Dress Your Bear In Flannel

The birds chirped. Leaves pranced merrily along the pavement. Echoing winds accentuated a charming portrait of the town hamlet.

“Wait, town hamlet? This is the East Village. How is it so eerily quiet and peaceful on Tuesday afternoon?” asked I. Strolling up Avenue A, I avoided jamming to music and savored in the lack of background noise.

My inner Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound & James Joyce, longed to write exquisite poetry. Artistically, I pulled out my journal. Taking in a deep breath, I longed to scribble down beautiful words, which described my great time of need.

Instead, a monster jumped out of the bushes and slaughtered my attention span. “Oh shit, I was going to write the next “Leaves of Grass,” but I think I’ll go on Facebook, instead. Everyone on Facebook land is just dying to see (more) marvelous photos of a traditional Northeast fall,” said I.

“I’ll write the next Leaves of Grass right after this next status update,” said I. Instead of amusing the world with witty banter and funky photos, I messaged one of my best friends.

Rather than talking of beautiful scenery, I broke down through Facebook messenger. “I’m still unemployed and can’t find a job,” wrote I, with tears, which mirrored a monsoon season.

“You should go spend December in California. It’s going to be slow here, in regards to finding work,” she wrote back. As I stared across the East River with Queens & Brooklyn glistening in the sun, emotion ran rampant. “I’ll consider it,” I wrote.

Instantly, I daydreamed of taking the dream trip to Portland along with visiting my dad in California. “I could drink organic coffee, grow a beard, jam to my favorite 90’s alternative band, hike in lovely cardigans and it’s only a two hour flight from my hometown,” said I.

As soon as I daydreamed of California and Portland, the city dazzled me again. Pretty window displays, high fashion, and frosty weather enticed the senses. I didn’t want to miss out on the holiday season.

“Fuck it,” said I. That very evening, I booked my ticket to the left coast. I lost the fear of missing out on New York-ness (which I have experienced countless times before) and was headed to old familiar, California and the new flannel, loving frontier, Portland.

My bohemian retreat commenced, a few days later. I stuffed my favorite cardigans, sweaters and pea coats into a carry-on, ready to be paraded around Portland.

Taking another gander at my apartment, I declared, “See you on January 1st, New York. When I comeback, I’ll have a journal filled with new stories,” said I, confidentially. Channeling Ernest Hemingway, I set off for a new literary adventure. Waving good-bye to the Manhattan skyline, I was ready to re-conquer the West Coast.

A Lonely Heartbeat

“I think we’re alone now (the Tiffany version, obviously)” is my favorite song to perform at Karaoke. With my vocal cords, I could empty out any room. Literally, it’s that sweet and magical.

As an only child (thanks mother & father), I cherish my alone time. Living in Manhattan, people are always around me. Hence, I’m never quite alone. In fact, I don’t remember having a quiet moment, in years.

When temperature took a frosty dip, I reveled in emptier sidewalks. On a usually chilly Friday night, I took my favorite evening stroll. Commencing at Astor Place, I took a splendid walk though the East Village. Crossing Houston and then Delancy, New York wonders delighted me. Coffee shops, hip window displays, and exotic restaurants seduced my heart.

“Darling, I know you want Texas BBQ, Indian culinary delights, and a key lime pie from Veniero’s, but you’re unemployed,” said the accountant, who resided in the left side of my brain.

I experienced a great deal of self-control. After another magnificent and very frugal date night with myself, I took the 3 train to Manhattan’s North Pole, Harlem.

The train grew progressively empty. By the time, it reached 96th Street, (literally) everyone had exited the subway car. I was left alone without a single, living, breathing soul experiencing the subway’s charm. “This is awkward. I never had a whole subway car to myself,” declared I.

With a bit of quirk and imagination, I brainstormed all the creative shit I could get away with, alone. “Tap dancing, a one-man act play, performance art, and even yelling, fuck, super duper loud. This is what I can do with my own private performance space,” said I.

Yet, my brain was gassy. Hello, brain farts. Instead of coming up with lavish performance ideas, I reveled in the obvious. Finally, I have alone time. The most riveting fact was avoiding to these following individuals:

–  break dancers

-Preachers, who will destroy your ear drum with the wrath of hell.

-men who open their legs so wide, they take up two seats

-crying babies and kids, yelling for no fucking reason

The subway reached Harlem. Miraculously, I was still the only passenger in the subway car. “Dear, gods of public transportation, I could live without cameo appearances, just let me enjoy this alone time, which never happens,” prayed I, staring into the clouds above.

Three stops later, I exited. Tears of joy flowed down my rosy cheeks. “ Shit, this was the equivalent of riding first class on a plane. I better not get to used to it,” thought, I. Marveling at my stroke of luck, I celebrated by drinking a Dunkin Donuts coffee (this is called Coffee & Cardigans for a reason).

Finally, I achieved having alone time in the city, outside of my apartment. I felt Barbara Streisand, winning an Oscar for Funny Girl. Note to my non-New York friends, never enter an empty subway car; it’ll only destroy all sense of smell. After another spectacular subway story, I leave you with that song, “I think we’re alone now” in honor of my exciting night out.

The Mighty, Mighty Conqueror

“Christmas, Christmas time is here,” sang Alvin, Simon and Theodore (the Chipmunks). Indeed, New York City’s temperature dipped into wintertime campiness by mid November. Twinkling lights dominated Columbus Circle. Shops capitalized in the pre-holiday cheer with lavish window displays. New Yorkers defrosted with cozy cups of hot chocolate.

In the midst of cheer and campy Christmas music, there was a cameo appearance by one aggressive, Scrooge. “Hey, that’s my cab. I got here first, said I.” On an unseasonably cold November evening, I battled for a cab. Like the great William the Conqueror and his Norman Conquest, I planned to win the battle.

As I shivered on the corner of Fourteenth and Avenue A, I stared at my nemesis, (who also held on to the cab door.). “Holy shit,” said I, internally. He was incredibly handsome, all decked out in a tuxedo. I thought to myself, “wow, this guy really makes me look like a laid-back surfer. He’s really dolled up.”

We both held on to the cab door. “Are you going uptown too?” I asked. He shook his head, yes. “Let’s share a cab,” I suggested. He agreed and we took the voyage, uptown.

Secretly, I hopped this would turn into my holiday cuddle buddy. With liquid courage, I took one brave step in conquering the world for gays, everywhere. “Where are you off to?” I asked. He answered a friend’s wedding at the Palace Hotel. He looked distracted by his phone.

While we heading up First Avenue, I asked the most riveting question. “ Are you gay or straight?” asked I. Without blinking an eye, he answered, “straight.” My face went blank, “So much for cuddling with the guy in the well tailored tux,” declared I.

After arriving at the opulent Palace Hotel, my former conquest leaped out of the cab and gave me money for his portion of the ride. I was slightly disappointed, but “shit, at least I wasn’t rejected for obvious reasons. No regrets,” said I.

I arrived at my cozy apartment in Harlem. With one phone call, I delighted in that single thirty-something tradition of ordering Chinese food and enjoying an indie film, alone. The icy winds blew through the city, while Wonton soup warmed my heart.

I might have been single, but I was okay with that. This the cheerful season to wear my cute sweaters, while blasting Christmas music, twenty-four/seven. Let the lights twinkle and leave some cookies for Santa. The campy holidays are finally here, with or without romance.


Hello, Yellow Brick Road

In my early twenties, I was young, broke, and living in Astoria, Queens. From the edge of Astoria Park, I glared across the East River at Manhattan.

“One day, I will have conquer you, “ said I. Astoria was the place I longed to escape. I had a romanticized image of living in the alluring city. Manhattan was hip, glamorous, and very cultured. Therefore, I made it my life’s mission to call Manhattan, home.

Years later, I finally moved to Manhattan. On an icy March morning, I settled into an elevator building in the east twenties, which overlooked Queens. My existence in the city had every charming component, imaginable.

Then, I hoped on a hot air balloon ride, which eventually burst over Central Park (the hot balloon, a metaphor for unemployment). I fell face forward. Like any tough, resilient New Yorker, I dusted myself off and paraded on Fifth Avenue.

With turbulent times came feelings of isolation. As an intense grey engulfed my Uptown bubble, I longed for a temporary exodus. I hopped on the M60 bus from my current life in Harlem to the good ol’ days in Astoria.

Off I went across the Triboro Bridge. The Bronx’s red brick project buildings, Manhattan’s skyline, and the calming waters of the East River dominated my eyes. While on the bus, I thought of my old neighbor, Tony.

I really hoped to see him on this trip to the old neighborhood. When we first met, he was enjoying laughs with our neighbors on the stoop. He was a blue collar, native New Yorker with the accent to prove it. With a wicked sense of humor, he could charm the most jaded of folks.

The night we met, I had a date with this random guy, a few blocks away. “Can I walk you to the corner?” he asked. I shook my head, yes. Sensing some insecurity on my part, he uttered the following, “you look beautiful.” With a surprise stare, I thought to myself, “wow, this is one open minded straight guy.”

In the midst of a quiet block of brick and candy colored homes, he drew me close. Intense winds blew from the East River. With one quick swoop, he kissed me.

“I am gay,” he said. In a bit of shock, I just smiled in awe. “You’re gorgeous, have fun on your date, tonight,” he said. Walking away into Queen’s darkened, but charming sidewalks, he left.

The date went well, but nothing romantic came from it. Instead, Tony and I formed a strong bond. I missed him terribly, when I left Queens. Then, the bus finally arrived in Astoria.

The change of scenery was a very warm welcome. The charming borough felt like home again. Immediately, I walked toward my old apartment building. The row houses and brick apartment buildings retained their cozy charm.

From the distance, I saw a blue baseball cap. “Oh, please tell me that’s Tony,” I whispered to myself. It wasn’t. Disappointingly, I had to face the awful pangs of truth.

“Tony is really gone,” I declared. He had died almost two years ago. Naively, I wanted to believe he was still watering his mother’s rose gardens and handing me new coupons, he had just clipped. His death seemed more real, but there was closure.

Holding back emotion, I could hear Tony’s witty banter. “Just enjoy your life, buddy,” he would tell me. Remembering his favorite neighborhood spot, I walked over to glorious Astoria Park.

The peace and quiet of my old neighborhood was a refreshing change from Manhattan’s frenetic pace. It still retained the quaintness, which was further characterized by cozy fall skies.

Finally, I reached Astoria Park. The leaves colored the green grounds with leave of yellow, pink, and rogue. From the vantage point, I once declared my future move to Manhattan, I really had returned.

Although, my life across the East River turned into a parallel universe, full of uncertainty, I felt a great deal of peace. I sat on a bench and turned my uncertainty into a sense of adventure. With great confidence, I walked to the subway and returned to Manhattan.

Descending up into East Village madness, I felt part of a very busy anthill. Albeit, a very hip and fashionable anthill, indeed. I longed for a bit of peace and quite, once again. While walking to my favorite coffee shop, I was reminded of Astoria and especially, Tony.

Even though, that era had ended, it provided me with endless happy memories. In fact, when I couldn’t find enough campy Broadway musicals to sing, I would just think of my old home borough. Instantly, it lifted my spirits. Queens, I never thought I’d say this, but “I think I fancy you.”

Duck, Duck, Goose

It’s another adventure in fun-employment land. This edition is brought to you by those institutions, television shows and cafes, which distract the soul. Your contribution is greatly appreciated. Now on to today’s story.

Feeling like New York gave me a swift kick in the tuckus (ass), I wandered around Nolita. High fashion, cupcakes shops, and pricey walk-ups were quite lovely to look at, even on a budget.

While feeling quite blue and ready to break into an operatic performance, I ditched the stage of Lincoln Center for an anti-depressant. Naturally, this anti-depressant came in the form of a bookshop.

“Hello, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, James Joyce, Jack Kerouac and yes, even J.D. Salinger, “said I. Intoxicated by the sweet bookshop scent, I browsed the titles. Taking a step back, I admired the perfectly organized books and shed a tear.

Somebody cue Simon & Garfunkel’s “hazy shade of winter,” please. Inspiration flowed through my blood stream. Armed with my laptop, I dashed to my favorite East Village coffee shop. After finding a cozy table, I made a major life decision. “Oh yes, I will join the National Write a novel in 30 days contest,” said I.

Opening up my laptop, I took a gulp of coffee. For months, I had daydreamed the idea of this particular novel. Even with a sizable amount of time, daydreaming, that first blank page was terrifying. Rather, than overly intellectualizing my dilemma, a voice spoke to me. It was my novel’s protagonist.

“Have you heard of GOYA? Asked the voice. I shrugged my shoulders and shook my head, “no.” His intensity grew. It means “Get off your ass, if you want to start writing a novel, go ahead and do it. Don’t worry about writer’s block, I shall lead the way,” he said.

Rather than pressuring myself to write the next Less than Zero or Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, I simply let my protagonist guide me through an expedition. Like going on a proper field trip, he took me on an adventure, Indiana Jones would envy. Soon, I wrote my first few pages of the novel.

Departing the coffee shop, I was liberated with power of the written word. Soon, my protagonist and I became best friends. He spoke to me in the most random of places. The whole city became a personalized creative space.

“Would I finish this novel by the end of November?” Asked I. My character, responded with a proper, “who knows, who cares” answer. In the meantime, I reveled in a novel writing adventure, which beats a trek up the Himalayas, any day.


I Bleed Glitter

New York City, high above a dive bar, lived in a modest bloke. On a chilly fall day, he arose to the sounds of campy show tunes. Within a night’s slumber, he had listened to so many show tunes. His ears bled glitter.

With a waltz and a tap, he looked himself in the mirror. Somewhere between “Anything you can do, I can do better (hello, Annie Get Your Gun)” & “Suddenly Seymour (hello, Little Shop of Horrors),” his eyes widen with fear. “Oy, I’m unemployed, but shit, I can still listen to the best of musical theatre. He smiled.

The anguish was an excuse to sing songs all day. He tapped danced around his apartment, but decided that the world needed to hear his sweet, sweet voice. After a quick brushing of teeth, he took his laptop and ventured into the delightfully frigid day. Everyone on the subway was dressed up in stylish outfits. They looked busy on their way to work.

Our musical theatre loving, writer with a passion for coffee, felt left out. He wanted nothing more than to get back to work. “Fun-employment could only last for so long,” he said. By the time he reached St Mark’s Place, he tried to hold back singing a sad song.

Fortunately, he found relief. Hello, bagel and coffee. Rather, than singing a sad song, he put fingers to keyboard. Fueled by coffee and campiness, he wrote a story. His eyes widened. “This is my own private writer’s retreat. I could write a novel, beautiful poetry and daydream the days away, said he, staring around the East Village coffee shop.

Channeling the ghosts of Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, our campy, unemployed, boy wonder set off new literary adventures. He found inspiration and a revival of storytelling. On the stage of life, audiences cheered. Glitter fell from the sky. Thank you, old New York & its many unexpected opportunities.

Kangaroo in the Wild

“Oy, I just don’t look like me,” said I. While on an exodus in California, I happened to pack a New York friendly fall wardrobe. Hence, I was roasting in the roaring California sun. Rather than buying brand spanking new t-shirts and shorts, I took a drastic step.

For years, I always avoided my father’s closet, since we have dramatically different fashion sensibilities. With sweat dripping from every direction, I took my father on his offer.

When we headed to lunch, the two of us had almost matching outfits. I finally caved in and borrowed my father’s clothes. He thought I looked dashing in his red polo shirts. Rolling my eyes, I declared, “of course, I look dashing to you. I’m wearing your clothes.”

On a warm Friday afternoon, we had a Mexican lunch in Palm Springs. My California retreat was drawing to a close. I look forward to returning to New York. Unfortunately, I was returning to Manhattan, unemployed. Nerves sprung from the soil of my brain.

I missed my old job and life in New York. However, life tossed me a blank canvass. I had to cleverly decide if I wanted to turn my blank canvass into pop art, impressionism or even cubism. My brain harvested the seeds of my anxiety.

After lunch, an oak tree grew from my head. It leaves fell, anxiously. My father sensing fear took action. Since I was a kid, one place cheered me up in the midst of purgatory, also (commonly) known as adolescence. “Anthony, we’re going to the Palm Desert mall,” said dad. I lifted my head and clapped in utter enthusiasm.

There was always a bit of nostalgia with malls. Somehow, my oak tree shed its dead leaves. Beautiful branches jutted out. I grew giddy, once again.

As we walked along the 1980’s nostalgia, I took in a deep breath. I pictured myself merrily walking in the East Village, in my own clothes, holding a coffee cup, while reading a good book. Hello, positive thinking brought to you by the American mall.

We returned to my father’s house. I packed up for the return to New York City. “Everything is going to be just swell. Goodnight, California” said I. Upon, waking up, my heart nearly pounded out of my chest.

Going back to New York City seemed more nerve wracking. My dad and I were equally dazed. “I’m not nervous, he said, while driving in circles at Ontario airport.

Finally, we reached the terminal. I took my sweet time checking into the flight. It was painful to leave my father in California. Like an astronaut heading into the deep abyss of space, I put on my best brave face and said, “goodbye.”

After changing planes, I was on a red-eye to JFK. The plane landed and I was off to my apartment, uptown. I was far too tired to think about the worrisome unknown.

Instead, I arrived at my apartment and fell asleep to the unexpectedly soothing sounds of sirens and honking cars. A few hours later, I woke up alone to grey skies.

Instantly, my anxiety returned. That morning, I made plans to have a birthday brunch with friends. Quickly, I slipped into my fall wardrobe, which consisted of a cardigan, buttoned down, and navy trousers. While staring into the mirror, I proclaimed, “at least, I look like myself again. Oh, I love my New York friendly wardrobe.”

The city with its brownstones and tenements was exotic, after ten days in Southern California. I headed toward my neighborhood coffee shop. “Wow, we haven’t seen you in a while. Where have you been?” asked the friendly barista with a smile. I replied, “California.” She sounded excited to hear that word, and warmly, responded, “welcome home to New York.”

“It really is home here, nothing to be scared about,” said I, feeling revived after hearing those simple words. I walked toward the subway. Everything lost its scary monster on the subway seats feeling.

Fall had arrived in Gotham. The weather was refreshingly crisp. Fourteenth Street turned into an enviable fashion catwalk. Coffee cups promenaded alongside a concrete backdrop.

As I hopped off the crosstown bus, my feet touched the East Village. “Heck, I don’t remember there being so many hipsters,” said I. Merrily, I walked toward brunch on Avenue A. I was greeted from the warm smiles of my friends at the cafe. With laughs and hugs, I knew I could make it through this obstacle known as life.

My paintbrush finally touched the blank canvass. I didn’t know what my beautiful painting would look like. Inwardly, if it didn’t come up with anything, Andy Warhol worthy, that was ok. With hands thrown in the air, I proclaimed, “fuck it” and enjoyed a whisky on the rocks with my urban family.