The Geriatrics Crowd

In a pleasant ranch home in Los Angeles’ Mar Vista section, stereotypes had come to die. It was my family’s Fourth of July reunion. Nobody ate healthy salads, worried about dieting, or drank anything with Kale.

Instead, a chubby pig roasted over an open fire. Initially, we all noshed on Cuban appetizers (Croquettes and little sandwiches). It helped quench hunger for an hour. However, the seductive air of roast pork awoke taste buds.

In a corner table sat, the “Metamucil Mafia” (old people, not an actual mafia). Rather than gambling and trading dirty jokes, the “Metamucil Mafia” had eyeballs bulging in despair. Concerned, I sat at the geriatric’s table.

“Are you starving, Anthony,” asked Auntie Melba.

“My stomach is growling in pangs of hunger,” I replied.

“Nephew, I love how straightforward you are,” said, Auntie Melba.

The geriatrics table grew increasingly gloomy. Everyone just stared at each, depressed. Mr. Piggy over the fire just kept on cooking and cooking and cooking.

Hours dragged on. I went from calm to hangry (when hunger meets anger). I leaped from the table. The startled seniors stared on.

“Why don’t we smuggle in a Domino’s Pizza?” I asked.

Their eyes lit up.

“What happens if someone catches us, “ asked Aunt Amarilis.

“We’ll eat out in the driveway. I’ll order it. My treat, “ I said.

At first, everyone was skeptical. When hunger took over, they shook their heads in agreement.

I pulled out my phone and designed our pork friendly pie. Sausage, pepperoni, bacon, it was a clogged artery’s wet dream. The seniors looked joyful again.

By the time I was about to push “order,” something miraculous happened.

“The pig is ready,” shouted my cousin.

The seniors forgot about their arthritis and rushed to the front of the roast pork line. They avoided greens and just went for the meat and potatoes. After returning to our senior friendly round table, we feasted on the pork.

Everyone stared at each other. We could read our minds. The pork had the consistency of a rubber band. Although, we would usually complain, hunger made the rubber bands taste scrumptious. Eventually, everyone regretted not ordering a pie. It would’ve made the Metamucil Mafia a bit more “bad ass.”

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.

The Little Bookshop

When I blew the candles on my eighteenth birthday cake, obvious life changes followed. It was my last year of high school. I had my first kiss ever. I also received my SAT results, which made me cry in agony.

In the midst of life changes, I opened myself up to new life experiences. Literature was a retreat from the mundane. Naturally, I gravitated toward independent bookshops. One bookshop in particular garnered my attention, Midnight Special.

I visited the old Santa Monica bookshop on trips to L.A. It had exposed brick walls, a maze filled with books, and a distinctly bohemian vibe, in the midst of yuppies and chain stores.

The travel section was my favorite. London, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Amsterdam and Paris, I traveled to all of them, without leaving the cozy bookshop confides. While en route to the Eiffel Tower, I stumbled upon the gay and lesbian section.

My only exposure to LGBT literature had been through magazines. I glared at the books and picked one. The author had signed it. Enthusiastically, I read through each page. It spoke to me.

Raw desire, guilt and camp, my eyes delved into every word. I picked a desolate corner and reveled in finding a relatable novel. I wanted to buy the book. Nonetheless, as an unemployed high school student with a conservative mom, it wasn’t going to happen.

On each trip to L.A., I delved further into the novel (I couldn’t find it at my local bookshop). It was my first lusty affair.

I wanted to buy it, while my mom wasn’t looking. As we reached Santa Monica on a blue-skied day, I anticipated more queer literature. Excitement reached my fingertips. Enthusiasm serenaded a rainbow stripped heart. My eyes longed for word porn.

Mother and I made our way through the Third Street Promenade, packed with tourists. I longed to read my book in a dark little corner, invisible to the eye. Suddenly, my mouth widened in shock.

Midnight Special closed to make way for an Apple Store. Worst of all, I couldn’t remember the novel’s name. The lusty affair ended. I suffered a great loss. My mother couldn’t understand why I appeared upset. I never told her. Time passed and I never saw that book again.

Through my voyages to Midnight Special, I came to appreciate literature more. As an openly gay adult, bookshops became miniature retreats. When life in New York (where I’ve lived for years) became too hectic, I found a little dark corner at the Strand (bookshop) and escaped. Inevitably, I still experienced lust with the written word. It had the same electricity. It was grand.

Flying Saucers Over New York

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

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

New York City-Present day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beverly Hills

“The fashion is so much better in the fall,” declared I. Cardigans, edgy leather jackets and decorative beanies epitomize New York’s high fashion season (also known as fall). In one very exotic part of the world, t-shirts with band logos, baseball caps and shorts are synonymous with fall.

“Fuck, shit, fuck, is this a parallel universe?” asked I, nervously maneuvering the confusing zigzag of freeways. The coffee house radio soothed my anxious soul. “Did I enter the Twilight Zone, you ask? Quite frankly, it did feel like the twilight zone. The parallel universe, I speak of is known as Los Angeles.

On a warm autumn day, I drove into L.A. from my dad’s house. It had been years, since I had last driven a car around la la land. The idea was frightening.

Like brave warrior, I took on the mission to drive to Los Angeles. Thinking of my friends smiling faces kept me motivated. When I finally reached Los Angeles and found a coveted parking spot, I almost did the happy dance. That morning, Nicole and I went out to brunch at a cafe near Beverly Hills.

“Hello, culture shock,” declared I. Los Angeles was obviously different from New York. The crowd at the cafe was more casually dressed than their New York counterparts, yet everyone was perfectly manicured and chiseled. I felt out of place, especially not having visited L.A. in years.

As we walked out of the cafe, the sun was blaring. I was schvitzing in my cardigan. Strategically, I kept my composure, even though a more terrifying fete would follow me. As the day progressed, I was continually attacked by a case of the mental jitters. I drove from Beverly Hills and faced the greatest challenge of all

“Oh shit, I can’t find parking,” said I, once I reached Santa Monica. In the Southern California town, which best epitomized laid back-ness and charm, I circled around the neighborhood attempting to find a spot.

“Oy, there’s a fire hydrant, can’t park here. Fuck, that guy is hot. Shit don’t hit that parked car. I think I’m wasting a lot of gas, driving around here. Oh shit, I give up. Why can’t L.A. just have a subway system as extensive as New York’s?” These were the questions, which plagued my cranium.

In one exhilarating moment, the palm trees swayed and birds chirped. I looked to the left and saw a vision. “Oh my god, it’s a parking spot, ” said I, while nearly crying in joy. I turned my car around and was ready to pull a U-turn. Then the parking spot gods laughed in my face. An old hippie took my beloved parking spot.

My face became motionless and my tears of joy morphed into river of agony. I parked in front of Tom’s apartment. He met me outside. Internally, I declared my hatred for L.A. and it’s many unnecessary obstacles. After forty-five minutes, my car finally found it’s resting place at a parking lot with 3 hours free parking.

We found a restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean and enjoyed a glass of wine. Something unexpected occurred, while staring into the blue waters and dumbfounded tourists, it happened. “Wow, it’s very calm here. This might be the wine talking, but L.A., you are too damn laid back and relaxing, and that’s just great,” said I.

L.A. has never been New York and that’s the point. Its not about high fashion, public transportation and tenement apartments. L.A. is relishing in a bowl of avocados, basking in the lack of exotic sounds and most importantly, taking a hike in a real-life hill.

The legendary California sunset faded into a starry night. Like any good L.A. tourist, I had a hippie dippy evening. With my fellow California native, Audria, we ate ice cream, the Venice Beach way.

It didn’t have dairy or processed sugar, oh it tasted like Venice. We sat on busy Lincoln Blvd and reveled in the legendary ocean breezes. With hippy dippy ice cream, I celebrated my trip and wonderful friendships.

Afterwards, I drove to my father’s house, feeling less anxious and neurotic. I faced my fear of driving again and didn’t let culture shock, ruin a positively wonderful day in L.A.