Frolic on 72nd Street

“If my friends could see me now,” (from the musical, Sweet Charity) is my theme song for that most charming season, autumn. When the skies above New York City, morph into a spectacular golden grey, overwhelming humidity travels south.

My cardigans and I have always reveled in lightly chilled winds. Not only is New York is painted in dynamic hues of red and orange, but the city evokes a more romantic facade.

In the mystical land, Norah Ephron romantic comedies, a new kind of love was igniting. ” Let’s go see the beautiful fall foliage today, said my one of my best gay buddies. With that statement, he gathered up the troops for a field trip to Central Park. One troop was running fashionably late, which kept us gays, quite anxious.

As we chatted it up in the background of a friend’s cozy, Upper West Side apartment, the buzzer sounded. “Finally,” we all shouted. I was curious to meet this new troop.

The door opened dramatically. There he stood, Noah. He traveled all the way, crosstown just to see foliage with us. I took a gulp. “Hello, Noah, I thought to myself. My palms were sweating and caterpillars transformed into butterflies with his very appearance.

He had a classic intellectual look. With short dark hair, black-frame glasses and a fashionable black sweater, he was physically a charmer. I extended my hand to introduce myself. He turned his head, avoiding eye contact with me. The butterflies fell from the sky and returned to their cocoon. “Shit, he knows I am interested and gave me the cold shoulder,” I thought to myself.

I dusted the disappointment from my shoulders and we headed toward Central Park. The city was dusting itself from the reminients of a brutal summer. It was beaming with a renewed sense of self.

Even though, I felt slightly rejected by Noah, I decided to get to know him better. This time, I played calm and collected, strolling with the troops around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis Reservoir. We made good conversation, but the eye contact was perpetually non-existent.

” Gee, where is all the foliage?” cried one of the troops. Indeed the park was barely painted in orange and red. Miraculously, there was one tree toward Fifth Avenue, which drenched in red leaves. We all took pictures. “Mission accomplished, let’s go have a drink, boy,” I declared. Over margaritas and tacos, I wanted to uncover the mystery of Noah.

Even after a few frosty adult beverages, Noah turned his head, anytime we made eye contact. “Oh I hate the head turn, oy to the vey,” said a disappointed, I.

The troops decided they wanted to see a film at the local IMAX. ” Hey guys, I have a hard time at movie theaters, they make me sleepy. I am going back to my apartment,” said I.

With that I gave the troops a hug, goodbye. I reached over to give Noah a hug. ” Nice to meet you,” he said. “Thanks you too, said I. He kept an emotionless exterior and finally made direct eye contact.

“I think you’re absolutely adorable,” said Noah. The butterflies once again rose from cocoons. My brain swung to the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, singing, “Let’s call the whole thing off,” while orange leaves fell from the sky. “That means he’s into you,” whispered my friend into my perky ear.

“Back at ya,” I told Noah. I walked away. Then I thought to myself, “shit I walked away, rather than having the balls to ask him out on a proper date.” Rather, than dwelling on my lack of action, I utilized the experience to always seize the moment. With that said, I shall write the next fellow I fall for, a most wonderful poem. Who could resist a witty poem filled with romance?

Lullaby of Chinatown

Within the perimeters of Canal & Bowery, exists a country within a city. In the shadow of neon signs flashing Cantonese and Mandarin, are many treasured wonders.

Exotic fruit, which have the appearance of quirky, avant-garde art, delights all senses. The sweet scent of miniature pancakes infuses with escaped fish from the sea. Chinese fans, ceramic dragons and Buddha’s, provide a much-needed kitsch.

In the midst of Chinatown’s charm, four New Yorkers embarked on an odyssey. Firstly, I must take the flying DeLorean to last year (hello, Back to the Future reference). Fasten your seat belts, folks. Please be aware of the exit row. Here we go, its lift off time.

It happened last year on the rooftop of a quaint building, in close proximity to Washington Square Park. Yours truly and some of my people waited in anticipation for one magnificent sight. That glorious Kodak moment was in the form of fireworks. Hello, Fourth of July, said I. As the darkness embedded Greenwich Village, the anticipation built.

Boom, boom, boom went the fireworks. With great dramatic momentum, our eyes searched the night sky for those beloved-flashing lights over the nearby Hudson. The sound effects persisted, but the fire works were nowhere to be seen. I looked at my friends in puzzlement. “Where are the fireworks? They’re supposed to be visible from this vantage point, aren’t they? asked I.

We waited a bit longer. Still the imposing apartment buildings of the West Village shielded us from that most Fourth of July tradition. Instead of feeling disappointed, we watched the fireworks on television. It was quite lovely, but not the same sensation (as seeing them in person).

A few weeks later, I strolled the Upper West Side. While walking toward the 72nd Street subway, I heard a familiar, boom sound. I peered into the night sky over Broadway. Fireworks dominated the ornate Upper West Side sky. This was in celebration of Bastille Day (French independence day). The sight was quite magnificent. I declared, “vive la France.” My desire to see fireworks on the Fourth of July only intensified.

Let’s take the DeLorean back to this year. While my gal pals and I didn’t see the candy hued lights over Manhattan, last year, we made it a mission to actually see them this year.

In the depth of an empty Chinatown, we set out on foot to see the glorious show. Even as experienced New York walkers, we were baffled on where to see the show, which was on the East River (this year). We took a side street down and as the Manhattan Bridge appeared, our mission had been accomplished.

At last, we found the perfect vantage once we reached the East River’s Edge. “This is it, we’ll finally see the show,” I declared. Hoping that nobody extraordinarily tall would hover in front of me, I waited in anticipation. Then that familiar boom was heard. The fireworks commenced. They lit up the sky from the near-by Brooklyn Bridge. “Oh, aw, wow,” said the onlookers.

I too was in awe of the sparkly sky. At that moment, I appreciated seeing the show in living flesh. It would become one of my all time favorite New York memories. I was so very impressed with the pomp and pageantry of great American tradition.

Afterwards, we topped off the night, Lower East Side style. As wine was sipped, we thanked our lucky stars for a most memorable Fourth of July.

The Californian

 

“I am not a beach guy,” said I, at age, sixteen. The sand, surf, and blazing California sun, didn’t quite tickle my fancy. One summer, my dad talked me into a road trip to Malibu.

In the midst of a-list celebrities, glitzy trailer parks, and rugged hills, was the piercing blue ocean. The most popular spot was Zuma beach, a grand surfer’s spot with an eclectic beach going crowd.

After recovering from extreme motion sickness, my father and I walked into the piping hot sand. It contrasted a very mellow California sun.

The waves crashed against the sun. It’s ferocious roar sounded like a lion. “Why don’t you get in the water, Anthony?” asked my father. I don’t wanna go into too deep, I forgot how to swim, said I, drenched in sunscreen.

“Oh give me a break, enjoy the water,” said my father, who was basking in the Malibu grandeur. From the corner of my eye, I noticed a gaggle of attractive, shirtless guys dash toward the Pacific Ocean. “Fuck drowning, I am going in,” said I.

The relatively cold Pacific Ocean was refreshing for me. It was a treat for me feet, which were roasting in the sand. I went in a bit deeper. “ Oh this isn’t so bad,” said I.

My Malibu buzz was quickly killed. A flying football narrowly missed my precious face. It also nearly knocked me into the water. “Oh who’s the fucking asshole, who threw that ball?” said I, internally (of course).

”I am sorry about the ball,” said the voice with a distinct California accent. Unexpectedly, a handsome young man appeared. He smiled with his big brown eyes illuminating perfect white teeth, which contrasted my mouth full of metal (I had braces, forever).

“You’re not a beach guy, are you?” he asked with a giggle. I smirked, “no, I am from landlocked Riverside. He went back to playing football with his buddies.

“Shit, times like this, I should’ve fake drowning, I would had some mouth to mouth madness,” said I. I admired the Malibu charmer from a distance as the football was tossed from one well tone and muscular guy to the other.

I walked toward the sand, with the following thoughts in my head, “gee, I wish more guys at my age were out of the closet or that I could ask a guy out and not be disappointed that’s he not gay or not into me.” Disappointingly, I left the shores of Zuma, lacking romance.

The old song, “why must I be a teenager in love” played in my head. “Oh well, I thought, at least dad and I will go for ice cream. The world tastes better sprinkled with hot fudge and a cherry on top.

Sing along with Radiohead

“Fake Plastic trees by Radio, isn’t exactly a staple on Christmas Eve. After of campy holiday songs ware off, nothing says happy holidays like mellow 90′s Brit Pop.

This past Christmas Eve, I woke up excitedly. I blasted the quintessential Radiohead jam and did the happy dance. “Yeah, I am on vacation, this is thrilling,” said I. That morning I opened my Facebook. It was a montage of photographs featuring luxurious images of New York airports from JFK’s Delta airlines terminal to planes waiting take off at Newark.

Then I realized, “oh yes, it’s Christmas Eve,” everyone is going home for the holidays. I too was headed out west for Christmas, but didn’t leave till the next day. A part of me, just wanted to be home in California with my father, enjoying the back patio and grilling steaks. Tear, tear, I had to find a way to comfort my poor self, while I waited for time to pass by. Oh and did find the ideal while to brush off that lonely feeling, the New Yorker way.

On my day off, I headed for my happy medium, Brooklyn Bagel in Chelsea. “That’s right nobody is going to be in town, except tourists and they’re in Midtown. No lines for me,” said I. Those were the cliché famous last words, since Brooklyn Bagel was packed. Although, the streets were a bit emptier, everyone had the same idea.

Fortunately, I found a seat and indulged in a most delectable bagel. “I must keep myself occupied and not get homesick, how do I do that?” I took a long walk from Chelsea to the East Village. While fastening my pea coat, I peered into the pavements of gritty yet charming First Avenue. “Wow, it’s oh so quiet, just like the Bjork song,” said I.

“There won’t be a line at the Bean (coffee shop) or at the Strand (bookshop). Wow, fuck loneliness, the East Village feels like my own personal playground and it’s fantastic,” said I. It was marvelous walking around without people traffic (my previous New York years, I was in California for Christmas eve). Then I realized, “oh I still don’t have someone to spend Christmas Eve with.

Like any proper urbanite away from family on Christmas Eve, I had found my alternative and it wasn’t on Grindr.

Rocco was his name. He’s a cold-blooded fellow, thanks to being a turtle (which falls in the reptile family). My friend Krista had me feed him his holiday supper, since she was in Chicago for the holidays. That’s right; turtle sitting wore off the loneliness of being away from family. Watching the turtle munch on vegetable sticks gave me purpose in the midst of jingle bell rocks.

After an adventure in turtle sitting, I took the 3 train home to Harlem. An elderly woman hopped on the train and proclaimed “Merry Christmas to everyone.” Surprisingly, everyone was equally jolly in the tough nosed subway. The holiday cheer actually made my night.

I came home and packed my bags. For my holiday dinner, I ate a chicken pot pie. I traded Radiohead for a Charlie Brown’s Christmas tunes. It was a great end to a day, which could have been lonely, ended up being lovely. With eyelids fully closed, I eagerly awaited the early morning flight to California and quality time with my father.

 

Rainbow Sherbet

When the Empire State Building glistens with the hues of rainbow sherbet, it means only one thing. “Free ice cream for everyone, not.” This delightful occurrence is in celebration of gay pride.

It’s the week where New Yorkers ditch the traditional sleek black attire and embrace their inner rainbow. For this New York gay, Pride week has always meant a bevy of splendid events.

This year’s gay pride week was better than unicorns, rainbows and Barbara Streisand belting out a dazzling number. There was the highbrow magazine party, which was better than a Kylie Minogue meets Madonna concert.

Men slipped into their spiffiest attire and schmoozed. This was followed by the grand dame of all events, drag bingo, my personal favorite..

When gayness couldn’t get more gay, there was also the gay, jazz cabaret, celebrating the legendary voices of Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole. By the weekend, there was one event I wanted to avoid.

Years prior I had always avoided the gay Pride Parade. My last parade was in 2009. Vividly, I remember standing on the corner of twenty-third and Fifth.

There was loud club music, dancing go-go boys and humidity, which creped into the threads of my polo shirt. I was bored and yawned. Then I thought, “this is the same shit, I’ve seen everywhere. Why aren’t there more political statements?”

On that faithful day, I eventually met up with Tony in the West Village. He took my hand and walked with me through historically significant Christopher Street. “This is the purpose of pride. I can hold your hand through Christopher Street,” he said. I gulped for a moment there and thought to myself, “shit, I can’t take these things for granted.”

(Fast forward) This year, I had my own pride celebration. My theatre loving friend, Jenna and I indulged in soup dumplings. We then frolicked around Chinatown, singing show tunes from the great gay icons. The singing continued into the East Village. In my own words, I proclaimed, ” I don’t need a parade to display own my gay pride. Everyday is gay pride in Anthony land.”

We eventually sat on a park bench in Union Square, the sounds of loud music from the parade, echoed. I took a gander at the scenery, which featured a bevy of folks decked in rainbow pride. Internally, I thought, ” Gee, all this gay, ain’t it grand.”

Cardigans FM (the radio station in my head) played “Don’t rain on my parade” and I drifted into a land of uber campiness. Happy (be-lated) gay pride, everyone.

The Introverted Fellow

On evenings spent at home, I switch from fancy French films with lavish subtitles and 80′s teen flicks to quirkier viewing. Before journeying into the isle of sleep, I sometimes enjoy watching old Oscar acceptance speeches on YouTube.

The raw emotions, theatrics and joyful demeanor of the winners’ tugs at the heart strings each time. While I revel and sometimes giggle at the sassy acceptance speeches of Cher & Barbara Streisand (had to give a shout out to the gay icons), I always wondered, “gee how the heck do you get up on stage and pretend not too morph into a big ball of anxiety?”

I never fancied pursing a career as an actor. It always seemed grueling to go on a stage and act. Little did I know, that eventually, I too would have to perform the greatest monologues on life’s stage.

I am an extrovert, who loves people. However, I was also hiding a very little known fact. Drum roll please, I had social anxiety. In new situations and crowded places, where I had to socialize, a case of nervous jitters would appear.

Like any proper lad would do, I indulged on a refreshing glass of whisky too loosen up. Alas, it didn’t work. By the end of the party, I would survive, make a witty joke and have memories of a great evening out, though the social anxiety persisted.

On the first big snow of the New York winter season, I woke up excitedly. It was my friend’s birthday in Harlem and the winter sky was calming. I walked out of my modest Harlem apartment with a beautiful bottle of champagne to celebrate. I was then struck by anxiety quickly, as the snow fell gracefully into black pea coat.

“Oh no new people, lots of single guys, what do I do? What do I talk about?” said I. Passing the snow covered hills of St. Nicholas Park and Harlem’s very elegant architectural gems, the fear nearly crippled me. Finally, I arrived at my friend’s apartment. I rinsed the snow from my dark curls and rode the elevator up.

Channeling Barbara Streisand’s Oscar speech was monumental. She was just her witty self on stage. I too must be my witty, quirky self and strut my stuff at this party,” said I. The negative thoughts fled like snowbirds heading south for the winter. “Think Funny Girl,” I did and evolved from a bag full of social anxiety to a fabulous grand dame of the ball.

I danced to 80′s music, made new friends and had frosty adult beverages to commemorate the special day. Then as Duran Duran’s Hungry like a wolf echoed throughout the apartment, the gays arrived. My face turned tomato red. They were really cute. The apartment’s heat levels escalated to inferno levels.

“Be quirky, be funny, but most of all have fun, cause everyone poops and there’s nothing to be intimidated by,” said I (speaking internally). I took a generous gulp of champagne and mingled with the boys. Not a bit of nervousness penetrated through my jolly exterior. By the end of the soiree, I made plenty of new friends and had a splendid time.

Social anxiety reared its unfashionable frock many times after that. With wit, I said the hell with and learned to revel in every campy moment. When one can’t conquer a room full of revelers, pronouncing “hello, gorgeous” would win over friends and make even the stiffest personality into a loveable one.

Grey in the Face

Waking up in London felt especially thrilling at seventeen. I was mesmerized by everything. The underground’s escalators, which practically reached the heavens, palaces, double decker buses, street fashion, parks of greenery and the fragrance of cigarettes filling the ancient sidewalks.

I was truly in love. As a kid from Riverside, California, this was an especially significant treat. Going from vastness of freeways and strip malls to British cultural institutions, would make any sad bloke smile.

On one particular trip to London, with my mom I would wake up and take strolls along Euston Road. It’s a street, which isn’t particularly lovely, just a place to catch the train. Since it was London, I reveled in the ordinary pavement with extraordinary history.

On my first walk in the old capital, I came back to our hotel room and washed my face. Grey poured from my face. “This is quite peculiar. “Why is their grey pouring from my face? “I asked myself. I told my mom. “I’ve been blowing my nose and grey has been coming out, “she said, appearing quite annoyed.

I grinned rather than falling into a state of worrying. The grey happenstance delighted me. It meant I was in London. That fact was truly thrilling. Each day, I washed my face the same occurrence continued.

By the time, I returned home to the States, grey no longer filled my sink. I was very sad. Secretly, I longed to still have my tootsies planted on British soil.

Years later, I returned to London. I was still a visitor, but the love affair was more romantic than Love Actually, Notting Hill & Bridget Jones’ Diary combined.

 

 

 

 

Ant Hill

Zero humidity and blue skies in a New York summer? This isn’t a joke, folks. On a Friday in June, California weather made a cameo appearance.

In the midst of happy people and weather, a dark cloud hovered over a mystical land. This land was known more infamously as Penn Station (AKA, it’s hell, it’s hell, I tell you.). With those two words, I entered a parallel universe where claustrophobia ran rampant like a sickening plague.

While in the mystical land, one warrior had to make a trek into lands unknown. This warrior is yours truly. I was stuck in a land, where wretched architecture, subtle ugliness of urban decay and insane asylum lighting takes hold of the senses, only one component remained a positive.

In the midst of gentrified Manhattan, Penn Station still had the best freak show in town. There were all kinds of characters, which would make Cousin It and Thing (from the Adams Family) look more like a missing link to the Brady Bunch. While I delighted in the circus of odd balls, the undying truth remained. “Fuck, I have to somehow get on a train to South Hampton, get a seat and be happy,” said I.

As expected, everyone and their distant, distant relatives were headed to South Hampton. With anxiety levels escalating and an iPHONE dying a slow death, I had to find my inner zen. In the grand tradition of taking the L.I.R., I didn’t get a seat.

“Xanex, I need Xanx,” said a neurotic brain cell. Rather, than die of boredom and bruised tootsies, I made a royal throne all my own. Utilizing the walkway between rows, I tilted my suitcase and made a seat. My right brain went into battle. I listened to music. Through music, I traveled into another parallel universe, where the LIR didn’t touch.

I wrote stories and listened to a soundtrack, which brought me from London in the 80’s to a 90’s Seattle. As you can tell, I like grey and cold places. The music eventually died, but I had to save my Zen self from fading into anxiety land. Once the train reached West Hampton (stop before South Hampton), a seat opened up.

The royal throne morphed back into an ordinary piece of luggage. I had to deal with my musical loss. Rather than shedding a tear, I turned stress into art and wrote even more stories.

With little fanfare, I arrived in South Hampton. It was truly Town & Country magazine sprung to life. Thanks to my dependency on technology, I had to find a place to charge my phone (my friend was picking me up from the train station).

In my technological despair, I ran into the first bar/restaurant, seen by the blind eye. When I walked in, the décor screamed, “welcome to the Hamptons, as seen on TV.” I charged my phone and ordered a glass of wine. “I don’t think I am in Harlem, any more, ” said I. Sipping wine, I celebrated having a charged phone, a seat and booze.

Gay of New York

Each morning, some of the most beautiful men in the world walk hurriedly through Grand Central Station. Typically, they dress in suits, shoes well polished and carry sleek messenger bags.

Though not exactly the bohemian ideal, they do provide a quick wake-up in the hustle-bustle of a New York morning. With so much pressure to look a certain way, one is only poised for that ultimate beauty goal, but there are the rebels.

“I would like a plain bagel with scallion cream cheese,” say I, on an almost daily basis. That’s right rather than a juice for breakfast, I have always gone for the New York staple. As I grew into my thirties, the metabolism slowed.

However, I made an effort to eat healthier and drink less refreshing boozy beverages. In modern day New York, cleanses, juicing and healthy salads were substituting street meat and pretzels for the grand dame of culinary delights.

That’s it, I have to eat healthier, once I attended the “Big Apple BBQ, naturally,” said I. It has always been the greatest food event after restaurant week. The best BBQ joints in the country descend on Madison Square Park for a carnivore’s delight.

I met up with my best friends and stood in long lines for delicious BBQ. This past year also marked a first. In my whole history, I had never had BBQ for breakfast. It beats any early morning meal at the diner, said I, while eating ribs with my bare hands. After the Big Apple BBQ, I succumbed to meat coma. It felt great.

The next day, my inner caveman wanted a huge chunk of meat. Instead, I ate a salad with chicken. I daydreamed of the lavish BBQ from the day before. Although salads are lovely, I quickly returned to my carnivore ways. After biting into a French dip sandwich, I said the hell with juices and leaves of the forest, I am caveman, give me meat.”

My hat is off to those who can live the vegan lifestyle. It would take quite a bit of will power for me to say no to a rib eye. I may not be a six-foot model, but I am very comfortable with my face fuzz and slight tummy. Most importantly, I am still enjoying life with all the wonderful beers and hamburgers, which accompany every journey.

Rocketman on Mars

Into the dark abyss of outer space, flies one very flamboyant rocket man. His destination is Mars. Wonderment fills his partly fearful self.

Will the aliens on Mars look like life-size gummi bears? or are they more E.T. ?  He bounces up and down the perfectly pure dust of Mars, which resembles the Mojave Desert. The 2001: Space Odyssey theme plays.

Call from earth, his iPhone rings and he answers. ” You smile too much,” said the voice. Suddenly, our space man sinks into a dark hole with the rocky desert terrain. The hole leads into a white wall and rather bland looking room.

He opens his eyes and the elderly gentleman with the loveable Bronx accent, repeats himself. ” You smile too much. Sorry you’ve been excused from this case.  With those words, our rocket man is back to his New York reality. An hour later, his jury duty is over. I speak of yours truly, naturally.

The 2001: Space Odyssey theme was replaced with “What a feeling (from flashdance)” Triumphantly, he walks toward the West Village. The city had become more magical, mirroring a child’s first glimpse of Disneyland. Everything felt new again, especially after being stuck in a bland room, hoping to be dismissed as a juror.

While at jury duty, I entered the dreaded realm where dreams and imagination go to die. This dark realm wasn’t the twilight zone, but it’s most commonly known as boredom land. I coped with the boredom by becoming a rocket man. Traveling past the Milky Way, eating space ice cream and staring at earth from another planet. If it weren’t for my space expedition, I would’ve died of boredom (not literally).

The experience reminded me, with a little imagination I can get through any boring situation. That afternoon, I officially left space. There was so much happening I didn’t have to drift away. If I do get called back for jury duty after the next six years, I’ll take a round trip to Mars on the “spaceship fabulous.” Also, I would play up my perky personality; it certainly helped with getting dismissed.

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