Amor y Un Burrito

Grey skies devoured the sun. High-strung winds blew through the quaint pavements. Trash floated majestically, like confetti on New Year’s Day. This bit of monsoon madness happened unexpectedly in Riverside. It’s Southern California’s beloved architectural gem.

Predictably, I was enjoying the spectacle from a coffee shop’s comfort. After basking in my soy latte’s last droplet, I ran to my car. I knew rain was on its way. Driving home (to dad’s), rain flooded every road. Sitting in traffic, I sang with Hall & Oates. Impatience rioted my New York sensibilities.

In fact, I was supposed to go on a red eye flight back to JFK, that night. With a smile, I glanced over at the torrential rain falling eloquently on bright and delicious orange groves. If this weather keeps on, I’ll get stuck in Riverside. That means more time with daddy, my DVR and more opportunities to raid his fridge. Mother nature certainly loved me, but shock ran through me, a few hours later.

“Daddy, you’re missing the exit. Daddy, we’ve been driving in circles for ten minutes, Daddy, look that’s a parking structure, please park. As predicted, my flight didn’t get canceled. Dad and I were lost and bewildered at Los Angeles International Airport. Eventually, we found a parking lot and spot.

I had to make the grand voyage (back) to New York City. After hugging my dad, goodbye, I went into typical Anthony mode. Being Mr. Pushy pants, I bolted through check-in and security at the airport.

Although, I’ve always loathed flying out of LAX, the person watching is a treat. All L.A. stereotypes were in grand form (at the American Airlines terminal). Then, I commenced singing, “the shit show, shit show, everyone loves a good shit show song.”

I sat across from a flight heading to JFK (it was the flight before mine), reading another collection of short stories. Typically, on flights to New York, everyone battles to board the flight, first. Not this time, everyone was patient, very patient.

A most unusual creature strolled through the terminal toward the gate. Curly black hair, white t-shirt, shorts, and ragged sandals; he epitomized the hippy dippy ideal. He had a boarding pass in one hand, burrito in the other.

He smiled at the male flight attendant. “Excuse me sir, I’d like to eat my burrito before boarding the flight. I glanced up from my book. “Of course, sir, enjoy your dinner,” the friendly flight attendant, said.

Mr. Hippy Dippy took a seat and kicked off his sandals. Slowly and enjoyably, he ate the burrito. A few late passengers dashed toward the gate and checked in. He still enjoyed his dinner, unaware of time or a flight ready to take off.

Minutes went by, he sipped some soda and reveled in the every taste of California’s favorite treat. “Ladies and gentleman, this is the final boarding call for this American Airlines flight to New York’s John F. Kennedy,” said the voice of the airport’s intercom. It didn’t rush Mr. Hippy Dippy, the burrito was only half eaten.

More minutes went by. The burrito was down to his final bite. He was beyond disappointed. Taking the last bite, he really savored it. For a moment, he was psychologically in some Mexican cantina by the sea, rather than a busy international airport.

Finally, he gulped one last time. Eventually, his sandals were placed back on his feet. With great patience, he tossed his trash and handed the boarding pass to the flight attendant. He was on his way to easy going, New York City, where burritos and time are of great abundance (sarcasm, included, of course).

All the type A personalities must’ve loved him on the flight. The plane took off with one very satisfied hippy dippy man. His patience was culture shocking to me. However, it also made me miss California’s laid-back nature. The state’s culture always advocated savoring the moment, especially when it comes to delicious Mexican food.

I made it back to New York, in one piece. Sitting in traffic en route to my Manhattan apartment, I nearly fell asleep in gridlock traffic (while in the cab). When New Yorkers and Angelenos complain they are nothing alike, one only has to sit in a highway/freeway in either city, traffic is similarly hellish.

A rainbow appeared over Queens’ row houses and highway. I smiled and proclaimed, the sky is gay and I’m home again in the East. I mourned the loss of good Mexican food, but celebrated my return. A bagel and coffee made revitalized my jet-lagged soul. I savored it, patiently, like a good-natured, Californian.

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A Hypochondriac’s Travel Guide

When the subway platform simmers, sweat drips like artisanal coffee. Man boob sweat happens (as a result). The sweat stains under my chest resembled a terrifying T-Rex. Secretly, I hoped more dinosaur shapes would appear.

Faster than one could yell, yabba-dabba-doo (hello, Flintstones reference), the Six train arrived. The doors opened, furiously. I dashed in and grabbed a seat. The air conditioning had a perfect chill about it. I took out Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar. It’s light reading for Emo & Goth kids, after all (insert, sarcasm).

As my train headed downtown, toward Grand Central Station, I thoroughly enjoyed my book. Then something distracted me. It was a grand sight, upon the train’s arrival at 86 the street. If you guessed, a man, then you’ve definitely been reading this blog.

My gaydar was sounding off. It sounded like Rupaul’s “Supermodel” song. He arrived, muscles, tank tops, shorts, looking more Fire land than Upper East Side. “Yes, yes, sit right next to me, please.” He did. Pretending to be glued to Sylvia Plath’s every word, I ignored him.

He was hard to ignore with so much space, our gym bunny still happened to man spread (when men sit with legs spread, way apart). Naturally, I didn’t mind. His arms were warm and smooth, like a blanket against the cold train air.

We approached Seventy-seventh Street. There was a cough. It was a hacking cough. Terror penetrated my inner hypochondriac. Oh, I hope, it’s just a little tickle in his throat.

Several stops later, the cough lingered. Like a brave New Yorker, I disregarded the notion of infectious germs. I am just kidding. Here’s the song, which played in my head.

“Oh, my god, I’m gonna die, die, die, die.”

I’m a rational fella. Coughing turned into sneezing. It even had a melody. Grand Central Station appeared, I dashed out of the subway car. After spritzing myself with hand sanitizer, I quickly dismissed my sickly, but very hunky subway rider.

A week went by. I packed for a trip to California. Excitedly, I practically broke into a happy dance at LaGuardia airport. As I read, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” my temperatures increased. Can gay guys get hot flashes? These were followed by a bit of light-headedness.

Whoops, I think it’s just hot flashes. Somebody probably turned the air conditioning off. After much anticipation, I boarded my connecting flight to Dallas. The symptoms dissipated.

Once again, I delved into “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Not even a Pulitzer Prize winning novel could deter from a quickly approaching sore throat. “Oh, no, I am getting sick, right on my trip.

The plane departed for Dallas. Flu-like symptoms persisted. I felt like death. Drained and sleepy, the plane descended over Dallas’ vast maze of freeways and wide houses. Upon deplaning, I made the most out of my layover.

When in DFW, I always head to a chain restaurant and order fajitas. I had to find a way to shake off this terrible cold. In the grand tradition of eccentric brains, I thought of a quick cure.

My grandfather always downed whisky. It cures, everything, he said. Quite honestly, it was his excuse to indulge in cozy adult beverage. Desperate, I ordered a shot of Jameson with the fajita feast.

For once, booze didn’t seem so appealing. With one brave step for the neurotic and sick, I swallowed the well-chilled Whisky. After paying my tab, the symptoms subsided. I was cured. Practically jumping in triumph, I took a power stroll through the airport.

Once again, I was on an old 747, bound for California’s Inland Empire. Halfway through the flight, my uncomfortable symptoms returned with a vengeance. This time, I had a cough, which I am sure delighted the gentleman sitting next to me.

Sick and stuffy, I finally landed in Ontario International airport (in California). After embracing my father, we headed to our family home. I grew nervous about my condition and possibly contaminating dad with these New York cooties.

That night, I was in bed, researching my symptoms on WebMd. Flu like symptoms could be associated with many diseases. I researched them all. Shit, what happens, if I am dying?

The next day, I felt like death. A little depressed, I opted not to hibernate in bed. Lavender latte cravings inspired me to put down the remote and drive with dad to our local (and very hip Portland style) coffee shop, Augie’s.

The streets of Downtown Riverside were quaint and quiet. Tiny antique shops, coffee shops, and used bookshops characterized a highly bohemian vibe. Gothic architecture was reminiscent of a glorious time gone by. Sunshine, which could fry an egg, ran a mock.

Exhausted and congested, I feared for my father’s health. If I contaminated with something, he will surely catch it, too. Nervously, we finally reached Augie’s. My taste buds were greeted with gourmet coffee.

My typical nervousness became topic of conversation. “Dad, I went on my WebMD. I think I may have caught a virus on the subway.” He raised his right eyebrow and laughed, “of course, you did. Anthony, you would know, if you had a deadly virus. You just caught cold. You’ve been traveling. It’s normal”

My paranoia dramatically subsided. I went back to enjoying my father’s company and more delicious coffee. A few days later and many tablespoons of cough syrup, I returned to my healthy and very neurotic self. It was just a simple cold.

This is the part where I write a cleaver haiku about not self-diagnosing myself. There’s a reason why I didn’t go into medicine. Excuse me, while I brainstorm the perfect poetic tribute to the hypochondriac in us, all. Unfortunately, I am too distracted with my man boob sweat. Here’s hoping the sweat stain will look like Brachiosaurus.