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.

The Perkiest Boy In New York

Admiring the Flat Iron building from Madison Square Park. People watching at Union Square, hearing a jazz band turn the subway station into their own personal Carnegie Hall, discovering a quirky title at the independent bookstore and the anticipation of the unknown make New York exciting.

As the self-proclaimed perkiest boy in the city, I always find something to smile about. However, my move back to New York was quite a saga. Years ago, I traded the city for purgatory, Southern California. Although, I adored Palm Springs, Mexican food, driving through winding canyons (only when I had my motion sickness pills) and having my father close by, something was missing.

“Oh that’s right, I really left my heart in New York.” When I moved to California, I was in an expedition to find a career. Eventually, I ended up in advertising, then advertising school. I wanted to become a copywriter. My weekends were spent coming up with cleaver ad campaigns for my portfolio. I would go to Palm Springs on the weekend, grab a coffee and do fun homework.

As ad school winded down, I grew increasingly homesick (for you guessed it) for New York. I missed my friends, the food, snow, tall buildings, crowded subways, lots of high culture and all the diverse neighborhoods.

Suddenly my life turned into Star Wars. I would be Luke Skywalker and life could easily fit into the role of Darth Vader. Things were falling apart, but I had to battle through them. In the shadow of things falling apart, I was determined to finish my portfolio. I hired a talented art director/web designer to make magic. The first draft of the website was disastrous.

Not many things make me cry, but that did (tear, tear). After whipping away the rain from my cheeks, I took a piece of paper and drew out a dream website. Suddenly, my website went from an Ed Wood movie to a glorious Martin Scorsese film. With my website and portfolio finished, I was ready to hit the New York pavement.

Problem, I was still living in Southern California. I channeled my childhood companion, E.T. He wanted to phone home. I just wanted to be home with a bagel + coffee. Unlike ET, I couldn’t take a flying bicycle back to Manhattan. I applied to many jobs in the city from California and didn’t get anywhere.

Then one day, something daring happened. My dad cornered me. ” I think California is over. You need to move back to New York.” It was scary to think about going back without a job.

The next day, I went online. There was an inexpensive one-way plane ticket from Ontario (CA) to JFK. I booked the ticket and was ready to make the move back to New York.

I called my friend, Tony. “Hey Tony, I need to find a job in New York. Could I stay with you for a while?” He said, “You could stay as long as you want.” I told everyone, ” guess what? I am moving back to New York.” I printed out my portfolio and bought business cards. In order to save money, I placed all my clothes in a carry on (everything else was shipped). The night before moving back, I grew nervous.

“Oh my God, I am really moving back to New York without a job,” I panicked. The next morning I woke up to my last day ever as Californian. My dad and I cried a bit as we drove to the airport. I took one last look at him as I descended up to the escalators. I passed through security and entered the terminal, this feeling ran through me. “This is really over,” I thought to myself.”

I boarded the plane to Salt Lake City (my layover). As the plane took off into the hazy sky, I thought to myself “E.T. is really going home.” The maze of freeways, brown mountains and track homes looked oddly magical from above.

The purple mountain majesty of Utah were blanketed in powdery snow. It was desolate. Then civilization appeared in the form of Delta airplanes. I landed in Salt Lake City. I hurried to my gate for the flight to New York/JFK. Typically at airports, I like to walk around and people watch. This time, I was electrified by the whole moving back to New York experience. People -watching at the gate was great too.

There were the arty dudes in beards and pea coats and fashionable women wearing chic leather coats. Diverse faces representing every section of the globe, nuclear families and hip old people. This overwhelming peace overcame me while I took off once again into the afternoon skies.

Hours later and a couple glasses of wine, the plane flew into an endless sea of fog. The twinkling lights of Queens were barely visible. After a couple shakes and rock n’ roll, the plane landed into falling snow. It was more cinematic than E.T. flying over the moon in a bicycle. At that moment, I had officially moved back to New York.

I wasted no time, in job hunting. The buildings seemed taller, the grey more intense and the sidewalks more jammed pack than I remembered. Everything was a little intimidating. However, I persisted on. I was determined to make into an advertising firm in the city. I worked from the New York Public library’s study and created my own work/creative space.

Then one day, I finally landed an interview. Coincidentally, it was at my dream-advertising firm in the creative department. I went in feeling very relaxed and had the most enjoyable interview ever. As I watched CNN with Krista, I received a phone call. My eyes grew wide. Somebody, please Cue the theme from New York. It was official, “I got the job.” In just a few days, I had made it in New York.

From then, I became like any other New Yorker. I took the subway to work, walked everywhere, moved to a walk-up, had a huge social network (still do) and more importantly, appreciated every moment here. Even in the most jammed packed subway car, I always find a reason to smile. I am living in New York for life.

Making Origami

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

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

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

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

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

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

England By Boat

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

-Young people dancing the night away at a London flat

-Regent Street decked out in lights.

-Swinging London (on Carnaby Street)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Field Trip

Brown paper bags stuffed with goodies for an afternoon nosh. Motion sickness setting in and no Pepto-Bismol. A Walkman filled with cool tunes. Every ten minutes, cassette tapes from the Reality Bites soundtrack to R.E.M were played. Oh, It was definitely 1994.

It was also a year, which gave me some of my greatest field trip memories. From cultural institutions to serene lakes, I saw quite a bit as a young lad.

Through my teenage years, my mom treated many of our outings like a field trip. She would pack lunches and take me somewhere splendidly memorable. On our trip to London, we picked up sandwiches and miniature pecan pies from Pret. Then took the tube to Tower Hamlets.

The Tower of London would be our destination. It’s an integral part of British history. Depending on whether one is William the Conqueror, Queen Elizabeth I, or many of those beheaded, the tower holds a smorgasbord of memories.

Though, it’s a place of bleak history, my mother & I didn’t let some ghosts rain on our British history parade. We toured the Tower. Everything seemed fascinating. The way the white tower looked against partly cloudy skies. The beefeaters (the Tower of London’s guards) with their intriguing tales & even seeing where people were imprisoned left us with an unexpected smile.

However, nothing beat seeing the crown jewels of the British monarchy. Seeing so much intense glitter made this gay boy hungry.

Therefore, we found a little bench and proceeded on eating our lunch. Unlike field trips in America, my mom kept our lunch in her Kate Spade bag. The sandwiches were delicious. Most importantly, we saw an important part of English history on our field trip.

Till this day, I treat all my outings like a field trip. Whether, I’m driving to Palm Springs or having an arty day at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, I love the concept of packing snacks and having a day full of culture.

 

Fellini, Where Are You?

Federico Fellini’s films captured Rome’s quirk & glamour. La Dolce Vita & 8 1/2 were two films, which most inspired me to study his work in film school. The glamorous world of Rome’s glitterati was a far cry from my humble American life. However, Fellini’s Rome would wet my appetite for a strong dose of Italian culture. Therefore, I took the plunge and booked my plane ticket to Rome one winter.

I didn’t just want eat pasta and flirt with Italian fellas. My trip to Rome would be more cinematic and relevant. Not only did I want to see the sites, but also see the world, which inspired “La Dolce Vita.” So I set off looking for cinematic inspiration in the eternal city.

There were the quintessential Roman sites. The Coliseum was grand and imposing. Sitting on the Spanish steps watching vespas and tourists stroll by was stimulating. The Pizza Navona provided a quintessentially Roman square. However, nothing felt completely cinematic. Then, I galloped into a most peculiar place, Vatican City.

I make an art form out of skipping church on Sunday. In fact, spending my formative years in a Catholic school made me quite rebellious. Hence, it was interesting flying overseas to Rome to visit religious sites. I stood in the middle of St. Peter’s square. Then, I remembered that if I stood at a certain part of the square, the arches surrounding St. Peter’s basilica would look as one arch (as opposed to several).

I tried every angle. Still it didn’t produce one massive arch. “Was this a myth?” I thought to myself. I plugged away, but didn’t receive that cool effect I wanted. Like a frustrated filmmaker, I left the St. Peter’s Square without the memory I wanted to capture.

Roaming in Rome during Christmas my lack of inspiration didn’t last long. Rain poured from the sky as fogged rolled from the sidewalks. Surprisingly, Louis Armstrong’s “What a wonderful world” blasted from a local skating rink. As I crossed a bridge over the Tiber River glancing at the basilica from the other side created the cinematic moment I was seeking.

I continued my journey through Central Rome. The imposing buildings and monuments took a back seat to Romans. The men in long black trenched coats waiting for the bus, groups of nuns touring the city, women in fur coats carrying shopping bags and the overall Italian chic oozing from the sidewalks created the grand epiphany of my mind. The Romans truly inspired Federico Fellini from the outrageous to the religious.

Sidewalks Of London

London has some of the world’s most memorable streets. The hilly streets of Hampstead, money infused Knightsbridge and gritty Whitechapel provide the eye with a distinct polaroid of time gone by and the capital’s modern hustle bustle. The ride into London from Heathrow has always provided me with an air of excitement.

On my trips to London as a teenager, red brick buildings lined the streets of Marylebone. The hues of green from London’s many parks gave the city love of rouge hues a bit of extraordinary character. I remember the excitement, I felt surrounded by a land, which looks so different from my own. The Georgian architecture, roaring double decker buses and a melting pot of faces wearing the most edgy and proper outfits.

My feet almost smiled in delight. When I would arrive at my hotel, the euphoria kicked in. I would jump out of the cab and step into London soil. Breathing in, the icy air was the equivalent of taking nostalgia of time gone by. I wasted no time in exploring the city.

As a twenty-something, my love affair with London never diminished. Though my temporary neighborhood changed, the thrill of being in the capital remained. In Notting Hill with its many cafes, post-card worthy squares and the distinct white stucco architecture inspired my inner writer for a week’s time.

The streets of London had inspired many of the world’s literary greats. Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde & Virginia Woolf breathed that same icy, but creative air and were inspired by the maze of sidewalks.

Through they’re writing old London still lives in libraries and bookshelves around the world. For me, walking through the capital is the equivalent of listening to both classical and rock music. There will always be a proper & grungy aspect, which tickles the inspiration nerve giving way to great art of all forms.

Saying Gay In Japanese

In Tokyo, everything is charming. Neon lights are a staple of the Japanese capital’s character. No other place does neon shine so brightly like Shinjuku. It’s a virtual Sci-fi film set equipped with a dash of quirk and wit. The lack of flying cars and Gucci wearing robots, reminds us that it’s not quite an episode of the  Jetsons yet.

The gays make up for the lack of robots. Shinjuku is home to Tokyo’s gay hangouts. On my comeback trip I was curious to see what gay life was like in Japan. Therefore, I wondered Shinjuku dark alleys and fluorescent colored streets searching for gayness.

As I made my voyage into gay-landia, something interesting happened. I saw nothing, but advertisements for gentleman clubs (aka women who entertain men). “Oh no, I accidentally ended up in straight-landia.” Men kept trying to persuade me to enter these dens of sin and flesh. However, I proudly proclaimed, “no, no I’m gay.” The men looked puzzled ” Aww gay, ni-chome.” and they pointed me west.

I walked toward the land of gay. Love hotels surrounded me. Couples (to have quick sex) have always utilized these bewildering institutions. In the grand tradition of all things Japanese, even love hotels looked cute and inviting.

There was a shop on the corner with Japanese gay magazines, which acted as my welcome to gay Tokyo. I felt just like Dorothy finding OZ. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an entourage of a lion, scarecrow and tin man. Of course, there was plenty of gay life for me back in New York, but understanding homosexuals abroad has kept me curious to explore the world.

Unlike New York gay bars, the ones in Tokyo were tiny. They could probably only seat about five people. I found a more Western style bar and made friends with two of the guys there. One was a bit more laid-back and he was just my type. Somewhere between, the where are you from question? And nice to meet you, I found out his very cute English friend was straight. “Fuck,” said my brain. He was there having a casual drink with his best gay buddy.

His accent was adorable and we had a good conversation. He asked me questions like ” Do you have a stoop?” “Is it true New Yorkers hang out on stoops?” Priceless, moments were a signature of that evening. We ended up bonding that night in a most bromance kind of way. We even had fun getting lost in the maze of metro lines at Shinjuku station together. As I said goodbye to him on the metro, the same thought kept persisting ” Of course, I fell for the one straight guy in all of gay Tokyo, whoops.”

I’ll always remember gay Shinjuku for it’s kitsch, weak well drinks, cute guys, gay magazines and funky lounge music. Tokyo with all its glamour, fashion & art remains a hub for gays from all over the world.

Calles De Madrid

For years, I dreamed of traveling to Spain. It interested me greatly. However, I couldn’t afford it. One day, my dad surprised me and said “let’s go to Madrid” for Christmas. I beamed in excitement from ear to ear.

After buying my tickets, I daydreamed of Spain. I would go to the library and read up on the land of Don Quixote, Pedro Almodovar, flamenco dancing, tapas and siestas (naps in the middle of the day).

When we finally arrived in Madrid, feeling jet lagged. We tried keeping the romance flame alive. “You’re room is not ready yet,” said the handsome man at the hotel’s front desk. “What? No nap,” then it dawned on me. I can nap in America. This is Madrid. My dad was equally exhausted. However, we marched out of the hotel and into the streets of the Spanish capital.

Madrid felt like a glamorous old city. The buildings were ornate and taller than I anticipated. A hazy sun played along the sidewalk. Even the walls lining El Parque del Retiro (Madrid’s Central Park) had an old cosmopolitan feel to them. I suggested we go to El Prado Museum. My dad thought it was too early, but I convinced him other wise. Walking from our hotel on Calle de Goya to the Prado was an experience.

The sidewalks were filled with women in lavish fur coats, men dressed in traditional suits and street-fashion clad young people. Hair salons were covered in blue lighting, which flashed brightly against the equally ocean hued covered skies. We reached the Prado.

As expected, it was a wonderland of Spanish art. After our visit, book- stands were set up. Volumes of books from Spanish, American and British authors lined the sidewalks like organized pigeons looking for breadcrumbs.

The roar of traffic progressed as the city was further awaken. While the car horns provided a soundtrack, people traffic increased. We forgot about our jet lag. Our hotel room was finally ready, but we wanted to explore more.

We took our first Madrid metro ride to Puerta del Sol, had a delicious Cuban dinner and then ended up in Madrid’s gay heart, Chueca. As we roamed the streets of Chueca, my dad looked at his watch. It was 3 am and we officially earned our title as night owls. It was a great bonding experience, not so lovely was trying to catch a cab at that hour.

After staying up nearly 24 hours, I had a difficult time getting used to the Spanish schedule. Being American everything is not so late night. However, in Spain, my inner insomniac wandered around and had a marvelous time, drinking sangria under the moonlight. I haven’t been back to Madrid in years, but have fond memories of our family journey.

Strolling in Paris

Jean Luc Godard’s Breathless is one of my favorite French new wave films. It’s a bit of guerilla filmmaking at it’s finest. Mostly, I loved seeing Paris in all it’s glossy glory splashed across the screen.

Experiencing the French capital where painters, filmmakers, fashion designers, writers and musicians found inspiration lured me years ago for a visit. Like any great destination, I had to overcome a case of jet lag.

My father and I had a marvelous flight on Air France. It was my first time on the second floor of the 747. As the plane approached Charles De Gaulle, France appeared with it’s fields of green and subtle rolling hills.

It was amazing to think that one of the world’s most sophisticated cities was nestled in somewhere in these fields. We had a smooth landing. Then reality hit. Traffic, highways sprawling and cheesy eighties ballads overwhelmed our senses. Unlike most traffic-ridden cities, something beautiful appeared from the grey.

The Eiffel Tower like a glistening croissant at a café towered over the modern outdoor advertisements. We arrived in the city center and in no time were walking the legendary sidewalks. Being close to the Champs Elysees equated tourism and chains. Somehow, I ignored the corporate aspect and found beauty in the city’s architecture and pedestrian culture.

We couldn’t stop walking and ended up in the Place de La Concorde. Traffic horns complemented the austere square with its obelisk as a centerpiece. Sycamore trees, Le Arc de Triomphe and elegant architecture surrounded us.

At that very moment, I felt inspired and understood the allure of the city. There are great cities in the world that offer amazing stimulation by just stepping foot in it’s soil. Paris is one of those places.

Throughout the city, my father and I were impressed by everything. We loved the Jardin de Luxembourg, which was covered in fogs and Parisians enjoying a Sunday afternoon stroll. The cafes and shops of St. Germain Des Pres were bustling with fashion and coffee cups. Even the street musicians in front of the Opera de Garnier provided both wonderful memories and enjoyable moments.

In America, I can travel to Paris anytime I want. Through the writings of Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, I can travel to cafe society. In many French films from the likes of Francoise Truffaut and Luis Bunuel, one can experience a stylized and sometimes surrealistic view on Parisian life.

Even observing the art of Pablo Picasso gives me a window into the city that inspired him and many of his artists. French accents, the smell of crepes and Edith Piaf’s voice reminding me of Paris past, I miss it all.

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