Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Oscar round-up 2017

For the sixth year in a row, I attended the AMC Best Picture Showcase on Oscar weekend. So here's my quick round-up of the nine movies nominated for Best Picture, in the order that we saw them.

Manchester by the Sea - I liked Casey Affleck's performance, although I was even more impressed with Denzel Washington's in Fences. I didn't think there was anything very original about the movie though. I spent most of it fending off thoughts about how it paralleled my own experience with a catastrophic house fire (and how lucky I was in comparison). It was an emotional and poignant story, well-told and competently shot, but the fact it's on the list is an indication of how weak a year this was.

Fences - There were so many things to admire about this stage play turned movie: powerhouse acting, authentic characters, an engrossing story. The only complaint I have is that it feels too much like watching a play and not a movie, vis a vis the lack of background actors and how it feels like outdoor scenes are happening in a ghost town. I believe that the magic of movies is not to make you feel like you're at the theater, but rather that you're in a different world altogether. But Denzel gets major props for both his acting and directing performance.

Lion - This was probably my favorite movie of the bunch, and the first one I'd consider buying on disc when it comes out. The first of three based-on-true-events movies, it is a beautifully shot and emotionally uplifting film that captivates throughout and ends with a bang. I'm really disappointed that it didn't win any awards, but I chalk that up to the lack of marketing by the studio.

La La Land - This was one of the movies I was most anticipating and maybe it was a bit of a letdown due to high expectations. It was enjoyable but also kind of fluffy. I compared it to An American in Paris meets Mulholland Drive. I even thought Emma Stone's performance in Birdland was more impressive than she was here, and Ryan Gosling didn't deserve his acting nomination. I loved the director's previous effort (Whiplash) and, while I didn't love this movie, I certainly admire the spirit in which it was made.

Hidden Figures - This certainly felt like the blockbuster that it is and as I was watching it I joined in with cheering the story about three Black women who made huge contributions to NASA during the space race. However, afterwards I found out that the white filmmakers had fabricated certain key scenes (deviating from the source novel) that toned down the racism that these women had to overcome and making the white characters appear more enlightened. I was thoroughly disgusted that this deceptive, "white-friendly" version of the story was allowed to supplant the truth: that NASA restrooms were not officially desegregated, that Katharine Johnson did not actually enter mission control to watch John Glenn's launch into space. Embellishment is part of any movie about true events, but when those embellishments undermine the very struggle that the movie is trying to portray, it's just poor filmmaking. I'm glad the movie wasn't further rewarded (besides being the highest grossing of the nominees) with any Oscars.

Moonlight - Luckily, Hidden Figures was followed by a very authentic story that hasn't been seen very often. It's the only one of the nominees I'd seen before and it was even better the second time around. I appreciated the quietness of the movie, and I could enjoy it more knowing the ending because I usually expect movies like this to end badly ("Dead bro walking" is a thing).

Hell or High Water - This is the movie that made me think that stories about Black women who are geniuses and of national importance get to be worthy of the same honor as stories about foolish bank robbers who are white men. I personally don't enjoy watching witless characters and up until the last 10 minutes that's what you think you're watching. So I enjoyed the twist but this was definitely my least favorite of the nominees.

Hacksaw Ridge - This was the year's American Sniper, a gory, violent tale based on the incredible true story at the battle of Iwo Jima. It was hard to watch but it was also a profoundly inspirational story of courage. My gripe is that we've seen so many of these kinds of war hero movies already, both real and fictional, and I wish there were more variety and innovation in the movies that are made and nominated. There were shots that looked exactly like We Were Soldiers that starred Hacksaw's director, Mel Gibson. When we get these similar movies showing up year after year like American Sniper, Zero Dark Thirty, Saving Private Ryan and others, they start feeling like Oscar bait.

Arrival - Admittedly, I was getting pretty drowsy by the time this one started at 6:10 am so I will probably have to defer judgement about it but my initial reaction is that it's the same story as Robert Zemekis' Contact (one of my favorites) but less focused on politics and conspiracy and more on communication. I found it a little slow and hard to follow (again, possibly due to sleep deprivation) so the ending's impact was a bit lost on me. I will definitely give it another look in the future.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Wrapping up 2016

Happy 2017! I only just realized that I missed my traditional year-end posts, plus I haven't updated since before Samhain. I should mention that the amulet I chose for this year is a pattern called the Flower of Life wrought in silver over a disc of rainbow-colored abalone shell. To me, it's the natural extension of my tree amulet last year where I wanted to symbolize the growth of my relationships with the people closest to me. This year I'm looking for that growth to blossom and intentionally create interconnectedness between individuals.

I'll spare a few words to hit the highlights:

11/1-5: Led a group to see the newly restored 4K print of Tampopo at the theater and then dinner at Ramen Ya. Kacey, Chris, Storm, Puck, Jen, Eric, and Low came out that night, which had a nice craic to it, mixing new friends and old. Jen and I visited the New York Audio Show that weekend, where we got to listen to Carver's Amazing Line Source speaker system, an impressive horn system by Sarduri Acoustics, big electrostatics by Martin Logan, among other pricey items. But overall, the show was a lot smaller than it has been in years past and I was disappointed because it was the first time I've actually gone with someone.

11/6-12: Of course the election took the wind out of everything this week, but we managed to have a nice outing at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Brooklyn to see The Handmaiden on Thursday. This time Storm brought Ariel, and Kacey invited Matthew.

11/20-26: For Thanksgiving, Jen and I drove up to Troy to have dinner with her family, then on Black Friday we continued north to Montpelier to visit Puck's family at Ella and Alex's house, which turned into a fun board games night with the other guests. The next day we did some touristy things, like visiting Ben & Jerry's and a maple/cider press store before Puck, Jen and I headed home.

12/4-10: On Monday night, Jen helped me host Open Love NY's first Poly Videogame Night at the Postmark Cafe, where Chrissy's husband Charles won the trophy for the MarioKart competition. Friday night Rebecca joined me and Jen at SBSC to watch Battlestar Galactica, which Rebecca and I have been watching together. Saturday we dropped Rebecca off at home and tried to pick up Puck from Pigtopia (Natalia and Matt's apartment, where they have been living while they apartment-hunt) but we missed them because their phone was off, so we continued on to Liz's annual Ugly Mug Party. It was quite a smash this year, with about 30 guests. I brought a Star Wars ugly sweater mug that Victoria coveted (and luckily managed to hang onto) and I left with a substantial mug that Lytle got from Sur La Table (she brought the Star Wars mug last year that I unwrapped, but got nicked by another guest as part of the game).

12/18-24: On Tuesday Jen and I went to the premiere of Julie Taymor's production of Mozart's The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera, Jen's first visit there. It was a sumptuous production, although I didn't realize it was an abridged version in English, so I rather missed the full overture, and there was a fidgety young boy sitting in front of us in the box. But I think we looked quite dapper in our fancy clothes.

On Christmas Eve Puck got sick with stomach flu so I went to Pigtopia to take care of them. In the evening I met up with Rebecca at Jen's place where they were doing a Jewish Christmas of Chinese takeout and movies. We all have problematic families of origin that makes the holidays a little difficult. Christmas itself hasn't been such a big deal to me since I left New Jersey (I'm not Christian, nor do I like consumerism) but I do like being with people close to me on Christmas.

12/25-31: The final week of the year I organized a happy hour at the House of Brews for my women's group where we could bring our partners to meet each other so Jen and Puck both made appearances. We celebrated Sasha's birthday on Friday with Japanese sushi takeout for dinner and then watching a Russian movie about a eccentric car thief. Saturday the parents left for Baltimore, leaving Puck and me to get ready for our New Year's Eve party, which drew about 14 guests, mostly Puck's friends. Rebecca, Jen and I retreated upstairs for most of the evening to watch Star Wars movies on the projector but I did organize the wish-burning ceremony and the midnight toast.

2016 has been a pretty down year in the sense that I had to leave TSMC and I still haven't found a job. Obviously the election results and the possible ramifications on the lives of women, GLBT people, immigrants, Muslims and other religious minorities, disabled and just about every other population that isn't a rich, White, healthy male means 2016 was a pretty bad year for a lot of people. Plus the year started with a quick exit for the Rockets from the playoffs, leading to the summer of uncertainty with a new coach and the loss of a superstar player.

On this last point, we can start the highlights - the Rockets are playing out of their minds right now, breaking all kinds of offensive NBA records and challenging the top two teams in the West for supremacy. They are also darn fun to watch!

The most positive things I can say about 2016 can be summed up in three words - Puck and Jen. For the first time in our relationship, Puck and I cohabitated for most of the year in Staten Island and it was useful in terms of figuring out what we each need in terms of living space. But if it weren't for them and the generosity of their family, I would be in awfully dire straits right now, and I'm incredibly grateful for that. And of course as you can see from this blog, Jen has completely changed my life as my first new romantic/sexual relationship in six years. She has brought me so much joy and a sense of belonging that will profoundly affect my life in the coming years as we continue to grow together.

For this year's holiday ornament, I chose to honor Hamilton, the Tony-award winning musical that Jen and I saw together and that I've been listening to non-stop all year.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Free Love Letters 2016

For the fifth year in a row, I am kicking off today my own personal creative project called "Free Love Letters," dedicated to celebrating love in all its forms.

The FLL project celebrates love itself, not love for any specific person. To me, love is the most powerful force for good we have in the world (#LoveTrumpsHate). I sincerely believe that if there's more love in the world, it will make the other problems we have easier to handle.

Each October as we enter the dark half of the year, my energy for creativity and renewal waxes when for many people the opposite is true. It is perhaps telling that nearly all of the romantic relationships in my life have begun in cold weather, not in the heat of summer.

So each October, I write a personalized love letter to anyone who requests one by sending me their physical mailing address between now and 11:59 pm ET on October 31. Even if you've gotten one before, if you enjoyed it I encourage you to request another! 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 handcrafted using some of the many tools I've collected over the years - fine writing instruments, a vintage manual typewriter, various seals and waxes, handmade papers, etc. Once completed, it will be delivered to you anywhere in the world by old-fashioned postal carrier and thus its contents will be as confidential as things get in this modern world.

Your letter may be philosophical or romantic, funny or sincere. It might be perfumed or decorated. 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. It will be the product of my deep reflection about you and possibly a lot of research on how we've interacted over the years. 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.

Since I started doing this project, the number of requests have grown significantly - one in 2011, three in 2012, five in 2013 and 10 in both 2014 and 2015 - 29 letters in the last four years. I usually don't start writing them until after October because I shop for materials only after I see all the requests. So it may take a few months to receive your letter, but I promise you will get it (unless it gets lost in transit) and that it will be worth the wait.

Finally, no response will be expected from you - the letter is my gift with no strings attached. All individual letters and requests will be kept confidential on my end, but you are welcome to share the experience publicly if you wish, as many people do #freeloveletters

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Big damn update

It's been a fairly hectic few weeks since my last post. The Monday after the weekend that Jen was sick was Open Love's Leadership Team meeting, the first one of the year since Gette resigned as President. Chrissy assumed the presidency, and I took on VP duties in addition to Director of Communications, while Ben stepped up to take on some of my duties at Membership Director.

The next night Chrissy, Puck and me joined Jen at the Beacon Theater for her late birthday celebration to see Alice in Chains in concert. We had supper at Hummus Place behind the theater and joined the show. I didn't know any of the music, but it was fun to experience the concert.

That Friday Puck took me to their surprise birthday event, which turned out to be tickets to Dominic Turretto's Backyard Barbecue, a Fast and Furious-themed party in Greenpoint. We had hamburgers and fries, and of course, Corona beer. Puck got a free tattoo on their upper arm that says "Ride or Die." There were driving video games, karaoke, and lots of fancy cars to ogle. We screened the first F&F movie, which we watched most of the way through until we decided to leave and watch Fast & Furious 6 at home.


The next day Puck and I met up with Jen to watch Hadestown and then we went uptown to attend Michelle Z's going-away party at Mel's Burger Bar, although Puck had to leave early since they were feeling completely drained at that point after such a full day.

The following Monday I met up with Chrissy to finally have our makeup Met date that was canceled by a blizzard last winter. I wanted to see the Turner Whaling exhibit before it closed. We also saw a lot of beautiful dresses in a technology and fashion exhibit, all while Chrissy related her latest news about Rob.

In the evening Chrissy and I went a few blocks south to meet up with Jen and Puck, who were joining me to see Garbage in concert in the park. We said goodbye to Chrissy and waited in line until they let us in, and then we grabbed some top row seats in the bleachers so we wouldn't have to stand. Luckily we avoided rain and the concert was great - they played all their best songs and the sound was decent for an outdoor show.

The following Friday afternoon Jen and I took a weekend trip up to Albany so I could meet some of her family for the first time. Her cousins Beth and Giovanni wanted to hang out with her so it ended up being a good excuse to meet the other uncles and aunts as well.

We had dinner Friday night at a sports cafe in the hills overlooking Albany and then turned in early for a hike in the morning to Kaaterskill Falls.

In the evening we went to Gia's house and had Chinese takeout and then a little bonfire, plus drinking and some music making in her backyard. We also saw a doe as we were going to pick up the food.

Monday was Poly Cocktails, and I was there to meet a New York Times Magazine reporter so I had to stay a while before I headed over to Jen's for a sleepover. I also met a new potential volunteer named Kim and we exchanged info so I can mentor her into the OLNY Leadership Team. Tuesday Jen and I celebrated our six-month milestone with dinner at David Burke Kitchen during Restaurant Week. Jen started with the Pineapple Carpaccio and Tuna Tartare, while I had the Burrata & Grilled Artichoke. For entrees, I got the Young Roast Rack of Lamb and she had the Jurgielewicz Farms Duck Breast.

For dessert, I got the Valrhona Illanka Single Origin Truffle Cake with raspberry preserves and whipped crème fraîche, while she got the DIY Mini Monkey Bread with toffee brioche, banana caramel and maple pecan ice cream.


The next night I had a movie date with Rebecca at her place - we ordered some marvelous Indian takeout and watched two movies directed by Martin Scorsese: Hugo and Goodfellas. Thursday night Matt and Natalia came over to watch a few episodes of Young Indiana Jones, our current TV show after finishing Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.

Friday I went to the DMV and finally got Yoshi registered in New York State, which was long overdue. I've never seen such a huge DMV, and it felt a lot like Purgatory. There must have been at least 150 people sitting and standing (every seat was taken) and waiting to be called to a window. If I hadn't made an appointment, I probably would still be there.

Afterwards I went over to Jen's to chill for a bit, then we went into Manhattan for Suzie's 50th birthday party under the Williamsburg Bridge. We narrowly missed getting a thunderstorm, which passed us to the north and rained on Alex Rodriquez's farewell party at Yankee Stadium.

Saturday I had a movie day for myself in the theater, watching Star Trek Beyond, the first hour of Finding Dory and then Suicide Squad - all of which were pretty mediocre. Then I headed down to Poly Chai at Bluestockings and met up with Jen, Puck, Alex, Natalia and Matt. After that, I hopped over to the PIT to see Liz, Victoria and Lytle, and watch Josh perform in the 40th episode of Gas Station Horror, an improv show based on scenes from really bad horror movies.

Today I went to the College of Staten Island to check out their athletic facilities because Jen and I want to try and play racquetball, as well as ping pong. So we've been gathering equipment and the place looks like a good place to play, plus it's cheap and doesn't require a contract. So we might start doing that this week.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Pride weekend 2016

Well, another month has passed since my last post. Life continues to be in a holding pattern but I'm really enjoying the music-on-hold I have with Jen and Puck in my life and continuing to find my role in Puck's family in Staten Island.

The week following Memorial Day was eventful in a pretty negative way. It started well as Jen and I went to Shotz! for the first time. The theme was "The Melting Shotz" about immigration. The conditions were 1) A character must cross a border; 2) A character is forced to leave home; and 3) The line "How did we get here?"

A few days later we found out that Puck's great-aunt passed away in the hospital so we attended the funeral on Friday. I was meeting Jen and her friend Martha to see Alice Smith in concert at Irving Plaza and Puck had plans for a Welcome to Nightvale dance party that night with out-of-town friends Seth and D, who drove down from Delaware. It upset Puck's mom a bit that we kept our plans despite the passing, but we both simply didn't want to cancel our plans with such short notice.

The next morning things sort of reached a crescendo as I was rushing to make breakfast (and finding out all the eggs were gone) and food for the Brooklyn Queer Femme picnic that Natalia and I were going to while Puck and Jen played their tabletop game with Matt and Alex, who also came over with Natalia. So there were a lot of people in the house and I was scrambling to make food and on top of that, Chrissy texts me with unexpected news about Open Love NY. So it was one of those Calgon moments, as Tara used to say. People born in the 80s and 90s probably will need to Google that to get the reference.

The picnic was alright - Sabrina and her new girlfriend Sarah (both from the Cuddle Party with me and Natalia) joined us and we had a nice time in Prospect Park. I had a day to recover on Sunday and then Jen and I went to see a performance of Mozart's Requiem at Carnegie Hall. We sat through a couple of student choir performances before intermission, when we moved down to empty seats at the front of the mezzanine section for the Requiem. That made the experience so much better, without any of the visual and auditory distractions from sitting higher up. Although I have four or five different recordings of the Requiem, it's the first time I've heard it performed live.

Wednesday Liz invited me to see a play called "#liberated" about a women's group that decides to make it's own porn video. She is writing a review for a theater site, so we got reserved seats in a very small theater. The eight members of the all-woman company called The Living Room are dedicated to making work about contemporary American women. I thought the play was pretty inventive but I didn't care for the very dark ending.

On Wednesday the 22nd, I had my first in-person job interview since the move in Rockefeller Center. I thought it went very well - as well as any interview I've had since the start of the job search. I'm really hoping that it was the same on the other side.

Saturday was Pride weekend and unfortunately Puck was sick for most of it with a cold. Seth and D came back down for the weekend so I took them to the Poly Picnic in Prospect Park and met up with Jen there to eat, socialize and make signs for the march the next day. Chrissy and Charles also came with their kids, Andrew and Annabelle, whom I met for the first time. Kara also came since she's back for the summer from the west coast. I also got the unexpected bad news that Buck was out of town and couldn't bring the banner pole for the march, plus I'd left the banner at home so we had to go back to SBSC and then go to Lowe's at 11:30 pm to get a PVC pole to hold the banner. So it was completely exhausting and left little energy for actually celebrating Pride in the way we had wanted to.

The morning of the march was also pretty hectic because we were driving in from Park Slope and it took longer than I expected so I had to send Jen out on foot to deliver the banner and pole while I parked Yoshi. Luckily the whole march was behind schedule so it turned out we had plenty of time, but I was worried for a bit that I wouldn't get there in time with all the signs we made. Here's some pictures from the march.

On Monday I finally took care of something I should have done months ago - I applied for free health insurance through Obamacare. I was surprised how easy and painless it was and I'm now covered by Medicaid for free. My health plan starts in August and I'll be able to see my endo again and get back on my medical regime.

Tuesday Chrissy took me out to get a spa pedicure for my birthday and we spent the afternoon at the salon and shopping together. As I left her to meet up with Puck to head home I randomly ran into my dear friend Lori in the middle of Herald Square at a food stall and made plans for dinner on Friday. Wednesday Jen and I went to Bindle & Keep, a custom suit tailor specializing in non-gender conforming individuals, to get me measured for a new suit. Jen had gotten her order in a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed the process and meeting Daniel, the tailor featured on the HBO documentary "Suited." But unlike Jen's masculine-cut suits, mine will be a woman's suit, obviously, when I receive it this fall.

Thursday I hosted an SBSC viewing of "The Danish Girl" - notable because it was Katie M's first time staying over at SBSC as she joined me, Puck and Jen for the movie. I didn't care for the movie very much so that was disappointing but it was delightful as always to see Katie and to have her get to know Jen a little. That night Puck, Jen and I also shared the same bed for the first time as I stacked air mattresses so that we could sleep on our queen mattress sideways. Unfortunately, my snoring drove Puck downstairs to the other guest room so the experiment wasn't entirely successful.

Saturday was our long-planned SBSC Beach Day. Rebecca and Jen both came over Friday night and we watched "Guardians of the Galaxy" with Puck. In the morning Jen and I, who are not beach people, went shopping for food while Puck led Rebecca, Carolyn, Kal and a new friend named Jesse to Midland Beach. I grilled hamburgers, corn, peppers, onions, hot dogs and veggie burgers on the charcoal grill in the backyard and we had potato salad and chips and dip as well. It's the first time I've ever been in charge of a non-gas grill and I guess I acquitted myself reasonably well.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


It's a rare thing when something you've wanted for a long time and you've hoped would blow you away actually ends up being even better than you could have ever imagined. It's even rarer when it comes twice in a three-month period in the form of both a new relationship and Broadway's all-time most Tony-nominated show.

Since my last post, Jen and I have started navigating a new poly relationship between us (my long-term relationship with Puck continues to deepen as co-habitating partners). The tremendous NRE Jen and I are co-creating makes me joyful, excited and hopeful that we will make each other (and perhaps those close to us as well) very happy for a long time to come. Aside from a brief exploration in 2014, I haven't found myself in a new relationship since 2010 - but rather than feeling out of practice, I think that all I've learned in the past six years has better prepared me to create a more loving and sustainable romantic partnership that is integrated into my other significant relationships.

Last week Jen and I saw Hamilton together and it was probably one of the best experiences on Broadway I've ever had. It didn't top seeing Wicked from front row center but it was a close second. We were in the fifth row, just to the right of the center section in the orchestra.

We had sushi for dinner and actually got to the theater just in time because of the subway but we managed to sit down about five minutes before the lights went down. A lot of people came in late for the 7 pm show, which it pretty astonishing considering what a hot ticket this is. I've been trying to win the ticket lottery for the better part of last year - I probably entered about 10 times, which I know isn't much when there are hundreds of people entering each and every lottery.

I also approached the show cold, as in I didn't listen to the soundtrack beforehand. I saw the opening number on a TV show a while ago so I had an idea what the vibe was going to be like but otherwise I was a blank slate about the show.

The thing that impressed me most about Hamilton is the clear narrative flow despite the rapid-fire lyrics. Jen pointed out that the solos with King George ("You'll Be Back," "What Comes Next?" "I Know Him") were a welcome respite from the pace of the show and I agree. So the story is easy to follow, even if you miss a few words along the way.

One of the highlights for me was Washington's goodbye ("One Last Time"), not just because it's a stirring song but because the historical act of Washington giving up power is such an important (and somewhat overlooked) part of the history of our country. I remember my father telling me once how much he respected Washington because of that one action and how other political leaders throughout history have been unwilling to follow his example, sacrificing their benevolence in the pages of history.

I was also greatly impressed with the songwriting throughout, but especially with the songs featuring the female cast ("The Schuyler Sisters," "Helpless," "Satisfied"). The finale, "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story" brought me to tears. I didn't expect a musical about one of our Founding Fathers to be such a moving love story.

As a thank you for the tickets, I bought Jen a hardbound copy of "Hamilton the Revolution" that has essays about the production and the entire libretto with annotations. Some of the footnotes are pretty hilarious and reveal obscure references that capture a glimpse of the creative process. We started reading it together on the trip back to Staten Island so maybe we'll pick that up next time we're listening to music together.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Steven Wilson at the Beacon

As the time remaining at TSMC counts down from months to weeks to days now, I find myself striving to enjoy every precious moment of living in the heart of NYC. For me at this stage in my short life, it's not really about going to shows or hanging out in Times Square (although I will have one last stroll through it before I go) but rather having people I care about share my space with me and using it as a convenient departure point to plan fun activities.

It took me a couple days to recover from the 24-hour Best Picture Showcase, but the following Thursday Katie M came over and we finally watched Interstellar. Puck joined us for the second half, right after the crew went through the wormhole. I still think it's a stunning cinematic achievement even though it overreaches in many aspects. But it's better to aim high and come up short than to settle for mediocrity.

Rebecca joined me and Puck last Friday evening for my first attempt at making quesadillas (successful, I think) and we watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E., followed by Pulp Fiction. But the real excitement was the following night when I took Jen to see Steven Wilson at the Beacon Theater.

Ordinarily, I get concert tickets months in advance but it happened that this one snuck up on me. I saw an email from the Beacon in my inbox on Tuesday and there were still great seats available and they were very reasonably priced so I bought two, figuring I could find someone to go. Fortunately Jen was available, which was great because I introduced her to Steven Wilson just a few weeks ago while we were playing cards. So I was very excited to see the show with her, even though I'd seen him perform only nine months prior with Puck at Playstation Theater in Times Square.

Before the show started, the PA voice announced that, for the first time in 20 years of touring, Steven had almost completely lost his voice due to illness. For a second I wondered if they were going to cancel and reschedule the show, as happened with the Diana Krall concert that Katie B and I attended two years ago, also at the Beacon. But it turned out that he had his backup singer, Ninet Tayeb, in the house and she would sing some of his parts, sharing duties with the lead guitarist.

So the show went on, and we counted ourselves fortunate indeed to see a show that few people will ever get to see. Ninet sang the lead on the song "Hand Cannot Erase" and I loved how she did it in two octaves, something Steven can't do. Steven introduced the song "Routine" by saying he considers it one of the most depressing songs ever written, comparing it to specific songs by The Cure ("One Hundred Years") and another by Joy Division (whose lead singer committed suicide, in case you didn't know). And Ninet just killed that solo version of "Routine" - it was already my favorite track on the album but now it's stuck in my head all the time.

If you don't know the song, here's a link to a Live Nation concert performance by Steven and the band (unfortunately, not including Ninet live, but her part is recorded). Here is a link to the animated video that is projected during the song.

The first half of the show was pretty close to what I saw last year, except for Ninet's involvement. In the second half the band performed songs from his EP "4 1/2" just released this year and some of it was instrumental but also included Ninet's reworking of "Don't Hate Me" from the older P-Tree album "Stupid Dream" and a powerful rendition of "Sleep Together" to wrap the set.

The first encore was something I'd seen on YouTube - they did an acoustic tribute to David Bowie by singing "Space Oddity" (although for our show Steven just played guitar leaving Ninet to solo). The only real disappointment for me was that they didn't do the two songs from his previous full album, "The Raven That Refused to Sing," both of which are accompanied by videos - "The Watchmaker" and the signature title track. Instead he closed with a popular P-Tree song, "The Sound of Muzak," which he didn't sing at all but asked the audience to sing for him and we all obliged as best we could.

Sunday I finally got to reconnect with Piper, whom I haven't seen since last autumn. We've been trying to meet up but she's been sick a lot this year. We met at the arch in Washington Square Park and went for Vietnamese food at Saigon Market near Union Square. We had a good long conversation over fried spring rolls, pho and curry pork - although the waiter mysteriously absconded with the spicy condiments from our table.

Monday night I met up with Chrissy at Tortaria, a taco place Kristina took me to when we used to do yoga across the street. We talked about a project she wants to take on for Open Love NY, so I gave her some feedback and advice on that. Then we went to a free play reading of "The Ash Tree Spinners" by the Shotz! crew, the first of four being held in the lounge of the Daryl Roth Theaters just off Union Square. It was a thought-provoking musical play about the the Fates of Greek mythology - Clotho, who spins the thread of life; Lachesis, who measures it out; and Atropos, who cuts it off.

Afterwards we meandered our way back to TSMC to drop off some things and then walked all the way up to 90th Street where she showed me her building's roof and the breathtaking views on a perfectly cool and breezy night. Since it was late, I said goodnight and took a subway back home.

Wednesday Katie M came over and we had a long talk - so long that we couldn't watch any of the lengthy movies in our queue, so we watched An Education instead. This little film was Oscar nominated for Best Picture in 2010 (losing to The Hurt Locker) and also garnered a Best Actress nomination for Carey Mulligan, one of my favorite actors. It was a charming movie, but I actually thought some of the deleted scenes should have been edited and worked into the final cut.

Last night Jen came over and we finished our game of 10-card Gin we left in progress - she beat me again 352-218. So we started playing her version of 500 Rummy, which is new to me, while watching The Talking Heads concert film, Stop Making Sense. I've only just watched this for the first time this week and I was blown away so I've been listening to a lot of their music in the past few days. And finally tonight Rebecca came over again to join me and Puck in watching her recent favorite film, Crimson Peak, and my movie pick, Glory, which I felt any fan of composer James Horner needed to watch.