The Fortune Teller

The quarter century life crisis is a condition. To cure it take one community college class, a cup of coffee and smoke a few American spirit cigarettes. If that doesn’t work call your guru in the morning. There I was in my mid-twenties, surviving New York in a recession on my own.

I had friends, a bachelor’s degree and lived five blocks from the subway. However, living in a utopia of creative ways to pay rent and still have money to keep a social life in the Lower East Side was playing it’s course. I was working, but the pressures to build a career mounted.

At twenty-five, I didn’t want to work in entertainment. Therefore, I studied for the GRE’s. I would sit on my stoop and take different practice GRE tests. What struck me during this time was my love of the word. I find great excitement discovering new words and adding them to the vocabulary family. I didn’t know how I could make a career as a writer.

Like any other Sunday, I loved my walks in the East Village. If I were having a good week financially, I’d order a fancy coffee. In case of a broke week, it was always black coffee. One particular day, I had bought a designer coffee. I was still contemplating what I would do with the rest of my life. However, I couldn’t figure out, what I wanted to do career wise.

In between First and Second Avenue, I would search for my answers. Walking past the very old apartment blocks was a sign for psychic readings. When it comes to psychics, I’ve always been skeptical. I was desperate for answers and had an extra twenty bucks in my pocket. I rang the bell and the psychic lady let me inside.

She stared at me. I was quite uncomfortable and thinking to myself, ” am I seriously spending 20 bucks on this shit? That’s my coffee trust fund for the week.” She shuffled her magic cards. Then, told me this is what’s going to happen ” you’re going to move to California.” I swallowed in nervously. Her tone changed, ” you’re not going to like it and will return to New York.” I asked her about career. She didn’t give me an exact answer.

“You’re going to return to New York with a dream career,” she replied. I gave a nervous smile. The biggest revelations were yet to come. ” You will have a husband and two kids,” her psychic seriousness turned into a jovial grin. ” Geez, moving back to California” I thought, not really what I want. I paid her the twenty-bucks and walked out of the tenement building in the freezing cold East Village night.

I walked around Second Avenue, passing the Patricia Fields shop (which always has wonderful window displays). The urge, the cock and detox, which are gay, dive bar heaven lined next to each other. I looked around at all the people traffic and thought to myself, I don’t want to give this up for the West Coast.

Flexibility is key in surviving life. I did end up moving to California. Being back in Southern California wasn’t my thing. Through moving back west, I did find my dream career, copywriting. The psychic lady was right. Everyday, I’m grateful for having a career path and loving every minute of it. I am waiting to see the other predictions come true, even though I am not looking for a husband at the moment.

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Pizza For Breakfast

Weekend mornings, I love to eat pizza for breakfast. I don’t have leftovers, but simply put some fresh cheese and tomato sauce on pita bread. After toasting it, I have a cup of coffee and watch TV. The Italian tastes wake me up instantly.

Eating pizza in the morning is a habit, which I inherited in Rome. Each morning my dad and I would wake up and crave a slice. There was a wonderful pizzeria around the corner from our hotel. Each morning they would have freshly baked pizza. The lady behind the counter would greet us with a very enthusiastic ” Bongiorno.” We ordered two Pizza Marghertias and sodas.

It was always a triumphant way to commence days of exploring old Rome. I never worried once about my boyish figure. With days spent going up and down the Spanish steps and exploring the Roman Forum, I worked off my daily pizza intake.

I even snuck it in a few more times during the day. It’s my favorite food and a way to bond. I’ve had surprisingly good pizza in Paris and traditional, but delicious slices in Buenos Aires. However, New York is the pizza capital of the world.

One of my favorite memories happened in the Bronx. My friend Linda was born and bred in the borough. She said to me one day ” Come to the Bronx, I wanna show you borough.” I excitedly accepted her offer. Most people would think it more logical to go to Italy than the Bronx for pizza. However, traveling to the borough greatly interested me.

The images of urban decay, hip-hop and Yankees stadium were more fascinating than visiting some suburb. I took the 2 from the city to the Bronx. As the train elevated, the Bronx looked like my borough, Queens. It had the same reddish apartment blocks, old New York style tenement buildings and a street life. There were Puerto Rican flags all over, which displayed the borough’s pride.

When my train arrived at the station, I hurried down and met Linda. It was a lovely ride and my iPod didn’t run out of battery. She walked me around. Everything was peaceful and unlike the classic images of the borough from the 70’s.

We were both starving and she invited me for a slice of pizza. The pizzeria was across from the projects. Unlike most pizzerias, which claim to be authentic, this was a hit. We then went to the Latino market for a Malta drink (licorice soda). I had the most authentic New York meal. It was some of the best pizza I had.

Moving back to California didn’t deter my love of good pizza. I love it for breakfast, lunch and if possible dinner. I’ve many good slices, but nothing beats my Bronx pizza experience. Sharing pizza with family and friends makes it most memorable.

Ferryboat

Beach culture is as foreign to me as Antarctica’s penguin population. Even in California, I opt to stay inland and love my road trips to gay-tastic Palm Springs. However, there is one part of the world where the city meshes with the ocean beautifully. Sydney has the beach, but it has a splash of Midtown Manhattan for the urbanite’s soul.

As a proper visitor, I gave the turquoise waters and white sands of Sydney a try. The largest Australian city has a spectacular public transportation that revolves around ferryboats. They take both visitors and Sydneysiders to the beach, work and home. It’s almost like taking a train, but on the water. Unlike the subway, the ferryboat is like an affordable cruise. The Sydney skyline on one side, on the other is a cliff complimenting the immensely blue waters.

Unlike most urban shorefronts, Sydney has desolate beach towns. Manly Beach is my favorite. The actual town retains a California in the 50’s vibe. It’s doesn’t feel corporate with it’s small restaurants and independent shops. Since, I went in winter, I could wear my black hoodies and feel euphoric.

As a non-beach enthusiast, I started to fall in love with Sydney. Soon, I took the ferryboats everywhere. I traveled to the zoo and saw real kangaroos. In Bondi, there are many men who shouldn’t be wearing speedos sunbathing. However, I do give them kudos for strutting their stuff.

My favorite memory revolves around Doyle’s. It’s on a sea cliff overlooking the ocean. I took my dad there and we ate fish n’ chips. They have a monopoly in that slice of the city. Never mind being hungry for Japanese, Thai or Indian, it’s always fish n’ chips madness there.

I miss Sydney’s idea of public transportation, the ferryboat. The panoramic views will always remain riveting in my memory book. I took it from the city’s world famous beaches to the zoo. While I’ll always prefer New York to Southern California, Sydney made me appreciate the quiet and hustle.

Gaydar

“I’m sorry with a thousand excuses me’s, that guy is gay.” This is what my mom would proclaim every time her gaydar went off. My mom was conservative, but the gays just loved her. I don’t know how to explain it. She was definitely the Cher of ring wingers.

My mom fancied everything very traditional and boring. The only spice she liked in her life was Indian food. One glorious day in London, she finally experienced some edgy spice. We were off to the Prince Albert theatre for a musical. It’s on Old Compton Street in Soho, the Christopher street/Eighth Avenue of London. Shop names such as “Orgasmic Juice” and rainbow flags left her mouth wide open in shock.

She goes ” you didn’t tell me this show was in the gay part of town.” I simply replied, ” You didn’t ask mom.” She rolled her eyes and I suggested we have dinner at one of the many cafes lining the road. I don’t usually wear bright colors. That day I did. Chubby faced me got a ton of attention from blokes. While my mom squinted looking at the menu, I smiled and got my flirt on.

Unfortunately, she didn’t drink booze. The whole Soho experience became more intense. To make matters more awkward a film crew arrived. “We’re gonna be on gay TV” she proclaimed disappointingly. I smiled and was trying to find a mirror. As our long wait for food persisted, my mom actually had a blast people watching. ” I love those capris pants that guy is wearing, I want some for myself.” She thought their fashion was cool.

Afterwards, I fell asleep at the musical. However, actually seeing my straight-laced mother having a good time surrounded by the gay, priceless. The right wing Cher certainly came out of the conservative closet and enjoyed time with her gay son on that wonderful London night.

Fresh Frozen Food

I avoid frozen food like the plague. As a major foodie, I have a hard time seeing my chicken fried steak dinner covered in ice and thawed with the microwave. However, thanks to not being a chef, I’ve had to enjoy the frozen dinner. I do have a couple favorite microwavable foods.

Mama Celeste pizzas are divine. I know that they’re not the healthiest, but the pizzas have a nostalgic after school taste to them. This derives from my mom not wanting to cook dinner and feeding me what was convenient, Mama Celeste pizza.

In restaurants, one would never expect to see a microwave, especially not in Madrid, Spain. The capital is revered for its food scene. Although, tapas son el rey (tapas are king), there are small hidden restaurants, which use innovative techniques to broaden Spanish staples. One restaurant served venison cooked with traditional Spanish ingredients. Eating Bambi wasn’t much of a guilt trip and the dessert was especially unique. It was a clear colored gelatin with cinnamon powdered on top.

After a night of innovative, I longed for a night of old school Spanish flavors. Puerta del Sol is the Piccadilly Circus of Madrid. In fact, seeing the neon outdoor ad for Tio Pepe (prominently situated), a brand of cherry, officially announces, “you have arrived in Madrid.” There weren’t a ton of tourists in Puerta del Sol when I was there

I walked into a two-story restaurant. The waiter handed me a menu and the Paella caught my eye (saffron rice with various seafood and meats). I ordered it.

In the corner of my eye, I could see the waiter putting the paella plate in the microwave. I was astonished and nearly fell out of my chair. They delivered the dish and I was not pleased. It tasted ok. However, I was traumatized by the thought of my dish ever seeing the artificial lights of a microwave. I didn’t eat paella for a while.

It’s one of those dishes that taste delicious, but not everyone knows how to make it. The best I had was at a tapas bar in London. Madrid gave me memorable tastes and made me keenly aware of the microwave. However, I still fondly remember all the croquets and Jamon Iberico, while dismissing my paella encounter.

Tokyo Tastebuds

Japan is the land of sushi, miso soup, teriyaki and delicious curry dishes. Tokyo is my favorite food city along with New York. My primary goal on the famous Tokyo journeys was to eat well. As an expensive city, Tokyo has high food standards and practices.

For a young American, my best food friend was the noodle house. Whether, I was lost in a maze of Pachinko machine parlors (equivalent of our arcades) in Shibuya or browsing the art museum at Roppongi Hills, the noodle house filled me up well and cheaply.

At the noodle bar, you go up to a machine, similar to a vending machine. There are different numbers with noodle bowl selection, pick the number, sit in the round circle of noodle enthusiasts and the waitress serves a magnificent circus of noodles, broth and fresh pork (depending on what meat you like). In Japan, it is socially acceptable to slurp and enjoy one’s soup.

The noodle house was my home away from home. However, I longed for a different taste for my palate. Tokyo has a wonderful food selection. They have traditional style French brasseries and American burgers. However, I opted for Italian. I was still living in New York on my last Tokyo trip. Therefore, the idea of going out for Italian seemed absurd.

However, I took the plunge. After taking the metro to Ueno, I walked into this fancy Italian restaurant located in a smart department store. I put my name on the list. I roamed around while I waited. Chopsticks are fine cutlery in Japan. They had a variety of chopsticks from practical to fancy. I went to check on my name.

I sat down, ordered and they brought over my Italian dinner. With all the Japanese food, I felt guilty eating Italian. Although, I had a tortellini dish, which is relative to noodles, the tastes were authentically Italian. Wow, I ate the whole dish. Tokyo can do Italian food very well.

After my unexpected voyage into Italian culinary land, I stuck to Japanese. However, it opened my mind to Tokyo’s worldliness. When I would walk in the metro station there were New York bagel shops, authentic French pastries and of course, the Japanese noodles. When in Tokyo, eat at noodle bars. It’s your wallet’s savior. Venture into the numerous cuisines the Japanese capital has to offer. It will be worth every yen.

Mixtape

Friday nights growing up in the 90’s revolved around trips to Costco with my parents. We always bought a huge pizza and brought it home. I’d eat pizza, put on some funky film like Pulp Fiction and lower the volume on the TV down to zero.

I’d then turn on the radio. Friday nights were special. It was the 80’s music marathon on the local radio station. I took out a fresh blank tape from my backpack, slipped it into the radio and waited for a cool song to come on. When that special song came on, I waited for the announcer to stop talking and boom, hit record.

I would then close my eyes as Durran Durran, the Pet Shop Boys, Thompson Twins and Adam Ant would take me away to London in the 80’s. In my head, I was on the top of a double-decker bus in the grey. With the only color being that of the funky hairdos and outrageous outfits of 80’s London. As the song faded, there were commercial breaks. This meant I could sneak in a slice of pizza.

When the music returned it played even more fun tunes. Dramarama’s “anything anything,” “living on video” by Trans-X and Blondie’s “heart of glass” were some of my all time favorite songs, featured on my mix tape. These songs along with all the British new wave, 90’s staples like the Cranberries and hip-hop were a part of the soundtrack of my youth.

In my junior year of college, my friend Holly introduced me to the iPod. I marveled at it and quickly purchased one of my own. I still had the mix tapes at home. However, after a year I gave them up and recreated the soundtrack of my youth through the iPod.

Today, tapes like vinyl records are a source of fascination. Many youngsters will never understand the magic behind the rewind button. However, those of us who grew up with mix tapes, will forever remember the joy found when that song we longed for finally came on the radio and with the record button, it became ours.

Men Folk

I came out at fifteen years old. My biggest supporter was my dad. Even as a Marine, he always accepted not only my gayness, but also all those personality quirks. As, I grew older; he wanted to understand me better.

Therefore, we went to a gay bar. When we would travel, my dad wouldn’t tag along to the bars. He always wanted me to go out and have fun on my own. Surprise, I had a blast. On a trip to Paris, I finally invited him to a gay bar. It was a chic haunt in uber gay Le Marais, the capital’s rainbow heart. It was male dominated. The guys had classic Gallic features and dressed impeccably.

They looked straight out of Paris Fashion Week. In fact, the bar would make a great after catwalk drink meet up. My dad felt very comfortable being the only straight guy there. He sipped a beer and I had the gayest of all beverages, a martini.

A few months after our big Paris trip, we traveled to Buenos Aires. I love men who look natural. In fact, I prefer a six-pack of beer to a six-pack on a man. However, there was this handsome guy who kept following us all over the city. From the world’s widest street, 9 de Julio Avenue to fashionable Recoleta to the coffee shops of Palermo Soho, he appeared. He was a classically handsome Argentinian, shirtless and armed with a beautiful smile.

This Latin lover was in an outdoor advertisement for men’s cologne. He was plastered all over the city. I told my dad, that I thought he was pretty hot, even though he wasn’t my type. My dad giggled. As we walked passed the billboard, the handsome Argentinian man kept smiling back at me. I told, my dad I want to take a picture, but felt like a nerd doing it.

My dad took the camera from my hand. He took a picture of Mr. Latin lover and handed me back the camera. Here you go, he said with a smile. The only loving I got from that trip was the mountains of dulce de leche I devoured.

After we came back home to the good ol’ U.S of A, I laughed at our Buenos Aires pictures. The outdoor ad guy looked hotter in person than photographed. Nonetheless, it’s great showing my dad a side of my life other sons would not dare talk about. Being upfront and accepting has kept are bond strong.

Waiting For Fall

Daydreaming of autumn leaves, matzo ball soup and scarfs commences in the heat of a subway station. There I am at the West 4th station in the intense heat, having one hot flash after another. I have a fancy Japanese fan and an iced latte from Starbucks. However, the heat persists. There is a redeeming beam of light, it’s the F train. As I grow in anticipation, the train arrives. I step in the car. The soothing chill of artificial air rushes through my sweaty, but adorable outfit.

Summer is the muggy subway station, while fall is the air-conditioned car. Yes, summer is miserable. New York summers always equated hibernating in the living room with my cool roommate and the one fancy to referring to as Darth Vader. I am Princess Lea, of course. We would lounge in the one part of the apartment with air conditioning, the living room. Darth Vader and I didn’t get along, as expected. Some nights were like the first Star Wars film. Other nights were a combination Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. No lasers or robots were harmed in the making of this New York moment. While the force was with me in that living room, the rest of the city remained hot, but magical.

Although, humidity is sticky and attracts mosquitos, the men are out in full force. I have great memories of meeting a cute guy at cheesy bar in Chelsea, making out and going on a date that night.

He ate half my grilled cheese, but looked so cute doing it. With the hot weather, neither one of us wanted to go back to our heat induced homes. Therefore, we would sit at Union Square and watch the sunrise. However, as in any great fairy tale, my Prince Charming had to dash back to Long Island, before he turned into cannoli.

Other positives of New York summers include the Mr. Softie ice cream trucks (although grossly overpriced), shirtless guys from Astoria Park to the great lawn in Central Park and plenty of excuses to go out, since everywhere is cooler than one’s own humble abode.

When the chill finally hits the air and the first orange autumn leaves fall, I secretly do a little happy dance in my head. Scarfs adorn my neck. Tweed coats keep me fashionable. Pumpkin spice lattes warm the senses. Matzo ball, egg drop, New England clam chowder, chicken noodle and lobster bisque soup satisfies my inner foodie. If I am feeling a bit adventurous, an Irish coffee will forever make my liver smile.

When waiting for summer to end, be patient. The train to orange leaves, matzo ball soup and pumpkin spice is arriving any minute. Sit back listen to your iPod and sip that iced latte in anticipation.

The Other Small Town

Candy shops, football games, tumbleweeds rolling through an empty road, quaint homes with the porches swinging, and Main street U.S.A. This is the quintessential image of small town America. It’s a sleepy place, where everyone knows your name and entire family lineage.

Manhattan’s compact size gives it the feeling of a big small town. Unlike most small towns, New York’s most famous and revered borough is as homey as a fancy streak tar tar. New Yorkers adore fashion and dressing up is never just reserved for a special occasion.

Given the borough’s small size, you never know whom you’re going to run into at the corner of 6th and First Avenue. That’s one of the things I love about Manhattan, running into friends unexpectedly. Whether I am strolling along Gramercy Park, grabbing coffee in Hell’s Kitchen or taking the subway to Harlem, I would run into a friend. It was always lovely, hugging, catching up and enjoying one of the joys of living in the city.

There’s always guaranteed celebrity sightings in Manhattan. However, they are as exciting as watching molasses growing slowly. I saw famous people hanging out on the Lower East Side, frequenting my favorite West Village coffee shop and walking their dogs. However, I didn’t care.

One beautiful autumn morning, I took a walk through Central Park. The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir has an urbane soothing feel to it. I commenced my Central Park adventure there. In the middle of the nature trail, which is complimented by the high-rise apartment buildings of Fifth Avenue, my phone rang. Natalia, my dear friend wanted to grab lunch. Luckily, I was uptown.

I bolted through the park and took Madison Avenue up to the east 80’s. Madison Avenue from the east 60’s to 96th street screams money. The most affordable treat on the glittery sidewalk is a raisin pastry and coffee from Le Pain Quotidien. Somewhere between expensive and more expensive, I saw a very familiar blonde from a distance. She was petit and had muscular arms. As I walked closer, an epiphany hit me. That’s Madonna.

The queen of pop is my favorite gay icon. I loved watching her concert tours on TV from blonde ambition to the girly show. My first music video ever seen was like a prayer. It shocked me as a five year old to see all the burning crosses, but it beat watching Alvin and the Chipmunks after school. I especially love her music, ray of light, the immaculate collection and true blue.

As she approached closer, I grew excited. My jadedness seeing celebrities went out the window. I walked past her. We made eye contact and she smiled at me. It completely made my day. She can spot a gay fan from as far as Paris. I saw Madonna and it was quite riveting.

I called my friend Rebecca in California. She’s also a fan. I told her about my celebrity encounter with Madge. She asked “are you sure it was Madonna or some buffed out blonde?” I suddenly realized, oh it might have been a false alarm. Whether it was Madonna or not, the lady probably thought to herself ” gee, these gay guys are just so friendly.”

In Manhattan, you are more likely to see a hipster rolling around Union Square than tumbleweed. The town gossip is page six, porches are replaced by stoops and the city gathers in excitement over fashion week as opposed to the high school football play offs.

This is why I love New York, the unexpected encounters with people and feeling a part of a community. I don’t like feeling disconnected, which is the vibe I get from a car centric culture. I need people and noise to keep me inspired.