Men Folk

I came out at fifteen years old. My biggest supporter was my dad. Even as a Marine, he always accepted not only my gayness, but also all those personality quirks. As, I grew older; he wanted to understand me better.

Therefore, we went to a gay bar. When we would travel, my dad wouldn’t tag along to the bars. He always wanted me to go out and have fun on my own. Surprise, I had a blast. On a trip to Paris, I finally invited him to a gay bar. It was a chic haunt in uber gay Le Marais, the capital’s rainbow heart. It was male dominated. The guys had classic Gallic features and dressed impeccably.

They looked straight out of Paris Fashion Week. In fact, the bar would make a great after catwalk drink meet up. My dad felt very comfortable being the only straight guy there. He sipped a beer and I had the gayest of all beverages, a martini.

A few months after our big Paris trip, we traveled to Buenos Aires. I love men who look natural. In fact, I prefer a six-pack of beer to a six-pack on a man. However, there was this handsome guy who kept following us all over the city. From the world’s widest street, 9 de Julio Avenue to fashionable Recoleta to the coffee shops of Palermo Soho, he appeared. He was a classically handsome Argentinian, shirtless and armed with a beautiful smile.

This Latin lover was in an outdoor advertisement for men’s cologne. He was plastered all over the city. I told my dad, that I thought he was pretty hot, even though he wasn’t my type. My dad giggled. As we walked passed the billboard, the handsome Argentinian man kept smiling back at me. I told, my dad I want to take a picture, but felt like a nerd doing it.

My dad took the camera from my hand. He took a picture of Mr. Latin lover and handed me back the camera. Here you go, he said with a smile. The only loving I got from that trip was the mountains of dulce de leche I devoured.

After we came back home to the good ol’ U.S of A, I laughed at our Buenos Aires pictures. The outdoor ad guy looked hotter in person than photographed. Nonetheless, it’s great showing my dad a side of my life other sons would not dare talk about. Being upfront and accepting has kept are bond strong.

The Parisian Burrito

My weekends are a Mexican feast for the eyes and the senses. It’s my comfort food. I love it spicy and authentic. I even pour chilly powder into my salad for a little “ay corrumba.” On Saturdays, my dad and I usually head to the Mexican market and order the works, carnitas, chile rellenos and homemade style beans.

Mexican food is one of my favorites. I would step off the plane from New York and have my dad quickly drive me to the nearest taco stand. Literally, I was dreaming of the Mexican delights on the 6 1/2 hour flight to the West Coast. The urgency to quench my cravings took hold. Once, I bit into the carne asada burrito life was complete. My dad didn’t get it. New York is the best food city. However, burritos and tacos just taste better in California.

On a trip with my dad to Paris, we had a food escapade. France is renowned as one of the world’s culinary epicenters. The French eat well; butter and cheese are not frowned upon, but highly coveted for the taste buds. Our trip to Paris was a gastronomic delight. We ate lovely neighborhood brasseries around the Right Bank. We ventured into St. Germain De Pres’ fashionable, but tasty cafes. We even delighted in old-fashioned French cuisine on the Ile de St. Louis.

The taste of rosemary, fresh formage (cheese) and buttery garlic danced in our mouth like a well orchestrated can-can number. However, after nearly a week of garlic meets buttery, I craved some of the food, which makes my inner Californian do a little jig in delight, Mexican. Paris isn’t a town with taco trucks. Although, a taco truck scene in France would be a welcome change.

We found a Mexican restaurant in the Latin Quarter. It looked and smelled authentic. So, there I was in escargot meets crepe happy Paris ready to enjoy a burrito with a side of beans and rice. The food arrived; it looked different from the Mexican I am used to. One bite into my French burrito with Mexican indigents and blah, it was bland. My dad didn’t like his meal either. Nothing tasted authentic. After dinner, I had a huge crepe and returned to French delights.

Each city has the food, which attracts the masses. In Southern California, I miss my New York foods, pizza, bagels, Jewish deli, Chinese and Italian. However, my current location provides me with a wonderful taste of Mexico, which is difficult to find everywhere in the world.

The Frugal Jet Setter

Old travel films from the 50’s reminds us of a time when life was in Technicolor. Beautifully dressed men and women, board Pan Am flights. On board they drink magnificent cocktails & eat gourmet prime rib & desserts. With the magic of film, this is the quintessential fantasy, which airlines wanted to portray.

Air travel is really a lack of legroom, long lines & germs flowing freely in a capsule. However, I love every minute. Airport & airplanes are some of the most exciting places for me. I love getting all dolled up like in the 50’s reels & checking in. The feeling that new adventures await never gets old.

Throughout my air travel, I’ve flirted with Mt. Fuji while landing in Tokyo. I’ve seen dazzling villages & the green rolling hills of Ireland en route to London & Paris. While on a flight home to New York, I met eyes with the Grand Canyon, which looked like nature’s interpretation of the Manhattan skyline. All of these sights were seen from my luxurious window seat.

I’ve never actually flown first or business class. Therefore, the densely populated economy class has always been home. Champagne, caviar & seats, which morph into beds, is a highly novel idea for me. I compensate by sitting at the window.

Taking off is the exciting part. Then comes the middle part of the flight. I usually combat boredom by watching long films on the airplane. I’ve seen Gandhi, Gone with the Wind & The Godfather on one of my many flights. Turbulence is something I rather enjoy. This is a mainstay of flights, which hover over Alaska. Often times, there is so much turbulence, it’s becomes a commercial break from the three & a half hours of Gandhi magic.

Plane food is usually terrible. It always comes with thick gravy, hard roll & an exotic pudding. After a bevy of gastronomic plane creations, bathrooms, which shake in madness & plenty of people coughing, comes the landing. Suddenly hours in the sardine can has produced beauty.

Landing is my favorite part of the trip. I adore landing in heavy fog & the sensation of flying through the cotton balls. Rome, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Madrid & Tokyo look like a toy display at F.A.O. Schwartz from up above. As the plane descends, the rush of excitement builds. I love hearing the flight attendant announce “ladies & gentleman welcome to London, where the current local time is etc, etc.” Even the airline music in the background is romanticized. Various 747 planes from the U.S., France, Japan & Israel pass by.

Life is no longer in technicolor. However, airline travel is still a most euphoric experience. Although economy isn’t the lap of luxury, seeing the world from the window seat is worth every penny. Traveling is like brain candy & will always provide a lifetime of stimulation.

Dancing Cardigans

Cue the Brit pop. Back in the 90’s, Saturday morning revolved around going to fashion shows. Thanks to basic cable TV the collections from Jean Paul Gaultier to Gucci were brought to my living room.

These shows featured hosts with very sophisticated sounding transcontinental accents, models working the runway to hip rock tunes & of course, the most glamorous cities from London to Paris were featured.

It was a nice escape from my ordinary teenage existance. Even more alluring were fashion magazines. Glossy textured, filled to the brim with spectacular advertising & sumptuous photography from the likes of Herb Ritts to Mario Testino fascinated me. I typically cut out fashion advertising from magazines & used them as the covers for journals I used to write in.

Living in New York, I worked across the street from the former home of fashion week, Bryant Park. It was fun watching the fashionista crowd from my office window at 40th & Sixth Ave. However, it was more splendid seeing the people traffic(in & out of the fashion week tent) from a building rather then being in the mayhem below, which featured photographers, journalists, society types & celebrities.

The most thrilling part of living in & visiting a fashion capital is the window-shopping. I have wonderful memories of the djs spinning records in super trendy Tokyo shops. The music inspired me to hop from shop to shop, enjoying the best in street & high fashion. The music ranged from J-pop to David Bowie & even some old school hip-hop. I also love everything from observing fashion on the London underground to New York’s fashionable Nolita neighborhood.

Cabazon & Ontario, CA do not set off the fashion senses. After all, nobody ever puts Ontario in the same spotlight as Paris, London, New York & Milan. These two very suburban cities are known more for chains of burger palaces than a breeding ground for haute couture.

However, these two cites are home to the outlet malls. These malls advertise their shops from the freeway. Signs for Gucci, Lacoste & J-Crew appear like a mirage in a sea of cactuses. The names alone entice the shopper.

For me, I love ambiance. Therefore, I enjoyed shopping in scenic streets as opposed to an outlet. However, I wanted to build up my closet & took the plunge. I drove to Cabazon (in the middle of the desert close to Palm Springs). Walking into the Lacoste store was heavenly.

A row of cardigans caught my eye. They looked simply magical. I looked at the price tag & could afford a couple, since they were discounted dramatically. Visiting several shops & I walked into the desert sun, thinking “Wow, I’m actually buying sweaters & cardigans in a sweltering desert day.”

From that day on, I became addicted to outlet shopping. I found great pieces, buttoned up shirts, coats & fancy trousers for a very affordable price. Before, I couldn’t play with my wardrobe as often. With the affordability of outlets, I mixed & matched outfits with great enthusiasm.

The runways of New York, Tokyo, Milan, and Paris & London will remain eternally chic. Fashion TV shows on cable are a memory, but glossy magazines still capture my imagination.

I still love the photography & advertising. However, I can recreate the street chic look so prominent in Tokyo & London via the shopping outlets. Close your eyes, while at the outlet & imagine yourself on Paris’ Rue Montaigne. However, open them up & say hello to the food court.

Coffee & Electronic Cigarettes

Cigarettes are chic, arty & make one more interesting. Everything from French New Wave Cinema to indie films from the 90’s feature characters who love themselves a good ciggie. There is something aesthetically pleasing from observing someone smoking.

For example, French women love their Paris cafes. Their art of sipping a cafe au lait & then smoking a cigarette is surprisingly chic. Watching the air blow into the (almost) perpetually grey Paris sky is almost a work of art.

Not so glamorous, were my times smoking cigarettes behind the 7-11 in my school uniform. However, cigarettes were not so much about sophistication but rebellion. It was an escape from my right winged school atmosphere.

Fast forward into my adulthood, I was living in New York City & traveling. Cigarettes were expensive (still are). However, I found a way to budget them into my already tight budget. Some of my fondest memories were hanging out on the stoop with my neighbors. We’d smoke a couple cigarettes, talk & even put on a play or two.

There were plenty of perks with being a smoker. When I was in Tokyo, they still had smoking sections both outside & in restaurants + cafes. I loved the smoking sections in the coffee shops. It was nice & quiet. It enhanced the coffee tasting experience. The outdoors smoking section (the Japanese don’t want you to walk & smoke) was as much as a bonding experience as my stoop.

It’s an unexpected subculture for Tokyo. Tokyoites who ignore anti-smoking campaigns, love it. Businessmen, chic ladies who do lunch, Harajuku girls, punks & other Tokyo subcultures gather in that one spot with a common goal, which is to smoke an awesome cigarette. The smoking sections are set aside all over the Japanese capital (along busy sidewalks), distinguishing the smokers from the non-smokers.

On a trip to London, I bought a pack of Pall Malls. They sounded very English & proper. So, I smoked one while walking in Camden & yuck. It tasted rancid. Not even a gourmet coffee could diminish that flavor. Did I enjoy a few ciggies? duh. It was delightful having a drink at the pub & then going outside, feeling wide awake from the chilly London winter & smoking a ciggie.

Returning to the States, something odd happened. I began hating the taste of cigarettes. Every time I lit one, inhaled & blew the smoke out, the sensation remained, but I quickly wanted a mint. Two months after London, I stopped smoking. However, it didn’t take me long to start over again. My brain still loved the sensation. In June of last year, I decided to quit cold turkey. No patches, no gum, I just stopped.

Amazingly, I wasn’t craving it. Of course, I’ve snuck in a cigarette or two, since quitting. Also, every once in a while, I’ll get a craving. I tried smoking. However, this time I had difficulties inhaling the smoke. When I walk around, my fingers are still in cigarette smoking mode.

Recently, my friend Melinda introduced me to the electronic cigarette (some have nicotine, some do not). I took a couple puffs. It felt euphoric. Driving around, I could smoke my electronic cigarette in the car with the windows up. It could be smoked anywhere, which makes it great for not having to go out in shit weather.

Tokyo, New York & even the 7-11 back parking lot made for great cigarette smoking memories. London was my last hurrah when it came to chain smoking. Now, modern technology has revolutionized cigarettes quenching the craving sans the nicotine. As always, it still pairs up great with a big cup of coffee.