Ma, Where Do Teletubbies live?

When a gay boy leaps out of the closet, the doors open into a modern day Oz. There’s a yellow brick road, which leads into a most majestic land. Purple teletubbies parachute from the turquoise sky.

“Welcome to gay-landia,” sing the four loveable teletubbies. Dorothy, the tin man, lion and scarecrow skip down the yellow-brick road, passing out skittles to the newly out gay. Prince Charming rides into the hilly green terrain on unicorn.

“Hello, I am a gay prince. Marry Me,” says Prince Charming. So, he sweeps the gay off his feet. They ride toward a castle and live happily ever after.

This is the ideal painting for every gay who’s come out of the darkened closet. However, if this were actually true to life, we wouldn’t have so many sad love ballads.

As a gay boy, who loved Rent (the musical) too much, I wondered who would be the Burt to my Ernie (insert Sesame Street reference)? In non-Sesame Street language, it’s called a boyfriend.

“I see you dating a guy with an English accent. For some reason, I can see you two getting dressed up, while cooking omelets in the morning, said my high school friend, Grace. “

While she spoke, I delved into imagination land. More specifically, I saw myself in a kitchen covered in French country style wallpaper with an English chap. We laughed as we cracked eggs; fired up the stove and made gourmet omelets.

“That’s it,” I proclaimed. As I journeyed back to my high school reality, I uttered the following words, “I must meet a boy, who I can make omelets with.

It took a while to meet a boy. Growing up in a conservative town and high school, didn’t exactly equate an enormous pool of eligible bachelors. However, there were cool spots for gay boys, especially arty ones to meet.

One particular night, I went to the local indie coffee shop, Back 2 the Grind. It hosted bands, art and was a meeting place for the town’s alternative and gay crowd. While, sipping on a cappuccino, I spotted my friends.

Unexpectedly, I took a trip down the yellow brick road. He stood there, looking most ideal. Rather, than riding on a unicorn, he walked out from bustling sidewalk.

I found out we grew up close to each other, but had never met. My brown eyes met his blue eyes. My already rosy cheeks were on fire. I could explain the sensation, which followed.

“Wow, these feel like hot flashes. I remember my mom telling me about this. Wait, am I getting menopause? I naively thought to myself. “No, no men can’t menopause, (still debating this one)” I later assured myself.

There wasn’t a Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin-Man, lion or teletubbies, who could save me. “What was going on?” I thought to myself. The electricity ran through the wires keeping my brain intact. I could hear the song, “kiss me” by Six Pence none the richer playing in my head. The sensation went from scary to enchanting.

“Wow, this is better than Oz,” I thought to myself. I cleared the sweat from my brow as I continued talking to the fellow. My friend whispered, “he’s pretty cute right?” Shaking my head “yes,” I bravely continued the conversation.

My face turned from pepto bismol pink to a cherry tomato red. The fellow did not seem too talkative and the conversation turned into blur from my nerves. Like the mighty Lion (in the Wizard of Oz), I gained some courage.

“Can, I get your number?” I asked. “Shit, I really did it,” was my initial thought. He gave me his number. I stared at it a bit before calling. Finally, I just pressed the damn number.

We talked, but he didn’t seem interested. However, we made plans, but he canceled. Eventually, I was rejected.  I am sure he couldn’t make a good omelet. I do have a special intuition about these things.

It was my first foray into the world of rejection. It was more evil than the wicked witch of the west. As time, went on I couldn’t just tap my ruby red slippers and wish it away.

Instead, I developed a thick skin. After all, I’ll always have my own private Oz. It’s that mystical land where teletubbies sing, the rain consists of brightly colored skittles and all the men can make an extraordinary omelet.

Howling Winds

I love my weekend routine. On Saturday mornings, I wake up early and head to my favorite Upper West Side diner. After devouring the lumberjack breakfast (pancakes, bacon and scrambled eggs), I walk off my calorie intake along the quintessentially Manhattan sidewalks.

After a quick commercial break (bathroom break at Columbus Circle), I take the B/D (subway) to West 4th. I love listening to the live piano player at Washington Square Park and then heading to the East Village for some cozy coffee house madness. In the grand tradition, of all things New York, the unpredictable blew in my direction.

As New York dropped to unseasonably low temperatures, it brought about a surprise. While preparing for a night out, I heard intense and romantically eerie winds. I ran to my window, as my concern grew to joy. “ Snow, it’s snowing,” I proclaimed happily. An unexpected snowstorm hit the city. Rather than hiding for cover, I ran down five flights of steps to enjoy the icy goodness.

I roamed around, as snow filled my pea coat to the brim. Like my coat, snow soon piled upon trash cans, cars and trees. It was more romantic than a Shakespearean sonnet. About thirty minutes later, the snow magically disappeared. Talk about cameo appearances. Later that night, New York froze to temperatures only polar bears and penguins would enjoy.

 

After attending a birthday party in Hell’s Kitchen, I maneuvered around the people traffic of Times Square and was determined to enjoy the city regardless of freezing temperatures. While the crowds slowly disappeared in the west 50’s, the sidewalks became increasingly empty.

At that moment, the city felt like my own private playground. The glittery lights of Midtown reflected against the store fronts of the Upper West Side. Something about New York in wintertime makes my sweet tooth go bananas. Therefore, I stopped by the diner for a carrot cake and decaf coffee. It was a very simple evening, but quite delightful.

The next day, howling icy winds dominated the sidewalks more intensely. My pea coat served as a shield, similar to a warrior in battle. However, I found the beauty in the incoming winter months. The parks were livened up with dead trees and colorful leaves. Ducks merrily swam and wandered Harlem’s hilly St. Nicholas Park.

On Fredrick Douglass Boulevard, the leaves were swept from the pavement. They circled around and danced to the beat of Mother Nature’s urban drum. It was an unexpectedly gorgeous sight. The icy temperatures persisted and even in the most intense winds, I found the charm in a wintry New York. After all, there’s nothing cozier than bundling up in winter fashion, admiring holiday lights and enjoying a hot coffee by a quiet park lake.

Wandering Brooklyn

One magical Saturday afternoon, the humidity levels dwindled. My brain, which was in a constant state of ” I am schvitzing. Somebody get me an iced latte from Dunkin Donuts,” suddenly awoke. As I peered into the graceful skies above Manhattan, wanderlust ran rampant.

Although, I couldn’t go play on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, drink a beer at a London pub or enjoy a fashion show in Tokyo, I went for the next best thing. “Today, I am going to have a day trip/staycation in Brooklyn.” I waited in the excruciating heat of the F train station and was excited. Brooklyn has always provided me with many wonderful adventures. However, I rarely leave the city. The idea of going out to explore the familiar captivated my imagination.

Excitement grew, as the train arrived at the York Street station in Dumbo. Walking into the intense grey of Brooklyn was more charming than a box of cannolis on a winter’s day. I started my adventure. There was the industrial steel, so beloved by New Yorkers of all ages. The apartments of the wealthy and hip stood out like a country music album in a sea of hip-hops 45s. Although, there was the bourgeoisie factor, creative energy still dominated the plateau.

I longed to enjoy a day by the water at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Strolling along the cobbled stone streets, the most cinematic picture in New York dominated the sky. The overlapping of the Manhattan Bridge with the Brooklyn Bridge (in the distance) underneath grey skies was simply inspirational. In the distance, Manhattan with its skyscrapers, red brick project buildings and the FDR (highway). I played tourist in my backyard, snapping away with my camera phone.

I continued my stroll around Brooklyn Bridge Park. The tiny waves of the East River hit against a cluster of grey rock formations. Pebbles and lush green trees with hints of red hanging like ornaments, was indicative of a jolly holiday. “Who needs to take a train to some beach, when there’s such a deep sense of urbane serenity here,” were my thoughts. I sat on a bench and pumped up my iPOD.

A soundtrack of Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Bjork, Green Day, Cornershop & the Cranberries played as I took in the romanticized (and surprisingly filled) salt-water breezes. I felt creative and re-energized, just through a couple hours of peace & quiet. My Brooklyn adventures continued.

After Dumbo, I headed to Carroll Gardens & Brooklyn Heights, where I took in all the lovely brownstones, outdoor cafes and vintage shops. I returned to my apartment in Manhattan. It felt like I had taken a relaxing holiday and I didn’t even leave New York City.

Coachella East

Coachella is a music festival not far from Palm Springs, CA. It has bands of all kinds. In April, Coachella Facebook statuses/pictures dominate my daily feed. Flying to California from New York is very expensive. In the City, we have our own special festival sans the bands. The Frieze art festival is a magical event, which happens once a year. It’s on Randall’s Island, (in between Queens & Manhattan) which has a baseball field & plenty of lush green land.

Krista invited me to go with her. We met up and rode a magical boat to the site. “This is like Coachella east,” said Krista. While giggling at her comments, I looked up and yes indeed it felt like Coachella (just from the boat ride). There were the obvious subcultures, hipsters, trendy old people & hippie types.

In the grand tradition of New York, artsy types there were plenty of folks in all black, blazers & big glasses. The boat ride provided us with spectacular views of the City. From the high rises of Sutton place to the curiosity of Roosevelt Island, the boat ride showcased the diverse landscape of the concrete jungle.

As the boat docked, tents dominated the typically remote terrain of Randall’s Island. Entering the tent was like dying and falling into a world of endless eye stimulation. Every type of art from pop to avant-garde & the obscene to traditional were well represented. As I walked from gallery to gallery, my artistic senses were alive. I felt inspired by the level of creativity, as did Krista. It really made me want to take up painting & sketching again.

After a day of feeling artsy, we gathered up in a school bus with the rest of the social outcasts and art enthusiasts. The bus dropped us off on Fifth Avenue across from the Guggenheim. It hit me. The folks, who live in glorious apartments along Fifth Avenue, traditionally collect the art viewed at festivals like Frieze. The rest of us visit museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art & The New Museum for our art fix.

Quack Says Duck

New York weather is radical like Sylvia Plath, Jackson Pollack & Joan Crawford at a dinner party. What could be the most beautiful day; eventually ends becoming a humidity induced rain shower, followed by a rainbow, but more rain. On one of those quintessentially humid (& seemingly rainy) New York afternoons, I waited for Tony outside the Plaza hotel.

The forecast called for rain showers. In my own grand tradition, I left my umbrella on the subway. As I waited for Tony to arrive from Queens, I was praying to the weather gods. Please weather Gods don’t rain on my parade. Naturally if Barbara Streisand landed from the heavens and started singing “Don’t rain on my parade,” I’d be ok with that. Tony showed up with a surprise.

“Here, it’s going to be raining.” He handed me an umbrella. Unlike the generic umbrella bought at the local bodega, this umbrella was bursting with character.

The handle had the face of a duck. I smiled and proclaimed, “Oh my it’s a ducky umbrella.” Though, the rain didn’t appear that day, we had a wonderful day at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art). While admiring all the avant-garde gems at the New York legend, I was most excited about the umbrella. While an hour previously, I had fear torrential rain with my new cute umbrella, I longed for it.

Ducky (as I lovingly named my umbrella) & I wandered the streets of Manhattan together. He kept semi-dry and refreshed in the most intense of storms. One day, my life changed.

I took Ducky to my favorite deli in Midtown. It’s where I go before work to enjoy a bagel & coffee. The forecast called for severe thunderstorms, but the morning was bursting with sunshine. I took Ducky out anyways. Hours after leaving the deli, I forgot Ducky. “Oh no, my quack is missing.”

However, the weather was still sunny and gorgeous, till I left the office. As I got on the subway to meet a friend for coffee, it looked like rain was on its way. I thought, Ducky was gone for good, no need to check the deli. As I exited the 6 train at 23rd street, the skies over Manhattan were dark and haunting. While, I sat with Jenny over coffee, a major thunderstorm hit. No umbrella in sight.

While walking down a rain soaked Broadway, I stepped into a Duane Reade & bought a new umbrella. “$11 bucks for an umbrella?” that’s not right, I told the cashier. She didn’t really care & I bought a very boring umbrella to keep dry.

As I walked toward the West Village for supper, the umbrella wouldn’t open all the way, leaving me partially soaked. Walking past the perfectly adorned brownstone residences, I proclaimed “Ducky, I miss you.”

As time went on, I returned to my deli. There in a shelf close to the cashier was Ducky. He was safe & sound. I almost kissed his beak, until I wondered where that beak had been.

From then on, Ducky & I enjoyed our rainy days together. We loved walking from the East Village to the West Village with rain pouring & fashion by David Bowie playing on the iPod. What can I say? We’re always going to be New York boys.

Arty Farty

“What do you want to do, when you grow up?” was a question, I was asked often as a kid. My answer was simple ” I want to be a writer in New York.” Often, I would get a sarcastic grin and have the same annoying question, “Why, would a nice boy like you want to live in dirty old New York?” Feeling a great sense of confidence, I smartly replied “Cause the suburbs are stupid. I hate clean & detest conformity.”  Even at the tender age of thirteen, I knew my ideal life path.

As I sit at the New York public library contemplating my big plan, my dreams are becoming a reality. When I finished my copywriting portfolio and moved back to the city from California, a strong feeling accomplishment accompanied me. Although, my portfolio was done, I had to make the hard copy look like a charming collection of paintings at MOMA. Therefore, I went to the arts supply to buy the binder and necessary material to make this arty vision, a reality.

The art supply shop was an unexpectedly delightful journey. The blank sketch books, paint brushes, kitschy notepads, art magazines and sea of other creative types running around with their portfolio binders made me feel right at home.

However, my artistic utopia was tested. As I glanced into the hard copy of my ads, there was white lining at all ends. In order for it to blend into the black portfolio page background, the white needed to be cut out. Fear raced across my right brain. “What if I make a mistake?” “What if I cut too deep and leave the edges uneven?” What if I accidentally cut through the middle?”

Then it hit me “if I am going to be creative, I need to take risks.” Creative life like the real world isn’t always cut in a perfect straight line. Sometimes, a little unevenness makes life more interesting. So, I started the snipping process, which was nerve wracking. Surprise, I did cut one end of an ad unevenly.

Utilizing a little scissor magic, I quickly fixed it. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it survived. From then on, I lost fear and became universally creative in the most intense situation.

My Life As A Broadway Musical

My inner campy boy just wanted to revel in Broadway musicals. However, my more jaded side fell out of love with them. Mr. Campy pants persisted, tugging at my pea coat begging to play.

For years, I proudly proclaimed, ” I don’t like show tunes.” During my lunch breaks in Times Square, I would walk around unfazed by the extravagant advertisements for the hottest Broadway shows. It made me the gay Scrooge of Times Square. “Bah humbug,” I proudly proclaimed, while passing the theatre marquis. It was a far cry from my youth.

As a teenager, show tunes were a campy escape from my conservative Catholic school upbringing. I secretly daydreamed of performing lavish Broadway numbers to adoring fans. In my head, I was the master of ceremonies from Cabaret, joined the cast of Rent and even tap danced in performance of Chicago.

When I didn’t tap dance and sign autographs for brain cells posing as fans, I eagerly bought tickets to every musical imaginable. One day, I simply lost interest and didn’t appreciate the art of a good show tune.

Then, my alter ego, Mr. Campy pants spoke to my heart. “You’re feeling down and stressed, remember your youth?” he said to me. ” Oh shit, I don’t wanna go there,” I replied. “C’mon, you know you wanna be the Patti Lupone of your brain’s Broadway stage.” he said while throwing Playbills in my face. “The key to happiness is through a song note.” I rolled my eyes “fine, here we go.”

I pulled out my iPhone and listened to the Cabaret music station on Pandora. Something spectacular jammed my brain. Songs from Anything goes, A Chorus Line, Avenue Q, West Side Story and even Phantom of the Opera emerged after years of being buried in the cemetery of quirky interests.

The whimsical show tunes brought me to a land long forgotten about. Sitting in the balcony of a New York theatre, while eagerly anticipating the first musical number. Standing in line for Cats. It even brought me back to that theatre in Madrid, where I watched Cabaret performed entirely in Castilian. Therefore, the music lifted me from a state of perpetual back to a happier time in life.

After a journey into show tunes land, Mr. Campy pants and I felt satisfied. The adventure even tickled my creative senses. It made me think about my life as a musical.

The set would have the Manhattan skyline one side and rugged mountains on the other side signifying my life in New York & California. There would be dancing copy machines, flight attendants and coffee cups.” Oy, I got dumped,” ” I’m nervous, somebody get me coffee,” & ” the Catholic school waltz” would be featured on the soundtrack.

Show tunes has delighted audiences for years. Thanks to Mr. Campy pants for getting me back to a happy place. Today, I have a renewed love of all things Broadway.

Lower East Side

The New Museum is sandwiched between two very gritty buildings on the Bowery. It’s a modern white building housed in the epitome of old New York, the Lower East Side. The downtown neighborhood is also one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city.

Regardless of the hipsters and yuppies giving it a less than edgy vibe, I still love the Lower East Side. Old tenement buildings; bars, cafes, coffee shops and social hotch potch of residents make up the neighborhood’s character. It’s also home to Katz’s, which has the best pastrami sandwiches and The Sunshine Cinema where I loved to watch indie films.

As I walked through, the Bowery listening to Florence and the Machine, I decided to finally make the voyage to the New Museum. When I arrived, they told me to visit the top floor observation deck. Views of the city still excite me.

My most touristy outing I ever had in New York was going to the top of the Empire State Building. I was sixteen at the time and thought it was beyond cool. When I actually lived in the city, going to the top of the Empire State Building never interested me. I labeled it a tourist activity.

Instead, I would partake in the most quintessential of New York activities, admiring the city from the top of a rooftop. Being on a rooftop of an apartment building says, ” Hey you made it.” I have fond memories of having parties on Lower East Side rooftops, while rain clouds threatened my the sunny disposition. I’ve also been locked out of a rooftop, which was nerve wracking. Looking back, it was glorious.

I took the elevator to the top floor of the museum and stepped into the observation deck. I roamed around taking pictures. To one side there were the red brick co-op buildings of the Lower East Side, the Williamsburg Bridge and the projects, while the Financial District was on the other side. The Village and with the buildings of Midtown towered ahead. It gave me a deep feeling of serenity in the high-strung wonderland.

While standing there in the town, which inspired so much of my creativity, an epiphany struck me. I need to move back to New York. As of recent, I’ve been calling California home again. Personally, I never found the outdoorsy and car centric culture of Southern California appealing. It served me well. However, when I left New York, my heart stayed in the city. Therefore, my goal became shinier than the holiday lights of Grand Central Station. It was time to work hard and move back.

I had a wonderful time at the New Museum, observing modern art and staying cultured. Staring at the Manhattan from the museum observation deck was more than inspirational. It reiterated that New York is where I belong.

Square Shaped Brain

Conformity ran rampant in my Catholic school upbringing. Even in art, my teachers were against any notion of self-expression. In eighth grade, I was given an assignment to draw the Flat Iron Building using pastels. Vigorously, I plugged away capturing every aspect of the legendary New York icon.

However, my teacher hated my approach to drawing. Skeletor, as I like to call her insisted that the picture did not look like an exact replica of the Flat Iron. I argued, that it was my artistic interpretation. She made me change the picture, but I revolted, resulting in a low art grade.

Although, my parents were conservative, they loved my rebellious nature at times. When I brought home, my Flat Iron building picture. My mom took one look at it and said, “your bitch teacher doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” The next day, my dad bought a frame for it and displayed my work of art in their bedroom.

Growing into adulthood, everything I was taught about art was wrong sans the biographies of famous painters. I was fortunate enough to have visited many museums around the world from Paris’ Musee Orsay to Roppongi Hills’ Mori Art gallery center in Tokyo. It opened my eyes to the notion/cliché that art is really in the eye of the beholder. No museum better exemplifies this than the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

MOMA (as it’s often referred to) is one of my favorite slices of Midtown. I wander each level with sense of curiosity. The most recent exhibits have challenged what I was taught in school.

A crumbled map, toy collections from Russia and the set of Peewee’s Playhouse were being examined like a grand Vincent Van Gough painting. Even the surrealism of Salvador Dali would take art enthusiasts time to translate the meaning.

It harkened me back to the days were my modest art was persecuted by the institution. I thought to myself  “if a crumpled up map and pictures of trailer park constitutes art, then my Flat Iron drawing can fall in the same category.”

After rebelling against my very conservative Catholic school, I found myself fighting to express myself both socially and creatively. Although, I was told that my expression was wrong, it never detoured me from mastering the art of breaking the rules. I loved every moment.

Dirty Filthy Art

Studio 54, CBGB, seedy 42nd street, burned down buildings, disco, punk, Andy Warhol and the emergence of hip-hop all characterize New York’s past. The city’s gritty past has always fascinated. My mom told me stories of visiting the city in the 70’s.

She told me of seeing freaky people on the subway, burnt cars lining the streets of the South Bronx and the smell of garbage rotting. Instead of turning me off from New York, she managed to develop my fascination with the city.

The New York, I called home was very different from the decadent decay of the 70’s. Cupcake shops, a slew of Marc Jacobs shops and family friendly Times Square were more of a main stay. Therefore, I always looked for New York’s edge. One ghost of Manhattan past, which is still around is graffiti art.

When I walk anywhere from Nolita to the East Village, I keep my eyes open to graffiti. Nowadays, there’s less edgy graffiti. There is almost mural art, which randomly shows up in buildings from the Bowery to Layfette Street. It marks today’s interpretation of graffiti art.

Authentic graffiti art often shows up in the doors of tenement buildings in the Lower East Side. I never really understand the writing, but the flamboyant letter fonts and sketching represent urban edge in the midst of gentrification. The most fun and unexpected place to see graffiti art is in bathrooms.

At bars and coffee shops, which line Ludlow Street, the bathrooms feature art on the walls. It is both an obscenity for the eyes (i.e. lots of penis drawings) and magical art. I sometimes, take longer in the bathroom just to observe art on the wall. It’s my own private modern art museum without the high-ticket prices.

New York has less graffiti these days. Recently, the New Museum had a display of an apartment door covered in art by the most famous street artist, Keith Haring. It displayed a time when the city was low on cash, but rich in experimental art. However, mainstream New York gets, it still lures the creative types. Although gentrification maybe here to stay, the city still is an exciting place to live. It also retains an appreciation for thinking outside the box.

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