Ambulance Chasers

Cole Porter dreams, and enchilada wishes happen in the desert. Palm Springs serves as my glittery backyard. It’s where the gay geriatrics lounge with martinis and collect art. They stare at mountains, art deco buildings, and shirtless men (of course). The gay desert is an escape from the shallowness of city life.

I’ve always been an ambulance chaser. This is other wise known as a “daddy chaser.” Although, wrinkles and grey hair are most appealing, age has always been just a number.

Hipster Boy, Meat-head, and Mr. Pseudo Intellectual were just a few of the fellows I dated. Inevitably, these counted as disaster dates. They also led me back to the Townhouse (a Piano bar) in New York City, where dapper older men sang alongside a piano, while sipping booze and discussing the latest Broadway hit.

My visits made me forget about the vile twenty-somethings, mentioned. My fascination for older men grew as I relocated, back to my hometown (which is fairly close to Palm Springs).

As a daddy chaser, I had all the right apps to meet men, virtually. However, after a terrible disaster date, I tried to delete the app. A most appealing man randomly messaged me.

He mirrored Nick Lachey (the cub version). After messaging me, I investigated his profile. “Only twenty-three? Shit” His messages were quite endearing, but I became weary. After disaster dates with Hipster Boy, Meat-Head and Mr. Pseudo Intellectual, dating a twenty-something didn’t appeal to me.

Revolting against common sense and preference, I sent him a message. Surprisingly, he was quite mature for twenty-three. His messages grew increasingly lovely. The messages were endless. Finally, I gave him my phone number, where he asked me out on a date at a Redlands coffee shop.

Obliging, Mr. Twenty-three became an ambulance chaser. My ego was suddenly boosted. However, I grew fearful. “If this works out, would I surrender into a parallel universe of cute couple photos, dinner by candle light, and snuggling on the couch?

Jadedness injected the soul with sharp pangs. Guilt kept me obliged to meet up. Coordinating my outfit, I received a text. “Will have to cancel, sorry.” Gloating, I responded back, “no worries”

“He’s so ghosting. He’s really ghosting” (the act where a fella texts and texts, then suddenly disappears). Surprise, he ended up texting me hours after canceling. Our correspondence continued. In a matter of days, he stopped texting.

It was my first relationship done entirely through text message. Having never met him, physically, I garnered an animosity toward modern technology. Men weren’t meeting other men in the real world, which remains disheartening.

“No cheesy couples’ photos! No romantic dinners! No cuddling on the couch!” I celebrated my spinsterhood. Predictably, Palm Springs beckoned. It’s an ambulance chaser’s dream.

Being the old cat lady would be swell, but what happens at eighty? There will be less of an abundance of older men to date. “ Thanks to modern technology and sophisticated medicine, one hundred year old gay men will still be sipping martinis and singing Cole Porter staples at the piano bar.

Yawn, Otter, Yawn

Fuck, shit, fuck, a tragedy just rocked my campy existence. With tears streaming down, I glanced at the vertical mirror. “Hola, muffin, muff top, that is. For half a decade, my weight had stayed consistent. Finally, bagels, pizza, and nachos had taken their revenge.

Leaving the dressing room, traumatized, the inevitable persisted. I caved in and bought a gym membership. The Treadmill became a major yawn. Power walking and jogging ignited a yearning to eat carbohydrates, drink coffee, and read books.

Rather than dying of boredom, coffee shop culture made a surprise cameo on the treadmill, sans the coffee, or treats. Indie rock, a classic novel and the “infamous” Batman journal sustained a tolerable (working-out) experience.

Glancing around the gym, muscles, six packs and pecs were as common as sweat and germs. The guys had the cheesy,” hi, I’m a Chippendale’s dancer” look. Secretly, I wished to have similarly sculpted features.

Alas, in the gay galaxy, I belonged to the bear tribe. Bears could eat as many burritos as possible and still get dates. Chub and fur were the only pre-requisites.

Confidently, I stepped off the treadmill. Basking in my bit of bohemia, an inevitable interruption serenaded gay eardrums. It was the “Scruff” app notifying me of an interested fellow. “Hello, looking for a nice guy to date,” read the message.

Jaded from past disaster dates, I rolled my eyes. However, after a week of feeling rejected by one’s own trouser size, a date would elevate self-esteem. “ Otter seeking bear,” were very persuasive words (Otter is a hairy, but skinny gay guy.).

We chatted; I sent him sexy pictures of yours truly wearing dazzling cardigans. He showed off his colorful tattoos. As expected, I asked him out on a proper date. Being a man of great taste, he naturally accepted.

Meeting at Simple Simon’s (a cool deli in Downtown Riverside), we locked eyes. If you thought, Barbara Streisand came out of the bushes to serenade two gay stereotypes, then you’re somewhat wrong. An awkward handshake greeted me, upon meeting.

His brightly colored personality was a distinct grey in real life. Sitting a table by the window, we ate. Conversation was forced. Diagnosing myself with a slow death from boredom, I threw random and funny topics to gab about. Drinking was one such topic. He was disturbed. “Drinking is stupid.” Geez, in all of California, I find the one gay, who hates booze.

Observing him eat a croissant sandwich served as the only excitement. Finally, hitting the wall of boredom, he took a last bite. The date ended. We parted ways. Like many mature acting gay guys, I immediately deleted him from Scruff. “Going on treadmill for five hours would’ve been more delightful, rejection loomed.

Upon returning home, dad observed sadness. I confessed everything and told dad, “He doesn’t drink alcohol. ”Dad smirked, “never trust a man, who doesn’t drink.” As the old cliché goes, “father really does know best.”

Recovering from chronic boredom, I delved back into my coffee-centric/book-centric life. Most surprisingly, I returned to the treadmill and had burrito daydreams, like a good bear should.

It’s Raining Glitter

“Mama, I’m not pretty enough to be a drag queen.” Much to my school and family’s shock, I didn’t grow up to be a drag queen. Pretty heels, fluffy dresses and lavish wigs didn’t quite appeal to a boy, who digs for his wardrobe in a pile of wrinkles clothes.

Predictably, the idea of drag queens remained fun, energetic, and admirable. While at the Strand bookshop (here in NYC), I found holiness. “Howdy, RuPaul. It was a miracle, a RuPaul prayer candle. It would be perfect to ship over to dad’s house, as a care package.”

Giggling, I (mentally) time traveled back to Christmas time at our family home in California. Father and I have opposing tastes on television shows. He prefers news and the History channel. Old sitcoms and reality shows (yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it) keep me flying across the country to watch television.

Our TV tastes reflect are diverse personalities. Dad is a marine, level headed and not neurotic. Yours truly is a bit eccentric, neurotic, oh and gay, very gay. When daddy and I agree to watch a TV show together, a drag queen gets her wings.

It did happen on a fateful and very starry night. “That’s a real lady. I don’t believe that’s a drag queen,” proclaimed, dad. The film credits to John Water’s “Polyester” bursting into the screen. Divine (one of my most famous drag queens and an icon) was the star.

As a huge John Waters fan, I found it humorous to expose daddy to a raunchy and very campy cinematic experience. Daddy repeated those faithful words, “I don’t believe she’s a drag queen. She a lady, look at her.”

“Daddy, it’s Divine in the starring role. She’s the most famous drag queen of all.” After a few glasses of wine, he glared into the screen, “oh shit, you’re right. She’s so convincing.” Laughing hysterically, culture shock rocked our family room. Daddy was enjoying John Waters’ filthy humor as much as his gay son.

Proudly, he became an instant John Waters fan. Months later, I stood in front of the RuPaul prayer candle. $18 for this? Do I really want to buy it? Convinced by dad, it was purchased. A few days later, it was shipped to California, along with a Rubik’s cube, paper dolls, and Andy Warhol knock-off portraits.

Gladness bestowed a glittery heart. I loved home. While other boys had to pretend to love football, I could watch campy films with dad and not hide my oddities. Normal is boring. A bloke in high heels and lavish wigs is not.

Coffee and Prozac

In high school, my trousers would never fit correctly, which, created a wedgie, a terribly obvious wedgie. I could throw a coat over it during winter, but my bum was unavoidable. The terribly cruel kids in high school nicknamed me, “the never ending wedgie.”

Wedgies were out of style by 1999. However, days of fantasizing about graduating high school and being an accepted freak of nature never died out, passed 1999. Uncovering my tribe became a monumental dream. I’d be the toast of the art world, an Oscar winner and Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Fast forward, if you attempted to find my art at the cinema, a museum or indie bookshop, then disappointment would engulf your soul. Although, I wrote many stories and even written the first draft of a novel, I still struggled to get my art into the world. In fact, as a thirty year old, feelings of awkwardness and aloofness never left.

More surprisingly, I was feeling out of place in New York City. Twas the geographical location, I ran away to not be an outsider. As my thirties progressed, not only was it rigorous to develop a writing a career, but change was needed, and inevitable.

New York’s stifling sidewalks were suffocating. Therefore, escaping became the dream. After failed attempts at moving to Los Angeles and Portland, escaping disappointment came in reading books.

Randomly, I sought to find the right career path. Reading and writing were the only hobbies, which tickeled my fancy. How could I make a career of that? Then, I remembered high school and the fine literature digested. Randomly, I decided to become a high school English teacher. Along with academia, I decided to make a bold step, geographically.

Upon taking my morning breakfast of a coffee, bagel, and Prozac, I checked on my frequent flyer miles. Bravely, I researched how many miles would be needed for a one-ticket to Southern California.

Having more than plenty of miles, I booked the one way ticket from New York La Guardia to Ontairo, CA. By June 1st, New York would be another chapter in lie, albeit, a very interesting chapter. Soon, Riverside would become my bohemian enclave.

With only two months left in the Northeast, I brainstormed a bucket list of experiences, still needed to be had in the city. After living in New York, on and off for nearly a decade, there wasn’t much left. Coffee shop adventures, book shopping sprees and walks in Harlem were more thrilling than a visit to the top of the 30 Rock.

Waiting out the move proved most difficult. In many ways, I was stuck in my old life, but change loomed nearer and nearer. Impatience hindered enjoyment, but attempted to be a happy (as happy as a cranky New York resident could aspire to be).

Escape through the written word became most beneficial. Would I survive the next few months of waiting? of course. Ironically, the place and institution I desired to escape turned itself into the dream of the late 2010’s. Only, I would avoid all trousers, which gave me never ending wedgies.

Don’t Be Afraid, It’s Only Zombies

Back in my days as a lad, nobody walked with heads down. Folks acknowledged each other, enjoyed the scenery, and were aware of surroundings. Nowadays, most people walk, while glaring at their phones.

They bump into people, things, and it’s funny, but tragic. Staring at a mobile makes me quite dizzy. In the grand tradition of being single, I succumbed to dating apps. Even this bookworm-extraordinaire had a Tinder account.

Tired of rejection, but mostly bored with the same faces, I took a bold step for spinsters everywhere. I deleted the Tinder application, along with Grinder. On that park bench in Harlem, overlooking ducks, I was officially off the Tinder/Grinder market. In fact, I was dating myself. I was such a cheap date, too.

There were romantic outings to my favorite used bookshop, dinners at the Polish diner, and romantic rendezvous by the fireplace, on my computer, naturally. Weekends were spent huddled in intimate coffee shops, reveling in the sweet scent of Oregon based coffee.

Opportunities to date actual guys arose. However, I really enjoyed my own company. I didn’t want anyone interfering in my introverted happiness. Then, I ended up in my therapist’s office.

“I don’t want a husband, a boyfriend, or a relationship, I just love my alone time.” Thinking my dear shrink would call me out for living a depressed life, I was applauded. Feeling validated, I headed to the used bookshop to celebrate.

Standing in line, I smiled and thought to myself, “look, at me! I’m independent. I don’t need a fella to fulfill life’s emptiness. I have my imagination and artistry to fill in any empty void.

Venturing toward the cash register, I placed my books down. Staring up, he stood, triumphantly. Blue eyes, a cardigan, and messy brown hair, I met the cutest bookworm in New York.

“Wow, you found A Clockwork Orange, used. Now, that’s a steal. You never see that these days,” he said, winking. Eyes wide with literary lust, I stumbled on words. He loaded the bag with books and extra bookmarks. He wished me a happy evening.

Stepping into a freezing East Village sidewalk, I was dazed. “I want to be a spinster. If a cute bookworm like him did come around, I’d have to say, the hell with spinsterhood.”

Instead of re-uploading dating apps and seeking a man with a large book collection, I took myself on a date, Indian food (to be exact). If one can’t find a man to warm you up in the late fall, curry is a most appropriate substitute.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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