Saturday, October 31, 2009

Open Love NY/Polina Party

For the small number of people who read my various blogs, I am announcing here first that Polina and I are planning the first big public party for Open Love NY that will be a joint celebration for Polina's 19th birthday.

It's going to be at the Lyons Wier Gallery, 175 Seventh Ave. (at 20th Street) on Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. Non-alcoholic beverages and snacks will be served. Admission is $10, which also gets you a limited-edition Open Love NY bracelet. Plus, $1 from each ticket sold will be donated to poly-related efforts that are important to the poly community.

Lyons Wier Gallery is conveniently located near the 23rd Street Stations on the C, E, 1, F and V subway lines. More details will be forthcoming in the next few days, but I wanted to start getting the word out here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Work update

So, as promised, there is some news about my job that is altogether encouraging. I've been working now for about six weeks in the marketing communications department of my company (codename: Nearing) as a senior writer under a contract basis, which means technically I'm a contractor for a company down in Sugar Land, Texas working onsite for Nearing in Princeton, New Jersey.

A lot of things happened just this past week. First of all, one of the junior communications associates left the company to work elsewhere. So that's good for me because it will probably mean more work to do. Also, Nearing is an open office environment, which means there are no offices or cubicles, just rows and rows of open desks divided by rows of file cabinets. Even the CEO sits at an open desk. Each section sits together in groups called pods (which means we're all pod people, a la The Invasion of the Body Snatchers).

Up until recently, there was no room in the communications pod for me or Erik, the guy who does internal communications, so we had to sit on the other side of the building with the human resources people. While that did have the advantage of being quieter, it was rather distracting overhearing all the HR chatter, like people being disciplined for sexual harrassment, talking about how much money people make, etc. But once the spot opened up with the associate leaving, my boss asked me to move over to join the pod. I think this is a good sign that she asked me and not Erik to move, even though he's been there longer and is an actual Nearing employee, not a contractor.

Also this week, I've been slammed on a project to write a proposal for a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy (DOE) for a solar power plant in New Mexico. The proposal was due on Thursday, and I was working until 9:30 or 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday nights. While that means I was putting in 14-15 hour workdays, I also got lots of kudos from the government affairs people I was working with, which included some senior executives in the company. Another major upside is getting overtime pay since I'm a contractor, which means for every hour beyond eight hours worked in a single day, I get paid my normal rate plus 50% extra per hour. We finished the 120-page proposal and submitted it about two-and-a-half hours before the midnight deadline on Thursday. There will be a second round application in January, so I'll probably be doing the same thing in a few months.

In the meantime, on Friday I was put in charge as the project manager to redesign and build structure for Nearing's green energy, philanthropy and corporate responsibility Web sites. As you might guess, this is a pretty big job, so I'm excited about sinking my teeth into the project instead of just working on small projects that come in drips and drabs. It's also stuff that I not only have experience in (I was the New York office lead for Agent K's corporate responsibility team) but am also passionate about.

All in all, I'm getting more optimistic about my job, and if things continue to go well, I am confident that I will be able to move into Manhattan when my current apartment lease runs out in March.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stony Brook visit #3

I am just back from a short but intense and lovely visit with Polina out at Stony Brook University. I left my office in Princeton (lots of work news in my next post) at 3 p.m. on Friday to have enough time to get to her school by 7 p.m., which is when her marching band practice ended.

I met up with her at the bandspace and renewed some acquaintances from prior visits and met some new faces. We followed a group of about 30 band members to a Stony Brook ice hockey game, where the team was playing the University of Rhode Island Rams. The band gets free tickets to play at the games, so I got to tag along as a FOB (friend of the band). It was actually the first time in my life I've ever been to an ice hockey game, as it is not a very popular sport in the South. But I've watched enough ESPN in my life to know the basics. It was only the second game for Polina.


Playing Basket Case by Green Day

Polina did not bring her cymbals to play because they had a drumset instead, so she was allowed to play the crash cymbal for the national anthem:

Polina crashing

The game was very tight, but the Sea Wolves were overcome by the score of 3-2 when a goal scored by Stony Brook was ruled to have been made a fraction of a second after the final buzzer sounded. I would have liked to see an instant replay on that, but I guess they don't have that luxury in college games.

We returned to the bandspace and then most of us went to a party at the dorm apartment of the guy who played the drumset, Dan. I got to know one of the Sousaphone players, Steve, who shared his bottle of Chianti with me and Polina. He's from southern California, UC-Berkley, where he earned his music degree in harpsichord, and is now pursuing a master's degree in music history. He asked me what brought me to the northeast, and I gave him the two-minute version of my life history, which he found quite interesting. Then we started talking about polyamory and Polina joined us for part of that conversation, and he was supportive, but didn't think it was something he could do himself.

Polina introduced me around and brought me up to date on what's happening with some of her friends. She spent some time dancing with friends and some time cuddling on the couch with me. We left the party about 1:30 a.m. and headed back to Polina's apartment, where her suitemates were surprised to see us. We stayed up to watch an episode of Castle before climbing up to her top bunk to sleep at around 2:30 a.m.

This visit with my girlfriend was good for me in many ways, not the least of which was lots and lots of kissing/snuggling after missing each other last weekend. But also after our somewhat difficult conversation two weeks ago, I've been able to process that fully (with the help and support of my friends, especially Lori and Sylwia) and continue to live in the moment and love unconditionally. Polina and I continue to focus on loving each other as much and as best we can, given our circumstances, and building what we feel is a sustainable relationship with each other, and one that may someday include other people as well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Poly goes international

Just a quick post about a very fun night at Poly Cocktail Hour Monday night. I went directly from Princeton and drove to China 1 Restaurant in the city - luckily, the traffic was not very heavy because of the Columbus Day holiday.

There were only a few people there, including my friend Kyle, but I recognized one face from Saturday's picnic in Central Park, a fellow named Rob who had been sitting with Polina most of the afternoon. He's from southern Australia, and he's been on holiday in New York for the past week, but only by chance stumbled upon the Poly Pride event. He actually came to the rally all by himself, which is a pretty gutsy thing to do. However, Polina helped to make him feel welcome enough to show up at PCH two nights later. I only met him briefly, so it was a good chance for me to get to know him better, and he's a delightful fellow and very supportive of the polyamory movement. It's too bad that he lives so far away - he's probably the first guy I've met that might actually have been someone we could have both dated (he's one year younger than me).

Aussie Rob at an Australian cafe on St. Marks

I also met a first-time visitor named John and got to know him a bit. There was also a guy named Tommy, who lives in Buenos Aires and is working on a documentary about how true monogamy (one mate for your entire life) is actually a small minority among human relationships. There was Anton, a Mensa fan who talked with Leon when he showed up with Pauline, a Teutonic teenager (she's 19) he met in Italy who came all the way from Germany to visit him. Barbara and Joe also came, and Ken, the guy I dated briefly late last year around the time I first met Polina. He's now getting married to a woman who lives in India whom he met online.

I did my best to introduce everybody around, and keep people engaged with each other. Karaoke Rob showed up, as well as Jeremy, and a few other people I've seen at past events. Reid was there, but spent all his time talking with someone, so I didn't get to talk to him except to say hi. I also met another woman named Barbara who is on my bisexual Yahoo group who was there for the first time.

I noted that I started going to PCH back in April of this year when Polina was in Argentina, and then we started going together throughout the summer ("Busy start of the week" - April 14, 2009) so I'm on a seven-PCH streak right now. When you go to an event this regularly, even a natural introvert like me starts getting comfortable and playing hostess. I'm never better at it than when I'm with Polina ("Baby kitten rescue" - May 12, 2009) but a couple of the new people mistook me for the organizer of the event and couldn't believe that I wasn't, since I seemed to know everybody.

It got to about 10 pm and I was thinking about going home, but K-Rob and Aussie Rob started talking about a hot dog place called Crif's Dogs on nearby St. Marks so we decided to go get a bite to eat. I invited Leon and Pauline along, and they said they would be 10 minutes behind us.

Leon and Pauline

Crif's Dogs is a very interesting place. Not only do they have an extensive lineup of deep-fried hot dogs with all sorts of toppings, but there is a secret speakeasy bar that is accessed through a fake phone booth in the middle of the room. Leon, Pauline and I all squeezed into the booth, Leon picked up the phone and the entire back wall of the phone booth opens up and we walked into the bar to have a look. It's a very posh bar compared to the humble hot dog joint we walked through to get there. The whole set up reminded us of the old TV show Get Smart, or the visitor's entrance to the Ministry of Magic from Harry Potter.

We all ate and talked until it was about midnight, which is way past my bedtime. Aussie Rob and Pauline both were due to fly back the very next day to Australia and Germany respectively, so this is one gathering that will not be replicated for a long time, if ever. Which is a pity because if Polina had only been there, we'd have had two Robs, and teens Pauline and Polina.

K-Rob and me at Crif's Dogs

All in all, it was a very good night, and very encouraging that polyamory has fans beyond the U.S. I gave Pauline a DVD with a copy of the MTV True Life "I'm Polyamorous" episode on it as a souvenir. Leon and I talked a bit about Open Love NY and getting that ship moving again. Polina and I have been talking today about what we can do together along that line, so we might have some movement on it this week. Stay tuned.

Gone but not forgotten

I am a happy person most of the time. I do get moody and emotional sometimes, but generally I believe that we are responsible for our own happiness, meaning that if we are not happy, it’s up to us to fix it. Whether that means changing our lives or changing our outlook on life, there’s usually no one else that is going to do it for us.

With that note, I will mark a rather bittersweet anniversary for me today, October 14. It was four years ago today that I met Tara, Bee and Bug face-to-face, and began the process of joining a family that ultimately did not work out for me. Since Tara severed ties with me on the first of September, I have had no contact with any of them, other than following her on Twitter.

Some people might be surprised, or not understand why these three people who used to be so close to me less than two years ago would treat me like a total stranger now. I can’t explain the whys and wherefores about the complexity of our relationship in this post, and none of that really matters now anyway.

The short version of the explanation is that Tara is an artist in the purest sense of the word, and as such she is the most uncompromising person I’ve ever met, or am likely to meet. It was one of the things I loved about her at first. Later when we became real-life lovers, that aspect of her character caused some friction and discord, because I am generally a very easy-going kind of person and she is not.

One thing I know about myself is that the rare occasions when I fall in love, I fall pretty damn hard. Part of the process for me when I’m in NRE (new relationship energy) is that I put a lot of energy into learning all about the person I’m with, and I can be pretty amazing in my ability to recollect details. Tara always used to say that I earned my Ph.D. in Tara Studies because I was so focused on learning about her when we were together. Polina might feel the same way, considering I’m learning Russian so I can understand a little more when she’s talking with her family.

So from my perspective, knowing and loving Tara as I do, I understand why she needed to have a complete break from me. I don’t bear her any ill will. A part of me will always love her, and be grateful for what she brought to my life. One of the things I’ve come to learn is that sometimes love is not enough, and it doesn’t always conquer all like in the fairy tales. While it may be the single most important thing in life to me, it’s not the only thing. We each have our own lives to live, and love cannot impede our freedom to live it. I learned that lesson painfully with Tara, and I’m constantly applying that lesson with Polina during our relationship check-ins so as not to impede her growth as a person.

I don’t think I will continue to mark this anniversary in the future, as it doesn’t have much meaning in my present life, and one thing I try to do is live in the moment. But I might do other things in the future to honor the family I used to have, and all the ways they changed me. Even if they never speak to me again, they are as much a part of my past as my estranged birth family. Sometimes we need to remember what has come before so we can carry our lessons forward, and if nothing else, I have proven in my life to be a pretty good student in all kinds of things.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Poly Pride 2009

It was a wonderful weekend for me and Polina, even though our plans kept changing constantly. Friday night she was supposed to come directly out to my apartment and stay the night so we could go to the Poly Pride Rally in Central Park on Saturday morning. But when she was getting ready to leave Stony Brook she found out that her parents, instead of leaving for a music festival that day as we’d expected, decided to stay home one extra night so they could spend some time with her.

So Friday she went home to Staten Island, which actually worked out well for us because that gave me extra time on Friday night to make some peanut sesame noodles for the picnic. This is a cold dish that I have fond memories as a kid, but have never tried to make before, and unfortunately it didn’t come out quite the way I wanted it to, but everybody seemed to like it anyway. Here’s a rough recipe that I followed:

1 lb. Chinese-style white flour noodles, medium width
8 oz. Thai peanut satay sauce
½ red bell pepper, julienned
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and julienned
1 bunch green onions, sliced diagonally
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sambal olek
2 tbsp soy sauce
White sesame seeds

In a large bowl, combine all sauces and vegetables and let marinate while you boil the noodles to al dente. Drain noodles thoroughly and toss with sauce and vegetables. Chill and sprinkle sesame seeds on just before serving.

I also had more time to buy food at Costco, which included some tabouli, red pepper hummus, garlic stuffed olives, black seedless grapes and a few other things. I had gotten some spicy flatbread for the hummus earlier in the week, so I was putting together a kind of Mediterranean/Asian fusion menu. Unfortunately, I had bought some stuffed grape leaves the other day and subsequently forgot to bring them. But I also had to get a picnic blanket from Home Goods – I couldn’t find one with a gingham pattern like the one my birth family used to use, but I did find a really huge white cotton one with a blue trim that was big enough to spread under my queen-size air mattress, with extra material left over to put the food.

Saturday morning I got up and ran some errands while waiting for Kerry to come over so we could drive into the city together. She had a little trouble finding my apartment, as most people do the first time they drive here, but by that time I had everything packed and we got moving pretty quickly. We loaded the air mattress, food, blankets, camp chair and her hula hoop into my cart and made our way to the Great Hill in Central Park.

Since we were late, Polina was already there and she ran over to greet me with a hug and kisses. She had been press-ganged to read interstitials and poetry between each speaker and/or entertainer that took the stage, so she had to stay nearby. Kerry and I made our way up to the top of the hill where my friend Adele (with husband Lance and child Haley from the Bridgewater picnic) was sitting. It was Adele’s 44th birthday, and she was celebrating with cupcakes for everyone. Adele, Polina and I all got a shout in the poly news blog (

Polina reading interstitials

Throughout the day I saw many of my poly friends and acquaintances who have been mentioned in this blog – Reid, Barbara and partner Joe, Sylwia, Murray and Sandra, Carol, Karaoke Rob (since there are so many Robs, I need to qualify him), Justen, Patrick, Alan (the Boston-based poly news blogger), Kyle, Buck, Lyndell and a few others I’m sure I’m forgetting. Some of them took turns cuddling and making out on my air mattress, which of course is why I brought it. A couple of us gave Polina a back massage when she came up to hang with us for a while.

There were some wonderful musical acts, including N'Harmonics, an accappella group and a three-piece rock band, Houston Bernard & Bonfire Bandit, that were especially good. There was a hilarious cabaret performance by Raven Scheckter's We Three troupe doing poly-Jewish songs to the tunes of West Side Story (e.g. “Maria” became “A Triad”). Comic Kelli Dunham was the emcee, and Polina read various poly-themed letters and writings, in addition to one of her own slam poetry pieces. After her duties were finished, we sat on the air mattress surrounded by friends and I gave her a silver infinity heart pendant on a long silver chain to celebrate our first anniversary of meeting each other in the park at this event a year ago.

Kyle, Polina, Kerry and Lyndell
Anniversary pendant

As the sun began to dip below the trees, we packed everything up and Kerry, Polina and I drove back to New Jersey together. Kerry came up to the apartment and we gave her the dime tour, as well as showing her some of our favorite books and graphic novels (Sandman, Lost Girls, Fables, etc.). She left soon after to take a babysitting job for a friend, and Polina and I went out to dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. We came home and watched some episodes of TV show The Vampire Diaries on my DVR before going to bed.

We woke up really late the next morning, another benefit of shifting our sleepover to Saturday night, and made our usual breakfast of omelettes and turkey bacon. Polina wanted to get her hair colored again from its faded orange tint, so I made an appointment for her with my hair stylist, Edison. Before we left we had another relationship check-in that was a little difficult for both of us, but ultimately brought some closure to our last conversation at the frozen yogurt shop a couple weeks ago. We drove to her house in Staten Island for a quick stop before heading into Chinatown for the hair appointment. Edison created a deep purple tint for Polina’s bangs, which she loved.

Edison at work

We got out just in time to walk over to the Film Forum on West Houston and 7th Ave. to watch “The Yes Men Save the World,” a documentary movie about two guys who perpetrate elaborate hoaxes that illuminate injustice and corporate greed in the world. On our way back to Staten Island we got lost in Brooklyn for a bit and found this apropos street sign that sums up our weekend:

A Street in Brooklyn

Her parents were home from the music festival by the time we got back, and her mom had the most amusing blank look of horror on her face when she saw Penny’s new hair color. Both her parents hated the color passionately, and I can’t really fathom why because the dark purple against her natural dark brown is much less flashy than the red, orange and yellow that she’s been wearing the past several months. But Polina is very independent-minded, so I’m sure her parents’ disapproval won’t bother her too much – just as it doesn’t seem to hamper our relationship too much. I stayed for a cup of tea and we said goodnight, ending another happy weekend filled with fun and adventure.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Sex toy party

Guess it has been more than a week since my last post - I must be slipping. Although, truth to tell, my life is pretty much confined to the weekends since during the week I don't have much time to do anything other than work and commute. Generally speaking that is, because I took last Thursday and Friday off. Not because I necessarily wanted to - since I'm a contract employee, when I take time off, I don't get paid for it. But the rest of the communications staff was down in Baton Rouge, LA for a big company meeting, leaving me with nothing to do.

Thursday I ran a bunch of errands that were piling up on me, like taking my dress from Ella's wedding to the dry cleaners, dropping off clothes for tailoring, getting Yoshi's brakes fixed and getting my allergy shots. Then Friday I drove out to Stony Brook on Long Island to visit Polina. I watched her band practice for a while, then we went to dinner with some of her friends.

After they dropped us off at her dorm, we hung out there for the rest of the evening on her top bunk bed, playing Scrabble on Facebook, videochatting with her friend Patrick, and having some long-overdue private time. Seriously, despite all the time we've had lately, we haven't actually been in a bed together since Aug. 10, the last Poly Cocktail Hour she attended ("Polys in the wild" - Aug. 11, 2009), so that alone was worth the four-hour round-trip.

I probably would have stayed overnight in her dorm room except that Angel was having a Brown Bag Party at her house the next day, and I had invited Agnieszka to come with me, so I had to go back to New Jersey to pick her up anyway. Angel sells intimacy products (i.e. sex toys and novelties) through these Tupperware-style parties she throws, and at events like the Spice NYC party a couple weeks ago. Agnieszka and I drove out to Queens and had a fun time at the party, learning about different lubricants, stimulators, vibrators, and other somesuch. The thing I'll most remember is Agnieszka playing with a latex-like face used for fake blowjobs - she had me in stitches. I also won one of the games where the prize was a deck of Hustler playing cards that said "Barely Legal" on it - I wondered if Angel was making some comment about my girlfriend, but she denied it.

We came back to Agnieszka's place from the party, and chatted for a while to catch up. It's been quite a few months since our last outing ("Shanghai Mermaid" - May 31, 2009) so it was nice to talk with her about what's been happening. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I've known Agnieszka longer than any other friend in the northeast who is still currently in my life, and it's always nice to get her perspective on things.

On Monday, I had a second-round interview with a PR firm in the city, on Vanderbilt Avenue right next to Grand Central Station. I met with the president of the firm, and we seemed to hit it off well. He asked me what I did in my spare time, and in a burst of honesty that comes from being gainfully employed, I told him that I do volunteer work in the LGBT community. He smoothly indicated that he was fine with this by saying that he has a close friend who was the first openly gay board member of the New York Stock Exchange. So that is a plus if I decide to work for them - I wouldn't have to be evasive about Polina, who would surely visit the office at some point.

The real issue of course is whether I want to make a job change in this economy after only a month at my current job. The job I have in Princeton is in many ways my dream job - I get to do a lot of creative writing, I don't have to deal with a lot of people, it's low pressure and low stress, and in an interesting field at a very healthy company. The free lunches and free drinks are nice, and the people are great to work with. The downside is that it's not a full-time, permanent position (which is both good and bad) and the commute is wearing Yoshi and me out. So if I stay there, I will probably end up moving to south Jersey in March, and that's not really where I want to live.

I'm not supposed to think about this dilemma until it becomes one - that is, until I get a comparable job offer from the new firm, and that hasn't happened yet. But if it does, it will be one of those life-altering decisions that I'm not eager to make right now.