Cactus in the Sun

Baristas make art out of festive lattes. Simple Simon’s delights patrons with sandwiches, which fell straight from heaven. Hikers make the pilgrimage to the top of Mt. Rubidoux. Sprinklers splash grasses of Irish green.

Families enjoy the tastes of Mexico at Little Green Onions. Bookworms dig for literary gold along the charming bookshelves of Downtowne Books. This is Riverside, my hometown.

I travel from New York City, several times a year. My father still lives in the home, where I grew up. It makes for an ideal vacation spot.

Not only do I enjoy quirky cultural surroundings, but also proudly raid dad’s fridge and watch endless hours of cable television. Unexpectedly, the trip took a detour, recently.

This weary traveler ended up in the local urgent care, thanks to chest pains. I grew nervous. As I sat in the waiting room with my father, nerves ravaged me. If this were a Broadway musical, I break into an agonizing song and tap dance.

Nonetheless, we continued to wait. Predictably, I thought about death. How about my love ones? Then I laughed. Sorry folks, all you’re getting from me is a collection of used books. I still love you, though.

The nurse called me into a room. My temperature was high, but blood pressure, normal. I waited, impatiently. Dad was calm, which contrasted my neurotic being. After practically bathing in hand sanitizer, there was a knock on the door.

Hello, handsome man in a perfectly white lab coat with a chiseled face and ginger hair. Thank you for being my doctor. Please be gay. He smiled. I smiled. I stared into his blue eyes. It was more thrilling than unicorns, rainbows, and pecan praline ice cream.

“How would you measure the pain on a scale of 1-10?” he asked. Channeling my inner thespian, I gave him a performance. “It’s a 4.5. It hurts. When I move a certain direction, the pain increases and it really hurts, but comes and goes.” He smiled, after I recited my lines.

My dad was cracking up. He noticed my cheeks turn into a tomato red. “My son is here on vacation for a few days from New York,” dad, said. I gave dad a smile, as he attempted to play Yenta (Yiddish for matchmaker).

The doctor didn’t say much. Then he replied with optimism. “Looks like you have stress or have been sleeping badly. “Do you want a shot or prescription medication?” he asked. With hesitation, I replied, “a shot.”

“It’s going to be in your butt, is that okay?” I stared at my dad. He shrugged his shoulders. “Okay, I’ll take in the butt,” I replied, holding back a giggle. This was the closest I’d get to my sexy ginger haired doctor. I was slightly thrilled. He walked away.

Moments later, there was another knock on the door. Excitedly, I yelled, “Come in.” It was a female nurse holding a needle. “I am here to give you a shot,” she said. I rolled my eyes. Thanks, universe; I am always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

She had me bend over. “Which cheek would you like the shot in?” I pointed toward my right butt cheek. For a split second, the needle penetrated through precious skin. Afterwards, she placed a Band-Aid and I survived. Surprise, I didn’t die.

After leaving urgent care, the chest pain slowly diminished. My gaydar needed work, of course. However, if I had to spend vacation time in urgent care, having a hot doctor, helped.

I returned to my regularly scheduled trip. Celebrating a clean state of health, I enjoyed Riverside’s wonders. Shopping for art supplies, noshing on artisanal sandwiches, and wandering the galleria, it was a Californian’s dream. Who knew an urgent care visit could dazzle the senses? Until my next hypochondriac inspired visit, Riverside, I miss you already.

The Little Bookshop

When I blew the candles on my eighteenth birthday cake, obvious life changes followed. It was my last year of high school. I had my first kiss ever. I also received my SAT results, which made me cry in agony.

In the midst of life changes, I opened myself up to new life experiences. Literature was a retreat from the mundane. Naturally, I gravitated toward independent bookshops. One bookshop in particular garnered my attention, Midnight Special.

I visited the old Santa Monica bookshop on trips to L.A. It had exposed brick walls, a maze filled with books, and a distinctly bohemian vibe, in the midst of yuppies and chain stores.

The travel section was my favorite. London, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Amsterdam and Paris, I traveled to all of them, without leaving the cozy bookshop confides. While en route to the Eiffel Tower, I stumbled upon the gay and lesbian section.

My only exposure to LGBT literature had been through magazines. I glared at the books and picked one. The author had signed it. Enthusiastically, I read through each page. It spoke to me.

Raw desire, guilt and camp, my eyes delved into every word. I picked a desolate corner and reveled in finding a relatable novel. I wanted to buy the book. Nonetheless, as an unemployed high school student with a conservative mom, it wasn’t going to happen.

On each trip to L.A., I delved further into the novel (I couldn’t find it at my local bookshop). It was my first lusty affair.

I wanted to buy it, while my mom wasn’t looking. As we reached Santa Monica on a blue-skied day, I anticipated more queer literature. Excitement reached my fingertips. Enthusiasm serenaded a rainbow stripped heart. My eyes longed for word porn.

Mother and I made our way through the Third Street Promenade, packed with tourists. I longed to read my book in a dark little corner, invisible to the eye. Suddenly, my mouth widened in shock.

Midnight Special closed to make way for an Apple Store. Worst of all, I couldn’t remember the novel’s name. The lusty affair ended. I suffered a great loss. My mother couldn’t understand why I appeared upset. I never told her. Time passed and I never saw that book again.

Through my voyages to Midnight Special, I came to appreciate literature more. As an openly gay adult, bookshops became miniature retreats. When life in New York (where I’ve lived for years) became too hectic, I found a little dark corner at the Strand (bookshop) and escaped. Inevitably, I still experienced lust with the written word. It had the same electricity. It was grand.

Geekdom

Before pimples, braces, film school, New York and coffee addiction, there was Garden elementary school (in Riverside, CA). It produced well-behaved and impeccably mannered private school children. Inevitably, I was the lone rebel.

Staring at brick walls, detention, and infamous phone calls with my parents remained a mainstay of elementary school memories. Nothing symbolized my zany brain like my desk.

Fridays were known as feather duster day. Our principal would tour the classrooms. The class with the cleanest desk would win the feather duster and receive additional recess time.

When the class would lift their desk’s interiors, books and paperwork became a shrine to organization. Nervously, I awaited her reaction when she peered into my desk.

Books from Charlotte’s Web to Fudge-A-Mania were scattered. Crumbled paper work, broken pencils and cassette tapes representing 90’s grunge were a shrine to childhood disorganization. Her eyes widened in disgust. “Mr. Alas, your desk is a mess,” my principal would proclaim.

Naturally, the well-organized future lawyers and doctors of the class were displeased. They gave me the death stare. I shrugged my shoulders and threw more crumbled up paper planes into my desk.

Eventually life took me to Geekdom. It’s what I lovingly call my New York City apartment. It remains a shrine to geeky living. The Star Wars theme played on repeat.

Like Mars, it was desolate. I had always been the only inhabitant. It’s served as an ideal retreat from the annoyances of Manhattan’s glittery existence.

Aliens, dinosaurs, and unicorns paraded freely as figments of my imagination. Geekdom resembled my elementary school desk perfectly. It was cluttered.

The closet and kitchen cabinets had been filled to the brim with linens, books and old paperwork. Wall Portraits were lopsided. My bed hadn’t been made. I was drowning in a sea of clutter.

Everyday, I walked in and declared, “today, I will organize my apartment.” When I actually arrived in my home, nothing was actually cleaned. The tiny hills of paper work, clothes and books threatened to obstruct my sanity.

I laughed off my disregard for organization. Lovingly, I declared it, “creative chaos.” With the embrace of chaos, I grew tired of dramatic expeditions to find a missing Isabelle Allende novel or that black cardigan.

I grew tired of digging. On a spectacularly spring morning, I uncluttered Geekdom. The man made hills were flattened. Exotic novels discovered. Sanity emerged from the rubble.

Geekdom was resurrected for my alien, unicorn, and dinosaur friends to stroll freely (without tripping on random boxes). I was delighted, too. Shockingly, I grew to enjoy the perfectly organized closet and book collection. It brought continued peace into my unconventional existence.

However, I wouldn’t take a one-way trip to Type-A personality land. I still needed that one cabinet filled with crumbled-up paper work and magazines. Disorganization exudes comfort. It reminds me of my childhood and chaos, which remains inspirational.

No feather duster days here. I was proudly disorganized. Even in a Type-A world, I stayed true to my Type-B self. No brick walls to stare at, just art formed in the hills of used books, sneakers, and cardigans. It was home. It was Geekdom.

Quirky in L.A.

The Cranberries, Blur, & Nirvana played on an old car radio. Palm trees swayed with the brutal force of Santa Ana winds. Automobiles nearly collided. Smog paraded merrily along an ideal turquoise sky.

Houses with 50’s American charm were reminiscent of the California dream. Freeways, empty sidewalks, and breezes from the Pacific exemplified a land of wanted boredom. This was L.A. in the 90’s.

Often times, my family and I took day trips there. Growing up in nearby Riverside, L.A.’s Fred Segal was a perfectly packaged representation of la la land.

It was (and still is) the legendary store were celebrities shopped. They did lunch, bought super duper, cool graphic t-shirts, and browsed for hip home décor. My mother would take me to Fred Segal’s for a very important initiation.

“You like donuts, don’t you?” asked, the statuesque Nordic sales lady. I unapologetically shook my head, yes. Unlike most perfectly quaffed Fred Segal clientele, I had a pimples and a tummy pregnant with tacos and chimichangas.

She recommended products to diminish my pimply woes. As she applied the best of Scandinavian skin care products, 90’s alternative rock blasted for the trendy Angelenos. Glaring to my left was the alternative to grunge.

Standing tall was the ideal L.A. man. Perfectly sculpted, handsome and confident, he tried on various graphic tees (in the neighboring t-shirt shop). My teenage soul sank to the ground. I wish I didn’t like chimichangas, so much, I thought to myself.

Lust filled my existence. After my facial treatment, I stared at a face full of red dots. If I get bored, I could always play connect the dots with my zits. Staring at my normal exterior made me a bit disillusioned. However, my interior was filled with art and wonderment.

I wouldn’t grow into a Gucci model, but it didn’t matter. By the teenage years, I knew I would venture east. Everything about New York fascinated me. The East had promises of intellectuality, classic architecture, public transportation, seasons, and a less vain society.

After several years in New York, I found that my city had embraced L.A.-isms, the gym, frozen yogurt, and yoga. Had New York become the new L.A.? In the midst of New York’s great beauties, I couldn’t get a date.

Although, I had a gorgeous complexion, I wasn’t exactly an Adonis either. I spent many nights alone with Chinese food and sitcoms. Alas, a handsome (or any) prince had not yet rescued me from fifth-floor walk-up land.

Were my quirky looks igniting perpetual rejection? Strolling New York, I was quite melancholy. At therapy, a breakthrough arose. “I’m alone,” with those words, I took a giant leap for gays, everywhere.

For years, I brushed off lonely sentiments. Instead, I put on a brave face as independent boy about the world. After therapy, I embraced vulnerability. Maybe, I am not that muscle guy from Fred Segal? Maybe I am not that handsome? However, I returned to the beauty within.

That week rather than focusing on dating apps and outward appearance, I channeled my inner author. Compiling a collection of short stories, I printed out the pages. Musically, the pages spewing out were Mozart to my ears. When the last page arrived, I held it close.

My heart pounded rapidly. In my hands, I held my first book. It was mine. Ideally, my inner art produced outward beauty. The pages were warm and smelled of a pine tree adorned forest. I found my happy moment, even in the midst of loneliness and insecurity.

This quirky boy still longs for a trip to Fred Segal. I’ve haven’t been in years. I loved their Santa Monica outpost. One day, I’d like to linger in their café and play, connect a zit. It’s the game, which best exemplifies my quirky teen years. Luckily, I no longer have the zits to play with.

I See Dinosaurs

I spend half my days in the (steel & glass) canyons of Midtown East. My desk is adorned with decorative paper dolls, a Rubik’s cube, and vintage postcards.

A portrait of the St. Jacinto Mountains in Palm Springs is prominently displayed. When I stare into the portrait, it takes me back to my native land, Southern California. A great deal of nostalgia follows.

I hate driving. In fact, my hatred of driving drove me to the east where trains are abundant. For years, I delighted in trains, but as I grew older, I longed for my own little cocoon (also known as an automobile). My wanderlust for driving ignited a deep desire for a drive to Palm Springs, one particular trip.

While visiting my childhood home in Riverside, I threw anxiety into the smog filled air. My heart was aching for adventure. I selected my favorite 80’s music and was Palm Springs bound.

The route to Palm Springs is rather scenic. It could inspire everyone from Jack Kerouac to Hunter S. Thompson to write fantastical stories about the quirky towns and environs along the way.

With Culture Club seducing my left-brain, I set sail. Through the track homes of Moreno Valley, signs for a Mexican market, fast food, and Target distract the emotional senses. Quickly, suburban civilization fades into the dust.

A set of narrow mountains magically appears. Rugged and filled with imposing rocks, the road twists and turns with great fury. Anxiety races through my arms. The pangs are similar to great shocks of electricity. Cars tail gate. They change lanes with Superman speeds.

The desert below peeks it’s graceful canvass from the dust filled mountains. They continually rise to the heavens. Smog infused skies fade into a flawless, electric blue.

Automobiles roar alongside fields of yellow grass, roasted by the sun. Commercialism is resurrected. Gas stations, a 24-hour Denny’s restaurant, roadside fruit stands and billboard after billboard re-appear in the boon docks’ nearly open fields.

The 60 freeway merges into the 10. More cars battle for lane space. The electricity up and down my arms dissipates. A very colorful outlet mall rules the kingdom. Discounted cardigans are a distraction. I could see myself, strolling around New York in a beautifully adorned cardigan.

However, I remind myself that I have too many cardigans. I’ll stop by after Palm Springs. Opposite from the outlet mall is the Cabazon casino. It’s gridlocked with traffic and bright lights. The casino’s flashy hotel rises high into the sky. It’s more of an escapee from a lavish city than a desert rat bursting with character.

Mountains rise more triumphantly toward the heavens. They stand in the shadows of Dinosaurs. Here’s where I ask myself? Dinosaurs? I love Jurassic Park. It’s one of my favorite films of all time. I obsessed with Dinosaur everything.

The dinosaur park is a Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum for the extinct species crowd. A T-Rex and Brontosaurus strike a pose for flashing cameras. I still long for a Facebook profile picture with the Dinosaurs. It on my bucket list of life goals I need to achieve; alongside publishing a novel and launching a cardigan/sweater line on QVC.

Dinosaurs bask in the sun, but dissolve into pre-historic memory. Tall, white, windmills perfectly are perfectly aligned. They sway, free-spiritedly in the wind. Sands float peacefully. Palm Springs is inching closer.

On a desolate road, the canyons once again narrow. “Welcome to Palm Springs,” the road sign reads. My little automobile is a speed demon. I slow down my speeds. Pink stucco track homes intertwine with blue skies.

Finally, I have arrived in the town’s artery. The 80’s fade into the 90’s, both musically and weather wise. “Groove is in the heart” plays as Palm Springs’s kitschy heart appears.

Palm trees sway in the wind. Mountains rise even further into the cloudless blue canvas. 50’s modern infuses with Spanish architecture. Rainbow flags fly proudly.

For all kids growing in the Inland Empire’s nearby towns, Palm Springs will always be our gay-landia. In the cluster of heroic sidewalks, gay subcultures live side by side. Bears walk with twinks. Senior citizens socialize with one another. Muscle boys roast like chestnuts under the desert sun. A rainbow sorbet of faces, enjoy life.

The pavement becomes buzzier. Cafes bustle. I always park my car on the gay strip, Arenas Road. Merrily, I drift from my car into the pavement. Although, not a lover of the sun or heat, I feel myself fading from New York neurotic, back to California mellowness.

I celebrate my road trip with a burrito at Las Casuelas Mexican restaurant. It’s my favorite restaurant in town. The sprinklers produce mists, which cools down the Hacienda style patio. As I sink my teeth deeper into the burrito, I realize how fortunate I am to have grown up so close to paradise.

The worst part of Palm Springs is leaving. I am city kid, but my heart still lies within those landlocked mountains. When New York gets too noisy, crowded, and smelly, I mentally escape to Palm Springs.

It’s the only place I don’t mind driving too. In fact, the drive is a bit of stress relief. In a world full of blandness, the drive from Riverside to Palm Springs is more delightful than noshing on skittles. Where else could I get dinosaurs, cute gay guys, and delicious Mexican food?

Bear In A Cardigan

In the midst of rugged mountains, track homes, and vast freeways hides a surprising counter culture. In Riverside, CA, weird rules. Odd balls gravitate to the suburban sprawl like guacamole to a tortilla chip.

Growing up in Riverside, the counter culture frequented Back 2 the Grind, a coffee shop. It had comfy couches, art, and a dizzying array of books. Back 2 the Grind served as the perfect life alternative to my Catholic school conformity.

It’s where gay kids would hang out. They sipped lattes, listen to bands play, and form wanderlust of a world beyond rugged hills and orange groves. Conveniently, it was located next to a gay bar.

On any given night, disco lights would shine from the bar’s window onto the sidewalk. The Thompson Twins’ campy classic, “Lies” would seduce the gay eardrums. For a teenager (like yours truly), it was mesmerizing. A room full of sweaty, dancing gay guys, it was almost surreal, especially steaming from a conservative upbringing.

Curiosity blinded my senses. I declared, one day, I’d like to visit a gay bar. There were the obvious allures of sex and friendship, but also experiencing a life altering liberation.

After experiencing my first gay bar, it was exciting. Then, I quickly grew out of loud, sweaty bars. I found more liberation in myself rather than an institution.

Living in New York, I preferred cozy dives, where the bartenders knew my favorite drinks and life biography. I also couldn’t stay up super late, anymore. Taking the subway at 3 A.M. seemed as appealing as being chased by ferocious bulls in Pamplona.

Mirroring my Riverside upbringing, I preferred the warmth of a New York coffee house. I adored reading my books and writing on any given Saturday night. One night, I took a time machine ride back to my youth, thanks to a night out in Hell’s Kitchen (New York’s big gayborhood).

Thanks to a few whiskies, I was lured into one of those loud bars with a sizable dance floor. While the room was spinning, loud pop music threatened my eardrums. Oy, I think I am too old for this. Indeed, I was. My bladder agreed with me. I spent most of the night, peeing, which gave me practice in social skills. There was always a bathroom line.

When I wasn’t in line, I tried dancing with friends. Since, I am a wallflower, dancing didn’t come as easy. Then, I spotted a guy. Our eyes locked. He was dressed in a preppy manner, with wavy blond hair and blue eyes. Instantly, he grabbed and kissed me.

I was shocked, but secretly enjoyed it. Does this make me a male cougar? He seems a few years younger, I noted to myself. Instead, I giggled and declared, “why yes, I still have it going on.” He brought out the tiger in me, but it was only a kiss.

Fearing a burst of misery on the late night subway, I took a cab home. Happily, I noted my night out as a life experience.

The next day, I sipped on coffee, listened to an indie band, and enjoyed tacos with my neighbor. I realized that I am still a mellow, Riverside boy. Although, getting kissed by that cute guy will remain a most wonderful memory.

Melancholy on Mars

The penguins marched on a perfectly iced road. Glaciers drifted along the murky seas. Hills of powdered snow soothed the bleeding heart. Wait, why is there a deli in the middle of Antarctica? “Oh, it’s not Antarctica, but New York in the winter.”

Like any good New York winter, it obviously snowed. The sound of shovels hitting concrete was surprisingly nostalgic. Salt dusted the sidewalk. Twinkling lights adorned the tiny shops of East Ninth Street with its funky vintage clothing and knick-knack empires.

Naturally, I viewed the serene falling snow from the comfort of a warm coffee shop. Although, I had many New York winters under my belt, there was a phenomenon, which didn’t yet contaminate my happiness. While drifting between coffee shop and bus stop, I fantasized about my hometown.

Across the Rocky Mountains, orange-hued plains, and tan desert sands is Riverside, California. It’s a historic suburb, sixty-five miles east of Los Angeles. Unlike most sleepy suburbs with bland homes, chain stores, and homogenous faces, Riverside was weird, in the tradition of Portland or Austin.

There was a surprising counter culture, which frequented the cozy coffee shops of Downtown Riverside. Gay friendly churches, a sizable live music scene, quirky antique shops, mom and pop restaurants, street lined with Sycamore trees, unexpected graffiti art gave and a multi-cultural population gave the leafy Suburb, an unexpected edge.

Of course, there were country clubs, a fabulous mall, old Victorian homes and mini vans, which reminded us, “Oh, yes, it’s not quite Brooklyn.” Alongside rolling hills was my childhood home.

My father still lived in the same house. I missed him, terribly. Since it was just the two of us, we reveled in our time together. We always ate dinner together on an old wooden table. It was a marvel, which symbolized wonderful memories and scrumptious meals.

The downfall of Riverside was it distance, over two thousand miles from New York City. Back in Manhattan, the temperatures dipped below zero. I daydreamed of my house, the smell of an old fireplace, and family.

Bravely, I took my evening walk. While the cold winds penetrated through my pea coat, I felt aloof from the world.

The sidewalks were crowded. In typical New York fashion, everyone was in a rush, but it didn’t deter me from aloofness. In a sense, I was viewing life from my own private planet. For the first time in years, I was homesick.

In the grand tradition of being homesick, I moped around. I was hopeful that a walk around the East Village, it didn’t. However, the loneliness stuck like a snow bank to a frozen sidewalk.

Steam rolled off Second Avenue. Sirens shattered eardrums. I played peek-a-boo with the Chrysler Building. On a typical Saturday afternoon, I headed to the Odessa. It was a distinctly old school Polish diner.

I thoroughly enjoyed the elderly New York population, which frequented the grease spoon. There was an older lady, who always sat opposite me. She was as a tough as nails, native New Yorker. We often had small talk whenever, I’d visit. We’d complain about everything. Therefore, we bonded.

One afternoon, I just sat silent. Staring out the window at a buzzing Avenue A, I tried to enjoy my surroundings. After finishing lunch, I paid my bill and said, bye to my dinner friend.

“You don’t have to eat lunch alone. Next time, come sit at my table, we’ll eat together,” she said, while cracking her coconut shell. I smiled, “I would love that, thanks. See you next week,” I replied.

I left the diner feeling a little less alone. Still feeling homesick, I went to the Strand bookshop. Retail therapy proved quite effective. Walking crosstown toward the Seventh Avenue subway line (with my yellow Strand shopping bag), a strange feeling sent electricity through my brain

“Oh, I feel at home,” said I, giving a stunned facial expression. “That’s right, New York has been home for years. Even though, it’s loud, crowded, claustrophobic, dirty, critter ridden and infested by juice bars, the city will always be my home. Being a brave penguin, I marched on.

Afterwards, I eventually traveled to Riverside. Thanks to Google maps, I felt at home without leaving the East. The Only thing missing was a hug from my dad and an amazing burrito, cha, cha, cha.

T.V. Dinners In Bed

“I’m schvitzing. I’m schvitzing,” I declared, upon arrival at my favorite East Village coffee shop. The heat turned the quaint coffee shop into a tropical paradise, close to the equator. It wasn’t pea coat friendly, obviously.

Rather than ordering a tropical drink and wearing a decorative Hawaiian shirt, I sat outside. In the midst of a chilly New York evening, I sipped on coffee and observed East Village humanity walk by.

Sipping on black coffee on a Sunday night was a treat, but pangs of hunger soon ravaged my creative juices. “I really want Chinese food,” said I. Oy, I’m on a budget. “Don’t think about sit restaurants, rather you fantasize about a hearty T.V. dinner, since it’s on the budget, “ I told my famished brain.

Walking crosstown, I passed my favorite Chinese restaurant on Sixth Avenue. Across the street was the rival restaurant, which was tastier. I had only been going to the rival for a few months.

Faced with a classic, first world dilemma, I made a bold decision. “Dinner for one,” I said. The waiter walked me over to an inviting table by the window. “Don’t sit me by the window,” said I.

He sat me closer to the back of the restaurant. That’s right I went to the rival restaurant. I didn’t want anyone from my typical Chinese haunt to see me. I ordered a wonton soup, pepper steak and brown rice. Sitting alone, I savored in the warm and comforting tastes of China.

I dipped my chopsticks into that last morsel of rice. Staring into the sea of couples, I felt completely alone. This is where I break into a fantastic dance sequence and sing about how lonely New York is. In a perfect world, the restaurant would have morphed into a Broadway stage.

Instead, I contemplated resurrecting my imaginary friend from the dead. He & I hadn’t spent quality time together, since the early 90’s. A week after a lonely Sunday dinner, I flew to Riverside, CA for Thanksgiving.

While New York was more barren then a drive through the Arizona desert, Riverside provided me with something I was missing. “I have a date, wow,” said I. Thanks to modern technology, the Scruff app to be exact (the one where guys with beards meet other guys with beard), I was no longer a lonely urbanite.

I sat in a restaurant, which screamed authentic Indian food. Bollywood played on the television. Curries, roasted chicken, Nan bread hypnotized the soul. In the midst of Indian kitsch and culture, my date arrived.

“Wow, this fella looks like a young John Wayne. If John Wayne looked like a modern day hipster with a trendy haircut,” said I. Charming him with stories of the old world (a.k.a. New York), he glanced into my eyes.

“Would you like to be my house husband? I have the job offer in Bakersfield and we can live together. I can bring home the bacon,” he said.

I was sickened by the thought. Then I thought about my life in New York. Being alone had its disadvantages. However, I had my urban family and didn’t answer to anyone, but myself.

Soon, Mr. John Wayne and I parted ways. I told him, I wasn’t interested via text. He called me “ a straightforward guy” and thanked me for not leading him on. We stayed in touch as friends.

I returned to New York on chilly winter’s evening. Dreading the loneliness of that old studio apartment, I grew scared. Finally, I stepped into my shabby residence. It was lonely, but I was still the king of the tiny principality (a.k.a, my studio on Seventh Avenue)

An hour after arriving from my flight, I had a spontaneous dinner with my gal pals. In the midst of the East Village, we laughed and shared stories. I was thankful for an urban family to laugh my way through the gloomy moments. Now, excuse me as I find another date off Scruff.

Hiking In A Cardigan

In old New York, a boy from Harlem randomly ended up on the Upper East Side. With deep seeded lust in his heart, he took a riveting plunge.

“Everything bagel, cream cheese and lox; Oh and also a small coffee,” said I, standing at a quintessentially New York deli. I took a bite of New York’s most beloved nosh, and glared into Lexington Avenue.

“Oh boy, I feel like a modern day bohemian, going on this big expedition out west, “ said I. As the fusion of cream cheese and salty lox seduced my tongue, I nearly melted.

“Gee, I will miss the bagels here. However, when I return to New York, I’ll be filled to the brim with fabled tales of Portland and California,” said I with great illusion.

Afterwards, I reveled in Gotham’s revered wind chill. “I’m freezing. I’m freezing, but I feel so Jackie O’, strolling in the Upper East Side, all dolled up.” Said I, marveling at Madison Avenue’s opulent shops.

I took the scenic route, crosstown. Central Park always represented tourists and crowded fields of green. While walking around the park’s many reservoirs, precious trails and nearly barren trees, I finally marveled at it’s green charms, but something distracted me.

“90’s alternative rock (with the sounds of Nirvana, the Cranberries & Everclear, naturally), cute bearded men, coffee, rain & more rain were thoughts, which dominated my head.

You’re probably saying, “hey Mr. New York. You could you get that shit in Brooklyn or the East Village. To you, I respond with this. There’s just something special about having those things in Portland, a new frontier for this cardigan wearing, Uptown boy.

After reaching 96th street, I strolled into Central Park West. “ Goodbye, Central Park and hello, west-coast style laid back-ness, said I. Somewhere between New York and Portland’s cloudy skies, the sun arose.

Indeed, I was in the beginning stages of my trip out west. Sitting at a Starbucks in Riverside (my hometown), I continued writing my novel. Only, the words weren’t flowing like a river. They were dried by the valley’s penetrating sunrise.

Feeling like a failure, I longed for New York. “Maybe, I can only write in New York City?” I asked myself. Regret filled my heart as I questioned taking such a long voyage.

Like any proper author, I let my mind go on vacation. It needed a Pina Colada and burrito in order to function, once again. After taking a few days off, I drove to a local coffee shop and sat. Once again, I couldn’t write. The words were not flowing.

Panicking, I took another drive. “I’ll never finish my novel, never. New York, I miss you,” were my exact words. While parading around Downtown Riverside’s historic district, I found a bit of Brooklyn. “Oh, this coffee shop is wonderful. It could easily fit in New York,” said I.

Blasting some retro tunes, I sipped on a coffee and the cloudy skies returned. “Hello, konishiwa and bonjour, inspiration,” said I. Happily, I returned to novel writing after a brief hiatus. It was sweeter than the chocolate chip cookie, which accompanied my caffeine fix.

Excitedly, I wrote, everyday. Thank you, Riverside for providing me with a bit of New York in the suburban sprawl. Dearest, Portland, crank up your 90’s grunge rock, I’ll be in you soon.

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.

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