That Coffee Shop In Brooklyn

A parade, street markets, protests; it was end of summer in New York City. “Oy, I can’t deal with crowds, today,” said I. Naturally, I fueled up my private jet and set off for a trip to Palm Springs. This scenario happened in my head. Here’s what really happened.

Randomly, I hopped on the subway to escape the crowds gathered for a parade on my street. I planned on eating Chinese at my favorite mom n’ pop’s restaurant in the Village. The need for escapism persisted, while riding on that downtown train. “I need a day trip to an exotic land, I just don’t spend enough time in,” said I.

“This is a Brooklyn bound 3 train,” announced the train conductor. “That’s it, I am going to Brooklyn. It may not be Palm Springs, but by George, it’s certainly a different island,” said I. Excitedly, the train traveled underneath the very depth of the East River. “Hello, island getaway,” I proclaimed.

After a long voyage, I felt slightly jet lagged (hold the time zone change) and emerged from the subway. “Boom, hello crowds. Shit, it’s another street festival. I thought I was going to escape this,” said I. Frustration turned into euphoria. I starred at the signs, which dazzled my eyes. “Oh, it’s the Brooklyn Book Festival,” said I, with eyes open wide with joy.

I excitedly wandered around the tents, browsing the titles. Poetry, LGBT literature, classics, obscure short stories, there was something for everyone’s literary palate. I was dazzled. This was my kind of day trip. For a moment, I pushed the delete button on my jaded self. After immersing myself in the world of literary candy, I decided to get lost.

The humidity levels rose. I complained. “Oy, I can’t. It’s like I am taking shower in my own sweat,” said I, while schvitzing up a storm. Then I found an adorable coffee shop in Cobble Hill. The breeze of a well-fused air conditioner beckoned my heat sensitive senses. I bought an ice latte and pulled out my notebook. Finally, I was able to relax. It was heavenly and had the benefits of a proper trip to Palm Springs.

I took one more trip around the book festival. Shedding a tear, I returned to Manhattan. “Oh Brooklyn, you may have more baby strollers and hipsters than the average borough, but you still now how to charm a Manhattanite,” said I. Returning to Harlem, the noise and crowds welcomed me from a long voyage.

The beating drums of the parade shook my apartment building. However, I was oblivious to its effects. Instead, I reveled in my unexpected day of literary and caffeinated delights. “New York, I still love you, even with your endless street festivals and fondness of parades,” proclaimed I.

Free Fallin on the Jukebox

Back in the late 90s, I called the local mall, my catwalk. It was the place to window shop, grab a Frappuccino and watch all the cute guys walk by. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t drive and many of the cute guys, I admired were still closeted or not gay.

I didn’t quite bask in my high school existence, which screamed suburban America. There were many prominent subcultures in school. The jocks who played football, jocks who didn’t play football, cheerleaders, drama geeks, math geeks and the anti-establishment, hacky sack crowd, made up the quilt of existence for my local high school.

“Gee, where I do I fit in, here?” asked I. As one of the only openly gay kids at school, I lived in my own imaginary land. I dreamed of living in New York, seeing exotic lands, becoming a published author and of course, meeting a cute nerdy dude.

Once in a while, I departed imaginary land and was brought back to my very own brand of teenage angst. “Shit my grades suck, my face looks like a greasy pepperoni pizza and my stomach fat is giving me a muffin top,” said I, while in the back of the local convenience store.

My friend Clifford just shook his head. “That’s cool dude, just run with that,” said Clifford. He pulled out a precious white box from his backpack. From the box, he pulled out a cigarette. With great ease, he lit the cigarette. The smell was slightly intoxicating. More mesmerizing were his bright green eyes. He noticed I stared at his cigarette in curiosity.

“You want a puff?” he asked, with a calm exterior. “I’m okay,” said I with great confidence. “C’mon, it’s one puff, he persisted. “I am not one to give into peer pressure,” said I.

He handed me the cigarette, “c’mon give it a try,” he said. I peered into his eyes and took the cigarette. I examined it. With great ease, I took a puff. It was still wet from his saliva touching the tip of the cigarette.

After taking one puff, coughing persisted. “Shit, fuck, shit,” said I. “Wow, you’re one step closer to being a bad ass, said Clifford. “Really?” asked I. “No, dude,” he replied. “I can’t believe I smoked, my parents are going to kill me,” said I. Internally, I was delighted to have a bonding moment with Clifford, whom I regarded as an attractive confidant.

While basking in the initial glory of breaking the rules, I was later, riddled with guilt. “Oy, I pay too much attention in religion class. Should I go to confession and tell the priest I was smoking behind the convenience store?” asked I, internally.

As predicted, my guilty conscience persisted. Then I took a shopping and lunch trip to Newport Beach with my mom. We sat for lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen. As I sipped my soda, she asked me about school. Instantly I replied, “ I smoked a cigarette.”

My mother was a very conservative lady, who didn’t take kindly to smoking and booze. I was waiting for her face to fade into intense rouge. “Anthony, nothing you do surprises me,” she said. Rather than getting grounded until retirement age, it was dismissed as a life experience.

Years later I dropped the guilty conscience and enjoyed life. Being well-behaved gets old. A little rebellion and middle fingers to the air make life exciting. On the subject of exciting, I look forward to my next trip to California(where I grew up), since I still secretly love mall culture, especially the Nordstrom shoe sale and going to Cinabon for (you guessed it), a cinnamon roll.

Import-A-Gay

“I would move to New York for you. Would you move to Honolulu for me?” asked my handsome date. I took one bite of burrito and stared longingly at his mesmerizing hazel eyes. “Absolutely not,” I replied.

“Oh,” he answered. I shrugged my shoulders and nonchalantly noshed on my Mexican feast. “Oy, this guy is handsome, tall, and quirky, but shit, I can’t get a good bagel in Hawaii. Hence, fuck no, I am not moving to Honolulu,” said I, internally.

In New York, I have wonderful friends, a rich cultural life and plenty of inspiration to last me a thousand years. Unfortunately, one thing was missing.

While walking down Fourteenth Street, I was met with some of Manhattan’s most handsome men. Unfortunately for me, I was met with their head turn, whenever potential eye contact would potentially arise. This had left me a bit disappointed. “Gee, is my future husband hiding under a rock?” asked I.

“More than likely, he is. That’s it. He’s under a rock,” declared I. While almost shedding a tear at my lack of male attention, I bravely smiled again. “Oh yes, tomorrow is a big day,” said I.

The next morning, anxiety levels rose. “Shit, I have to pack. I have to pack,” said I. That afternoon, I was on a flight to California to visit my father.  Sweat dripped, even as chilly winds blew from my window unit. I ran out of my apartment and hailed a cab. Goodbye, Seventh Avenue, hello, California for the next few days.

I made my flight on time. Like any trip to California, there was a layover in an unexplored part of the world. “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to Dallas,” announced the friendly flight attendant. My connecting flight arrived in Dallas, early. Soon, I made it to my gate and the people watching commenced.

I pulled out a good book. In actuality, I peered through the airport’s imposing windows, which were filled with perfectly aligned American Airlines planes. The Dallas skyline was seen from a distance. There are Men in cowboy hats out in the horizon, I declared. Rather than feeding my intellectual cravings, I took a dramatic step for gay boys, everywhere.

Damn it, I tried to avoid it, but I am going on Tinder and finding a Texan. I pulled up the phone app and started swiping (a swipe to the left means not interested, a swipe to the right means the opposite. Also, if they also swipe to the right, you’re a match).

With great excitement my phone was buzzing with matches. ” Wow, I didn’t get this many matches back home,” said I. One fellow really tickled my online dating fancy. He had a cleverly written profile and shaggy red hair. I started a simple conversation with that most thrilling word of all, hi. He responded back. Visions of us meeting, falling in love and yes, him moving to New York, (just for me) played in my head.

“Ladies and gentleman, we are now boarding our flight to Ontario,” announced, the flight attendant. Passengers eagerly lined up towards the gate. “Oh shit, what’s the point of messaging these guys, if I won’t meet them. Long distance relationships are tough, ” declared I. While boarding the plane, I wondered if cupid’s arrow would ever strike me in New York. Disappointingly, I didn’t connect with my cowboy.

The plane took off, flying past the flat lands, a maze of suburbs, and then the imposing Dallas skyline arose. Texas eventually faded with the evening fog. “Oy, what happens if I had really connected with that guy? Was he the one? Would he had really taken the next step and moved to New York? Or would he stay in Dallas? Asked I, pondering the great questions of the mighty singleton.

It made me wonder, if the true love of my life was really in New York? Or if I had to search elsewhere. After a very relaxing vacation in Palm Springs and Riverside, I returned to New York. A week later, I was wondering Alphabet City.

The neighborhood still retained some of its funky 90’s edge. I was attending a friend’s very fabulous drag queen photo exhibit. Outside, the exhibit hall, there was a sea of arty gays. They adorned their New York style with some sort of quirky edge (i.e. funky glasses and eccentric shoes).

Finally, the doors of the exhibition hall opened. I took a seat. As I waited for the show to start, my eyes locked with a handsome older guy. “Hi, he said. I politely replied, “hi, how are you? While keeping my eyes locked with him. As he took a seat, I smiled. “Why look outside New York for a guy? Finding love here may not be an impossible after all. The rock my future husband is hiding under is probably on the corner of St. Mark’s & Avenue A.

Beatnik Heartbeat

In my last year of suburban innocence, I took one bold step. Upon entering a darkened basement, my eyes gazed into an unexpected sight. The intensity of a beating drum romanced my senses.

“I am the party star. I am popular,” sang the band. They were covering the anthem of 90’s teenage angst, popular. Quirky artwork filled the walls of the basement. The brightness served as a lighted candle. People sat in Indian style, bobbing their heads to the music. I smiled from ear to ear. Along with my friend, Nicky, we were taking in the intoxicating bohemian surroundings in the midst of our conservative town.

We joined the other revelers and sat Indian style. It was my first foray into open mic night at Back to the Grind, our local independent coffee house.

Poets went up on stage. Each spoke eloquently of their life experiences. Nervously, I fidgeted with my notebook paper. After one poet turned his poetry into a musical number to remember, the stage was left empty. I took a deep breath and galloped on stage.

The spotlight hit my face. It was harsh and intensified, when I read the first lines of the poem. I The words flowed with a proper theatrical accent. I took one last breath and quickly read the poem without stuttering. The audience clapped. I bowed and that marked my debut as poet. “This is going to be me, forever, audience applause, thought, I.

Years went by, and I didn’t write poetry. Instead, I wrote plays and short stories. Then one day, while sitting in a most cliché of surroundings, an East Village coffee shop. I opened up my $1 black marble notebook and filled the blank pages with a spontaneous poetry. “I’m back, I declared.

Soon, I immersed myself in New York’s poetry scene, attending reading after reading. Secretly, I longed to have the spotlight on my own work. My opportunity arrived.

A poet friend told me of open mic night at the Sidewalk Café in the East Village. Joyfully, I decided to share my poetry with an audience.

That day, the skies above Astor Place were an inspirational shade of hazy grey. I made my way through east Seventh Street. Nerves were ignited like fireworks over a darkened sky. “Oy, I need to go in front of perfect strangers and reveal my soul. This sounded wonderful an hour ago. Am I mad? Asked I, walking toward Alphabet City.

I took a seat on a bench in leafy Tompskin’s Square Park, Central Park’s grungy cousin. A sweet melody seduced my senses. “What is this most serenading sound?” asked I. To the corner of my eye was a folk band playing harmonious music. Instantly, my anxiety levels subsided.

“I just need to relax. This is the East Village, where (beat poet) Allen Ginsburg was inspired and famous punk bands played. I am joining a grand tradition of creative types inspired by the clash of folk music and grit, which engulf the landscape,” said I.

I left the comfort of a park bench for the venue. “ Nervousness, what the fuck is that?” asked I, practically skipping into the bar. The nervous fireworks returned. I stared into the crowd, which was half hipster and thought “I don’t think they’re going to get my poetry.

With great bravery, I signed up. “I’ll take a glass of wine and a burger,” said I to the waitress. “Food and wine will help ease my nerves,” thought I. An uneasy feeling lingered.

The first poets stepped on stage. “Sex, cultural differences and body image issues are going to be covered & the audience will applaud,” were my initial thoughts. “Fuck, I am genius, declared I. Most of the poems revolved around those topics. The audience ate it up like a warm knish on freezing cold day.

My name didn’t come up. “That’s weird I signed up for open mic, when am I going to be called? Asked I. After one last poem about lesbian desires, intermission happened. Suddenly, I was called up for the poetry slam, where one gets judged for their work. “Fuck, I signed up for open mic. This has to be a mistake,” said I.

I had preconceived ideas on a poetry slam. Shrugging my shoulders, I gave it a whirl. The first poet went up, she read a poem about Billy Holliday, which she later turned into a story about sex. “Oy, this story makes me happy to be gay, “ thought I.

The audience clapped. She left the stage. With much shock, she was given a score by random judges. “Shit, they’re giving out scores? You get judged for bearing your soul? How can people give out scores for this?” asked I with a swift eye roll.

Escaping was not a viable option. Soon, I went on stage. I made a joke. Nobody laughed. Then I read my poem to an ocean of emotionless faces. The experience was a speedy one. I finished and left the stage. The audience clapped, politely.

My score was low, very low. Oh, my poor poetic soul free fell into disappointed. I kept a brave demeanor, but bolted out of the venue after the show ended.

“This was such a disappointment. My first show in years and nobody got me,” said I. Like many disappointed writers before me, I took an obvious step.

“Dad, the show sucked. Everybody hated me. I don’t think I want to do this again,” said I, on the phone. My dad with a giggle responded, “You had the guts to go up on stage. I am proud of you. So, you feel like shit now, but you’re the type to just keep on going, no matter how much people hate you. After an uplifting conversation, I dusted myself off and carried on.

Rather, than feeling like a failure, I walked crosstown to the subway. “ This is only the beginning and fuck, if I didn’t do well on this show. My poetry-reading journey has just begun. While crossing Fifth Avenue, I let out the following words, “fuck it.” From there, I planned my next performance. More importantly, I know I did something right, when a group of silly hipsters just didn’t get it.

Uptowners

While awaiting my flight, home to New York, anticipation grew. “Gee, I’ve only been away for five days, but already I miss my friends, coffee shops, and wandering the city on foot for hours.

More importantly, I bought lovely new frocks while on my California holiday. I couldn’t wait to parade around the East Village in dazzling new cardigans.

After landing in EWR, I waited for my train into the city. The humidity levels rose. “Oy, Toto, we’re not in humid free, California any longer,” I declared. Sweat dripped into the train platform’s bleak concrete, forming miniature rivers.

I glared at my carry on, which was filled with wonderful new clothes, designed for cold weather. Happy thoughts, said I. Pea coats, sweaters and cardigans with those words, I took a flying saucer and ventured back to the Polar Vortex.

Snow, slush and more snow, the city had morphed into a splendid upside down, snow globe. In icy temperatures, I walked along practically deserted, Park Avenue. “This isn’t so bad, empty side walks and single digits temperatures, said I. Harmoniously, my teeth sounded like a well tuned type writer from shivering. “At least, it’s not hot,” I declared.

It snowed randomly, even on days when it wasn’t forecasted. Being a native Californian with plenty of East Coast winters under my belt, the blizzards were still thrilling. Something about the cold weather gave me a strong craving for comfort food.

“Pickles, why am I craving pickles?” asked I. Cucumbers are the food I fear the most. However, I was craving sliced fried pickles. Even the feared cucumber/pickles tasted delicious, when fried. I made a bold step for foodies everywhere. I called my friend Anna. “Let’s go to Harlem Public. I am craving their fried pickles,” said I. Anna agreed.

In the midst of heavy snow, we marched up the street, toward Broadway. Classic Harlem brownstones with lavish stoops were filled with white powdery snow. It fell from the sky and blinded the naked eyed.

As a winter enthusiast, I wondered, “why am I going up a hill in a snow storm for fried pickles?” Both of us just wanted to go home.

“Frosty the snowman was a very happy soul,” I started singing Christmas carols. If anything could make a journey in rough conditions delightful, it was campy Christmas music. Anna joined along. By the time we wished each other a very merry Christmas for third time, there it stood, Harlem Public. We had arrived. We wiped the snow from our black coats and ran inside.

The restaurant was packed. After a few minutes of waiting, we sat at our table and quickly ordered the fried pickles. One bite and I realized the journey was well worth it.

After polishing up the pickles and a burger, we entered the twilight zone. Actually, it was more like food coma land, but they are both quite hypnotizing. I had a wonderful night’s sleep as snow continued to fall over Manhattan.

Let’s take the flying saucer back to this humid summer. I made it back to the city, which was engulfed in deep humidity. After reaching my apartment, I bolted toward my air conditioning unit. Eventually, my apartment morphed into the Polar Vortex: Part 2.

I unpacked my suitcase and lovingly hung my cardigans. “Don’t worry, cardigans, sweaters and pea coats. New York will once again feel like Antarctica. You will be out of the closet soon and back on the frosty sidewalks. I miss you, said I.” With that, I closed the closet, turned off the lights and forgot that it was 80 degrees with humidity, outside.

The Broadway Itch

Musical theatre makes every campy bone in my body, sing and dance. It soothes my soul and stimulates my creative nerves.

Upon returning home to New York from my California holiday, I caught a dreadful cold. I opted to stay in my apartment and feast on Wonton soup. While noshing the night away on the Chinese comfort staple, I kept sneezing and coughing. “Oy, this cold has me all sorts of light headed. Something has to revitalize my aching self,” said I.

“Consider yourself at home. Consider yourself part of the family,” sang the familiar voice. “Oh it’s Oliver, I love that musical, declared I. Rather than dwelling on my cooties, I reveled in evening full of famous Tony awards performances and Broadway musical soundtracks. Book of Mormon, Cabaret, A Chorus Line, Fiddler on the Roof, Little Shop of Horrors and Kinky Boots, I heard at least one number from all those delightful musicals, while sick in bed.

The next day, I developed a serious condition. I was able to make it into the office, but I had an itch. As I listened to even more show tunes, I realized, “oy, I know what I have. It’s the Broadway Itch. The itch derives from a severe craving to watch a wonderful Broadway show.

That day, the craving intensified, as my cold subsided. I eventually finished the day, listening to the Hedwig & The Angry Inch soundtrack. “Oy, this music is just wonderful. Maybe, I should just go to the box office and pray they have a cheap ticket for Hedwig. That’s it, I’ll just live on the edge for once,” said I.

I dashed crosstown to the Belasco theatre. “Hi, what’s the cheapest ticket for Hedwig tonight? I asked the gentleman at the box office. “Our cheapest ticket is rear balcony at $50 dollars, he replied. “I’ll take it, declared I with great excitement.

While sitting in the zoo, which is Times Square (waiting for the show), I stared at my ticket. “Gee, I really do love spontaneity,” said I. Excitedly, I walked back to the theatre. Audiences lined outside the theatre with great anticipation. I stared at a sea of fancy dresses and ties. “Opps, I am wearing a polo, sneakers and black jeans. I feel awkward,” said I.

With a touch of cheekiness, I shrugged off my casual outfit. “I am here. I am queer and ready to see a wonderful show. Besides, I am wearing all black; nobody will notice, said I. Journeying to the top balcony, my eyes twinkled in the ornate old world theatre. Thanks to my show-tunes loving condition, I am about to have a memorable life experience.

Our main actor arrived with great grandeur on stage, as the band played. “Oh this show is so much better than I expected, said I with the music intensifying. Suddenly, I felt an itch. This wasn’t the campy kind of itch. “Oy, my throat, I want to cough,” said I.

The stage went silent. “Oy, don’t cough. It’s one of those interactive shows. This actor will probably call me out for coughing in the midst of a monologue, ” said I internally. I became fixated as the itch in the back of my throat became increasingly unbearable. “Happy thoughts Annie, Oliver, the Phantom of the Opera, don’t cough, warned I.

On stage, the loud music returned after a touching monologue. I let out a small cough then cleared my throat. The itch slowly subsided. After clearing my throat one more time, I survived a possible coughing spree. The show ended.

While the actors took a bow, everyone stood up to give them a proper standing ovation. “I survived a night at the theatre without coughing up a lung. Go me,” I declared.

I power walked toward Times Square. My heart went piter patter as Broadway Marquis blinded the pupil. “This is why I love living in New York. I could have spontaneous evening at the theatre,” said. Not even the overcrowded subway could diminish my Broadway high.

Even after curing my Broadway itch, a craving to see more shows was cemented. Naturally my campy spirit yearns for more show tunes to sooth the creative soul.