak sandwich.

After a fun night out in one of my favorite London neighborhoods, I returned to my hotel in Bayswater. I spent the night trying to figure out which BBC channel to watch. However, I could watch the telly at home. Therefore, I put on my pea coat and went out on a walk.

The air was crisp and cold. It was very refreshing. I took Bayswater road up, walking in touristy Queensway. Then ended up in a collection of architectural styles. Suddenly, my late night walk took me to the maze of streets known as Notting Hill.

It’s a slice of London, which brings me back wonderful memories. I remember taking walks with my mom on Portobello Road. Bright candy colored homes, the quirky antique shops and art galleries remind me of our simple days wondering the neighborhood.

To accidentally end up in Notting Hill was a real treat. I walked along Westbourne Grove with its handsome blocks of white stucco homes. Everything was as lovely as I remembered it. I rocked out to my iPod, but noticed it was running out of juice. Therefore, it was time to find Notting Hill Gate and return to my hotel.

However, every street I took up toward Notting Hill Gate led to nowhere. I would take another street up and ended up in another dead end. The neighborhood was practically empty and no map to be found. I used my instincts and searched for the road back to the hotel. Then flashback, Notting Hill is lovely, but ranks as one of the easiest neighborhoods to get lost in London.

As a typical man, I didn’t ask anyone for directions, just continued to get lost in the maze of streets. I saw a few cabs drive by, but still insisted on using my instincts. As my iPod battery ran out, I caved in and hailed a cab. As we drove out of Notting Hill into Bayswater, I realized how deeply lost I was.

My bit of cardiovascular exercise for the night was a treat. Getting lost made me realize, that even guys like me with a great sense of direction need help sometimes. Nothing beats getting lost in London, since there’s always something interesting to look at.

The Soup Dumplings Story

Wednesday night was my big foodie night out in New York. I headed to Sammy’s Noodles in the Village, ordered the scallion pancakes and a big beef noodle soup. After using too many napkins to wipe my brow, I took half the soup home and saved it for the next day.

New York style Chinese is my favorite. Now, that I am on the left coast (California, for those who don’t know), I crave those favorite Chinese delights. I also hold wonderful memories of Nicole and I huddled together in this divey Chinese takeout place on Second Ave. It didn’t look like much, but a refuge from the snowstorm outside. When we ate our food at the table an explosion of tastes erupted.

The hole in the wall places are the best, but my favorite Chinese restaurant of all time is Joe’s Shanghai on Pell and Bowery. It has the typical Chinese restaurant look with communal tables and slightly tucked away from the main drag. My old boss, Judy introduced me to the place, it remains her favorite restaurant.

On our first visit, she told us ” you must try the soup dumplings.” We ordered the dumplings. They arrived piping hot and looked like a fine museum display. They glistened perfectly in the light. She taught me how to eat the dumpling. I placed the dumpling on a spoon, poked a small hole using the chopstick and bit into it very carefully.

The first time, it just spilled on my shirt. By the second round, I bit into it and wow. My shirt survived and the tastes were beyond flavorful. The combination of warm broth, pork and hot chili sauce on top gave me a well-deserved case of food coma. I couldn’t stop eating. After my first Joe’s Shanghai experience, I became an addict.

Judy and I had lunch there often. No matter how many times I ordered the soup dumplings, the delicious taste never diminished. After Joe’s Shanghai, we would walk to Little Italy and have dessert at Ferrari’s. It’s a legend. I usually ordered the sponge cake with a coffee. It was always a compliment to the delicious meals at Joe’s Shanghai.

My mouth always waters for soup dumplings. I miss all the tastes of China found in New York. Soup dumplings are the dish I crave most. I could eat them everyday and feel satisfied, even with food coma persisting.

A Prince In The Tower

My mother always said, “When you marry someone, you marry the whole family.” She always complained about her in-laws. My paternal grandparents and mom had a love-hate relationship. They would spend hours gossiping and then showed love through fighting. After one of their many disagreements, my mom would complain. Eventually she would go back to their house for another round of gossiping and fighting.

I’ve spent my 20’s perpetually single. At this point in my life, I am more concerned with career and travel than love. However, there have been Romeos who have swept me off my feet. I can count those fellas on my fingers, which impressed me.

One faithful night in up and coming Long Island City, there was a gay/theatre party. I know they compliment each other like caviar with crackers. It was held at a gay apartment, where the furniture was impeccably decorated and the books were color-coded. The party was nothing to write home about.

There was an adorable college boy who I ended up making out with. He was nice Jewish boy from Manhattan. We obviously clicked right away. When I walked him to the 7 train, it was difficult to let him go. As predicted we exchanged numbers. He was three years my junior, which is a rarity, since I like my men old.

After a charming date, having 1/2 off sushi on Saint Marks Place and desperately trying to find a public restroom on Park Avenue South, we agreed to meet again. This time, we met in Midtown East and sat at the counter of a diner. ” Do you wanna go back to my apartment?” he asked. ” I live with my mom down the street on Sutton Place and you’re gonna love her. She looks Meryl Streep from the Devil Wears Prada.” As awkward, as it sounded seeing his home life fascinated me.

We took our diner burgers and walked toward Sutton Place. The heavy winds from the East River overwhelmed us. Once we arrived at his apartment, he walked me over to his mother’s study. As predicted she did indeed look like Meryl Streep from the Devil Wears Prada. She asked me questions and was the cool mom type. She had huge selection of old books in her office and was politically involved in New York City.

After meeting mom, we went back to his room and had dinner. He loved Saved by the Bell for some random reason. We then made out. After walking out of his room. His mom looked at us and raised her eyebrow. “I know what you boys were doing in there.” She giggled. My cute guy date then suggested we dump the old Saved by the Bell episodes for booze.

After visiting his current/child home, we went to the W hotel for drinks. We also paid very high adult people prices for our precious drinks. As I sipped on a cocktail, I was reminded about what my mom always said. It’s true when you marry a guy; the whole family comes along. I loved that he introduced me to his mom, but I didn’t want her to hear any sound effects from the other room. My date and I ended up being friends, but we eventually lost contact.

A World Away From Bleecker Street

You can take the boy out of New York, but not his wardrobe. I may have moved out of New York, but my sweaters, coats and khakis scream, ” No, no keep in the Village please!” I’ve been back in California for a while and find it hard to give up black and dressing formally for every occasion including hanging out by the pool.

Recently, I took a huge plunge in my couture selection. After being invited to a gay pool party, the voyage to find a most appropriate outfit commenced. The party was being held at our friend Lucas’ house. I was carpooling to the shindig with my buddies Melinda, Caitlin and Gaston. The weather felt like hell. Logically speaking, I opted to wear shorts. A scary decision, since I wouldn’t go to the supermarket without looking like I am headed to Carnegie Hall for a performance.

I coordinated my outfit, a black shirt and grey patterned shorts. Staring down were my legs while observing them in the mirror, I realized they haven’t seen the light of day, since 1999. When I went out to meet my friends, everyone’s jaw dropped. I thought to myself ” do I have a nose hair sticking out?” I looked at everyone in the car and they were either wearing trousers or jeans.

I almost died, for the first time I was undressed for something. Everyone laughed at me. I felt naked and not a sweater in sight to protect me. So, I accepted my hairy legs, skinny arms and drove off into the sunset.

We arrived at the party. I mingled, but the shock value that I was casually dressed persisted. However, I found a way to have fun. I enjoyed a few whiskies on the rocks and avoided being thrown in the pool. Overall, going out in shorts and a t-shirt felt liberating.

Usually, I wear buttoned up shirt and have perpetual hot flashes. With my casual look it diminished. For those wondering what I look like in shorts, no photo evidence exists. Not to worry, I still have plenty of pictures in my New York uniform.

The Playwright’s Muse

From London’s West End to New York’s Broadway, theatre marquis represent escapism. Delving into an alternate universe where the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, Agatha Christie’s words and Patti LuPone’s singing voice provide the memories, which sculpt the theatre going experience.

I’ve written various short three act plays in my day. In university, I studied the plays of Lorraine Hansberry, Oscar Wilde and Neil Simon. I loved the art of writing dialogue, but most of all; creating a world for my beloved neurotic and colorful characters.

My settings were diverse. A psychologist’s Murray Hill office, driving in a London highway and even the white wig spawns of Marie Antoinette were all been born from my brain cells and brought to life via 8.5 x 11 inch paper. I love delving into the character, creating their early life, neurosis, medical conditions and even what their fart smells like. Pairing them with antagonists who oppose their world is truly remarkable. Unlike French drama, the American in me loves a witty and happy ending.

I prefer plays. The rush of the curtains rising, audience members’ eyes glowing with anticipation and the thunder of the music indicating a show’s start have brought me to the balcony of theaters from Madrid to New York.

Musicals are that form of theatre, which I have a love/hate relationship with. Singing about a lost turkey sandwich isn’t for me. I’ve always wanted to learn how to write musical. I secretly moonlighted the idea of writing a small and non-lavish musical. Cabaret, Avenue Q and Fiddler on the Roof are those select musicals, which I adore. Therefore, I fancy the creativity behind Avenue Q’s foul-mouthed puppets and the historical value behind Cabaret and Fiddler.

As I grow older and walk past the old theatre marquis, the desire to write plays persists. Writing a play is a holiday from the norm. While life may seem monotonous, predictable and regimented, with playwriting I could go as bizarre as I desire. If I want to drift into 1950’s New York, the Italian Renaissance and French Revolution, my imagination can take me there, no passport or airline ticket required.

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