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.

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.

Skylar

Before Tinder, Grinder and whole lot of selfies, there was Interactive Male. Late night on cable television, perfectly tanned, buff, and handsome guys appeared. “I met my man on Interactive Male.” His equally handsome look alike appeared on screen. They smiled.

Quickly, I jotted down the number. Wow, its toll free, I am so going to meet a man on there. He’s going to look just like the buff hunks on the television ad. Naturally, I called the number.

Here’s how interactive male worked. You called the number and recorded your message for eligible bachelors. Mine went like this:

“Hi, this is Anthony. I am eighteen, aspire to attend film school and have been to Europe, twice. I live in Riverside and looking to meet some men.”

After recording, you could listen to other guy’s doing their best butch male voices and decide, who sounded sexiest. No faces, of course. I scrolled through the list of voices. One voice seduced my queer senses.

“Hi, my name is Skylar. I’m blond hair, blue eyes and twenty-years old. I’m not exactly out of the closet. So, I’d like to meet a guy, discreetly.” Skylar had the stereotypical gay voice, with a touch of shyness.

I was fascinated and left him a message. The next day, I was flooded with messages. Eagerly, I pressed the digits to access my voice mailbox. Alas, I couldn’t access it, without paying an extra fee.

“What’s this? The number said, toll free. If I pay extra for Interactive Male, my parents will throw me to the dungeon. They’ll think I’m calling the sex hotline for dirty chat.”

I always wondered if Skylar had left me a message. Was he my soul mate? For years, I forgot about Skylar and Interactive Male. Then after a 90’s revival concert, my friend and I reminisced about the good old days. Mentioning Interactive Male, I told her about Skylar. We laughed.

Inside, I wondered, what happened to that awkward boy over the phone? Did he come out of the closet? Or did he delve deeper into the dark abyss, where fabulous frocks were replaced with Tommy Bahama shirts? Skylar would always remain an obvious mystery.

Nowadays, I see faces, lots of faces. Dating apps have taken over. No way of hiding the dad bod, these days. So, I proudly strut myself. I do miss the mystery of Interactive Male.

Lack of visuals made the men more enticing, especially if they had a sexy voice. Somewhere in the galaxy, Skylar is laughing about his Interactive Male days, who wouldn’t?

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.

Grumpy Bird

I spent countless hours drawing owls. Happy owls, grumpy owls, eccentric owls on Xanax, they lived harmoniously in a modest sketchpad. With a soundtrack consisting of cheesy show tunes and angry 90’s alternative rock, I turned anxiety into art.

The owls were a perfect distraction from the madness in my head. With every stroke of the pencil, I became increasingly passionate about my art. With my owl family tree hooting their lives away, I grew surprisingly tired of drawing owls.

I took a giant leap for (would be artists) everywhere. Inspired by cartoons of my youth, I began drawing Beavis & Butthead. The sketching proved a challenge for a new artist. “Oy, I just can’t draw, I just can’t draw, I need to go back to writing,” I would say to myself. The obvious negative thoughts attacked my peaceful bohemian existence.

My first sketches were disastrous. I doubted my sketching abilities. While the negative thoughts persisted, I took a coffee break. While fueling the latte economy with my caffeine dependency, I was determined to re-draw Beavis & Butthead.

Cranking up the best in Broadway musicals, I put specialized pencil to a blank page. Carefully following the contour of each character, I drew a carbon copy of Beavis & Butthead.

The fear of fucking up quickly died. Rather than fearing failure, I made the drawing experience, enchanting. Daria, Doug, Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear & even Charlie Brown, I drew them all. Upon opening my sketchpad, the characters made me smile.

Quickly, the art bug bit me, again. I had great aspirations for a pop up/3d art project, utilizing cartoon characters and a shoebox. I designed the characters and daydreamed of a land within a shoebox’s confines. The madness, which ravaged my brain, was (in turn) producing interesting art.

Though, the shoebox, pop up/3d art project continues to develop, I revel in every moment. Rather than hurrying along, I spend many hours, daydreaming. I found a new calling through visual arts. It was unexpected and scary. With great bravery, I continue to lovingly sketch my life away.

Bear and the Forest

“I first visited New York in 1973. There was a garbage strike. It (obviously) stunk. I found a hair in my pizza. The subway was gross. It exuded fear. Don’t go, you’ll get mugged,” said, my mother.

She had the same monologue, anytime New York was mentioned. Her heart stayed true to California. Unintentionally, her grim descriptions ignited a life long fascination with New York City. I yearned to ride that filthy subway, observe crazies in their natural habitat, and experience the deafening screeches of car horns.

On a humid day in 2000, my native California tootsies touched New York pavement. I was awaiting a decaying paradise. Instead, I found a cheerful island to (eventually) call home.

Broadway theaters sparkled with camp. The food delighted awe-inspiring taste buds. Sky-scrappers collided with the sky.

New Yorkers were quite friendly. They helped me find that puzzling tourist trap, I yearned to see. Sadly, I returned to suburbia. Naturally, I brought home a suitcase full of Broadway memorabilia. Eventually, I moved to New York City.

Several years, three apartments, and too many bagels later, I found myself lovingly jaded. Everything became second nature. The subways were maddening. Rent kept increasing and favorite haunts slowly closed. I had graduated from that wide-eyed (Riverside, CA) transplant to a jaded New Yorker, with an opinion about everything.

I attempted to keep the love affair burning with flames of passion. Long afternoons at my favorite indie bookshops, museum trips, and coffee shop visits couldn’t mend the jaded heart.

Increasingly, I fantasized about misty Portland. Schlepping my groceries into a craftsman style house, eating bacon with every meal, and gazing into hills adorned with pine trees, it warmed the heart. Longing for the Pacific Northwest, I had to consider it just a fantasy and find a way to embrace New York again. It was a rigorous task.

On a Sunday afternoon, I headed to the Sidewalk Café. It’s a favorite boozy brunch spot in the East Village. I complained about New York and it’s many parallels with Anna. After a mimosa infused brunch, we strolled the East Village. It was cold. The sky had a golden tint.

We headed to the shrine of vintage clothes, Buffalo Exchange (not very hipster, insert sarcasm). Japanese punk music blasted. Quirky fashion delighted my eyes.

I helped my friend pick out 90’s inspired outfits. We laughed. Enthusiastically, I browsed the colorful wracks. Wow, for once, I wasn’t dreaming about bacon and pine trees. I was actually relishing the moment.

Afterwards, we left the shop, a little hipper and happier. Donuts, coffee and a crosstown stroll, my jaded heart melted. It was a temporary relief. The next day, my jaded heart stayed happily intact.

Throughout my years, I learned being jaded is a wonderful thing. It’s a badge of honor. Mostly, it says, I’ve lived life, seen quite a bit and questioned everything.

Although, New York has become more predictable, it still retains thrilling moments. Awaiting a Broadway performance, good conversation at the local dive, and enjoying Tompskin’s Square Park will always brighten up my day. It’s almost as wonderful as a touching New York pavement for the first time.

Geekdom

Before pimples, braces, film school, New York and coffee addiction, there was Garden elementary school (in Riverside, CA). It produced well-behaved and impeccably mannered private school children. Inevitably, I was the lone rebel.

Staring at brick walls, detention, and infamous phone calls with my parents remained a mainstay of elementary school memories. Nothing symbolized my zany brain like my desk.

Fridays were known as feather duster day. Our principal would tour the classrooms. The class with the cleanest desk would win the feather duster and receive additional recess time.

When the class would lift their desk’s interiors, books and paperwork became a shrine to organization. Nervously, I awaited her reaction when she peered into my desk.

Books from Charlotte’s Web to Fudge-A-Mania were scattered. Crumbled paper work, broken pencils and cassette tapes representing 90’s grunge were a shrine to childhood disorganization. Her eyes widened in disgust. “Mr. Alas, your desk is a mess,” my principal would proclaim.

Naturally, the well-organized future lawyers and doctors of the class were displeased. They gave me the death stare. I shrugged my shoulders and threw more crumbled up paper planes into my desk.

Eventually life took me to Geekdom. It’s what I lovingly call my New York City apartment. It remains a shrine to geeky living. The Star Wars theme played on repeat.

Like Mars, it was desolate. I had always been the only inhabitant. It’s served as an ideal retreat from the annoyances of Manhattan’s glittery existence.

Aliens, dinosaurs, and unicorns paraded freely as figments of my imagination. Geekdom resembled my elementary school desk perfectly. It was cluttered.

The closet and kitchen cabinets had been filled to the brim with linens, books and old paperwork. Wall Portraits were lopsided. My bed hadn’t been made. I was drowning in a sea of clutter.

Everyday, I walked in and declared, “today, I will organize my apartment.” When I actually arrived in my home, nothing was actually cleaned. The tiny hills of paper work, clothes and books threatened to obstruct my sanity.

I laughed off my disregard for organization. Lovingly, I declared it, “creative chaos.” With the embrace of chaos, I grew tired of dramatic expeditions to find a missing Isabelle Allende novel or that black cardigan.

I grew tired of digging. On a spectacularly spring morning, I uncluttered Geekdom. The man made hills were flattened. Exotic novels discovered. Sanity emerged from the rubble.

Geekdom was resurrected for my alien, unicorn, and dinosaur friends to stroll freely (without tripping on random boxes). I was delighted, too. Shockingly, I grew to enjoy the perfectly organized closet and book collection. It brought continued peace into my unconventional existence.

However, I wouldn’t take a one-way trip to Type-A personality land. I still needed that one cabinet filled with crumbled-up paper work and magazines. Disorganization exudes comfort. It reminds me of my childhood and chaos, which remains inspirational.

No feather duster days here. I was proudly disorganized. Even in a Type-A world, I stayed true to my Type-B self. No brick walls to stare at, just art formed in the hills of used books, sneakers, and cardigans. It was home. It was Geekdom.

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.

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