Alphabet Soup

In super market aisles across America-land, lives a can full of words. Alphabet soup is the dream that after school specials are made of. Not only, is it a tomato broth meet pasta marriage, but a very educational way to eat and learn.

The most thrilling part about the literary soup is find interesting letters to play with. Growing up it was always a delight to spell out words with my soup. Sometimes, I would find amazing acronyms and adjectives to play with. Other times, I thoroughly enjoyed discovering unexpected nouns.

Living in New York is similar to diving into a sea of alphabet soup. There’s always an unexpected and very joyous adventure.  The sweet sounds of piano playing in the heart of Washington Square Park, serenading the jaded senses.

Strolling into a Lower East Side art gallery for free booze, only to realize my buddies just happened to be there. Then there are always the quirkier moments, i.e . naked painted people as an art exhibit all to themselves.

However, sometimes we become someone’s inspiration. Audria and I had a day of brunching and working on creative projects. After reaching our creative goals and doing a little happy dance, we decided to reward ourselves with a walk to Tompskins Square Park in Alphabet City.

While enjoying the lovely blue skies, which over naked trees & gentrified graffiti, we found Zen on a bench. While we talked, a very bohemian photographer approached Audria. ” Excuse me, could I photograph your shoes?” he asked. Audria wore a pair of distinctive leopard print ballet slippers. She gladly obliged.

Soon, we were asked both asked to be photographed. He took candid pictures of us conversing on a park bench. ” I hope I don’t come off as creepy,” he asked, looking a bit embarrassed. Being an extrovert, I told him ” no, go ahead take more pictures.” So he did. Soon Audria, her shoes and I went from muse to friends with the photographer.

We had so much fun, talking, that an older gentleman sitting next us, joined in on the conversation. He gave us a whole history of the neighborhood from which buildings were burnt down thirty years to freighting stories of a decaying New York.

As our conversation became endless, it hit me. From sitting in a park bench, we made two new fascinating friends. It all happened in a very unexpected and New York kind of way.

Pop Music State Of Mind

My evening walks are legendary. I freely walk the streets of New York. With a comfortable pair of sneakers and an iPod full of tunes, I have many amazing and whimsical moments while strolling the pavements.

There’s the jazz band serenading pedestrians in the Village. Fur, real and faux dominating the narrow & gritty sidewalks of the East Village. The smell of hot dogs, street meat and chestnuts dominate the corporate landscape of Union Square. While on the Upper West Side, older intellectual types stroll stylishly, seeking the next great opera performance at Lincoln Center.

Then there are the walks out of necessity. Trying to save a couple bucks a month, I decided to walk from my apartment in the east 20’s to work in Midtown(I’ve always taken the subway to the office). Everything was quite charming.

There were old senior citizens off for their morning bagel & coffee. School kids rushing from the perfectly manicured apartment blocks of Gramercy Park. New Yorkers rushing in and out of the subway, making their way into office buildings in the shadow of Grand Central Station. However, I loved the feeling of quickly arriving at work, rather than taking a leisurely stroll.

Therefore, I buckled down & bought a metro card. My first day not walking reminded that “wow, the subway is really a sardine can.” However, nothing could prepare me for what happened next. After grabbing the L train and transferring to the 4 express train at Union Square, The unthinkable happened. “Oh no, I am on a downtown train. I am supposed to go uptown to Grand Central.”

I was secretly hoping that the doors would open and could escape quickly. However, as the train pulled away, I huffed and puffed. I was nervous about running late. After all, I’ve never been tardy for anything (ok, not including Spanish class one time in high school). My breathing intensified. I got a couple of stares, as I appeared to be giving birth to a proper meltdown.

In order to keep myself in happy, pretend “I am strolling the West Village mood,” I used my secret relaxation tool. Pop music has always put a smile on my face. Hence, to make my life campier than a Doris Day movie, I actually played Taylor Swift on my iPod.

I don’t know any of her songs. There’s one song of hers I adore. So, I drifted away into a world of poppy land, where stress only occurs after breaking up with an insanely hot guy. Slowly, I felt less intense.

After a couple unexpected stops on the express train to Brooklyn Bridge, I finally arrived at the subway station. I quickly changed trains and made my way back to Union Square, where my journey began. Not only did I make it to work on time, I re-discovered the beauty of cheesy music. My new life motto, rock out to cheesy pop tunes, it’ll take the stress always.

Scruffy

Late winter in the East Village brought out more love birds, than there are tulips blooming on a spring day. There were the scruffy tattooed bearded men rushing home for a cuddle and probably more. While somewhere on Second Avenue, the perfectly manicured theatre major couple picked out cupcakes at the independent coffee house. Then, there are the slew of older men oozing creativity and romance.

As for me, I was on a date too, with the city that is. While I had lunch with a friend at one of the many pop music playing, colorful gay restaurants in Chelsea, I made a major announcement. ” I just want to stay single,” my restaurant buddy looked at me in shock.

“I am not ready for a relationship, besides I live in the city, it’s a singleton’s paradise,” I uttered those words. With one swift bite of my burger, I finished dinner and walked into a utopia of men.

When it comes to the male population, New York really stimulates the senses. Every minute of every day, a new possible husband walks by. While, walking toward my apartment, I had to pee. There was a relief half way between my apartment & Fourteenth Street. The scruffy boy’s gay bar is where Sylvia Plath reading, Talking Heads listening, independent film loving gay boys with plenty of facial hair, a couple tattoos and hip fashion sense hang out.

Since, I had to pee and love beer, it was the perfect layover on the way to my modest apartment. As I ordered the first of my beers, I laid eyes on a scruffy world wonder.

He was also drinking beer and looking quite marvelous under the dim light. It had been a while, since I hit on a guy at the bar. Even though, I said I wanted to stay single, something said go out and mingle.

So I walked over to him and made conversation. Mr. Scruffy bear was visiting from Boston and as the conversation progressed, the unthinkable happened.

Yes, the conversation hit the dreaded wall of silence. It’s that awkward moment, when you realize “Shit this conversation isn’t going anywhere.” I drank my beer at high speeds. However, he decided to go back to his hotel room and I needed to go to the grocery store.  Then it hit me; I talked to him and won’t have regrets later.

Wigstock

On the corner of Christopher & Seventh walk some of the world’s most glamorous women. Many just happen to be men. Long legs, high heels, full make up and a whole lot of sass characterize these ladies in disguise.

Crosstown in the East Village, I started my apartment hunt. In the icy Manhattan winter, I looked for my ideal new apartment in the city. The first walk-up, I looked at was in the heart of the vintage shop/coffee shop/bar/mom n’ pop’s restaurant/bodega fantasy world, I adore.

Walking to the corner of Seventh & First Avenue, I noticed the door was covered in graffiti. My eyes lit up and instantly fell in love with the urban decay. After being buzzed in, I met my potential roommate, a drag queen.

She wasn’t filled with makeup and high fashion hair. Instead, she wore very little make and her hair in a ponytail. I was fascinated. The apartment was covered in wigs.  Blonde, red, black with red and more flamboyant than though wigs lined the apartment like a proper window display at Bloomingdale’s.  She actually designed all the wigs I saw and even taught pole-dancing classes.

I stood fascinated. It was a world I knew little about even as a gay man. The world of drag was one I only read about it at books and experienced occasionally at gay karaoke.

After trying to charm me with the apartment’s disheveled interior, I saw my bedroom. It was a closet without the closet, but it screamed of the bohemian years gone by. I wanted the apartment, but decided to take my friend the event planner for a look the next day. Secretly, I hoped he would love it, since I wanted to live in the neighborhood with a quirky character.

As predicted, he saw plenty of red flags. However, his jadedness went out the window when he laid eyes on the wig collection. He asked the drag queen “ could I try them?” She gladly obliged.

My not so queen-y friend was mesmerized. Not only did he try out the wigs, he made a beautiful blonde.  As I looked at him in every hue possible, I then realized “wow wigs could really change your personality.  After walking out of the apartment, we both decided I needed to look elsewhere.

Later that day, I officially decided not to take the apartment, he texted me in disappointment. “Why did you let that apartment go?” he asked. I replied. “Remember, all the red flags?” He eventually forgave me for not letting him play with more wigs.

After letting go of that apartment, the hunt for perfect pad continued. With meeting many characters and looking everywhere from Alphabet City to Harlem, I found the perfect apartment. Located in the east 20’s, my new apartment in Peter Cooper Village/Stuyvesant Town was most ideal. I moved in and lived happily ever after in Manhattan with an elevator and view of the FDR (East Side highway).

Head Above The Clouds

A new art craze hit the streets of New York. In a city, which inspired artists from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Keith Harring, this art was more shocking than anything produced in Andy Warhol’s factory.

Crucifixes made from ashes adorned  (on lent/Ash Wednesday) the foreheads of everyone from businessmen to bicycle messengers. ” Wow, is religion the new craze hitting the cynical sidewalks?” I thought to myself. Being less than spiritual, I skipped church and took part in one very significant ritual, the art of brunching.

I met my Downtown gal pals at our favorite brunch spot on St. Marks Place & Second. It’s the kind of place where scruffy meets disheveled in the most high fashion kind of way. At the brunch table, we talked about only in New York woes and triumphs. As our down home yet chic plate came by, my gal pals talked about escaping the icy cold Manhattan winter. The conversation went something like this:

Downtown gal pal: We’re going to Punta Cana.

Me: Oh that’s the most ideal snowbird destination.

Downtown gal pal: Wait, I can’t go this Friday.

Me: Why not?

Downtown gal pal: Yeah, I am meeting with my rabbi

Me: rabbi?

Downtown gal pal: Oh I didn’t tell you I am going Jewish.

Me: Really?

Downtown gal pal: It’s been going well, best part I am going to be a Goldberg. My ex is letting me use his last name.

Me: Where are you converting?

Downtown gal pal: the premiere, most well connected synagogue in the city, right on Fifth Avenue.

Me: Wow, I am a gentile, but jealous, now you can celebrate Chanukah.

Downtown gal pal: I know, so looking forward to Chabad dinners.

I have friends who have converted to Buddhism and enjoy the chanting process. While other friends have had a more cynical view and only go to church for weddings & funerals.

After pondering deep important questions of the day like “should I have a black and white cookie for dessert? I received an email from my friend Melinda. In the email she stated “visit my church’s New York branch, it’s gay affirming.” I replied, “Sure, thanks.” Church was a foreign concept for me, even though I grew up in the Catholic school system. As an adult, I only stepped foot in churches, while playing tourist in Europe.

With that said, I took a chance and agreed to go. Two subway trains later, I was on the Upper West Side. In the deep grey and traffic of 96th and Broadway, I walked out of the station feeling hesitant. Going to church (even a gay friendly) felt very out of my comfort zone. The church was housed in an old & majestic building.

Like New York, it was filled with cultural diversity.  Old intellectual hippies, dapper men with blazers and glasses, families, gay couples, singletons and faces representing every ethnicity characterized the congregation. As the choir sang, everyone followed. I stood silent. There was something corny about singing along to church songs.

Soon, I experienced culture shock. People were talking to me saying hello and asking me if I was new to the congregation. After an hour church service, I not only had a great hour of people watching, but met new friends.  I walked out feeling less cynical, mostly due to the sense of community felt during the service. I didn’t have a religious, life changing moment. However, I experienced something new and felt a little worldlier because of it.