Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A slow start to 2015

Happy 2015! Hard to believe this is my first official post of the year, but it's been a pretty slow month for me. I got sick a couple of times (once from eating too much roast pork, the other time from a nasty cold) and that has curtailed my social schedule a bit. But there have been some significant events I want to document.

The second Saturday of this month I met up with Piper, her mom Karen and her boyfriend Ben at Great Jones Cafe for dinner, then we went to a bar called Hill & Dale for drinks. Then we all went back to Ben's apartment and they played Cards Against Humanity while I observed and left early to go home. I figured since Piper and I are planning to be roommates, it would be a good idea to meet her mom - it was Ben's first meeting her as well. So it was nice to add Piper to the short list of friends (Puck, Katie B, Chris, Kacey & Becker) whom I've met their parents.

The following weekend, Puck and I attended Katie’s 25th birthday party, along with six other guests – all women from Bryn Mawr, Katie’s alma mater. For a present, I gave her the 1978 paperback copy of “The Tolkien Reader” that I found in the stacks at Papacookie - last year, I'd given her a new copy of Tolkien's "Unfinished Tales," so it's kind of a thing. I also gave her a card that said something like, “For your birthday, I wish you rainbow kisses, teddy bear hugs… but watch out for unicorns. They’d just as soon gore you as look at you.”

After a dinner at a Turkish restaurant near St. Marks, we set out to look for a bar to continue the party. After striking out at a couple places, I suggested going to the Boxcar, where I had visited for Lytle's birthday ("Thanksgiving 2014" - December 3, 2014) and it turned out to be a good choice. So I was happy to contribute to a successful birthday party for one of my dearest friends.

The next day I had some wonderful one-on-one time with Liz. She helped me take down my tree and put away the ornaments, and then we disconnected the sofa sectional and moved furniture around to prepare for my Women's Poly Group the next evening. We went out to Kung Fu Ramen on 8th Ave, and then to Amy's Bread for cake, which we brought home to eat. Then she went home to get ready for her performance with Josh reviewing "Return of the Living Dead" at the PIT that evening, where Victoria and I met up and watched from the audience. 

The next day, Puck's grandmother Zoya passed away at the age of 90, the third grandparent to go in just over a year. What an awful string of bad luck their family has endured, what with Sandystorm destruction and now losing so many people in succession. And then the next day I fell ill with a severe cold that kept me home for three days and caused me to miss Zoya's funeral. I spent most of Saturday in Staten Island helping to sort through all the leftover effects to make room for more stuff coming from Zoya's apartment.

At least the next generation seems to be doing well, with Maya growing into a beautiful little girl and Kira starting to get bigger. On Saturday, Puck and I taught Maya the single fist-bump, and she apologized to me in English at the dinner table for splashing me with borscht, which was super-cute. She kind of reminds me of Pearl a bit, although I didn't really get to know Pearl until she was 5.

Otherwise, I've just been recovering from my cold. Piper, Liz and I came up with the menu for the Oscar party, and Piper, Puck and I have our tickets to see the Best Picture Showcase marathon on the 21st. Andrea is going to join us too, so it will be a nice group of people like last year when Josh came. But the entire month of February is going to be packed with events (plus our apartment search) leading up to that final weekend, so I'm just resting up to get ready for it.

Friday, January 02, 2015

2014 Christmas ornament

As longtime blog readers know, each year I choose a single ornament for my Christmas tree to represent the year. In addition, I also get the annual Angel ornament from the Metropolitan Museum, which I did back on the 22nd when I visited the Met with Kacey. We met at her favorite Miro ("Photo - that is the colour of my dreams") and went to see the Holiday Tree before having a late lunch in the Members Dining Room. Afterwards we met up with Becker in the crowded insanity of Rockefeller Center to watch the lightshow and window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue.

It felt right to close out the year with them for the holidays since we started this year with their wedding. And as I said in my post back in January, the corsage Kristina made for me for the wedding now serves as my 2014 ornament, representing this joyful milestone.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 in review

When I ended my year-end post from last year, it was with a quote from Frank Herbert’s novel Dune"Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken." The changes I thought might happen at the beginning of 2014 didn't happen the way I expected, but instead led me in other, unexpected directions.

The year 2014 started out with Kacey and Becker's wedding, where I was asked to emcee the reception and gave a toast along with the rest of the wedding party. There were a lot of firsts for me - my first bachelorette party, my first time participating in a wedding as anything other than a guest, and my first meetings with Kacey's and Becker's parents and extended family, plus many of their friends (Jonathan, Emily Dawn, Kirsten, Deborah, Amanda) I hadn't met before.

The three of us embarked on an apartment hunt that was ultimately unsuccessful, but even though we chose not to co-habitate, we remain the best of friends and they are both among the most important people in my life. And the inner work that I did to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for a move was not completely for naught, as Piper and I are discussing now the possibility of becoming roommates in 2015.

Kacey and Becker's wedding was one of two weddings (and one funeral - Puck's grandmother passed away in September) I attended this year, the second one being a much more modest affair in September when Agnieszka and Mike got married at their home in Cranbury, NJ. Speaking of family things, it was also a pleasure to finally meet Chris' family in Harrisburg over Thanksgiving, the first time I've spent the holiday with anyone outside Puck's family.

This year also marked the start of events at Hancock Street, a new Papacookie of sorts hosted by Miriam, Rijard and Anna, which is a welcome artistic community in my life. This year also marked the launch of other artistic collectives by Emily Dawn (Whimsy) and Storm (The Conversation) and I was honored to be present at both. My own creative life reached some peaks this year with the success of the Unchained Love Playwright Competition showcase for Open Love NY and my annual Free Love Letters project.

My personal highlights included a trip to Coney Island with Puck, Chris and Bruce, and visits to the original Nathan's hot dog stand and Totonno's pizza parlor, plus concerts by Tori Amos (with Lori) and Lykki Li (with my coworker Jennifer), and I saw several Broadway shows and plays this year - PippenMatilda and The Real Thing with Liz, The Book of Mormon twice (with Piper and Katie B, and with Natalia), Kinky Boots with Puck, Hedwig and the Angry Inch with Kristina, and Cabaret with Beth, Andrea and Lori.

And of course I attended a great many other plays with my many theater-minded friends - The Watson Intelligence, Dutch Heart of Man, Love and Information, A Thousand Words, The Feminism of a Soft Merlot, Father Comes Home from the Wars, The Other Mozart, Bitten, NYC Icon Plays and numerous performances at the PIT and at Shotz, plus my first exposure to Murderfist and the New York Neofuturists.

Although I didn't see very many movies in the theaters this year (most of them with Kacey and Becker), I had a wonderful Oscar viewing party at Times Square Movie Club (my apartment) that Liz and Piper helped me to host. Piper and I - in addition to our annual Best Picture Marathon date (with Josh tagging along) - started the year watching horror movies for our regular one-on-one time and now we're in the midst of going through the Wes Anderson catalog. Natalia and I started a POC marathon that skewed toward the martial arts, and now we're going to try and redirect to more queer themed movies. Hopefully if I move with Piper next year, we'll have a good space for home movies the way TSMC has been.

As far as an overall theme for 2014, I think this year was probably more marked by changes in the lives of people close to me than changes in my own life. Two of my closest friends got married, and we said goodbye to a grandmother and a beloved rabbit. But I also continued down the path I started last year toward building a long-term intentional family around me, even though the path didn't wind the way I thought it might go.

For 2015, I wonder what the future brings for me and Puck, who is back in New York after being off in Stony Brook, St. Petersburg, Boston and Philly for much of the past several years. I'm also excited about the possibility of living in a new space with Piper and what changes that will mean. I look forward to another wedding in 2015, this time in Pennsylvania with Chris and Bruce, where I will be a bridesmaid for the first time ever.

But most of all, I want to recommit myself to the work of self reflection and examination that leads to personal growth and being open to change. I've been very content these last few years and it's been in many ways a wonderful break, but now it's time to get back to work. I hope that I am up to the challenge I've set myself.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

It must be something about the holidays that brings a touch of melancholy, no matter how much I tell myself that I'm doing fine. And things are generally OK with me and I had a pleasant, although a bit exhausting (due to travel) Thanksgiving in Harrisburg.

Picking up from my last entry, Piper and I had a nice dinner at Print, the restaurant on the ground floor of the Ink 48 hotel, where I had my 10th birthday party in July. We had a lovely charcuterie plate and entrees, and after dinner took a quick ride up to the roof to view the night sky, although the chill wind was a bit much, even for me.

I took 11/21 off and hung out with Kacey at her place, working on my Free Love Letters project while she organized some files. I brought my redundant iHome music box to play my iPod and left it there, since she doesn't have a stereo. When Becker returned from work we went out for soup dumplings and headed over to Storm's event entitled "The Conversation," an interdisciplinary think tank meets artist's salon of performances and idea generation. I didn't really interact with anyone besides Kacey, Becker and Storm, but it was a pleasure to meet Milah, a young actress who played Storm's daughter in a film, and Storm gave me a surprise invitation to speak for a minute at the end of the night about polyamory and safe space.

On Saturday Kristina came over to pick up an air mattress I lent her for some houseguests and we went out to Gotham West Market to have dinner at Ivan Ramen. It's a really cool place, like a food court but fancier. There's even a photo booth where we took some silly photos together.

We came back to TSMC and kept the ramen theme going by watching Tampopo before it was time for me to leave for Lytle's birthday party at Dream Baby, a bar near Tompkins Square Park. The bar was super-crowded, hot, and loud when I got there, and more people kept pouring in. I gave Lytle a quick hug and a small present, and then stepped outside for a breath of air. Liz joined me for a bit until we got too cold and went back in. Liz's friend Nancy also came, as well as Victoria.

Eventually I couldn't stay inside and went to the bar next door, Boxcar, where it was completely empty except for the bartender, Josh. When I walked in, Josh got off the phone and started to turn the music up, but I told him since I was the only person in the bar, I preferred the music down. I sat at the bar and we talked about Scotch, a topic which he had some knowledge about. He served me my first Scotch, a 12-year Macallen single malt. Eventually Liz, Nancy and Victoria joined me and we had our own little side party for the remainder of the evening.

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving I took the day off and met up with Kacey and Becker at the Upper West Side Shake Shack for a quick bite and then to watch Interstellar at the Lincoln Center IMAX theater. It was very powerful and emotional, although not gratuitously so. It was more thought-provoking than emotion-provoking.

Early Thursday I started out for Harrisburg and returned 36 hours later, which involves a subway, train, cab and car ride, then the reverse coming back. Chris' mom warmly welcomed me to her home. She made a point to genuinely thank me for being a wonderful friend to Chris, to which I replied no more than she has been to me. Chris and Bruce's new home is lovely and spacious with a comfortable guest room and a massive home theater, where we played MarioKart 8 and watched Silver Linings Playbook until it was time for bed.

Friday I attended Katie M's Friendsgiving dinner, where everyone brought tons of leftovers and I got to see Katie and Amy's apartment on the Upper East Side. The rest of the holiday weekend was filled with laundry, cooking and basketball games. I made my first soup by boiling leftover turkey bones, plus a bourbon bread pudding. Sunday evening Natalia came over to watch the first half of Red Cliff, and we finished that up last night.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Love letters

I got a whopping 10 love letter requests for my annual Free Love Letters project. This is really becoming a thing in its fourth year!

The first year, I only got one request. The next year I got three. Last year I got five. So it's growing exponentially!

I was especially pleased with the variety of people who asked for letters. It runs the gamut from my closest friends and intentional family to people I barely know. Two people I've met in person only once. Two requests are repeats from last year. There are people who used to be close to me years ago but had drifted apart. I have two requests from overseas, my first international requests. This is getting to be a global project!

So I've done four of the 10, and I guess I've done the easiest of the four. So if you're one of those wondering where your letter is, please be patient. Each letter is the result of deep reflection and research on our history in my blogs and social media sites, plus a few hours to create, package and mail the letters. I promise you will be happy with the result when it eventually comes!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Houston trip

It’s been quite a while since my last update, but not all that much has been going on. Work has actually been pretty light, especially considering that it was last October when things shifted into a higher gear and have pretty much stayed there for the past year.

The social highlight was two Fridays ago at the Rocky Whore-r Show at the PIT, where Josh performed as Riff Raff. I met up with Liz and Andrea for Josh’s one-man stand-up comedy show Maniac directly before, and then Katie M came for Rocky Horror. Liz bought us a bag of props to use during the show – newspapers to cover our heads during the rain scene, toasted bread to throw during the dinner toast, a party favor, playing cards and toilet paper. This is Liz and my second year going to the show together, and it’s such a fun show. It’s like my little “Perks of Being a Wallflower” moment (although there’s no chance I’d be press-ganged into performing like Charlie!)

Since I didn’t get home until 3 am and I still hadn’t packed for my flight to Houston the next day, I ended up missing my 1 pm flight and having to rebook for a couple hours later, which wasn’t at all inconvenient actually. It just meant I got into Houston at 8:30 pm instead of 5:45, so I had a little less time to visit Norm and Meador, my only two old-life friends who live in Houston. Norm and I worked side-by-side together for seven years at TxDOT, my first full-time communications job. They are grandparents now, and expecting two more grandchildren next year. We talked about old times and Norm gave me all the scoop on our little family of TxDOT retirees.

Sunday I had planned to meet up with my third Texas friend Linda, but she was too ill to come down from Nacogdoches, so I had the day to myself. I started with a breakfast at El Rey Tex Mex, built in what used to be a movie theater and later a Hollywood Video store I used to frequent. The restaurant has been featured on some food shows so I’ve always wanted to try it out, and the food is pretty decent but not extraordinary.

Next I went to the Half Price Bookstore in the Rice Village to buy some music, since my rental car didn't have an iPod hookup. I bought a bunch of CDs from the clearance rack for a buck or two apiece, and also picked up a book called “Hollow City,” the follow-up to Ransom Riggs’ bestseller, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” which I had finished during my extended trip down from New Jersey the day before. This is a series that Lytle recommended and I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

From there I went to Texas Art Supply and found some handmade paper for my annual Free Love Letters project, plus they were clearing out their remaining supply of Parker pen refills so I bought a bunch of those, plus ink refills for my Pelikan and Monteverde pens as well. Many of my friends have NRG-branded Parker pens, so I figured they would all need refills soon too. I also visited the Rothko Chapel, as I always try to do when I come to Houston, and Cactus Music and Tuesday Morning, but didn't buy anything else since I didn't think I could bring much more in my luggage. But that didn't stop me from checking out the Nordstrom's Rack and Marshalls and picking up a couple skirts and tops, plus even a couple pairs of shoes. I find good shoes in my size so rarely that I can’t afford to pass them up, plane flight or no. I got takeout dinner at Feng Ling, one of my favorite comfort food Chinese restaurants where the food hasn't changed at all in the more than 30 years I've been going there.

I also got it in my mind that I might find a plush bunny in my hometown, since I haven’t been able to find one in New York. I looked at several department and toy stores, and finally found one in the children’s section of Neiman Marcus, a floppy-eared Jellycat rabbit that I named Dusty.

The actual reason for going to Houston was for an all-hands Communication team meeting, which was held at the visitor’s center at Bayou Bend Gardens - actually a pretty lovely spot for a meeting. We all went to Brenner’s Steakhouse next door for dinner Monday night, which was also a nice experience. I’d been to this location back when it was the Rainbow Lodge and full of stuffed animal heads, and not the ones like Dusty. I stayed on an extra day, working in Houston on Wednesday (did some more shopping) and came back late Wednesday night.

On Saturday I finished up a couple of love letters before going to see Joan’s play, “Sweet Sweet Spirit” at the 14th Street Y, which is an unexpectedly nice theater venue. The play was good, but since I don’t have a connection to my birth family, it didn’t really move me, even though it takes place in Texas. Still, it had an authenticity to it that I could appreciate.

I left directly after to meet up with Illona and Tom at the BAM Rose Theater to see “Birdman.” That was a fun movie, especially because a good portion of it was shot on my street in Times Square, at a bar that I pass by frequently. We got ice cream at the Cold Stone Creamery in the Atlantic Terminal and sat on one of the benches to talk until security chased us out when the mall closed.

Yesterday I visited Kelly at Salon SCK and got the red in my hair replaced with bands of bright blue and fuschia, which is actually more subtle than the red. I also made a pulled pork shoulder stew in my slow cooker, and Natalia came over in the evening to watch “Winter’s Tale” and to retrieve her plant that has been sitting on my altar. I wanted to get ready for Samhain this Friday, when I will do my annual ritual to charge a new pendant for the year, so that’s what I’ll be focusing on this week.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Free Love Letters 2014

Finally, we are entering the dark half of the year, my time for creativity and renewal when for many people the opposite is true. And for me, October is a special month for a number of reasons. It ends with pagan new year (Samhain) on Oct. 31 and time for the cycle of the year to start anew.

Looking back on my life, October is the month I most associate with love because I've actually met (officially) all my previous lovers in the month of October. And even though I'm not in a pair-bonded relationship now, nor am I looking to be anytime soon, I think love is something to be celebrated in all its forms, not just sexual or romantic love.

This year has been filled with love from my intentional family, my dearest friends, who give me the love and emotional support that I need in a life devoid of the usual sources for such support. It is perhaps by not being in a relationship or seeking one that nourishes such deep feelings and connections with my closest friends.

Three years ago I started a project to mark October as my own month dedicated to love. I came up with an idea after reading this article in the Wall Street Journal"Stationery's New Followers" - Aug. 25, 2011

I wanted to do something to celebrate love that didn't have anything to do with a specific person. The idea of love is bigger than one relationship between two people - love is what binds us all together and the most powerful force for good we have in the world. This is why I'm an advocate of polyamory and helping people find new ways to experience love. I sincerely believe that if there's more love in the world, it will make the other problems we have easier to handle.

Also, I wanted to do something for the sake of art, without any other purpose or agenda beyond putting something beautiful out in the world. So each October, I write a personalized love letter to anyone who requests one by sending me their physical mailing address. Repeat requests from past participants are encouraged!

Everyone who gives me an address will get a letter - guaranteed - whether we've known each other a minute or a decade. Each love letter will be handwritten with liquid ink on cotton fiber paper (so as not to harm any trees) and sent via U.S. Mail - not by email, text, IM, Twitter or Facebook post. I'll even spring for international delivery for anyone overseas.

Your letter may be long or short, funny or sincere. It might be perfumed or decorated with a wax seal. It might recall some tiny, distant memory of our time together, or it might be five pages long if we have a history. It might be lyrics to a love song that reminds me of you. It could be a story I've always wanted to share with you, but never found the right moment to tell it.

But whatever it is, it will be honest, and it will be about you and me - and whatever is between us and how it relates to the experience of love. And for those moments it takes you to read it, you and I will share a personal and physical connection that is so rare in this fleeting digital world.

No response will be expected - the letter will be my gift to you, in honor of all the love that has found me in Octobers past. All letters and requests will be kept confidential on my end, but you're certainly welcome to share the experience publicly if you wish. And obviously, requests received after Oct. 31 will have to wait until next year.

Lucky streak

What a wonderful whirlwind week it’s been!

Friday night was poker night for Nearing employees. Now, a lot of people at my company make a lot more money than I do, so it gets a little cutthroat at times. But the game is usually fun, and it’s good to make some personal connections across the company. I started with a $40 buy-in, and usually I’ll lose it all midway through the night and then just deal the cards for the rest of the night, which I enjoy doing. I like being in charge, I guess.

The last time I played, which was several months ago, I walked out with about $50, but this time around I doubled my winnings, netting $100 in profit. I had terrible hands at the beginning, but I folded most of them and waited patiently for Lady Luck to come around to me and eventually my cards started to improve. I won several hands in a row with three-of-a-kinds, although I suffered a costly beat by a straight one of those times.

I stayed over at the host’s house since we stopped playing at about 2 am. In the morning I drove back to the office and walked to the train station, giving thanks for my lucky night and wondering what the beautiful new day would bring.

I planned to have dinner with Natalia Saturday night, but since I was feeling so lucky, I asked her if she wanted to try a Broadway ticket lottery, and we decided on The Book of Mormon. I took a nap and went out to meet her at the theater for her first ticket lottery. I've been trying to win this lottery for more than a year – in fact, the Lottery Dude knows me by name. I gave up on it for a while after Piper took me and Katie B to see it earlier this year, but I wanted to see it again from better seats.

Now, since I've entered this lottery at least 40 times, I usually write something silly on the home location instead of New York. This time I wrote “The Far Side” and dropped it in the barrel. Natalia got her entry in with just seconds to spare.

I can’t really describe the feeling upon hearing my name come out of Lottery Dude’s bullhorn. He surprised me by saying "From New York" because he obviously knows I'm local. Something I have been wanted for so long and endured so many disappointments – for it to finally happen was an incredible euphoric feeling! Natalia and I screamed, and I got some well-wishes from the crowd as I made my way up. People tend to be more enthused the happier your reaction. Our tickets were in the boxes on the left side of the stage, so we were much closer to the action, but far to one side. Still, they were great seats for $37 each.

As we waited for the house to open, Natalia and I tried a new ramen shop on 9th Avenue called “Kung Fu Noodle House.” They served dim sum in addition to ramen, so I introduced Natalia to the art of eating pork soup dumplings. They were OK, but not the best I've ever had – I doubt any can really top the ones I've had in Hong Kong, but there are even places in New York that are better.

The show was wonderful of course, and I enjoyed it more than the first time I saw it. One reason was that the seats were better. The second reason is that I was more prepared for the profanity and raunchy-ness that caught me off-guard the first time I saw the show. So we had a wonderful time and Natalia enjoyed the show as well. I was happy that we had a special night together since she’s had a rough go this past week.

Sunday I went down to Brooklyn to attend the annual New York Audio Show, my second time at this event. Unlike last year, there wasn't any Classic Album Sundays presentation, so I just wandered around and poked my head into room after room, listening to demos and talking to some of the vendors. I met Dr. Hsu of Hsu Research, a well-known maker of subwoofers that is now branching out into a full line of speakers. I also attended Michael Fremer's turntable setup workshop at the end of the day – he’s probably the foremost expert on analog playback in the world right now, and edits the AnalogPlanet.com site. He set up the turntable at last year’s event when we listened to the Talking Heads album “Remain in Light.” Here's a Stereophile post about it with a photo of me in the front row, taking pictures. I bumped into him as he was leaving the show and told him what a huge influence his writings have had on me, and my newfound appreciation for analog (yes, he's really that short).

I bought a few things at the show: Chesky CDs of Rebeca Pidgeon’s album “The Raven” and the a cappella album “The Persuasions Sing U2” from Chesky Records' Laura Cella (seen in this Stereophile post), plus a multi-channel SACD of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” And of course I entered a few drawings to see if my luck will extend a little further. I left the event and stopped by a nearby Hill Country Barbecue for my first meal of the day, an order of ribs, sausage, green bean casserole and cornbread. The ribs were as good as any I've ever had; the sausage was a bit disappointing. Texans - even former ones - take their barbecue very seriously!