The Perks of Sleepwalking

When I feel nuttier than a peanut, walking cracks my neurotic shell. Endless walks, whether in the snow, rain or heat, relaxes me. I’ve been avid walker, since my teenage hood.

Riverside, circa 1998-

Man-made birds flew over suburban homes, nestled on hills. They hid behind the mountain ranges, but quickly re-appeared. Longingly, I stared into the blue skies, which were tainted with brown from smog.

“If only that man-made bird could sweep me away from suburban monotony.” Soon after, the man-made bird disappeared into a few of the cotton balls, which ravaged the sky. I was not rescued. My feet were still planted on the concrete, which I dread most.

Sulking a bit, I pressed on with my strolls. Birds chirped. Dogs barked. The hazy sounds of cars zooming through the freeway haunted souls. In the midst of serenity, my imagination escaped.

The little houses were capsules of charm. I pictured scenes from a Norman Rockwell painting. Families gathered for a scrumptious steak dinner, with mash potato and apple pie, every night. Senior citizens playing bridge, having (the television show) Jeopardy on full blast. While teenagers listened to No Doubt, contemplating their grand escape into stimulation land.

Strolling in sunny Southern California came with an unexpected perk. There were always plenty of men enjoying the outdoors. It was the land of the hyper/alpha male. Guys fixed their cars. They washed their trucks, shirtless. Football posters hung like fine museum pieces, inside the garage.

I had so much in common with theses burly men (insert sarcasm). Secretly, I wished they were gay or at least had a phenomenal show tunes collection. My gut would tell me, they were more into Tupac Shakur than “A Chorus Line: the original Broadway score.” Regardless, it was excellent motivation to walk and breathe-in tidbits of fresh air. Walking, both relaxed and stimulated my mind. Hello, endorphins.

I enjoyed imagining life as a Norman Rockwell painting. Oh, and shirtless guys aren’t a bad thing, either. Eventually, I was captured by one of those gigantic man made birds. It flew me to the east. I found a quiet nest to call my own in Manhattan.

Walking around New York, I had a more jaded impression of life. I didn’t quite have the Norman Rockwell cheerful outlook, while peering into lit apartment blocks. “What was really behind the fanciful façade?” Despite questioning everything about life, my walks always perked up dreary thoughts.

Then, I fell ill. My zest for walking deteriorated. Crowds were overwhelming. Pavements had terrible effects of stress. Smells of garbage, bakery goods, and fuel disrupted the aroma of pleasant thoughts. I was cooped up in my nest, unable to rid myself of the blues.

While vying for a Sir Laurence Olivier worthy performance, my brain exploded. It exploded with art, naturally. I drew. I wrote. I read many great novels and short stories. The grey clouds met their match. Art transformed my soul. I still needed to force myself out of bed and face the world’s vibrant hues.

By summer, New York was steaming. I made my walking comeback. My legendary long walks had returned. The stimulation further awakened my artistic soul. The gloominess faded faster. Some days were tough, but I eventually regained energy.

I schvitz. I freeze. I don’t ever mind seeing a shirtless guy. More importantly, I get my best ideas, while walking. Whether I’m in a quiet hillside suburb or trying not to loose patience, navigating Midtown (trying not to scream my lungs out from people traffic), a good walk is always beneficial. So let’s all sing Kumbaya, eat granola, and join me on another exciting edition of “I love walking.”

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.

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.

Melancholy on Mars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Gay-mer

“My future husband is just hiding under a rock. I can feel it.” Said I. Strolling the East Village provided me with a plethora of attractive men. Gawking was delightful, until awkward eye contact was made. This was followed by the even more awkward head turn (to avoid contact) maneuver (from the random guy).

“Whoops, I guess that one wasn’t interested. I must’ve had a booger in my nose or something. Why would any man not want some wonderful eye sex,” I said with optimism spewing from my tongue.

Typically, I stroll with a tote bag (man purse) full of books. Since, I live so far, Uptown, I kill boredom with the words of David Sedaris, Maya Angelou, & Gertrude Stein.While parading around Tompskins Square Park, I found a most inviting park bench to feast upon.

Yet, I couldn’t concentrate on any book. Behold, the Tinder dating app. “No, no, no, I shall not be distracted with men and dating. Hell, I’m not getting any younger here. Damn it, I am caving in,” said I.

Pulling out the phone app, I was met with the evil lord of rejection. There were so many gym bunnies and hipsters. Some guys were a hybrid, hipster + gym bunny (muscles, beards, and flannel, accompanied by a swig PBR beer). Holy shit, where are all the alternative guys? Where are the guys, who said fuck you to the gym, but revered Ezra Pound? Asked I.

In the midst of clones, I found a rebel. “A video game nerd and major dork in general?” I asked myself, while scrolling through the witty profile of an attractive guy (with glasses). I must like him. Surprise, he liked me back, and I finally got a match.

A family of folk singers magically appeared. They played a little jig with their traveling banjos in celebration. As the folk music intensified, I messaged my gay-mer. With fingers crossed, we connected. Quickly, we made plans for a date.

Preparing myself for a voyage across the East River to Astoria, I thought about interesting topics to bring up on the date.” It was my first date with a gay-mer.

“I did have a Nintendo back in the 80’s, been to an arcade and even danced, danced, danced to the dance, dance, revolution. However, I was never particularly good at video games. That’s it, I’ll suggest that he teach me the ropes, “ I thought to myself.

Eventually, I arrived in Astoria. It was chilly evening. Steinway Street was bustling with shoppers in pea coats and fancy wool hats. Through a darkened side street, I found the charming little restaurant for the date.

I walked into the grilled cheese and beer specialty restaurant. It was an intimate place with exposed brick walls, long tables, and a very arty crowd.

“Dinner for one,” asked the friendly host. “Two please,” I replied. He walked me over to the communal table. I ordered a beer. My date arrived, dressed in a pea coat, black beanie and decorative glasses.

He was cute. My glasses were in the primary stages of fogging up. “Was this the animal lust, Cosmopolitan magazine always talked about?” I wondered to myself. “Quick, quick, think of video came terms. He arrived at the table. We hugged. I felt at ease.

“I’m unemployed, 31 and live in a walk-up,” I told him. He responded, “I work two jobs and have several roommates. We laughed and drank beer, noshed on delicious grilled cheeses and had wonderful eye contact. After dismissing the men of New York, I found my ideal geek. He understood my geek-dom and I relished in his quirks.

After four hours of gabbing, two geeks strolled into the Queens night. The pubs were bustling. 24-hour markets were alive with neon. Green cabs raced through Broadway. The sounds of typewriters shattered the evening quiet.

We were cold. Our teeth became musical instruments, as we shivered the night away. Walking toward the subway, I didn’t want to say, goodbye. Along the above ground, Broadway train station, cold winds awakened our spirits. More good conversation followed.

The train arrived. He hopped off on the last stop in Queens. I returned to Manhattan. In my own geeky universe, I was head nerd. However, I needed someone to help me rule the kingdom. Luckily, I received a text from him. He wanted another date. This was a brave step for two boys with highly decorative glasses.

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.

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