Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Back at Home with Mom September 2011

  
 Dear readers: I apologize for the long absence here is the continuation of our vacation blog



I once read a scathing story about how poorly Martha Stewart treated her mother during the filming of one of her holiday specials. Apparently she was serving up some sort of stew to her TV guests in a hollowed out squash bowls and her 80 plus mother wasn’t properly dishing it into the squashes. She asked the cameras to stop and she gave her mother what for right there in front of the cast and crew. She hurled a few invectives and pointed out her mother’s incompetence repeatedly and made her do it again until she got it right. When she was relatively satisfied with the old ladies performance she asked the cameras to roll to catch it and her mother somewhat shaken carried on trying not to look too ruffled. Apparently Martha’s Mom was used to being spoken to like this. When I read that I was horrified-really I was. Now in retrospect, I am not entirely sure the tale had a shred of truth to it. After all- Martha got rich and successful by being fairly uncompromising and expecting a lot out of others. That sort of thing can come back and bite you in the ass. ( Or so I have heard)  I always figured when I became rich and famous I would go the “Liberace route” and treat MY Mom very well giving her the best and spoiling her something fierce. She always did well by me so it seemed it only natural to return the favor. Unfortunately I didn’t have Liberace’s  or Martha’s Money, I only had my common sense which I felt gave me a very good idea as to what’s best for my mother. Unfortunately, she always had trouble coming around to my way of thinking.

After our pizza dinner we bid Momma good night and Orlando and I settled into the 30 year old twin mattresses, in my mother's guest room. My nasal passages were irritated. My mother is a smoker. She is hardcore about it too. Growing up I was immune to it, but after a year of living away from home I found coming home to be unpleasant on the ole nostrils. After being away for 4 or 5 years and returning I began to notice just how MUCH my mother smoked and how BADLY she required her cigarettes. When she lit up in her tiny kitchen it drove me three rooms away, because there was no ventilation. My last summertime visit to my home was cloyingly humid and I arrived only to give her a brief hug and start begging my brother to help me remove the storm windows and pull the ancient rusted screens down. "THIS is what you should do Mother if you are going to CONTINUE to smoke-always always have the windows open so the SMOKE HAS SOMEWHERE TO GO." She'd fidget and look somewhere between embarrassed and angry-but mostly angry. Her favorite sitting spots became apparent as the little yellowy brown nicotine stains formed above on the ceiling. The irony  was that at all the while I was admonishing her during my visits to Vermont, I'd fly back to San Francisco and attend a party, have a few cocktails and inevitably bum a cigarette from a friend. I am 47 now and have learned the damage that even one cigarette can do to me. My sedentary lifestyle and high blood pressure and family history of heart disease are the perfect ingredients to add to a cigarette to give me a heart attack. No kidding folks. It also helps that Orlando is a reformed smoker. He is just like any other addict and says there are many days when he craves a smoke but neither of us wants to "kiss an ashtray." The Cigarette is an enormous sense of comfort to my Mother and a major discomfort to the rest of her family. It wasn't always that way. As little Cooley boys, perfume and cigarettes made us think of Mommy. My brother Peter had a real problem forever trying to break the cycle of dating women who smoked. Thank God he finally did. We all did. Particularly me lol.  I never could tolerate kissing a smoker unless I was blind drunk.

 Mom has since downsized and sold the home I grew up in and moved to an apartment which –oddly enough-is about as big as the 200 year old Farmhouse she raised me in. Tomorrow was my Mother's true 80th Birthday even though we were celebrating it with family on Saturday. Orlando and I had arranged for dinner out at a restaurant in Montpelier with just her and my father. It was always iffy when Dad spent time with my Mother. They had been divorced since I was 19 years old. He lived a half an hour away from her in the town of Randolph. Since the divorce, Mother had a pattern of "wearing down" after spending more than say 2 hours with my Dad. This could happen sooner if my father chose to engage in a teasing session, which was never handled with good humor.If I caught it in time I'd squash it before it went too far, but sometimes he didn't just tease her.  He would do simple thoughtless things -like arrive to her home and expect the family pattern to resume of her waiting on him. He might sit in her seat where she always sits, and then she wouldn't say anything about it and stifle her irritation only to have it erupt at a bizarre moment during a quiet family conversation. Or she would go outside and smoke. I was always at the ready like a fireman with my water hose to put out the potential flame. Lando sensed my tension and frequently rubbed my shoulders and hands through out our stay but he also thought I was over reacting a tad. Remember he comes from a Puerto Rican Family. They raise their voices. My family just raises their eyebrows…in disapproval at people who raise their voices.                                          

We arrived the next night in at the restaurant in a timely manner. I sniffed my favorite cashmere sweater and wrinkled my nose at the scent of tobacco. I looked over at Lando and he gave a knowing sympathetic look back which honestly I didn't expect. Earlier that afternoon I had just gotten a lecture about how maybe I had expected too much out of my 80 year old mother. After all, (he pointed out)  didn't I work in a place where many were under 80, but were in such bad shape they had to live in a skilled nursing facility? Wasn't it remarkable that my mother was so mobile and doing so much with her life?  I thought about it and yes. Perhaps I was taking her for granted. He had witnessed me suggesting how she organize her freezer, organize her time, explore her creative side, etc etc etc. I had TONS of suggestions for my Mother for how she could make her life better but I didn't seem to have anything to say how well she had DONE. Being the sensitive lady she was she frequently had more cigarettes on the porch the more suggestions I made.

                                                                  

Dad said that he and  Mom should split their dinner once he saw the prices on the menu. Orlando and I reminded him he wasn't paying for dinner and he frowned disapprovingly and continued to badger my mother with his idea of splitting the filet mignon. There was logic to it considering they both ate like birds but hey -it was her 80th birthday for cryin out loud. I could see he was getting the best of her hearing her vaguely controlled yet frustrated protests that she wanted her own dinner. I calmly reminded her it was her night and Dad didn't have any say in the evening. She just sat there and looked like she wanted a cigarette. "How about a cocktail?", I suggested. Our sweet 12 year old waitress wasn't as fast or as savvy as I would've liked, but this was Vermont and she looked apple cheeked and wholesome and endearing instead. The margarita arrived which helped and the talk came to appetizers, and O & I suggested the fried calamari. I was thinking she would love it because she was a huge fan of deep fried clam strips and well hey -"la meme chose" -in my opinion. I really didn't get far because she knew calimari was squid and recoiled at the thought. I made the mistake of persisting. I even told the waitress that we would like a platter. My mother snapped at the poor child, " Aren't you going to ask ME what I WANT??" before she she even had a chance to. "Well of course Mam" the flustered little girl said. There was confusion. Mom thought we were EACH getting a plate of calimari. Most folks over 80 can't handle an appetizer -let alone finish an entire entree. I mentioned as much in a very domineering tone. That's another thing my family is good at. Tones. As the waitress walked away mother burst out that SHE REALLY DIDN'T WANT THE CALIMARI, SHE WANTED THE CHEESE NACHOS INSTEAD!! I stared at her as a parent would a willful out-of-control child. Orlando pressed his hand against mine and said in a low insistent tone that meant business "honey-go get the waitress and change our order NOW." I knew to the very CORE of my soul that my mother would LOVE the calimari and that she was behaving badly due to too much Charlie (my Dad) exposure but arguing the point right now was clearly going to be to my detriment. I rushed after the child waitress and smiled as sweetly as I could but she still looked frightened. I spoke gently. "sweetheart, would you be so kind as to change that appetizer order to the nachos please?" She bobbed her head vigorously and dashed off. For a second I thought that maybe I had scared her. Before I returned to my seat I stopped the bartender and pointed out our table. I told him to never let the lady's Margarita's run dry. He said he'd do his best.  I returned to the table and my mother carefully avoided my gaze but I brought about this false bright tone to try to brush off the calimari/nacho outburst. Orlando was good at being his jovial self as per usual and my Dad really loves chatting with him. When her second cocktail came out, I brought my phone up to take a picture of her enjoying it but my camera wasn't focusing properly and I was chiding my phone for improperly working-but Mother mistook that as criticism directed at her. She fidgeted & turned to my father and said, "see? he's doing it again!" and Orlando piped up with " His Phone Lois !!! He's yelling at his phone -not you!" That seemed to calm her.
                                                                          
The rest of the meal went without incident. The waitress came back and took some mediocre pictures of all of us with Dad's very expensive Nikon. We tipped her well. Birthday wishes were granted. Dad drove home and Orlando and I watched a little TV on her little TV while she headed up to bed. Before she went upstairs she stuck her head into the TV from and said, " You might want to start thinking of all the good things I've done in my life." I raised my eyebrows at her and said in an even tone. " I might?" "Yes" she said, "You might. ...Good night."  I smiled. "  Okay….I will...Night Mom"

I was prepared that I would want some "vacation time" in Vermont as well. I had a visit with my Aunties scheduled and then I had booked a couple nights at a bed and breakfast where no smoking was allowed.

You should know that my mother sent me an email a few days later when I returned to Oakland. She said, " My friends said I should've tried the Calimari."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Bingo Bitch and coming Home

Our Happy Hour visit concluded with the James and Tim,  and we said our goodbyes  and walked towards the bars in Greenwich Village. At the Eagle we had heard that Bingo at The historic Stonewall Inn was THE thing to do on a Monday night for Gay New Yorkers. I was excited simply because I was going to be at Stonewall and Orlando was kinda jazzed about playing Bingo. A drag queen was the hostess for the game and unbeknownst to me she had been doing it for a very long time. We arrived at the Bar when we thought everything was supposed to begin. I saw a very large, fatigued  , platinum blonde drag queen who looked like she had had a very long night the evening before. She was setting things up for the Bingo game. We presumed she was the emcee.  It was puzzling to us that the event was scheduled at 9PM and she was just finishing setting up 9:10 and there were only a few people drinking at the bar. Orlando, looking very much like an excited 6 year old- went up to her to clarify the starting time. She reared back a bit with this look of indignation and said, " Speak English, I can't understand what you're saying."  Orlando was astonished because he was quite sure he hadn't slipped into Spanish, so he repeated the question about when the game started. She tried to focus on what he was saying, and her face screwed itself into the expression of an angry grotesque looking toad. "Where are you from? " she asked with sarcastic incredulity. He paused a bit, unsure whether he wanted to continue receiving this attitude and then told her. She snorted in disgust when she heard the answer, but gave him the information about when the game usually got going in a weary why-do-I-Have-to-deal-with-this-tone. She then lumbered to the other side of the room to continue setting up. Orlando came back to me brows furrowed. "We're not playing fuckin Bingo with that Bitch! I'm not supporting her game." "Oh?" I said with a false bright tone. When he was offended, it was best to just listen and go with the flow. She royally ticked him off with the "Speak English" comment and I have to admit, when she said "Where are you from?" it came off like " Bitch-do you know who I am? I patted Orlando and told him with all the drinking we had just done we might as well have dinner anyway. It looked to me that the Drag Queen had had a very hard night the previous night. Her makeup had a sweat-shiny see-through quality to it making me think that every movement she made required an inordinate amount of effort. When we returned to the Bay Area we later learned that this queen -whose name is Kenny Dash, is a Bitch. I mean to say thats her schtick- BEING a mean bitch to the Bingo participants. Had Orlando known that going in to the bar, he may have been entertained by their little dialogue  but I doubt it. I also was told that Kenny can be a fairly good natured conversationalist given the right conditions, but it was rare.

So we ate. We saw many restaurants but it was this elderly little Italian guy that came out and saw us looking at the menu that made us go in. He claimed to be the owner. The food was pretty good. Now only if they could get it in the right order. They brought out my entree when they brought out Orlando's salad course. The waiter was beside himself with apology. We finished our meal. It was our last night in New York. We popped into a few other bars, but the evil jet lag was still there and a good heavy Italian meal-no matter what order it was served-was like taking a giant sleeping pill. We went back to the hotel and went to sleep.           


                                                                                             

As we drove out of the city the next day, I said goodbye to every building I could. I promised the city we would be back soon. Before I knew it -we were in Vermont and I was at my Mother's front door. Sniff …Sniff Sniff. Not too bad. I was smelling for cigarette smoke. My mother is a chronic smoker and I expected the house to reek like an ashtray. She lives in a two bedroom two bath apartment that has two floors. She moved here more than a few years ago when she sold the house I grew up in. It was good to see my Mama but that cigarette smoke was going to be a serious issue for Orlando and I. After giving her a good hug, I glanced over at her special sitting chair at the kitchen table. This is the place where she sits and schedules and plans and reads and annotates and smokes a cigarette while she does it all. I looked up at the ceiling and there was no yellowy brown spot there…..yet. ( To be Continued)                                                     

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jimmy and Timmy or James and Tim


After our little carriage ride through the park, I had expressed a very touristy interest in traveling to the top of the Empire State Building. I confirmed with James (aka Jimmy to me) on the phone about cocktails at the Gym Bar, at approximately 6:30 in Chelsea. He suggested we skip the Empire State Building and head over to the top 40 Rockefeller Plaza, since we were right there anyway. The view promised to be just as breathtaking and not nearly as crowded. I informed Orlando of Jimmy’s suggestion and Orlando took the word “Rockefeller” and heard the word “Chrysler” instead. So without me knowing it he took me to the Chrysler building when I was thinking the whole time that we were headed to 40 Rock. In the end, I was excited to see the Chrysler building anyway, because there was a familiar idiom I grew up hearing my mother say and I wanted to see if it was true. The infrequent times my Mother was industrious about housecleaning she would always say, “ I want the floor to shine like the top of the Chrysler building.” I had no real picture in my mind of the top of the Chrysler building but I had a made up one. I figured it was flat and very shiny. When we arrived to the Chrysler building we learned that people are not allowed to travel to the top. Luckily the lobby provided much beauty to admire.                 
                                                             
Another expression I grew up hearing came from a harried friend who used to babysit these absolute hellcat children. She’d always answer the phone with their screams and shrieks in the background saying, “Grand Central Station, how may I help you?”.  Well I finally got to see Grand Central Station too!!! Now –as I think back on it, I don’t know how my friend ever picked up the expression. I suppose she got it from some TV show. To the best of my knowledge she only had been in Vermont and rarely left the state anymore than I did in that time period. She was too busy raising horses.


                                                                                      



After a brief period of refreshment back the Chelsea Pines,  we headed over to the bar to meet Jimmy and his partner Tim. I couldn't believe I was going to finally meet Tim. ….ok...I know I know – Jim and Tim it's too cute right? It is probably why there is “James” these days. ( I think I would’ve done the same thing if I were Jimmy. )  When they first started dating I think I teased him mercilessly on the phone about it crowing “ Jimmy and Timmy !!! “ and then cackling with glee. Jimmy is very discreet. In fact he probably hates that I am blogging about him right now but he IS an actor and he might as well get used to people writing about him. His partner Tim, on the other hand is very used to having opinions being written about himself. Tim Acito is a playwright who had success with an Off Broadway Musical called “Zanna Don’t" I was lucky enough to see his musical produced at the very same theater that I did some fundraising for when I was the Bay Area Cub 2010. The musical is downright adorable. It's about a world, at a high school ,  where homosexuality is the way nature is intended and heterosexuality is considered freakish. There's magic too! A cute, sexy, young man with a wand skips around the High School like Cupid making people fall in love with one another. The play was a hit for the New Conservatory Theater Center in San Francisco and the casting of some plus sized folk, with real bodies seemed to add to its appeal. The Musical is a rather joyful, bouncy, show but certainly not without its edge.
                                                     
I was a bit nervous about meeting Tim. If he was a successful New York playwright -would that mean he would be an asshole?  The men that Jimmy dated in San Francisco nearly 20 years ago were all across the map personality-wise so I only had this show to base Tim's personality on. I was such a butter head I couldn't honestly remember Jimmy telling me a lot about him. I knew he had told me some things on one visit because I had pressed him but the information from Jimmy was -as usual -so carefully non-descriptive. Clearly I am the blabbermouth girlfriend of the two of us.  I thought an awful lot about "Zanna Don't" and the show it was and the messages it conveyed. I don't think a jerk could've thought that up.  Then I remembered  when I produced the P.A. Cooley Show many years ago that "P.A. Cooley" kind of became everybody else's idea of who "P.A. Cooley" should be about  and well -gosh I was just so grateful that they were helping me out for next to nothing -who was I to say anything? ….Oh that's right -I was P.A. Cooley.  So I imagine with the meteoric success of Zanna Don't that Tim had gone through 30 times as many chef's in the kitchen than I had. I eventually decided to just stop mentally preparing for meeting Tim and take him at face value. This greatly relieved Orlando because he was very very tired of me talking about it. Prior to them arriving, this vivacious Dominican little flight attendant took a shine to Orlando and I, and was trying his hardest to wrangle an invitation back to our hotel room. He was adorable, but I explained now was not the time and that we were expecting friends. He stuck his hand down Orlando's shirt and felt Orlando's furry chest pelt. His eyes rolled back in his head and Orlando looked over at me helplessly. I shot him a non verbal " Now look what you've done!" The Dominican gently slid  his hand out of Orlando's shirt and grabbed Orlando's wrist pressing Orlando's palm into the Dominican's crotch. Orlando's eye's widened and he looked over at me and said, " Honey, he likes furry chests." I looked at the Dominican's crotch and said, " I see that. Be that as it may - Now is just not the time-" Orlando interrupted me disengaging himself from the Dominican-"I think your friends are here!"





Meet the Wives
                                                                          
                                                         
Jimmy smiled and I saw Tim just behind him with his hands in his pocket and taking a breath as if he was about to encounter something unpleasant that required being stoic. As I had noted earlier with Kevin, there were no significant changes due to age in Jimmy's face but perhaps an extra line or two and that was about it. He looked like the Jimmy I had always known for over 20 years. Tim gave me a shy but pleasant hello and we all sat down and I made introductions to Orlando and of course…the Dominican who I tried like the devil to send several cues that NOW WAS THE TIME FOR HIM TO GO. He was clever enough to pick up on my signals. I am not sure -but I believe Tim beat a hasty retreat to the Bar to get drinks for Jim and himself. I got the distinct impression that this was a rare night out for Tim. Jim and I behaved like two sorority girls who hadn't seen each other since the last kegger.
Orlando tried to keep up and we would fill in with bits of information of what we were talking about. Then Tim returned and we all got down to the business of chatting and drinking. Tim was rather amazed about the forward behavior of the Dominican. I shrugged. "Eh It's a Bear thing." Orlando corrected me. " I think it might be a New York thing." -Yes that was true. I remembered the sex-in-the-air-feel at The Eagle the night before. The natural order of conversation took a while but eventually the transition took place. It seemed that Jimmy and I were wearing the "wife" hats and that Tim and Orlando were wearing the "husband" hats. By that I mean Jimmy and I giggled and sniggered and slapped each others thighs while the other two got along quite well but in a far less girlish manner. I also noted Tim had relaxed entirely a third into the evening. I think the second cocktail may have contributed but there was none of that unease that I had been feeling from him before. "James" (I might as well get used to it) and Tim have been together for over 10 years -11 I think. They have been living in a studio apartment the same size that Orlando first moved in with me and I said I couldn't handle it and needed a bigger space after 3 months. That's love folks. Real Love.  They looked great together. When were all talking and laughing I felt something I can't explain without it sounding like a complete overly sentimental simpleton-but I will say it any way. I was happy for them. I was particularly happy for my friend ….James. The world was spinning the way it should. Orlando was pleased that I had even more friends that were warm intelligent entertaining folk in my life on the East Coast too.



                                                                                  
                                                                    

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lunch with Kevvie, A ride in the Park





On Monday -as luck would have it, Kevin could meet Orlando and I for lunch at a Thai Restaurant in his neighborhood. It was in Hell's Kitchen. The is the first time I had been in Hell's Kitchen and didn't realize it was actually a nice neighborhood with a lot of cool restaurants. Hearing it's moniker I had always envisioned something desperate and horrid with lots of garbage and huge swarms of rats chewing through it. As we made our way to the Thai Restaurant, I noted several restaurants along the way that I might like to investigate should I ever come back to NYC.
Kevin today
                                                                     

    Kevin had not changed a bit to me. Maybe he had a few more character lines around the eyes, but he looked that mature even when he was in his 20s.  He had that sort of calmness that many of my friends in their 40s were showing now that we were growing older. There was a certain acceptance that things were the way they were and that there was no changing them. I was glad to see that he hadn't given up on dating and there was date with some hispanic gentlemen later -surprise surprise. The conversation between the three of us was gentle and easy and Orlando was entertained without feeling excluded. I was immensely happy that we had made this connection. We reminisced about our boy-crazy youth. At age 25, It wasn't uncommon for me to fall in love with a new boyfriend every weekend and then change my mind a few days later. I fell prey to the San Francisco Gay Male Relationship  trap that there was always someone better just around the corner. Kevin was more loyal then I and hung on a bit longer. He wasn't exactly a stalker when he was a kid, but it was always a running gag that he, himself, would make jokes about. He used to sing little made up love songs about the current man he was in love with or joke about hiding in the bushes watching them from afar. Sometimes I wondered if he was just being funny.  I noted to myself as we played "memory lane" that our  mutual ability to laugh at ourselves was probably the secret to whatever sense of peace we could find within ourselves. I also observed that despite the struggles that New York had put Kevin through as an actor- now composer, he seemed content. It solidified my belief that I could let go of being on stage and find another way of creative expression to fulfill my soul. He had done it. When he mentioned that he really didn't act or try to audition for anything anymore, the comment seemed casual and not all that big a deal. When Orlando got up to use this rest room Kevin gave me a thumbs up my partner selection. I knew he would like Orlando's " no nonsense" approach to life as much as I did. Kevin surprised me and treated us to lunch.  I snapped some pics to commemorate the reunion. There was an exceptionally sexy Latino man standing in the doorway that I pointed out to Kevin. It turns out that Kevin lived above the restaurant we were eating in and that sexy Latino did repair work in his building. Immediately Orlando and I urged him to go break something and then hugged him goodbye.

                                                 

The Thai lunch should've sufficed but I passed a colorful sign on our way to Central Park that I could not ignore.It was a shop that sold ice cream donut sandwiches. I don't normally indulge in the sweet rich ooey gooey because I am a salty crispy crunchy deep fried kinda guy. The over-the-top dessert realm is Orlando's specialty, but somehow I was  inexplicably compelled to learn more. When I suggested to Orlando that we investigate this treat his eyes began to dance wildly in his head. He was A) amazed that I was the one that was suggesting this given the state of our expanding waistlines and B) he was about to get two things together that he absolutely adored-ice cream and donuts!  The perky gal behind the counter gave us an enthusiastic tour of the flavors and how the process was done. You could pick THREE ice cream flavors and the choices were all very exciting. I chose this interesting flavor that was called "Hotel" ice cream. I think it was Vanilla with bits of a smashed spiced cookie and chocolate chips and it was totally fabu!!! I also chose a caramel dul leche something-or-other and I think another unusual cookie-n-cream-esqe flavor that I can't recall right now. The donut was dipped in vanilla frosting and sprinkled with coconut. Orlando who is a notorious chocoholic chose three       different types of chocolate ice creams and then had his donut dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with almonds. Orlando had NO difficulty consuming his. I, on the other hand, did a valiant effort of consuming two thirds of the massive rich dessert. Orlando considered finishing my portion but then wisely chose not to.


                                                                          
                                                                               

The Horse drawn carriages were all lined up where we had seen them the day before. Orlando went up and found a cute Turkish bear to give us a ride. It was determined that a little 45 min tour around the park would cost  a $100-which included tip. I saw the expression on Lando's face as he was doing an inner monologue of once-in-a-lifetime-dream as we crawled our overfed bodies into the carriage. It was clean and shiny but there was this bouquet of fake flowers attached to the side of the carriage that made me grimace. I kept my mouth shot to my benefactor of the ride. I wasn't going to gripe. Before we flew to New York , I had briefly thought about spending  ten grand on an engagement ring and presenting it to him on this ride. New York -despite the horrible smells and crowds- felt like a romantic city to me and I wanted us to be engaged. Yet Orlando's belief that the Federal government should pass the RIGHT-TO-MARRY- law in order for it to be right kept me from doing such an economically reckless romantic proposal. I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. In one way I thought he was right, but the girly-girl side of me wanted to flash my engagement ring to everyone to proclaim that I was good enough to be engaged to someone. I was hoping he would come around to wearing engagement rings and should I ever get a windfall of some type, I may just go for it. The Turkish guy took us through Central Park and showed us all the sites.
Cute Turkish Bear Carriage Driver 
Ghostbusters Building
Friends Fountain without Friends or water
                    

Many of the sites were pop culture referenced: John Lennon's Strawberry Fields, A building that was in  the movie Ghost Busters and the fountain that Joey, Monica, Chandler and Phoebe and the rest of the Friends all flounced around in the beginning of their show credits. The Turkish bear carriage driver shared a little of his life with us. We had learned that he had just married but he was getting a divorce after a few short months, but he thought he would be okay. It didn't seem like a great job driving the carriage around the park. I imagine it would be a little dull over and over again. There was a beauty to the park and a surreal quality that this was not New York. It was where New Yorkers went to get away. I played with my lens on my camera that my friend Bruce had just given to me and snapped a man sitting on a bench. I was pretty far from him but he knew I was taking a picture of him. Again…'marriage' popped in my face as we passed a young  androgynous Asian couple in wedding costume trudging to pose for some pictures post wedding. They seemed focused on the task at hand but not particularly joyful. The driver showed us a building Madonna supposedly lives in and none of her neighbors want her there because she is too loud.I frowned .A part of New York I would never see. The New York Madonna frequented. I hated being denied that access. It occurred to me that this was supposed to be romantic and I put the camera down for a second and held Orlando's hand. We were supposed to be making memories here dammit! 



Friday, October 21, 2011

Kevvie and Jimmy

     We tried to stretch our Sunday night into the wee hours. I had heard since I was a teen that New York never slept. Apparently that was no longer true here in the big Apple.  My legs and feet were beginning to hurt as Orlando and I tried to find more fun in some Chelsea bars but many were closed up and things appeared quiet. What a crock! Well it gave us a good night’s sleep to meet my friends the next day.
Kevin Carter and James Reynolds and I met when we were cast in an original Musical decades ago called “Streets”. It was Rock Musical. Kevin and I played teenaged members of a Graffiti artist Street gang who later become roadies to a member of our Gang because he becomes a big rock star. James ( who will always be Jimmy to me, played the love interest of some poor black girl of the streets. In truth …I forget what role Jimmy played. I recall him singing a pretty song and that’s about it. I think as the musical developed his role got more substantial. Jimmy and I were very close when he lived in San Francisco. I let him pull strands of my hair though a cap and bleach it. We were about as “girlfriend-y” as two gay guys can get. We gave each other manicures and watched Melrose Place.

Kevin on the Right and James in the Middle  and Moi down Center  and John Gulotto on the Left from STREETS
                                    

   Kevin and I bonded another way. Kevin and I shared a proclivity. We were (are?) specifically attracted to men of color. Usually any color- but I preferred mine on the darker side back in the day. He used to tease me on my method of seducing men.  I had concocted a kind of ridiculous expression for my face based on Marilyn Monroe and adjusted her breathy baby doll voice by lowering it a few registers. He was always amazed that men found that appealing. Now that I look back on it – so am I.  Kevin has an extremely dry sense of humor and wears his heart on his sleeve. I know I know-normally the two don’t mix but his humor is on the absurdist side so it all works for him. He is also a brilliant composer/musician.
  
   When the three of us first became friends - Jimmy appeared to be the more fortunate of the three of us. (explain)  Kevin and I had big…personalities as opposed to Jimmy who was achingly polite and achingly attractive.  It wasn’t uncommon to meet Jimmy for a cocktail and at some point, he would excuse himself and either A) be followed into the bathroom by some Dude trying to get his number or B) the Dude would come up to me and ask for his number.  How Jimmy managed to stay so gracious through all that is beyond me.  If God had blessed me with his Ralph Lauren Model Good Looks, I am sure I would’ve wound up the type of DIVA no one wants to be around.  Through the years Jimmy and I have shared A LOT of laughs and A LOT of tears.  Trust me, under that gracious soul is a snarky dark little shit who lost his rose colored glassed loooooonnng ago.  He never let me get away with anything –particularly a quick visit to New York without saying hello to him. It nearly didn’t happen. If I wasn’t such a big mouth on Facebook then he may have never found out I was there. But he got me!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Priscilla and Stephen

You want to hear a sad little fact about yours truly? This trip to New York was my first time ever I have seen a big Broadway Hit on Broadway. Yes – at the age of 47, after being on the stage since I was 13, and only living a mere five hour drive from the Big Apple for the first 25 years of my life, I was FINALLY SEEING A BROADWAY SHOW ON BROADWAY.
 
The Big Broadway show in Question was Priscilla Queen of the Desert.  Yes – the latest rage is to take a screenplay and convert it to a Musical. With the resounding success of “ The Producer’s” and the lack of original ideas out there –this seems to be new direction for the American Musical. Now I happen to like Priscilla the movie so I was thinking I would enjoy the musical-and enjoy it I did. Our seats were a tad on the nosebleed side, but they were an excellent view of the entire stage.  I had been told that the miraculously fast quick changes from straight men to in drag were achieved through the use of a cleverly devised skin-like masks with rouge and false eyelashes attached, that could be thrown on and just as easily peeled off. In the balcony there was no way Orlando and I could see that to tell you it is true, but the quick changes were extraordinary on a couple of occasions.  If you are a hardcore fan of the movie you have to realize that there is already HUGE  hit on Broadway that is “Abbalicious” so the music for  PQOTD had to be reworked into…take a breath………….Madonna.  Well the gal IS a Gay Icon and she has been around for a bit- so you can understand WHY they chose her-but still one does miss the ABBA. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could ever get enough ABBA.  My fondest memory was roller skating to dancing queen with my Church youth group to Dancing Queen.  Actually that was a fairly terrifying moment being a roller skates and I was grateful that Pammy Hastings broke her wrist so we had to stop – but hey –I liked the music!
And I certainly have no problem with “Madge” (as the Brits call her).  As a baby Gay,  I was weaned on Madonna. There were just elements that were missed from the movie that we would’ve like to have seen in the musical. I will give one moment away and tell you that you DON’T ever see or hear about a small vial of Madonna’s excrement. Yet other moments impressed- like with the Opera blaring and the wild flowing costume on top of the bus. It was quite cleverly executed. Kudos! Today on Sirius Broadway I had heard that Priscilla had played "canned" string instruments instead of live. Their reasoning was that it was a show about lip synching after all so... Very sad to hear that.
                                                                     

 Orlando and I got carried away in the momentous feeling of me seeing my FIRST BROADWAY SHOW (on Broadway), and spent an ungodly amount of money on booze in these little sippy cups. Yes…Sippy cups for a sippy cub.  At intermission I was trying to make up for falling asleep on Saturday Night and was reaching out to all my NYC Bears for where the Sunday night Hot Spots was for our tribe via Facebook on my Droid Incredible. I had finally contacted Stephen.  Stephen and  I made friends  years ago, originally on a website called Bear411 and then later we chatted more on Facebook. Maybe “made friends with” is a making light of how I actually feel about Stephen.  I fell passionately in love with him to be more truthful.  Point of fact when I had begun dating Orlando, I had mentioned that if we ever moved to New York he would have to consider making our relationship polyamorous  because I loved Stephen so much and fully planned on making him one of my Brother Husbands.  As far as I can see –Bigamy is the ONLY thing the Mormons got right.  Orlando’s reaction to this was to nod and continue eating his French Toast and watching Sanctuary.

One only need to look at my dating history to see my fascination with Stephen. He is the prototype of what I find particularly aesthetically pleasing to my eye.  He is fairly muscular, fairly broadshouldered and big armed African American Man who has a lovely shiny bald head and beautiful shiny brown eyes with long lashes and his derriere is something that inspires sonnets deep within my soul.  I think A LOT about that derriere of his by the way.  Ok Ok – so I don’t KNOW him as a “person” that deeply. I mean I know he loves music very much and fashion and bears. He’s just enough masculine to turn me on and just enough Diva not to turn me off.  I learned rather recently that he is ALSO in a relationship. He’s got me beat by a mind blowing 11 years longer than mine.  I don’t ask him much about his fella and he doesn’t chat that much with me about Orlando. Surprised? I bet you’re not.  I suspect that his partner takes my fascination with him about as seriously as Orlando takes it. Perhaps we aren’t real?  Maybe Stephen and I are just ” Internet Lovers” But ..what happens when you are partnered and you are GAY (very different from how the Hets handle it )  and you meet your long lusted after  virtual  Lover in the non-virtual world?  There is one other thing I feel I should divulge in this running fountain of TMI and that’s -– my love for Stephen is er...well  unrequited. While he doesn’t exactly spurn my attentions he didn’t exactly send me a plane ticket either in all these years of flirting. I had briefly considered buying one at one point to meet him before I met Lando, but I thought that flying to New York for a hook up was even too crazy for me.  NOW we had found each other and after the Curtain lowered on Priscilla he texted that  “ The Eagle” was  THE Sunday Night hang out for Bears and that he would be there and was looking forward to meeting me. Yikes!


                                             
The Eagle in New York is nothing like the now defunct  Eagle in San Francisco.  It is darker and hotter (men and temperature)  and more sex-filled. The SF  Eagle seemed like a giant sunny  Patio bar for Leather Queens but this place had three levels and each one had a different energy all geared for New York Gay Males to get their groove on.  I am not sure if it was because I hadn’t been out hunting  for a while or that the sexual energy of Gay New Yorkers is more intense then their West Coast counterparts but  I remarked to Orlando that the sexual tension in the air was palpable. His response was to take off his shirt. And you thought I was the attention-whore in the relationship? Think again. Orlando had picked up on my anxiety about meeting my “friend”. The “friend card” is how I chose to play it but after all these years  the Lando bear knew me and… well…. our relationship being what it was –jealousy wasn’t anything anyone needed to worry about tonight.  After a bit of exploration and texting to Stephen I had learned there was a “deck” to the Eagle where there was an outdoor bar. We went up to the roof deck and I peered around for Stephen and BAM- there he was. He shot me a benign smile and it was like I was indeed seeing an old friend. There were no thunderbolts or vibrations thrumming through my heart. It was Stephen. 
Stephen and P.A. together at last?
                                                               

He was with Al. This took me a while to figure out because AL was was one of my Facebook bears too. He was one of those heavy set men that photographed differently everytime and in real life looked a bit differently then he did on the internet. Not bad –just not as recognizable to me.  I often hit “like” when Al found stuff to post on his Wall or showed a cool new shirt he bought. Al was a handsy gregarious Bear who appreciated a handsome man and definitely didn’t waste time saying so.




P.A. and Al
                                                                        

Stephen couldn’t stay long, because he had to head to work early the next day, and seemed involved with the men he was keeping company with. Was that the partner of 14 years?  No –didn’t  think so. Everything was a blur. I wanted to hang with him but then an SF Bear recognized Lando and I and wondered what the hell we were doing in New York. We got engrossed in a conversation with him. Then I  got excited because we realized I had nearly spilt my drink on Josh from Project Runway.  Orlando looked over and said, “ How do we know that guy?” and I said, “ because you watched Project Runway with me the other night.” I didn’t say “Hey Josh!” ---and high five him. I did apologize for nearly spilling a drink on him and he was very sweet about it.  Al got a serious case of Roman Hands and Russian Fingers and was all over Orlando and myself.  I thought about saying something about” just because I pose for all those pictures doesn’t mean you can touch the merchandise”  but  he settled down after a while. Soon it became time for Stephen to leave. I thought maybe we could meet tomorrow when he got out of work? I got a maybe. I was meeting my friend (–real friend –as opposed to internet friend)  at Happy Hour at The Gym Bar the following day.  We hugged tightly. He smelled good. It was brief but that’s all. My heart didn’t thump wildly out of control at his touch like I thought it might. We said goodbye. Then I  looked over at the furry Landobear chatting with AL as he looked back over at me and I went over and slipped in Lando’s arms.  I guess I knew where I belonged. Maybe  Stephen sensed it too? Who knows? . We chatted about it briefly on Facebook when I returned to the East Bay and I felt apologetic.  I still think he is amazingly lovely and I also think he is a good guy. He cracked a joke about how guys meet him and then the “spell is broken”.  Even though he didn’t mean it – I played along.  I didn’t think that applied in our case. I just think I am under a stronger spell and well…at least we’ll always have Facebook.
                             
 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lando's Family Part Deux

The next day I awoke feeling ashamed. I was in one of the most exciting cities anywhere and I had gone to bed at 8:30PM the night before and slept for 10 hours. Orlando grumbled a bit about it which didn’t alleviate my feelings of guilt and shame. However, deep down I was grateful for two things; First- Our bed was very comfortable and Second I was feeling much much better after 10 hours of sleep. There was no longer a hazy corona around lit lightbulbs and other bright areas, and my feet and legs didn’t ache so damned much.

  Our bedroom was small. Outside our room was an ancient kittycat sitting placidly in the hall with interesting markings that gave him the name, “Charlie Chaplin”.  He stared up at us to give us an indifferent good morning gaze. Orlando reached down to scratch his head and chin and he began to purr appreciatively.  He did look like he had a mustache  of sorts and it did have a Chaplinesque look to it. There were three floors to the hotel. The stairway and upper hallway we decorated with Blackglama Ads featuring famous Divas. This must be one of those things that identifies it as a Gay Hotel. I could name all but one. Unfortunately I never learned who she was because the gent manning the front desk didn’t know either. I had never thought to snap a pic of it on my phone to research it. I had fun testing Orlando because his knowledge of actors and actresses from  before 1982 is pretty poor. How he ever got his Gay Card I’ll never know. There were two pictures -one with Liza and another with Judy with the familiar Blackglama motto. “ What Becomes a Legend Most?”, side by side so I asked him, “What do these two women have in common?”  You’ll be pleased to know that he eventually figured it out -and with very few hints I might add.

  On our way over to Elba’s apartment in Spanish Harlem, we did a tourist route. It involved walking through Times Square. I posed ridiculously with my hands up in the air, while Lando snapped a pic and someone walking by was explaining to his two companions that “New York does this to people”. I wondered if he had ever succumbed to a Mary-Tyler-Moore-moment before. We went up 8th avenue because they were having a huge Street Fair. We both bought hats and I found some cute refrigerator magnets shaped like unusual pieces of produce. That wound up being the extent of our tourist shopping in The Big Apple.                        

  As we approached Central Park South I was sooo excited to see the Horse-drawn carriages all lined up on Park Ave. They were so elegant and reminded me of every fairy tale Lifetime movie I had ever seen. The horses were elegant -even when they took a dump or piss! There was like this ..net thing just under their family jewels and it caught it all...except the odor. There was nothing they could do about that!  Regardless - I was terribly impressed with how these non-touching- diapers worked. Orlando said he had always wanted to ride one, ever since he had seen them as a little boy. I looked at him wide-eyed and he got it immediately that I had the same longing. “ Well Let’s go check it out, shall we?” Well I can tell you - it aint cheap. You can expect to pay around $100 for 40 minutes of your “fairy tale romantic horse-drawn-carriage ride”. A very carny-like Australian tried to talk us into it right away. I reminded Orlando of the time and we were due at Elba’s in about 35 minutes. We said no - and we were going to make the dream come true tomorrow. Orlando muttered, “ It’s only money.” about 5 times and then relaxed into the idea.
                                                                                        
Dinner at Elba’s was almost identical to every family dinner I had growing up. Mariah was watching some Children’s program but she got distracted enough to grab the Ipad and have her Tio Lando and Titi P.A. read to her about cars. “ Omg!” I squeaked in distress, “ She likes Cars!!!” She was barely 2 feet tall - and she was issuing orders that Lando sit to her immediate left and I sit to her right. Along with her father’s help, she had managed to learn my name pretty quickly. I sat her on my knee and looked at her earnestly. “ Now you realize Mariah, that cars aren’t exactly my thing but your Tio Landito over there could probably chat with you about them. I’ll teach you a few beauty tips and maybe how to handle a man.” Luckily her parents didn’t hear a word of that ,but the ever watchful Elba saw us bonding out the corner of her eye. “ You must like children! “  Orlando and I spoke simultaneously and said offhandedly, “ Not really.” It was if someone had cracked a very inappropriate joke and Jess and Martin looked nervously over at their daughter clambering around my lap. I spoke quickly.“ Mariah is clearly special and not like other children and deserves my full attention.” I didn’t intend to sound like one of the elders from Rosemary’s Baby so I confessed that at one point in my life I had been one of the most successful babysitters at Northfield Jr-Sr High. I owe it to all those theater warm up games I learned and how they were excellent for tiring children out. I have to say Mariah is special and for some reason really plucked at my heart strings. I blurted it out before I had given it much thought. “ In fact Jess - if you and Martin ever want to send her to California for a week when she is a little older-” Orlando cut me a look that kind of shut me up. Martin laughed and said, “ Be careful what you wish for PA.”

The Pork was delicious and Elba shared with me the method to get the skin the same crispy texture that Orlando loves so much. Apparently it involved a cup of water but I imagine it also had to do with the cut of meat too. When we ate pork I typically bought very lean cuts which didn’t tend to get that nice crispy skin that he craved so much. She also made the pre-requisite rice and beans which normally I am not a fan of. I found that -however she had seasoned the beans it was very nummy. I decided not to tell Orlando because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Many times I skip eating his recipe because he puts lots of bacon fat in them and it gives me the indigestion from hell. I found Elba’s to be lighter -almost like a well cooked lentil in a mild Indian Dal. I LOVE lentils. I liked Elba’s so much, I had a second portion! Lando DIDN’T miss that . “ Hey!! What’s up with that??? I thought you hated Beans!” I just tried to make my eyes as big and as blue as I possibly could and shrugged.” I dunno...I didn’t want it offend your Aunt.” The blue eyes worked. They always do by the way. “ You like Elba’s cooking don’t you honey?” I nodded enthusiastically and stuffed another mouthful of beans and rice in.

  More people arrived. Elba’s son and his family but they didn’t intend to stay to eat. They were just going to pop in and head over to the gym. Orlando and Jess properly guilted them because it had been years since they had seen this particular cousin. Elba scooted over on the couch next to me. I told her the meal was great. She spoke again about Orlando’s Mom, Elsie and she said she had spoken to her on the phone and Elsie had said I was so nice and good to her son. There was almost some relief to her voice. I suspect it had to do with the fact that I was far more age appropriate than Orlando’s last partner but hey that’s just me speculating. I am still the old man in the relationship by a few years. She patted me affectionately on the leg. “ Your family now baby! You got that!?” It almost had an Italian Mobster feel to it but I liked that thought. You give me any shit? My Titi Elba will take your ass OUT! You got me Baby? Hugs and promises were made. I wanted to come back next year.

  Now the goal was to head back to the hotel - freshen up and head out for a night to the THEATEH!! Priscilla Queen of the Desert was the Broadway Show of choice. Times Square seemed more like Vegas to me at night. Sardi’s which used to be a fabulous hang out of broadway stars back in the day, now seemed like a vaguely tired tourist stop. The onions in my Gibson were unforgivably soft. There was a large tub of cheddar spread and Ritz crackers that apparently is communally shared during Happy Hour. Yuk! We did strike up a conversation with some legitimate New York Theater goers who were enraptured about this show in which  performers did these uncanny interpretations of Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and I forget who else. They were blown away and assured us that we would love it if we got the chance. I somehow doubted that. Orlando asked them what they thought of “The Book of Mormon” and they gave us this world weary “ Yes - ok entertaining but haven’t we all HEARD this story before??”. I should mention they were clearly heterosexual and somehow that comment raised my hackles a bit, but I felt I might travel into a territory where I had no idea what I was talking about. So I chose not to. I later regretted it when we told one of the women we had tickets to see Priscilla. She all but patted us on the head and encouraged us like grade school children to enjoy our day at Disney. Again the thing with the hackles...


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lando's Family

I was a tad mesmerized at this whole hybrid business of Fried food and Lingerie. It occurred to me that at this point I could be easily mesmerized by ANYTHING because we were stretching into our 30th hour without sleep. If there is one thing I really need to fully function –it’s my sleep. I also hadn’t sat down in several hours and the shoes began to pinch.  I fiddled with my camera trying to adjust to impending twilight. Jessica was standing next to me and we were amiably chatting. She looked almost exactly like her brother to me. She had the same smile and soft warm brown eyes. I looked down at Orlando tickling Mariah’s belly while she shrieked in glee at her Tio. I glanced down at Jessica’s belly. She was a few months pregnant. She shrugged and explained to me that it rained when she was on vacation with her husband and she gestured at her belly. “ This is the result.”  I told her that I thought her Mother is probably delighted. She agreed she was.  I liked their mother.  Their mother’s name is Elsie and Elsie and I had met  in Oroville California a little over a year ago. Elsie –who had reportedly had ancient issues with her  only son coming out of the closet-surprised everyone by hugging me goodbye and telling me to take care of her son. This story had gotten around because Jessica was staring at me wide-eyed. “ My mother is not a “hugger”. She rarely did that to us growing up. She told me that she was happy that Lando had found you. “  I felt one more latch slide into place in regards to my relationship with Orlando. I didn’t need the blazer and the dress shoes. I had Elsie on my side.                                           

Finally Elba finished up and explained that we didn’t need to go to a restaurant. A family friend was having a big Barbecue and we were all welcome. Boy – these Puerto Ricans do things differently! It would be rare that anyone in my family would be thrilled that a family member showed up to one of their parties with 5 OTHER MOUTHS TO FEED. I asked if I should bring some wine and Elba looked at me as if I had just spoken Martian. No No – it would be fine. She went through the directions to get to this park with Jessica and Martin.  We accompanied Elba. Elba is Orlando’s Aunt on his father’s side. Orlando’s father died of a Heart attack at a very young 41. Elba was so grief stricken she nearly threw herself on to Orlando Sr’s coffin as it was lowered into the grave.  Elba chatted comfortably about the kid who was the guest of honor at this Barbecue. “ He’s a good kid.” Orlando asked what they were celebrating.  Elba said that it had been a full year since he was out, so the family was celebrating. My mind went, “Wow – this is some progressive party. The kid comes out of the closet and they celebrate the anniversary date!!” Orlando actually processed it correctly. “ Out…of Jail?” Yes Elba tells us. “He shouldn’t have done what he did but hey, they shouldn’t have messed with his family in the first place. He got out early of course for good behavior and he’s been doin real good.”  My eyes grew wide. I put my hand on Elba’s shoulder to slow her pony-like trot. “ Hang on Elba, “ I had trouble catching my breath. “ So we are going to a picnic, in the park, here in Spanish Harlem to celebrate this guy’s year anniversary of being out of prison?”  She nodded and said, “yup! And you get to meet my daughter Liz too! ”  I mumbled to Orlando that I didn’t think taking pictures at this “event” would be welcome and perhaps my camera should stay in my back pack.
When we arrived to the park my first thought was , “ Oh this is where all my exboyfriends ended up.”
The thug-quotient was high but there were a lot of old men and kids and women. The food had the feel of a church supper.  I suddenly felt my knees wobble with fatigue. I panicked trying to find a place to sit with my plate and Orlando found us all a bench where we gathered away from the crowd. The food was interesting and somewhat tasty. Not many green things but there was Yucca steamed with Onions and there was a little pork left –enough for Orlando and I to have a few bites. He swooned with each bite. That all went to hell when he sampled the Macaroni and cheese which was terrible. Whatever ingredient the cook had used to bind the cheese to the milk and butter didn’t work and it was this gloppy flavorless mess. I had to agree with Lando about the pork though. Those few bites were absolutely packed with rich pork flavor.  He refused to take my last bite. That’s love eh?
  


Elba and Liz
Liz is a Puerto Rican bombshell and a chip off the ole Elba block. “Cuz!!!”  Orlando thundered at his cousin. She was in oblivion kissing and greeting and oohing and awing over the spell casting Mariah.
“ Cuz!!!” He bellowed somewhat playfully, “Where the hell were you? What took you so long??” She mouthed something but we didn’t catch it. After saying, “What?” a few times she hissed at him through her teeth, “ Because I was having Seeeexxxxxxkssskss!!!”  If there is ever an explanation that Orlando will thoroughly understand – it’s that one.  Liz had a huge persona and it was “the Liz show”.  I used to have a friend that brayed at me “A.A.P.A.!!!”  (All About P.A.) when I got a little too self involved. Something told me that Liz had a friend that did that to her too. She was damned funny and she SHOULD have her own comedy show. Her delivery was spot on!  It was later explained to me it is a Puerto Rican female genetic trait. Humor. Who knew?  Our visit was brief. Plans to meet Liz the following night perhaps? We all headed over to Elba’s while Elba popped into various markets purchasing food for the gigantic feast Orlando had requested. Apparently the paint had dried and all her furniture had been put back into place.  My brains were scrambled eggs and I was slowly losing the feeling in my feet.  Having been awake for nearly 36 hours was taking it’s toll and I wasn’t thinking clearly. Case in point: I whipped out my smartphone to look at Facebook on a street corner and Orlando barked at me to put it away. Many young men would like a smart phone like mine he informed me.. I see.  Well I then requested that we get Elba back ASAP because I was walking around like The Living Dead and only digesting part of whatever I heard.                                                           

More walking until we reach The Projects. Through the hallway where men were just hanging out…looking furtive and dangerous.  Jess and Martin and the baby were already in Elba’s apartment.  Yup – Lando was right. The blazer and the dress shoes were absolutely a drawback at the moment. Elba plowed onward, unphased by all of this. She chattered comfortably about news of that family member and life around The Projects. She seemed content. Why did I want to pluck her out of this place? Just because I saw scary looking men didn’t mean she did.
Her apartment was nice. It was very comfortable and didn’t really look as if it belonged in this building. Everything seemed new. I sat on the couch and well…that’s all she wrote. I couldn’t keep my eyes open so I nodded off right in front of Jessica and Martin and Mariah. Orlando knew we needed to get back to the Hotel Room. We were coming back tomorrow anyway. We zipped outside –through the lobby with even more scary looking men and caught a cab. As the taxicab sped along the congested brightly lit streets, I mumbled to Orlando that we had to rescue Elba from the projects! “ No honey.” He said placating me. “ She doesn’t want to be rescued. Trust me on this.”

Orlando knows Elba better than I by far


We arrived to our Hotel room. Each room was a tribute to a silver screen star. Ours was the perpetually kissing Tony Curtis. How appropriate. It was Saturday Night in THE BIG APPLE.  So we were going to just take a quick disco nap and paint the town red later…except we didn’t awaken until  7AM the next morning.  (Sigh)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Actor turned Writer starts a Travel Blog

It was doubtful whether it would be a restful vacation but it was very clear that it would be a busy one filled with visiting family. As many people know, seeing your family doesn’t easily create an atmosphere of rest and relaxation. The Landobear and I were headed East to see our families and hopefully spend a little get away time.  I wasn’t sure if I could combine the two, but I was going to try. Slowly but surely, I was acquiring the talent for viewing my newfound identity as a couple. I had a new family, and there were more to meet. To Orlando this was old hat. To me…well, I was a bit nervous.  The first leg of the trip involved a 3 and a half day stay in New York City. The Second leg of the trip was Vermont to celebrate my Mother’s 80th Birthday.   Orlando’s baby sister was traveling up from Delaware with her husband, and her nearly 2 year old daughter to meet us at his Aunt Elba’s in Spanish Harlem. Orlando hadn’t seen Jess in decades, which meant of course he had never met his niece Mariah. Last Christmas we picked out a little red velvet Christmas Dress for her, which she got after Christmas.  By the time it got there she had grown a size too big to wear it.
Brother and Sister



The red eye through Delta from SF to JFK was a miserable 5 hour and 45 minutes. I was lucky that I sat next to a young woman who smelled pleasant. We dozed but the seats were cramped, and by the end of the flight both of our ass cheeks felt significantly flattened. There was much tossing and turning as Orlando took his neck pillow and used it as an ass cushion.  Orlando was savvy enough to figure out how to get us to our hotel. I had booked us a room at the Chelsea Pines Inn to Orlando’s consternation. He was going to have us stay with Elba, or perhaps his cousin Liz, but I explained that part about this vacation having some relaxing elements to it. I said having a hotel room to get away to would create it.  Orlando is an accountant, and he just rolled his eyes and said in a resigned tone, “ Let the money hemorrhage begin! “
Despite my blear of a bad night’s sleep, my excitement to see a city I hadn’t visited for nearly 30 years seemed to give a much needed jolt of energy. Lando deftly navigated the Subway after a brief misunderstanding in which we purchased a $20 Air Bus tickets instead of the $20 Metro tickets. After Orlando got his “New York on”, (yelling and swearing until the issue was solved) we learned that we had to mail in a request for the misallocated travel funds.  After learning this the yelling simmered down to a slow burn.  We dropped off our bags at the hotel and did a whirlwind tour of Chelsea, and then along the Hudson seeing the view of New Jersey across the Bay.


I was amazed at the amount of people everywhere.  It seemed that there it was not so easy to go and find a space where one didn’t see or hear others. It was Saturday so they were all running , shopping at street markets and strolling about in general.  New Yorkers seemed to pay particular attention to their Blue Jeans. I found myself walking behind some pretty fancily stitched pockets. Strange dreadful odors would belch from various crevices of the city unexpectedly. I noticed that the Natives dodged the odiferous expulsions with ease, but an innocent tourist’s nostrils would get assaulted frequently.  The Subway  air temperature runs  warm and I could see how the city’s homeless population could stay nice and toasty in the winter with some thoughtful  route planning. A question frequently  crossed my mind, how did all these buildings stayed atop this spider web of underground tunnels? I would think that the earth could not support them all. There was no engineer to answer my concern.      

After Lunch and checking into the Hotel we met Orlando’s family in Spanish Harlem.  Apparently his Aunt Elba had just had her apartment painted and could not cook us all dinner. I noticed that this was expected by Orlando – as well as Elba herself. It was understood that she would make the great meal for all of us. When O heard that dinner at her place was no longer an option he told her to find a restaurant that would supply his need for some well-prepared Puerto Rican delicacies. You would think after nearly 4 years  with him that my knowledge of Puerto Rican Cuisine would be quite good but it was rudimentary at best. Most of it I learned on one of my favorite travel /food shows with that arrogant but somehow likeable Chef Tony Bourdain. ( It seems to me if you were going to be successful as a Chef that you have to be an asshole. Anthony Bourdain had this down pat- but rumor has it that he had a kid and it has mellowed him out somewhat.)
My fearless Leader Lando

I was catching on and dodged the stenches and the self-important well-dressed New Yorkers a little more gracefully all the while trying to drink in the sites downtown. Orlando impressed me yet again with how quickly we arrived to the right avenue. He pointed out to me how far more logical this transportation system was than the San Francisco one. I figured it wasn’t sinking in as quickly with me because it had a lot numbers. I seemed to respond to Letters better. After seeing what the average New Yorker put up with in its Metro system, I decided to never complain again about a smelly BART Car.
Before I knew it, we were crossing the street to greet Orlando’s Aunt Elba, his baby sister Jessica and her husband Martin and their downright adorable daughter Mariah. ( It figures that his new niece would have the same first name as one of his favorite singers.) When we looked down at her sweet little face we both fell in love instantly. Whatever parental instincts we had inside us surged forth in a most unnatural and vaguely embarrassing manner. Orlando tickled her much to her delight and I engaged her in various serious conversations about pigeons and concrete.  You should know I don’t take to children easily.  My love for them is conditional. She looked just like a baby Natalie Wood.

How could I resist her?? One of my favorite movies is Miracle on 34th Street with a little Natalie Wood. I wasn’t anywhere near 34th St when I met Mariah but still you can see the significance-right?   I was nervous about meeting Elba and Jessica. I had dressed to impress. I changed out my sneakers for a slightly less comfortable dress shoe and I wore a Black Calvin Klein Blazer, an appropriately rich red dress shirt and a pair of jeans. Orlando looked at me after I had changed and said, “Really honey – you don’t have to do that” but I wanted the confidence it would give me.  When I hugged both of them it was if we had always known each other. There was no need to impress.



Elba needed to help out Lisa
Orlando approved


Bacalaitos
Elba said she just had a little task to do before we went to dinner. She was helping her former daughter-in-law who ran a lingerie store called “ Too Fierce “. That seemed like an ideal name for a store to be frequented by Drag Queens but I didn’t see a single one. Well maybe I did but ..I can’t be sure whether she was a full on transsexual or not.  

Fierce Lady

Lisa, Elba’s former daughter in law, had learned that her customers wanted more than just crotchless panties and glittered high heels. They wanted authentic Puerto Rican Street food to go along with the authentic Puerto Rican block party going on just around the corner.  Food –as I may have mentioned-was Elba’s specialty and that’s why we were all convening at “Too Fierce”. Elba had agreed to assist Lisa with some cooking .  So right beside the various types of fish net hose and lace up bodices, Elba deftly patted together cooked seasoned ground pork  and cheese into a little pasty to be deep fried  in front of the store.  These were empanadas and they were delicious. Lisa and Elba had quite a little gathering in front of the store. This one particular “ Fierce lady” was a devoted and regular customer. She was also a tad demanding. She was craving something called a Bacalaitos. - a codfish fritter.  Unfortunately Lisa didn’t have the ingredients to make them. The Fierce lady was undeterred , so Lisa’s husband ran out for supplies to make them. The product was mixed up in the bathroom in back in one of the sinks and later many Bacalaitos were frying away merrily in the various Gas stoves in front of the Lingerie store . Eventually the Fierce lady got her fish fritter for the bargain rate of a mere dollar. She disappeared for a bit but the crowd was still strong and Elba was in her element.    (To Be Continued)