My Life As A Broadway Musical

My inner campy boy just wanted to revel in Broadway musicals. However, my more jaded side fell out of love with them. Mr. Campy pants persisted, tugging at my pea coat begging to play.

For years, I proudly proclaimed, ” I don’t like show tunes.” During my lunch breaks in Times Square, I would walk around unfazed by the extravagant advertisements for the hottest Broadway shows. It made me the gay Scrooge of Times Square. “Bah humbug,” I proudly proclaimed, while passing the theatre marquis. It was a far cry from my youth.

As a teenager, show tunes were a campy escape from my conservative Catholic school upbringing. I secretly daydreamed of performing lavish Broadway numbers to adoring fans. In my head, I was the master of ceremonies from Cabaret, joined the cast of Rent and even tap danced in performance of Chicago.

When I didn’t tap dance and sign autographs for brain cells posing as fans, I eagerly bought tickets to every musical imaginable. One day, I simply lost interest and didn’t appreciate the art of a good show tune.

Then, my alter ego, Mr. Campy pants spoke to my heart. “You’re feeling down and stressed, remember your youth?” he said to me. ” Oh shit, I don’t wanna go there,” I replied. “C’mon, you know you wanna be the Patti Lupone of your brain’s Broadway stage.” he said while throwing Playbills in my face. “The key to happiness is through a song note.” I rolled my eyes “fine, here we go.”

I pulled out my iPhone and listened to the Cabaret music station on Pandora. Something spectacular jammed my brain. Songs from Anything goes, A Chorus Line, Avenue Q, West Side Story and even Phantom of the Opera emerged after years of being buried in the cemetery of quirky interests.

The whimsical show tunes brought me to a land long forgotten about. Sitting in the balcony of a New York theatre, while eagerly anticipating the first musical number. Standing in line for Cats. It even brought me back to that theatre in Madrid, where I watched Cabaret performed entirely in Castilian. Therefore, the music lifted me from a state of perpetual back to a happier time in life.

After a journey into show tunes land, Mr. Campy pants and I felt satisfied. The adventure even tickled my creative senses. It made me think about my life as a musical.

The set would have the Manhattan skyline one side and rugged mountains on the other side signifying my life in New York & California. There would be dancing copy machines, flight attendants and coffee cups.” Oy, I got dumped,” ” I’m nervous, somebody get me coffee,” & ” the Catholic school waltz” would be featured on the soundtrack.

Show tunes has delighted audiences for years. Thanks to Mr. Campy pants for getting me back to a happy place. Today, I have a renewed love of all things Broadway.

Preppy Couture

Lincoln Center is New York’s high culture nerve. However, twice a year, celebrities, fashionistas, photographers, socialites and journalists turn the Manhattan legend upside down for fashion week.

The ballet and opera take a back seat for thumping rhythms of tribal, rock and even hip-hop music. Models strut the runway with the styles, which not only influences New York, but the world.

However, I’ve never been to fashion week, only read about it via the New York Times style section. Whether, I’m shopping for groceries or going to a museum, creating my own style is fundamental to my character.

I love strolling, the plaid friendly streets of the Lower East Side & East Village, in a tie and cardigan. Bringing a bit of Uptown preppy is always a delight in even the most trendy of neighborhoods.

I thought so one-day “”Is one fashion item too preppy?”  In New York’s unpredictable weather, I tried something daring. While strolling on the Upper West Side wearing my usual cardigan get up, I felt quite warm. I took off my cardigan, but didn’t know where to place it. I always thought that the sweater/cardigan over the shoulder look was too preppy. With muggy weather looming, I took a risk.

I put the cardigan over my shoulder and tied it up. Then realized that I was walking along 66th & Broadway where preppy is perfectly accepted. I looked at my reflection at a shop window and thought “ok, I avoided this look for a long time, but it’s actually quite charming.”

In the shadow of fashion week’s home (Lincoln Center), I created a new style for myself. I looked like the world’s most preppy boy, but loved every minute of it. Soon, I wore the style more often.

Fashion is about taking risks & also embracing traditional looks. Though, I’m not the edgiest dresser, I certainly found my own style on the sidewalks of New York.

Sidewalks Of London

London has some of the world’s most memorable streets. The hilly streets of Hampstead, money infused Knightsbridge and gritty Whitechapel provide the eye with a distinct polaroid of time gone by and the capital’s modern hustle bustle. The ride into London from Heathrow has always provided me with an air of excitement.

On my trips to London as a teenager, red brick buildings lined the streets of Marylebone. The hues of green from London’s many parks gave the city love of rouge hues a bit of extraordinary character. I remember the excitement, I felt surrounded by a land, which looks so different from my own. The Georgian architecture, roaring double decker buses and a melting pot of faces wearing the most edgy and proper outfits.

My feet almost smiled in delight. When I would arrive at my hotel, the euphoria kicked in. I would jump out of the cab and step into London soil. Breathing in, the icy air was the equivalent of taking nostalgia of time gone by. I wasted no time in exploring the city.

As a twenty-something, my love affair with London never diminished. Though my temporary neighborhood changed, the thrill of being in the capital remained. In Notting Hill with its many cafes, post-card worthy squares and the distinct white stucco architecture inspired my inner writer for a week’s time.

The streets of London had inspired many of the world’s literary greats. Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde & Virginia Woolf breathed that same icy, but creative air and were inspired by the maze of sidewalks.

Through they’re writing old London still lives in libraries and bookshelves around the world. For me, walking through the capital is the equivalent of listening to both classical and rock music. There will always be a proper & grungy aspect, which tickles the inspiration nerve giving way to great art of all forms.

Saying Gay In Japanese

In Tokyo, everything is charming. Neon lights are a staple of the Japanese capital’s character. No other place does neon shine so brightly like Shinjuku. It’s a virtual Sci-fi film set equipped with a dash of quirk and wit. The lack of flying cars and Gucci wearing robots, reminds us that it’s not quite an episode of the  Jetsons yet.

The gays make up for the lack of robots. Shinjuku is home to Tokyo’s gay hangouts. On my comeback trip I was curious to see what gay life was like in Japan. Therefore, I wondered Shinjuku dark alleys and fluorescent colored streets searching for gayness.

As I made my voyage into gay-landia, something interesting happened. I saw nothing, but advertisements for gentleman clubs (aka women who entertain men). “Oh no, I accidentally ended up in straight-landia.” Men kept trying to persuade me to enter these dens of sin and flesh. However, I proudly proclaimed, “no, no I’m gay.” The men looked puzzled ” Aww gay, ni-chome.” and they pointed me west.

I walked toward the land of gay. Love hotels surrounded me. Couples (to have quick sex) have always utilized these bewildering institutions. In the grand tradition of all things Japanese, even love hotels looked cute and inviting.

There was a shop on the corner with Japanese gay magazines, which acted as my welcome to gay Tokyo. I felt just like Dorothy finding OZ. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an entourage of a lion, scarecrow and tin man. Of course, there was plenty of gay life for me back in New York, but understanding homosexuals abroad has kept me curious to explore the world.

Unlike New York gay bars, the ones in Tokyo were tiny. They could probably only seat about five people. I found a more Western style bar and made friends with two of the guys there. One was a bit more laid-back and he was just my type. Somewhere between, the where are you from question? And nice to meet you, I found out his very cute English friend was straight. “Fuck,” said my brain. He was there having a casual drink with his best gay buddy.

His accent was adorable and we had a good conversation. He asked me questions like ” Do you have a stoop?” “Is it true New Yorkers hang out on stoops?” Priceless, moments were a signature of that evening. We ended up bonding that night in a most bromance kind of way. We even had fun getting lost in the maze of metro lines at Shinjuku station together. As I said goodbye to him on the metro, the same thought kept persisting ” Of course, I fell for the one straight guy in all of gay Tokyo, whoops.”

I’ll always remember gay Shinjuku for it’s kitsch, weak well drinks, cute guys, gay magazines and funky lounge music. Tokyo with all its glamour, fashion & art remains a hub for gays from all over the world.

Calles De Madrid

For years, I dreamed of traveling to Spain. It interested me greatly. However, I couldn’t afford it. One day, my dad surprised me and said “let’s go to Madrid” for Christmas. I beamed in excitement from ear to ear.

After buying my tickets, I daydreamed of Spain. I would go to the library and read up on the land of Don Quixote, Pedro Almodovar, flamenco dancing, tapas and siestas (naps in the middle of the day).

When we finally arrived in Madrid, feeling jet lagged. We tried keeping the romance flame alive. “You’re room is not ready yet,” said the handsome man at the hotel’s front desk. “What? No nap,” then it dawned on me. I can nap in America. This is Madrid. My dad was equally exhausted. However, we marched out of the hotel and into the streets of the Spanish capital.

Madrid felt like a glamorous old city. The buildings were ornate and taller than I anticipated. A hazy sun played along the sidewalk. Even the walls lining El Parque del Retiro (Madrid’s Central Park) had an old cosmopolitan feel to them. I suggested we go to El Prado Museum. My dad thought it was too early, but I convinced him other wise. Walking from our hotel on Calle de Goya to the Prado was an experience.

The sidewalks were filled with women in lavish fur coats, men dressed in traditional suits and street-fashion clad young people. Hair salons were covered in blue lighting, which flashed brightly against the equally ocean hued covered skies. We reached the Prado.

As expected, it was a wonderland of Spanish art. After our visit, book- stands were set up. Volumes of books from Spanish, American and British authors lined the sidewalks like organized pigeons looking for breadcrumbs.

The roar of traffic progressed as the city was further awaken. While the car horns provided a soundtrack, people traffic increased. We forgot about our jet lag. Our hotel room was finally ready, but we wanted to explore more.

We took our first Madrid metro ride to Puerta del Sol, had a delicious Cuban dinner and then ended up in Madrid’s gay heart, Chueca. As we roamed the streets of Chueca, my dad looked at his watch. It was 3 am and we officially earned our title as night owls. It was a great bonding experience, not so lovely was trying to catch a cab at that hour.

After staying up nearly 24 hours, I had a difficult time getting used to the Spanish schedule. Being American everything is not so late night. However, in Spain, my inner insomniac wandered around and had a marvelous time, drinking sangria under the moonlight. I haven’t been back to Madrid in years, but have fond memories of our family journey.

The Boy From Brooklyn

Many cool parts of Brooklyn have become hipster havens. Williamsburg, Carroll Gardens and even Bushwick are home to a higher than average amount of folks who drink soy lattes, wear black rim glasses, have plaid for every occasion and listen to Phoenix. In the cluster of brownstones, vintage shops, vinyl record shops and Polish mom n’pop restaurants lived my dreamboat.

Mr. Brooklyn (as I’d like to call him) was dreamy with ravishing black hair and brightly lit green eyes. He didn’t work in the creative field, but in the political arena. We had a mutual friend, who gave me insider tip on Mr. Brooklyn.

My buddy said that he needed volunteers for a LGBT outreach in Chelsea. I obliged and agreed to help rally support for our community. Embarrassingly, I had an ulterior motive, to make Mr. Brooklyn fall in love with me.

I took the subway to Chelsea; waiting outside the station was Mr. Brooklyn. He bought me a coffee as a thank you for my time. We talked, nothing exciting, but the entire time, I tried to hold back my attraction.

The volunteer work commenced. It revolved around handing out gay rights pamphlets to pedestrians along Ninth Avenue. I made friends with some other volunteers and even exchanged phone numbers. They were a fun loving and passionate group of guys.

After the outreach,  I ended up at more LGBT outreaches with Mr. Brooklyn leading the team. The next outreach took us to Hell’s Kitchen, which is New York’s current gay mecca.

It was the same routine and pamphlets. Hell’s Kitchen proved to be a less than friendly place. After my volunteer work, we went to a cafe. Mr. Brooklyn seemed less than amused with me. While, everyone loved my quirky sense of humor, he seemed distant.

Therefore, I thought, “Maybe he’s having a bad day?”  At the next outreach, we headed to the old school gay mecca, the West Village. I found Mr. Brooklyn to be polite, but too serious. I love fun-loving men with a wicked sense of humor.  It was as clear as vodka; Mr. Brooklyn was not the man for me.

The experience of pursuing Mr. Brooklyn gave me something even more valuable than trying to land a date. Through the friends made at the outreach, I ended up volunteering at more LGBT events. In turn, I felt a great sense of satisfaction for helping out with the gay rights movement. Mr. Brooklyn still lives in (you guessed it) Brooklyn and has an equally politically active boyfriend.

Twink Meet Bear

I used to be a twink (skinny hairless gay guy), but the inner bear in me wanted to come out and play. Like any gay boy living in New York City, I walked everywhere while eating pizza, hot dogs and cheesecake.

At the time, I had a speedy metabolism. Therefore, I could have that second helping of Italian food. However, there was someone inside of me begging to come out, my inner bear (hairy, slightly meaty guy with facial hair).

I moved to California and my inner bear finally made his grand appearance. I gained some lbs, but still delighted in all the foods I enjoyed in New York along with a vast selection of taco trucks. After a while, I let my beard grow and became an authentic bear.

It was a nice rebellion to the mainstream ideas of male beauty. I was scruffy, yet reveled in my body type. While walking along the sidewalks of New York with some love handles to call my own, it dawned on me. The same guys, who liked me skinny, also love me with some meat.

There is too much emphasis on body image. As the old cliché goes, looks fade, smart is forever. I came to realize that. In my world, I still rock the cardigans and ties. I also still love food and good whisky. Sorry, leaves are for rabbits, give me steak and potatoes any day.

Strolling in Paris

Jean Luc Godard’s Breathless is one of my favorite French new wave films. It’s a bit of guerilla filmmaking at it’s finest. Mostly, I loved seeing Paris in all it’s glossy glory splashed across the screen.

Experiencing the French capital where painters, filmmakers, fashion designers, writers and musicians found inspiration lured me years ago for a visit. Like any great destination, I had to overcome a case of jet lag.

My father and I had a marvelous flight on Air France. It was my first time on the second floor of the 747. As the plane approached Charles De Gaulle, France appeared with it’s fields of green and subtle rolling hills.

It was amazing to think that one of the world’s most sophisticated cities was nestled in somewhere in these fields. We had a smooth landing. Then reality hit. Traffic, highways sprawling and cheesy eighties ballads overwhelmed our senses. Unlike most traffic-ridden cities, something beautiful appeared from the grey.

The Eiffel Tower like a glistening croissant at a café towered over the modern outdoor advertisements. We arrived in the city center and in no time were walking the legendary sidewalks. Being close to the Champs Elysees equated tourism and chains. Somehow, I ignored the corporate aspect and found beauty in the city’s architecture and pedestrian culture.

We couldn’t stop walking and ended up in the Place de La Concorde. Traffic horns complemented the austere square with its obelisk as a centerpiece. Sycamore trees, Le Arc de Triomphe and elegant architecture surrounded us.

At that very moment, I felt inspired and understood the allure of the city. There are great cities in the world that offer amazing stimulation by just stepping foot in it’s soil. Paris is one of those places.

Throughout the city, my father and I were impressed by everything. We loved the Jardin de Luxembourg, which was covered in fogs and Parisians enjoying a Sunday afternoon stroll. The cafes and shops of St. Germain Des Pres were bustling with fashion and coffee cups. Even the street musicians in front of the Opera de Garnier provided both wonderful memories and enjoyable moments.

In America, I can travel to Paris anytime I want. Through the writings of Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, I can travel to cafe society. In many French films from the likes of Francoise Truffaut and Luis Bunuel, one can experience a stylized and sometimes surrealistic view on Parisian life.

Even observing the art of Pablo Picasso gives me a window into the city that inspired him and many of his artists. French accents, the smell of crepes and Edith Piaf’s voice reminding me of Paris past, I miss it all.

Fairy Tale Land

Thanks to Disney, we grew up with a fairy tale vision of romance. Snow White, Cinderella & dearest Sleeping Beauty were beautiful and had flawless skin. A handsome prince married these gals. Fairy godmothers and dwarfs were a staple of their wedding party.

Of course, they didn’t tell us what happened after the nuptials. Farting in bed, whinny children and heated debates on which China should be served for dinner party guests were never brought up. Hence, there weren’t any sequels to these fairy tales.

New York is a fairy tale land for us who come from less stimulating parts of the world. There is the promise of career prosperity, a rich social life and romance. With so many eligible bachelors, it’s difficult to find that special prince that could wake us up from a restless night’s sleep with a kiss.

However, for millions of gay New Yorkers love commences with the touch of a keyboard. Personally, I’ve always gone for older men. The cute college boys were a part of my university life. One day, that all changed. On one of my gay dating site expeditions, a twenty-one year old guy from Staten Island sent me a message.

I saw quite a bit of me in him. We both had the boy next-door vibe; quintessentially New York looks and smiled a bit more than the average person. We messaged and I found him not only adorable, but intellectually stimulating. After a message spree, we finally agreed to meet in the West Village.

That icy January evening, I was actually running late for once. I took the F train to 14th street and rushed up Sixth Avenue, cutting corners before arriving at Christopher & Seventh Ave. We met at the intersection of gay and uber gay. After a quick hug and amazing eye contact, we walked to dinner.

First dates are always terrifying, but I felt quite comfortable. We walked to charming Italian bistro and discussed politics. It’s usually, the first thing one wants to avoid on a date. Yet, we both swung the liberal way, so commonality was found. We talked and talked. Then the bill came. I pulled out my credit card. He pushed my credit card away. “My dad says a gentleman should always pay” and he did. He even opened doors for me.

While strolling the Village’s many opulent sidewalks with gorgeous brownstone blocks, shops and cafes, we ended back at Christopher Street. He was returning to Staten Island.

Before, entering the subway, he had a surprise. He kissed me in the middle of the busy sidewalk. Manhattan faded into a far memory for that brief moment when our lips touched.

Till this day we remain friends. I always remember that night and how charming Mr. Staten Island was (and still is). Even though, we didn’t get married with dwarfs as groomsman, it was one of the most memorable dates ever. Disney’s promise of fairy tale romance can be a reality in fast paced New York City.

Tea And Crumpets

Mom: What’s time is it Anthony?

Me: We’re standing in front of Big Ben.

Mom: oh yeah.

This happened while strolling in one of London’s many torrential downpours. The English capital has always provided me with many memorable moments. However, I couldn’t just capture that moment, bring it home and play it off as a souvenir. Therefore, we wanted to bring home a special keepsake from our favorite city.

When the rain gave way to blue skies, we marched into Oxford Street. For some reason, we both had a fascination with Marks & Spencer (JC Penny with food). The food section tickled our fancy. I gathered up cookies and candies. Mom (an avid tea drinker) picked out chamomile, English, Earl Grey and green flavored teas. In fact, she went on tea overload, purchasing boxes of grey Marks & Spencer brand teas.

As we left Marks & Spencer’s for the tube, the feeling of tea overload officially hit us sans pouring a bag with water into a proper cup. When our train arrived, she handed me the heavy bag. “I believe we bought too many boxes of tea.” She raised her right eyebrow and replied, “no we didn’t, it’s for our family and friends.”

“If you say so,” I replied. My hands felt tired from schlepping those teas around. On the flight back home, I ate most of the sweets. I didn’t get scolded, since we were on a long flight.

When I returned back home one drawer was stuffed with the English department store brand tea. My mom gave dad a few boxes to give to his co-workers, but it didn’t elevate our tea dilemma.

“There are orphans in the third world without tea, we must drink it all,” she said. At first, it was OK. Then she started serving it after every meal and not a damn crumpet to be found. I would go to bed at night with my mom dancing around me singing, “Remember the orphans without tea.”

I hit my breaking point. My dad served me a soothing cup of coffee. “How about tea instead?” asked my mom. “I’m done, I can’t any more,” I replied with great confidence. From that day on, I couldn’t drink tea ever again. Till this day, it fueled my love of the coffee bean. However, I do love a chai latte, especially when it’s laced with a shot of espresso.