Le Soiree

A funny thing happened on the way to late 20’s land. Cocktail parties, events & schmoozing became less enticing than Saturday nights at home with a glass of three buck Chuck (white wine) and a British sitcoms on PBS. Don’t get me wrong, I love socializing and being around people. However, I appreciate cozy evenings at home.

In my younger years, I was less jaded and more in awe of a good party. Back in my broke days, I strategized cleaver plans on how to get free booze, a nice appetizer and a little show. So, I hit the galleries of Chelsea & Soho. There was always fine wines, delicious little crackers with a special topping & plenty of good people watching. Not only, did the galleries offer wonderful free wine, but sumptuous art. The galleries kept me cultured and running on Chardonnay.

I’ve also snuck into a party or two. In Downtown Manhattan, I had a friend who worked as a doorman for a fancy hotel. He told me about a simply smashing party. Like any good friend, he snuck me to the elevator. I pushed the P button for penthouse. I felt like the gay male Eloise running around this swanky hotel.

When the elevator door open it revealed a quintessential New York scene. Men and women dressed in all black, chatting, jazz music playing and martinis flowing freely from the shakers to their perspective glasses. It was truly elegant. Of course, I was the only one in jeans, since I was preparing for a night out on the town and a slice afterwards. Still, I just enjoyed the atmosphere.

Although, I’ve never thrown fancy parties, mine were still quite memorable. My favorite parties always revolved around cultural traditions. One year, my roommate Morgan and I celebrated Chanukah at our apartment. Growing up Catholic, it was something I always wanted to experience. Her friend cooked all the traditional Chanukah fare and we hosted a bunch of theatre majors and arty types from Tel-Aviv.

After lighting the menorah, devouring the potato latkes, blintzes and cheesecake, our neighbor Doug did a fire dance. We gathered on the stoop and stared in amazement. Like any good party at my apartment, it turned from a silent movie to a flamboyant talkie in a New York minute.

The secret to throwing a proper party is simple. Even if you serve mini pigs in a blanket from Costco with a tooth pick, the vibe is happy when the company is wonderful. I’ve gone to snobby people parties, where everyone had their nose up in the air. Even though, if it was a lovely venue. I soon ditched the party and spent my night at the diner, drinking coffee and inhaling a banana cream pie.

How do you know if you’ve thrown a most delightful party? When you wake up the next day & laugh about the good times had, it’s always a sign of a successful soiree. I will take warm potato latkes over pigs in a blanket any day.

An Afternoon In The Park

The great outdoors is Central Park. I’ve never taken a hike, only thrown a ball at P.E. class & can’t swim for the life of me. My dad got the hint when I was five. They placed me in little league. Surprisingly, I ran all the wrong bases. Soon, little league was a thing of the past.

My dad was more of the liberal & open-minded parent. Mom was very conservative & found culture shock in my interests. I remember writing a story about a traveling drag queen, which puzzled her. However, I had an interest in the world & didn’t want to conform to the stringent standards put out by mainstream society. Being a boy was more multi-faceted for me than the classic images of John Wayne.

When my mom passed, we took more trips. Although, we always had a close relationship, it grew stronger through the years. After my mom died, we took a trip to Spain. Of course, we did everything you should do on a trip to Madrid & Barcelona, plenty of tapas, museums & walking around lavish squares.

However, one activity caught my attention, canoeing. Madrid has the most beautiful park, “El Parque del Retrio.” It has manicured gardens, beautiful tree lined walking paths & the centerpiece is a lovely pond. I saw how classy the Madridlenos (people of Madrid) looked rowing their boat. So, I suggested we give canoeing a try.

My father laughed. However, he caught the reality check when I stepped on the boat. I don’t like deep water & never rowed a boat. There was no safety vest in sight. Regardless, I didn’t have any fear as I rowed the boat. There was this tranquil classic feeling to rowing. At first my dad did all the work. I sat there looking like a proper gentleman.

Soon, I took charge & rowed the boat. The boat kept going backwards. My dad showed me how to row it, but our little vessel kept going the opposite way. My dad just took pictures of me happily rowing the boat, doing a terrible job, but loving every minute.

In life, I went opposite of what my parents expected me to be. However, my dad always laughed & accepted my personality quirks. Even while we lived in opposite coasts are bond stayed strong. He was a phone call away, but it always seemed closer. These days, we don’t sit in boats. We do spend lots of quality time together & laugh about my rowing skills.

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.

A Foodie in New York

Living in a blizzard means two things you are craving a box of coffee cake or booze to keep warm, of course. Like any good New Yorker, I always went to work even on a blizzard. Of course, I couldn’t see a damn thing, but a curious smell woke me up first thing in the morning.

The sweet smell of bread baking is one of the world’s great scents. My apartment in Queens was around the corner from a mom n’ pop’s bakery. They always had simple, but splendid dessert displays in their windows. The aroma was intoxicating. Therefore, I grabbed a chocolate croissant & a small coffee. It woke me up on the walk to the subway & the journey to Times Square for work.

My life in New York revolved around food. There were the pizzerias, bagel joints, New York style Chinese &  egg cream. These foods & establishments were so New Yawk, that you could almost hear the bagel proclaim ” ah fuhgettaboutit.” My friend Jenny was my coffee buddy. We always met up & would enjoy a big up of java together. While pondering the big questions of life, we proceeded to hit every bakery on Manhattan’s East Side.

She always walked in, sniffed around & asked for free samples. They always had some sample. She felt satisfied with a sample of a freshly baked strudel. However, the sample just increased my hunger. By the time we hit the Upper East Side, I couldn’t resist any longer. We hit a gourmet market & I ordered a quiche, which had the most explosive taste of crust, ham & cheese.

If the quiche weren’t enough, we then went to the chichi Marc Jacobs clad moms with expensive baby-strollers cupcake shop. Jenny had a small sample cupcake; I bought myself the very large red velvet. I didn’t even wait to eat it at home; it came right out of the bag & made a lovely snack while walking along the Upper East Side’s brownstone blocks.

Get me near a cupcake shop, freshly baked croissants & cheesecake, my jaw drops. I have a sweet tooth & very proud of foodie status in life. Don’t get me wrong I love a bowl of fruit, but I’d rather have the red velvet cupcake with a big coffee. I like to call it stimulation for the sweet tooth.

The Frugal Jet Setter

Old travel films from the 50’s reminds us of a time when life was in Technicolor. Beautifully dressed men and women, board Pan Am flights. On board they drink magnificent cocktails & eat gourmet prime rib & desserts. With the magic of film, this is the quintessential fantasy, which airlines wanted to portray.

Air travel is really a lack of legroom, long lines & germs flowing freely in a capsule. However, I love every minute. Airport & airplanes are some of the most exciting places for me. I love getting all dolled up like in the 50’s reels & checking in. The feeling that new adventures await never gets old.

Throughout my air travel, I’ve flirted with Mt. Fuji while landing in Tokyo. I’ve seen dazzling villages & the green rolling hills of Ireland en route to London & Paris. While on a flight home to New York, I met eyes with the Grand Canyon, which looked like nature’s interpretation of the Manhattan skyline. All of these sights were seen from my luxurious window seat.

I’ve never actually flown first or business class. Therefore, the densely populated economy class has always been home. Champagne, caviar & seats, which morph into beds, is a highly novel idea for me. I compensate by sitting at the window.

Taking off is the exciting part. Then comes the middle part of the flight. I usually combat boredom by watching long films on the airplane. I’ve seen Gandhi, Gone with the Wind & The Godfather on one of my many flights. Turbulence is something I rather enjoy. This is a mainstay of flights, which hover over Alaska. Often times, there is so much turbulence, it’s becomes a commercial break from the three & a half hours of Gandhi magic.

Plane food is usually terrible. It always comes with thick gravy, hard roll & an exotic pudding. After a bevy of gastronomic plane creations, bathrooms, which shake in madness & plenty of people coughing, comes the landing. Suddenly hours in the sardine can has produced beauty.

Landing is my favorite part of the trip. I adore landing in heavy fog & the sensation of flying through the cotton balls. Rome, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Madrid & Tokyo look like a toy display at F.A.O. Schwartz from up above. As the plane descends, the rush of excitement builds. I love hearing the flight attendant announce “ladies & gentleman welcome to London, where the current local time is etc, etc.” Even the airline music in the background is romanticized. Various 747 planes from the U.S., France, Japan & Israel pass by.

Life is no longer in technicolor. However, airline travel is still a most euphoric experience. Although economy isn’t the lap of luxury, seeing the world from the window seat is worth every penny. Traveling is like brain candy & will always provide a lifetime of stimulation.

The Extraterrestrial Saga

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a gaylien. Flying through the galaxy passing the many stars & planets shining brightly is a most fabulous spaceship. Unlike sterile looking spaceship, which makes one yawn, this dome of fierceness is decorated in bright neon.

It plays Madonna, Kylie & Bronski Beat for 24 hours a day. Hence, if you hear “Material girl” too many times, it’s not time to check into the mental institution. The spaceship’s interior has fancy glittery disco balls & a downstairs art gallery with works ranging from Keith Haring to Salvador Dali.

These are gayliens (gay aliens). They’re not all green, but come in rainbow sherbet variety of flavors & colors. Home is desolate planet, where the moon shines brightly, rather than the sun. NASA never shows houses on planets like Mars. Therefore, they more than likely live in holes in the ground.

Why would these aliens leave desolate planets? Sample sales & societal acceptance, duh. From the soft ball-playing lesbian to the intellectual but neurotic gay to the queen, gaylien life extends a broad spectrum of personalities.

Films like Star Wars & E.T. show lovable aliens & creatures from outer space. However, where are the gayliens? We’ve seen aliens who want to take over the world & the one’s who circle the stars bewildered, since they don’t have a smartphone. Therefore, gayliens need to be represented too.

Space like the closet is a place of desolation, where it’s dark & lonely. Therefore, leaving that place of isolation on a spaceship is especially ideal. Whether they’re looking to shake their tail feathers or sit in a circle & talk about feelings, somewhere in the galaxy it exists. Launching like a rocket man, into the unknown. The gayliens’ primary mission is not to return to the dark hole in the ground.

Track Home Jungle

Like any proper family in the city, we gave up a small 2-bedroom apartment for the burbs. We moved to Riverside, CA on this new housing development. This houses screamed architectural conformity, since they all looked the same. These architectural gems were two stories with large front/backyards & the ultimate in suburban luxury, a two-car garage.

Our newly built house sat on the foothills of the mountain. In the summer, they were brown & rugged. In the winter, it looked like Scotland, rolling with greenery & grey skies. One of the advantages of growing up in a track home was space. I had a vivid imagination & loved animals. Any chance, I received was the basis for persuading my parents to buy me a pet.

I nagged my parents till I got my way. They bought me a large fish tank & it was decorated a vivid colorful parade of fish. Unfortunately, for my parents I developed an interest in more furry animals. Thanks to all those Peter Rabbit books, I asked for a bunny. My dad bought me two beautiful bunnies. They were always pooping & mom had to hold herself from not screaming.

Our house was turning into a modest zoo. I loved every moment. My dad brought home two kittens. I would sneak the cats into the house, scaring my great grandma. One day, both cats ran away & came back looking portly. My mom figured they were pregnant. Soon, we had rabbits, baby kittens & a family of fish.

My mom asked one day “Sure you don’t want to send the rabbits back to the wild?” I pondered the question; I did have my hands full the kittens. I agreed to send them into the wilderness, thanks to this special animal service my mom called.

The rabbits were soon replaced by a lizard & turtle, which my dad picked up for me at the pet store. My pets ate well. I tended to them, but my family was feeling overwhelmed with coming home to a zoo. One day, when I came home from school, I noticed all the kittens were gone. There was one white kitten meowing back at me. I screamed & ran indoors.

My mom & grandma had given the kittens away at the local supermarket. Grandma even made special bows, so they would appear extra cute. I eventually gave the two big cats to our neighbors. The lizard died & the turtle was also sent to (you guessed it) the wild.

After an era of pets, I gave up track home living for cramped New York apartment living. Therefore, the thought of starting my own zoo in a bedroom the size of a walk in closet didn’t sound tempting. However, I give my parents props for nurturing my eccentricities.

Eating With Chopsticks

My holidays haven’t revolved around a Christmas tree in almost twenty years. Changing planes at airports for such exciting destinations as Tokyo, Buenos Aires & California were the norm in more recent years. Forget freshly roasted turkey, yams & a pecan pie, my Christmas dinner centered on Panda Express. Chopsticks, orange chicken & chow mien were the Christmas staple.

Sure, it’s not a proper New York Chinese eatery, but when you’re starving at Atlanta airport & changing planes it tastes as gourmet as Joe’s Shanghai’s (New York’s best Chinese eatery, in my opinion). There were the holidays where even having a loaf of bread was a blessing.

My father & I spent Christmas in Rome one year & couldn’t find any open restaurants. Therefore, we kindly asked the hotel to give us whatever they could find. That Christmas, we ate stale bread, while watching CNN International.

Italy proved a whole different animal from our family Christmases in the late 80’s & early 90s. My family, the Alas’ love Palm Springs. My grandparents had a beautiful vacation house in nearby Cathedral City.  We would all gather there & have family time. I always found a way to sneak a peek at my gifts & complained every time; someone gave me clothes as opposed to action figures.

There were truckloads of food. Everyone found a spot to pass out from food coma. My grandma’s famous turkey graced the table. A variety of apple desserts made everyone smile. The Alas family loves apple pie. Sometimes, the reunions felt as humorous as a Neil Simon play, other times they would’ve inspired a Shakespearean style production. However, those were fond memories.

As an adult, I experienced a very foreign concept, spending holidays by myself. New York is the holiday’s capital of the world. Fifth Avenue is decked in flashy Christmas decorations. As always there are remarkable window displays at tony department stores Bergdorf Goodman’s & Barney’s. The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center sparkles with holiday delight. It’s the epicenter of holiday cheer.

This didn’t deter from missing my dad during thanksgiving. I moped around the Village, not feeling super upbeat. When I returned to my modest apartment, there was a special phone call.

My friend Rebecca called. I told her, I’m feeling awfully lonely. She goes ” that’s too bad, I’m at LAX right now waiting for my flight to JFK.” I jumped in excitement; my bitter mood transformed into sweetness only butterscotch could match.

The next day, I woke up in a very enthusiastic mood. Although, Rebecca couldn’t hang out with me till the weekend, I made the best of Manhattan holiday cheer. I went to Central Park that day & walked toward the edge facing Central Park West.  That day was my first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Of course, I watched it on TV. I’m not really impressed by parades. However, I love the artistry that went behind the floats, the music & just the cheer excitement. My jaded card flew out the window as the Harajuku girls, snoopy & superman floats passed by.

After the parade, I walked around the East Village & noticed many other people were alone too. I didn’t feel so bad. I didn’t enjoy my grandma’s famous turkey recipe that year; instead I had a burger at the diner for lunch. Then, my big thanksgiving dinner consisted of Chinese delights. Like my many Christmases at the airport, I utilized my chopstick skills & made it a great day.

I met up with my buddy Rebecca & we had an amazing holiday weekend of walking around Midtown & enjoying dinner in the West Village. The following year, felt less lonely. My roommate & I hosted a wonderful thanksgiving dinner at our apartment. However, nobody bought a turkey. Our innovative alternative, tacos, enchiladas & other Mexican delights for the big day.

These days, it’s less plane travel on holidays. My dad & I usually hang out by the fireplace. In the past year, we traded chopsticks & turkey for steaks. In the tradition of the Alas family, there’s always a big apple pie & plenty of wine. Even though, I do love having my family close by. The magic of New York during the holidays is truly missed.