Vodka and the Gayve

How do I not break my neck, climbing these stairs? I asked myself.

I had reached my glorious apartment, a bit tipsy. My poison of choice was the chocolate whipped vodka. It contained seltzer, chocolate cream flavored vodka, and a lime. It tasted of the classic concoction, egg cream, the boozy version, of course.

Rather than craving General Tso’s Chicken or tasty Latino diner fare, I hungered for something more enticing. Like any good drunkard, I sifted through my beloved bookshelf.

“Ulysses, I’ve never read, Ulysses. How can I be a future English teacher of America and not read this classic?” I asked myself.

Rather dizzily, I pulled out the bed from my sofa, for a reading session. Ulysses’ beautiful green cover was intoxicating. The literary journey began. Initially, James Joyce’s important classic had me surprisingly glued. The first few chapters went by relatively quickly.

Since New York’s temperatures had dropped below zero, I was trapped in my fifth-floor walk-up. I spent much needed time with James Joyce. After a three-day weekend, the inevitable happened.

“Ulysses you’re boring the shit out of me,” said, the future English teacher.

I placed the lengthy novel back in its rightful place, the closet. Boarding two trains, I arrived in Union Square and bolted to the Strand Bookshop. “Welcome, book lovers,” the entrance sign read.

The shop’s book display case greeted, my bookworm eyes. It has always been the most beautifully arranged book table, in literary history. Somewhere between “The Catcher & The Rye” and “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.” A yellow sign beckoned my attention.

“Read a challenging book,” the sign said.

Beneath it, were several stacked copies of Ulysses. I opened the book, and observed how far along I was.

“Still, I can’t fathom finishing this book,” I told myself.

As I boarded the subway back to Harlem, the words, “read a challenging book,” haunted me. Then I arrived in my humble studio apartment. Ulysses came out of the literary closet.

I was back to reading the behemoth of book. Some parts grew increasingly enjoyable, while others made me want booze. Every moment not spent at work, were spent with Ulysses.

During my lunch break, I read my final sentence. After re-reading that sentence over and over, I closed the book.

“Shit, I actually finished, Ulysses.” It wasn’t my favorite book, but it ended up being quite enjoyable, and rather sexually explicit towards the end. The bookworm literary decathlon had ended.

I read more and more challenging books from then on. Ulysses fulfilled my wordy appetite. In celebration of completing, Ulysses, I did have another of those chocolate whipped vodkas. James Joyce would’ve approved.

 

1988

My first apartment in Manhattan smelled of nostalgia. The smell was similar to an old bookshop meets Katz’s deli. It did have an elevator, and was just blocks from the East Village.

When the elevator doors opened, fluorescent hallway lights and green apartment doors welcomed me to the cocoon. A special box had arrived at my door, on a freezing March evening. It was a care package from my father in California. The box weighed thirty pounds.

I dragged it into my bedroom, and opened it. “Wow, my Mickey Mouse comforter was stuffed inside.” Excitedly, I hugged the worn out comforter.

Back in 1988, it was my childhood, “blanky.” My parents had bought me a whole Mickey Mouse bed set. While all the bedding had been tossed, the comforter remained mostly intact.

The Mickey Mouse comforter provided a sense of warmth. During cold winter nights, I cuddled up to it. It was a part of my youth, which provided much need nostalgia, in the midst of neurosis.

After spending my final three years in Harlem (my favorite neighborhood), I decided to switch careers and coasts. My studio apartment became a maze of boxes. Most of my belongings made it safely to California.

However, the Mickey Mouse comforter remained (I needed some bedding during my last few weeks). Upon my last night, I decided not to stuff the comforter into my suitcase. Instead, I left it behind.

A material object from my childhood was gone forever. I wondered if it was donated to a shelter or simply burned. Regardless, it provided a sense of home and coziness, in tenement crazed, New York City.

Since my relocation to California, I opted not to buy another Mickey Mouse blanket. Instead, I now count sheep in a gorgeous mint green comforter, which perfectly matches my old apartment door in Manhattan.

The Gay Owl

The Hudson River was frozen over. My old brain farted. Below zero temperatures made the humble polar bear, hibernate. Coffee warmed the sensitive soul.

It’s always colder than the New York’s previous bout with the Polar Vortex. Birds of a feather flocked to Miami, Rio de Janeiro and anywhere tropical.

This bird of a feather couldn’t leave the city. Instead, I reveled in the next best thing to a Brazilian holiday, an East Village brunch date. Laughs with my gal pals, bottomless mimosas, and piles of bacon were just as wonderful as sipping Caipirinhas on Rio’s white sands.

Despite a wonderful existence in the city, filled with friends, theatre and delicious bagels, I was bluer than my navy pea coat. Rather than retreating to warmer pastures, I remained in the city.

After writing poetry and watching endless YouTube videos, I took a drastic step for mankind. In the shadow of the Queensborough Bridge, I sat in a therapist’s office. In the words of film school professor, “therapy is a badge of honor, since it’s shows an attempt to make improvements in life.”

While acting out a dramatic one-man monologue, my therapist took notes. My performance was grand. Instead of receiving applause, I was given a surprise. “You have seasonal mood disorder. It’s been common with New Yorkers, since we’ve had the coldest winter in eighty years.” he said.

I smiled. He smiled. Finally, there was a diagnosis to my woes. “ I want you to take up a new hobby, which isn’t writing or reading books. We need to take the angst alleviate it through an alternative channel,” he said with a confident smile.

Instinctively, I yearned to feed my brain’s desire for art. I took up sketching. An owl statue inspired me. I sketched the owl. The first owl was born on a scribbled notebook page. More owls were drawn. Soon, I had owls, which evoked many emotions.

Like a snowbird fleeing for winter, illustration gave me a sense of escapism. I was distracted with sketching owls, which made me forget about the winter blues. With a hoot, hoot, hoot, my hands birthed art.

At last, spring arrived. The Hudson River was re-born. Sidewalks sprung back to life. I sat in a park bench with a coffee. This was my re-ward for surviving, a sunny day, Morningside Park and a notebook full of owl sketches.

A Quirky Bookworm

Writing a novel, it’s what you do when unemployed. In fact, fun-employment land had its perks. While eating bacon donuts, browsing the titles at Powell’s Books, and breathing in the crisp (and very clean) Portland air, I declared, “ wow, fun-employment isn’t so terrible.”

A few weeks later, I returned home to New York City. Gone were gatherings around a bonfire, hills filled with rustic pine trees and the left coast laid-back attitude. Rather, than getting depressed over my lack of employment and many rejection emails from companies around the city, I created my Bohemian utopia.

I lovingly branded this era as the “great bohemian retreat.” Predictably, I wrote stories, lots of stories. Frequenting coffee shops from the East Village to Upper West Side, I sipped the stimulation of a strong coffee. I also read lots of books. Indulging in the eloquent and often humorous words of favorite authors inspired my writing.

Then one day, I looked at my bank statement. “Oy, I really need a job,” said I. While I continued job hunting, I was depressed. “God, I miss working,” said I.

I stared at the Upper West Side from that most dramatic of views, Lincoln Center. The epicenter of operas, which ignite great pathos served as the perfect location for my melancholy moment. While feeling beyond sad, I couldn’t write or daydream without feeling sad.

“What’s one place, which always makes me feel better?” I asked myself. I walked toward the Time Warner Center (it’s a mall, even though New Yorkers would never call it a mall). Going to the mall always cheered me up.

As I stared at the most cinematic city views from the second floor, I received the call, which would change my life. I was re-hired at my old ad firm. The sadness melted like a snowman in spring.

I really wish life were a Broadway musical, since I could’ve broken into the happiest song possible. Rather than feeling like a New York reject, I was happily returning to work.

On Monday, I picked up a $.75 coffee from the deli. I made my way to the subway and opened up a good book. After transferring trains at Times Square, I arrived at Grand Central Station. In the midst of typical Monday morning chaos, I smiled. That train ride led me to a new life and most importantly, I had officially left fun-employment land.

Although, it had difficult moments, fun-employment land had its charms. I spent quality time in Palm Springs with my father, marveled at Portland’s quirks, and found adventures in New York. Looking back at the bohemian era, I can smile and proclaim, “I got a three month holiday, which I probably won’t get again.” Goodbye to the great bohemian retreat. Hello, bohemian life with a job.

Dog In A Sweater

People, I’m always around people. Sounds, there are so many exotic sounds. Like most Americans, I wake up to an alarm clock. Atypically, this alarm clock is a honking car horn in the morning.

When I wake up, I stroll over to my window, half asleep. I glance down at busy Seventh Avenue (Harlem side), where I plan my wardrobe according to the fashion outside. The grey skies of New York, intensify.

“I feel so alone out here,” declare I. With millions of people around me, a feeling of utter isolation developed. In the tradition of over dramatic gay men, I took initiative.

“Oy, why must I be so alone? With so many single gay men, I stand all alone in this chilly apartment,” said I, throwing myself onto the floor. It was a Tony award worthy performance. Tears fell from my cheeks, “there’s only one thing, which could cure my deep sense of isolation,” I said, staring up at my shabby white ceiling.

“Howdy, small coffee, enough room for cream,” said I. I could’ve seen my shrink, but a $2.00 coffee would work perfectly. My favorite coffee shop was bustling on that bitterly cold winter’s day. There was only one table available, but it came with a catch.

I locked eyes with the most adorable puppy. Reluctantly, I sat next to the puppy. “Shit, this dog better not cause me to spill coffee all over my lap top,” said I. With a faithful glance, I stared into her owner’s eyes.

He was boyishly handsome. Dressed in hip, but understated attire, he was very friendly and approachable. We greeted each other. The dog then licked my face.

“Gross, gross, germs, germs, cooties, cooties,” said I, internally. “I’m so sorry, “ he said. His charm was contagious. Rather than expressing disgruntled angst, I smiled and embraced the puppy.

“Is she a lab?” I asked. “She’s actually a mix pit bull and black lab,” he said. The puppy wouldn’t stop staring at me. She sat right next to me. I opened up my laptop and proceeded to work.

Then the puppy laid her head on my arm. “Don’t get dog hair all over me, “ I thought to myself. “Sorry, about that she’s just super friendly,” he said. I smiled and said, “It’s okay, I love adorable puppy. I just can’t stand crying babies.” We both laughed.

I stared down at the super affectionate puppy. Her loyalty grew into an endearing quality. My feeling of isolation and loneliness dissipated for a moment.

“It must be great having such a cute puppy. I’ve been in New York for years and it’s incredibly lonely at times,” I told him. He shook his head in agreement, “yeah, I get super lonely. That’s why I bought a dog.”

“Wow, this guy is cute, friendly and charming. He gets lonely too. I’m glad I’m not the only one,” I said to myself. He and the puppy eventually left. I really wanted to ask him out on a date, but didn’t.

After my coffee house day, I strolled around the East Village. Surprisingly, puppy love helped me feel a little less lonely for a few hours, afterwards. I stared at the dogs dressed in festive holiday sweaters, roaming around Avenue A.

Oh yes, one day that’ll be Augustan & I (my future pup) wandering the East Village (in our most delightful sweaters). We’ll also have a coffee dates. He’ll enjoy New York tap water and I’ll relish in my gourmet cappuccino. It’ll be quite a life.

King Of The North

Bagpipes, kilts, and punk rock, this is Scotland. Craving a fried Mars bar, anyone? Too bad, this northern story doesn’t take place in the United Kingdom. It centers round the Northeastern United States, New York City to be exact.

On a winter’s day, the sky resembled the distinct grey of Scotland. Journeying along the Upper West Side, I listened to my favorite Scottish band, Garbage. Cloudy days were romanticized for me. I enjoyed the fog, buttoning up a smart pea coat, and relishing in heartwarming whisky.

However, I was feeling down, very down. I had returned to New York City, unemployed. Moping around Broadway, snow fell from the sky. It mirrored frosted corn flakes. I was mesmerized, but jaded. “How am I going to make it without employment?” I asked myself.

Feeling increasingly blue, my hands froze. Surprisingly, I found relief. “Next station is Columbus Circle,” announced the train conductor. Sitting on the near empty subway car, I contemplated life. I relished in the warmth of a train, and observing quirky characters. Regardless, morale remained low.

The snow let up, I strolled the Bowery. In search of CBGB’s ghosts, I ventured into an island of counter culture. Tompskins Square Park was typically filled with homeless punks, arty old people enjoying rent control and a few yuppies lost in the madness.

Sitting on a park bench, I huffed and puffed. Anxiety was kicking in. Then an elderly gentleman sat next to me, with his crumpled up newspaper. “Holy shit, it’s Sean Connery,” I thought to myself. He opened up the newspaper and I played it cool.

He stared at me. I glanced quickly at him. “You looked depressed,” he said. My ears were deceived. “Why does Sean Connery sound like Vinny from Queens?” I asked myself.

Maybe this wasn’t Sean Connery, but he certainly was brilliant at reading obvious body language. “Why so glum? Seasonal depression? He asked. I shook my head, no and replied, “I’m unemployed. It’s been tough to get a career started.

Staring at me, sternly, he replied, “Have you heard of GOYA?” Oh god, yes, I know it means, get off yours ass.” I replied. “Exactly, shit happens to everyone. We’re all struggling here. Take a look around at the neighborhood today. It’s a ghost town. Go out and enjoy it, buddy,” he said, while giving me a pat on the back.

Quickly, he left the quaint park bench. He returned to his rent-controlled apartment, which existed only in my head. The snow fell from the sky, again. Disregarding disappointment, I enjoyed the moment.

The East Village was eerily quiet. It was wonderful. I read a book and drank coffee. My mood was elated, no bagpipes needed. With all this talk of Scotland, I could use a fried Mars bar right now. Cheers to grey skies, bagpipes and Sean Connery look alikes.

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.

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.

Flying Saucers Over New York

Schadenfreude is German for laughing at someone else’s misery. I remember the agony and fear associated with a flying soccer ball. It flew through the sky like a bird heading down south for the winter. Swiftly, it happened detour and headed toward my face. With agony, I yelled. From the distance, I could see my classmates laughing their heads of.

It happened slow motion. Rather, than actually being a proper goalie, I avoided the hit. The ball landed in the goalie net. The opposing team won. My teammates resembled hiynias out for beef tartar. I smiled nervously. “Shit, at least, I didn’t hit my precious face,” said I.

New York City-Present day

“Fall, fall, wonderful fall,” said I. The skies mirrored the Atlantic’s majestic blue. While crisp ice winds delighted the senses. That morning Anna and I enjoyed a lovely brunch in the East Village. Afterwards, we headed toward Tompskin’s Square Park. In the midst of hippies, an old man with pet ferrets and several street musicians, we found our bohemian exodus.

In a grassy knoll, boys played soccer. “Oh god, please don’t hit me in the face,” said I, internally. As the ball flew in all directions, it eventually hit a boy in the stomach. “Oh god, flashback. That boy looks like me. He also must have my same hatred of flying balls too,” said I. Fortunately for us, the soccer madness ended. We went back to retreating in the grass.

I continued to revel in extreme splendidness. However, I also felt a great deal of gratitude. At thirty, I had a job, which adored. I live in my own Manhattan apartment with a wonderful urban family and plenty of stimulation. Finally, I found a peaceful era in life.

On a sunny Tuesday, the crisp fall weather fled town. It’s humid cousin from Florida made a comeback. While the clouds disguised Mr. Sunshine in a most unflattering grey frock, I walked down Lexington Avenue. From the sky, fell an alien object.

“Ouch, ” I declared. I fell to the ground. My life flashed before my eyes. “Hello, childhood in California, Catholic school, film school, loosing my virginity to that cute guy, mom’s death, moving into all my New York apartments, endless flights across the Pacific and Atlantic. What’s going on? Why did I just experience such dramatic flashbacks? And why did I not experience unicorns and Mary Martin belting fabulous show tunes? ” Asked I.

“Wait a second, I didn’t die,” said I. Waking up in fetal position, I proclaimed, “ouch, I just got hit with the world’s biggest soccer ball.”  After a nice whack on the head, I woke up.

I was alone in my apartment. The apartment was lit from streetlights glowing through the window. A tear fell from my eye. My throbbing head really came from a terrible hangover. The giant soccer ball was courtesy of the school of life, which handed me an unexpected kick.

“Hello, fun-employment,” said I. On that faithful day, I was laid off. I felt like an eight-year old, me, reeling from the pangs of an aggressive soccer ball. I stayed in fetal position. The drilling in my head morphed into the sounds of a telephone ringing.

“Come back to California for a while and recoup,” said my dad. “I can’t. It’s better that I stay in New York and deal with my current life situation,” said I. The evening skies darkened. I felt truly alone in my apartment and attempted to fall asleep to Mozart’s dazzling sounds.

Dearest Mozart couldn’t take away the pangs of pain, which crippled my soul. The next day, I woke up with the magical flutes accompanying me. I stared into Seventh Avenue from my modest apartment. I breathed in and said, “at least, I won’t get hit by a huge soccer ball, today. Oy, that was painful.”

Motivation was slowly fleeing. Unexpectedly, I daydreamed about the west coast and it’s many quirks. I exhaled and called my dad. “Howdy, I’m coming out to California for a while,” said I. The pain slowly drifted and with a swift click of button, I was en route to California that exact day. Quickly, I packed a carry on and bolted out of my apartment.

The crisp fall weather was in hibernation, since it was still unseasonably humid. I hailed a cab and was off to JFK. Upon arrival at my gate, I was excited to leave New York behind for a while. Although, I had amazing memories at my old job and an even more amazing work family. This would mark a new exhilarating season of  “Gay & the city” (aka my life in New York).

I boarded my connecting flight to Dallas. Excitedly, I closed my eyes and imagined California. As I reopened my eyes, there he stood. He was a handsome, tall, Texan with a distinct draw. “Hi,” he said with a smile. I replied the same, with a twinkle in my eye. “Wow, goodbye New York, if this is my neighbor for the rest of the flight, I’m one lucky goose,” said I.

As expected, the plane took off. Cotton balls hovered over the New York skies like a flying saucer. The sun reflected it’s spiritual beams against my rosy cheeks. I took a deep breath. “Indeed, I’m watching E.T. on this flight and sitting next to a rather charming cowboy. Yee-haw, life ain’t so shabby, after all, said I.