The Witty Wordsmith

New York, late winter, the sky is an intense shade of grey. The trees remained bare of any lively bright leaves. In the midst of the eerie grey, a remarkable bit of sunshine played peek-a-boo behind a rainy cloud.

On such an idyllic winter’s day, I set off on foot for St. Nicholas Park in Harlem. It’s a most wonderful park, which fades into hilly fields of green. Regardless of the cold, I’ve always adored sitting on a park bench and reading a good book. Quality time with a book is my ideal form of therapy. I fade into a character’s shoes and forget any of the day troubles.

On one riveting expedition, I sought a most wonderful park bench. As, I picked a perfect little spot for literary madness, the cold winds penetrated through my layers, and pea coat.

For once in my life, I shivered. The goose bumps on my arm grew more sensitive. At that point, I had to look elsewhere for a romantic date with my used book from the Strand bookstore.

I wandered through Harlem’s Hamilton’s Heights neighborhood. It’s the perfect backdrop for any quirky film (Wes Anderson’s Royal Tenenbaums was filmed there). The brownstones are eccentric yet sophisticated characters in their own right.

The hills have provided an escape from the quintessentially Manhattan painting. Bay windows, dramatic stoops and old world charm could inspire poets, painters and playwrights of life to create a proper work of art.

While heading up the hill toward Broadway, I was craving a hot chocolate from the Chipped Cup (my favorite coffee shop, uptown). On that pleasantly quiet Sunday, everyone had the same idea.

The quaint coffee shop was filled with patrons. I was disappointed, since I just wanted was to read a good book. So, I headed back down to 145 street.

To my disappointed, Dunkin Donuts was also filled to the brim with people. I didn’t want to go back to my apartment, since I was really craving a coffee shop. Instead of giving up hope, I took an unexpected turn.

The Eighth avenue subway provided the ears with a classic sound, which only a raspy record player could rival. I found my reading spot, a seat on the subway platform. Even though, the subway has many distractions, I’ve always found it an easy place to concentrate on a book there.

When the A train arrived, I boarded it merrily. I even found a seat. However, distraction found me. “Why don’t you put a chip in me, so you know where I am at all times, said a girlfriend to an equally angry boyfriend. They fought. They whole train watched. Trying to hold back laughter, I tried very hard to not loose concentration on my book.

The arguing heightened into theatrical satire. “Fuck it, I can’t think with this racket going on. At least, there aren’t break-dancers on this train, ” said I. “Showtime,” yelled a boy with a boom box.” Break-dancers with a giant boom box appeared from the blue to everyone’s annoyance.

My eyes didn’t leave my book. Anyhow, my brain was completely distracted. I made it to West 4th Street. Randomly, I decided a cannoli would be amazing.

So, I boarded the F train to Second Avenue and ended up in the East Village. I headed up First Avenue and into the old world charm of Veniero’s (legendary dessert restaurant in the East Village). I ordered a cannoli and opted for a cappuccino rather than a hot chocolate.

I took out my book and found a swell place to concentrate. It only took a long walk, two trains and another somewhat long walk to find my literary Zen. Regardless, my literary Zen was a whole lot better with a delicious cannoli accompanying it.

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.

The Gay Boy’s Birthday

What do you get a gay boy for his birthday? For those in the know, it’s easy. Something glittery (we like sparkly things), anything Madonna oriented (please hold the swept away DVD) and a gift certificate for Bloomingdales.

I’ve had many memorable birthday parties. During elementary school, my mom would show up to the class with pizza and cupcakes. Everyone sang me Happy Birthday as my cheeks turned bright red. My parents would then take me to the local mall to buy action figures.

As a teenager, birthdays were equally memorable. While I was living in Riverside, CA, my friend Elizabeth picked me up from school. It was a grey autumn afternoon, but her brightly colored present lit up the horizon with pink and electric blue. The new Madonna CD, I couldn’t have been more delighted. My mom banned Madonna’s music from the house.

However, when she was out n’ about, I would listen to her music. Not only, did Elizabeth buy me a CD by my favorite singer, she also invited me to Simple Simon’s. It’s a sandwich shop in Downtown Riverside, which is one of the finest in the country (in my humble opinion).

My most memorable birthday as twenty-something happened one rainy Manhattan day. I decided to have a field trip in my favorite New York neighborhoods. It started with an early morning stroll in Nolita, followed by a cappuccino, independent bookstore madness and more java via the Village coffee house culture.

During that time, I worked in politics. So on one of our breaks from campaigning, my co-worker invited me to coffee and a vegan chocolate cake in the East Village. I still remember how delicious it tasted, even though the vegan title scares me just a bit.

Feeling stuffed on cake and an endless supply of coffee, I returned to our office on 40th and Sixth Avenue. “Surprise!” everyone yelled. They brought out a gorgeous chocolate cake (not vegan this time) from a bakery on the Upper West Side.

There we were enjoying cake and having excellent conversations, when one of my co-workers suggested a daring idea. “Anthony, you need to stuff your face into the cake and take a picture.” I really loved my outfit that day, so I politely declined. Then everyone chimed in ” c’mon!” I caved in and lightly covered my face in chocolate cake.

” That doesn’t count,” they yelled. I looked nervously at the cake. It never dawned on me that chocolate cake could give me a bit of anxiety. Motivation promptly arrived. Somebody yelled “Anthony just pretend it’s a man.”

Mission accomplished, I smashed that chocolate cake in my face. My co-worker was kind enough to take a picture and send it to my dad. He text messaged me and said, ” tell your friends thank you for the birthday cake.” The outfit survived.

Later that night, we all hit a gay karaoke bar. I sang Jay-Z. It was funny; I can’t free-style to save my life. Luckily, my martini got me through the performance. The gays gave me praise and even bought me a birthday drink.

Booze, cupcakes and wonderful friends have made my birthdays memorable. I haven’t had a lavish birthday with elephants and jet set trips to exotic destinations. However, being around my loved ones is the best present of all.

Big In Tokyo

A group of old men playing chess while the quintessential folky earth mama sings about same sex attraction. The sweet scent of espresso is brewing filling the house with delight. This is the nostalgic coffee shop experience.

It’s a refuge from the workday without the hangover of a glass of wine. The coffee shop is also known the pub alternative where blueberry muffins, kitschy novels and cappuccinos populate the nerve of intellectual and social activity.

My twenties were spent hanging out in coffee shops. I love the coziness and the high level of creative activity. I’ve spent time in virtually every coffee house in Downtown Manhattan. My favorites are the Cake Shop (in the Lower East Side), the Bean (East Village) and Jack’s (West Village).

When I travel internationally, I typically have my coffee at 4 pm. My fondest memories are enjoying a coffee with my dad in Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires while being immersed in the bohemian environment. While in Madrid, we drank cafe con leche (a latte) with little pastries. However, the most grand coffee shop experience is in Tokyo.

The three things, I love the most are looking at city views, people watching and (here’s a shocker) drinking abnormally large quantities of coffee. The Tokyo coffee house experience offers all three. My favorite places to grab a cup of Joe vary. Le Cafe Doutor in the Ginza district is fancy schmancy.

It’s located in the heart of the most moneyed high fashion slice of Tokyo. It overlooks the main crossing, which is surrounded by opulence. It’s designer shops, grand department stores and chichi cafes. The white chocolate latte is my vice there. I felt quite fancy sipping coffee there. That same day, I visited another coffee shop with a view, Starbucks in Shibuya Crossing.

Shibuya Crossing is the busiest place one could ever visit. It’s Times Square x 100. I’ve walked Shibuya Crossing many times. However, I never bumped into anybody. It’s amazing. I wish more cities would adopt diagonal crossing. The Starbucks there overlooks that very busy crossing.

I know I could get Starbucks here, but none have the view of the Shibuya Starbucks. It’s a similar experience to Le Cafe Doutor only the crowds are funky. It’s more street fashion as opposed to haute couture.  I felt like a bird perched on a tree watching the millions of people watching below. It was simply amazing and my excuse for having Starbucks in Japan.

Unlike most cities in the world, Tokyo can offer the best coffee house experience anywhere you go. In Japan, the vending machine is big. New York wired me to have no patience. Therefore, standing in line can be a rather frustrating experience.

In Tokyo, I never had to worry about waiting in line. I could purchase a hot coffee from the vending machine, pick up a pack of cigarettes (back when I was a smoker and also from the vending machine) and have a quintessentially stress free experience. Afterwards, I would wonder around the city, put on some folky tunes and indulge in my own private coffee shop anywhere from a park to frenetically paced Shinjuku.

I love the quintessential coffee shop experience. It’s the pub alternative, where I’ve done everything from written huge thesis papers to job-hunt online. In Tokyo, the vending machine is queen and is my to go form of coffee on the run. Nothing beats the Tokyo coffee shops with grand views will always be my favorite places in the city.

Corporate Coffee

I truly love the independent coffee house. Whether I am in the West Village or somewhere random like Riverside, supporting small businesses is very important to me. I also go to Starbucks (when they’re isn’t an indie coffee shop around). During the holidays most of my disposable income goes toward peppermint mochas served in those darling red cups.

When the holidays end, I nearly cry, since it’s the end of the peppermint mocha season. Starbucks is also a favorite place to meet men and go on the cliché, but always-delightful first date. One chilly January evening I met Mr. handsome Latin lover online. He looked great in his Internet photo (don’t we all).

I suggested we meet at one of the millions of Starbucks in the Upper West Side. He obliged. When I walked in, he charmed me instantly. Even when he complained about how corporate Starbucks was, I was mesmerized. Even nagging sounds sexier in a Spanish accent.

We hung out at his apartment, which had spectacular views of Manhattan and beyond. He ordered us Pho and then complained about how corporate the city was getting. Even though, he lived in the west 70’s and loved New York, we couldn’t have a conversation without him complaining about everything from the Time Warner Center to our many visits to Starbucks.

Although he had terrible taste in music and spent his leisure time mopping and dusting, we had a wonderful time. One Valentine’s day, we called off our dating. I didn’t know whether to do a cartwheel to celebrate or find a man to make out with, but I did have a Starbucks the size of my head the next day.

A couple months after we stopped dating, I spotted him at the Times Warner Center, browsing the book selection at Borders and drinking Seattle’s Best Coffee. He was caught. Mr. Anti-corporate really did hang out in non-independent establishments.

Too many chains have taken over not only New York, but also cities around the world. However, I do need an Apple store, Starbucks and Bloomingdales close by. Those are just necessities. However, I love the feeling of walking into vintage clothing stores, record shops selling vinyl, indie coffee shops and mom n’ pop restaurants, nothing beats it.

Dream Oddity

Close to me by the Cure blasts as I drive past fields of tulips, ponds with fog rolling gently and green colored hills. In this middle of this kingdom of tranquility and chirping crickets is a tiny shack. Although, it’s quite homely looking, the shack serves delicious coffee.

Inside the coffee shop is a handsome and charming man. However, I spend the whole time at the line trying to convince him to pay for my coffee. What? Why so cheap? He tries to charm me with his wit. However, jaded me isn’t buying it.

I go outside for an electronic cigarette. The shack has a vast field where men wearing tights are fighting with very large swords. William Shakespeare would adore the chivalry. As the men battle, my cardigans and khakis turn into an Elizabethan era fashion statement complete with tights.

This look may work in Hell’s Kitchen, but not for me. I want my khakis. The men doing battle are quite handsome. I forget the cheapo inside, revel in the fighting and sip my gourmet cappuccino. What ends up being a real life battle sequence is actually a magnificently staged Shakespearean play. A minute later the curtains go down and I wake up to my real twenty-something reality.

Dreams are like plays. You are either an audience member or an actor giving the grand monologue. Some dreams can be a very emotional and sometimes evolve into a dreadful experience. Other three act masterpieces leave one riveted and with a desire for the light drama to continue.

My Shakespearean style dream last night woke up my subconscious. It brought my love of theatre with male characters, whom I fell in love with at some point in my life. The toughest part was waking up and realizing that a bunch of men in tights were not fighting for my attention in the play of life, oh well. Here’s to more dreams with men, coffee and lots of beautiful geographical scenery.

Traffic Jam Of The Poetic Mind

Haiku, narrative, soliloquies make my heart pound with beautifully illustrated words. Poetry is therapy for the grid locked brain. This is a form of writing which is expressive and all around fun. Like most interesting experiences in life, I fell into poetry rather than seeking it out.

As a high school student, my mom grounded me for a month. Due to a bad report card, I could not watch TV or listen to music. Home became a four-wall hellhole. In order break free, I had to rely on my own creativity to substitute for cool tunes. During that time, we were studying poetry in school.

During my month confinement, I discovered the Harlem renaissance through Langston Hughes’ eloquent words. The Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman and Maya Angelou’s poetry opened up my senses like spicy Indian curry on a rainy London night. Not only, did I admire many poets I also wanted to write my own poetry.

Growing up in a very traditional American home, I had a curiosity about the world outside my own community. It inspired my poetry. I wrote about Paris, Cubism, cigarette smoking, the Mediterranean and even homoerotic thoughts. I kept all my poetry quietly hidden in a three whole notebook with a Versace advertisement as the cover.

My goal was to share my poetry. I went to my first open mic night in college. The poets were grand. It was in the basement of this old independent coffee house. In the middle of summer, it was a gathering place for humidity and intense heat along with free thinkers.

However, poetry served as an exodus for the uncomfortable conditions. The poets were very talented and even performed free-style rap and songs they wrote, which intensified the poetic experience.

They were a tough act to follow up, but I gave it a shot. I went up on stage and was schvitizing (sweating) under the bright spot light. The crowd had faded into the darkness.

The first couple seconds of my story of rhymes was intimidating, but then I warmed up to the idea and soon my confidence grew. I made it through my first poetry reading. The audience applauded as I whipped the sweat off my brow.

From then on I continued with poetry readings. The open mic stages of obscure basements felt as cozy as my modest New York apartment.

As I grew older, I also expanded my appreciation for poets, reading the works of Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath and Gertrude Stein. The four wall confinement I experienced as a youth brought a revival of creative thinking. Therefore bringing my mind from traffic jammed Fifth Avenue to a speedy Downtown 4 express train.

The Suitcase Diaries

Waking up in Tokyo, the spectacular Shinjuku skyline told me ” konishiwa” every morning. On my first trip to Tokyo, the Hotel New Otani was my temporary home. It even came equipped with the world famous Japanese toilets. They are the haute couture of toilet seats. It comes with every kind of function to make the bathroom experience, one you’d wanna write a postcard about.

The hotel was huge; it had all these fancy shops, restaurants & Tully’s coffee, where I enjoyed my honey lattes twice a day. There are those who say hotels aren’t important. For me, I don’t mind just a simple room with cable TV in a nice a part of town. It doesn’t have to be the lap of luxury. I’ve stayed at very simple affordable hotels around the world.

My Buenos Aires hotel, the Wilton was modest, but had a rooftop. I would climb to the top of the roof & sit on the ledge on grey days where the air was like steam from pea soup. I loved watching the traffic go by & the Baroque buildings in the distance, while the horns were the equivalent Mozart for my ears.

Then there were the less memorable hotels, in London I stayed at a budget hotel. The rooms made my old New York bedroom seem like a football stadium. I couldn’t move around without the entire hotel hearing every bit of noise symphony. The benefit was staying walking distance from Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens, where every London morning commenced.

Being abroad & living out of suitcase, means making my hotel room into a home is important. This is a concept I learned from my trip to Madrid. While I had a great time eating tapas, going to the Prado, seeing the Guernica (for the first time) & late nights in Chueca. I soon caught a terrible cold & stayed in bed for two days. It felt awful; luckily my dad was with me. He brought me sandwiches; plenty of (surprisingly tasty) cough medications & books from VIPS (Barnes & Nobles meets a cozy bistro).

However, I didn’t feel at home. I familiarized myself with Spanish TV, which remains a hoot. Be aware of it late night, the cheeky talk shows feature plenty of body parts, which scare gay boys. It was boring being at hotel in the middle of an exciting capital city.

Now when I travel, there’s always an iPod (for musical enjoyment at all hours), laptop, good books, magazines & snacks from Pringles to peanut M n’ M’s. This gives my hotel room a cozy feeling rather than feeling thousands of miles away from home.

I don’t really get homesick. Nothing beats walking out of my hotel in Paris & knowing that the art of the Mussee Orsay, macaroons, the metro, fresh espresso & grand cathedrals are at my very fingertips. In a perfect world, I would wiggle my nose and go anywhere from a Brazilian chrurrascaria to an experimental art show in Berlin (in a split second, of course).

Hotels are what you make of them. I’ve stayed at nice hotels in the middle of boredom, but have stayed at grease spoon hotels, which generated fun, since they were in vibrant cities. No matter where I go, living off a suitcase is something I want to do more of. I’m ready for the next life adventure.

Life In Subtitles

My mom’s alternative to taking big international trips was exposing me to foreign language cinema. Thursday nights were always a window to the world. We were living in Riverside, CA at the time & the legendary Fox theatre always showcased a foreign film series every Thursday.

Gone with the wind first premiered at the Fox in the late 30’s. It has history & looked utterly majestic. However, in the dead of summer, it was quite warm. The amazing films from France, Mexico & Italy made one forget about the heat, which felt just like the devil’s oven.

Going to the Fox wet my appetite for more foreign language cinema. Till this day, I’m huge fan of Pedro Almodovar’s quirky films. Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films are worth the lengthy period it takes to watch them. The French new wave movement with Paris showered in black & white cinematography also captures my fancy.

At fourteen, I kept a list of films I wanted to see. However, I just didn’t want to watch these films, but travel to the countries they were filmed in. Throughout my teenage & adult life, I traveled all over. I speak a bit of Spanish, which helped me greatly in Buenos Aires & Madrid.

Although, I read Spanish, better than I speak it (have a heavy American accent), I still managed to smile afterwards & pull it off. Here are some of my favorite phrases from my trips to Spain & Argentina.

“yo quiero una empanada, por favor” I want an empanada, please

“adonde esta la farmacia?” where is the pharmacy? (I caught an awful cold in Spain)

Here’s the most important phrase “adonde esta la cafeteria?” where is the coffee house?

I survived the obvious languages in both nations. In Buenos Aires, I even had a full conversation with the cab driver in Espanol regarding Argentinian cinema. Yes, it was more like Spanglish, but it worked.

However, there are those places in the world, where the language is completely foreign to me. Tokyo & Paris were two such places. I’ve watched many Japanese & French films. The subtitles were always there like a life vest in a sea of foreign languages.

My index finger helped especially while using the metro. Although Tokyo has signs in English & Japanese, there was the rare occasion where a station would have the entire map in Japanese. I felt lost in translation (just like the movie). I would ask someone next to me “Ginza station?” use my index finger to point to the map & they showed me exactly where to go.

In Paris, I did the same routine. Only, I learned a few key French terms (the very basic) before my trip to France. When I went anywhere from museums to shops, I simply smiled & said bonjour/bonsoir. Parisians were very respective to this. Good manners go a long way in Paris, like anywhere else in the world.

In Sydney & London, I heard all these phrases & words that weren’t very common in American English. On the streets of Sydney, “no worries” is still a very common phrase. I thought it sounded adorable. Of course, I had export it stateside. While British euphemisms like the loo, bloke, knickers & cutlery, I use on a rare occasion.

I haven’t lost my curiosity of the world. In fact, I’m not that different from the kid at the Fox theatre mesmerized by the subtitles on the screen. I still love travel & foreign films. Before, I started traveling, foreign films were my window to the world. It was a wonderful way to learn about culture.

So, I say watch “La Dolce Vita” & learn about the Italian glitterati in the 60s. Watch a Pedro Almodovar film & have an understanding of La Movida (Post Franco Spain where music, film, art & sex were all very liberated after being under a dictatorship). Luis Bunuel’s films are surrealist/artistic gems. He directed cinema in Spain, Mexico & France.

Jet setting the world commences at your couch or the movie house. No English to French/Japanese/Spanish dictionary required.

The East Village

The East Village is one of my favorite slices of the New York pizza pie. I love the history behind it. Knowing that everyone from authors Allen Ginsberg to William S. Burroughs walked its many architecturally distinctive streets amazes me. Although, it’s becoming gentrification central with its big fancy hotels, exorbitant rents & the presence of a certain large university, the neighborhood still has some of its characters & quirks.

On any given day one can see the Talking Heads front man David Byrne riding his bike on First Ave. Village Voice columnist Michael Musto hanging out with bevy of quirky fashionistas on Second Ave. Somewhere on Avenue A, Amanda Lepore (transvestite extradonaire) hides in a hoodie, while walking into an independent boutique.

It’s also my favorite place to grab a cup of coffee & people watch. One chilly December morning, I woke up at my apartment in Queens & desperately wanted a dirty chai latte. Only issue is the only place, which made them, was down in the East Village.

I also had my clothes in the cleaners & my jeans at the laundry mat. Anyone who knows me is aware that I love to dress up. I won’t walk out of my apartment unless my outfit is quite proper. Rare is the day; I’d go out in sweat pants or even a t-shirt.

However, the craving for that dirty chai latte persisted. I did the unthinkable & put on a pair of sweats, hoodie & disguised it all with a pea coat. While, it looked sunny outside, the weather was 20 degrees & my long johns were also at the laundry mat.

So, I took the N train into Midtown & switched trains at 59th & Lex. Feeling naked in sweats didn’t faze me. I was determined to get my coffee craving filled. Everyone looked fashion week cool on the 6 train downtown to Astor Place.

When I walked out of that subway into the chilly East Village air, I had never been colder. However, I pressed on. The funky 1/2 off sushi restaurants, pizzerias & kabob shops of Saint Mark’s Place distracted me from the obvious fashion faux paux & cold weather. Even though I was shivering, the city felt magical.

I reached First Avenue & walked into the coffee house. Seeing the dirty chai latte on the menu was like seeing the Sistine Chapel for the first time. I had to come from a bit of ways to have this amazing experience & it felt euphoric.

I received my drink. However, the cigarette craving kicked in (back when I smoked). The blood in my legs was practically frozen over. Did I really want to smoke in the bitter cold? Cravings persisted & I went outside. Luckily the coffee house had an outdoor bench, ideal for people watching.

I drank my coffee & smoked a cigarette. Trying to play it cool in the freezing cold was a challenge. The dirty chai tasted amazing. I was like a car running on premium gasoline after that chai latte. I made my way back to Queens, one happy boy.

Walking in my sweats around the East Village was liberating. I felt naked, especially in fashion conscious Manhattan. However, the chai latte was well worth it. I love cold weather, but next time I won’t go out without my long knickers

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 444 other followers