Making Origami

In the third grade, we spent a whole semester learning about Japan. In order to immerse us culturally, my teacher brought in Japanese exchange student who taught us how to make origami. They dazzled the class with the birds and various animals of the forest, which could be designed without the snips of a scissor. At the time I didn’t appreciate the kitsch behind origami. I was the kid in class, who just could not master the traditional paper Japanese art form.

I made a paper plane (easy way out) and called it origami. The class laughed. While our Japanese exchange students displayed a great deal of patience. At the end of the day, I didn’t master origami. However, It was my first big exposure to Japan. After origami, we learned about Nippon’s cultural life and contributions. At the end of our studies, we celebrated our journey into Nippon via text books by eating egg rolls, since sushi and Saki (we were also not twenty one) were not part of the cafeteria food scene.

Taking a last look at my textbook revealed Mt. Fugi with a rising sun it left a curious feeling. That semester was I would spend years daydreaming about Japan..  One night, Bryan and Yuki called from Japan. They wanted me to come visit. Although, I was on a budget at the time, I took the plunge anyways.

The trip in Tokyo and I was instantly mesmerized by everything. The loudness, the quirky fashion of Harajuku, Kyoto, the bullet trains, the temples, the colorful metro, food and spending time with wonderful friends gave me a collage of beautiful memories. After my first trip, I developed full wonder lust for Japan all over again, even after my passport was stamped.

Years later I would return. My visit was focused entirely on Tokyo. However something funny happened while roaming the streets of the Japanese capital. It started feeling like home. I had my favorite pastries shop at the Ginza metro stop. The route from Shibuya to Harajuku counted as the ideal place to take one of my famous power walks, since it had gorgeous window displays featuring street and high fashion. Also, I could maneuver the subway with familiarity like New York.

These days, I still love to immerse myself in Japanese culture. Origami is an art form I long to learn. I would love to fill my next apartment with cute origami creations made with bright colors. Like Japan, I plan on keeping life kitschy, interesting and exotic.

England By Boat

In the library of my high school was a collection of travel books from Time Life. The Great Britain book left the most indelible mark and featured nostalgic (not intentional) photography from the 1960′s. Captions accompanied the riveting photography included:

-Young people dancing the night away at a London flat

-Regent Street decked out in lights.

-Swinging London (on Carnaby Street)

It made the U.K. into a place of dazzling fantasy and an obvious exodus for someone curious about the world. In high school, I wrote a report on Great Britain and received an A. Eventually; I visited the UK when I was fifteen. I remember the excitement and the same thought raced across my brain cells, ” I am gonna see London, it’s really gonna happen.”

On the day of our trip to England, we took the ferryboat from Calais to Dover. The skies were unusually blue like Frank Sinatra’s eyes. As the ferry sailed, English Channel also reflected the intense hue. The boat was filled with English people laughing, conversing and eating sandwiches. I stepped out to the deck and spent the first forty-five minutes daydreaming.

“Would London be like the Time life photos of the Swinging 60′s? Is there music on every corner, accompanying the rain? & Is Buckingham Palace as big in person?” These were the questions I pondered.

The White Cliffs of Dover emerged from a mile away. My eyes starred into England from a distance. “I’ve always wanted to see Britain,” I declared to one of my classmates. He smiled and said ” You’re dream has come true.”

The boat arrived at Dover and I went through customs. Then our classmates & I boarded a bus to Canterbury. I kept thinking, ” We’re going to crash, we’re going to crash,” since it was my first time driving in the opposite side of the road. However, we didn’t. After an afternoon in Canterbury, exploring its very English charms, it was off to London.

Two hours after dozing off on a winding highway, I awoke and found myself in London. I remember seeing the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, while reveling in the austerity of some of Britain’s most fascinating sites.

London became one of my favorite cities. The pictures from Time Life couldn’t compare to actually being there. I fell in love and became obsessed with all things British. Throughout my life, I ended up visiting England more. However, nothing compared to the memorable encounter with the British Isles with the White Cliffs of Dover welcoming my youthful imagination.

A Real Life Friends Episode

Friends, was my favorite sitcom of the 90′s. It made living in New York, while surrounded by quirky personalities and frequenting a hip coffee shop very alluring. As a suburban teenager, I escaped my ordinary carpool/private school existence through the television.

However, living my life vicariously through fictionalized characters in a coffee shop, which was actually in the Valley didn’t seem as appealing. My life goal was to live the most interesting life.

When I moved to New York it mirrored a child running loose in F.A.O. Schwartz. Everything was filled with wonder, curiosity and happiness. After my first few months in the city, I wandered everywhere by myself. I took myself out to coffee on the Upper East Side, long walks in Central Park & day trips to Brooklyn. Something was missing. As I sat on the steps of a Broadway theatre an epiphany hit me. I need friends.

My first step was to start volunteering at the Gay & Lesbian Center. I volunteered at an event and met my first friend in the City, Gino. He and I took one look at each other and knew we were destined to be life long friends. We hit it off instantly. After the event, we wandered the East Village, eating falafel, grabbing Starbucks and people watching on Saint Mark’s Place. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

My voyage to create an ideal urban family progressed. Soon, I made friends everywhere from the subway, market & work, to the park, walking the pavement and even my stoop. I then had enough characters to make any 90′s sitcom memorable. Not only did the fast paced concrete jungle have a cozy side; having friends to share the city with made it exciting.

Today, I am edging closer to a thirty-something and working on establishing my copywriting career in New York. Although, I don’t have a rent controlled large apartment on Bedford Ave, there are plenty of colorful characters to inspire me on a daily basis. I also have my own version of Central Perks in the East Village, of course.

Upper West Side

Freeways, small towns with lights shimmering like stars and football stadiums dominate the landscape on the cross-country flight from LAX to JFK. The most thrilling element of the flight is flying over Manhattan. With the neon of Times Square, Central Park and the various bridges below overwhelming the eye from a high distance. Once the plane circles around the narrow island, I know I am home.

Throughout my life in New York, I had always said to myself “I am gonna take the JFK air train to save money.” It was a different story when I would actually land at JFK; pick up my bags and a hit a wall of jet lag. Therefore, it was always taxi to apartment and a couple hours sleep.

I had moved back to California, which left me very homesick for the city. When I returned, I just wanted to be on any sort of train as opposed to an automobile. I saw the air train circling JFK and decided to finally take the leap. My friend Ben gave me directions on how to use the air train. However, I was still slightly disoriented.

That chilly morning, I was meeting with Ben and Bill for brunch on the Upper West Side. So, I had to make my very important brunch date on time. I made it on to the air train as it circled Queens, nostalgia kicked in. “Oh my old borough, how I miss thee.” Everything looked exotic. The highway, craftsman style/ red brick homes and even the signs directing traffic toward Midtown.”

I hoped off at Jamaica station and had to take the Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station. The LIRR was also a first, since any trip to Long Island involved a car. I rode the train into Penn Station, everything seeming glimmering. Then I actually arrived at Penn and remembered how Grand Central Station was so much prettier.

I made it from the airport to the city. As I descended down into the 1 train going uptown, something rancid happen. The subway station was muggy, smelled awful and looked dirty. At that moment it finally hit me,” I’ am home, I am home,” I declared internally. It didn’t feel like I was away for very long. I hopped into the subway (yes like a bunny). As I starred into all the diverse faces, I was reminded why I didn’t love suburban living. My slice of  the Southern California avocado was homogenous. It also lacked gays and was devoid of high culture.

I descended on the Upper West Side and felt New York soil again. I walked up Broadway toward West 85th Street. There were people making an art form out of jay walking, beautifully adorned brownstones and avid newspaper readers dominating the outdoor cafes. Successfully, I made my brunch date. It was wonderful to enjoy my favorite New York tradition with wonderful friends.

Eventually, I decided to give up Southern California for New York. After having spent too much time in a car, I would never take public transportation for granted. Even though, the fares rise, runs at a snails pace late at night and feels like a sauna in the summer, I still love the subway. Perfection is boring anyways.

I Love Manhattan

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn, of course) stands in front of a window display at Tiffany’s. It marked a simple yet chic moment in cinematic history. Not only did it capture a distinct memory, but also represented a generation of those seeking New York’s cosmopolitan world.

Many pour into the city hoping to live a life, which would inspire Truman Capote to rise from the dead and write about it in a controversial book. Invites to the Met Ball, fashion week, art gallery opening, extravagant parties, doing lunch at an Upper East Side cafe and even the simple joys of sitting in a Central Park bench, allure thousands to the city. Many arrive to escape the narrow mindedness of their hometowns and seek creative freedom. While others descend into the city, since films, books and TV make New York seem like the most exciting place on earth.

Then there are tourists who want to have a moment in front of Tiffany’s and not pay $2,000 a month for a studio. Tourists fascinate New Yorkers. While most New Yorkers attempt to bolt past Times Squares, many tourists stand in awe at the glitter and flashy advertisements. However, some tourists don’t just come to taste a real bagel and visit the Whitney Museum. Some are looking for more than a tour guide.

Like any proper Sunday, I took my evening stroll downtown, came back to my apartment and looked for a date via the Internet. I was looking for a New York guy who said “fuggedaboutit” after every life crisis. Instead, I got a “y’all.” This guy from Texas messaged me. I was intrigued actually. We chatted and he asked “I am taking my first trip to New York, want to hang out?’ he asked. I gave a nervous smile as I typed in yes.

Our meet up was to be determined. However, after he arrived in the city, he texted me “I am on Fifth Avenue, meet me at the Gucci store.” I lifted a right eyebrow in an “oh please manner, seriously? Gucci?” For some reason, I didn’t text him back, saying that’s pretentious, instead I replied, “ok.” Even though, I walked down Fifth Avenue everyday on my way to work, I had never gone into any of the fancy shops. Curiosity tickled my senses.

After work, I layered up and emerged into the freezing cold Manhattan night. I walked into the Gucci store, since Mr. Texas said to meet him at the entrance. I looked around and around, but couldn’t find him. Feeling dumbfounded, I called him ” hey I am at the Gucci store, where are you?” I am here at the entrance, he said. Then I walked over to the security guard, “excuse me sir, this is the Gucci store right?” I asked. He laughed, “No sir, this is Louis Vuitton.” I also giggled, since all those fancy shops looked a like to someone who shops at outlets & H & M.

Finally, I found out the difference between Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Mr. Texas and I didn’t get along so wonderfully. Mutually we agreed that a little booze would strengthen our bond. So we traded in luxury consumer goods for grungy East Village dive bar. Even though there wasn’t a love connection, Mr. Texas made a delightful drinking buddy. I stepped outside for some fresh air when I saw him. He was the blond and mirrored preppy me. His sweater was equally charming. I felt just like Holly Golightly standing in front of the Tiffany’s window mesmerized.

After making contact, I made conversation with Mr. Preppy. He was delightful and down to earth. Suddenly, when I wasn’t looking, he planted a kiss on me. I rather enjoyed it. Gritty Second Avenue flourished with romance for a brief moment. I smiled. He smiled. However, we didn’t make a love connection. Mr. Texas also found romance while at the dive bar.  I said my goodbyes to Mr. Texas.

After an evening of the unexpected, I hailed a cab and went back to my apartment. It was another wonderful Manhattan evening. A year later, I would go back to the Gucci store with Natalia. As I wandered the glittery racks, I saw the sticker price for sweaters and almost fainted. “Wow, this sweater costs more than my rent,” I proclaimed.

The Lone Liberals

Cheerleaders, high kicks, pom poms, spirited crowds and a 90′s pop soundtrack, which would naturally evoke a couple funky dance moves. These were my high school prep rallies. When the cheerleaders did their enthusiastic claps and asked the question ” Do you have spirit? We have spirit, how about you?” My schoolmates would proclaim, ” We got spirit, yes we do, how about you?”

Everyone would proclaim this sentiment, but me. Although, I appreciated all the Bring it on/ Cheerleading fluff of prep rallies, I didn’t fancy high school much. “This shit is stupid” were my exact sentiments.

In fact, prep rallies were the perfect opportunity to drift into a land of daydreams, where I was free of football jocks, lockers & liturgy days. I attended a Catholic school. During those days, I was the lone liberal. However, one day I met another liberal girl, Grace. She had two moms and we were political twins. Together, we drifted into a world far from the high school norm and both made a point of not getting involved in high school activities.

On one of our many hang out sessions by the art room, she made a stunning announcement. ” I wanna go to prom,” she said. “Wow, really?” I asked, appearing quite dumbfounded. ” Yeah, do you wanna be my prom date?” she asked. As, I shook off the shock; the notion of going to prom intrigued me. I made an art form of avoiding homecoming games and dances, but the novelty behind it could be fun. “Ok,” I replied. She hugged me.

The lone liberals were off to prom. Next step was finding a tuxedo. My mom took me to the tuxedo shop where I rented a Ralph Lauren tux. I got my haircut and was ready to show some school spirit by attending the prom. The next day, I woke up with an unexpected visitor on my face. “Oh no, I have a zit,” I yelled.  It was big, red & located in the middle of my left cheek. Mortified, I went to school, thinking that I would be regarded as the boy with the giant zit for the prom pictures.

Like any good mom my mom decided to keep me away from traumatic life experiences. So, she put a little cover up on my zit. That afternoon with my skin clear and tuxedo looking quite proper, I was ready for prom. Grace’s moms took pictures. After meeting up with friends, we went to prom in a big limo. It was particularly exciting, since I had only ridden a limo during funerals.

The prom was my first high school event. To my shock, I actually had a splendid time.  My cynical self departed that night. The lone liberals danced the night away to tunes of the time. Christina Aguilera, N’Sync and B*Witched provided some of the evening’s soundtrack, while I got a nice buzz from all the free soda pop. I enjoyed wearing a tux so much, that I took a picture with all of my gal pals, just to commemorate the fashionable occasion. It was a rare night free of teenage angst.

After prom, I went back to jaded and un-spirited. I also became the talk of the school, since I was in a majority of the prom photos. Mission accomplished.  Needless to say, it was my last school event. Till this day, I look back fondly at my prom experience.

Madison Square Park

Getting a second chance with a hot date is equivalent of a local train going express. It’s a rarity. After having a less than stellar date with Mr. Corporate finance, I was still smitten. Remarkably, I found the courage to ask him out (again).

When he picked up the phone & I heard that sophisticated English accent, I nearly fell weak at the knees. Nonetheless, I wanted a second chance. “Wanna do brunch on Sunday?” I asked. He paused for a moment and asked, “Sure, where mate?” I replied, “Meet me 17th& Eighth Ave.” The date was set. I had to coordinate my wardrobe for the grand event.

A lovely tweed coat, grey tie & black trousers combo was my outfit of choice for the date. As I waited outside the restaurant in Chelsea, my nerves were as intense as the Queensboro Bridge at rush hour. Finally, Mr. Corporate finance arrived in jeans & t-shirt. I was mesmerized. Brunch was slightly less intimidating than expected and he even laughed at my corny jokes.

After brunch, we walked along 23rd street. I was feeling confident in my abilities to seduce the Brit. The city was also alive with a sense of renewal, since winter faded into spring. As we approached Madison Square Park, the conversation never grew into boredom. The small park was alive with couples enjoying the day, dogs prancing gleefully and the trees bursting with sunshine. Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong singing, “Let’s call the whole thing off” was the only missing component from a perfect day.

Our stroll through the city commenced. The conversation was so riveting. ” Wow, look, that’s the New York Public library. I didn’t notice we walked this far up,” I told him with a smile. ” Oh shit,” he replied. ” I have to go catch up on work at the office,” he said. Of course, it was Sunday, but Wall Street rarely goes for brunch on Sundays & neither did Mr. Corporate finance. I convinced him to walk up to 59th & Lex to catch the 4 train there.

In the midst of horns, narrow sidewalks & people traffic, Mr. Corporate finance stared into my big brown eyes & said “It was a lovely afternoon, thank you!” We hugged and he went on his merry way downtown. Even though, I didn’t get a farewell kiss, the date renewed my sense of hope.

Like spring my euphoria was short lived. Mr. Corporate finance and I never developed a romantic relationship. There was an air of disappointment, since I couldn’t charm him with my ties & quirky wit. However, we are still wonderful friends till this day. However, asking him out again gave me a nice self-esteem boost. I eventually dated more men with Madison Square Park as my favorite place for a romantic stroll.

The Leaves Of Central Park

Gold leaves, brown leaves, fiery red leaves

buried in snow, covered in dirt.

Sun shining over a pristine lake, sledding the impossible terrain.

Red leaves, gold leaves, dirt covered brown leaves

floating through the sky.

Looking for a home in the wind.

Brown leaves, red leaves, solid gold leaves wondering in New York.

Flying toward the pavement, but eventually falling into green grass.

Vampire Teeth

When the Tooth fairy visited my humble home, she a left a most shocking surprise. The charming baby teeth were replaced with fangs. In school, everyone called me Eddie Munster, since my smile revealed a Dracula like quality.

I was finally given braces. As a teenager, braces were the cool thing to have. The brackets were adorned with a virtual rainbow of colors. However, life with the suburban teenager’s most fashionable item came with a price.

Cashews, Snickers & Butterfinger bars were forbidden by my orthodontist. As a junk food aficionado, they fell into my favorite food groups. However, being stubborn & slightly rebellious, I would partake in such an indulgence. Every time, I ate an apple or peanut induced candy bar & didn’t break a bracket, there was a feeling of accomplishment.

However, one day, I bit into a carrot and broke my first bracket. My mom took me to the orthodontist. They replaced my bracket. However, the biting into carrot incident would produce of a domino effect. Soon, I broke bracket after bracket. My mom vented her frustration “If you break another bracket, your orthodontist is gonna charge me extra money. Knock it off. Eat yogurt or something!” She warned me while giving me the mom stare down. I yawned a bit and thought to myself “yogurt? Boring!”

A few weeks went by and I maneuvered around breaking any brackets. Eventually my will power was tested. While having dinner at my grandma’s, fresh corn on the cob was served. It looked magnificent glistening in a river of butter. While my mom was examining her cutlery checking for unspecified food particles and/or smudges, I took a corn on the cob. That first bite was simply dazzling.

Then I saw my mom shooting me daggers with her eyes. I felt something odd on my cheek. “Whoops,” a most enthusiastic bite into the corn literally bent my wire outwards toward my cheek. My relatives laughed. Mom was cringing with anger. I smartly replied, “at least I didn’t break a bracket right?”

She took me to the bathroom as we tried to get the wire back to its normal position. It worked, but the price I paid for eating corn on the cob persisted that night as the wire kept poking my cheek. Eventually, I went back to the orthodontist feeling terrified. However, we were never charged for my little mishap.

After an initial rough run with braces, something miraculous happened. I woke up one morning, smiled & didn’t look like a spawn of vampires. The fangs were gone. Three years later, the braces were a distant memory & I ate too many Butterfinger candy bars to celebrate.

 

 

Snowflakes On My Head

A strong blizzard was blowing into New York. It was both exciting and enchanting. Nothing could make me smile more than a proper blizzard. My friend, Natalia suggested taking a field trip to Tribeca, since we had friends in the neighborhood. Like any proper New York temp, I was on a budget.

Regardless, we took the 6 train from the Upper East Side to Chinatown. As we emerged from the Canal Street station, Chinatown was covered in snow, while strong & sharp snowflakes were flying from the heavens. Natalia & I had a long schlep to Tribeca. However, like real New York troopers, we walked the long distance.

The snow intensified and we couldn’t stare up, since the blizzard was blinding. As the Cantonese & Mandarin signs faded into American English, we reached Tribeca. Our friend Michelle lived in a large loft with panoramic views. It was a delight to see the storms magnitude from the safety of a warm apartment. Like any good blizzard, we developed an appetite for comfort food & good booze.

As we sat at the bar ordering Italian food, I remembered “oh yeah, I am on a budget.” I got a bit nervous even ordering a simple pizza. However, I pulled a practical move, “eat part of it now & save the rest in a brown paper baggie for later” (was the motto of the afternoon). When the bill arrived, my two friends took it out of my hand. “We got this one,” Michelle & Natalia proclaimed with a smile.

David, our bartender even bought me a drink. It was a happy blizzard day indeed. After our lovely lunch, the blizzard lingered like a great Shakespearean drama on the mighty stage of the Globe theatre. However, there was something simply charming about sharply edged snowflakes. Once again, we took the long route from Tribeca to the subway station in Chinatown, being delighted by the snow’s magnitude.

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