Weirdo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Town Hamlet

Earthquakes strike. Elves bolt through a patchwork of tiny village houses. It characterizes the town hamlet. A Fire-breathing dragon attacks with fury.

An Earthquake erupts. Imposing bean stocks spring from the soil, corrupting the precious cobblestone roads. This scenario exists in my head. In fact, this is my head on stress.

Here’s my head, while reading a good book. Somebody cue that song, Mellow Yellow (by Donovan). Elves cheerfully dance along fields of green. Jellybeans fall from a cloudless blue sky. Even the fire-breathing dragon is happy. He morphs into a sassy drag queen with killer heels and a blonde wig.

Back in New York (aka, reality), I didn’t see dragons in drag or merry elves prancing down First Avenue. Instead, I always find my own pot of gold, at the end of sparkling rainbow.

Across (approximately) 2,000 miles of Middle America, the Rocky Mountains, and the Hudson River, it arrived. Naturally, the pot of gold came in a standard UPS box. “Oh, my god. It’s my care package from dad.”

I opened the box with great enthusiasm. Books upon books were haphazardly piled on each other. Don Quxiote, Valley of the Dolls, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Emma & Three Lives were a few of the delightful titles. In the grand tradition of care packages from dad, he left many pairs of socks under the literary grandeur.

“Hello, stress relief.” The first book I read from the pile was “Engulfed in Flames” by David Sedaris. From coffee shops to park benches, I reveled in it’s witty humor.

Since I have a long subway commute to work, reading a funny novel always provides a nice kick. While indulging in espresso-like inspiration, handsome man sat next to me on the train. In a very New York style, I avoided him and concentrated on the words of Mr. Sedaris.

From the corner of my eye, I could see him casually glancing at the book. Soon, his eyes wouldn’t deter from the page. There was a certain connection in sharing the book together.

The elves in my head sent a signal, “talk to him, you, yutz.” A certain earthquake erupted inside of me. “Hello, anxiety.” Palms were sweating, leaving wet marks on delicate pages. More pages turned, his eyes still glued to every word. The train was closer to approaching Times Square.

Alas, I glanced at him, quickly. Unfortunately, I didn’t build up bravery. The elves sighed in misery. I left the train, without uttering a word to my literary lover. At least, I had a nice train ride. I can’t say that every day.

Books are my stress relief. I read many. They delight me. I admire authors and dream of having my future novel sold everywhere from Powell’s Books to the Strand. In the mean time, my town hamlet remains a peaceful utopia for elves and that fire-breathing dragon, who adores heels and blonde wigs.

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.

That Coffee Shop In Brooklyn

A parade, street markets, protests; it was end of summer in New York City. “Oy, I can’t deal with crowds, today,” said I. Naturally, I fueled up my private jet and set off for a trip to Palm Springs. This scenario happened in my head. Here’s what really happened.

Randomly, I hopped on the subway to escape the crowds gathered for a parade on my street. I planned on eating Chinese at my favorite mom n’ pop’s restaurant in the Village. The need for escapism persisted, while riding on that downtown train. “I need a day trip to an exotic land, I just don’t spend enough time in,” said I.

“This is a Brooklyn bound 3 train,” announced the train conductor. “That’s it, I am going to Brooklyn. It may not be Palm Springs, but by George, it’s certainly a different island,” said I. Excitedly, the train traveled underneath the very depth of the East River. “Hello, island getaway,” I proclaimed.

After a long voyage, I felt slightly jet lagged (hold the time zone change) and emerged from the subway. “Boom, hello crowds. Shit, it’s another street festival. I thought I was going to escape this,” said I. Frustration turned into euphoria. I starred at the signs, which dazzled my eyes. “Oh, it’s the Brooklyn Book Festival,” said I, with eyes open wide with joy.

I excitedly wandered around the tents, browsing the titles. Poetry, LGBT literature, classics, obscure short stories, there was something for everyone’s literary palate. I was dazzled. This was my kind of day trip. For a moment, I pushed the delete button on my jaded self. After immersing myself in the world of literary candy, I decided to get lost.

The humidity levels rose. I complained. “Oy, I can’t. It’s like I am taking shower in my own sweat,” said I, while schvitzing up a storm. Then I found an adorable coffee shop in Cobble Hill. The breeze of a well-fused air conditioner beckoned my heat sensitive senses. I bought an ice latte and pulled out my notebook. Finally, I was able to relax. It was heavenly and had the benefits of a proper trip to Palm Springs.

I took one more trip around the book festival. Shedding a tear, I returned to Manhattan. “Oh Brooklyn, you may have more baby strollers and hipsters than the average borough, but you still now how to charm a Manhattanite,” said I. Returning to Harlem, the noise and crowds welcomed me from a long voyage.

The beating drums of the parade shook my apartment building. However, I was oblivious to its effects. Instead, I reveled in my unexpected day of literary and caffeinated delights. “New York, I still love you, even with your endless street festivals and fondness of parades,” proclaimed I.

The Witty Wordsmith

New York, late winter, the sky is an intense shade of grey. The trees remained bare of any lively bright leaves. In the midst of the eerie grey, a remarkable bit of sunshine played peek-a-boo behind a rainy cloud.

On such an idyllic winter’s day, I set off on foot for St. Nicholas Park in Harlem. It’s a most wonderful park, which fades into hilly fields of green. Regardless of the cold, I’ve always adored sitting on a park bench and reading a good book. Quality time with a book is my ideal form of therapy. I fade into a character’s shoes and forget any of the day troubles.

On one riveting expedition, I sought a most wonderful park bench. As, I picked a perfect little spot for literary madness, the cold winds penetrated through my layers, and pea coat.

For once in my life, I shivered. The goose bumps on my arm grew more sensitive. At that point, I had to look elsewhere for a romantic date with my used book from the Strand bookstore.

I wandered through Harlem’s Hamilton’s Heights neighborhood. It’s the perfect backdrop for any quirky film (Wes Anderson’s Royal Tenenbaums was filmed there). The brownstones are eccentric yet sophisticated characters in their own right.

The hills have provided an escape from the quintessentially Manhattan painting. Bay windows, dramatic stoops and old world charm could inspire poets, painters and playwrights of life to create a proper work of art.

While heading up the hill toward Broadway, I was craving a hot chocolate from the Chipped Cup (my favorite coffee shop, uptown). On that pleasantly quiet Sunday, everyone had the same idea.

The quaint coffee shop was filled with patrons. I was disappointed, since I just wanted was to read a good book. So, I headed back down to 145 street.

To my disappointed, Dunkin Donuts was also filled to the brim with people. I didn’t want to go back to my apartment, since I was really craving a coffee shop. Instead of giving up hope, I took an unexpected turn.

The Eighth avenue subway provided the ears with a classic sound, which only a raspy record player could rival. I found my reading spot, a seat on the subway platform. Even though, the subway has many distractions, I’ve always found it an easy place to concentrate on a book there.

When the A train arrived, I boarded it merrily. I even found a seat. However, distraction found me. “Why don’t you put a chip in me, so you know where I am at all times, said a girlfriend to an equally angry boyfriend. They fought. They whole train watched. Trying to hold back laughter, I tried very hard to not loose concentration on my book.

The arguing heightened into theatrical satire. “Fuck it, I can’t think with this racket going on. At least, there aren’t break-dancers on this train, ” said I. “Showtime,” yelled a boy with a boom box.” Break-dancers with a giant boom box appeared from the blue to everyone’s annoyance.

My eyes didn’t leave my book. Anyhow, my brain was completely distracted. I made it to West 4th Street. Randomly, I decided a cannoli would be amazing.

So, I boarded the F train to Second Avenue and ended up in the East Village. I headed up First Avenue and into the old world charm of Veniero’s (legendary dessert restaurant in the East Village). I ordered a cannoli and opted for a cappuccino rather than a hot chocolate.

I took out my book and found a swell place to concentrate. It only took a long walk, two trains and another somewhat long walk to find my literary Zen. Regardless, my literary Zen was a whole lot better with a delicious cannoli accompanying it.

Film School Nerd

Every great civilization and individual, experiences the dreadful dark ages. From this time of recession, a renissance of art & self-expression is typically cultivated. In the dark ages, otherwise known as high school, I underwent my own time of recession.

On a simply gorgeous spring day, my mom uttered the words, which would change my life. “You’re grounded. I saw your report card. Are you daydreaming too much again?” I shook my head. “No.” In actuality, I was jet setting into the land of daydreams, where fashion, interesting people and cappuccinos ran wild.

“No TV, no movies and absolutely no music,” said mom. My eyes grew wide open with fear. What’s my life without a riveting CD collection to keep my right brain in creative/arty mod? I read books, which luckily were not banned. However, I had to find a way to keep my stimulation away from Bermuda Triangle of boredom.

In the common world of American high-school students, I grew up in a cluster of track homes. I took my walks after school along an undeveloped land. It was a little hostess cupcake of nature, until I stared to the left of me. Freeways and more track homes reminded me, ” oh yes, I really do live in suburbia, tear, tear.” As the dust flowed into skies of grey, I decided to say  “Fuck it, I am going to write a movie.”

Not yet acclimated to lap tops, my father took me to the drug store. I bought a pair of inexpensive notebooks and a few magazines. Turning the dull notebooks into a lively piece of art, I cut out high fashion advertisements from the magazines. I then started working on my screenplay.

“Breakfast in New York, Lunch in London, Dinner in Tokyo,” was the title. It was a witty romantic comedy about a journalist doing a story on a jet setting Central Park West socialite. Act I was the typical “boy meets girl” fare. I plugged away with my pen, turning the white bland pages into a world filled with glamour and wit.

While suburban surroundings left me with a lack of stimuli, I turned to my characters’ lives for escapism. There were escapades in Madrid, polo matches in England. Quickly, my characters arrived in ACT II. The story progressed in Paris. In a most cliché manner, the journalist and socialite fell in love with the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower bursting into romance.

By act III, the story hit a less than fabulous speed bump. While digging through my backpack, I noticed act I went missing. It was nothing, but a silly notebook. However, as I writer it was though a body organ had gone into oblivion. I cried and realized the emotional connection I had with my work.

The next morning, I bravely asked my Spanish professor if I had left my notebook in class. He nodded “yes.” Fireworks exploded from my head in joyful glee. By the look on his face, I could tell he didn’t approve of the Versace ad adorning the cover, which made me feel very, very hip. The saga of “Breakfast in New York, Lunch in London, Dinner in Tokyo” commenced.

Act III took place in Tokyo, where the journalist loses the socialite’s love. He regains and they live happily ever after. At the end, they both ride camels into the sunset with a backdrop of Egyptian pyramids. After writing an entire 3 act film in long hand, I considered my fete, a huge accomplishment. I thought it was a film that could be made and change the world, even though it was formulaic romantic comedy.

Eventually, I was let go from being grounded. The whole screenwriting experience led me to film school, where I received a BA in film. I didn’t grow up to be the next Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson or Sophia Coppola. Instead, I found my calling in advertising.

Today, I work in the creative department of an advertising firm, with the goal of becoming a copywriter. I live in my own New York City apartment and enjoy the very stimulating environment. While my teachers and mom complained about my daydreaming, as I grew into a writer, I realized it’s called “being creative.”

My Very Own Mary Poppins Bag

Marie Antoinette’s lavish wig collection, traveling banjo players and a used copy of Catcher in the Rye, would fit perfectly in Mary Poppin’s bag. The unique fashion item, featured in both the film and book are a hoarder’s dream. You could fit your whole life in there, then take a magical umbrella and fly around London.

Years ago, I wandered around New York with my Pan Am messenger bag. Like Mary Poppins bag, I too thought that everything including the kitchen sink could fit in. Old copies of the New York Times, snacks, a notebook, a couple books and an iPod charger were placed in strategically. Then one day, I found out that bags break.

While walking in SoHo, I felt my bag lower and then rip. I nearly cried. I ended up with a new bag and decided to make it a shrine to organizational thinking, which lasted 15 minutes, just like fame. After years, with a messenger bag, I switched over to having a backpack again. I felt like a college kid again. Then my backpack felt like an elephant was living in its tight quarters.

Therefore, I wondered New York without a bag. Then one day, after coming home from gay bingo, I noticed my pockets. They were filled to the brim with crap. “So, I decided the time had come to invest in a bag.

One afternoon, I stopped by the Strand. It’s one of my favorite bookstores in the city. I wanted one of their easy to carry, colorful tote bags, which they are renowned for. The smell of old books welcomed me into the old shop, like lavender on a spring’s day. A particular bag stood out from the rest.

William Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Homer, Herman Melville looked more like mighty super heroes, than dead writers. Growing up, their words inspired me to not only drift away into imagination land, but also take on writing. Emily Bronte and Jane Austen spoke to me “Love, buy the bag, it might inspire you having writers tagging along on your every New York adventure.”

“You might be inspired to write the next Pride Prejudice,” said Jane. ” Or Wuthering Heights, dear,” replied Emily. “Ye ol boy, buy the bag and then a notebook to write a saucy sonnet.” said dearest William. ” Just buy the bloody bag and don’t go before the wallpaper,” said Oscar. Herman and Homer simply zapped me. Soon, I bought the bag. The literary superheroes cheered.

I took my tote bag everywhere with me. They adored the New York adventures as much as I did. Having a smaller bag also meant, I was forced to only put a few items in. Sorry Mary Poppins you can keep your magical bag, I love life with my tote.

The Leaves Of Central Park

Gold leaves, brown leaves, fiery red leaves

buried in snow, covered in dirt.

Sun shining over a pristine lake, sledding the impossible terrain.

Red leaves, gold leaves, dirt covered brown leaves

floating through the sky.

Looking for a home in the wind.

Brown leaves, red leaves, solid gold leaves wondering in New York.

Flying toward the pavement, but eventually falling into green grass.

59th And Lex

The New York City subway is a collection of memories, personalities and plenty of active germs. Unlike most American cities, the subway provides quality time away from being alone and feeling encapsulated in a car. Instead, we not only catch up on the latest news and fun tunes, but leave high stress levels and honking horns to our very own cab drivers.

Throughout my time riding the subway, I have read wonderful books, shared plenty of laughs with friends & even made eye contact with the most adorable men. However, there are those times when the subway is filled with unexpected moments.

I would catch the N train at 59th & Lex below Bloomingdale’s. It was always a mad dash down the staircase and into the N train to Queens. I usually arrived at the station in time to walk toward the end of the train, which featured a plentiful amount of seats. One evening, I ran down the staircase only to see the train had arrived and I quickly dashed into the middle of the train before it left.

There wasn’t a seat or available pole to grab onto. Thanks to the evening rush hour. Utilizing my tippy toes, I supported myself by placing my hand on the subway’s ceiling. “This shouldn’t be too bad,” I thought to myself. I cranked up the Violent Femmes and away I went into charming Queens. The first couple seconds were a piece of cheesecake.

Euphoria didn’t last long, as the subway went under the East River. There were many twists and turns, soon I was struggling to keep a hold of my balance and not fall into the crowd.  I squinted my eyes and increased my hand to ceiling hold as the train emerged onto the Queensboro Bridge. Manhattan looked like OZ from a distance, dazzling and austere.

Not so austere was the final descent into the Queensboro Plaza station. I nearly lost my grip and fell. When the train let out passengers, who then bolted into the awaiting 7 train, I quickly took a seat. Never had a subway seat felt so amazing. Off, I went into Astoria. A few minutes ago, I was in agony and then my subway adventure just turned into “New York moment # 1,250, 200 and counting.

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