Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in review

Well, here we are, New Year's Eve again, and once again it's time for my annual wrap-up post.

As many of you know, one of my key tenets in life is to live in the moment. The main reason I adopted this philosophy was because of the fire of 2005, when my house in Houston nearly burned to the ground at two o'clock in the morning. It was practically a total loss - a lifetime of memories and possessions destroyed in one night. The event had a profound impact on my life, both materially and as a catalyst for my personal growth.

But the point I'm making here is that no matter how settled or stable you think your life is, no matter how predictable it seems today, you can wake up tomorrow to find everything changed in an instant. Nothing in life is certain, except that it will someday end. And as someone who knows this first-hand, this is why I strive to live each day on its own merits. We have no control over what's happened in the past, nor what will happen in the future. We can only control what we do in the present, and that's where I try to keep my focus, always.

With the exception of course of this blog post, which I indulge myself a peek in the rearview mirror. And of course, this year 2009 has pretty much been all about the change in my relationships and finding a job. From the first time Polina and Lori came over to my apartment ("Cooking party" - Jan. 24, 2009) which was also the first time I'd ever had friends outside Tara and her family over, to our recent adventures over Christmas ("Christmas parties" - Dec. 27, 2009) Polina has become an increasingly important part of my life.

At the same time, my relationship with Tara and her family deteriorated over the course of eight months, beginning with our decision to stop having sex ("Unconditional love" - Feb. 22, 2009) and finally ending on Sept. 1 when she came over to return my keys and stuff left at her house, and tell me we would no longer be part of each other's lives. It was by no means a shock to me, because for most of this year our relationship has been marked by some vicious fights and very difficult talks, ever the moreso because we loved each other so much. But in the end, we simply could not bridge the differences in our core beliefs that separated us.

Next to that development, everything else seems pretty insignificant. I got my new job, which is great and I love it, except for the long commute ("First day at work" - Sept. 10, 2009). I marched in my first Pride Parade ("My first Pride Parade!" - June 29, 2009), played my first cricket game ("My first cricket game" - July 8, 2009), my first karaoke bar ("Karaoke virgin no more!" - July 27, 2009), and my first wedding as someone's date ("A wedding story" - Sept. 13, 2009).

Pretty much everything else of importance is already chronicled in the 110-plus blog posts for 2009, so I'll end this here. As usual for me, it's been a pretty exciting year, some good, some bad, but hardly ever boring. I'm happy to be sharing it, and thank you, whoever you are, for following along.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas parties

It's been a very fun and eventful 72 hours with Polina, as we cavorted between two states and three New York boroughs doing Christmas-y stuff, and I'm grateful for her company over the holiday and taking care of my needs that way.

I've been super-busy at work right up until Christmas as part of a team putting together a proposal for a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. Both Monday and Tuesday this week I was working until 10:30 p.m., but on Wednesday afternoon we submitted it, well before the 11:59 p.m. deadline that day, so I got to go home a little early. I even had time to go out to lunch with my female co-workers to say bon voyage to one of our departing colleagues.

On Thursday, Christmas Eve, I drove out to Staten Island to pick up Polina and go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the first time we've been there together. I took her around to see my favorite rooms and works of art (although my favorites from Claude Monet, JMW Turner and John Singer Sargent were missing from their usual places). We had a late lunch in the Trustees Dining Room, a members-only privilege that I've been wanting to partake of since I joined the Met three-and-a-half years ago.

Chocolate lava cake with ice cream

After a meal of chestnut soup, steak, scallops and a chocolate lava cake that was almost too pretty to eat, we sat for a while and had a relationship check-in. It seems she has been feeling a little overwhelmed with the primary nature of our relationship lately, so we're going to try and slowly de-emphasize the importance of it in our lives - or at least in hers. So we're going to try and reverse our movement the same way we got here - making small moves, taking one day at a time, and just trying to be gentle and good to each other.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the museum and looking at art, then went to a nearby bistro/diner to eat an early supper of Eggs Florentine (poached eggs over steamed spinach and English muffins, covered with Hollandaise sauce, which is made from egg yolk, lemon and butter cooked in a double boiler and wisked smooth) and French toast. Then we took a cab down to Rockefeller Center to see the big Christmas tree above the ice rink, which she had never been to see before.

Rockefeller Center tree

We stayed to watch the musical light show on the side of Saks Fifth Avenue, done to the tune of "Carol of the Bells" (which she can sing in Ukrainian) and then went into St. Patrick's Cathedral to listen to the last of the Christmas Mass singing. Then we took a cab back to the Met and drove home to Staten Island.

Christmas morning we left in the morning and went to my apartment, where we changed clothes and I showered and made us a breakfast of omlettes and turkey bacon before going to see Sherlock Holmes. We arrived right before one show started, and it was sold out, so we waited in line for the next show. I read my book and she edited a friend's novel for about 45 minutes before they let us in. Awesome movie for the both of us - she enjoyed the homoerotic Holmes/Watson dynamic, and I appreciated the little nods to the original source material from the Arthur Conan Doyle canon.

After the movie we drove to Queens for my friend Bonnie's family Christmas party. Bonnie, for those of you who don't know, is a relatively new member of my women's poly group, and the first poly Asian female I've met that I can remember. We attended a PolyNYC meeting way back, but I didn't remember her until she reminded me. We arrived a bit late, but Bonnie saved us some food, and even prepared a plate without pork/ham for Polina, knowing that she's Jewish, which was much appreciated. She also made some delicious cookies, which we ate along with a traditional Chinese chestnut cake, cupcakes from Crumbs Bakery and her aunt's excellent New York style cheesecake. For me, this was a bit of a nostalgic experience of being in a holiday party with a bunch of loud Asians, although my experience has been with an even louder group than Bonnie's family. It's not something I particularly miss, but it was interesting feeling that kind of energy again after several years of not being a part of it.

Bonnie and her dad

Polina and me, dressing festively

We left around 9 p.m. and drove back through Manhattan to New Jersey to go to friends Ryan and Beth's ("Polys in the wild" - August 11, 2009) Christmas party, where we ate yet another plate of food and had some egg nog with spiced rum as well. We watched Independence Day with the crowd of about 16-18 friends, then played a card game called Apples to Apples for a few hours until people started departing. We were among the last to leave about 2:30 a.m., going back to my place to sleep.

We lingered in bed until after noon on a very rainy Saturday, but finally got up and had breakfast and planned our day. We wanted to shop for ski wear, and Polina left her phone at Ryan's place, so we went to a nearby Ski Barn first, but the prices were way more than we wanted to pay. We stopped at a Staples to get a replacement iPod cord and other computer things Polina needed, then another quick stop at home because she forgot to take her coat out of my coat closet, and I gave her one of my spare flash drives for her keychain so she wouldn't have to buy one at Staples.

We stopped by Ryan and Beth's place and hung out with them for a while before heading back to Staten Island and having dinner. Polina showed me the student film she helped to edit, and we showed her mom and grandmother the movie trailer for Sherlock Holmes. I was intending to go home that night, but it got to be rather late and the weather was absolutely lousy, so I stayed and we watched Eddie Izzard's stand-up comedy movie Dress to Kill before going to sleep. It's the first time Polina and I have spent three consecutive nights together, which is ironic in view of our new direction.

I left Staten Island this morning after breakfast and went to Sports Authority, where I did manage to find a ski jacket and pants, goggles and socks, so I'm pretty well set to go skiing, whenever the opportunity presents itself. I just wish I was in better physical shape, because I know I'll be gassed quickly on the first day. But it would still be fun to go and play in the snow.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Taking stock of love

I've been thinking about the differences between poly and mono, and the stock market. And remember, I am definitely in the category of hopeless romantic, but I'd like to talk about relationships using the stock market as an analogy. Bear with me, this is going to be good.

The American system of capitalism embodied in the stock exchange works on the principle of perfect information, or transparency. Any information about publicly traded companies that is deemed to be "material" - that is, something that might affect earnings, has to be publicly disclosed. So if a pharmaceutical company invents a new drug to cure cancer, every step along the development of the product (positive and negative) must be announced. This ensures that the price of the company's stock always reflects as closely as possible what the market will pay for it, in as close to real-time as possible.

So if people are optimistic about a company and think well of its prospects, appetite for the stock increases and the price goes up. Conversely, if the company appears to be headed for hard times, people will sell any stock they are holding and the price falls. If information is not disseminated as it should be (i.e. insider information) it's illegal to act on it to profit in the market. Just ask Martha Stewart.

So it is in a way with relationships. If you believe that a relationship with someone has a good future, you "buy stock" in the form of spending time and effort being with them and nurturing the relationship. If you think the relationship is headed for disaster, then you're more likely to "sell off" slowly or quickly, by either spending less time with them or dumping them entirely.

Now, the difference between poly and mono is that, in most cases, poly people are more likely to embrace the whole "transparency" concept when it comes to relationships. Consider that in a poly relationship, where each person agrees to be as candid as possible about their feelings and attraction to the other person or other people, everyone involved is kept fully informed. By being informed, each person can then make an informed decision on whether they want to keep buying stock in the relationship, hold the amount they already have, or start selling it off and reallocating their resources elsewhere (i.e. dating other people).

However, in a mono situation, that's like buying a majority interest in one company and letting your investment stay in that one particular stock without any active management on your part. And that's great, if the company you invested in is a blue-chip stock with long-term success in the market, like Apple Computer, General Electric or ExxonMobil. You'll probably come out ahead with a lot less effort.

But if you picked a company that looked safe once that later falls on hard times - like AIG or General Motors - you might find yourself holding a lot of worthless paper, especially if you're not paying attention because you think your choice is faultless. In a mono situation, it's easy to get lazy and stop the regular flow of information because you are fully invested in that company/person and both of you are restricted from pursuing other opportunities. And when the flow of information is impeded, sometimes negative information builds up and all becomes public at once, causing a distress sale with widespread repercussions; i.e., a financial market meltdown, like the one that happened in late 2008-early 2009.

Anyway, that's the thought that's been running through my head lately. Like any other prospectus, I'm not giving advice here. Your situation and risk profile is unique. Please read carefully before you invest.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Checking in

It's been a week and a half since I've written, and I just wanted to write something, anything, so it doesn't go too long. I don't think too many people read this, so this is just me keeping the pencil sharp.

Last Friday I went into the city on my way out to Stony Brook for my friend Angel's birthday, and she wanted to go to a gentleman's club, so we went to the VIP Lounge. It's pretty much the same as any strip bar I've ever been to, although I haven't been to one in almost 20 years. I was surprised to learn that lap dances still only cost $20 a song - no cost of living adjustments for strippers, apparently.

Polina and I spent the whole weekend together, which was wonderful. We saw New Moon on Saturday night, and of course I loved it and she didn't. We actually got into a bit of an argument about it, so we had to stop talking about it. She's not nearly the hopeless romantic that I am, nor as big a fan of the Twilight books. Sunday we spent most of the day in her dorm room since she had to work on her research paper, but in the evening I took her and her friend Rosie out to Carrabba's again because I wanted to have the Limoncello bread pudding with the Blue Bell vanilla ice cream.

This week is my first as a full-time employee of Nearing, and it's been great so far. I came out to my immediate boss on Friday, like all the way - transgender, pansexual, polyamorous, pagan and dating Polina. She took it all in stride, so now I'm just going to find opportunities to mention these things to other people in the course of conversation, although I don't think I'll dump the whole load on anyone all at once like I did with her. It's nice being able to be out at work though - score one for New Jersey versus Texas.

That's all for now - more later, I hope.