Catwalks of New York

Strutting down Broadway toward Madison Square Park, I walk in the shady side of the street, since it’s not plagued with heat. In early autumn, the city is still cooling down from summer’s intense perpetual heat and humidity. Regardless of the unpredictable weather, I wear my all black cardigan combo. During my whole trip to Madison Square Park, I survived without schvitizing (sweating). The true test of wearing an overly warm outfit is not breaking a sweat after my peaceful park bench retreat ends.

I have to walk from 23rd and Park to Chinatown for lunch. I continue on with my strategy, although the sun comes to greet me unexpectedly. As I speed through the Bowery, I schvitz a bit. However, I find a stoop in Chinatown to cool off. By the time, Judy meets me I’m minty fresh and ready for a delicious early lunch.

I’ll admit to sacrificing comfort for style. When it comes to fashion, I’m obsessed. I don’t follow up on trends, but adore combining outfits. My favorite time of the day is (believe it or not) the morning. I wake up after one of my many dreams of marrying a European prince and joyfully design my outfit for the day.

Ties and cardigans are my favorite staple. I love combining bold hues such as a black cardigan and trousers with a grey tie. It works well for three seasons of the year. For summer, I typically just do the collard shirt with jeans or khakis look.

Although, I probably was born wearing a shirt and tie (even though my parents tell me otherwise) there are times I do break the rules. One winter it was so cold in New York, I had my ugly laid back green winter coat shipped from California.

I felt like an oversize green bean in that coat. It was quite warm, but lacked the classic style of a pea coat or trench coat. One night, I went to a party at a Lower East Side hotel with Nicole and Krista. When we walked out of the party, a full on blizzard welcomed us.

We made our way toward First Avenue with snowflakes flying at high velocity. Even though, I wasn’t stylish with my green coat and old sneakers, it was a cozy walk in the middle of New York’s infamous bad weather. “Wow, now I know why people dress comfortably.” My cozy fashion stage didn’t last. I traded in my green coat and old sneakers for loafers and blazers.

David Bowie sang the “fashion” song. Not gonna lie, I’ve walked up Spring Street listening to that song while mentally transforming the sidewalk into the runway at New York fashion week. The city is a giant catwalk, where fashion trends are born.

The catwalk isn’t just fashionable Nolita or the trendy East Village. Styles are born at vintage shops in Brooklyn, along Harlem stoops and even on the 6 train. New York will always be the living breathing fashion magazine brought to life.

The Gay Boy’s Birthday

What do you get a gay boy for his birthday? For those in the know, it’s easy. Something glittery (we like sparkly things), anything Madonna oriented (please hold the swept away DVD) and a gift certificate for Bloomingdales.

I’ve had many memorable birthday parties. During elementary school, my mom would show up to the class with pizza and cupcakes. Everyone sang me Happy Birthday as my cheeks turned bright red. My parents would then take me to the local mall to buy action figures.

As a teenager, birthdays were equally memorable. While I was living in Riverside, CA, my friend Elizabeth picked me up from school. It was a grey autumn afternoon, but her brightly colored present lit up the horizon with pink and electric blue. The new Madonna CD, I couldn’t have been more delighted. My mom banned Madonna’s music from the house.

However, when she was out n’ about, I would listen to her music. Not only, did Elizabeth buy me a CD by my favorite singer, she also invited me to Simple Simon’s. It’s a sandwich shop in Downtown Riverside, which is one of the finest in the country (in my humble opinion).

My most memorable birthday as twenty-something happened one rainy Manhattan day. I decided to have a field trip in my favorite New York neighborhoods. It started with an early morning stroll in Nolita, followed by a cappuccino, independent bookstore madness and more java via the Village coffee house culture.

During that time, I worked in politics. So on one of our breaks from campaigning, my co-worker invited me to coffee and a vegan chocolate cake in the East Village. I still remember how delicious it tasted, even though the vegan title scares me just a bit.

Feeling stuffed on cake and an endless supply of coffee, I returned to our office on 40th and Sixth Avenue. “Surprise!” everyone yelled. They brought out a gorgeous chocolate cake (not vegan this time) from a bakery on the Upper West Side.

There we were enjoying cake and having excellent conversations, when one of my co-workers suggested a daring idea. “Anthony, you need to stuff your face into the cake and take a picture.” I really loved my outfit that day, so I politely declined. Then everyone chimed in ” c’mon!” I caved in and lightly covered my face in chocolate cake.

” That doesn’t count,” they yelled. I looked nervously at the cake. It never dawned on me that chocolate cake could give me a bit of anxiety. Motivation promptly arrived. Somebody yelled “Anthony just pretend it’s a man.”

Mission accomplished, I smashed that chocolate cake in my face. My co-worker was kind enough to take a picture and send it to my dad. He text messaged me and said, ” tell your friends thank you for the birthday cake.” The outfit survived.

Later that night, we all hit a gay karaoke bar. I sang Jay-Z. It was funny; I can’t free-style to save my life. Luckily, my martini got me through the performance. The gays gave me praise and even bought me a birthday drink.

Booze, cupcakes and wonderful friends have made my birthdays memorable. I haven’t had a lavish birthday with elephants and jet set trips to exotic destinations. However, being around my loved ones is the best present of all.

Royal Albert

On a chilly March evening, I hailed a black cab. As it made it’s way through the darkened woods of Hyde Park, anticipation built. This was my very grown up night out in London. My shoes were perfectly polished, shirt & tie present while a navy blue pea coat kept me warm.

I reached my destination in South Kensington. The Royal Albert Hall, where the voices of rock n’ roll and opera have merged. The sounds of classical music played for the delights of Londoners and tourists alike. Staring into the round-shaped red building I too lit up with excitement.

It was my first time at the famed concert hall and was seeing the opera, Madam Butterfly. I took my seat at the balcony. Like the exterior the Royal Albert Hall is a theatre in the round. I was dazzled by it ornate interior. Everyone was beautifully dressed and shined with anticipation for a wonderful performance.

Opera can be the equivalent of a proper lullaby for both my ears and eyes (it makes me sleepy).  I adjusted my tie and unbuttoned the very warm coat, the lights dimed. From the darkness came an enchanting sound.

The singer’s operatic voice grabbed my attention like a shot of espresso in a coffee cup. The opera was lengthy as expected. I struggled to keep my eyes open, but achieved not falling asleep. When the actors took the stage, they received a standing ovation.

After the opera, I walked along South Kensington’s well-polished sidewalks and grabbed a bite to eat. High culture activities are one of the reasons; I’ve been going to London for thirteen years. Resort holidays can be fun, especially when there is booze involved.

However, nothing beats London. I adore going to plays, viewing exquisite art and being a part of the cosmopolitan street scene. Every time, I leave the English capital, there’s always that ” I need to see more” feeling. Hence, I will be coming back to London for a lifetime.

Naked In The Subway

I’ve had many awkward moments on the New York City subway. There are the usual heated political discussions at 3 am. My growling stomach providing ear candy for those who are not glued to ear phones.  While drunken people swinging from pole to pole entertain the masses. Then of course, there are the panhandlers who claim “if you give a dollar today, you won’t go to hell tomorrow.”

The subway is home to a cast of characters, which inspires and keeps creative minds jaded. Not blinking an eye to the unusual is a trademark of the New York experience. One faithful evening, something changed. I was standing at the platform at 59th and Lex waiting for an Uptown train to Queens. From the corner of my eye, I saw a man standing in his underwear.

“Only in New York” I thought to myself. Then another man appeared. ” Well hello gorgeous in the dazzling plaid boxers.” People in the dead of winter wearing nothing but a coat and no pants surrounded me. I didn’t think much of it. They all took a downtown train and I didn’t see any more people posing in their undies in busy 59th and Lex.

A year later, I was sitting in outside a coffee house in the East Village with my buddy Kyle. He looked excited. “I’m taking my pants off.” I nearly dropped my very full cappuccino all over a newly dry cleaned winter coat. ” It’s no the pants on the subway ride, where everyone shows up dressed in their undies.” He looked thrilled to partake in knickers (had to use the British version of undies here) madness.

“Oh, that’s why everyone was pant less last year, it’s a flash mob thing” I proclaimed. As expected, I supported his decision to not wear pants in New York’s bitter cold. Personally, I love the idea of rolling around in my underwear on a nice blanket of snow. Unfortunately, I did not want to join the no pants subway ride.

Fast-forward, it was another Sunday night supper downtown. I walked on 14th street toward Union Square, when another interesting occurrence blinded my eyes. Wow, I was the only one on 14th street wearing trousers. It was a whole mob of bare legs with long stocks. Underwear representing boxers, briefs, and panties filled the usually trouser friendly sidewalks.

Union Square morphed into a sea of knickers. I felt slightly self-conscious wearing trousers for once. I wouldn’t have any fun undies to wear anyways.

The “no pants on the subway” keeps the city humorous and outrageous. When one feels like they’ve seen it all in the city, there is always that reminder, more interesting sights are coming soon.

Bohemian Life

Bob Dylan sang those legendary lyrics “how does it feel? To be on your own like a rolling stone.” When I first heard those lyrics as a teenager it spoke to me. I knew that I would not live a traditional life. Therefore the idea of being a starving artist in New York City was romanticized, since it represented my interpretation of the Dylan classic.

Being the arty type meant going against the archetype set up by generations of parents who groom their children to wear a suit and carry a calculator like it’s the Holy Grail. Films and books, I read about made being poor in New York look so damn good.

The clichés were correct. My room was so tiny; I would extend my arms and could easily touch both walls. I didn’t have closet space and the radiator couldn’t function 99.9% of the winter. Like most New Yorkers, I had a severe case of claustrophobia.

In the city, we are surrounded by canyon like buildings, people in every corner and a general lack of space. Instead of moving somewhere boring where strip malls, supermarkets and baby strollers run wild like dolled up brunettes at Bergdorf Goodman’s, we learn to love claustrophobia.

Lack of closet space, no worries; just put your sweater collection in the kitchen cupboards. Small bedroom space means it’s a wonderful day to hang out in Tompkins Square Park. While staying warm is easy with an abundance of charming bookshops like the Strand.

While gleeful attitudes toward claustrophobia are inevitable, sometimes the flowery perspective is put to the test. One winter’s night, Nicole, Krista and I were en route to the Guggenheim Museum for a party. Bands, art and booze were the allure of the grand feast.

We arrived and the whole place was hopping. There were all kinds of people representing every ethnicity and subculture of New York. It was a fashionable crowd. At first, the party seemed like a delight. Then the crowds and music levels increased as the museum’s walls narrowed. Claustrophobia was out to get us.

Therefore, we took a couple swigs of wine and left the party early. We hailed a cab and took a journey to the Lower East Side. Everything from Park Avenue to the view of Stuy Town from FDR drive shined with charm. After a lovely dinner at a restaurant on Essex street, I was reminded why I can tolerate claustrophobia. Wonderful friends and delicious food make living the city an absolutely amazing experience even with its flaws.

I had my struggling New Yorker era. My life mirrored the lyrics of the Bob Dylan song “on my own like a rolling stone.” However, nothing beats living in New York. There’s no other place, which inspires me more. Keep the space and sprawl found in the rest of America, I’d take Manhattan please.

On The Fringe

I remember the very minute and day I came out of the closet. It happened one chilly March morning. I sat with my friend Kelsey behind the history class along a grassy knoll, complaining about my mom’s conservative views. Suddenly, I let it slip ” I like men.” My life would change from that moment on, even though school was no stroll through Christopher Street.

My high school years lacked the charm promised in the films of John Hughes. Therefore, I thought to myself ” the hell with it.” I came at fifteen years old. My life then transformed. Bullying continued and I would come out of the closet more times in life. However, as I grew older going to college, living in New York and working in the creative field, being gay became second nature.

Growing older meant I had many friends who came out of the closet to me. There was the cute guy in art class. We mingled at art museum exhibition. He had red hair, glasses and was completely adorable.

As we talked, I could feel his artistic energy, but thought he was just another open-minded straight guy. Then I changed the subject from art to “Sex and the City,” which made him come out of the closet. Wow, the seemingly unattainable arty guy and I started dating.

Then there are guy friends, whom I was close with but have no idea were gay. One of my best friends in the city kept his gayness hidden for years. I had no idea. Even with all my gay talk, he didn’t say anything about his own feelings.

Until one day, we had dinner in the Village, when he goes ” I like guys.” Our friendship would deepen with the revelation. We celebrated by having drinks at some fun gay bars in the West Village.

Most of the time, guys who I know are gay and I will just get into our homosexual talk quickly. Talk about fashion, music and art ensues, while men are always brought in at the tail end. No “surprise I’m gay announcement” required.

When I came out of the closet, homophobia was accepted. The word “fag” was uttered often. These days with bullying making news headlines, I can honestly say I survived that era in my life. I find humor in my journey as a gay man. The best part of being openly gay is the ability to be who I am without carrying about somebody’s opinion.

Memories Of A Delicatessen

Matzo ball soup, a pastrami sandwich complimented by superb rye bread, a black and white cookie washed down with a coffee inspire my taste buds to do a happy dance. For years, the Jewish deli has been an integral part of my dinning experience. I love Reuben sandwiches; have acquired a taste for pickles, but still frightened to try gefilte fish.

The original heart of Jewish New York is the Lower East Side home to Katz’s delicatessen. I walked past it a trillion times. Most of my Lower East Side adventures commenced on Ludlow and Houston. I finally ended up going with Judy on one of our many food expeditions.

” You’re not a real New Yorker unless you have an egg cream” she said. I ordered an egg cream before my journey into pastrami sandwich land. The quintessential New York drink does not have any egg in it. Egg cream comes in vanilla and chocolate with seltzer water added. It’s very similar to an Italian soda.

Half way through my egg cream indulgence, the hot pastrami sandwich arrived. While other places have hot pastrami sandwiches, they have the tendency to taste like warmed up cold cuts.

Katz’s taste like real pastrami, freshly cook with a thicker cut of meat than the normal delicatessen. It was simply delicious and I was happy to add Katz’s to my favorite New York dinning experiences.

After my Katz’s experience I tried the fancy delis. I have fond memories of dinning at an upscale deli on the Upper East Side. Primarily, I went for the people watching. However, the prices were high and it lacked that mom n’ pops feel. Therefore, if I want matzo ball and pastrami sandwich fill, Katz’s or more traditional delis are my favorite choice.

The Stoop

The roar of the subway echoed through my apartment like Pavarotti’s voice at an opera house. The lights were dim and then the subway’s penetrating yet soothing sounds diminished as a pebble hit my window. I didn’t think much of it and continued my dream of marrying a prince and living in a palace.

Suddenly, a second pebble hits my window. “Anthony come down to the stoop for a cigarette.” I look out my window and there are the smiling faces of my neighbors Doug and Lauren. My dreams of being a queen diminished for an opportunity to partake in laughs and coughing out a lung or two.

I put on my winter coat and to stoop land I go. Our stoop wasn’t just a set of staircases leading the front door of our building, but a gathering place for our neighbors. We had BBQs, ate pierogis and conversed, creating a great sense of community.

When I would come home from work tired or having a rough day, my Doug, Lauren and Tony would be waiting. They had a pack of American spirits and coffee ready to go. Having a support system makes living in the city even more magical. Stoops are also an inexpensive ways to enjoy life.

One of my favorite free forms of entertainment in expensive New York is walking the West Village. The charming cafes, old bookstores, enchanting coffee shops, dive bars, mix of students, Marc Jacobs clad house moms, old people, gays, post collegiate bankers trying to pull off the boho chic look and tourists make up the neighborhood’s character.

However, nothing is more quintessentially Greenwich Village than brownstone apartments characterized by imposing stoops. Charles, Bank and Perry streets are leafy have some of the most amazing stoops in the city. Villagers don’t frequent the stoop as often.

However, my dream would be to live in another building with a stoop, specifically in the West Village. To re-create my fun times drinking coffee and dreaming about big things to come in New York would be heavenly. I love forming family units in my neighborhood and the stoop is always the perfect place to accomplish that goal.

Robots And Kimonos

Japan has two obvious sides. Pop music, neon lights, skyscrapers, flashy music videos, outrageous fashion, quirky photo booths and experimental cuisine exemplify the nation’s funky side. While the more traditional land of Nippon (Nippon=Japanese for Japan) revolves around temples, Kabuki theatre, early mornings at the fish markets and cherry blossom trees painting Tokyo parks in hues of pink and white.

Nowhere is the culture clash more prevalent than in Tokyo’s fashion scene. One afternoon, I had lunch at the Chloe pop up cafe (to promote the opening of the Chloe store). As predicted, I was the only guy in the cafe. Ultra chic and modern Tokyo girls out for a coffee and croissant surrounded me.

The cafe was a white and very modern. It would fit in easily in New York’s hip Tribeca and Nolita neighborhoods. The girls were dressed very modern and well put together in western fashion. While the cafe revolved around a more laid back glamour, I saw traditional Japan that afternoon.

I stayed at the Hotel New Otani, which is a city with a city. It’s even has a traditional Japanese garden as it’s backyard. While getting lost trying to find my room (common occurrence), I stumbled upon old Japan. There were a group of older ladies dolled up and wearing kimonos.

They were enjoying an afternoon tea in most elegant surroundings. While the girls at the Chloe cafe were embracing a modern western perspective on style. These gals held on to old Japanese fashion trends, which are still revered today.

Later that night, I encountered a most interesting mix of women in the Ginza. I was strolling in the neon lights and glossy designer advertisements trying to find Tokyo station. There was the typical Ginza street scene, elegant women in long black trench coats and lovely boots. However, there was a bevy of Tokyo ladies in kimonos. The street scene painted the traditional meets modern more perfectly than any other street scene in Tokyo.

I usually prefer old everything, Tokyo is one of those exceptions. The opening of the film “Lost in Translation” shows the neon playground of Shinjuku. It’s neon signs and modern buildings are even more exciting to walk through. That’s Tokyo! It’s part futuristic cutting edge, but also temples and preserving the past. Japan is one of the places I love traveling to. I always daydream about it and feel very at home there.

Buenos Aires Story

Economy class, the way I have seen the world. The seats cramped. Chefs would scoff at the pre-packaged culinary delights and there isn’t always a TV behind the seat. However, when it comes to population density, economy always wins.

There I was on a flight to Buenos Aires via Atlanta. While I struggled with my oversized baggage, my eyes locked with a very handsome fellow traveler. He was charming and gave me a smile. Down to earth and friendly, he started a conversation with me, since we were sitting next to each other. I pulled out ” Running with scissors,” he complimented my selection in proper airplane lit. I loved him already. We took off for Atlanta.

A couple hours later, I was boarding a plane to Buenos Aires. Surprise, Mr. down to earth and charming was my neighbor on that flight too. Unfortunately, my gaydar was down. I couldn’t tell if he was gay or straight. I fell asleep on that flight. Our flight descended through the enchanting pampas into South America’s very own slice of Paris, Buenos Aires.

As we passed though the customs line, I told him “it was nice to meet you” and made my merry way to baggage claim. Buenos Aires is one of those very romantic cities. Portenos (Buenos Aires residents) speak Spanish with Italian accents. The buildings are reminiscent of romantic European capitals and wine flows freely like the mighty Rio de la Plata. One of my most significant memories in the Argentinean capital was watching tango dancers, while drinking a soda on the street.

The dancers were so graceful as they danced cheek to cheek and moved in perfect precision to traditional tango music. It seemed romantic; I was on holiday and wanted to fall in love somewhere romantic.

One night while having dinner on Avenue Santa Fe, I saw my plane seat neighbor. He was walking with a group of bears with large beards. He’s gay. In a big city like Buenos Aires, when will I run into him again? Somewhere in the cosmopolitan jungle, he re-appeared. We said hello to each other very briefly and hugged. A few days later, he re-appeared this time with a twink. I go to myself “oh they must be dating.”

After running into each other 3 times in Argentina, we didn’t see each other again during the trip.  Serendipitously, we saw each other in the States, but once again didn’t truly hang out. Years later, I was on Facebook and found him. I friend requested him. He accepted.

Even though I was in New York, he in California, we kept in touch via social media. He had a serious boyfriend and we ended up becoming friends. Slowly, I humanized him and my own romantic feelings dwindled. Even though no romance ensued, we did end up establishing a friendship. I always love having guy friendships, especially with those I relate to.