Kensington High Street

The sun did shine over Britain on my last trip. I landed at Heathrow airport on a chilly March afternoon. Excitedly, I held back from jumping up and down on my seat. So, I turned on my phone to call my dad and alas, there was no mobile service.

I purchased a temporary mobile for my trip, since I had friends to meet up with. I tried turning the phone on and off, but it didn’t work. There I was arriving in exciting London without a proper communications tool.

Instead of crying up a rain storm, which would make any London shower look like a day in the desert, I pressed on. Living without a mobile wouldn’t be so traumatizing.

Therefore, I commenced my trip sans a phone. I took the tube, strolled Hyde Park +Kensington Gardens, examined wonderful art at the National Gallery and lounged in South Kensington without the distraction of text messaging and ringtones. It then dawned on me; this is the way that every generation before mine lived life with less distraction.

The challenging obstacle was meeting up with my London friends. However, I met up with them the old fashioned way. I called them through my hotel phone and we planned on meeting in front of the Kensington High Street tube station.

I stood in front of the station for a while and didn’t have a mobile to check up on their arrival. Instead of being impatient, I compensated by buying myself a white chocolate chip cookie inside the tube station. It was delicious and I discovered that time goes faster when eating something delicious. My friends showed up and we had a wonderful dinner and night out on the town.

The next day, my dad called the phone company and fixed the mobile dilemma. Soon, I excitedly had phone dates with my friends back home while walking some of London’s most historic streets. It was fun, until I saw the mobile bill. Next time, I plan on ditching the mobile all together.

London was more enchanting without distraction. Not having a mobile for a couple days wasn’t so bad, but I was also in one of the world’s most exciting places, which helped. Therefore, cheers London for breaking me free of modern technology for nearly a week.

Advertisements

Tube Station

The excitement of grabbing a seat on the top of a double-decker in rush hour, watching people try not to dance while a fun tune plays at Selfridges department store and walking in East End’s bleak greyness are some of my favorite London memories. It’s one of those cities, which inspires me. I love the parks with their majestic ponds, the relics of the British Museum and even digging through a vinyl record shop in Camden.

The London underground/tube equates instant stimulation for me. The dizzying array of West End musicals being advertised, the cozy seats on the train and even the street musicians belting out familiar tunes make my brain smile.

The downside of the tube is the line to buy an oyster card. One particular evening, I had to buy an oyster card and stand in the world’s longest line. It was just another oy vey moment for me.

While waiting at the Notting Hill Gate station, something quite remarkable occurred, a fashion show. It was an unexpected catwalk. Londoners walking in pea coats, trench coats and rain coats. There was street fashion, business suits and even an alternative thinker.

A daring lady in red accentuated a sea of black and grey hues. Students, creative types, businessmen with faces represented a virtual united nations. In a few minutes, I experienced not only London fashion but also the capital’s cultural diversity.

I eventually bought my oyster card. Entering the tube after years of being away felt nothing less than heavenly. Most Londoners complain about the tube, but I adore riding it regardless of train delays.

My experience in the ticket line produced an unexpectedly memorable London experience. It also reminded me of why I love visiting the English capital, the energy and cinematic moments, which I will write about in the book of life for ages to come.

Wind Tunnel Effect

In the far reaches of Manhattan along the West Side highway is Chelsea Piers. It’s the sporty urbanite’s refuge. Care for a game of golf? The pier has that. Want to play some baseball? Congrats you’re in luck. Forget what Jersey looks like? Don’t worry; the piers have panoramic views of the garden state.

Being a sporting complex, I didn’t ever venture into it. Sports & I go together like pickles in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. One faithful winter’s evening, I made the trek to the Chelsea Piers. Nicole and I were going to see Frankie and his brother play soccer.

The wind tunnel effect took place as icy cold winds penetrated through our layers of clothes. Suddenly, the sound of a typewriter typing away echoed through the buildings. It was our teeth.

We arrived at the sports complex. We gabbed away while watching the soccer match. Every time, Frankie’s team scored a goal, we cheered and then went back to gabbing. It was fun showing my buddy support, but sitting through a sporting event wasn’t really my thing.

A year later, I returned to the piers. This time, I joined my friend Natalia. We had a drink and went to go see her then beau’s hockey game. I hesitated going with the fear that boredom would grab me by the neck. She convinced me to go.

We got off the cab and were surrounded by a bevy of handsome men ready to play hockey. Oh my, I kept it cool. However, the immature 20 something was excited for endless eye candy.

After taking our seats, Natalia and I observed the game. The testosterone filled the stadium as men fought to the death for that hockey puck. I then realized ” wow, watching hockey isn’t half bad.” We actually had a nice time in the end. I have no idea who won the game. However, there’s something appealing about burly men showing raw masculinity for all to enjoy.

I don’t plan on taking a sport, unless drinking vast amounts of coffee counts. Typically, I shied away from sports, preferring to undertake artistic endeavors. However, like drinking green tea, watching sports is swell every once in a while.

Fruit Fly

One magical St. Patrick’s Day evening, I met my lesbian gal pals at a (what else) gay bar in the West Village. I was the only guy there. The fact that lord gay (me) surrounded by a fascinating mix of lesbian subcultures was simply entertaining to watch. My friends and I enjoyed a drink, while we listened to a very sporty looking lesbian angrily singing “You outta know” by Alanis Morrisette.

After drinking my vodka, they suggested I go up and sing karaoke. At first I hesitated, but then I go why not. I was dressed in my work attire. They suggested I go and sing in the go-go cage. I did.

For some reason, I decided to sing a cheesy 90’s pop tune. There I was in a cage, dressed like a proper prep school boy surrounded by lesbians. I belted out a little bit of the song, and then as I garnered more courage, I hit the high note, swinging from one side of the cage to the other.

The lesbians cheered me on, as I hit a high note. Wow, this is what Judy Garland, Cher, Madonna and virtually every icon revel in every time they hit the stage. They gave me a round of applause. Wow, they loved me. Was it my haircut? Or did they really like my crackly voice? For once, I was transformed into the fruit fly.

Traditionally, the fruit fly is a gal pal who loves hanging out with a bevy of gay men. I’ve had many fruit flies in my day. In fact, they’re all on my speed dial. The bond between gay men and straight women is obvious. There is a brother/sister dynamic. In a more obvious analysis, we both date men. My gal pals and I meet at the wine bar/coffee shop and even the diner. We talk about men and relationships, building a support system when that cute boy rejects us.

I’ve met my fruit flies in a variety of different ways from Christian camp to Pilate’s class. Although, my formative years were filled with filled with a lack of acceptance, my adult life was very different. I had friends from different sexual orientations and ethnicities. It widened my social network and gave me a window into different life experiences.

I haven’t sung in a go-go cage with a room full of lesbians for a while. However, I loved all the adulation. Gal pals are important to one’s journey. Not only as a support system, but someone to laugh with and dish about men. When I have days we’re I cry without knowing why, my gal pals always understand. They reply ” me too.” Letting me know I’m not alone.

Big In Tokyo

A group of old men playing chess while the quintessential folky earth mama sings about same sex attraction. The sweet scent of espresso is brewing filling the house with delight. This is the nostalgic coffee shop experience.

It’s a refuge from the workday without the hangover of a glass of wine. The coffee shop is also known the pub alternative where blueberry muffins, kitschy novels and cappuccinos populate the nerve of intellectual and social activity.

My twenties were spent hanging out in coffee shops. I love the coziness and the high level of creative activity. I’ve spent time in virtually every coffee house in Downtown Manhattan. My favorites are the Cake Shop (in the Lower East Side), the Bean (East Village) and Jack’s (West Village).

When I travel internationally, I typically have my coffee at 4 pm. My fondest memories are enjoying a coffee with my dad in Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires while being immersed in the bohemian environment. While in Madrid, we drank cafe con leche (a latte) with little pastries. However, the most grand coffee shop experience is in Tokyo.

The three things, I love the most are looking at city views, people watching and (here’s a shocker) drinking abnormally large quantities of coffee. The Tokyo coffee house experience offers all three. My favorite places to grab a cup of Joe vary. Le Cafe Doutor in the Ginza district is fancy schmancy.

It’s located in the heart of the most moneyed high fashion slice of Tokyo. It overlooks the main crossing, which is surrounded by opulence. It’s designer shops, grand department stores and chichi cafes. The white chocolate latte is my vice there. I felt quite fancy sipping coffee there. That same day, I visited another coffee shop with a view, Starbucks in Shibuya Crossing.

Shibuya Crossing is the busiest place one could ever visit. It’s Times Square x 100. I’ve walked Shibuya Crossing many times. However, I never bumped into anybody. It’s amazing. I wish more cities would adopt diagonal crossing. The Starbucks there overlooks that very busy crossing.

I know I could get Starbucks here, but none have the view of the Shibuya Starbucks. It’s a similar experience to Le Cafe Doutor only the crowds are funky. It’s more street fashion as opposed to haute couture.  I felt like a bird perched on a tree watching the millions of people watching below. It was simply amazing and my excuse for having Starbucks in Japan.

Unlike most cities in the world, Tokyo can offer the best coffee house experience anywhere you go. In Japan, the vending machine is big. New York wired me to have no patience. Therefore, standing in line can be a rather frustrating experience.

In Tokyo, I never had to worry about waiting in line. I could purchase a hot coffee from the vending machine, pick up a pack of cigarettes (back when I was a smoker and also from the vending machine) and have a quintessentially stress free experience. Afterwards, I would wonder around the city, put on some folky tunes and indulge in my own private coffee shop anywhere from a park to frenetically paced Shinjuku.

I love the quintessential coffee shop experience. It’s the pub alternative, where I’ve done everything from written huge thesis papers to job-hunt online. In Tokyo, the vending machine is queen and is my to go form of coffee on the run. Nothing beats the Tokyo coffee shops with grand views will always be my favorite places in the city.

My Jogging Shoes

When I would come to visit my dad in California he would take me shopping. He knew I was on a tight budget in New York and bought me shoes to walk around the Village comfortably.

Like any proper New Yorker, my dressy outfit came equipped with a pair of jogging shoes. I walked an average of eighty blocks a day and sometimes went crosstown twice a day.

Therefore, wearing dress shoes was unheard of. Regardless of convention I paraded up the concrete canyons of Midtown in my worn out Nikes. When I arrived at the office, the more dressy Kenneth Cole loafers were placed on my tootsies and the Nikes hibernated in my messenger bag.

Recently, I was on the Upper West Side on Yon Kippur. It was lovely seeing all the Jewish families walking along Columbus Avenue going to synagogue. They were beautifully dressed and wearing sneakers. It reminded me of why I love New York. In a city that is dressy, you can still travel in comfort.

My favorite sneakers of all time were my shiny black Creative Recreation sneakers. I wore them around in London. They joined the Sloane Rangers (blond rich girls who hang out in Chelsea) on Kings Road, took strolls along the canals of Camden and had a cardio vascular workout on the tube’s maze of escalators.

Some shoes are too cute not to wear everywhere. Therefore, even though they didn’t have the comfort of old jogging shoes, they were shinny and pretty. Us, gay folk love shiny things.

I love the looks I get when I wear my sneakers with a proper outfit. While, some my point their noses far up the air, I’m rebelling against the system.

Either way, I don’t ever use jogging sneakers for running. The only time that would happen is as follows: if someone placed a hot pastrami sandwich on a stick and had me chasing after it.

The Perks Of Being A Film Snob

One fine winter’s day, I received my fifth grade report card. It was a spectacular one. I didn’t particularly love math and science (still don’t, yawn), but survived with a C. My parents were so proud that they decided to reward. They took me to the record store, where I bought Green Day’s “Dookie” album. Then they offered to take me to the movies.

I kept seeing previews and reading about Pulp Fiction. It looked beyond interesting. Of course, my parents were oblivious to movies, especially those with blood, guts and the words fuck + shit being uttered after every declarative sentence. Therefore, I told my folks, let’s go see Pulp Fiction.  ” John Travolta is in it,” I told my mom. She replied ” Oh I loved him in Saturday Night Fever.”

We arrived at the movies; I was sitting in between both parents. From the get go, Pulp Fiction started off with “fuck, shit, fuck.” It was followed by violence and then the opening theme song ” Miserlou” by Dick Dale. Both mom and dad starred me down. They feared I was enjoying the profanity and violence a bit too much. I just smiled nervously.

Then came the famous dance sequence with John Travolta and Uma Thurman. They calmed down a bit, until the drug overdose scene came on. That was followed by another stare down. More gun violence, cars running people over and strong sexual scenes made up the remainder of the Quentin Tarantino classic.

My parents walked out in shock. I tried to hold back my gleeful interior. Wow, that was some movie I told them. Thank you for my good report card present. They just nodded. We drove home. That very night, I decided I wanted to grow up and become a film major. Pulp Fiction also set a standard of high film achievement in my book. I never saw films the same.

Pre-film school years, I found myself quite attracted to independent, low budget and foreign films. Trainspotting, Kids, Last Days of Disco, Velvet Goldmine, Virgin Suicides and Metropolitan helped shape my love of excellent story lines and character based films. It was a stark contrast to the big budgeted blockbusters, which I saw more as appealing to the masses.

In film school, they wanted us to write those mainstream blockbusters. I opted for indie style films. In the tradition of Pedro Almodovar meets Wes Anderson, my characters were dark and quirky. They wrestled with mental disorders, coming out of the closet and getting their brains zapped. It didn’t fly in film school, but I enjoyed writing them.

After graduating with a BA in film, I did the quintessential office jobs in New York. However, I still found solace in the dark and chilly movie theatre. One of my favorite holiday memories in Manhattan revolved around the Sunshine Cinema in the Lower East Side.

I went there one Thanksgiving with Natalia. We watched a Pedro Almodovar flick with a gaggle of East Village/LES hip people dressed in all black. It was not only fun people watching, but it reminded me why I studied film. It brings people together and is another very effective tool of storytelling.

After walking onto Houston Street after watching the great film, I felt energized. It reminded me of the good old days in film school after we watched classics like Network and the Graduate.

I opted to pursue a career in copywriting as opposed to screenwriting. However, I learned a great deal about character development in film school, which in turn helped with the storytelling process through ad campaigns.

Not to say, all mainstream films are bad. The Addams Family, Bring it on and Legally Blonde are a couple films, which I love to watch. I do enjoy and appreciate the lack of special effects in indie films. The genre also tends to be more centered on a character driven premise. Thanks to my parents who surprisingly sat through all of Pulp Fiction and didn’t make me walk out.

Lower East Side

The New Museum is sandwiched between two very gritty buildings on the Bowery. It’s a modern white building housed in the epitome of old New York, the Lower East Side. The downtown neighborhood is also one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city.

Regardless of the hipsters and yuppies giving it a less than edgy vibe, I still love the Lower East Side. Old tenement buildings; bars, cafes, coffee shops and social hotch potch of residents make up the neighborhood’s character. It’s also home to Katz’s, which has the best pastrami sandwiches and The Sunshine Cinema where I loved to watch indie films.

As I walked through, the Bowery listening to Florence and the Machine, I decided to finally make the voyage to the New Museum. When I arrived, they told me to visit the top floor observation deck. Views of the city still excite me.

My most touristy outing I ever had in New York was going to the top of the Empire State Building. I was sixteen at the time and thought it was beyond cool. When I actually lived in the city, going to the top of the Empire State Building never interested me. I labeled it a tourist activity.

Instead, I would partake in the most quintessential of New York activities, admiring the city from the top of a rooftop. Being on a rooftop of an apartment building says, ” Hey you made it.” I have fond memories of having parties on Lower East Side rooftops, while rain clouds threatened my the sunny disposition. I’ve also been locked out of a rooftop, which was nerve wracking. Looking back, it was glorious.

I took the elevator to the top floor of the museum and stepped into the observation deck. I roamed around taking pictures. To one side there were the red brick co-op buildings of the Lower East Side, the Williamsburg Bridge and the projects, while the Financial District was on the other side. The Village and with the buildings of Midtown towered ahead. It gave me a deep feeling of serenity in the high-strung wonderland.

While standing there in the town, which inspired so much of my creativity, an epiphany struck me. I need to move back to New York. As of recent, I’ve been calling California home again. Personally, I never found the outdoorsy and car centric culture of Southern California appealing. It served me well. However, when I left New York, my heart stayed in the city. Therefore, my goal became shinier than the holiday lights of Grand Central Station. It was time to work hard and move back.

I had a wonderful time at the New Museum, observing modern art and staying cultured. Staring at the Manhattan from the museum observation deck was more than inspirational. It reiterated that New York is where I belong.

Fashion Week

In Tokyo, fashion isn’t about a simple storefront. Gucci, Prada and Chanel have lavish tall buildings, which scream expensive and opulent. Sometimes, the buildings even project images of very svelte tall models working the catwalk.

The neighborhoods of Tokyo are identified by their style sense. Ginza screams expensive. Omotesando is home of ultra chic shops, where fashion shoots are as common as Starbucks coffee cups on the Upper West Side.  In Shinjuku, the power suit is the norm. Harajuku is home to eccentric fashion, which can be dubbed as cartoonish or even avant-garde. While Shibuya is also home to teenage tribes of fashionistas.

Tokyo like most couture frenzy capitals has fashion week. However, on the sidewalks of the Japanese capital with its marriage of glitz, sophistication and urban street edge, fashion week is a daily occurrence. It happens in the metro, bars, and cafes.

The Japanese are obsessed with a beautiful presentation. Everything from fruit to sweaters is presented with an extreme sense of perfection. Tokyo is one of my favorite fashion cities. However, I don’t particularly love shopping when I travel. On a trip to Paris, I did splurge for once.

Like the Japanese ideal of a beautiful presentation, Galeries Lafayette takes the notion to a whole new level. The legendary Parisian department store is a staple in France. I dragged my dad a former marine there. He was a wonderful sport about it.

We started our trip in the men’s store, which is separated by a bridge from the ladies’ shop. I browsed through the shirts and was approached by a very handsome Frenchmen. “Hello Lover” I thought to myself. He was so charming. Although, the shirts I was buying had a lovely presentation, the handsome salesman helped inspire my monetary contribution to the French economy.

Besides, the handsome salesman, Galeries Lafayette had a more stunning side to it. Crossing the bridge overlooking the traffic of the Boulevard Haussmann, we arrived in the women’s department. It had huge golden dome with balconies overlooking the makeup department.

If I were a lady or drag queen, this would too inspire me to blow major Euros. It looked like one were shopping inside the world’s most fancy opera house. Even my dad was very impressed by the department store’s interior. When I came home to the States, the shirts didn’t look as nice. However, I did enjoy my pictures of the legendary Paris department store.

Visiting Tokyo and Paris gave me a view of what inspires the pages of Vogue and other fashion mags from around the world. Both are cities, where designers either keep their fashion formal or give their line a distinctive edge. However, fashion week can happen everyday in places where clothes and self-expression are monumental.

Gay And The City

The unpredictable makes New York exciting. While, most American cities revel in the norm and expected, New Yorkers find joy in the mystery on the corner of 14th and Broadway. Romance is one of those oddities, which one often avoids. New York is the singleton’s paradise. There are too many men, too little time.

The New York City subway is as romantic as schlepping groceries up a six story walk up. However, the subway can produce some of the most romantic moments. Manhattan is America’s gay mecca. Naturally, gay is the norm.

I’ve found myself romanced on the subway. There was Mr. Hell’s Kitchen, who I met for an evening stroll in the Lower East Side. While we walked and talked circling the gritty yet hip sidewalks of Ludlow & Rivington, cupid’s arrow hit me in the head, ouch.

The Lower East Side has plenty of dark corners. However, we waited till we were on the subway to show how we really felt for each other. Right there, at the N train in Union Square, we made out. Both of us were completely sober. The subway kissing session was only that. After I walked him from the subway to his apartment in the west 40’s, the romance ended when the clock struck midnight.

While, I probably won’t make out with a guy on the subway again. There have been more subtle moments of romance on the busy train. During rush hour, a handsome guy sat leg to leg with me. Close leg contact is more understandable in people gridlock. As the train emptied, our legs were still attached. It seemed like someone had stuck us together with crazy glue. There was a certain amount of electricity. In the end I didn’t make a move and neither did he. Therefore, when his stop came, he simply left.

The innocent and over affectionate may have been part of my subway love story, but the awkward could also be added into the mix. One of the worst parts of the unpredictable is running into those guys who I dated from online that just keep popping out in the subway like Waldo. My remedy, get really involved in the New York Post and don’t look to the right side (or whatever side their at).

Gay happens, as does love. I’m not looking for Mr. Prince Charming. However, it’s nice to know he’s out there somewhere. He might be hiding under a rock or working at a cubicle overlooking Madison Square Park, but with gay being more accepted (especially in big cities like New York) coming out of the closet is easier. One could make out on the subway without one weird stare.