Gay Geek

The birds chirped, sirens wailed, Harlem awoke from an evening’s slumber. Weekend mornings were filled with literary stimulation. Strolling past brownstone lined sidewalks, orange leaves painting the gritty grey sidewalk; lust ravaged my heart. “Coffee, coffee, gimme coffee.”

Brownstones disappeared; tenements enchanted the hazy senses, while clouds paraded in nature’s blank canvass. More enchanting than finding the lost mummies, was finding a seat at my local coffee house.

Espresso machines steam, beans sizzled, and bagels popped out of conventional toasters. In typical weekend fashion, I take out my library of books from my murse and sip on a vanilla soy latte (my favorite weekend treat).

On a particularly grey Saturday, something went missing. “Shit, where is my Batman notebook? I just came up with another brilliant idea” I didn’t quite hyperventilate, but quickly jotted down the idea on my phone (which is not preferable).

Racing back to my apartment, I dug for my super hero notebook. It had my ideas and the outline for my novel. Digging through laundry, I couldn’t find it. Setting a flashlight underneath the couch, it became even more illusive. Sitting on my bed, I remained calm as a decaf coffee.

“It must be in that care package, I sent dad. That’s it, I accidentally sent it.” The package arrived at my father’s Riverside home. Unfortunately, he didn’t see the notebook.

Panic and paranoia settled like fog from the Hudson. Would my beloved notebook fall into the wrong hands? It terrified me. I didn’t exactly write the outline for another Pulitzer Prize winning novel, but I had an emotional attachment to story.

If someone saw my outline, they may steal my idea and publish my novel. Anxiety ravaged my senses. In order to unwind, I paid a visit to the local bookshop.

Charmed by the titles, I imagined my future novel within the shelves of bookshops, everywhere. Book sales would afford me a small craftsman style home, antique typewriter, and piles of books

“Tear, tear, but my notebook is missing. I might not ever come up with another book idea. Goodbye, craftsman style house, book signings and Cocker spaniel watching me type away.”

Retail therapy helped. I bought loads of good books at dramatically reduced prices. After admiring my purchases, another dig for that precious notebook, commenced.

Opening a filing cabinet, paperwork filled its very brim. I dug, nervously. Alas, the notebook could not be found. Feeling desperate, I sorted through the paperwork, again. Then the book gods granted me a sight grander than uncovering a rare Shakespearean manuscript.

Lit in faded glory, my Batman notebook. I couldn’t believe it. My dreams of a craftsman style home, cocker spaniel, and book signings were lovingly restored. Dead poets, authors, and playwrights paraded in joy. I grabbed the notebook and caressed it, as though it were a long lost relative.

Eventually, I kept my notebook in a safe place. Afterwards, I commenced on the third draft of my novel. If awards and acclaim didn’t reach my sensibilities, giving up on my dreams of writing a novel wasn’t an option.

Porn for Bookworms

New York City is a most ideal place to have a nervous meltdown. Crowds, noise, bugs, extreme weather stimulate the happy neurotic. Exhaustion and agony arise from the trekking up a fifth floor walk-up. With brain cells about to explode into a glittery abyss, salvation is uncovered. Lust awakens.

More potent than a handsome man’s pheromone’s, is the smell of an old bookshop. Familiar, dizzying, and nostalgic, the scent beckons me to lands far from my chaotic mindset. Marvelous little bookshops line side streets, narrow venues, and quirky tenements.

Stacking up on used books, pages slightly bent, words underlined or highlighted with flashy neon serves as an ideal happiness. While practically waltzing on the icy New York pavement, I revel in my deeply discounted literature.

As an introvert, books are merry friends keeping riveted and delighted, in the midst of fear and boredom. The “I love books more than people (most of the time) song constantly delights my ear drums, upon the reading of a new novel. A deep seeded and very first world predicament erupted into my wordy principality.

“Shit, I’m running out of room in my apartment.” My books were pilling up higher than a kite along a windy sky. With closets and kitchen cabinets cluttered with books, paperwork, and sweaters, I took a bold step for bookworms of all kind.

My holidays (and virtually every break) have always been spent at my father’s home in Riverside. I would create my own little bookshop/coffee shop hybrid in his spare bedroom. It would be like being in the world’s greatest library without a subway ride (just an expensive plane ride, of course).

Speed reading through my favorite books, they were soon on a box to Riverside. Studying home libraries, online, my heart nearly bounced out of my chest. It will be a shrine to the literary greats, which inspire me, daily.

The first rounds of books arrived. Excitedly, my dad took pictures for me. With great excitement, I booked a trip to California. Though, my home library remains a work in progress, I already have the role-playing scenario in my head.

Here it is:

I’ll walk up the stairs with my murse (man purse), eager for coffee and a day at the bookstore. Excitedly, I’ll see the books lined beautifully on the shelves and jump with giddiness. “Look, Books, Books, books! Oh, coffee, too! My, what a marvelous world.”

After stuffing a few books in my murse, it will be coffee time. Taking a seat on a very comfortable chair and clipping my own coffee card, I indulge in literary deliciousness. Poetry, novels, autobiographies, Double shot of espresso naturally follows. It will be a holiday to remember.

“What a day at the bookshop/coffee shop. I didn’t even have go on a subway to get here, just a 2,000 something mile plane ride. That is my ideal scenario.

With far out dreaming, I must wait for my next visit to make this bookworm’s fantasy come to true. In the meantime, I thoroughly enjoy my bookshop visits and the high from finding that “Charles Dickens” book, deeply discounted.

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.

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.

Mysterious Swan

1994, I wore flannel, lots of flannel. I listened to cassette tapes, while driving around in my mom’s 1984 Honda. The A/C barely worked. Warm breezes morphed the tiny Honda into an unexpected furnace.

Excessive schvitzing (sweating) was toppled with amazing tunes (thanks to yours truly, playing D.J.). Green Day, R.E.M., Gin Blossoms, and the Reality Bites soundtrack reflected California’s free-spiritedness.

Our favorite family destination was the cinema. It was quite refreshing. Air conditioning, soda pop, and reclining seats, oy, life was grand. Upon arriving at the cinema, one afternoon, I saw a vision.

It was the poster for “Speed.” Keanu Reeves was prominently featured. With his buzzed hair and stern expression, he nearly melted my soda pop’s ice cubes, oh and my heart. The poster left quite the indelible impression.

While sitting through the teen classic, “Camp Nowhere,” I couldn’t stop thinking about Keanu Reeves. I greatly admired his buzz head. Stepping into the daylight, I saw my reflection against the mirror of the malt shop (I know, very 1950’s, but they did serve up tasty cheeseburgers and milk shakes). “Gee, this mushroom cut is very 1993.”

At eleven, I still went to the hair salon, where you received a lollipop, after every visit. I told the hairdresser, “Shave my head.” Astonished, she asked, my mother’s permission, which she surprisingly agreed to. Soon, my mushroom cut was gone. I had a baldhead, but appeared more like Uncle Fester than Keanu Reeves.

Soon, I joined the legions of men, who also had the “Keanu” look (at the time). They were far more attractive. After having a sudden urge to binge watch Adams Family reruns, I patiently waited for my hair to grow back. It took a while.

Unfortunately, it didn’t grow back graciously. Rather than straight locks, curly ones appeared. Soon, I had a full set of hair again. Never again, did I want to shave my head. I learned not to follow hair trends. Over twenty year after the Keanu, one hair trend fascinated me.

I was standing on a Brooklyn bound L train. It was brimming with hipsters. In a sea of beards and black-rimmed glasses stood a man with long raven hair. It was very wet, without much volume.

He grabbed his wet hair and shook it a bit. Strategically, he turned his long locks into a well-oiled man bun. Princess Lea would be proud. The whole process fascinated me.

Like the Keanu, the man bun was taking over New York. From Williamsburg to the East Village, man buns were drinking PBRs, eating bacon, and strolling around with Yoga mats.

If there was an indie coffee shop, a man bun was certain to be in close proximity. It even dominated social media and dating apps. Both sexes were expected to swoon for the mullet’s cousin (which in itself was a party in the back).

I never quite understood the man bun. Was it a trend? Or was it a rebellion against alpha male standards? (Which dictate short hair for men). After surviving the “Keanu,” the man bun made me yawn. It was yet another style for legions of urban men to emulate.

Whether, it’s a faux hawk or man bun, I don’t follow hair trends. My hair is a full ball of curly frizz. I wear that clump of frizz, like a proper tiara. For my man bun readers, just do you. Take Polaroid photos with your man buns (if you can find a Polaroid camera). You and future generations of hair aficionados will greatly thank you.


In high school land, subcultures are everything. Jocks, slackers, theatre geeks, science nerds, cheerleaders, rich kids, emo kids, it’s a smorgasbord of distinct tribes. Where do I belong? In my four years of high school, this question constantly baffled me.

I was the gay kid (insert, surprise appearance) with major gay vocal cords to prove it. My gay voice made Liberace look butch. In the grand tradition of gay kids, growing up in a conservative catholic school, I had stereotypical interests.

You might a psychic, if you guessed the following about me. Hey, Anthony, I bet you were into musical theatre, European travel, Madonna, glittery disco balls and drag queen revues. Congrats, if you guessed these mind blowing facts, friend. I’m just going to file you under, Dion Warwick and the Psychic friends network.

I fit many gay stereotypes, which led to a life oozing with arty experiences. After graduating from film school, I followed my tribal heart to New York City. It’s the ultimate right of passage for gay men. I found a fantastic urban family. Surprisingly, I struggled to find my own tribe within the gay scene.

There’s always been a hierarchy of beauty within the gay male community. Here’s what the ideal man sounds like: Hi, I’m a perfectly sculpted, six-figure earning, handsome, well endowed, twenty-something, gay male living in Chelsea, love me.

For us alternative kids, this can be a freighting expectation to stride for. Many of us value individuality and no obeying by stringent standards. This leads to the philosophical question of the century. Is adulthood, just an extension of high school with rent payments and broken hearts?

While at one of my many boozy brunches, I complained to my gal pals. “Where are all the anti-establishment, alternative, bagel loving, granola eating, anti-gym bunny gays at?

Kelly suggested, “join a gay book club.” The bacon strip nearly slipped from my mouth. “Wow, a writer’s group, that sounds most satisfying.”

As a self-proclaimed bookworm, I have an extravagant book collection. Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Isabelle Allende, J.D. Salinger, Jorge Luis Borges, their books line my shelves. Every day, I glance through the titles with great pride.

A day after brunch, Kelly sent me the link for a gay book meet up. I joined. The book chosen didn’t tickle my fancy. In fact, I procrastinated. I was too busy finishing up “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.” The weeks approached and I still put off my reading assignment.

On a humid, Sunday afternoon, the book club was meeting within hours at an indie bookshop. So, I rushed to Barnes & Noble, found the book and attempted to skim through it. With the turn of every page, I proclaimed, “Gee, I wish I was a speed reader.”

To my surprise the book was an okay read. It’s nothing I would buy or long to have in my collection, but not terrible. Feeling confident, I dashed toward the book club meeting. Every granola gay from the East Village to Upper West Side was in attendance, along with our lesbian friends.

We sat around in a circle and discussed the book’s many euphemisms and metaphors. My brain farted. I couldn’t remember a damn thing I read. As the circle went around, they picked people at random to discuss an aspect of the book. Predictably, my brain was still gassy.

It reminded me of the time; I skipped reading a chapter of (George Orwell’s) 1984 and had a pop quiz. That same sensation crippled any intellectual functions. Time was ticking and boom. Our group’s designated meet up time had ended. I was obviously relieved.

Even though, I didn’t quite finish the book, I still had a “gay old” time (gay in the happiest use, possible). It was thrilling to know, I wasn’t the only granola, book-loving gay in town.

It was satisfying to know, there many gays more interested in flexing their literary muscle, as opposed to biceps. I found a possible tribe, to call my own.

Adulthood is very similar to high school. There are the popular kids, cliques and oh, so much drama. Fortunately, detention or fears of being stuff in a locker are not part of the experience. Oh and sans the pop quizzes on Animal farm.

I once dreamed of being tackled by the football team. These days, I seek something different. That’s right, I yearn for a geeky man and his huge book library. Since merging our collections could mean further literary grandeur. Life would be swell and filled with interesting nouns, adjectives and verbs.

Parental Advisory

In the 90’s, record shops were the axis of cool. Digging for the soundtrack of one’s youth was exhilarating. Top 40, soundtracks, the golden oldies, and of course, alternative rock, they were travel companions on Memory lane.

One force threatened my musical euphoria. “This album cover says, parental advisory suggested. Nope, I am sorry. I can’t have you listening to dirty music in the house,” said, my mother. She sure took the fun out of artistic expression.

Since I am a genius, I’d convince dad to take me to the record shop. He didn’t look at labels. He didn’t care. Even when I blasted my Madonna and Beastie Boys cassette tapes, dad would just nod his head. The words, fuck and shit didn’t bother him.

When I would return home, I’d play my filthy music when mom was watching television (at full blast). Only once did I get caught listening to a filthy music. It was Nine Inch Nails. She snuck behind me and demanded the cassette tape, which was yanked into inevitable death.

Music wasn’t her only target. I was forbidden from watching cable television. For the first twelve years of my life, I watched television through the infamous rabbit ears, aka an antenna.

I made the best out of living without a cable box. Fortunately, there were breaks from monotonous television viewing. As a kid, I really looked forward to it.

Momentous road trips were a staple of growing up in California. Motion sickness always kicked in on those long drives from Riverside to Santa Barbara. However, I always had the same reaction. “Oh, look, ma. It’s the Pacific Ocean. It’s so pretty. Look, surfers. They look hot. Help, help, help, I have to puke. I hate the back seat. “

After hours of dizziness, Smashing Pumpkins, and spontaneous photo-ops, we would arrive in Cambria. It’s a seaside town characterized by pebble stone beaches and an air of small town America. Of course, we stayed at a delightful inn.

Rather than jumping in to the Pacific, I indulged in cable television land. “Anthony, I don’t want you watching MTV, all day. That stuff is filth,” my mother would yell, sternly. It didn’t matter much, I could choose from a variety of exciting cable programming. It didn’t have to be MTV. I really wanted to watch Beavis & Butthead, though.

Upon returning our hotel from dinner, my parents fell asleep. Sneakily, I took the control from my father hand. I switched it on and lowered the volume down. Predictably, I switched on MTV. Wow, Beavis & Butthead was on. It was the episode where they forget how to pee.

Holding back giggles, I heard a ghostly sound. Giggles, where are these giggles coming from? It couldn’t be my mother. She was as humorous as a guard at Buckingham Palace. The giggles intensified.

In the darkness, I could see mother trying to hold back laughter, too. She noticed me. “That’s hysterical, they forgot how to pee. Then they flooded the classroom in piss, funny right?” she said. My face was stunned. After years of unnecessary stiffness, Beavis and Butthead finally broke down her rigid walls.

Two days later, we returned to Riverside. Inevitably, her rigid walls were resurrected. Within months, she caved in. Our (then) new cable box was installed.

Finally, we could all enjoy endless hours of music videos, news, and cooking shows. Of course, mom always scolded me for my love of music videos and Real World viewership. In turn, I reveled in my unlikely status as media rebel.

After endless re-runs, Real World casts, and sneakily watching Queer As Folk, I reached adulthood. Surprisingly, I grew into an adult, who lived without television. “The humanity,” my father would proclaim.

Cable television didn’t fit into my budget. Naturally, I spent considerable time reading books, lots of wonderful books. These days, I stare out my window at the flashing lights (from tenement buildings across the street). I feel wanderlust. “Wow, they must be watching E! Television shows and endless hours of CNN.”

Even this bookworm misses the endless stream of television channels. One day, I shall relive the 90’s. I’ll buy a house; pump up Nine Inch Nails, and DVR every interesting program. The American dream, it’s alive and living in a Harlem walk-up.


Before Tinder, Grinder and whole lot of selfies, there was Interactive Male. Late night on cable television, perfectly tanned, buff, and handsome guys appeared. “I met my man on Interactive Male.” His equally handsome look alike appeared on screen. They smiled.

Quickly, I jotted down the number. Wow, its toll free, I am so going to meet a man on there. He’s going to look just like the buff hunks on the television ad. Naturally, I called the number.

Here’s how interactive male worked. You called the number and recorded your message for eligible bachelors. Mine went like this:

“Hi, this is Anthony. I am eighteen, aspire to attend film school and have been to Europe, twice. I live in Riverside and looking to meet some men.”

After recording, you could listen to other guy’s doing their best butch male voices and decide, who sounded sexiest. No faces, of course. I scrolled through the list of voices. One voice seduced my queer senses.

“Hi, my name is Skylar. I’m blond hair, blue eyes and twenty-years old. I’m not exactly out of the closet. So, I’d like to meet a guy, discreetly.” Skylar had the stereotypical gay voice, with a touch of shyness.

I was fascinated and left him a message. The next day, I was flooded with messages. Eagerly, I pressed the digits to access my voice mailbox. Alas, I couldn’t access it, without paying an extra fee.

“What’s this? The number said, toll free. If I pay extra for Interactive Male, my parents will throw me to the dungeon. They’ll think I’m calling the sex hotline for dirty chat.”

I always wondered if Skylar had left me a message. Was he my soul mate? For years, I forgot about Skylar and Interactive Male. Then after a 90’s revival concert, my friend and I reminisced about the good old days. Mentioning Interactive Male, I told her about Skylar. We laughed.

Inside, I wondered, what happened to that awkward boy over the phone? Did he come out of the closet? Or did he delve deeper into the dark abyss, where fabulous frocks were replaced with Tommy Bahama shirts? Skylar would always remain an obvious mystery.

Nowadays, I see faces, lots of faces. Dating apps have taken over. No way of hiding the dad bod, these days. So, I proudly strut myself. I do miss the mystery of Interactive Male.

Lack of visuals made the men more enticing, especially if they had a sexy voice. Somewhere in the galaxy, Skylar is laughing about his Interactive Male days, who wouldn’t?

Grumpy Bird

I spent countless hours drawing owls. Happy owls, grumpy owls, eccentric owls on Xanax, they lived harmoniously in a modest sketchpad. With a soundtrack consisting of cheesy show tunes and angry 90’s alternative rock, I turned anxiety into art.

The owls were a perfect distraction from the madness in my head. With every stroke of the pencil, I became increasingly passionate about my art. With my owl family tree hooting their lives away, I grew surprisingly tired of drawing owls.

I took a giant leap for (would be artists) everywhere. Inspired by cartoons of my youth, I began drawing Beavis & Butthead. The sketching proved a challenge for a new artist. “Oy, I just can’t draw, I just can’t draw, I need to go back to writing,” I would say to myself. The obvious negative thoughts attacked my peaceful bohemian existence.

My first sketches were disastrous. I doubted my sketching abilities. While the negative thoughts persisted, I took a coffee break. While fueling the latte economy with my caffeine dependency, I was determined to re-draw Beavis & Butthead.

Cranking up the best in Broadway musicals, I put specialized pencil to a blank page. Carefully following the contour of each character, I drew a carbon copy of Beavis & Butthead.

The fear of fucking up quickly died. Rather than fearing failure, I made the drawing experience, enchanting. Daria, Doug, Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear & even Charlie Brown, I drew them all. Upon opening my sketchpad, the characters made me smile.

Quickly, the art bug bit me, again. I had great aspirations for a pop up/3d art project, utilizing cartoon characters and a shoebox. I designed the characters and daydreamed of a land within a shoebox’s confines. The madness, which ravaged my brain, was (in turn) producing interesting art.

Though, the shoebox, pop up/3d art project continues to develop, I revel in every moment. Rather than hurrying along, I spend many hours, daydreaming. I found a new calling through visual arts. It was unexpected and scary. With great bravery, I continue to lovingly sketch my life away.

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.


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