Rainbow Sherbet

When the Empire State Building glistens with the hues of rainbow sherbet, it means only one thing. “Free ice cream for everyone, not.” This delightful occurrence is in celebration of gay pride.

It’s the week where New Yorkers ditch the traditional sleek black attire and embrace their inner rainbow. For this New York gay, Pride week has always meant a bevy of splendid events.

This year’s gay pride week was better than unicorns, rainbows and Barbara Streisand belting out a dazzling number. There was the highbrow magazine party, which was better than a Kylie Minogue meets Madonna concert.

Men slipped into their spiffiest attire and schmoozed. This was followed by the grand dame of all events, drag bingo, my personal favorite..

When gayness couldn’t get more gay, there was also the gay, jazz cabaret, celebrating the legendary voices of Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole. By the weekend, there was one event I wanted to avoid.

Years prior I had always avoided the gay Pride Parade. My last parade was in 2009. Vividly, I remember standing on the corner of twenty-third and Fifth.

There was loud club music, dancing go-go boys and humidity, which creped into the threads of my polo shirt. I was bored and yawned. Then I thought, “this is the same shit, I’ve seen everywhere. Why aren’t there more political statements?”

On that faithful day, I eventually met up with Tony in the West Village. He took my hand and walked with me through historically significant Christopher Street. “This is the purpose of pride. I can hold your hand through Christopher Street,” he said. I gulped for a moment there and thought to myself, “shit, I can’t take these things for granted.”

(Fast forward) This year, I had my own pride celebration. My theatre loving friend, Jenna and I indulged in soup dumplings. We then frolicked around Chinatown, singing show tunes from the great gay icons. The singing continued into the East Village. In my own words, I proclaimed, ” I don’t need a parade to display own my gay pride. Everyday is gay pride in Anthony land.”

We eventually sat on a park bench in Union Square, the sounds of loud music from the parade, echoed. I took a gander at the scenery, which featured a bevy of folks decked in rainbow pride. Internally, I thought, ” Gee, all this gay, ain’t it grand.”

Cardigans FM (the radio station in my head) played “Don’t rain on my parade” and I drifted into a land of uber campiness. Happy (be-lated) gay pride, everyone.

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The Introverted Fellow

On evenings spent at home, I switch from fancy French films with lavish subtitles and 80’s teen flicks to quirkier viewing. Before journeying into the isle of sleep, I sometimes enjoy watching old Oscar acceptance speeches on YouTube.

The raw emotions, theatrics and joyful demeanor of the winners’ tugs at the heart strings each time. While I revel and sometimes giggle at the sassy acceptance speeches of Cher & Barbara Streisand (had to give a shout out to the gay icons), I always wondered, “gee how the heck do you get up on stage and pretend not too morph into a big ball of anxiety?”

I never fancied pursing a career as an actor. It always seemed grueling to go on a stage and act. Little did I know, that eventually, I too would have to perform the greatest monologues on life’s stage.

I am an extrovert, who loves people. However, I was also hiding a very little known fact. Drum roll please, I had social anxiety. In new situations and crowded places, where I had to socialize, a case of nervous jitters would appear.

Like any proper lad would do, I indulged on a refreshing glass of whisky too loosen up. Alas, it didn’t work. By the end of the party, I would survive, make a witty joke and have memories of a great evening out, though the social anxiety persisted.

On the first big snow of the New York winter season, I woke up excitedly. It was my friend’s birthday in Harlem and the winter sky was calming. I walked out of my modest Harlem apartment with a beautiful bottle of champagne to celebrate. I was then struck by anxiety quickly, as the snow fell gracefully into black pea coat.

“Oh no new people, lots of single guys, what do I do? What do I talk about?” said I. Passing the snow covered hills of St. Nicholas Park and Harlem’s very elegant architectural gems, the fear nearly crippled me. Finally, I arrived at my friend’s apartment. I rinsed the snow from my dark curls and rode the elevator up.

Channeling Barbara Streisand’s Oscar speech was monumental. She was just her witty self on stage. I too must be my witty, quirky self and strut my stuff at this party,” said I. The negative thoughts fled like snowbirds heading south for the winter. “Think Funny Girl,” I did and evolved from a bag full of social anxiety to a fabulous grand dame of the ball.

I danced to 80’s music, made new friends and had frosty adult beverages to commemorate the special day. Then as Duran Duran’s Hungry like a wolf echoed throughout the apartment, the gays arrived. My face turned tomato red. They were really cute. The apartment’s heat levels escalated to inferno levels.

“Be quirky, be funny, but most of all have fun, cause everyone poops and there’s nothing to be intimidated by,” said I (speaking internally). I took a generous gulp of champagne and mingled with the boys. Not a bit of nervousness penetrated through my jolly exterior. By the end of the soiree, I made plenty of new friends and had a splendid time.

Social anxiety reared its unfashionable frock many times after that. With wit, I said the hell with and learned to revel in every campy moment. When one can’t conquer a room full of revelers, pronouncing “hello, gorgeous” would win over friends and make even the stiffest personality into a loveable one.

Grey in the Face

Waking up in London felt especially thrilling at seventeen. I was mesmerized by everything. The underground’s escalators, which practically reached the heavens, palaces, double decker buses, street fashion, parks of greenery and the fragrance of cigarettes filling the ancient sidewalks.

I was truly in love. As a kid from Riverside, California, this was an especially significant treat. Going from vastness of freeways and strip malls to British cultural institutions, would make any sad bloke smile.

On one particular trip to London, with my mom I would wake up and take strolls along Euston Road. It’s a street, which isn’t particularly lovely, just a place to catch the train. Since it was London, I reveled in the ordinary pavement with extraordinary history.

On my first walk in the old capital, I came back to our hotel room and washed my face. Grey poured from my face. “This is quite peculiar. “Why is their grey pouring from my face? “I asked myself. I told my mom. “I’ve been blowing my nose and grey has been coming out, “she said, appearing quite annoyed.

I grinned rather than falling into a state of worrying. The grey happenstance delighted me. It meant I was in London. That fact was truly thrilling. Each day, I washed my face the same occurrence continued.

By the time, I returned home to the States, grey no longer filled my sink. I was very sad. Secretly, I longed to still have my tootsies planted on British soil.

Years later, I returned to London. I was still a visitor, but the love affair was more romantic than Love Actually, Notting Hill & Bridget Jones’ Diary combined.

 

 

 

 

Ant Hill

Zero humidity and blue skies in a New York summer? This isn’t a joke, folks. On a Friday in June, California weather made a cameo appearance.

In the midst of happy people and weather, a dark cloud hovered over a mystical land. This land was known more infamously as Penn Station (AKA, it’s hell, it’s hell, I tell you.). With those two words, I entered a parallel universe where claustrophobia ran rampant like a sickening plague.

While in the mystical land, one warrior had to make a trek into lands unknown. This warrior is yours truly. I was stuck in a land, where wretched architecture, subtle ugliness of urban decay and insane asylum lighting takes hold of the senses, only one component remained a positive.

In the midst of gentrified Manhattan, Penn Station still had the best freak show in town. There were all kinds of characters, which would make Cousin It and Thing (from the Adams Family) look more like a missing link to the Brady Bunch. While I delighted in the circus of odd balls, the undying truth remained. “Fuck, I have to somehow get on a train to South Hampton, get a seat and be happy,” said I.

As expected, everyone and their distant, distant relatives were headed to South Hampton. With anxiety levels escalating and an iPHONE dying a slow death, I had to find my inner zen. In the grand tradition of taking the L.I.R., I didn’t get a seat.

“Xanex, I need Xanx,” said a neurotic brain cell. Rather, than die of boredom and bruised tootsies, I made a royal throne all my own. Utilizing the walkway between rows, I tilted my suitcase and made a seat. My right brain went into battle. I listened to music. Through music, I traveled into another parallel universe, where the LIR didn’t touch.

I wrote stories and listened to a soundtrack, which brought me from London in the 80’s to a 90’s Seattle. As you can tell, I like grey and cold places. The music eventually died, but I had to save my Zen self from fading into anxiety land. Once the train reached West Hampton (stop before South Hampton), a seat opened up.

The royal throne morphed back into an ordinary piece of luggage. I had to deal with my musical loss. Rather than shedding a tear, I turned stress into art and wrote even more stories.

With little fanfare, I arrived in South Hampton. It was truly Town & Country magazine sprung to life. Thanks to my dependency on technology, I had to find a place to charge my phone (my friend was picking me up from the train station).

In my technological despair, I ran into the first bar/restaurant, seen by the blind eye. When I walked in, the décor screamed, “welcome to the Hamptons, as seen on TV.” I charged my phone and ordered a glass of wine. “I don’t think I am in Harlem, any more, ” said I. Sipping wine, I celebrated having a charged phone, a seat and booze.

Gay of New York

Each morning, some of the most beautiful men in the world walk hurriedly through Grand Central Station. Typically, they dress in suits, shoes well polished and carry sleek messenger bags.

Though not exactly the bohemian ideal, they do provide a quick wake-up in the hustle-bustle of a New York morning. With so much pressure to look a certain way, one is only poised for that ultimate beauty goal, but there are the rebels.

“I would like a plain bagel with scallion cream cheese,” say I, on an almost daily basis. That’s right rather than a juice for breakfast, I have always gone for the New York staple. As I grew into my thirties, the metabolism slowed.

However, I made an effort to eat healthier and drink less refreshing boozy beverages. In modern day New York, cleanses, juicing and healthy salads were substituting street meat and pretzels for the grand dame of culinary delights.

That’s it, I have to eat healthier, once I attended the “Big Apple BBQ, naturally,” said I. It has always been the greatest food event after restaurant week. The best BBQ joints in the country descend on Madison Square Park for a carnivore’s delight.

I met up with my best friends and stood in long lines for delicious BBQ. This past year also marked a first. In my whole history, I had never had BBQ for breakfast. It beats any early morning meal at the diner, said I, while eating ribs with my bare hands. After the Big Apple BBQ, I succumbed to meat coma. It felt great.

The next day, my inner caveman wanted a huge chunk of meat. Instead, I ate a salad with chicken. I daydreamed of the lavish BBQ from the day before. Although salads are lovely, I quickly returned to my carnivore ways. After biting into a French dip sandwich, I said the hell with juices and leaves of the forest, I am caveman, give me meat.”

My hat is off to those who can live the vegan lifestyle. It would take quite a bit of will power for me to say no to a rib eye. I may not be a six-foot model, but I am very comfortable with my face fuzz and slight tummy. Most importantly, I am still enjoying life with all the wonderful beers and hamburgers, which accompany every journey.

Rocketman on Mars

Into the dark abyss of outer space, flies one very flamboyant rocket man. His destination is Mars. Wonderment fills his partly fearful self.

Will the aliens on Mars look like life-size gummi bears? or are they more E.T. ?  He bounces up and down the perfectly pure dust of Mars, which resembles the Mojave Desert. The 2001: Space Odyssey theme plays.

Call from earth, his iPhone rings and he answers. ” You smile too much,” said the voice. Suddenly, our space man sinks into a dark hole with the rocky desert terrain. The hole leads into a white wall and rather bland looking room.

He opens his eyes and the elderly gentleman with the loveable Bronx accent, repeats himself. ” You smile too much. Sorry you’ve been excused from this case.  With those words, our rocket man is back to his New York reality. An hour later, his jury duty is over. I speak of yours truly, naturally.

The 2001: Space Odyssey theme was replaced with “What a feeling (from flashdance)” Triumphantly, he walks toward the West Village. The city had become more magical, mirroring a child’s first glimpse of Disneyland. Everything felt new again, especially after being stuck in a bland room, hoping to be dismissed as a juror.

While at jury duty, I entered the dreaded realm where dreams and imagination go to die. This dark realm wasn’t the twilight zone, but it’s most commonly known as boredom land. I coped with the boredom by becoming a rocket man. Traveling past the Milky Way, eating space ice cream and staring at earth from another planet. If it weren’t for my space expedition, I would’ve died of boredom (not literally).

The experience reminded me, with a little imagination I can get through any boring situation. That afternoon, I officially left space. There was so much happening I didn’t have to drift away. If I do get called back for jury duty after the next six years, I’ll take a round trip to Mars on the “spaceship fabulous.” Also, I would play up my perky personality; it certainly helped with getting dismissed.

Madonna on a T-Shirt

“I feel like I just took a bath, a bath in my own sweat, ” said I. Welcome to summer New York. It’s that riveting time of year, when the garbage gets stinker, rich people flock to the Hamptons and shirtless men jog along the Hudson River.

While most New Yorkers hate the slushy sidewalks of winter, I find my greatest inspiration in a snow -covered city. Though the weather may not be as delightful as an autumn walk in Riverside Park, I still open myself to the inspiration around me.

That’s right the inspiration was all around me. Unfortunately, writer’s block had captured my brain cells. I cried a bit.

As I struggled in literary purgatory, I wondered, if my creative streak done was done with. I stared into the blank page of death. In the grand tradition of logical Manhattanite, I brought my problems to that most treasured of New York characters, the Upper West Side therapist.

“I feel a certain amount of guilt lately. I don’t know if it stems from too many of years of Catholic school, but I am around all this inspiration and can’t write for shit,” I told her. She shook her head and glared up from her decorative journal.

“It’s ok to not feel inspired, but I do have something for you,” she said. I looked on with great curiosity. She pulled out a very mysterious little cloth bag. As she handed it to me, I looked in puzzlement.

“Those are Guatemalan worry dolls. You tell them your worries and place them under your pillow at night. At night you wake up and your troubles will diminish,” she said with an honest smile. I shook my head and thought, these are stick figures made from real sticks and adorned with yarn, but if she says so, I’ll place them under my pillow, “I said to myself.

As predicted, I told the stick figures my troubles and placed them under my pillow. To my surprise, writer’s block didn’t go away, but it made for a good laugh.

The odyssey out of writer’s block land continued. I sat out in coffee shops in the East Village, took field trips to Brooklyn and wandered Harlem, but alas writer’s block became a chronic condition.

Unexpectedly, I ended up on Fifth Avenue in the 50s. I waited to meet up with a friend. The humidity levels blanketed Midtown’s glamorous office towers. I craved the artificial chill of a chain store on a summer’s day.

I headed to Uniqlo. I was wow-ed by (of all things) the t-shirt collection. The t-shirts were a bit of artwork. There were artist interpretations of London’s Big Ben & Paris’s Arc de Triomphe. However, I was most delighted by the musician’s collection.

As a Madonna fan, I loved the t-shirts featuring the queen of Pop. In the middle of t-shirt land, the walls of writer’s block crumbled. “I found my inspiration, a story about t-shirts,” said. Although, I hadn’t worn t-shirts in years (button downs and polos are more of my style), they were a significant part of my life as teenage fashionista; it was an integral part of my identity. A story was born. The paragraph started like this:

Growing up, I would take trips my favorite clothing shop.  I would pick out very decorative t-shirts. I adored the art work the most. They represented my love of travel, newspapers, New York and status as a teenage reject.

After my trip to Uniqlo, I quickly put my fingers to a keyboard and wrote my t-shirt story.  My battle against writer’s block ended at that moment. The blank page had been adorned with words about my adolescence. I once again felt like a well-inspired and fun loving writer. I stared at the Guatemalan worry dolls and proclaimed, “Hey you guys tried your best.” Then I turned off the lights and fell into a world of imagination.

 

Left Coast

Coffee sops, art galleries, gastro-pubs, old buildings, and a mismatch of political views; this isn’t New York’s East Village. It’s surprisingly, a world away, Riverside, CA.

Riverside may not be one of the world’s great cultural centers, but it’s ideal for a lovely holiday. Nestled in Southern California’s Box Springs Mountains, the city played host to my greatest daydreams. Growing up there in the 90s, the same thought persisted. “Oy, I want to leave this town surrounded by brown mountains and move to New York City,” said I.

I eventually moved to New York in my early twenties. In Manhattan, I have most recently resided in a small fifth floor walk-up. My windows overlook a quintessentially New York landscape. To one side, there are charming brownstones. If you glare up, the imposing redbrick projects, smile back. If you step outside onto my fire escape, the Midtown skyline flashes brightly way down the street.

This is my New York reality. Hence, my father’s home in Riverside has always been a lovely escape. Going out west has always meant delicious food in the fridge, cable TV and chirping crickets, thanks to the serene terrain.

Like any good Californian transplanted into a New Yorker, I’ve made an art form out of not driving a car. Traffic, parallel parking and freeways send my neurosis levels to skyrocketing high levels. Typically, I have my father and/or generous friends drive me around. However, I gave driving another shot.

My dad gave me the keys to his car. Like any proper creature of habit, I decided to re-create my East village routine in the heart of Downtown Riverside. I drove there, one Saturday afternoon.

Firstly, I commenced with a walk. I admired Riverside’s antiquity. It’s flower shops, restaurants gone al fresco, little fountains and street musicians provided a tranquil, but surprisingly lively vibe in the heart of suburban madness.

That afternoon, I enjoyed a latte at the local indie coffee shop and explored the titles at the favorite used bookstores. After a whole lot of strolling, I headed for a sandwich at the gourmet deli, Simple Simon’s.

After a day, which mirrored my routine in New York City, I still longed for that most suburban of moments. Risking loosing my cool urban card, I set off for that delicious slice of American peach pie.

“This top 40 station stinks,” said I. Quickly, I switched to 80’s music. Missing Persons, Culture Club & Depeche Mode were the soundtrack of my road trip. It brought me back to a time, when I romanticized about being an adult.

I parked in a parallel parking spot and stared up into the bright blue California sky. There it is, the Galleria at Tyler, Riverside’s premier shopping destination, where Nordstrom meets Forever 21 meets Cinnabon.

My first stop was Nordstrom’s. Since, we don’t have a Nordy’s (Nordstrom’s nickname), I went wild. I always adored their sneakers department. The sweet smell of men’s cologne dominated my nostrils. As, I secretly wished I had a boyfriend to enjoy this suburban moment.

After Nordstrom’s, I snuck into the actual mall. It was interesting. This was a world I once longed for, but like braces, had been buried in the graveyard of teenage angst. The galleria was secretly an enjoyable experience.

Also, the people watching was intriguing and different from my usual East Village/Upper West Side afternoons. There were soccer moms, different tribes of teenagers from gothic people to preps, families representing virtually every culture and college kids. After my quick run-through, I had my mall fix for a long while.

I returned back to my dad’s house, feeling slightly accomplished. That afternoon, I stepped out into the back patio and sniffed around, “oh it really smells like the suburbs,” said I. The suburbs smell like grass, but I most prefer the exotic smells of New York, when it’s not on the subway in summer.