Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shanghai Mermaid

Tonight I joined my friend Agnieszka and her friend Zach, who is visiting from Austin, Texas, for some late-night fun in the city. They got dressed up in some 1940s-inspired clothes, while I wore a faux-corset top and a blue satin sequined skirt that I bought years ago in Houston and haven't worn until now. I was going to wear it to my friend Joanna's wedding last year, but since I got stopped by a freak blizzard in Ohio I never found another excuse to wear it ("Blizzards and waterfalls" - March 10, 2008)

Zach and Agnieszka
Skirt debut

We started out at our old burlesque studio the Slipper Room where there was a student showcase event, when new graduates of the school take the stage along with some veterans to put on a show. We managed to grab front row seats and ran into a couple of our former classmates performing there. This is Rosie, in a beautiful sequined gown and feather boa:


This is Nikita (who also lives on Staten Island) and had an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous beaded costume, complete with tail feathers that came off a few at a time:


One of my poly friends, Linda, who has been to my women's group and was at Poly Pride last October, performed in a group dance with members of her poly family to the tune of "It's Raining Men," and it was nice reconnecting with her as well. When I told her I'd taken classes at the New York School of Burlesque, she wanted me to join their group in their next performance, but I demurred. I'm way too shy to take off my clothes onstage!

I also met and chatted with a striking young woman named Elle who is from Sweden, and has performed burlesque overseas, but will make her U.S. debut on June 17, the same night as the next Polyamorous NYC meeting. Hopefully I will get to catch her performance in a couple of weeks. Linda was kind enough to take this picture of us - her skin is so pale, she looks like a vampire next to me!

Me and Elle

In the middle of the second set, we left the Slipper Room and went down to Rector Street to attend Shanghai Mermaid, a floating party of sorts (meaning it moves from place to place) that my friend Stephanie invited us to - we met her earlier this month at the City Winery ("Burlesque show at City Winery" - May 9, 2009). We met her inside and chatted for a bit before checking out the second and third floors to see what was happening.

Stephanie and me

The best part about the party were some of the extraordinary costumes - like this one from one of the performers dancing above the bar - how big do hat boxes come anyway?

Bar dancing

The not-so-good part was the lack of air conditioning and the overcrowding around the performance area on the second floor, where a speakeasy band was playing. The third floor had a projector playing the 1931 Greta Garbo movie Mata Hari but little else. Although there were some interesting and friendly people there, there wasn't a lot of entertainment. Stephanie confirmed that this iteration of Shanghai Mermaid was not nearly as good as the one she attended in January, but it was nice seeing Stephanie and meeting some of her friends.

Tomorrow it's back to my quiet life with my family, with dinner and card games at my place, then to see Pixar's Up at the movie theater in the evening.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

New American Wing at the Met

Today is Shavuot, a Jewish holiday commemorating the anniversary of Moses receiving the Torah from God at Mount Sinai. Since I'm starting to have more Jewish people in my life (Polina, Lori, Linda, Leon) it's nice to feel a connection with them through their spiritual beliefs.

Tara and I had a wonderful visit to the Metropolitan Museum today, where the New American Wing was recently opened with a ribbon-cutting by First Lady Michelle Obama. This wing has been closed for most of the past two years, which has been hard on us because it's the room where Tara and I first met on October 14, 2005. Now we are finally able to celebrate the anniversary of that event properly, in the place that it happened.

The New American Wing at the Met

Here's a picture of me standing in the exact spot where Tara was standing on that night when she first saw me come into the room:

Me in the balcony of the American Wing

We saw three special exhibits this trip, starting with Roxy Paine on the Roof: Maelstrom, which I found to be reminiscent of a work I saw on my first trip to the Guggenheim that had a tremendous influence on my love of modern art:


We also toured an exhibit called Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective, an artist who influenced one of Tara's favorite artists, Clive Barker. We saw Barker's work last year at a private gallery downtown ("A busy weekend" - May 12, 2008) and it's easy to see the relationship between these two artists. Finally, we saw The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion which was about how models over the years influence the fashion industry and our perceptions of feminine beauty.

During our visit, Tara and I had a long talk about our different perspectives on artistic intent, on authentic identity, on living in the moment and our expressions of love. It was a little difficult at times, but not as much as such talks have been in the past. It's confusing when you love someone who wants something very different than what you want out of the love you share with them. I tend to celebrate differences and learn from them; Tara tends to celebrate affinity and enjoy the peace that comes with it. Without any easy answers for what to do, I put our fate in the hands of the goddess and just try to enjoy the moment for what it is without thinking about what it might lead to.

In the evening, I watched American Masters: Hollywood Chinese on PBS - it's about how Chinese and Asian-Americans have been portrayed in the movies over the years. It stirred up a lot of thoughts about my quixotic identity as a pansexual, transgender woman of Chinese ancestry who is both pagan and polyamorous. In talking with Penny on the phone about it this evening, I realized that having all these overlapping identities makes me feel even more like a teenager than she actually is, because I'm trying to internalize so much in a relatively short period of time - shorter than an average adolescence, at least. I'm not confused about who I am or why I believe in what I believe. But I do feel like there is a lot of growth ahead for me, not growing up so much as growing into the person I aspire to be.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's oh so quiet...

It's been a very quiet week so far, a nice respite from my busy month of May. As I look back on my calendar, today is only the seventh day in the entire month where I haven't been out to see a movie with my family, or been at a meeting, a party, a museum or a group gathering. We were planning to have a family visit to the Metropolitan Museum today, but since Tara has come down with bronchitis, that had to be postponed.

The fact that both of my sweeties are sick at the same time is a bummer, but at least I'm not getting sick - my resilient constitution seems up to the challenge. For the last five years I've been highly disease-resistant, even when I had other people living with me in Houston. Several times both of them would be sick and I'd still be going like the Energizer bunny.

On Memorial Day I spent the day alone, and it felt a little weird to me. I usually don't do well with national holidays, as they remind me of my disconnect with my birth family. Tara was busy shopping for air conditioners, Penny had company over and Lori and Agnieszka were not available by phone, so I spent the day doing laundry and reading through my old journal that covers the period of Dec. 1990 to mid-1995. These dates correspond to graduating from college and saying goodbye to Agnieszka Prime to the start of my relationship with my ex in Houston. It was a pretty pathetic period in my life, I have to say, and I'm not sure why I chose to be introspective about it. But I'm over it now, and moving on to living in the present again.

Yesterday Tara and I went to see Terminator: Salvation, and we both thought it was pretty good. I would say it's probably my third favorite in the series, with T-3 being my least favorite and T-2 my favorite. Afterwards we came home and made pancakes and bacon for dinner, and had a nice, quiet evening.

I've been asked to take on a small freelance assignment publicizing a book on Gaia theory and its relationship to bisexuality and polyamory. It's got me thinking about the possibility of a polyamorous family and what that might look like someday with people who share my philosophies and ideals. I imagine a small group of non-monogamous, romantically committed people living together, supporting each other, raising children and being a part of a larger erotic community where no one has to hide their feelings.

It would require communication with each other at a much higher level than many people may be comfortable with, but we're talking about creating a new kind of family outside the traditional nuclear model and therefore little can be assumed. This model is also built on love, but instead of being expected to remain static, it grows organically over time - changing as people and situations change and involving multiple partners. It is based on the assumption that we humans have a limitless capacity to love each other and should not be required to hoard or ration the love we give and receive. One of the book's central ideas is that the more love that we all are able to give and receive, the better it will be for us as a species, and for the planet as a whole. Just like Burt Bacharach said, it's what the world needs now.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

One fine day

Friday morning I had my monthly allergy shots and then drove to Staten Island to visit Polina, who has been sick with a nasty ear and throat infection for the past five days. The small upside is that she has been receiving more visitors since she's been sick, which she usually enjoys.

Her friend Afiya (who was at the PolyNYC meeting on Wednesday) stayed over Thursday night, so she was still there on Friday when I arrived. The three of us had lunch together and then watched the premiere episode of Firefly since Afiya has never seen Joss Whedon's show. Someday we'll have a Firefly marathon and get to watch Serenity together.

Afiya was to meet some friends in Manhattan to go see the new Terminator movie, so we drove her to the Staten Island Ferry terminal and returned home. Penny's mom came home while Penny and I were taking turns reading aloud from the book 1066 and all that: A memorable history of England, comprising all the parts you can remember including one hundred and three good things, five bad kings and two genuine dates.

After a trip to the doctor's office, we came home to light candles and bless bread and wine for Shabbat, the first time I've participated in this Jewish ritual. It was lovely, and inspirational for a spiritual novice such as myself. Penny was pretty wiped out from the doctor's visit, so we all turned in early for the night.

The next morning we blessed the bread and wine again at breakfast and Penny's mom and I administered medicine for Penny's ears, which consisted of stuffing her ears with gauze using a pair of long tweezers and applying medicine drops to them, a painful process for her. We did some computer stuff, played cards and cuddled for a bit until it was time for me to go to Central Park to join my lesbian Meetup group.

I drove across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge through Brooklyn then into the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel into Manhattan. I parked at the Metropolitan Museum and walked across the park to meet Anika (whom I met last weekend) at the 72nd Street entrance. We found the group and met some of the other people there. My friend Angel showed up - I had just seen her two days ago at the PolyNYC meeting, of course.

Anika and I played some card games with some other people, one called Set and the other called Quiddler, which is like a combination of Scrabble and gin rummy. Set was freakin' hard, but fascinating nonetheless. It was just a little frustrating because Anika is so good at it. There was also a volleyball net so I played a couple games of five-on-five - won one, lost one.

In the early evening I went to my family's house for our first barbecue of the year. Bug made salads and baked beans, and Tara and I had hot dogs while Bee and Bug had soy burgers. We saw two young female deer stroll by and run back and forth across the field adjacent to the golf course in their backyard - that was exciting to see. We watched birds and squirrels, ate, laughed and chatted until nearly dark before coming inside to watch Spaceballs, which I'd never seen before. It's a Mel Brooks spoof on sci-fi movies, specifically Star Wars, in case you didn't know. Tomorrow morning we're all going to see Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

Today was one of my best days - I spent some quiet time with Polina, some active time with my new friends Anika and Angel, and some quality family time with Tara, Bee and Bug. It's not often that so many of the disparate parts of my life contribute events that are enjoyable, significant and memorable, all in a single day. It makes me very happy about my life and the people in it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

MOMA visit

Tara and I had a nice date today at the Museum of Modern Art, despite the fact that she's starting to feel a little run down, probably from catching Bug's germs that have already caused Bee to miss a couple days of work.

It seemed that a special visit was foretold when I saw this creative license plate on an SUV while driving down Lexington Avenue on the way in:

Imagine that

As we always do, we started on the 6th floor where the special exhibit was Tangled Alphabets, by Argentine artist Leon Ferrari and Brazilian artist Mira Schendel. Then we toured our favorite galleries full of works by Matisse, Picasso, Rothko, Rauschenberg, Seurat, Cezanne, etc. Our favorite works by Van Gogh and Monet are on tour, but there were some new pieces to look at.

There was a special exhibit called Stage Pictures: Drawing for Performance that featured an entire wall of works by Marc Chagall, one of our favorite artists. This set of four are backgrounds for the ballet Aleko:


Here's an unusual apertif of a work by artist Jack Strange, simply called g - it's a lead weight on an Apple MacBook continuously typing the letter g. It was on page 47 when we came across it:


One of the best exhibits was called Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection, where we found this colorful painting:

Me at MOMA

This collection also included a work by Carol Bove, titled simply Jane B., and it was the most moving thing I saw today. It's such a subtle image - almost like a watermark - that it was impossible to photograph, so you can only see it online, and even then, you don't really get a sense of how beautiful and ethereal it is. You just have to go visit MOMA and see it for yourself.

But the funniest thing we saw was in the main hall space, which was closed for installation of a new exhibit. The elements of the exhibit were still in large crates, wrapped with two kinds of tape - one that said "FULL" and the other said "PACKED". But see what happens when these two kinds of tape accidentally overlap:

Guerilla art at its best!

Tomorrow I'm going to Staten Island to visit Polina, who is still not feeling her best, but well enough to need some distraction. Then Saturday afternoon there's a big Meetup party in Central Park where I'm hoping to see Anika again, if it doesn't get rained out. Saturday night I'll be at my family's house for dinner and poker or a movie, so I probably won't be posting anything new until at least Sunday.

Public speaking

It's been a fairly eventful 24 hours, and my period of hyperactivity this month is slowly coming to a close, although one never knows what tomorrow will bring.

Yesterday in the midst of running my usual errands, I bought a new tennis racquet, a HEAD Metallix 6 because I was tired of using Tara's outdated one when we play. This racquet seems to be pretty close in design to my old Wilson Hammer 2.6 that I lost in the fire of 2005 (and which is long discontinued) - top heavy, extremely stiff, 115 square inches in surface area, and a wide beam design for stability. I have high hopes that it will suit my game once I get to try it out.

In the evening my family went out and saw Star Trek again at the free movie theater. Unfortunately, we seemed to be surrounded by talkative teenagers who felt compelled to hum along with music and make snarky comments about the movie. Plus there was an unhappy infant in the back row whose parents felt entitled to see this movie, even if it meant subjecting everybody else to a crying baby. But we muddled through and enjoyed the movie anyway. I, however, managed to lose a dental crown from eating too much popcorn, which was extremely annoying. So the next morning I called my dentist and made an afternoon appointment to get that fixed.

I went into the city by bus, first to the dentist, and then met Lori at Macy's in Herald Square where she was doing some clothes shopping. Then I went down to the LGBT Center for my Polyamorous NYC meeting, where I filled in as the presenter for Katelynn Cusanelli, who was a no-show for our highly publicized event. It was a smaller crowd than I was expecting, so that was probably better for me. I was surprised to see my friend Angel, who works at the Metropolitan Museum ("Limerancing through life" - Feb. 27, 2009) and Afiya, one of Polina's friends I met last New Year's Eve at her house ("2008 in review" - Jan. 1, 2009). My friends Buck, Kyle and Simon from Open Love NY were there to support me, and Buck was kind enough to take pictures for me:


Everyone seemed to enjoy the presentation and I got lots of compliments from the Board members and my friends, but naturally I thought I could have done a lot better. I didn't have very much time to prepare, and I was actually pretty nervous. I think I would have been even more nervous if Polina was there, but she was feeling too sick to come into the city.

Angel and I rode the subway together back to Port Authority and got caught up with each other's lives - she recently returned from Australia where she had a three-week concert engagement as an opera singer. Once I get a job, I definitely want to see a few more operas and shows - I miss the energy of a live performance.

Tomorrow Tara and I are going to visit MOMA once more before my annual membership expires at the end of the month, so I'll have more pictures to post then.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A tour of Manhattan

I had an incredible run of luck at cards on Saturday night with my family, probably never to be matched again. I ended the game with $7,030 in chips, out of a possible $7,200 in play, meaning I had almost 98 percent of the total value on the table. Hopefully that kind of luck will rub off on other aspects of my life.

Sunday I went into the city for a walking tour of lower Manhattan with a new Meetup group of adventure-minded girls. We met at the corner of 14th Street and 8th Avenue (near the LGBT Center) and walked west to the Hudson River, then turned south and followed the shoreline through Battery Park City and the Financial District to South Street Seaport.

My favorite part was seeing the Irish Hunger Memorial, which is a public art exhibit recreating a small patch of Ireland in the middle of a public square:

Irish Hunger Memorial

Here's a picture of our group of about 20 women at the top of the Memorial:

Walking group

We went through the Winter Garden shops at the World Financial Center, where we had an overview of the Ground Zero site:

Ground Zero

During the walk I got to know several people, but the one I had the most to talk with about was a young lady named Anika. It's not often I meet someone so congruent with my tastes in books and movies. She's a fan of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, Alan Moore's Watchmen and V for Vendetta, Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Amelie, Terry Gilliam's trilogy, Baz Lurmann's Red Curtain Trilogy, Merchant Ivory films and surprisingly, the Twilight Saga. She's a flight attendant for Jet Blue, so she's in and out of the city all the time from her home in Salt Lake City. Hopefully we will cross paths again soon.

Here's a photo of us at the Winter Garden with Ground Zero behind us - she's a hugger, obviously:

Anika and me

Sunday night my family went out to see Angels & Demons, which was very good. I think I was the only one who didn't see the plot twist coming. Unfortunately, Bee, who caught Bug's cold from last week, became really sick during the movie and had us worried. Along that line, Polina has also taken ill with a high fever - Tara and I have managed to stay healthy so far. Hopefully everyone will get better soon and stay that way.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Stuffed mushrooms

Wednesday afternoon my friend Lori called me and we arranged to meet before my Poly Women's Group to catch up. It was a beautiful day, so I walked from Port Authority on 42nd and 8th Avenue to the Citigroup Center at 54th and 3rd, which took about 45 minutes with a couple stops along the way. Lori and I chatted for about 90 minutes and she showed me her new sunglasses:

Lori with sunglasses

My friend Barbara showed up and we started our meeting, whereupon Lori left to go visit her mom in Queens. After I got home I went to my family's house so we could watch last week's Saturday Night Live, hosted by Justin Timberlake. It was hands down the funniest episode of the year, and we especially liked the New Jersey jokes from Fred Armisen's impersonation of New York Gov. David Paterson.

This morning Tara came over to play tennis before the rain started, so we had a nice workout early in the day. Then I went to run some errands, which included a trip to CD World where I bought Taken, Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Die Another Day, one of the handful of James Bond movies I don't currently own.

This evening I made stuffed mushrooms for dinner, which is something I learned from my South Beach dieting days. It's a pretty simple low-carb vegetarian dish, but just requires a lot of chopping.

Stuffed Mushrooms

10-12 large mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped white onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/3 cup chopped green olives (or try chopped sun-dried tomatoes for a variation)
1/3 cup tomato pasta sauce
2 tablespoons oregano leaves
Shredded fresh Parmeggiano-Reggiano cheese
Hot sauce/salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash the mushrooms and remove the stems. Finely chop the stems into small pieces. Dry the caps and place on cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Saute the onions, garlic and stems in olive oil in a saucepan until tender. Add pasta sauce, green olives and spices and let simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

3. Fill the bottom of each mushroom cap with about a teaspoon of grated cheese (depending on the size of the cap), then using a fork, evenly distribute the stuffing among all the caps. Top with a sprinking of more cheese.

4. Bake until cheese topping starts to melt (about 15-20 minutes) and serve. Inside filling will be very hot, so eat with care.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Baby kitten rescue

I've been packing a lot of activity in the past few days, and I expect this to continue until at least May 20, culminating with the monthly meeting of Polyamorous NYC when Katelynn is scheduled to appear. In addition to activities in the city, there's also new movies in theaters every week, plus Rockets playoff games, and spending as much time as possible with both Tara and Polina while I'm hunting for a job because once I land one, I'm not going to have nearly as much free time. I want to make the most of it while it lasts.

Saturday night was family night at Tara's house, and Bug made a nice dinner of pasta and zucchini and a salad. Then we watched a very long movie that is a favorite of Bug's and mine, but one that Tara and Bee haven't seen: Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven. The extended Director's Cut runs 3 hours and 13 minutes, but it's worth it over the theatrical version. It actually made a nice follow-up to last week's viewing of The Last Temptation of Christ in the sense that both movies deal with the religious themes, but in very different ways.

Sunday we got up early on Mother's Day so we could all see Star Trek together before Bee and Bug went home to visit birth families. We are all over the moon about this movie, being lifelong Trek fans. The script was one of the best I've ever seen, full of nods and winks and spot-on characterizations for the devoted fans. The action was taut and visually exciting, and they did a tremendous job in creating a new reality without trashing what came before. It actually made me cry in the first 10 minutes of the film - possibly the best science fiction movie to come out of Hollywood since Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith.

After the movie, Tara and I went for lunch at the Riverview Cafe in Elmwood Park and we talked about our birth families and growing up, as I typically do on family-oriented holidays when my estrangement from my birth family becomes more evident. These are some of the few times I opt to take myself out of the moment and think about the past or the future. I choose not to do this often, nor do I wallow when I'm doing it. Tara seems to feel closer to me when I'm showing my vulnerability and reminding her of how I was back when we were still living 1,700 miles apart. But for my part, I choose not to look backward very often because I don't want to miss out on a moment of the life I have now.

After lunch we came back to my apartment and played tennis, only the second time we've done this. I gave Tara my newer racquet to use, and that evened the playing field tremendously, because I used to be a pretty gosh darn good player. We had a nice workout, and then I dropped her off and watched my Rockets game and my DVD of Max Payne, which I checked out from the library.

Monday I went to visit Polina in Staten Island and help her with an abandoned baby kitten her mom found on their doorstep on Sunday. The animal was only hours old, with the umbilical cord still attached, and Polina and her mom had been taking turns all night feeding it and keeping it warm. Polina found a shelter that could take the baby kitty in for foster care, so we went together to the facility to drop the kitty off. Here's some pictures of her holding it:

Holding kitty

Head in hand

And here's the shelter worker who took the kitty, so you can see better how small it is:


Afterwards, we went out to lunch and came home to visit with her mom for a bit. Her mom showed me a old copy of Ruyard Kipling's Just So Stories, written in English with a Russian forward, so I could read "The Cat That Walked By Himself" as a way of explaining why Penny's dad was so adamantly against keeping the kitten.

Later in the evening, Penny and I took the bus to the Staten Island Ferry into Manhattan for the Poly Cocktail Hour at China1, which I had attended for the first time last month while she was in Argentina ("Busy start of the week" - April 14, 2009). We got there quite late, around 8:30 p.m. and unfortunately missed our friends Simon and Kyle, but saw Leon and Antonia from Open Love NY, and I ran into Tanisha, a women from my Poly Women's group (which meets tomorrow), Paloma (who is leaving for Europe this Friday) and some other people I've run into before. The poly community in New York (and everywhere else, I'd assume) is pretty small, so eventually you start seeing people over and over.

Between the two of us, Penny and I met just about everybody in the room, and it was loads of fun going around, introducing and being introduced to new people. There were many people there for the first time; in fact, it was Polina's first time at this particular event as well. I think we both had such a good time that we'll probably try to make it a regular outing, our schedules permitting. We were, in fact, two of the three last people to leave the restaurant at about 12:30 a.m. We got a quick bite at a 24-hour Turkish restaurant, and then took a bus back to the ferry. This was my first time riding the Staten Island Ferry, so I took some pictures to commemorate. This is the sign on the Manhattan side at 1:30 in the morning - you can see Penny's silhouette standing under the T and E in "Staten":

Manhatten ferry terminal

First crossing

The next morning we made some breakfast together and I helped her wash dishes and clean up the kitchen before we went upstairs to swap some music on her computer.

Washing dishes

When I got home around 4 p.m. I followed up on some potential job leads, but still nothing definite to report at the moment. I picked up Tara so we could go see X-Men Origins: Wolverine at the free movie theater, but unfortunately, the 7:30 p.m. show was already sold out, so we had to wait for the 9 p.m. show. The upside is that we did get to see the Deadpool Easter Egg after the end credits, although I was a little disappointed with its brevity. However, my estimation of the movie itself is higher upon second viewing than the original reaction I had last Sunday.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Burlesque show at City Winery

I had a fantastic time at City Winery last night with my friend Agnieszka, where we went to see a burlesque show. The venue is a combination restaurant, working winery and performance space, all in the middle of SoHo in Manhattan.

In case some of you are not familiar with the art of burlesque, it is different from performing in a strip club. Burlesque is all about putting on a show that celebrates the art of the tease. Put another way, a stripper takes off her clothes in response to the desire of the customer to see her nude body. A burlesque dancer takes off her clothes in a carefully choreographed routine meant to entertain a crowd by either being sexy, funny, dramatic, acrobatic, or any combination of those qualities. The energy in a burlesque show is all about having fun and being entertained in an artful way, with none of the commercial nature of a strip club atmosphere.

Right then, on to the details of the evening. The stage of City Winery is beautiful, and the room is expansive, and has hosted such well-known acts as Michelle Shocked, The Proclaimers, Philip Glass and Patti Smith, and Rufus Wainwright and David Byrne, who did a concert in March to raise awareness for energy conservation so they did a fully acoustic set lit by candlelight and without any electricity whatsoever - even the air conditioning was turned off.

Before the show actually started, there was a go-go dancer warming up the crowd, and we were seated in an elevated section of the room, where I took this picture that will give you an idea of what the stage looks like:

Go-Go dancer

We weren't very happy with our seats, so I grabbed the hostess and got her to move us to a table down in front of center stage. We also saw one of our old burlesque classmates, Rosie, sitting near the stage as well, and said hello. The second act was a well-known performer named Ruby Valentine, who did an elegant and memorable dance in a costume made of silver mylar. Incidentally, none of the videos in this post have nudity, but I still wouldn't play them at work!

Ruby Valentine

After several more acts, there was an intermission, during which a belly dancer named Maiia performed, and I thought she was one of the best acts of all. She started out with some large mylar wings like Ruby's:

Maiia with wings

Then she took the wings off and did a more traditional dance using her veils as props:


Finally, she brought a six-foot long Burmese python out of a basket and danced with it:

Snake kissing

The snake appeared again later on the shoulder of one of the male performers, Jonny Porkpie, and seemed to take a liking to the Stage Kitten, Sizzle Dizzle, since it seems to be licking her chin:


Finally, Anita Cookie (whom I met on Monday at the MTV party) and GiGi La Femme did a funny duet singing "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," putting their own GLBT spin on the Maurice Chevalier classic:

Anita Cookie and GiGi La Femme

After the performance was over, one of the dancers, Sapphire Jones, came out with the traditional fez hat to collect tips, but unfortunately Anita Cookie didn't come out so I could've said hi to her again.

Sapphire Jones

While we were watching the show, a woman came up to us and complimented Agnieszka's hat. One of Agnieszka's hobbies is reproducing classic pin-up scenes with self-portraits, so she has an extensive wardrobe of vintage clothing. The woman, Stephanie, came back at the end of the show with her boyfriend and we talked about burlesque and our experience with lessons, and we took pictures of each other so she would have a photo of Agnieszka's hat. Her email address is taken from a line from the Beatles' song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" since she's a Beatlemaniac, and led to us singing the song at 1:30 in the morning in a mostly empty subway station.

Here's a photo of me and Agnieszka (and her vintage hat) on the subway on the way home. I'm looking at the reflection of my digital camera in the train window opposite us so I can frame the shot properly - I just forgot to look back at the camera when I pressed the shutter.

On the subway

Friday, May 08, 2009

We now return to our regular programming...

I'm really excited right now about a new job opportunity! After my eventful times earlier in the week, it's been a nice chill-out period the last couple of days to catch my breath before the next round of social events starts up.

Tonight, Agnieszka and I are going to SoHo to see a burlesque show (Anita Cookie is scheduled to perform), then Sunday is the new Star Trek movie with my family and time with Tara in the afternoon. Monday is the Poly Cocktail Hour, Wednesday is my women's poly support group, and Friday is Erika's birthday party.

Today, I woke up and watched a couple of episodes of Angel, "Double or Nothing" and "The Price" before getting up and firing up the computer to do some job searching. I submitted my resume to a couple of places, including a recruiter looking for an internal communications specialist for a confidential Fortune 500 company. About two hours after I sent that one, she called me and said when the company saw my resume they told her she had to get me on the phone - pronto.

I know I'm being modest, but frankly, it's kind of a shock. In this economy, I don't expect companies to be so eager to hire anyone, including me. But apparently, my experience with Cardtronics in my former life was especially attractive to this particular company. That's a good thing, because I loved working for Cardtronics, and I still point out their ATMs to my family whenever I see them. It's one of the few tangible things I can point to in everyday life that is a result of my work - I helped design the decorative wrapper and graphics on some Cardtronics ATMs.

Anyway, I filled out a form for the recruiter, and she's going to schedule an interview for me next week, probably on Monday, Wednesday or Friday, since I'll be in the city for the aforementioned social events anyway. The company is located at the World Trade Center, so that's a pretty convenient commute, just a little farther on the E line than I used to do, but downtown instead of uptown. So I'm crossing my fingers that this will turn out to be the end of my time off, although I will certainly miss being on extended vacation.

The downside is that I was thinking about visiting my friends who live points west of here, like Christine and Monica (who both live near Pittsburgh), Joanna and Mandy (who live in Central Ohio) and Colleen (who lives in Indianapolis) and just sleeping on people's couches or my air mattress to save on expenses.

I've also been seriously thinking about going back down to Houston and visiting my friends in the community down there, plus maybe visiting Linda and Meredith. I don't have any desire to see my parents, but I suppose I would let them know I was coming just to extend an olive branch. What I really miss is the food in Houston - when I play the "last meal" game, most of my dishes come from Houston restaurants ("4 things" - Aug. 30, 2007). If I get this job, I probably won't have the time to do that for a while. We'll have to see what transpires.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Learning about polyamory

This is a very interesting and enlightening commentary written by a San Francisco blogger about how she educated herself about polyamory by reading Jenny Block's book Open. I like the way she describes her thought process from believing that polyamory won't work to understanding that at its core, polyamory isn't really about having multiple sex partners. At its core, polyamory is about creating workable, fulfilling relationships outside of traditional monogamy.

She writes: I love that being attracted to, or even coupling with, someone else doesn't have to be a relationship's deal-breaker. Even more so, I'm enthralled with the sense of personal satisfaction, empowerment, and validation -- and interpersonal intimacy and connection -- that the necessary communication about such a possibility would foster. Mostly, I'm glad that my fear about what a relationship has to be is starting to be lifted. Because I do want a partnership. I just don't want any of the kinds I've already seen.

Read the full post: Open wide: Polyamory reconsidered

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Birthdays, MTV and Polina

This is going to be the longest post ever written in this blog, with lots of pictures, and important stuff about Polina, so settle in if you're interested in reading. I'm going to tackle things chronologically because a lot's happened in the past 72 hours and I don't want to miss anything.

Saturday morning I picked up Bug and Tara and we went to our local comic book store for Free Comic Book Day. It was the first time since I've moved here that we didn't go to Midtown Comics in Times Square for this event. Midtown does a great job, but it's a bit of a hassle because the line starts forming an hour before the store opens, and by the time we typically get there, it's about 50 people long and it's still at least 30 minutes before opening. Plus we have to find parking and pay for bridge toll, etc., etc. It's been fun in the past, but it's just not worth it for free comic books. Besides, we want to support our local stores that we shop at more frequently.

Saturday night I was invited to my friend Leon's birthday party at River, a bar in Hell's Kitchen where he and his friend Paloma were guest-bartending for the night. It was also my first time taking the bus in from my apartment to Port Authority Bus Terminal, since the trains in my area don't run on weekends. There's a transit center about 500 feet from my apartment across the highway, so it's super-convenient to park Yoshi there, hop on a bus for $6 (cheaper than paying the $8 bridge toll) and go directly to Port Authority.

Leon is one of my friends involved in creating Open Love NY (a group of people which I geekily refer to as "the Separatists" in a Star Wars reference) and one of the nicest guys I know. When I walked in I gave him a hug and he introduced Paloma, who recognized me from a past Polyamorous NYC meeting, although I didn't remember her. I suppose I do tend to stick out in a crowd, being a tall Asian girl in a group of medium-sized, mostly white people (although Leon is six-foot-six). Leon expertly made me a blueberry cosmopolitan and I settled into a barstool next to two young women named Casey and Michelle (yes, same spelling - I checked). My friend Simon came in shortly after and sat down next to me on the other side.

Simon and I spent most of the evening chatting with Casey and Michelle, and we seemed to hit it off well, although they are not polyamorous and it was fun watching Casey's face as Simon was explaining polyamory to her. Casey and I are in similar lines of work, and we both lost our jobs in December. She looks a lot like Ferris Bueller's girlfriend Sloane Peterson in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. She and Michelle are long-time friends, having grown up together since Catholic elementary school. So when it was getting late, the three of us left at the same time (Simon stayed behind) and they kindly offered me a lift back to New Jersey so I wouldn't have to take the bus home. After dropping me off at Yoshi, they turned around and drove back to Queens. It was a very generous gesture, and I hope we'll see each other again at some point just to hang out and talk more.

Sunday morning I picked up my family and we went to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which I thought was a pretty good movie, although a little slow in some parts between action sequences. Also, I wish we were either given more intel on new characters, or that established characters from the comic were used more. Also, some of plot had a few Sentinel-sized holes, but what the hey, it's a comic book movie. But lastly, I found out the meaning of my friend Joanna's cryptic comment about the character Deadpool - there are two different Easter eggs tacked on after the closing credits, and we saw the one about Wolverine in Japan. See this article for details, but watch out for spoilers if you haven't seen the movie.

Monday night was my friend Diana's MTV party at my old burlesque studio The Slipper Room, where Agnieszka and I took six weeks of burlesque dance classes. As I've mentioned in this blog before ("Diana Adams on TV" - March 4, 2009) Diana is an activist for the sex-positive community in New York and she is currently working with the award-winning docuseries MTV True Life for an episode titled "I'm Polyamorous." The show spotlights Diana's life with her long-time boyfriend and current girlfriend Kerry, who is 21 and exploring bisexuality for the first time, and follows their lives as they experience what it's like to be young and polyamorous today. MTV's camera crew was at the party filming the performances and setting up conversation scenes for the show, which premieres in August.

At this point, I'll start talking about Polina. As I was getting ready to leave my apartment for the party, she called me up out of the blue. I say that because I had left her a voice message last Sunday (4/26) which she never returned, although we swapped a couple off-line chat messages on the computer last week. So in the short time we had to talk before I had to leave, I explained to her that not returning phone calls was unacceptable if we were going to even be friends, let alone anything more than that. She apologized and promised not to do it again, and we planned to meet at the party later in the evening, as she was on the performers lineup to do a reading of some of her poetry.

When I got to the club, the entertainment started with a performance by Tash and Sarah, two members of The Gyronauts, a troupe of hula-hoop performers. Sarah performed solo at the Poly Pride rally last year, and I was very impressed with her skills, especially since I can't hoop to save my life.

The Gyronauts onstage at The Slipper Room

I later learned from my friend Buck that Polina had arrived at the club before I got there, but couldn't get in because she's under the legal drinking age, even though she's a performer. So she went to visit a friend in the city instead, and on the phone we made plans to see each other Tuesday at her home in Staten Island.

Since The Slipper Room is a burlesque theater there were a few burlesque acts, both male ("boylesque") and female, and by far the best one was by a performer named Anita Cookie (say that fast), who did a clever routine with a tweed trenchcoat to the tune of Engelbert Humperdinck's "A Man Without Love." As someone who trained in burlesque, I can tell she put a lot of effort into creating her routine and I was very impressed. Since this is a PG-13 blog, I didn't take a picture while she was performing (she stripped down to pasties and a g-string) but I loved the tattoo on her shoulder, which she let me photograph after coming offstage:

Anita Cookie

I ran into so many people in the poly community at the party, it was very exciting having so many of my friends and acquaintances in one place at the same time (unfortunately minus Polina). Besides Buck and Diana, Leon, Paloma, Lyndell, Justen (from Polyamorous NYC), Birgitte and her girlfriend Erika all showed up. Erika and I worked closely together back in March ("Poly Leadership Summit 2009" - March 3, 2009) and Birgitte and I worked together on the New York Times article and the Poly Pride Rally in Central Park last year ("Poly public relations" - October 5, 2008). I also ran into Storm, a young poly woman who came to one of my New Women's Polyamory support group meetings. Plus there were one or two other people who recognized me from the Leadership Summit.

Erika and me
Paloma & Storm

For the MTV portion of the night, the camera crew set up two group conversations with people who agreed to appear and speak on camera. In the first group, Buck, Justen, Lyndell and myself represented a group of experienced polyamorists giving advice to Kerry, while Diana looked on. In the second group, they rounded up a bunch of younger poly-friendly and poly-curious people to talk with Kerry as peers about their experiences with polyamory. In this photo, the back of Birgitte's head is directly in front of the camera, Diana and Kerry are sitting to her right, then continuing around the table is a guy I don't know, then Tash, then a girl I don't know, then Sarah, and her girlfriend Caitlin.

Young poly discussion

It was an incredibly fun night, and the only real drama was at the end, when I lost track of time and almost missed the last train back to New Jersey. Leon was a lifesaver in hustling me, Storm, her boyfriend, another woman and himself into a shared cab and getting us to Penn Station in less than 12 minutes. I made it to the train with less than 15 seconds to spare.

Argentine One Peso pendant

Tuesday morning I drove out to Penny's house and we cooked some pasta together for lunch and she gave me a souvenir from her trip, a pendant made from an Argentine one peso coin with the outline of the church tower carved out. She didn't know that I have a passing interest in numismatics and notaphily, but that made it an especially appropriate gift for me. She also gave me a copy of the graphic novel The Professor's Daughter, which she picked up from a comics writers convention on Saturday, and I gave her an extra copy of the free Wolverine Saga comic that I had also given to Tara last week. She showed me her photos and videos from the trip, and then we took a walk down to the beach in front of her house. We talked for a long time about our relationship, which I felt was on the cusp of becoming more serious three months ago when she left for her trip.

As I've outlined in my theory on unconditional love, I don't put expectations on what a relationship is going to be. Polina and I try to practice what is known as "radical honesty," or being as direct as possible about our feelings without worrying about hurting each other, because we both know we have no intention of doing so. During our walk, I made myself clear about how her inattentiveness at times was hurtful to me (e.g., not returning phone calls), and she made herself clear that she did not want our relationship to change, either to be more serious or more casual. We agreed that we're going to try and keep our relationship somewhere between friends and lovers, without any additional expectations or commitments from anybody. At least for now, this is the relationship that works for both of us, and we've communicated our needs to each other. Whether and how we are both able to fulfill those needs will determine where we go from here.

As I said in my theory post, love is rarely a game played on equal terms, and we both understand that my feelings for her are probably stronger than hers are for me, although she enjoys my company very much, and we are physically affectionate, but platonic. Perhaps we can be described as "physically affectionate friends." She describes her feelings as loving me, but just not being in love with me. To her, being in love is that crazy, almost frantic, change-your-life impulse where you would do almost anything for the other person. Her view reminds me of the following quote from Daniel Pinchbeck's book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl:

"Robert Johnson notes that the English language reflects our emotional paucity. Ancient Persian and Sanskrit possessed more than eighty words for love, denoting different qualities and valences of communal and erotic feeling. Whether we want to proclaim our affection for Krispy Kreme doughnuts or our significant other, we are stuck with just the single word, obliterating differences and qualities."

For my part, since I'm always trying to live in the present, I never considered the idea that we would be long-term partners nor have I ever made any decision about our relationship based on anything other than how I feel about her moment to moment. Certainly some might question why I would want to continue spending time with someone who doesn't love me as much as I love them. There are several reasons:

1. First and foremost, she's a lot of fun to be with, and as I've said before, I'm attracted to the specific wavelength of energy she puts out, and that hasn't changed. We learn a lot from each other and we both enjoy being physically affectionate. That's not something I find often from anybody, so it's a rare gift I'm not willing to throw away.

2. Since we're polyamorous, we are both supportive of long-term, romantically committed, multi-partner relationships, meaning that if either or both of us wanted to pursue a relationship with someone else, we would each be supportive of the other. Our relationship is such that we can talk openly about being attracted to other people, and we know this is not a reflection on our attraction for each other. Since there's no "goal" to our relationship, it's possible that we could remain physically affectionate friends indefinitely, even as other more serious relationships come and go in our lives.

3. After my experience with Agnieszka Prime, I'm really not afraid of being hurt by a partner again. I've been through the worst, and I know how to keep it from happening again. Plus, Polina has always been open and honest about her feelings for me, so there's little chance of having unfulfilled expectations with her. So if I were to abandon our friendship, it would be me acting out of fear, and I don't want to do that. If I did, it would be like saying that I learned nothing from my experience with AP. And as I wrote before, if I go through life trying to avoid getting hurt, I'm going to miss a lot of chances to be happy.

And that's the sum of it, I suppose. I don't believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to relationships - it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Tara and I talk about this all the time - you put one foot in front of the other, take it one day at a time, be good to one another, and all we can do is see where the path takes you. We can't control or predict what's going to happen in the future, so it doesn't make sense to base decisions in the present on a guess about it. All we can do is try to be happy in the moment, and at this moment, my life is happier with Penny in it.

After our long walk, we drove into the city to meet up with her parents and grandparents at the Cinema Village to see a movie called Perestroika. Since Penny's family is Ukrainian and Jewish, this was a very personal film for them, and I enjoyed it a lot myself. I'd describe it as Woody Allen directing a movie based on a book by Milan Kundera. Afterwards I took Penny home while the rest of her family went to Brooklyn to drop off the grandparents before meeting up with us in Staten Island. We had a late supper of her mom's famous cabbage borscht (my first, I believe) and our leftover pasta from lunch.

Penny and I went upstairs and poked around on her Facebook page and other things online until it got so late that I just decided to accept her offer to stay in the guest room so I wouldn't have to drive home in the pouring rain at night. We stayed up past 3 a.m. in her room talking more about her trip to Argentina before I finally retired to the guest bed. I woke up early, got dressed and kissed Penny goodbye, leaving her to catch some extra zzz's while I drove home. It was a very good visit, in so many ways.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Music I-IV

When Tara and I were first starting to get to know each other, she gave me a set of four CDs of music that she called Music I-IV. It was a real-time mix of music from artists such as Michael Franti, Saul Williams, Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek & the Hilliard Ensemble, Jon Anderson, King Crimson, Dream Theater, and many others. As I said, she created it in real-time, listening to each track and deciding in the moment what song should come next, until it reached its natural conclusion. I listened to it for the first time in much the same way, playing it non-stop on my iPod during my cross-country drive from Houston to Los Angeles in June 2005.

I sent my friend Linda my own version of Music I-IV this week, a set of four CDs that I've blogged about the past several months - Porcupine Tree, Songs from and inspired by Twilight, Music for a New Life, and Live in Concert. Played in this order, these four mixes represent a musical journey that I've taken in the past year or so. I did update the two older mixes, and customized the third one since Linda went out and bought Jeff Buckley's Grace album already, so those track listings are now as follows:

Porcupine Tree Mix
Nil Recurring
Blackest Eyes
Arriving Somewhere But Not Here
Open Car
What Happens Now?

This mix I've given to several people besides Bee, and the updated version shown here includes two tracks from the band's latest EP, Nil Recurring, which I purchased at the Beacon Theater the last time we saw them in concert.

Twilight Mix
Decode by Paramore
Spotlight (Twilight Mix) by Mute Math
Supermassive Black Hole by Muse
Leave Out All the Rest by Linkin Park
Eyes on Fire by Blue Foundation
Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine
The Scientist by Coldplay
Brighter by Paramore
World In My Eyes by Depeche Mode
In the End by Linkin Park
Sweet Sacrifice by Evanescence
Miracle by Paramore
Vicarious by Tool
Assassin by Muse
My Heart by Paramore
Lovesong for a Vampire by Annie Lenox

I've said that the lasting impact of the Twilight phenomenon might be its soundtrack, which introduced many listeners to bands such as Paramore, Linkin Park, Muse and Blue Foundation and revived a genre called alternative/gothic rock epitomized by records like After Dark from Barnes & Noble, and the original soundtrack to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

A key addition to my mix is the last song by Annie Lenox, a gross oversight considering the title. This track is from the original soundtrack to Bram Stoker's Dracula, but I first came across it on the CD maxi-single of Annie Lenox's song "Little Bird" (now out of print). Aside from being one of the most beautiful songs that no one's ever heard of, this track has extremely strong low bass energy that requires subwoofers to do justice. The "beating heart" pulse extends well below 20hz, as I've discovered from playing it on the various subwoofers I've owned or lived with, including a 2 x 12-inch custom Soundstream box in my old car, a Miller & Kreisel MX-200 2 x 12-incher in my parents' home theater, a Muse 18-incher in a friend's apartment, a pair of Velodyne FSR-12 servo subs in my old house and my current system which includes two Outlaw LFM-1 Plus 12-inch subs (although only one is hooked up). Reproduced properly, the heartbeat can be felt throughout your whole body and adds a visceral dimension to a hauntingly lovely song.

Music for a New Life mix
Everyone Deserves Music - Michael Franti & Spearhead
Three of a Perfect Pair - King Crimson
It Will Be A Good Day (The River) - Yes
Settling - Tara MacLean
Forget Her - Jeff Buckley
Day for Night - Spock's Beard
Let Me Live - Queen
Sleeps With Butterflies - Tori Amos
Between the Wheels - Rush
Between You and Me - Marillion
Growing Up - Peter Gabriel
Remember - Roine Stolt
Bad - U2
Hide and Seek - Imogen Heap

On this mix I swapped out "Dream Brother" and "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley for his track "Forget Her" and "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap because Linda already has the first two Buckley tracks from his album Grace ("Forget Her" is a bonus track that is only available on the Legacy Edition). But for anybody else, I would definitely substitute "Dream Brother" for "Forget Her."

The Live Music Mix is exactly the same as I blogged about a couple weeks ago:

1. Here Comes The Flood by Peter Gabriel (from Growing Up Live DVD)
2. Secret World by Peter Gabriel (from Growing Up Live DVD)
3. Lavender by Marillion (from Strange Bedfellows and Assorted Embarrassments 2)
4. Shadow Of The Day by Linkin Park (from Road to Revolution)
5. Jigga What / Faint by Linkin Park & Jay Z (from Road to Revolution)
6. Head Like A Hole by Nine Inch Nails (from And All That Could Have Been)
7. Open Car by Porcupine Tree (from Arriving Somewhere DVD)
8. Halo by Porcupine Tree (from Arriving Somewhere DVD)
9. One by U2 (from U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle DVD)
10. Hallelujah by Paramore (from The Final RIOT!)
11. Misery Business by Paramore (from The Final RIOT!)
12. Disintegration by The Cure (from Pictures of You CD single)
13. Time Is Running Out by Muse (from Absolution Tour DVD)
14. Take A Bow by Muse (from H.A.A.R.P.)

I've done some nice packaging for these four CDs (Polina and Tara have seen some of them) and to make it a set, I wrapped the four of them up in some handmade paper, tied with string and sealed with wax:

CD wrapping

I've had a great time with this musical exploration and playing with the creative design and packaging of my mixes. It's something I will continue to pursue and share with people close to me.


Before I go to bed, I wanted to wish everyone a happy Beltane. The Earth softens under the caress of the sun and all the world is new. We emerge from the darkness of a long, difficult winter; our eyes drink in rolling green hills budding branches and tender shoots. We breathe deeply the fresh fragrance of radiant blossoms, as long as our supply of Zyrtec holds up.

My family came over tonight and we watched The Last Temptation of Christ, a novel way to celebrate a major pagan Sabbat, but appropriate in a way since we found merriment in Martin Scorsese's curious casting decisions, and the rhythmic drumming in the score by Peter Gabriel. This is a movie that has always moved me, in the past moreso for the controversy it provoked, or for the memorable visual imagery. But watching it for the first time in more than a decade, I found it to be much more evocative from a spiritual point of view, for the obvious reason that I'm a much more spiritual person than I used to be.

On a personal note, May 1st also marks the third anniversary of arriving in New Jersey from Houston in 2006 - obviously a major milestone in my life. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday, and sometimes it seems like ages ago, driving in, meeting my family in the parking lot of the Residence Inn that I stayed at for a month. So much has changed.

Anyway, better get to bed so I can get up early for Free Comic Book Day tomorrow - it's always the first Saturday in May. If you are near a comic book store tomorrow, drop in and collect your free comics!