Modest Owl

“I want my life to be a sitcom,” said I at a tender age. That’s right, I didn’t want be in a drama like Dallas or Dynasty. Instead, I yearned for the roar of audience laughter after every mishap.

Growing up, I watched too much TV. Nothing brought me more joy than taking a trip back to the 50s and 60s via Nick at Nite. The Munsters, I dream of Jeannie, I love Lucy, Bewitched, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Dick Van Dyke show, this was my most favorite TV schedule. If it were past my bedtime, I’d record the episodes. Like any good re-run aficionado, I’d watch the episodes over and over and over again.

As an adult, I always found humor in the most unexpected places. By my late twenties, I had moved to a most 1950’s/60’s American kind of setting. There were manicured lawns, families with baby strollers, housing, which lacked character and plenty of old people. This most old fashioned setting was in the heart of New York City.

I lived in Stuy Town/Peter Cooper Village. A cluster of redbrick high rises, which covered Manhattan’s East Side from 14th Street to 23rd Street & along First Avenue. The neighborhood provided a quiet paradise in the shadow of the city’s beating drums. As I walked in the eerie darkness with only streetlights and the glow of television sets from apartment windows, 60’s music accompanied my stroll.

The lively music reminded me, “oh yes, I am living in my own sitcom.” My neighborhood would fit perfectly into the setting of any show from the yesteryear with its old school Americana feel. I closed my eyes and pictured my opening theme song.

The montage would include the following:

-Skipping out of my apartment building and into Stuy Town’s parkland.

-Accidentally dropping my groceries and laughing about it

-Skipping down 14th Street

-Throwing my barret up in the air

-Turning off the lights of my bedroom, as the glitter of the Chrysler building, substitutes as a nightlight

Everything was happy in my retro sitcom kinda life, until someone switched the channel. “We’re getting priced out of this building,” said my roommate in a panic. That’s right, our rent was raised so high, we both had to move out. I got nervous, the Twilight Zone theme played. “No, no I want my life to be like an episode of I Love Lucy,” said I.

Actually a trip to the Twilight Zone would be more fun than apartment hunting in Manhattan. I started looking for an apartment and decided to search in Harlem, where cheap rent and dreams come true. In the midst of gritty Seventh Avenue, I met with the realtor and stepped into an ordinary walk up building.  I felt like Jack staring up at a huge bean stock.

I am going from an elevator building to a walk-up? I reached, the fifth floor (or the top of the beans stock). The realtor opened the door to a little piece of heaven. There it was, a marvelous studio with plenty of light and charm. I fell in love and immediately put in an application. A week later, I signed the lease. It was my first apartment on my very own.

Soon my life in Peter Cooper Village/Stuy Town became a spinoff sitcom, sort of like Rhoda or Maude (spinoffs of the Mary Tyler Moore Show & All in the family). I didn’t have a T.V. in my new apartment; hence things were needed to strategically liven up the place. Seeing owls have always put me in a merry mood. An epiphany hit me, “oh I shall lovingly decorate my apartment with owls,” said I.

My modest Manhattan dwelling, soon morphed itself into “le petite chateau de owls.” I bought an owl statue and an owl painting, but one unexpected item delighted me the most. Perched on a tree, against a barren violet sky were two adorable owls. They adorned the mat of my bathroom and welcomed me to the royal throne each morning (toilet). I nicknamed them Lucy & Ethel, since they looked almost mischievous on a tree, staring into the outer space of nowhere.

Quickly, Harlem became home. My life still had many humorous elements. The new setting was more inspiring than thirty minutes worth of laughter. Living on a gritty street, the pretty brownstone blocks bursting with quirk and an arty edge made life like a cool Wes Anderson film.

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Barefoot on 46th Street

When gay boys fall in love, the heavens open up and reveal a most magnificent rainbow. Then Madonna magically appears from the heavens and sings “Lucky Star” in the middle of Ninth Avenue. All roads leading into gay landia turn into the yellow brick road. Is this a myth? No idea, since I’ve never actually fallen in love before.

However, I have toyed around with online dating. At one time, I had even paid $20 a month for the chance to meet a most splendid fellow. Instead, I was paying $20 a month to get rejected. Naturally, I opted for the free dating websites. One evening, I flipped through the profiles of New York’s most eligible and gay bachelors. Beards, muscles and witty bio profile summaries overwhelmed my gay senses.

I stumbled upon a profile, which caught my interest. Mr. Hell’s Kitchen enjoys travel, works in finance and prefers a beer at a dive bar to a clubby lounge. “Oh this could be fun. He seems quite straight laced.” I thought to myself. His profile evoked a gay version of Barefoot in the Park. It’s one of favorite Neil Simon plays.

Certainly, I would be the free-spirited & creative type in the play. Mr. Hell’s Kitchen would be the straight-laced, more conservative type. It sounded too marvelous to let go. I messaged him. Surprisingly, he messaged back. Talking online, he seemed so level headed and together. ” I suggested we go on a leisurely date with the following message, ” I am not into the whole romance thing, let’s just grab a beer and hang out.” He agreed. We made plans to meet up for beers in Hell’s Kitchen.

We met and had a cold brew. Before long, his drunken friend made a cameo appearance. Being a rather straightforward lad, I told him, ” This is awkward.” However, the drunken friend somehow tagged along with us. We ended up at speak easy on 46th Street. Mr. Hell’s Kitchen had a few drinks in him and his true colors came out. It wasn’t in the happy unicorn flying out of rainbow kind of way.

“I want to psycho analyze you,” he said to me. I raised my eyebrow and grew some balls. ” Oh really? Well, I am out of here.” In shock, he responded ” But why, I thought we were having a good time?” I chuckled ” You’re so analytical. You figure it out.”

Walking into 46th street, I headed toward Eighth Avenue to catch a cab home. As the cab drove past the doorman buildings of Central Park West, I called my dad. ” I went on a bad date. He was an asshole, but I told him off.” My dad replied ” that’s my boy, not taking shit from anyone.”  His words made me feel better.

I came back to my studio in Harlem. Everything was peaceful. That night, I went to bed with the sounds of Seventh Avenue colliding with my air conditioner. Cigarettes & chocolate milk by Rufus Wainwright played on my iPod. Quickly, I drifted into the land of dreams where unicorns, rainbows and Madonna roam free.

Wandering Brooklyn

One magical Saturday afternoon, the humidity levels dwindled. My brain, which was in a constant state of ” I am schvitzing. Somebody get me an iced latte from Dunkin Donuts,” suddenly awoke. As I peered into the graceful skies above Manhattan, wanderlust ran rampant.

Although, I couldn’t go play on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, drink a beer at a London pub or enjoy a fashion show in Tokyo, I went for the next best thing. “Today, I am going to have a day trip/staycation in Brooklyn.” I waited in the excruciating heat of the F train station and was excited. Brooklyn has always provided me with many wonderful adventures. However, I rarely leave the city. The idea of going out to explore the familiar captivated my imagination.

Excitement grew, as the train arrived at the York Street station in Dumbo. Walking into the intense grey of Brooklyn was more charming than a box of cannolis on a winter’s day. I started my adventure. There was the industrial steel, so beloved by New Yorkers of all ages. The apartments of the wealthy and hip stood out like a country music album in a sea of hip-hops 45s. Although, there was the bourgeoisie factor, creative energy still dominated the plateau.

I longed to enjoy a day by the water at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Strolling along the cobbled stone streets, the most cinematic picture in New York dominated the sky. The overlapping of the Manhattan Bridge with the Brooklyn Bridge (in the distance) underneath grey skies was simply inspirational. In the distance, Manhattan with its skyscrapers, red brick project buildings and the FDR (highway). I played tourist in my backyard, snapping away with my camera phone.

I continued my stroll around Brooklyn Bridge Park. The tiny waves of the East River hit against a cluster of grey rock formations. Pebbles and lush green trees with hints of red hanging like ornaments, was indicative of a jolly holiday. “Who needs to take a train to some beach, when there’s such a deep sense of urbane serenity here,” were my thoughts. I sat on a bench and pumped up my iPOD.

A soundtrack of Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Bjork, Green Day, Cornershop & the Cranberries played as I took in the romanticized (and surprisingly filled) salt-water breezes. I felt creative and re-energized, just through a couple hours of peace & quiet. My Brooklyn adventures continued.

After Dumbo, I headed to Carroll Gardens & Brooklyn Heights, where I took in all the lovely brownstones, outdoor cafes and vintage shops. I returned to my apartment in Manhattan. It felt like I had taken a relaxing holiday and I didn’t even leave New York City.

My Very Own Mary Poppins Bag

Marie Antoinette’s lavish wig collection, traveling banjo players and a used copy of Catcher in the Rye, would fit perfectly in Mary Poppin’s bag. The unique fashion item, featured in both the film and book are a hoarder’s dream. You could fit your whole life in there, then take a magical umbrella and fly around London.

Years ago, I wandered around New York with my Pan Am messenger bag. Like Mary Poppins bag, I too thought that everything including the kitchen sink could fit in. Old copies of the New York Times, snacks, a notebook, a couple books and an iPod charger were placed in strategically. Then one day, I found out that bags break.

While walking in SoHo, I felt my bag lower and then rip. I nearly cried. I ended up with a new bag and decided to make it a shrine to organizational thinking, which lasted 15 minutes, just like fame. After years, with a messenger bag, I switched over to having a backpack again. I felt like a college kid again. Then my backpack felt like an elephant was living in its tight quarters.

Therefore, I wondered New York without a bag. Then one day, after coming home from gay bingo, I noticed my pockets. They were filled to the brim with crap. “So, I decided the time had come to invest in a bag.

One afternoon, I stopped by the Strand. It’s one of my favorite bookstores in the city. I wanted one of their easy to carry, colorful tote bags, which they are renowned for. The smell of old books welcomed me into the old shop, like lavender on a spring’s day. A particular bag stood out from the rest.

William Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Homer, Herman Melville looked more like mighty super heroes, than dead writers. Growing up, their words inspired me to not only drift away into imagination land, but also take on writing. Emily Bronte and Jane Austen spoke to me “Love, buy the bag, it might inspire you having writers tagging along on your every New York adventure.”

“You might be inspired to write the next Pride Prejudice,” said Jane. ” Or Wuthering Heights, dear,” replied Emily. “Ye ol boy, buy the bag and then a notebook to write a saucy sonnet.” said dearest William. ” Just buy the bloody bag and don’t go before the wallpaper,” said Oscar. Herman and Homer simply zapped me. Soon, I bought the bag. The literary superheroes cheered.

I took my tote bag everywhere with me. They adored the New York adventures as much as I did. Having a smaller bag also meant, I was forced to only put a few items in. Sorry Mary Poppins you can keep your magical bag, I love life with my tote.