2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Barista Confidential

On frosty winter mornings, I would awake at 5:30 am for my temp job in fashion. Routinely, I put on layers, an overcoat and then walked out my stoop to catch the subway. In the darkness of New York at dawn was glimmer of hope & light, “Dunkin Donuts.” It was located en route to the subway

I would grab a coffee, breakfast sandwich and then prepared for my journey into the east 30’s. The coffee woke me up, as did the cute guy sitting across the train from me daily. As I emerged from the 6 train with Grand Central Station (from a distance) welcoming me every day, I was ready to get my fashion on.

My temp job in fashion lasted a couple months and still remains one of my favorite positions. I learned the art of multi-tasking there. For a few months, I was the receptionist, office manager, mail deliverer, kitchen cleaner and travel booker extraordinaire.

There were also trips to the Chelsea flower market where I picked beautiful blooms for the office. Half of the day was spent cutting fabric for future lines. By the end of the day, the fabric clung to my cashmere sweaters making it appear as though a map of the solar system was growing my couture.

At my desk was a big black bag of Peet’s coffee. Our boss had it shipped over from California. Usually, my co-worker Krystyn made the infamous brew. However, when Krystyn was away, the duty fell on me. ” Peet’s time?” my boss asked. ” Oh yes,” I replied. Making Peet’s coffee at the office was an art form. Firstly, I had to grind the beans and then put it in the coffee machine.

My first time making Peet’s coffee felt like a victory. I spent too much of my disposable income at Dunkin donuts and Starbucks, yet brewing coffee remain a foreign concept. The machine buzzed, one of my co-workers heard it and gleefully ran into the pantry. “Oh boy, Peet’s coffee,” she proclaimed.

When the coffee poured from the pot to her cup, a river of grinds followed. ” Oh no, Mr. boss is going to be pissed,” she said. My face turned tomato red, but I kept calm. ” Here, let’s re-make this coffee,” she said. Working as a team, we saved my barista reputation. After the second buzzer went off. I poured the coffee into a cup sans the river of grinds.

I brought my boss a cup of Peet’s coffee. The boss man looked thrilled. From then on, I learned how to make coffee. Nowadays, I have a new respect for baristas. Making delicious coffee is like painting by the sea, it’s all an art form.

Fellini, Where Are You?

Federico Fellini’s films captured Rome’s quirk & glamour. La Dolce Vita & 8 1/2 were two films, which most inspired me to study his work in film school. The glamorous world of Rome’s glitterati was a far cry from my humble American life. However, Fellini’s Rome would wet my appetite for a strong dose of Italian culture. Therefore, I took the plunge and booked my plane ticket to Rome one winter.

I didn’t just want eat pasta and flirt with Italian fellas. My trip to Rome would be more cinematic and relevant. Not only did I want to see the sites, but also see the world, which inspired “La Dolce Vita.” So I set off looking for cinematic inspiration in the eternal city.

There were the quintessential Roman sites. The Coliseum was grand and imposing. Sitting on the Spanish steps watching vespas and tourists stroll by was stimulating. The Pizza Navona provided a quintessentially Roman square. However, nothing felt completely cinematic. Then, I galloped into a most peculiar place, Vatican City.

I make an art form out of skipping church on Sunday. In fact, spending my formative years in a Catholic school made me quite rebellious. Hence, it was interesting flying overseas to Rome to visit religious sites. I stood in the middle of St. Peter’s square. Then, I remembered that if I stood at a certain part of the square, the arches surrounding St. Peter’s basilica would look as one arch (as opposed to several).

I tried every angle. Still it didn’t produce one massive arch. “Was this a myth?” I thought to myself. I plugged away, but didn’t receive that cool effect I wanted. Like a frustrated filmmaker, I left the St. Peter’s Square without the memory I wanted to capture.

Roaming in Rome during Christmas my lack of inspiration didn’t last long. Rain poured from the sky as fogged rolled from the sidewalks. Surprisingly, Louis Armstrong’s “What a wonderful world” blasted from a local skating rink. As I crossed a bridge over the Tiber River glancing at the basilica from the other side created the cinematic moment I was seeking.

I continued my journey through Central Rome. The imposing buildings and monuments took a back seat to Romans. The men in long black trenched coats waiting for the bus, groups of nuns touring the city, women in fur coats carrying shopping bags and the overall Italian chic oozing from the sidewalks created the grand epiphany of my mind. The Romans truly inspired Federico Fellini from the outrageous to the religious.

Raindrops on Greenwich Village

Sitting in a square where Bleecker meets Sixth Avenue, attempting to focus on a very intellectual novel, but completely distracted by the traffic and amazing people watching. Eating gelato in the summer then trading it in for coffee with a muffin in autumn & winter. Independent bookshops, artsy fartsy cinemas, a record store, dive bars, NYU students, baby strollers, bohemian chic old people and the ghost of Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” lingering along the overly gentrified sidewalks.

This is one of my favorite slices of old New York. Therefore, the Village has always been a most splendid place to go for a date with my laptop. One such day, I excitedly took the subway downtown, armed with my laptop & read to write. I felt euphoric, even though I would go to the Village on a daily basis. Something shocking caught my eye as I made my way out of the subway into Houston Street station.

Umbrellas, dancing umbrellas to be exact were dominating the scenery of the less than picturesque station. “Don’t tell me it’s raining?” I thought to myself. I looked up at the street from the station and there was torrential rain. “No, no,” I proclaimed nervously. I’m without an umbrella and my laptop (it was in a case), I can’t afford a new one. My mood went from excited to nervous. Actually, nervous/neurotic is the norm for me, but there was reason to be a bit on edge.

As I waited in the purgatory in life known as Houston Street station, I saw less dancing umbrellas. It was a sign to look up and check on the street. Everything was clear. So, I wondered around Sixth Avenue trying to find a bodega with those cheap umbrellas, which fall apart upon opening. At that point I was more concerned about my dear Mac companion.

I bought an umbrella then happily wrote and drank my coffee in one of the Village’s inviting coffee shops. Testing, my umbrella I noticed it actually opened all the way. Instead of going back to my apartment, I decided it was a fantastic day for a field trip. Feeling quite adventurous, I took the L train to Brooklyn.

Surprise, there was more rain, but it didn’t faze me. I sat by a window at Bedford Avenue & watched hipsters go by. Soon, I just wanted to go back to my apartment & relax. So, I took the subway back to Queens. As I sat on the L, I noticed “whoops, left my umbrella at the Bedford Avenue station. Naively, it didn’t faze me, until I switched to an N train and as it elevated above ground, boom “rain!”

“Yikes,” I thought to myself. I don’t want to run around with my laptop in the rain. Water & electronics don’t go together. The rain stopped somewhere in the middle of my trip in Queens. I bolted out of the station & rushed to my apartment. My laptop and outfit survived. Minutes after returning to my apartment the rain returned. I felt relived to be home with my laptop, staying dry.

The Squirrels Of Union Square

New York is filled with a colorful cast of characters. The city’s most vibrant subculture is the squirrel. Like it’s human counterpart the squirrel must hustle and be quick on his/her toes. Unlike their country cousins, the squirrel doesn’t want “no stinkin nuts.”

The Manhattan squirrel has gourmet taste. They crave knishes, French pastries and bagels. For New Yorkers, they are a source of delight. They frequent the city’s most pleasurable oasis. The squirrel enjoys coming out of his/her hole and basking in the old tress and grassy knolls of Madison Square Park. Union Square’s hustle/bustle compliments the critter’s enjoyment of the fast paced lifestyle. Stuyvesant Town has a sense of a community and peace for the more extroverted squirrel.

While the squirrels live and breathe in the best New York addresses, the city is a virtual zoo. Not all of the city’s wildlife is as revered as the squirrel. In the tracks of the subway lives the rat. They can make even the most tough as nails New Yorker squirm in fear and can grow as large as cats. Everyone’s worst fear is to have one wonder around the actual platform. However, the rat continues it’s archaeological dig for food in the tracks of the subway, regardless of high-speed trains approaching.

Then there are the most beloved of New York animals, dogs. Some wear so much high fashion, that Marc Jacobs would cry tears of couture joy. The dogs roaming the streets of the East Village aren’t always t-cups. There are dogs so large they could join a rodeo and practically be mistaken for horses. How owners get dogs that large in apartments resembling walk-in closets will always remain a mystery.

Personally, animals delight me. I like to sit at a bench in Union Square and watch the squirrels run around. They are adorable. When they approach closer to my feet, I do get the freights. “Oh no, they maybe covered in rabbis,” I proclaim nervously. Fortunately for me, I have sat everywhere from Madison Square Park to Tompskins Square Park and never had a bad encounter with a squirrel. If I were a squirrel, I’d take knishes over nuts any day.

Indie Boys

Before I grew into the gay male version of Carrie Bradshaw, I was a suburban teenager. I spent considerable time at the mall, ate at hot dog on a stick, shopped for sneakers at Nordstrom’s, walked from my high school to the record shop weekly & spent endless hours at Borders creating wanderlust for exotic places in the travel section. However, the suburban lifestyle wasn’t for me. Therefore, I dreamed of being a gay boy in New York.

For gay boys spending their teenage years in Riverside, there was a glimmer of hope. “Back 2 the grind” was an independent coffee house. It had bands, arty types and gay boys seeking refuge from their more conservative surroundings. It was a wonderful place to meet boys without stepping foot in a loud sweaty club.

One particular night, I picked up my friend Richie. He lived in an old craftsman style house in Riverside. His room was adorned with kitschy posters from virtually every John Waters from Pink Flamingos to Hairspray. We would listen to some funky tunes at his pad, which would get us pumped up for a night out at the coffee shop, listening to bands & looking at cool art.

After listening to some funky folk music, I would drive us down to the coffee shop in Downtown Riverside. I used to ride around in an old Chevy Prizm, which my friends always teased me about. “Oh dude, you’re not gonna get laid in that car,” Was the usual reaction I received from driving the babe mobile. We met up with Richie’s friend.

There he was curly haired, glasses, slight scruff & reading Ezra Pound. Hello Mr. English major! After a night of vulgar jokes and riveting intellectual debate, I made the moves on Mr. English major. While Richie went home early with another friend, I took Mr. English major to the backseat of my car for a make out session.

Whoops, I felt a scratch on my face and then another. His beard was rough and after our little snog session, my skin was red. I looked in the mirror and it appeared that I had just experienced a facial.

“No big deal,” I thought to myself. Then I realized my mom was an insomniac & would probably be up watching the Trinity Broadcasting Network. “Shit!” I said goodnight to Mr. English major and started driving around with the windows open, naively thinking the cold wind would cure my reddish skin.

I have naturally rosy skin, but the irritation was a different shade then my usual pink. Taking the long way home, I knew I would get grilled. As I opened the door to our modest home while mom shook her leg in a frenetic pace. She did this all the time, the nervous leg twitch that is. Every time, I came home she had arms folded. Her body language was saying, “You were up to no good.” I really was up to no good though.

She stared me down as I entered. “Where were you?” she asked. ” The coffee shop talking about the bible,” I replied. ” I just really bull-shited her” was my first thought.

Mom fell for it and went back to watching a praise-a-thon on TBN. She ignored my odd skin tone. When I walked into the bathroom, I noticed something. “Wow, my driving around with the windows down worked.” I didn’t see any redness. My mission was accomplished.

Years later, I grew into a proper New York City boy. My options for places to meet men grew by infinity and beyond. I didn’t have to worry about being a little red in the face after kissing a scruffy boy.

In fact, being red in the face would be a badge of achievement. Before any date my roommate Morgan would yell, “don’t get pregnant” as I walked from our stoop to the subway. While strolling to the subway I though to myself, “If I knew I was gonna be the gay male version of Carrie Bradshaw, I would’ve learned to walk in high heels.”

Winter Awakening

“It’s the business everyone is dying to get into,” says my eccentric uncle in reference to his casket selling business. Growing up, funerals were an unfortunate staple. However, my family had a more laid-back approach to death.

Outings to the cemetery were a less than dreary event. My relatives would lounge in lawn chairs and spend time with our dearly departed relatives. There were never tears, but plenty of good fashioned arguments and laughter always ensued.

The actual funerals were filled with all the pomp & pageantry a Catholic could dream of. My mom and I would always walk into the funeral home. When we spotted the sea of natural redheads by bottle, mom would proclaim, “I see our family is here.” After hours of sitting and looking at our dead but beloved relatives, we had to brace ourselves for the actual funeral, which followed the next morning.

In our family, the staple funeral food was fried chicken and Stouffer’s lasagna. At the day of the funeral/burial everyone looked exhausted. I would look around at all the eyes, which were anguished with boredom. At that moment, I knew what they were thinking ” I hope they have fried chicken after the burial.” Personally, I was hoping for our favorite funeral food too.

After the burial ceremony, nobody wanted to stick around to see the casket go underground. My family was starved, raced out of the cemetery and headed to a relative’s house. We chowed down on that bucket of fried chicken like wild lions in the jungle.

As years passed our funeral staple faded. Catered Mexican and sandwiches were served for wakes. For a long time,  I kept associating fried chicken with our funerals.

It all faded one day. I spent considerable amount of time in Harlem. For me the charming neighborhood is the bright lights of the Apollo theatre, perfectly appointed brownstones, tall NYCHA (the projects) with majestic views of the city and summertime Italian ices.

Sylvia’s soul food is Harlem’s signature restaurant. Judy & I took a foodie field trip there. I ordered the fried chicken and waffles. Soon fried chicken went from funeral food to comfort food delight. Sylvia’s became my favorite place for deep fried poultry. It was also a nice refuge from the icy cold Manhattan sidewalks.

Nowadays, our family serves fried chicken at Christmas parties. Therefore, it’s a celebratory food for both our soul and senses. I haven’t made it up to Sylvia’s in a while, but still crave their fried chicken and waffles with a side of grits.

 

 

The 6 Train Symphony

Union Square station is zing zag of subway lines, power walkers and outdoor advertisements. In the midst of busy meets busy is a bit of relief. Radiohead serenades me as I schlep my heavy grocery bags through the subway station. The unthinkable happens. ” Fuck, shit, fuck,” I proclaim. “My iPod is out of juice.” This is a crisis, which faces many New Yorkers on a daily basis.

Then an angel descends. Appearing like David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust alter ego and old school Madonna from the 80’s, this angel is highly androgynous. He/she walks toward me. ” No child of mine will ever be without musical stimulation,” says the androgynous angel who sounds very much like Louis Armstrong. Radiohead fades, but something magical romances my ears.

As Union Square station becomes more frenetically pace, as does the beating of drums. The sound compliments the environment like Simon to Garfunkel. The drums beat louder and louder. I walk down to the 6-train platform to investigate. The most jaded of New Yorkers are gathered and equally intrigued by the beating of drums. However, these aren’t you’re ordinary rock n’ roll drums, but buckets.

They beat the buckets creating an extraordinary soundtrack. I stare intrigued. “Buckets, why didn’t I think of that?” The sound also compliments the roar of the subway and the unexpectedly musical sound of the train beating against the tracks. “Wow, for once I’m glad my iPod ran out of juice,” I thought to myself, while almost dancing to the pulsating rhythms.

The New York City subway has it’s own soundtrack. There is the Doo-wop band at the 51st street station. The morning Mariachi band serenade commuters with tales of old Mexico. A jazz musician plays George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in blue” providing a more quintessentially New York sounds.

Not enjoying our favorite song on the iPod can be near tragic. However, New York will never have a day without music, thanks to the city’s street musicians. They keep musical tastes diverse and even bring an avant-garde quality to a see that’s seen it all. The androgynous musical angel smiles brightly above Gotham.

Say Everything

In the dead of winter, New Yorkers look for romance more aggressively. Nothing says love like wearing matching Christmas sweaters, enjoying a hot chocolate and cuddling up to another evening of liberal news coverage. Thanks to our friends at MSNBC.

Secretly, I wanted to have campy adventures with a sweet but neurotic boy. Mr. Quirky pants fit the bill. We shared a high neurosis level, campy interests and were both gay, which is always important. Meeting another neurotic gay was a real treat.

We spent time together, discovering new restaurants, doing drinks and having adventures around the city. Soon, I had fallen for Mr. Quirky pants and his dry wit. However, I didn’t know how to tell him. Could I say it through performance art? Maybe write him a poem? Or could I learn the guitar in a week and serenade him?

None of these options made it to the New York stage of life. Mr. Quirky pants went back to the Midwest to re-coup. Therefore, my plans to tell him how I felt were put on hold. However, I did meet an adorable guy from Tennessee online. We set up a date. I was on the subway from Queens to Union Square, when I received a mysterious phone call.

“Hey it’s Mr. Quirky pants,” he answered. We talked. The train kept picking up more passengers. By the time, the N train was to go underground; he said something shocking “I love you.” I smiled from ear to ear. The train was then going underground.

“Oh no, this is going to ruin my love buzz.” It did. After saying those magical words, I felt dumbfounded. “Now, I’m going on this date, how awkward,” I thought to myself, exiting the Union Square Station.

I walked east on 14th street and there was Mr. Tennessee. We had a lovely date in the East Village. However, the thought of Mr. Quirky pants persisted. My gut was telling me, just open up to Mr. Tennessee and let him charm you. He did. We kissed under the Downtown Manhattan moonlight. It was a splendid date.

A week later, Mr. Quirky pants invited me to lunch at one of Queens’ many Greek diners. I thought to myself, oh he’s gonna profess his love over waffles, bacon and a coffee, how romantic. Instead, I got the ” let’s not date and just be friends speech.” Not exactly, what I wanted to hear.

Instead of having hard feeling over Mr. Quirky pants’ loose use of the word “love,” we continued to be friends. As for Mr. Tennessee, he never returned my text.

Love happens. In New York’s land of the perpetual single, finding love is the equivalent of living in a rent-controlled apartment. It’s rare, but when it does happen, celebration must commence. In the mean time, we could take joy in watching Sex & the City episodes, eating ice cream and shopping. It may not be a handsome man, but has the same satisfying effects.

Kitschy Monsters

In a small haunted village, which resembled a “dia de los muertos celebration,”(day of the dead) lived guitar-playing skeletons. The only song they knew was “la cucaracha.” Witches flew in fancy brooms. Jack lanterns were laughing in their orange grandeur. Somewhere beneath the hidden nooks of the town, scary fire breathing monsters resided. They were part Muppet, part Godzilla spawn.

This is the world I imagined downstairs in my childhood home. When the lights went out I figured these ghouls of Halloween ran a-muck. For me the dark always represented a genuine fear of the unknown. I imagined this haunted civilization could live easily in my parents’ home while we slept in the depths of the pitch-black house and quiet neighborhood.

The monsters I imagined downstairs subsided. I grew into an eccentric and equally imaginative adult. By my mid-twenties, I figured that I had grown passed my fear of the dark. However, one day my bravery would be tested.

Like any twenty-something in New York, I felt a sense of confidence and jadedness. I took many jobs to survive in the city. One day, I accepted a three-day job working as a production assistant on Staten Island, New York’s most mysterious isle. The job paid in pizza and Dunkin Donuts coffee. So naturally, I accepted the position.

I arrived on Staten Island through the legendary ferryboat of the same name. Quickly, I was driven to set. I figured we would shoot in one of the many craftsman style homes in the island.

“Holy shit,” is what I said internally. Our car drove into an abandoned looking hospital, Sea View. It looked terrifying from arrival. I joined my other crewmembers and walked in with a heavy load of filming equipment.

The hospital reeked of old medical equipment, haunting photos covered the wall and it looked like the set of the “Shining” (only in hospital form) of course.” Everyone around me looked spook, but we went straight to work.

I wandered Sea View Hospital. There was a chill in the air and everywhere I turned old medical equipment was left like a ghost of time gone by. Later, I found out lobotomies were performed and many people had died right where we were to film our slapstick comedy.

The shoot went successfully. While we wrapped up, the director wanted me to fetch some booms (microphones) that were left in a desolate wing of the hospital. Suddenly, my childhood paranoia returned. “Oh no, what happens if I run into guitar playing skeletons, witches on brooms & laughing jack lanterns appear? Worst of all I may really see a ghost, since terrible deaths had occurred there.

I bravely swallowed in my fear and walked into the darkness. Using flashlight, I climbed down the stairs, but felt a cold chill in the air. That fear of the unknown returned. Therefore, I walked up to one of my crewmembers, a tough talking gal from Staten Island.

“Can you come with me? I’m scared of the dark,” I asked. “Oh c’mon, really?” she replied. Finally, she obliged. We walked toward the dark, picked up the equipment and didn’t see a ghost.

Mission was accomplished. Before we left, everyone gathered for a group photo. When the director looked at his camera, a dark shadow was seen. He proclaimed, “ I think there are really ghosts here.” I thought captain obvious just came in for a landing.

While we drove back to Manhattan, I was thrilled to never go to a haunted hospital again. These days, I would love having a secret ghoulish village living in my pad. In fact, if my pad turned into a real life” Rocky Horror Picture Show” set, I would be thrilled. Having a drag queen greeting my guests with “I’m just a sweet Transvestite from transsexual Transylvania” would tickle my fancy.

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