You can call me Gilligan

New York’s sidewalks buzz with an intoxicating energy. Art, skyscrapers penetrating the heavens, dazzling fashion statements, flashing lights and crowds, so many people indulging in infectious stimulation. It’s grand, until one becomes a shipwrecked castaway on the steel and glass island, where coconuts ain’t free.

Call it the follow up to “Gilligan’s Island” (the classic 1960’s American sitcom).Twas my last month in New York, and it became an endless waiting period. From riding subway to hailing cab, everything just bored me. My sanctuary was a beloved cocoon, my Harlem apartment.

However, my once colorful apartment lay empty. Posters, records, books, and knick knacks had been shipped to my new home in Riverside, CA. My air conditioning unit provided much needed company in the wake of bare walls and isolation.

Being stuck on the isle of Manhattan, I still had to tolerate daily life. Harlem still felt like home. Brownstones and coffee shops, it was the New York dream. While taking a daily stroll from tenement apartment to the coffee shop, I passed the perfectly appointed brownstones. They line Harlem’s sidestreets, and are needed relief from Midtown’s spiraling steel canyons.

Reaching Lenox Avenue, after an endless block, I realized this is the end. No more brownstones, baristas who know my name and waiters, who become like family. Heading downtown on Lenox, shops and cafés woke from drunken slumber.

Eyes widening, deep in thought, “shit, I’m leaving a full time job in New York, to venture into the great unknown, into a career, which I know nothing about it. With just a bit in savings (thanks, high rent) and grad school rejection letters, what would happen to my old adventurous soul?” For a moment, emotion about leaving my comfort zone actually had significance.

The Midtown skyline laughed back at me from a far distance. “You’re a yutz. You’re a yutz,” it screamed in a classic Brooklynese accent. The giant white building block jotted from the sky. It would house the ultra rich. It was the skyline’s middle finger, appropriate enough.

Though, the skyline dazzled most, I just shrugged my shoulders. “Fuck this shit, I’m going to California. I do not care if I end up a Target cashier or distinguished English professor, it will be a exciting life adventure and a return to my own native land.

After drinking coffee and reading my book, I ended up back in my humble apartment. Climbing stairs, after stairs, after stairs, I finally reached my fifth-floor studio.

Struggling for air, I happily proclaimed, “ I truly made the right decision. I will not be shipwrecked on an island and will enjoy no longer living in a walk-up. Farewell, New York, your coconuts may not be free, but you were successful at making me one grumpy asshole. Don’t get me wrong, I truly appreciate it (no, sarcasm, intended).

It’s Raining Glitter

“Mama, I’m not pretty enough to be a drag queen.” Much to my school and family’s shock, I didn’t grow up to be a drag queen. Pretty heels, fluffy dresses and lavish wigs didn’t quite appeal to a boy, who digs for his wardrobe in a pile of wrinkles clothes.

Predictably, the idea of drag queens remained fun, energetic, and admirable. While at the Strand bookshop (here in NYC), I found holiness. “Howdy, RuPaul. It was a miracle, a RuPaul prayer candle. It would be perfect to ship over to dad’s house, as a care package.”

Giggling, I (mentally) time traveled back to Christmas time at our family home in California. Father and I have opposing tastes on television shows. He prefers news and the History channel. Old sitcoms and reality shows (yes, I’m embarrassed to admit it) keep me flying across the country to watch television.

Our TV tastes reflect are diverse personalities. Dad is a marine, level headed and not neurotic. Yours truly is a bit eccentric, neurotic, oh and gay, very gay. When daddy and I agree to watch a TV show together, a drag queen gets her wings.

It did happen on a fateful and very starry night. “That’s a real lady. I don’t believe that’s a drag queen,” proclaimed, dad. The film credits to John Water’s “Polyester” bursting into the screen. Divine (one of my most famous drag queens and an icon) was the star.

As a huge John Waters fan, I found it humorous to expose daddy to a raunchy and very campy cinematic experience. Daddy repeated those faithful words, “I don’t believe she’s a drag queen. She a lady, look at her.”

“Daddy, it’s Divine in the starring role. She’s the most famous drag queen of all.” After a few glasses of wine, he glared into the screen, “oh shit, you’re right. She’s so convincing.” Laughing hysterically, culture shock rocked our family room. Daddy was enjoying John Waters’ filthy humor as much as his gay son.

Proudly, he became an instant John Waters fan. Months later, I stood in front of the RuPaul prayer candle. $18 for this? Do I really want to buy it? Convinced by dad, it was purchased. A few days later, it was shipped to California, along with a Rubik’s cube, paper dolls, and Andy Warhol knock-off portraits.

Gladness bestowed a glittery heart. I loved home. While other boys had to pretend to love football, I could watch campy films with dad and not hide my oddities. Normal is boring. A bloke in high heels and lavish wigs is not.

Coffee and Prozac

In high school, my trousers would never fit correctly, which, created a wedgie, a terribly obvious wedgie. I could throw a coat over it during winter, but my bum was unavoidable. The terribly cruel kids in high school nicknamed me, “the never ending wedgie.”

Wedgies were out of style by 1999. However, days of fantasizing about graduating high school and being an accepted freak of nature never died out, passed 1999. Uncovering my tribe became a monumental dream. I’d be the toast of the art world, an Oscar winner and Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Fast forward, if you attempted to find my art at the cinema, a museum or indie bookshop, then disappointment would engulf your soul. Although, I wrote many stories and even written the first draft of a novel, I still struggled to get my art into the world. In fact, as a thirty year old, feelings of awkwardness and aloofness never left.

More surprisingly, I was feeling out of place in New York City. Twas the geographical location, I ran away to not be an outsider. As my thirties progressed, not only was it rigorous to develop a writing a career, but change was needed, and inevitable.

New York’s stifling sidewalks were suffocating. Therefore, escaping became the dream. After failed attempts at moving to Los Angeles and Portland, escaping disappointment came in reading books.

Randomly, I sought to find the right career path. Reading and writing were the only hobbies, which tickeled my fancy. How could I make a career of that? Then, I remembered high school and the fine literature digested. Randomly, I decided to become a high school English teacher. Along with academia, I decided to make a bold step, geographically.

Upon taking my morning breakfast of a coffee, bagel, and Prozac, I checked on my frequent flyer miles. Bravely, I researched how many miles would be needed for a one-ticket to Southern California.

Having more than plenty of miles, I booked the one way ticket from New York La Guardia to Ontairo, CA. By June 1st, New York would be another chapter in lie, albeit, a very interesting chapter. Soon, Riverside would become my bohemian enclave.

With only two months left in the Northeast, I brainstormed a bucket list of experiences, still needed to be had in the city. After living in New York, on and off for nearly a decade, there wasn’t much left. Coffee shop adventures, book shopping sprees and walks in Harlem were more thrilling than a visit to the top of the 30 Rock.

Waiting out the move proved most difficult. In many ways, I was stuck in my old life, but change loomed nearer and nearer. Impatience hindered enjoyment, but attempted to be a happy (as happy as a cranky New York resident could aspire to be).

Escape through the written word became most beneficial. Would I survive the next few months of waiting? of course. Ironically, the place and institution I desired to escape turned itself into the dream of the late 2010’s. Only, I would avoid all trousers, which gave me never ending wedgies.

Psychoanalyze My Head

A whole medical team works on on my offbeat brain. Nourishing, reassuring, and medicating paranoia, anxiety and depression, my team has quite a voyage into the ultimate neurosis. Proudly, my mental ailments are viewed with great humor. As the old cliché goes, (most) arty types have a couple of screws loose. In my glittery brain, there are more screws than normal.

Finding a therapist in New York City is an obstacle course, similar to dating or apartment hunting. Everyone is always booked. The good therapists are not covered by insurance.

In the insistence of my father, I decided to go for a gay therapist. He could understand the woes and diva drama that goes along with being as gay as a Palm Springs pool party. I found my gay therapist.

Finding my him didn’t come cheap, but agreed to meet. Every week, I’d bring my neurosis to the table. Each session included breathing exercises, where I would complain. “I hate this hippy dippy breathing exercises.” He wouldn’t let me talk. Therapy is my soap box, where no topics were off limits.

Detecting frustration from his end, he would constantly ask, “are we going anywhere with these sessions?” Nodding, yes, we continued our sessions. Every time I mentioned a different neurosis (i.e. fear of bugs or body fluids), he suggested, “hey, there’s a specialist for you on that topic. I don’t quite specialize on it.”

Logging into my email, he had sent a slew of phobia specialists in Manhattan. Obviously, this guy was trying to get rid of me. Naively, I continued to see him, bi-weekly. Not being able to afford weekly, since his sessions were not covered by insurance. He researched lower cost therapists in the area. Later, he claimed that his brand of therapy was only effective weekly.

Every time, I laughed at one of my crazy antics. Fury roared from his face, “I don’t think what you did was very funny.” Judgmental, I am paying this guy so and so amount of money, and I am getting judged. It was the equivalent to being in a romantic relationship with the world’s most uptight gay man.

After missing a couple of sessions, Mr. “Psycho” therapist called.” I have a patient, who wants to see me weekly.” With those insensitive words, we ended our psychological relationship. Animosity impacted me greatly.

The conversation made me feel crazy and unwanted. It made me question my sanity. If he really did want to help me, Mr. “Psycho” therapist would’ve lowered his costs. “Fuck you, Mr. Therapist.” I moved on.

Holding a grudge was a given. Instead, I spent my therapy money on brunches, books, and vinyl records. Often times, an afternoon out with gal pals was better for mental health than some quack calling you an “idiot.” My eccentricities are worn like a fine badge of honor. A big “fuck you” to whoever doesn’t like appreciate them.

The Dream of the 90s is alive in Riverside???

(yes, this is a Portlandia reference)

Riverside in the 90’s a mystical land. An unsettling amount of isolation paired with hillbillies and grungy gen x-ers turned the unassuming suburb into a slightly eclectic mix, Gen-x rebels and nuclear families

Standing above the hills of masterful, Mt. Rubidoux, the rest of the world seemed more interesting, more cool, and more artistic. Many teenagers yearned to leave their track homes for New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.

I plotted to live in New York. Imagining a life filled with art, breaking into random song on the sidewalk, and plenty of gay guys attributed to high aspirations.

The 2000’s happened, I ended up moving to New York. I struggled for years, cleaning kitchens and washing dishes. Eventually I worked the quintessential admin job with a health insurance plan and my own apt in Harlem.

By my thirties, New York didn’t have the seem appeal. There was a boredom in the air. In fact, many big cities suffered the same plight. High rents, Whole Foods and fancy gyms were turning campy paradises into the suburban conformity we attempted to escape from.

While the major cities of the world were being taken over by 1%centers and their offspring, I plotted to leave Manhattan. But where could I go? Sure, the dream of the 90’s was alive in Portland, but I wanted something a bit off the beaten path.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, I strolled around downtown Riverside. It smelled like the 90’s, when I was a teenager heading from coffee shop to an indie flick festival at the Fox theatre.

Nostalgia built, as high winds blew rare objects into my eyes. My tootsies touched the fine cobble stone pavement. I walked toward Back to the Grind, the local indie coffee shop.

A blue grass band joyfully played for coffee drinkers. The music mesmerized, as did the artsy air. Enough with high rents and fashionable haunts, I am a child of the 90’s and Riverside. I liked my sidewalks like my men, grungy.

With cheap rents, and a sizable artistic community, I decided the dream of the 90’s was really alive in Riverside, possibly. How would I magically move back? I had a life established, New York City.

On the plane back to New York, I imagined a life of reading books and writing. I need to get paid for this grand fete. Grad school? Yes, grad school for MFA in creative writing. I shall converse with scholarly minds, while making a career out of reading books, writing, and teaching others about literature’s grandeur.

“Professor Anthony,” the gushy feeling overcame me, as the plane flew over Midwestern corn fields. Landing at Kennedy, I felt a bit more optimistic about life than pre-vacation.

Two weeks later, I returned to Riverside for the Christmas holiday. Writing samples, a thesis, statement of purposes, letters of recommendation, where due a few days after New Years.

Grabbing my lap top, I headed for Augie’s coffee shop. Gulping down a lavender latte, I prepared my portfolio. My brain went from 1980’s East Village to the Sultan Sea’s desolation. I couldn’t write or focus.

Everything distracted me. The barista’s hip t-shirt. Foam rising from my cappuccino, curiosity about the book being read at an adjacent table. I didn’t cry from frustration, just banged my head against the blond wood table.

My weeks at home were spent frantically organizing my portfolio. The blank canvass effect stressed and alluded me on certain days. Other days, I oozed inspiration, and was quite productive.

The deadline loomed, I wanted to have everything done before heading back to New York. Then distraction, lots of distraction continually dared to detour academic ambitions.

The new Star Wars flick, dinner with friends and cozy evenings by the fireplace, helped lift creative brain cells into oblivion. Relentlessly, I did everything I could to finish my college applications and writing portfolio.

On unseasonably cold morning, I had to fly back to New York. My portfolio was finished. Polishing my personal and purpose statements became grealy important.

After a full day day of travel, distraction once again became an enemy. Returning to Manhattan, I had mere hours to finish my portfolio. Pressed on time, I opened the empty doors to darkened apartment. Dashing toward the fridge, I only had whisky to hold me over.

Unrelenting, I switched on the lap top. Terribly hungry, I could only think of pizza. How I missed pizza. Rather than working on college application madness, I ended up stuffing my face with brick oven pizza and white wine.

The wine made me quite sleepy, but I still had to finish the entirety of my portfolio and application. Nearly falling asleep, I imagined an existence of sunshine, books, coffee shops, and my own car to ride around in. Motivation quickly returned.

Lifting myself from bed, I did not surrender to the wall of sleep. Everything was sent to the university. Happily, I passed out in bed. Dozing off, I would soon learn the answer to the following question. “Is the dream of the 90’s really alive in Riverside?”

  • Special thanks to everyone who sent recommendation letters, proofread and encouraged me along the way.

Witch on a Broomstick

Ideally, I would like to be a witch. Flying around in a broomstick, oh, it’s the dream. It would also be great fun to scare the little shits and ride around with black cats as sidekicks. Having a flying broomstick would mean, I wouldn’t have to step foot in another airport.

My last airport visit made me really want that flying broomstick. While bolting toward the coffee line, an evil hipster mombie (when a mom meets a zombie) aggressively pushed her stroller in front of me.

“Hey, I was in line before you were.”

“No, you looked down right when I got in line,” said, hipster mombie, adjusting her leather jacket, which looked tawdry, but cost a fortune, probably.

Grumpy Anthony (yours, truly) wanted to yell and put on a magical theatrical performance.

“You think, you have special privilege with that fucking stroller, using it as a fucking weapon to cut in line.”

Steam practically floated from my ears, in the tradition of porcelain teapot. Shock trembled through her soy latte sensibilities. However, she didn’t say much. Her baby picked his nose, merrily. She went about her hipster business and didn’t budge.

After savoring in the “Neurotic New Yorker special, “coffee+ bagel + happy pill. I strolled over to the gate, for boarding.

“Hey, your carry-on is too big. You must check it-in,” yelled the stiff, gate agent.

“I paid, specifically for group one, to not check-in my luggage.”

“We need to measure your luggage, sir.”

Placing my carry on the baggage, measuring template, it didn’t fit.

“Sir, we need to check-in that bag.”

“Dallas is where I connect planes. I’m going to California. Honestly, you people are going to loose my bag,” I am not checking it in.

Zipping open the carry on, I flattened it. Finally, it fit into the measuring template. My friend, the gate agent wouldn’t budge. She was determined to check-in my carry-on.

Thanks to my theatrical side, Dallas bound passengers received a free off-off-off-Broadway performance. Taking out my bottle of happy pills, I walked over to her.

“I’m very ill, and must board this plane.”

Trying to avoid a lawsuit or bad Yelp review, the gate agent allowed me to board the aircraft.

“Happy fucking holidays,” I shouted and ran to my seat. Delighted, I flew to Dallas. Upon arrival, I practically hugged my carry-on, whom I almost lost in airport oblivion/hell. Eventually, I was on a plane to California’s Inland Empire.

On an unseasonably frosty afternoon, I was back in my motherland, California. Reunited with my father, we laughed at my ordeal and great theatrics. Glancing into the cloudless blue skies, I proclaimed, “Shit, somebody really needs to come up with a flying broomstick. It would eliminate grumpy passengers at the airport.”

Gay Geek

The birds chirped, sirens wailed, Harlem awoke from an evening’s slumber. Weekend mornings were filled with literary stimulation. Strolling past brownstone lined sidewalks, orange leaves painting the gritty grey sidewalk; lust ravaged my heart. “Coffee, coffee, gimme coffee.”

Brownstones disappeared; tenements enchanted the hazy senses, while clouds paraded in nature’s blank canvass. More enchanting than finding the lost mummies, was finding a seat at my local coffee house.

Espresso machines steam, beans sizzled, and bagels popped out of conventional toasters. In typical weekend fashion, I take out my library of books from my murse and sip on a vanilla soy latte (my favorite weekend treat).

On a particularly grey Saturday, something went missing. “Shit, where is my Batman notebook? I just came up with another brilliant idea” I didn’t quite hyperventilate, but quickly jotted down the idea on my phone (which is not preferable).

Racing back to my apartment, I dug for my super hero notebook. It had my ideas and the outline for my novel. Digging through laundry, I couldn’t find it. Setting a flashlight underneath the couch, it became even more illusive. Sitting on my bed, I remained calm as a decaf coffee.

“It must be in that care package, I sent dad. That’s it, I accidentally sent it.” The package arrived at my father’s Riverside home. Unfortunately, he didn’t see the notebook.

Panic and paranoia settled like fog from the Hudson. Would my beloved notebook fall into the wrong hands? It terrified me. I didn’t exactly write the outline for another Pulitzer Prize winning novel, but I had an emotional attachment to story.

If someone saw my outline, they may steal my idea and publish my novel. Anxiety ravaged my senses. In order to unwind, I paid a visit to the local bookshop.

Charmed by the titles, I imagined my future novel within the shelves of bookshops, everywhere. Book sales would afford me a small craftsman style home, antique typewriter, and piles of books

“Tear, tear, but my notebook is missing. I might not ever come up with another book idea. Goodbye, craftsman style house, book signings and Cocker spaniel watching me type away.”

Retail therapy helped. I bought loads of good books at dramatically reduced prices. After admiring my purchases, another dig for that precious notebook, commenced.

Opening a filing cabinet, paperwork filled its very brim. I dug, nervously. Alas, the notebook could not be found. Feeling desperate, I sorted through the paperwork, again. Then the book gods granted me a sight grander than uncovering a rare Shakespearean manuscript.

Lit in faded glory, my Batman notebook. I couldn’t believe it. My dreams of a craftsman style home, cocker spaniel, and book signings were lovingly restored. Dead poets, authors, and playwrights paraded in joy. I grabbed the notebook and caressed it, as though it were a long lost relative.

Eventually, I kept my notebook in a safe place. Afterwards, I commenced on the third draft of my novel. If awards and acclaim didn’t reach my sensibilities, giving up on my dreams of writing a novel wasn’t an option.

Porn for Bookworms

New York City is a most ideal place to have a nervous meltdown. Crowds, noise, bugs, extreme weather stimulate the happy neurotic. Exhaustion and agony arise from the trekking up a fifth floor walk-up. With brain cells about to explode into a glittery abyss, salvation is uncovered. Lust awakens.

More potent than a handsome man’s pheromone’s, is the smell of an old bookshop. Familiar, dizzying, and nostalgic, the scent beckons me to lands far from my chaotic mindset. Marvelous little bookshops line side streets, narrow venues, and quirky tenements.

Stacking up on used books, pages slightly bent, words underlined or highlighted with flashy neon serves as an ideal happiness. While practically waltzing on the icy New York pavement, I revel in my deeply discounted literature.

As an introvert, books are merry friends keeping riveted and delighted, in the midst of fear and boredom. The “I love books more than people (most of the time) song constantly delights my ear drums, upon the reading of a new novel. A deep seeded and very first world predicament erupted into my wordy principality.

“Shit, I’m running out of room in my apartment.” My books were pilling up higher than a kite along a windy sky. With closets and kitchen cabinets cluttered with books, paperwork, and sweaters, I took a bold step for bookworms of all kind.

My holidays (and virtually every break) have always been spent at my father’s home in Riverside. I would create my own little bookshop/coffee shop hybrid in his spare bedroom. It would be like being in the world’s greatest library without a subway ride (just an expensive plane ride, of course).

Speed reading through my favorite books, they were soon on a box to Riverside. Studying home libraries, online, my heart nearly bounced out of my chest. It will be a shrine to the literary greats, which inspire me, daily.

The first rounds of books arrived. Excitedly, my dad took pictures for me. With great excitement, I booked a trip to California. Though, my home library remains a work in progress, I already have the role-playing scenario in my head.

Here it is:

I’ll walk up the stairs with my murse (man purse), eager for coffee and a day at the bookstore. Excitedly, I’ll see the books lined beautifully on the shelves and jump with giddiness. “Look, Books, Books, books! Oh, coffee, too! My, what a marvelous world.”

After stuffing a few books in my murse, it will be coffee time. Taking a seat on a very comfortable chair and clipping my own coffee card, I indulge in literary deliciousness. Poetry, novels, autobiographies, Double shot of espresso naturally follows. It will be a holiday to remember.

“What a day at the bookshop/coffee shop. I didn’t even have go on a subway to get here, just a 2,000 something mile plane ride. That is my ideal scenario.

With far out dreaming, I must wait for my next visit to make this bookworm’s fantasy come to true. In the meantime, I thoroughly enjoy my bookshop visits and the high from finding that “Charles Dickens” book, deeply discounted.

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.

A Hypochondriac’s Travel Guide

When the subway platform simmers, sweat drips like artisanal coffee. Man boob sweat happens (as a result). The sweat stains under my chest resembled a terrifying T-Rex. Secretly, I hoped more dinosaur shapes would appear.

Faster than one could yell, yabba-dabba-doo (hello, Flintstones reference), the Six train arrived. The doors opened, furiously. I dashed in and grabbed a seat. The air conditioning had a perfect chill about it. I took out Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar. It’s light reading for Emo & Goth kids, after all (insert, sarcasm).

As my train headed downtown, toward Grand Central Station, I thoroughly enjoyed my book. Then something distracted me. It was a grand sight, upon the train’s arrival at 86 the street. If you guessed, a man, then you’ve definitely been reading this blog.

My gaydar was sounding off. It sounded like Rupaul’s “Supermodel” song. He arrived, muscles, tank tops, shorts, looking more Fire land than Upper East Side. “Yes, yes, sit right next to me, please.” He did. Pretending to be glued to Sylvia Plath’s every word, I ignored him.

He was hard to ignore with so much space, our gym bunny still happened to man spread (when men sit with legs spread, way apart). Naturally, I didn’t mind. His arms were warm and smooth, like a blanket against the cold train air.

We approached Seventy-seventh Street. There was a cough. It was a hacking cough. Terror penetrated my inner hypochondriac. Oh, I hope, it’s just a little tickle in his throat.

Several stops later, the cough lingered. Like a brave New Yorker, I disregarded the notion of infectious germs. I am just kidding. Here’s the song, which played in my head.

“Oh, my god, I’m gonna die, die, die, die.”

I’m a rational fella. Coughing turned into sneezing. It even had a melody. Grand Central Station appeared, I dashed out of the subway car. After spritzing myself with hand sanitizer, I quickly dismissed my sickly, but very hunky subway rider.

A week went by. I packed for a trip to California. Excitedly, I practically broke into a happy dance at LaGuardia airport. As I read, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” my temperatures increased. Can gay guys get hot flashes? These were followed by a bit of light-headedness.

Whoops, I think it’s just hot flashes. Somebody probably turned the air conditioning off. After much anticipation, I boarded my connecting flight to Dallas. The symptoms dissipated.

Once again, I delved into “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Not even a Pulitzer Prize winning novel could deter from a quickly approaching sore throat. “Oh, no, I am getting sick, right on my trip.

The plane departed for Dallas. Flu-like symptoms persisted. I felt like death. Drained and sleepy, the plane descended over Dallas’ vast maze of freeways and wide houses. Upon deplaning, I made the most out of my layover.

When in DFW, I always head to a chain restaurant and order fajitas. I had to find a way to shake off this terrible cold. In the grand tradition of eccentric brains, I thought of a quick cure.

My grandfather always downed whisky. It cures, everything, he said. Quite honestly, it was his excuse to indulge in cozy adult beverage. Desperate, I ordered a shot of Jameson with the fajita feast.

For once, booze didn’t seem so appealing. With one brave step for the neurotic and sick, I swallowed the well-chilled Whisky. After paying my tab, the symptoms subsided. I was cured. Practically jumping in triumph, I took a power stroll through the airport.

Once again, I was on an old 747, bound for California’s Inland Empire. Halfway through the flight, my uncomfortable symptoms returned with a vengeance. This time, I had a cough, which I am sure delighted the gentleman sitting next to me.

Sick and stuffy, I finally landed in Ontario International airport (in California). After embracing my father, we headed to our family home. I grew nervous about my condition and possibly contaminating dad with these New York cooties.

That night, I was in bed, researching my symptoms on WebMd. Flu like symptoms could be associated with many diseases. I researched them all. Shit, what happens, if I am dying?

The next day, I felt like death. A little depressed, I opted not to hibernate in bed. Lavender latte cravings inspired me to put down the remote and drive with dad to our local (and very hip Portland style) coffee shop, Augie’s.

The streets of Downtown Riverside were quaint and quiet. Tiny antique shops, coffee shops, and used bookshops characterized a highly bohemian vibe. Gothic architecture was reminiscent of a glorious time gone by. Sunshine, which could fry an egg, ran a mock.

Exhausted and congested, I feared for my father’s health. If I contaminated with something, he will surely catch it, too. Nervously, we finally reached Augie’s. My taste buds were greeted with gourmet coffee.

My typical nervousness became topic of conversation. “Dad, I went on my WebMD. I think I may have caught a virus on the subway.” He raised his right eyebrow and laughed, “of course, you did. Anthony, you would know, if you had a deadly virus. You just caught cold. You’ve been traveling. It’s normal”

My paranoia dramatically subsided. I went back to enjoying my father’s company and more delicious coffee. A few days later and many tablespoons of cough syrup, I returned to my healthy and very neurotic self. It was just a simple cold.

This is the part where I write a cleaver haiku about not self-diagnosing myself. There’s a reason why I didn’t go into medicine. Excuse me, while I brainstorm the perfect poetic tribute to the hypochondriac in us, all. Unfortunately, I am too distracted with my man boob sweat. Here’s hoping the sweat stain will look like Brachiosaurus.

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