Love & The West Village

It happened in the supermarket, one chilly November evening. There I was sneaking in a tabloid, when my eyes looked beyond the latest gossip on Madonna to this handsome guy. I made eye contact with him & even smiled. Casually, I went back to reading the tabloid. I glanced one more time at him. His eyes met my eyes & then we couldn’t stop staring at each other.

Images of high culture dates at Lincoln Center, road trips to Palm Springs & cozy nights at the coffee shop danced in my head. Suddenly his buddy finished paying for the groceries. However, we couldn’t stop the perpetual eye contact. He walked away, reality kicked in.

I was still a teenager, but knew exactly what I liked. That experience motivated me to come out of the closet. During that time, nothing could be more beautiful than what I experienced at the super market check out line. After that I made coming out of the closet into an art form.

Fast forward to adulthood, where copy machines, rent & double shot espressos run free. I was paying 20 bucks a month for my match.com membership. In other words, twenty bucks a month to get rejected. Guess most guys go for biceps & not men in cardigans with coffee cups in every picture. I found it funny.

However, my focus went from finding prince charming to just dating. New York City is the best place to be gay in the world. There’s acceptance & a huge gay population with lots of dating options. I dated everything from the actor/model/waiter/psychic to the guy with the world’s worst music taste. Very interesting people in general.

My buddy Michael invited me to speed dating at the LGBT Center. If anything I would make a new friend. Secretly, I always thought I would make a connection with a guy there similar to my supermarket experience. I took the subway to the West Village on an icy January night.

We all had to pay to get in. When I arrived there was a smorgasbord of guys. Twinks (skinny hairless guys), otters (skinny hairy gay guys), bears (heavy set & hairy) & daddy bears (older bears) were all represented. I met up with my buddies Michael & Dylan. They broke us up into groups. We all wore badges with numbers next to it.

At the end of the night, we wrote down the guys we fancied (indicated by the number next to their name). If we mutually picked each other, a date would follow. Michael, Dylan & I were not feeling it. So, we picked each other as our match. Walking out with two guys, I felt like a Casanova. Feeling happy to be out of speed dating, we headed to the diner. Laughs & story telling commenced over a cheeseburger deluxe with a soda. It was such a wonderful bonding experience.

We all want to be the prince residing in the tower serenaded by a handsome man. Of course, that fluff only happens in gay fairy tales. However, we’re so busy looking for love that we forget about the wonderful people in our lives. Dates come & go, but friends & family will always be there. As will my memories of love at first sight & speed dating for that matter.

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The Road Trippin Beatnik

Driving in through the Arizona desert in a 50’s Chevrolet while Buddy Holly’s voice echoing through the rugged terrain. Dressed in all black with cigarette smoke drifting into the bright blue skies. Destination: New York City. The penance for taking such a trip is driving through endless scenery of great boredom. Pressing on, means I’ll soon be trading in the desert, cornfields & waffle houses for Greenwich Village.

This is how a road trip fantasy plays out in my head. It’s a bohemian expedition, which exposes one to fly over state America also known as those on the fringe of New York & San Francisco culture. Sure, it’s a fantasy of mine to see those unexpectedly on the fringe places. Jack Kerouac’s ” On the Road” & Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” are two of my favorite books. Though some language is outdated, the stories haven’t lost what makes them interesting.

I love the beat movement in literature. Sure, it could be translated as the hipsters of the late 50’s/early 60’s. Unlike hipsters, the movement gave way to boat loads of wonderful modern literature.

I’m no beatnik. However, the idea of driving across country has always tickled my fancy. Honestly, driving is not one of my favorite forms of transportation. That’s why I loved living in New York. I could take the subway, read my paper & listen to the iPOD sans the stress of looking for a parking spot or sitting in gridlock.

In California, I’m no stranger to the car culture. As a youngster, my family & I took magnificent trips up the Central coast. We visited such charming places as Solvang, a Danish inspired town close to Santa Barbara. Cambria is the most memorable destination for our family. I haven’t been in seventeen years, but remember it well.

The pebbles on the beach, chicken fried steak with mash potatoes for lunch & the struggle to find cassette tapes that weren’t Country music still make me smile. After Cambria, we didn’t road trip much. I learned to drive, but hated it even feared it for a while.

When I moved back from New York, the moment of truth presented itself. I had to drive a car again. At first it was quite terrifying after being a subway & bus kind of guy. Back on the East Coast, my road trips revolved around the Chinatown bus, which took me from Manhattan to D.C., which were fun, but long.

To my surprise, I picked up driving again rather quickly. I drove my car from home to office without an issue. My various trips to such exotic destinations as Riverside & Palm Springs felt bohemian thanks to my very coffee house friendly iPod playlists. My favorite for road trips to Palm Springs include music by Suzanne Vega, Tori Amos, Simon & Garfunkel, Rufus Wainwright, just to name a few.

If it’s an early morning trip back to the city, I love new wave 80’s music, which wakes me up like black coffee. I like to make my driving experience euphoric. Finding street parking, getting tail gated & sitting in gridlock are pitfalls of living in car centric California.

I wouldn’t call myself a beatnik, although being around the East Village during that time seems fascinating. I do love wearing black & especially interested in our country’s collage of different cultures. Driving is a fear, I’ve overcome thanks to making it a creative experience. Listening to cool tunes, reading the funny billboards & admiring architecture + nature along the way make it a Polaroid photo for my eyes.

Pea Coat Wonderland

Pea coat season, also known as “soup season” is the only season that makes me want to moon walk for joy. Technically, it’s winter, but chilly days also occur in the autumn. During this most lovely time period, peacoats come out to play. Whether it’s the tube in London, New York’s Madison Square Park or Tokyo’s neon playground, the peacoat is synonymous with the cold & staying chic.

Of course, observing the different variations is what I adore. Thanks to the art of people watching, I can see the same grey pea coats look bohemian on one person & business like on another. People watching is both a skill & leisure activity. It’s more entertaining than an opera. The characters are more enticing than a book & it rarely gets boring.

I have many fond memories of just enjoying a bench or sidewalk cafe, while being immersed in people watching. I also take much inspiration from this activity. Seeing how other socialize & studying mannerisms sculpts my thinking & perception of the world. Here are some of my favorite memories & places when people watching seemed more interesting than ever.

Madrid’s La Zarzuela is Spain’s very old comedy opera. It’s performed in the lovely Teatro de La Zarzuela. In the Spanish capital, it’s freezing in the wintertime. Outside the opera house, it’s a sea of fur coats. In Madrid, fur coats are not only very fashionable, but highly desired especially for the winter. Castilian accents accentuate the Madrid fashion staple outside the opera house. Also, it’s lovely seeing all the young people intermingling with the old people. Everyone there has a common goal, to see a Spanish operatic tradition.

In New York, I adore taking the 86th street/crosstown during the day. The old people taking the bus are adorable, all dressed up, going to the market & lunch. It’s amazing & shows people can be stylish regardless of age. I love Tompskins Square Park in Alphabet city with its mix of homeless, wannabe hipsters & yuppies. There’s always a crowd gathered to watch a musician or a magician.

However, nothing beats the gay pier also known as Christopher Street pier in the spring. It’s a gathering place for gay guys. Everyone having a great time, lots of speedos & some kitsch added. The gay pier also feels like a small retreat in the middle of Downtown. Hanging out on the deck, watching the Hudson is euphoric. Seeing the New Jersey skyline reminds one that yeah this is nowhere near a vacation spot.

Paris’ cafes, it’s a French institution, which made people watching into an art form. Sure, the most cliché way to watch people is in a Parisian cafe. Even I’ve been guilty of watching people traffic from a cafe in the Champs Elysees (doesn’t say tourist at all). Le Marais, which is an eclectic mix of Jewish families, gays & tourists is my favorite place to people watch in the city.

Palm Springs, this is a special mention. Yes, I go to places, which aren’t covered in fog & clam chowder, sometimes. I love driving into Palm Springs with its very distinctive white windmills & mountains, which rise like skyscrapers from the ground up. Watching the world go by at the pool is entertaining. Poolside is not the catwalks of Paris or New York. It’s interesting to see the body art. Lots of tattoos, body types & loud music blaring, served with Jameson on the rocks & it’s wonderful free entertainment.

The Ginza district & Harajuku both in fashion forward Tokyo. Ginza is moneyed. All the Japanese ladies in their finest black designer outfits sip coffee. Some even stroll around in kimonos. While men in very expensive looking suits & ties play on smart phones.

Harajuku is the youthful funky, fun loving cousin to Ginza. Musically Ginza is Pavarotti, while Velvet Underground & Bowie symbolize Harajuku. Lots of crepe stands & everyone wants to rebel against the system in Harajuku, the fashion is more over the top than anywhere else. Grab a crepe & watch a different kind of neon parade go by.

People are like pea coats. Similar styles, sometimes matching colors, but regardless that exact look is different on people. Six continents & living in two coasts has been a blessing. I’ve been exposed to a social hotchpotch of cultures & best of all amazing opportunities to people watch.

Street Culture

The most efficient form of transportation is my two feet. Put a swell pair of sneakers, some wonderful tunes & prepare for an endorphin kick. Back in New York, walking was a huge & very important part of my life. Of course, not just for going from apartment to subway to office & back again, but also leisurely speaking.

I loved taking the subway to 14th street/Union Square. I’d then walk to the East Village with the Ramones blasting on my iPOD. I loved admiring the mom n’ pop restaurants, which represented nations from Poland to India, the vintage shops & interesting people watching.

From Saint Mark’s Place, I’d walk to the West Village. I especially loved walking on Bank Street with it’s too pretty to be real brownstones. On Bleecker Street, I had a favorite bench across from the Magnolia bakery for a quick rest. I then proceeded to walk back Uptown. Walking the streets of the city always provided free entertainment & a wonderful opportunity for exercise.

I also plan on my holidays around feet friendly destinations. Here are some of my favorite walking memories from my many trips abroad.

-Walking Buenos Aires’ Avenida de Julio (the world’s widest street). The Obelisk, French architecture & the papers flying out of windows (was there around new years, they toss out paper work out of office buildings for good luck) made for a very cinematic experience.

-Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. It’s the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing. You see everything from school kids to hip Tokyoites to businessmen not bumping into each other in the world’s most congested people traffic. Also the jumbo sized tv screens offer lots of nifty music videos & distinctive noise.

-London’s parks, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park, they’re all very scenic. I especially love St. James Park with views of Buckingham Palace & lovely ponds with ducks quacking away at life.

Currently, I live in Southern California (again), where the walking concept is somewhat foreign. It’s a health nut/berries & leaves of the forest loving slice of the world. However, in order to walk here, you must drive to your destination. Giving into pre-requisites, I joined a gym & power walked on a treadmill. Three different cable news channels, sports & local networks dominated the television screens. However, it lacked the street culture I adore. Then I jogged & after fifteen minutes I grew awfully bored.

Therefore, like any good urbanite, I said to hell with the gym. I started walking on actual pavement, rather than a treadmill. The air was as clean as the language in a Quentin Tarantino film & the architecture as stimulating as watching cornfields sway in the wind.

However, I blasted some Blondie & made the best of my location. Sure, it wasn’t Paris, but I escaped into my imagination & came up with new story ideas without distractions. Sometimes, I even discovered a home with a distinct architecture (for the area) or a wonderful Korean BBQ in the middle of a strip mall.

Even with living in a car-centric culture, I find a way to walk places. Making the best of my surroundings. Whether cosmopolitan Paris or random Riverside, I keep my passion for walking alive. As long as I have a nifty pair of sneakers & cool tunes, the walking adventures are always stimulating.