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.

Illuminate Yourself With A bright Red Tie

The immense fog of San Francisco married the flurries of Alaska. Afterwards, they traveled east to New York for a dream honeymoon. They made their presence known, engulfing the city’s tenement masterpieces into a sea of grey.

It was a sight to wake up to. While, a part of me, wanted to order food from seamless web, watch endless documentaries ranging from fashion photography to the art of sushi making and (just plain) hibernate, the Indiana Jones in me longed for an adventure.

Rather, than having wanderlust about the lost arc or being chased by a giant rock, I got all dolled up. I placed by tortoise shell glasses on, which accentuated my navy blue pea coat.

Something was missing. I dug deep in the far reaches of my closet. My archaeological dig did not produce a missing link to the T-Rex family, but I did find a precious relic.

“My red tie, here you are, ” I said to myself. I tied it over my grey blue shirt and put my favorite grey cardigan on. It was more Upper West Side than Indiana Jones, but it was most fitting for adventure seeking in the city.

I gained fuel at my favorite diner on Amsterdam Ave. Afterwards; I walked up 72nd Street toward Central Park. In the midst of snow and intense grey, New York lacked color. It was the equivalent of fading into an old black and white film. The only hint of color was leaping from my fiery red tie.

The pitter pater of snow persisted. I reached the imposing apartment blocks of Fifth Avenue. Snow banks, Barney’s NY shopping bags and well-heeled ladies in fur coats created a most quintessential Upper East Side memory.

I walked toward Lexington Avenue with the intent to grab the 4/5 train downtown for an afternoon nosh (snack) and cappuccino. While craving my adrenaline rush from a coffee bean, I experienced a cinematic moment. Truman Capote referred to Lexington Ave as charmless.

Walking from the East seventies to the fifties.  Lex (which I walked on a million times or so. Lex is how we refer to it here) was actually proving to be quiet lovely. Old bookshops, cafes, mom n’ pop restaurants, pre-war buildings and side streets with imposing brownstones birthed a classically New York scene.

I saw the F train station at 63rd street. “How wonderful, I’ll take the F train to the Lower East Side,” said I. When I reached the station, it was a confusing mismatch of platforms and escalators. In my whole history in New York, I had only been lost on the subway once.

This time around, the lack of platform signs indicating uptown/downtown confused me. I was officially lost in translation and on a Queens bound F train. Rather than becoming flustered, I thought to myself ” oh this train stops in Roosevelt Island (an island in the middle of the East River), I’ll just switch over to a downtown train there.

When I stepped off the subway at Roosevelt Island, curiosity captured my heart. I saw another intense set of escalators, which were so high, I wondered if I would be dancing in a sea of clouds.

The explorer in me wanted to see a part of the city, which I had never explored before. As I leaped out of the F train station, the snow morphed into a light dusting of frost.

Roosevelt island was filled with steel and glass modern apartments. However, one sight would be the red tie to an otherwise colorless day.

My eyes met the Queens-borough Bridge. It jutted across the island. The tram moved slowly (there’s a tram which takes residents from Roosevelt to Manhattan) in the midst of the background of the Manhattan skyline.

It provided me with the holy grail of New York memories. I strolled around the island a bit and finally headed downtown. After entering the subway, I could officially say “I’ve been on Roosevelt Island.

After exiting the Second Avenue subway station, I marveled at the grey skies. The snow stopped. I walked toward a coffee shop, which had vintage rock n’ roll posters and plenty of electrical outlets (to charge my phone). While trying to resist the temptation of heading inside Katz’s, an epiphany came into my brain.

That particular day with it’s snow filled skies, Kodak worthy pictures of the Queens borough bridge & overall happy spirit, will remain one of those special nostalgic memories. “Wow, sometimes, I really am the Indiana Jones of Manhattan. If Indiana Jones wore a bunch of cardigans and wrote a blog, of course,” said I.

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.

Snowy Empire

Somebody please cue to the Star Wars theme. In a galaxy not so far away, lived a lad. Like any proper New York singleton, he resided in a modest fifth floor walk-up.

One morning he glanced out his window. There was snow, snow and more snow (not unusual, but hey it’s winter). “It looks like the set of the Empire Strikes Back,” he proclaimed.  Naturally, it appeared that way, if the “Empire Strikes Back” were set in New York City. Like a courageous Luke Skywalker facing Darth Vader, he braved the elements. Successfully, he reached the subway and made it to work, in the face of another blizzard.

As expected, I am referring to yours truly and my random fascination with Star Wars. I didn’t have Chewbacca, C-3PO, Hans Solo, Yoda or Princess Lea on the voyage from Harlem to Grand Central Station. So, this is where I fast-forward the story.

While galloping around the icy sidewalks of Harlem, I thought to myself “no major blizzard (9.5 inches of snow) will keep me away from a wonderful walk. I felt triumphant, as I successfully maneuvered through the frozen canyons and icy puddles. The Star Wars theme continued to play in the radio station of my brain, ” Cardigns 95.5 FM- New York.”

Then with much disruption, radioactive transmission stopped. It finally happened, I had met my match with black ice. I flipped backwards, landing on the slippery pavement. My stuff flew alongside the perfectly appointed brownstone block.

Wait isn’t this the part, where my life flashes before my eyes? I thought in great panic. I expected to see a montage of memorable events, then the unthinkable happened. “Oh yeah, I didn’t bump my head, I landed on my tuckus,” said I, as I picked myself up slowly

The fall really hurt, but I attempted to find humor in my mishap. While walking home, I watched every step more carefully.

As the weekend approached, the Jedi did indeed return. I was enjoying the snow, immensely. Regardless of experiencing pain from the fall, I still adored the wintery weather. On the weekend, I took a journey into Central Park.

Snow fell from the sky, while blinding the eye. There were snowmen; families sledded down the powdery hills and an unexpected musical accompaniment. While there was a commercial break on Cardigans FM, I was serenaded by the sounds of a saxophone player. It made the perfect soundtrack to a most memorable New York moment.

Mazel Tov

Mazel tov is a celebratory word, which means “congratulations” in Hebrew. It’s a term, which usually revolves around celebration. In the world of gay, one of many battles continues to be fought, the right to marry. Now-a-days, gay marriage is legal in New York state. However, the rest of the country is also following suit.

Who could forget that YouTube video of the adorable Utah man proposed to via a flash mob at Home Depot’s lumber section? Or the sentimental images of long time love birds, finally tying the knot everywhere from rooftops to City Hall? Until, recently, the whole idea of getting married never touched a nerve with me.

One day, I was taken by surprise. Typically, I avoid the marriage column of the New York Times. It’s that special section, which joins sports in lacking any interest for me. Then, I happened to randomly browse the marriage section. “Shit, the guy I was in love with has gotten married to a hot guy.” I continued to read the article.

For a moment, I thought, “wow, was there something about me he didn’t like? Was I not cute enough to date?” I felt rejected. Until, sensibility took over. “Oh yeah, that’s right our personalities didn’t click.” While, I thought he was hot, the fireworks never appeared and it’s been years since I’ve thought of him. Hence, he might be handsome, but I remember why we were not an item. As I read the article, declared “Mazel Tov” on getting married and moved on.

“Glad the gays are making the New York Times wedding column,” I said. “That’s wonderful, but I am not ready to settle down yet,” I also declared. It’s wonderful to know, that if Prince Charming arrived and wanted to purpose with a very poetic serenade, we could indeed get hitched in old New York.

Sh*t Polar Bears Say

Hibernation is for bears. Rather, than hibernating like an ordinary bear, I decided to make every day a New York adventure. I channeled my inner polar bear and made the most out of the abnormally cold temperatures.  Initially, I was also seeking a Boo-Boo to compliment my Yogi (looking for a date).

Luckily, I found the perfect sidekick via okcupid. My previous dates with Boo-Boo (his nickname) were quite wonderful. Therefore, I was delighted to plan another riveting outing. This time, I organized a museum trip, which would follow with an authentic Chinese dinner in (you guessed it) Chinatown.

I bought my museum ticket and sipped on a cappuccino, while watching hipsters being (well) hipsters. As I amused myself in the world of hipster lingo, my date ran quite late. I glanced at my watch and he was nowhere to be found. I went upstairs to tour the exhibit, “art from the Eastern Bloc.

When I returned to the lobby of the museum, Boo Boo was nowhere to be found. He didn’t even respond to my texts. Hence, I had a first. Within all my years dating in New York City, I hadn’t experienced being “stood up.” Rather than returning to my apartment and to wallow in rejection, I marched to the dive-y noodles restaurant for a “foodie’s day out.”

Snow fell from the sky. The Lower East Side faded into Chinatown. The streets were more bustling. While crossing Canal Street, I glanced at the Manhattan Bridge to my left. As car horns serenaded my eardrums. There was something comforting and even charming about that non-shalant moment.

“I maybe single, but I am not alone. At least I am in New York City, where dreams come true.” After that sappy moment, I gave Boo-Boo a piece of my mind and felt so much better telling him off . In the wise motto of New York across the five boroughs, I yelled a big old ” fuggedaboutit.” I then filed that moment under, “another edition of dating in city.”

A Night-owl’s Romance

“You are now entering the Polar Vortex,” said New York, while welcoming me back home from sunny Southern California. Upon my arrival, the city was bracing itself for a massive blizzard. Like any good New Yorker, I weathered the larger than life snowflakes for a trip to Trader Joe’s.

While, I anticipated a bit of cabin fever, I picked up all my favorite foods (prosciutto, hummus, crackers, English toffee and meat loaf). Standing in line, I noticed all the adorable gay couples, shopping for their bit of winter comfort foods. I thought to myself, “geez, they must really enjoy cabin fever.” On that note, I headed back home on the subway.

Upon exiting 135th street station, the darkened skies above New York turned hazy from  intense snowfall. I reveled on the sweet sounds of snow crunching against my feet. I finally reached my tiny fifth floor walk-up apartment, which I think rivals Buckingham Palace, in my humble opinion.

Instead of psychoanalyzing War & Peace or finally starting up that Kurt Vonnegut novel, I went on okcupid. I met a boy instantly, which doesn’t happen often on that side. He was an art history major with a minor in creative writing. Via email, he asked quickly, “Hi, wanna go on a date? I replied, “yes,” naturally.  I was excited. The next day, I stepped out of my humble apartment building.

There were snow banks everywhere. Snow turned sidewalks into an unrecognizable sea of ice. At that moment, I found my favorite and most romanticized image of Manhattan. The romanticized image mirrored my optimism. However, a day before meeting my potential new boyfried, I had a different kind of date.

” I have the stomach flu,” said I to my father. I rely on him for medical advice, even though he’s not a doctor. “You need to take it easy and just ride through it,” he said. In the grand tradition of fathers, he ended the conversation with ” please, no booze or coffee till you feel better. Love you.”

It was a most stressful weekend. I didn’t want to cancel the date. Instead, I showed up. Wearing my best cardigan, I stepped into the candle-lit restaurant on the Upper West side. He appeared like a prince rescuing a princess from a gilded tower. His scruff was utterly endearing, as were his glasses. As we sat down, the conversation grew into a feast of delightful topics.

” I think, I lost a few pounds from this stomach flu,” said I. He looked away and I was mortified. I shook my head and bursted into laughter, “whoops, you can’t count this into an awkward moment.” He laughed as well.

We finally glanced at the menu. His forehead was covered in sweat. Grabbing a napkin, he said, ” I can’t stop sweating, guess this is my awkward moment.” During the date, I still didn’t feel wonderful from my case of the stomach flu. However, I did enjoy having a proper date. Afterwards, we took the subway home and he planted a kiss on me. I walked out of the train, feeling quite delighted.

Eventually, my stomach flu went the way of VHS tapes. I focused my energy on the following romantic question. “Does he love? Does he love me not?” He texted and we planned another date. This time, we locked eyes over Thai food in the East Village. It was magical. We found ourselves on the subway late night.

He was heading home a few stops before me. Prior to exiting  the train, I told him, ” text me when you get home.” He glanced over and laughed ” really?” I replied, “yes, please text me.” Finally, as I prepared for bed, he did indeed remember to text. I smiled. After that, we didn’t become a romantic item. Instead, the experience was simply a  lovely memory of going on date.

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.

The Perks of Being Extremely Campy in NYC

With leaves falling, leaving trees barren, the city transforms itself. The brightly lit canyons of Midtown give way to holiday camp. It’s a gradual process, which paints the sidewalks with lights of glittery green and red. On one faithful night, I went on a date.

As I sat at Sophia’s wine bar in Midtown East, sipping on a sauvignon blanc and eating a Panini, I couldn’t feel any romance. My date was a delightful dinner companion, but I couldn’t romanticize the situation. After dinner, we took a walk crosstown. There was certain magic in the air. While my date was as romantic as a beer pong tournament, I rekindled my love affair with the city.

We approached Rockefeller Center. Terrible club music blasted, as we walked toward the tourist mecca. Surprisingly, I found delight in one of the most fabled New York traditions, ice-skating in the middle of Rockefeller Center. My date and I reveled in watching the skaters.

The skaters represented a social hotch potch of humanity. Tourists (naturally), families, couples and the young at heart, enjoyed the cheesiest of traditions.

Naturally, the most fun came in the form of schadenfreude (German for laughing at somebody else’s misery). There were plenty of slips and falls, but since it was New York pre-holidays, even the injured were laughing off their misfortune.  I looked to the left; under scaffolding was the famous Christmas tree. Although, it’s a sight, I ‘ve seen many times, there was a surprising magic. The sight reminded me, the holidays were around the corner.

I walked my date to his bus, although there were no sparks, I had an unexpected and very quintessential evening in my own backyard. From that faithful night, Christmas madness slowly crept around Manhattan. Christmas shops popped up everywhere from Little Italy to Bryant Park. Fifth Avenue dazzled the pupil with bright lights decorating the fancy shops. The Time Warner Center sparkled with ever changing lights.

I once again, visited another skating rink. As I sat at Bryant Park with my holiday beverage, watching ice-skating mania, my jaded smirk turned into a smile. The holidays and enchanting cold weather was finally upon us. Living in the holiday capital of the world, has made me appreciate every minute of Christmas camp.

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