New Yorkers

Each morning, New Yorkers descend into Midtown Manhattan for work. Coffee shops buzz with lines. The aroma of bagels fills the air like sweet perfume for the gritty sidewalks. The lights of Times Square shine brightly blocks away from the creative nerve of advertising, Madison Avenue.

I love the feeling of walking to work. The crowded subways, black coats and car horns have always kept New York the object of my desire. However, there were those times in life where unemployment caught me like the angel of death picking up an unsuspecting victim.

Instead of crying about not having a job, I went out there and physically looked for a job. My favorite memory of early Manhattan job hunt entailed a full suit, shiny shoes and a messenger bag full of resumes.

I walked up to many restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen, handed my resume and declared, “I’m available for work.” Most of these precious resumes were put in a stack and I never heard from the employer again.

One day, I received a surprise phone call. It was a real estate office and they wanted to bring me in for an interview. I was elated. So, I prepared my resume, polished my shoes and off to Midtown East I went.

I walked into the office at 51 & Lex, where I was to be interviewed by a real estate broker, Judy. When I walked in we bonded right away. She’s a native New Yorker, who called Brooklyn home.

During the interview, we talked food and our favorite parts of Brooklyn. By the end of the interview, she told, “You remind me of Jack Lemon.” “You got the job,” my cheeks looked like two shiny tomatoes as I held back the excitement.

As, I made my way onto Lexington Avenue, with it’s narrow sidewalks and less than sumptuous buildings, happiness dawned on me. Although, real estate wasn’t for me, I learned many life lessons from Judy including having a tough skin and finding humor in the most grim of circumstances. Till this day, we remain close and she always asks me “So, do you still dress like you jumped out of a Gap commercial.” I giggle and reply “of course.”

Family Portrait

Gay marriage is illegal in most states. Yet, for those not aware, my people (the gays) throw one lavish shindig. Decadent cakes, fashionable bridesmaid dresses and of course, a DJ spinning every possible Madonna song.

I’ll admit to having a more cynical view on getting married. However, the fantasy of marrying a guy has not been a foreign concept. I imagine our wedding on a spectacular rooftop in the Village. He has curly hair, glasses and puts an artsy twist to his suit. While, most couples opt for more traditional attire. Everyone in my wedding would wear cardigans.

Afterwards, the hubby and I would settle into a beautiful Park Slope, Brooklyn brownstone. We would throw lavish dinner parties and grab gelato while walking along the neighborhood’s main drag Fifth Avenue.

We would then adopt culturally diverse set of children. They would all wear Lacoste sweaters and enjoy the same cultural activities that my hubby and I adore. Then it hit me. Oh, I remember when I was a kid.

Then the trauma emerges boogers, poop, and unspecified germs from the sandbox, private school tuition, crying, running around, stuffed animals thrown everywhere and countless hours of cheesy cartoon theme songs. Maybe, I will stay single for a long time?

Luckily, if I wanted both the ideal and not so ideal family life, gay marriage is legal in New York. I didn’t grow up in a gay home. In fact, I had a very traditional American upbringing. I do have a bevy of gay relatives making the case for genetics.

I didn’t have exposure to gay nuclear families, till I was in high school. My friend Grace had two moms and attended a Catholic school. We bonded right away. One day, she invited me over to help with organizing her room. She goes “we can play with my easy bake oven afterwards.” I tried holding back my excitement and agreed.

Up to that point, religion said gay families were bad. However, I had already come out of the closet and wanted to experience what gay families were really like. At that time, we lived in Riverside, CA. The suburb has a lovely neighborhood called the “Wood Streets.” It’s a historic district, where styles from Spanish to Craftsman merge in a beautiful architectural marriage.

My mom dropped me off. I didn’t tell her about Grace’s two moms, but certain she had an idea. They lived in an old house. I entered to one of her moms greeting me warmly at the door then showing me Grace’s room.

As expected, Grace’s room made mine (already messy room) look like an organized/OCD person’s wet dream. We shifted through toys, books and clothes. Afterwards, we both looked incredibly fatigued. We then spent time with her mom’s.

Unlike most religious fanatics who claim a gay family’s household is evil and has fire-breathing dragons living in the basement, Grace’s household was the complete opposite. Her moms were warm and friendly. We watched TV together, talked and found that we both had a common fascination with all things British.

They also had a huge book collection. I loved it. They had travel, literary classics and art books. It was a simply peaceful environment. I heard a car horn and it was mom. After saying my goodbyes, I headed toward the car. My mom who was very conservative looked at me and said “I get a really good vibe from Grace’s house.”  “You’re right,” I said with a smile.

My mom came to accept my gayness more as I grew older. She even attended my aunts’ mostly lesbian dominated Christmas party and had a great time. Growing up gay is never easy, but knowing that I have the right to live my life freely is absolutely priceless.

Underground Show

Music is the lifeblood for my right-sided brain. David Bowie, Blondie, Velvet Underground, Elvis Costello, the Ramones and Madonna supply stimulation while I work on creative endeavors.

New York rock bands from the early 60’s and the 70’s capture my interest. I was always sad that I never had the chance to visit CBGB’s, while it was still a piece of Downtown Manhattan’s quirky collage. However, the bands that emerged from the legendary venue live in my music collection.

While CBGB’s has been replaced with a pricey, John Varvatos shop, life south of 14th street still has a great music scene. For the longest time, I spent all my time downtown and didn’t walk into any music venues. One faithful Saturday night that changed.

Gino phoned me and asked, “Do you wanna see a show in the Lower East Side tonight?” I replied “I’m already in my pajamas.” With a little laughter, he said ” there are going to be half well off drinks.” I walked to my closet to pick out an outfit. “I’ll see you in 30 minutes.”

I took the subway to the Lower East Side and waited for Gino outside the Cake Shop (a coffee shop with an underground concert space). Waiting outside the venue was a parade of hip people. Black rim glasses, quirky style and a bit of irony were the fabric tied to the scene that night. I looked down at the horse at the left hand side of my shirt. “Oh, I’m definitely bringing preppy back.”

Gino met me and we walked downstairs to the show. It was packed, thanks to the drink specials, but I actually was excited to see the band. I hadn’t gone too many concerts.

After, Gino picked us up drinks, the band played. They had a distinctive New York rock band sound. It was Julian Casablanca meets Vampire Weekend. Thanks to my half off drink, I found myself jamming, even with my little horsey, distinguishing me as the lone prep.

I might have missed CBGB, but wow, this was truly fun entertainment. After the show, I felt excited. Not only did I have a fun time, but also did something out of the ordinary. I haven’t gone to many concerts since, but would be open for more fun.

Today, I have a concert playing in my head almost hourly. My favorite music listening experience revolves around ordering a chai latte, blasting Bjork on my iPOD and freely strolling the Lower East Side. It’s my form of creative therapy. Cheers to more loud music and booze.

Dearest Yenta

Yenta is a Yiddish word for matchmaker. I discovered the term while watching Fiddler on the roof on Broadway. There is a song/dance routine inspired by the Yenta. In film school, I too gained a Yenta card. However, I didn’t stand in line for the card, it fell in my wallet.

During my senior year, I had to direct a scene for (surprise, surprise) a directing class. We picked a scene from our choice film and brought it to life using real actors.

The films of Wes Anderson have always sparked my interest. I love his use of quirk, dark humor and overall directing style. Therefore, a scene from the Royal Tenenbaums would be my choice. I picked a scene, which involved romance between a brother and sister.

I had to hire passionate actors who could pull off such a fete. For the male character, I asked my personal trainer Will to star. He excitedly accepted. The challenge was then to find an actress. Through a friend, I had a reference to a theatre major, Jenna. With both actors in place, I was ready to direct.

We did a cold reading. Then came the actual rehearsals. I secured a classroom in the theatre department. They both displayed great pathos as they brought the characters to life.

The scene called for kissing. They smooched. Then they asked to rehearse the kiss again. I politely go “sure.” Something dawned on me; they’re enjoying making out way too much.

By the time, they performed the scene for my class; there was a certain passion I don’t typically see on stage. It then dawned on me; I think these two just fell in love.

Six years later, Will and Jenna dated and are getting married this coming weekend. Little did, I know my directorial debut would lead to marriage. I haven’t fulfilled anymore of Yenta duties. However, If I start singing “matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match” they may comeback to me.

Astor Place

“I’m frizzed out,” says my hair in the summer. New York summers always meant one thing, hair drama. Therefore, when I needed to snip my luscious curls I headed to Astor Place.

It’s symbolized by a big black cube, which separates the East Village from Greenwich Village. It welcomes everyone as they step off the 6 train. There’s the normal mix of corporate businesses, NYU and independent establishments.

For me, it was the site of many wonderful haircuts. The Astor Place barbershop is the underground route for a snip and shampoo. It feels like the old East Village, grungy, alternative and filled with character. For about 20 bucks, a very experienced barber (who’s of course, seen it all) gives you a proper haircut.

It was my favorite hair salon in the city. Moving to California meant, no more cool Downtown barbershops. Instead, I did the unthinkable going to a discounted hair salon. One sunny afternoon, I had the wonderful luck of having a hairdresser who just came back from happy hour.

At first, I thought the haircut looked swell. A day later, I was prepping for work, when I noticed all my sides were uneven. “Oh no, I look silly.” Worst of all, I was off to Santa Barbara’s French Festival for the weekend with Nicole. I tried not to let a bad haircut damper my spirits. However, I kept obsessing over it on the drive up to the coast.

” You look fine, stop obsessing,” said Nicole. Self-consciousness took over. We arrived at the French Festival. For the Franco-phile (someone in love with all things France), it was macaroon wishes and cafe au lait dreams. Traditional French music played, champagne flowed freely, poodles paraded and baguettes were objects of desire.

I couldn’t stop thinking about my hair. We then passed a beret stand. Nicole insisted I get a beret. It then hit me; the beret would cover up my silly haircut. I let me inner Frenchman run free and wore a beret throughout our weekend trip to Santa Barbara. Surprisingly, it fit me well.

When I returned home, I went to the fancy people hair salon. I removed the beret, my hairdresser looked at the awful haircut and gasped. ” I’ll fix it, but it’s gonna take a while to look normal again.” She did a swell job making me look somewhat fabulous.

Eventually my hair went back to normal. From then on, I always reminded my hairdressers to make sure the sides are even. I also find out if they just came back from happy hour. I’m moving back to New York soon, which means more fun times at the Astor Place barbershop.

Ear Candy

When I slip in the runway of life, music is there to pick me up. Amazing tunes can make a gloomy day, bright and cheerful.

My ears revel in the sweet sounds of pop, rock, new wave, jazz and even hip-hop. Something finally inspired me to drop the earphones.

It was a chilly autumn evening in New York. The leaves were a distinct hue of gold and orange. While, the city reveled in a cold front, I took a walk on the Upper West Side.

That evening, I too enjoyed the chill, but felt blue. My walk was an attempt to elevate my low mood levels. As, I walked on Amsterdam Avenue ; my ears were mesmerized by the sound of piano playing. The persistent melody grew stronger, the closer I was to it.

Revelers had their ears glued to the back of the Beacon theatre. The voice sound familiar. “I wonder who it is?” I thought to myself. Walking to the Beacon’s Broadway entrance, I looked up at the marquis. It was Elton John.

A simple stroll led to unexpectedly hearing a music icon play live. The experience brightened up my mood. I returned to my apartment with a craving to hear “tiny dancer” on my iPOD. When one has a tough day, listening to music is better than candy.

Etiquette School Reject

When times were going tough, the tough wear their ties in a Windsor knot. Even when I’ve been eating soup out of a Campbell’s soup can, I always remembered all the etiquette lessons my mother taught me.

Appearance was always important. Beard perfectly trimmed, earwax removed and nails clipped. On a muggy September afternoon, I was preparing for a magical day of meeting up with friends. I put together an outfit, fastened my tie and walked toward the subway.

Standing at the platform, I felt an air of confidence, until I looked down at my fingernails. Oh no, I forgot to trim my fingernails and have a whole day of meeting up with people. Instead of panicking, I strategized a plan for my friends not to notice my fingernails.

When the downtown train arrived, I walked toward the end of the platform. This guaranteed I would have a seat as opposed to hanging on to a pole with my untrimmed nails being exposed to the Upper West Side.

Mission accomplished, I made it to Tribeca without anyone noticing how terrible my nails looked. I had a lovely meet up with Krista. Luckily, I hid my most improper fashion accessory the whole time.

I then took a cab to Hell’s Kitchen for lunch with my friend Joe. He ordered a bacon cheeseburger; I was inspired to do the same. However, eating the burger would expose the untrimmed nails. So I bended my fingers in a position where no one would notice how terrible my nails looked.

In the early evening, I went to meet up with Gino. He suggested we go to a sit down restaurant in Chelsea. However, I was just craving a slice. ” I know just the place,” he replied. So, I didn’t have any time to fix up my nails. Therefore, I had to rough it.

We met at Union Square and walked toward Artichoke, which is one of my favorite pizzerias in the city. I ordered a delicious crabmeat pizza. Artichoke doesn’t have indoor seating, so we sat out on one of their conveniently placed benches. I looked up into the skies over 14th street, which were pitch black. The darkness covered my hands and I ate my slice without feeling a bit self-conscious.

When I finally clipped my nails it was a relief. I could go and show off my hands. I got my freedom back and any self-consciousness diminished. I was free to talk with my hands too.

Not to sound immodest, but my hands are one of my best features. When I first started off in New York, I washed dishes in a Fifth Avenue high-rise. It’s what my dad lovingly calls a “masters in the school of life.” Even with hours in soap water, my hands stayed soft like cotton candy.

Therefore, I appreciate the hands, which gave me the ability to make a living. Forgetting to clip my fingernails one day was a fail. However, life is sometimes more interesting when one makes mistakes.