Madonna on a T-Shirt

“I feel like I just took a bath, a bath in my own sweat, ” said I. Welcome to summer New York. It’s that riveting time of year, when the garbage gets stinker, rich people flock to the Hamptons and shirtless men jog along the Hudson River.

While most New Yorkers hate the slushy sidewalks of winter, I find my greatest inspiration in a snow -covered city. Though the weather may not be as delightful as an autumn walk in Riverside Park, I still open myself to the inspiration around me.

That’s right the inspiration was all around me. Unfortunately, writer’s block had captured my brain cells. I cried a bit.

As I struggled in literary purgatory, I wondered, if my creative streak done was done with. I stared into the blank page of death. In the grand tradition of logical Manhattanite, I brought my problems to that most treasured of New York characters, the Upper West Side therapist.

“I feel a certain amount of guilt lately. I don’t know if it stems from too many of years of Catholic school, but I am around all this inspiration and can’t write for shit,” I told her. She shook her head and glared up from her decorative journal.

“It’s ok to not feel inspired, but I do have something for you,” she said. I looked on with great curiosity. She pulled out a very mysterious little cloth bag. As she handed it to me, I looked in puzzlement.

“Those are Guatemalan worry dolls. You tell them your worries and place them under your pillow at night. At night you wake up and your troubles will diminish,” she said with an honest smile. I shook my head and thought, these are stick figures made from real sticks and adorned with yarn, but if she says so, I’ll place them under my pillow, “I said to myself.

As predicted, I told the stick figures my troubles and placed them under my pillow. To my surprise, writer’s block didn’t go away, but it made for a good laugh.

The odyssey out of writer’s block land continued. I sat out in coffee shops in the East Village, took field trips to Brooklyn and wandered Harlem, but alas writer’s block became a chronic condition.

Unexpectedly, I ended up on Fifth Avenue in the 50s. I waited to meet up with a friend. The humidity levels blanketed Midtown’s glamorous office towers. I craved the artificial chill of a chain store on a summer’s day.

I headed to Uniqlo. I was wow-ed by (of all things) the t-shirt collection. The t-shirts were a bit of artwork. There were artist interpretations of London’s Big Ben & Paris’s Arc de Triomphe. However, I was most delighted by the musician’s collection.

As a Madonna fan, I loved the t-shirts featuring the queen of Pop. In the middle of t-shirt land, the walls of writer’s block crumbled. “I found my inspiration, a story about t-shirts,” said. Although, I hadn’t worn t-shirts in years (button downs and polos are more of my style), they were a significant part of my life as teenage fashionista; it was an integral part of my identity. A story was born. The paragraph started like this:

Growing up, I would take trips my favorite clothing shop.  I would pick out very decorative t-shirts. I adored the art work the most. They represented my love of travel, newspapers, New York and status as a teenage reject.

After my trip to Uniqlo, I quickly put my fingers to a keyboard and wrote my t-shirt story.  My battle against writer’s block ended at that moment. The blank page had been adorned with words about my adolescence. I once again felt like a well-inspired and fun loving writer. I stared at the Guatemalan worry dolls and proclaimed, “Hey you guys tried your best.” Then I turned off the lights and fell into a world of imagination.

 

Celebrity

I don’t own a T.V. (love it, but doesn’t fit in my budget), but my father does. I take up surfing every time I visit him, channel surfing that is. There are the reality TV shows on Bravo, endless hours of CNN and my favorite, IFC’s Portlandia.

When chimes 2 AM, the endless vodka sipping and Botox injecting reality world of Bravo fades. In it’s place, appears the grand dame of late night T.V., the infomercial. It dominates practically every channel. However, in the midst of potato slicers and pimple creams shines a rainbow.

That rainbow comes in the form of QVC & the Home Shopping Network. It’s always on and features a star-studded cast of characters. From Suzanne Somers to Joan Rivers, everyone has a fashion line. Why buy a pair silk pajamas at Target? You can always buy a via QVC. There’s also the possibly to chitchat with Suzanne Somers on how marvelous those pajamas fit.

Speaking of marvelous, that word dazzled me. I wanted to design something too. However, I didn’t go to fashion school. I harkened back to my childhood.

My great-aunt always knitted. She would watch the Price is Right (game show), while sewing together everyone’s Christmas presents. Mittens, socks and fashionable hats were her specialty. Even in the midst of retirement boredom, she always found excitement in her knitting.

“By George, I will take up knitting, said I. Coincidentally, my friend Rachel had been knitting up a couture empire. She kindly invited me to a dinner party/let’s teach Anthony how to knit party. On a pleasantly cold New York evening, I went from the 14th Street subway to the ever-thrilling M14 bus. While heading cross-town, I was delighted to take on a new hobby.

When I reached Rachel’s apartment in Stuy Town, the smell of roast chicken was like sweet perfume for the soul. I enjoyed a few glasses of wine. After an amazing dinner, the knitting lesson started.

She showed me how to stretch the yarn, and then stick the needle through. I giggled a bit. The needles mirrored chopsticks. If I could eat with chopsticks, this would be quite easy.

I tried it out and the yarn wouldn’t budge. She showed me once again how to properly stretch the yarn and commence with the knitting process, but no luck.

I wasn’t quite getting it. Regardless, I could envision myself with a homemade scarf, strolling around the East Village. I gave it another shot. The yarn wasn’t budging.

Then, I realized is my brain not functioning from the glasses of wine and big dinner? I think so, said I. After another shot, we called it a night. Even though I didn’t quite getting knitting the first time, there was no giving up.

Knitting a scarf remains my goal for the year. Even though, I didn’t quite get it the first time and maybe not even the second time, I will be triumphant. Like the folks on QVC, I look forward to saying marvelous a whole lot, once my homemade fashion accessories are born.

Buddy Holly

“ I like your style, but you need to wear more color,” said my father, a marine.  When I hit thirty, I grew into one of those New York boys, who didn’t have an inch of bright color in their closet. Therefore, I wanted to liven up my wardrobe without sacrificing my sense of style.

A funky and colorful edge arrived, in the most unexpected of places. A fashion designer friend of mine gifted me a pair of glasses. These weren’t ordinary hipster glasses. Instead, they were loud and featured a tortoise shell pattern, which I lovingly dubbed the Buddy Holly glasses (with a twist, naturally). I instantly fell in love with the style. However, I didn’t actually wear my decorative for a while.

One faithful day, Anna and I wandered around Harlem. With the grey autumn skies, cinematic apartment blocks with stoops, enchanting hills and icy breezes, we knew to capture our special day on camera. I had a quick scavenger hunt in my tote bag and found the Buddy Holly glasses. Afterwards, I placed them on, Anna loved the look and as did I.

On a stoop, I took a photo of myself wearing the cool glasses. This would be my new signature look. We then headed to lunch and I found myself part of a new subculture, where eyeglasses ruled the land. I felt funky and a bit more creative, just by wearing the new accessory.

The unique design made me into a museum piece. On the subway, onlookers would study the design and symmetry of the glasses. It was something I never quite experienced, since I always remain under the radar. It proved, that being ham in life can quite fun.

From that day on, I wore my glasses everywhere. It amazed me how a simple accessory could liven up my wardrobe. Therefore, I didn’t even need to wear bright colors in order to change up my look. 

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.

Jack-o-lanterns And Lattes

“I just wanna jump in a big pile of leaves and snow,” said I. In the intense oven-like heat, I felt more like a roasted chicken than a smiling polar bear. However, the loving memories of fall brought a sentimental tear to my eye.

In New York, fall isn’t simply about golden and orange leaves. It represents “coming out of the closet.” The coming out ceremony, involves my sweater and cardigan collection. After months of hibernating, the couture was ready to hit the fashion forward sidewalks.

Stepping out of my modest Manhattan apartment and feeling that crisp cold air was inspiring. Not only was it ideal outside, but also the fashion was better. From the concrete to the subway, everyone was dressed in their fall best. However, I still needed that special something to really represent the change of season.

“Pumpkin spice lattes are back,” proclaimed a friend. As, I nearly fell out of my chair in glee; a tear fell from my cheek. After finding out about the pumpkin spice comeback, I quickly joined the caffeinated bandwagon.

I made the trek to Starbucks and took the first sip. It was quite sweet, sickeningly sweet and I loved it. At the moment, fall had officially arrived. Goodbye humidity, hello Halloween and Thanksgiving madness.

Film School Nerd

Every great civilization and individual, experiences the dreadful dark ages. From this time of recession, a renissance of art & self-expression is typically cultivated. In the dark ages, otherwise known as high school, I underwent my own time of recession.

On a simply gorgeous spring day, my mom uttered the words, which would change my life. “You’re grounded. I saw your report card. Are you daydreaming too much again?” I shook my head. “No.” In actuality, I was jet setting into the land of daydreams, where fashion, interesting people and cappuccinos ran wild.

“No TV, no movies and absolutely no music,” said mom. My eyes grew wide open with fear. What’s my life without a riveting CD collection to keep my right brain in creative/arty mod? I read books, which luckily were not banned. However, I had to find a way to keep my stimulation away from Bermuda Triangle of boredom.

In the common world of American high-school students, I grew up in a cluster of track homes. I took my walks after school along an undeveloped land. It was a little hostess cupcake of nature, until I stared to the left of me. Freeways and more track homes reminded me, ” oh yes, I really do live in suburbia, tear, tear.” As the dust flowed into skies of grey, I decided to say  “Fuck it, I am going to write a movie.”

Not yet acclimated to lap tops, my father took me to the drug store. I bought a pair of inexpensive notebooks and a few magazines. Turning the dull notebooks into a lively piece of art, I cut out high fashion advertisements from the magazines. I then started working on my screenplay.

“Breakfast in New York, Lunch in London, Dinner in Tokyo,” was the title. It was a witty romantic comedy about a journalist doing a story on a jet setting Central Park West socialite. Act I was the typical “boy meets girl” fare. I plugged away with my pen, turning the white bland pages into a world filled with glamour and wit.

While suburban surroundings left me with a lack of stimuli, I turned to my characters’ lives for escapism. There were escapades in Madrid, polo matches in England. Quickly, my characters arrived in ACT II. The story progressed in Paris. In a most cliché manner, the journalist and socialite fell in love with the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower bursting into romance.

By act III, the story hit a less than fabulous speed bump. While digging through my backpack, I noticed act I went missing. It was nothing, but a silly notebook. However, as I writer it was though a body organ had gone into oblivion. I cried and realized the emotional connection I had with my work.

The next morning, I bravely asked my Spanish professor if I had left my notebook in class. He nodded “yes.” Fireworks exploded from my head in joyful glee. By the look on his face, I could tell he didn’t approve of the Versace ad adorning the cover, which made me feel very, very hip. The saga of “Breakfast in New York, Lunch in London, Dinner in Tokyo” commenced.

Act III took place in Tokyo, where the journalist loses the socialite’s love. He regains and they live happily ever after. At the end, they both ride camels into the sunset with a backdrop of Egyptian pyramids. After writing an entire 3 act film in long hand, I considered my fete, a huge accomplishment. I thought it was a film that could be made and change the world, even though it was formulaic romantic comedy.

Eventually, I was let go from being grounded. The whole screenwriting experience led me to film school, where I received a BA in film. I didn’t grow up to be the next Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson or Sophia Coppola. Instead, I found my calling in advertising.

Today, I work in the creative department of an advertising firm, with the goal of becoming a copywriter. I live in my own New York City apartment and enjoy the very stimulating environment. While my teachers and mom complained about my daydreaming, as I grew into a writer, I realized it’s called “being creative.”

Cherry Blossom Boy

“Oy, I am schvitzing!” said I, while walking home on a random Tuesday night. New York magically transformed itself from Antarctica sans the penguins into a sunny paradise with a Margarita or two (or three).

The heat penetrated through my buttoned up shirt. Oddly enough, there was a charm to the change in temperature. The gritty city was beaming like a ballerina on stage at Lincoln Center.

However, as the journey to my apartment commenced, it hit me. “Oh no, winter is over.” My cardigans and sweaters will go back in the closet (unlike their owner) and hibernate till late fall. Nothing quite compared to strolling the West Village & East Village in my fall/winter wardrobe. Tears flowed down my cynical cheeks.

I finally arrived in my apartment and stared out the window. The sky was simply cinematic and devoid of cotton balls. At that moment, I realized it was time to embrace change. Rather than turning on my window unit, I walked out of my apartment building and enjoyed the early evening.

I took my nightly crosstown walk to the West Village. Although the sidewalks had awoken from winter’s slumber, I still missed the cold dearly.  Then I ventured into Washington Square Park madness, which captured my attention.

There were Skateboarders, street musicians & banjos vs. drums competing for the undying attention of my eardrum. Sword fights with glow sticks turned the park into a rave meets Star Wars film set.

I sat on a park bench and celebrated the dose of massive stimuli. If heat brought about all this fun, then I would fancy more spring weather. As I wandered more, the city truly morphed itself into a giant block party.

The next day, I woke up to more enchanting blue skies. I excitedly stepped out in a light sweater, only to run back upstairs and put a pea coat on. Spring only came for a day and went back into hibernation. Winter winds would dominate the weather trends in New York for weeks to come.

A few weeks later, spring arrived again and I embraced the comeback. Cherry blossoms colored the sidewalk with impressionist inspiration. Cafe tables spilled into the sidewalks invoking a bustling cafe culture from the East Village to Hell’s Kitchen & beyond. I went back to weekend morning walks along the Hudson.

Unibrow Diaries

Frida Kahlo is one of my favorite painters. Seeing her work takes me away into a dark & treacherous place, which I rather enjoy. The only similarity, I have with the revered Mexican painter is the eyebrow. Naturally, I do mean one eyebrow.

Growing up, I had one funky looking eyebrow. Everyone used to tease my unibrow. It made me look sinister and as far from the handsome man  I could be. My mother always discouraged me from plucking my eyebrows. She plucked them off and it left her longing for full beautiful eye brows.

However, I decided to take the plunge one day. I was curious to see what it looked and felt like to have two eyebrows. Strategically, I started plucking. Pain didn’t equate beauty. Therefore, I took a more dramatic approach. I took my electric shaver and went down the middle. There it was my face with two eyebrows staring back.

Since I didn’t get them professionally trimmed, the eyebrows were uneven. Then my mother noticed the difference, while everyone fancied the new look. She wanted me to look like Frida Kahlo and complained that it was a simply awful idea. From then on, I had two very bushy brows and lost my sinister looking man title.

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.

Preppy Couture

Lincoln Center is New York’s high culture nerve. However, twice a year, celebrities, fashionistas, photographers, socialites and journalists turn the Manhattan legend upside down for fashion week.

The ballet and opera take a back seat for thumping rhythms of tribal, rock and even hip-hop music. Models strut the runway with the styles, which not only influences New York, but the world.

However, I’ve never been to fashion week, only read about it via the New York Times style section. Whether, I’m shopping for groceries or going to a museum, creating my own style is fundamental to my character.

I love strolling, the plaid friendly streets of the Lower East Side & East Village, in a tie and cardigan. Bringing a bit of Uptown preppy is always a delight in even the most trendy of neighborhoods.

I thought so one-day “”Is one fashion item too preppy?”  In New York’s unpredictable weather, I tried something daring. While strolling on the Upper West Side wearing my usual cardigan get up, I felt quite warm. I took off my cardigan, but didn’t know where to place it. I always thought that the sweater/cardigan over the shoulder look was too preppy. With muggy weather looming, I took a risk.

I put the cardigan over my shoulder and tied it up. Then realized that I was walking along 66th & Broadway where preppy is perfectly accepted. I looked at my reflection at a shop window and thought “ok, I avoided this look for a long time, but it’s actually quite charming.”

In the shadow of fashion week’s home (Lincoln Center), I created a new style for myself. I looked like the world’s most preppy boy, but loved every minute of it. Soon, I wore the style more often.

Fashion is about taking risks & also embracing traditional looks. Though, I’m not the edgiest dresser, I certainly found my own style on the sidewalks of New York.

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