Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Skiing Christmas

On a slow train this morning, as it’s been ever since the Blizzard of 2010. So I’ll spend a little time recapping my Christmas holiday weekend.

Wednesday night Polina and I met at the apartment after I got back from work and she got back from Dark’s and we went to a Cuban restaurant on 46th. They had live music playing, and people were dancing as we walked in. It was a nice atmosphere, but the food was only so-so. Can’t compete with that braised beef at our Carrabba’s near Stony Brook. On our way out we joined the dancers for a few beats until it got so crowded that I was bumping into people.

Thursday we had to get me some ski pants because I stupidly left mine in Yoshi in Princeton. I remembered to get my gloves and goggles, but I didn’t realize that there’s a tub in there with all my heavy winter clothes, including the North Face snowboard pants I bought last year and haven’t ever used. So we went to Sports Authority on 20th to get those on our way back to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, where we met up with Katie and hung out with her all afternoon at Polina’s house.

Friday morning we got up at 6:30 to head out to Mountain Top, PA, home of Natasha and Pavel, whom we visited over Labor Day weekend. Along the way we stopped at a grocery store and then the car wouldn’t start, so we had to get a jump from someone. So we got there a bit later than we planned, but we still skied the afternoon session at Elk Mountain. It’s a small mountain, so we spent a lot of time on the lifts, but the trails were nicely groomed, there was lots of powder and very few skiers over Christmas.

Saturday morning we intended to ski just the morning, but we woke up to find that one of our tires went flat overnight, so that took time to inflate. So we got there late and just skied the full day. I went on my first black diamond trail, but it wasn’t that hard because I went really slowly (unlike Polina and her dad, who whizzed ahead of me). It’s just not that enjoyable for me to have to stop after a couple of turns and basically ride my edges down a slope. The blues at Elk were perfect for me – good speed and a few gentle turns. The last thing I need right now is to get hurt and have to miss work or jeopardize plans with Polina in January.

Sunday Polina stayed home while her parents and I skied the morning session and returned the equipment. We had some good bonding time on the lifts, where her dad and I talked about their family history and all sorts of things. It’s nice just calling them “mom” and “dad” in everyday life – more personal, less formal. I just think of them as family now.

After we were done skiing, we went to Pep Boys to get the tire fixed, which took hours because it was the first day open after the holiday. So we ended up leaving quite late, about 5:30, as the snow was really starting to come down. The ride home was harrowing, but we made it back to Times Square about 10 pm. Polina and I suggested that everyone stay there with us, but the parents wanted to get home. They didn’t get back to Staten Island until about 1:30 am, and then had to dig out their front door to get into the house.

I had lots of fun this Christmas, a very different kind of Christmas than I’m used to. I used to go skiing over Christmas back in my old life, but not for the last decade or so. Christmas with my NJ family was a very traditional, home-bound affair with lots of presents and a decorated tree. The only thing I didn’t do this year that I’ve done in years past is visit the Angel Tree at the Metropolitan Museum. I think I’ll do that on Friday before going to Staten Island for the New Year’s party, since I’m off the whole day.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 in review

So here we are again at the end of the year, or near enough anyway, and it’s time to look back and reflect on how my life has changed. Normally I do this closer to Jan. 1, but since I've been blessed with a snow day to work at home today and I'll be at Polina's house most of this three-day weekend, I thought I'd get it done early this year.

So after a relatively quiet 2009 when I was out of work for most of the year and building my relationship with Polina, this year has been full of the highest highs and the lowest lows since my transition period. Obviously the person most responsible for both of these was Bonnie.

Funny how when I was with my family in NJ, New Year’s Eve was never a big deal for us because we didn’t celebrate the secular/solar new year. But now, because of Polina’s annual fete(which I’ve come to look forward to every year) and the fact that I consider New Year’s Eve the start of my adventures with Bonnie, it’s no longer a day of disinterest for me, since everybody knows how I am with anniversaries.

I say that New Year’s Eve is the beginning because it’s the first time Bonnie and I spent time together alone, after meeting at the Poly Women’s Group, getting to know more about each other via email and then attending her family Christmas party with Polina. We were still quite platonic on New Year's Eve, but it was the start of being intimate in a poly way, cuddling for warmth, watching Firefly episodes and calling our significant others (who were both out-of-state that night) to wish them a Happy New Year as we watched the ball drop on TV.

Bonnie added passion and intensity to my life the way that Tara used to, and from that standpoint, she embodied everything that I was craving in a new relationship. She also provided a necessary balance that fundamentally changed my relationship with Polina and allowed it to flourish in ways I could have scarcely hoped it would at this time last year. For that reason alone, I can only be profoundly grateful for Bonnie’s all-too-brief presence in my life.

As for my year with Polina, it has been nothing but positive as we continue to build a relationship that meets both our needs. We celebrated our second anniversary in October with an exchange of presents and cards out in Stony Brook over some delicious pumpkin ale and a wonderful meal. My move into Manhattan in March made it more convenient at the time to see both my loves, and by now in Polina’s case, we’ve started thinking of this apartment more and more as ours instead of just mine.

The biggest change in our relationship is how we’ve managed to get more of her extended family to be comfortable with us being together and making the holidays better for everyone. Polina’s extended tribe may not understand the poly or even know about the kink stuff, but anyone can see that we love each other and it would be wrong to deny it. And that’s how she gives me a big part of what I need – a sense of family, of belonging, and getting to know the people who are important to the people I love.

We also continue to get more comfortable just sharing space for extended periods of time. Over Christmas holidays, we spent five consecutive nights together here, at her house in Staten Island, and in Mountain Top, PA, skiing with her family. In 2010, we've spent Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas with her family and close family friends, and we’ll spend New Year’s weekend and a wedding in late January with many of them too. What a big difference from last year when I was not invited to accompany them to Baltimore for Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, or the year before when taking me as her date to her sister’s wedding raised a few eyebrows.

Another big development this year was the growth of Open Love NY, and my role as the president. I never wanted to take this job, but it was either that or watch it fail after all the work I've put into it. By most accounts, I’ve done a fair job in the first 10 months, building the membership up from nothing to over 200.

As I look back on 2010, I’ll also remember seeing Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera, our impromptu trip to Albany, my first touristy visit to the nation’s capital, the start of my new life in the middle of Manhattan, and my first full calendar year of working that I didn’t miss a significant amount of time due to surgery, layoffs or quitting to transition since 2005. I went back to my hometown Houston for the first time since leaving four and a half years ago, and went with Polina to see Porcupine Tree at Radio City Music Hall and Poly Living 2010 in Fort Washington, PA, where I finally met Danielle, one of my oldest online friends.

What will 2011 bring for me? The New Year is approaching more quietly than in years past, so whatever it will be, I’m sure to be surprised. Wherever my path leads, I am excited to take the journey, and I thank you, as always, for reading and coming along for the ride.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Here's a proper challenge for my singular talent at winning ticket lotteries - How to get tickets to Saturday Night Live. Someone remind me to do this next August.

I love my new haircut - it's now all one length, and falls to just below my collarbone in front and curves to frame my face. It looks much neater and more professional than the long uneven ends I used to have. The stylist took off about 3-4 inches from the longest part in the back. Since my hair grows so slowly, it's the first major cut I've had in length since 2005.

It feels so different too when I brush through it. Since it's all one length now, the resistance of the comb or brush builds as I get to the end and then poof! it's gone as the ends slide through. So much different from the gradually diminishing resistance I'm used to with my long tapered cut. It makes my hair feel thicker, which is nice.

Had kind of a difficult talk last night with Polina. She's ready for this semester to end. I was trying to give her a pep talk for her last final today, but I think it came off sounding like a lecture. It's hard to find that balance between being a cheerleader and being a nag. Sometimes we all just need to be told everything's going to be ok.

I've also been trying to reconnect with Lori - we've been swapping messages the last few days. I miss having a biffle, and I should be mindful of keeping those connections active.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Taylor Swift

I’m rather ashamed to admit it, but I’ve been listening to Taylor Swift’s new album a lot lately. It’s so cotton candy fluff, it makes my teeth hurt. But it’s also carefully designed to speak to the inner girl in all her fans. I actually only got the album because I was a few dollars short of a free shipping credit from Amazon when I bought my most recent Y: The Last Man book online.

Speak Now is almost an exact reproduction of the successful formula she established with her last album Fearless, which has sold nearly 10 million copies worldwide and won two Grammys. Both opening tracks (“Fearless” and “Mine”) speak of a perfect love. Both closing tracks (“Change” and “Long Live”) are new generation anthems.

Both have childhood songs (“The Best Day” and “Never Grow Up”); fantasy love songs (“Love Story” and “Enchanted”); songs about longing (“You Belong with Me” and “Speak Now”); reminiscing about lost love (“The Way I Loved You” to “Back to December”); and plenty of breakup songs (“You’re Not Sorry” to “Dear John”, “White Horse” to “The Story of Us” and “Forever & Always” to “Last Kiss”).

Anyway, tonight is the first (hopefully) annual Open Love NY holiday party. We’ve come a long way as an organization since Polina and I planned her 19th birthday party together as the first OLNY public event. I wish she could be here tonight to be a part of it – she deserves as much credit as anyone for getting this train out of the station. Tonight I’m wearing the pendant she gave me for our anniversary, just so I’ll remember that.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Losing weight

It's chicken parmigiana day here at the office, which is hard to resist, but not impossible. It's the second week of eating healthy, and I'm definitely noticing the results. It's helpful that Polina is doing it with me, so we can support each other and swap cooking tips.

I always felt like my problem is not losing weight, but keeping it off. But I also recognize that my life over the last two years has been so chaotic that I haven't been able to focus on healthy eating, which leads to shortcuts like eating too much takeout and junk food.

It's also not helpful that Nearing provides tasty hot entrees, soups and desserts at work that are not always very healthy. It's like eating out every day for lunch already. Thankfully, they also provide healthy salads, sandwiches and fruits too - it's only a matter of choosing them over the other stuff.

Even after just my first week, I've noticed a difference in my waistline just by cutting out carbs and fat. I've also noticed a reduced craving and appetite for food, and I've come to realize that a lot of times I eat not because I'm truly hungry, but just because it's mealtime, or I'm bored, or I have food cravings. So by taking away food cravings and putting stricter rules about what I allow myself to eat, I'm drastically reducing the number of calories I consume per day. I also mistake thirst for hunger a lot too, so I've been drinking a lot more water at home than I did before.

Another plus is getting back into the habit of cooking food, which I used to do regularly when my family spent Saturday nights over at my place for dinner, playing cards and watching movies. Without that regular interaction, I got lazy with the cooking. I've only hosted one dinner at my current apartment (the True Blood marathon this past summer) which is too small for anything more than four people (and they'd better be cozy with each other). But this past week I made a grilled chicken breast with artichoke hearts in a balsamic vinegar sauce, a Chinese chicken stir-fry and fried tofu with hot bean sauce and pickled bamboo shoots. So I'm going to try and keep inventing new things as I go along.

I think more and more that I must be a submissive personality at heart. I like having the boundaries on food and feeling in control of what I'm eating because I'm following rules. I suppose the people who know me best would say I show similar patterns in other aspects of my life. I think I've always thrived with structure rather than chaos. I like routine, to a point. I don't know if it's a reaction to the maelstrom my life has been in the past six years, or if I've always been this way. If I was always this way, I don't see how I would be the person I am today because my old life had a lot more structure in it than this life ever will.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The New World

I watched Terrence Malik's The New World today, starring Colin Ferrell, Christian Bale and Christopher Plummer, about Pochahontas and Captain John Smith. It was certainly one of the most unusual movies I've ever seen.

The film, as the entry describes, is shot almost entirely with natural light. To modern audiences, this small thing itself is a revelation. We're so used to artificial light in the movies (or even digitally created CGI lighting) that to watch an entire movie that shows the different quality of light on sunny, cloudy, rainy days; candlelight inside wood cabins - it's visually stunning to behold.

The description on IMDB pretty much says it all - this is a long, plodding, sometimes boring movie. I started it last night and finished it this morning because it was putting me to sleep in the middle. But, it did make me think a lot about how a lot of people, including me, who live in cities, get their food from supermarkets and rarely walk barefoot through fields of grass have lost an essential contact with nature.

This movie reminded me that there is much humanity that we put ourselves in danger of losing when we distance ourselves from the natural world.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Staten Island home theater

For the past couple weeks, Polina and I have been talking about installing a home theater in her parents' house in Staten Island, ever since I determined that I couldn't install my projector in my own apartment. I hate having all that stuff go to waste, so she got permission for me to install it there, and this weekend I got it done, since she came home to celebrate her 20th birthday.

This is my fourth front-projection theater install that I've done (my parents, my ex's parents and my old office in Houston are the others) and one of dozens of theaters I've assembled for myself and friends, coworkers, bosses and relatives throughout the years. So that experience helped me get the job done quickly.

Since I already had my Panasonic 720p HD projector, Luma pull-down screen, Polk center channel speaker and 25-foot video cables, the expensive stuff was already paid for. Over the past week I have been shopping online for deals, and I got a terrific one in Crutchfield's scratch and dent section on an Onkyo TX-SR308 receiver for $186 and free shipping. I also got a fantastic deal on an LG BD-570 Blu-Ray player with wi-fi for $160 at hhgregg near my office.

I also found a Final S95 powered subwoofer from Outlaw Audio for $89 and free shipping. Then Friday, I stopped at Best Buy on the way to SI to buy a pair of Polk TSi100 bookshelf speakers for $200 to finish the front sound wall. I opted not to install rear speakers because it probably would have overwhelmed the 'rents.

My first step was to install the projector on the ceiling over the sofa on the far wall, and I used a plastic cable cover the hide the wires along the ceiling. Then I used tiny plastic brackets and nails to snake the long video cables along the ceiling above the fireplace and down to the equipment on the floor:

Projector install
Next I unpacked all the sound equipment and ran the speaker wires to the Polks and hooked up the Blu-Ray player and subwoofer. Then I tried to hang the screen, but found out I needed a larger wood screw that I didn't have. So when everyone got home about 11 p.m., that was the only thing incomplete. So we hung up a bedsheet as a makeshift screen to demonstrate the projector.

The next morning, I went to a nearby hardware store to get the screw, and finished hanging the screen. So here's what it looks like:

Watching 'The Guild'

The Italian Job
On Saturday people started arriving in the late afternoon for Polina's birthday party, mostly friends from school, plus Ryan, Anna, Dakotah, Panda and Patrick.

Birthday dinner
Her mom made a carrot cake for the birthday cake, and they did actually have 20 candles on it.


We played games like Apples to Apples, What? and Mafia, and after some people had to leave, Polina's parents joined up to watch my Blu-Ray copy of Disney's Beauty and the Beast on the home theater, which was lovely.

The next day was spent chilling with Brett, Polina's friend and the only person who stayed over Saturday night. We played a couple games of Blokus with her dad, and after Brett left, I worked on the theater some more, hooking up their cable box and Sony Playstation while Polina did homework. In the evening her grandparents came over for a family birthday celebration and to watch Russian television on the projector. After dinner I went home and Polina's parents took her back to school.

It was a lovely birthday celebration, a bit quieter than years past, but still the same spirit as past parties. I'm happy that my theater equipment has a new home where I can visit it, instead of sitting dormant and unused in boxes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Time Flies

This is the video that played on the giant screen at the Porcupine Tree concert at Radio City Music Hall. I think it stands up quite well as a short film on its own.

It is high-resolution, so you might need to pause and let the whole video download before you play it. The full 12-minute long version may be released at a future date.


Monday, October 18, 2010

HvZ at SBU

I am following a group of about 25 college students on a windy, chilly night as they make their way across the Stony Brook University campus, heavily armed with sock grenades, Nerf pistols, blowguns and automatic rifles that shoot rubber tipped darts using compressed air. Suddenly the cries ring out – “ZOMBIES! ZOMBIES!” – as a large group of 50 to 60 zombies appear from the shadows and spot the rear guard of the humans. Ten seconds later, the zombies attack – charging on the dead run as the rapid-fire clicking of plastic unleashes a hail of foam darts which stop the first wave of zombies in their tracks. But wave after wave they just keep coming, eventually breaking through the human firing lines to tag their hapless victims, turning them into zombies and switching allegiances in this eight-day war. With their backs against the school library, the remaining humans make a valiant stand before they are eventually wiped out and assimilated into zombieland.

Zombie attack!

That was highlight of my weekend of adventures that started with an Open Love NY camp-out (which was really more of a camp-in because it was at someone’s five-bedroom vacation house in New Caanan, CT). I drove Yoshi from Princeton after work on Friday and picked up an OLNY newbie named Glenn at my apartment before heading out there. We watched movies and the Yankees game, played games, ordered pizza and I made spaghetti and sauce for everyone (which people seemed to enjoy). We built a fire in the fireplace and people recited poetry and told stories as if we were around a campfire.

In the morning, I led a grocery shopping trip with Leon and his companion Ardella and Bill to get supplies for the remainder of the weekend. After those were put away, I played a game of chess with Ardella (the first time in years for of us) and eventually I prevailed by checkmate.

Then I left to drive to Bridgeport and board the ferry, arriving at the landing only three minutes before departure – damn, that was close! The 75-minute ferry ride across Long Island Sound was pretty rough since the wind was blowing so hard, but it was fun watching the curl of white foam on the waves. I also enjoyed watching seagulls trying to break open shellfish by picking them up and dropping them on the rocks over and over as we arrived in Port Jefferson on Long Island.

Bridgeport to Port Jeff ferry

It was a quick drive to Stony Brook to meet up with Polina, and we went to Target to buy and exchange some clothes. I found a pair of work-appropriate jeans, i.e. ones that weren’t pre-ripped. Polina also found some cargo pants and jeans in the men’s section. Then we went to the drugstore and to John Harvard’s Brew House for our anniversary dinner, where we exchanged cards and gifts and shared a glass of delicious pumpkin ale. We talked about our relationship and how much we are enjoying each other, and our hopes and ideas for the future.

We came back to campus and went out at 9 pm so she could assume her role as moderator of the Humans vs. Zombies game that started last Thursday and runs for eight days, and involves over 1,000 student players. We attended a briefing for the human army (about 50-60 people) before they split up into three groups to try and accomplish their mission.

Dressed to kill at the briefing

Polina took on the role of an engineer and unfortunately got killed at the library, reverting back to being just a moderator.

Massacre at the library

Fortunately for the humans, one of their other groups managed to succeed in their mission at the Javits building by hiding their engineers in the bushes while the rest of the human force held off a large zombie mob in the open plaza. I know it sounds really dorky, but being out in the night and seeing a zombie army charge screaming “BRAINS!!” is actually kind of cool to watch.

Mediating a dispute

The next day I went with Polina to a moderator meeting where they talked about how things went poorly the previous night and how to balance the game a little better, since the humans are losing badly and they weren’t even at the halfway point yet. Afterwards Polina made us some lunch before going out again for a Humans vs. Humans mission in the daytime. For this mission, two teams of humans battled each other to obtain a zombie cure, which could be used to convert some of the zombies back to human.

Humans-only mission

After that was done, we went out to dinner at Carraba’s and sat at the kitchen counter to watch people cook while we ate, then got some groceries before I dropped her off to go home.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Supremely single

I was reading in today’s USA Today a letter from a reader commenting about a story that appeared last week about the personal backgrounds of the U.S. Supreme Court justices. The letter reads:

“I was dismayed, however, that it described both Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor with ‘Family: Unmarried.’ Women and men do not need to be defined by what they are not. They are single. Period. The single vocation is valid on its own terms.”

Interestingly, the author of this letter was writing from Wiesbaden, Germany.

This comment really got me thinking about how ingrained the institution of marriage is in this country, that a newspaper as high-profile and cosmopolitan as USA Today could define anyone’s family as “unmarried.” Note that the category is not martial status, but “family.” As if parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, children out of wedlock, adopted children, nieces, nephews and cousins don’t count as “family.” No, in order to have a family, you must be married first, according to USA Today.

It would be particularly galling for those GLBT people who are currently not allowed to be married to be referred to in this way. To be described as “Unmarried” when one does not have that legal option is like an unjust accusation and conviction.

And the letter’s author brings up an excellent point that we should not be defined by what we are not. It’s just like I’d rather say I’m in an open relationship rather than saying a non-monogamous relationship. It takes away the presumed expectation that you’re not there yet, but someday you hope to be.

And of course that kind of language also presumes that everyone’s goal in life is to be married. Clearly, if you want to become a Supreme Court justice, it’s expected of you.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Life in the fast lane

When I first moved here from Houston, Tara warned me about adjusting to the pace of life in the northeast. It didn’t take me very long to get acclimated.

In most parts of the South, it’s unheard of to walk on the escalators. Here’s it’s fairly common practice, especially in commuter areas. When I used to work in Midtown, I would go through the Lexington/53rd metro station every day, which has a very long escalator. Riding it took you a full 45-60 seconds; walking cut that to maybe 10-15 seconds. And every day, people would walk up or down on the left, while riders stood to the right.

This morning I was heading to a short escalator into Penn Station when two women merged right in front of me and stood side-by-side to ride down. I said “excuse me” and they looked at me like I had two heads. The woman on the left grudgingly slid halfway, and I pushed past her, bumping her with my backpack. As I reached the bottom one of them called out, “you could have taken the stairs easily!” I didn’t respond because there’s no point in engaging with imbeciles when I’m late for my train, but I also didn’t want to be cast as the rude New Yorker, although sometimes I am.

But honestly, I didn’t expect them to block the escalator like that, and even if I did, I still wouldn’t have taken the stairs. Unless you’re an invalid, there’s no reason you can’t walk down an escalator. And keeping people from doing so, especially going into a train station when seconds could mean the difference between catching and missing a train, is incredibly rude to me.

Living in Times Square as I do, several things are starting to really irritate me on the days I choose to walk along Seventh Avenue. People walking slowly while looking at their phones, stopping to take pictures in the middle of the sidewalk with no warning. People who gesture with their arms in crowds pointing at this or that – more than once I’ve had to push somebody’s arm down to walk past them. Guys that stand with signs at the corners advertising comedy shows or happy hours and forcing me to duck under them. People who sit on my stoop to smoke cigarettes and block me from walking into my front door. The list goes on and on.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like where I live. It’s very convenient, and sometimes I do like to feel the energy of the crowd when I’m not in a hurry for something. Walking in New York is like a carefully choreographed dance of near-misses. People walk by you as if the game is to lightly brush your clothes without actually bumping with the body parts under them. This is something I’ve routinely come to accept as a part of life here. But this morning’s escalator-blocking incident just riled me because it was an instance when the non-natives or the just plain stupid natives (whichever they were) don’t respect the pace of the city I live in.

On another note, I bought my copy of Beauty and the Beast today, my first Blu-Ray disc (which is included in the DVD because it doesn’t come any other way). I’ve been thinking about installing my projector (finally) and talked to my building superintendent to borrow the ladder. I already bought all the necessary hardware to install it, so it’s kind of wasteful not to go ahead and do it.

That will mean I might go ahead and buy a Sony Playstation 3 for its Blu-Ray capabilities. So maybe I’ll take some days off soon and devote myself to that project. I wouldn’t really want to use my projector on an everyday basis because from the playpen the picture would be too close and too big, like sitting in the front section of the theater. But it would be cool to have for parties to play movies or games in high-definition, if I ever chose to have people over for dinner again.

Monday, September 27, 2010

P-Tree, RenFaire and Shopping

This is post #300 in this blog. Ah-ooh! Ah-ooh! Ah-ooh! :)

It's been a super-busy three-day weekend, since I took Friday off work to pick up Polina from school and take her back to Manhattan to see Porcupine Tree in concert. I had reserved a ZipCar, just a basic Nissan Sentra, but ZipCar called me the night before and said that the car required service, so they offered me a free upgrade to a Volvo S40 sedan in silver. It was a nice perk since it was brandy-new with less than 4,000 miles on it, and had a sunroof, leather power seats and a nice stereo with iPod connections. Plus, it was just too cool driving a car so similar to Edward Cullen's Volvo S60R from the Twilight series.

The concert was a terrific event, and undoubtedly the best of the three concerts I've seen from the band, although I was a little disappointed not to hear Halo and What Happens Now?, which are two of my favorite songs. But the visual effects were so much more impactful, with a huge projection screen put to excellent use on several songs, notably Time Flies (my favorite from their newest album, The Incident). Also, it was the first time for both of us in Radio City Music Hall, which is the largest venue they've ever played in New York - what a beautiful art-deco palace it is! Best of all, RCMH is only three blocks from my apartment, which was very convenient.

P-Tree at RCMH

Between the second and third sets we went down to the lobby to buy souveniers and meet up with the band's agent, Joshua, whom I met through my friend Jennifer at work. We met him and his boss and chatted about the band for a while before returning to our seats. After the concert, we picked up some banana pudding and steamed milk from Magnolia Bakery in Rockefeller Center on the way home, where we took turns reading our C.S. Lewis book in the upgraded playpen before bed.

Here's the set list for the P-Tree show, in case there are any die-hard fans reading:

First Set (Semi-Acoustic)
Stranger By The Minute, Small Fish, Pure Narcotic, Black Dahlia, Futile

Second Set
Even Less: Full version, Open Car, Lazarus, Tinto Brass, The Sky Moves Sideways (Phase One), I Drive the Hearse, Bonnie the Cat

Third Set
Occam's Razor, The Blind House, Great Expectations, Kneel and Disconnect, Drawing the Line, Dislocated Day, Time Flies, Anesthetize: Part 2: "The Pills I'm Taking", Up the Downstair, Sleep Together

Arriving Somewhere But Not Here

P-Tree in concert

Saturday morning Polina woke up early to catch a train back to school and I took a bus up to Tuxedo, NY for the New York Renaissance Festival, my third time at this event as well. I got my hair braided, which makes me look so different from the front - I really didn't like what I look like with my hair all slicked down, but it was pretty from behind.

Unlike past RenFaires, I spent most of this one shopping for stuff, and my friends were a big help in choosing clothes. I got a full-length burgundy overskirt with lace-up sides, and a black satin underskirt with a subtle star pattern. I also got a cream silk wench top with princess sleeves and a subtle stripe pattern in the weave.

I found a nice pleated purple skirt for Polina to match with her corset, and most importantly, I found a new amulet for the new year, which I will charge on Samhaim next month.

Today I continued the clothes buying spree with a trip to Loehmann's, since September I get my birthday discount (even though I celebrate my birthday in July). I spent a few hours at the flagship store on Seventh Avenue at 16th Street, and a lot of time in the communal dressing room choosing things. In total, I bought seven skirts, a dress, four tops, a pair of pants and earrings - practically an entire wardrobe heavy on skirts, which I've decided I should wear more of, especially in the winter when I can wear tights.

Afterwards, I went to Chinatown to pick up some groceries and went home to wash all my new clothes and sort through my closets to make room for all the new stuff by taking out the old things that aren't getting worn for any number of reasons. Those have all gotten bagged up and shoved in a corner behind the couch.

Now off to bed, and another busy week coming up. Goodnight.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Living space

Back after a long hiatus, where my life has changed so much in nine months. Time for a fresh start here.

For those of you who haven't visited me and don't know firsthand, my living room is rather unorthodox. Coming from a larger apartment in New Jersey to my smaller apartment in Times Square back in March, and with bland, cookie-cutter furniture that I bought as a set in a furnished apartment after the fire of 2007, my stuff isn't what I'd call ideal for my present living space.

Specifically, my queen-sized bed pretty much takes up the entire bedroom floorspace without room for a nightstand, although I manage by using a windowsill to hold my alarm clock and a lamp. Plus, there's enough room for a slim bookcase and my DVD cabinet, which is getting full to the bursting. I might have to start shedding plastic cases soon. But there's not much that can be done about that because I'm not giving up my $3,000 bed, and I do have the occasional sleepover guest, which precludes a smaller bed anyway.

In the living room it's too tight to place my sofa and loveseat in the conventional "L" formation, so I've mashed them up against each other to form a bed-like cuddle space, with the padded arms and backs forming little walls around the perimeter, and an entryway at the far end where the sofa protrudes. This makes it nice to lay down to watch TV and movies, and if I want to sit up, I usually sit at my desk, although that's way over to the side.

The problem is that my sofa is wearing out and tends to suck you into the seam where the back meets the seat. It's also been damaged by various, um, physical activities performed on it over the past couple years, but it's still in one piece. But this playpen arrangement is not very comfortable because the front edges of the sofa and loveseat form an annoying ridge in the middle, which can be uncomfortable over time.

I played with the idea of throwing the sofa away and moving the loveseat (which is in better shape) to its position, then buying an overstuffed chair to face it. That would have created floor space for an ottoman or a coffee table, and made it possible to someday get a Nintendo Wii or PS3 Move and have space to play games. But I'd lose the cuddle space entirely, and the ability to lay down to watch movies, which I'd grown accustomed to. It would have also cost quite a bit of money and required me to get help to move the sofa out.

So instead I decided to improve the cuddle space with a cheap and easy fix. I bought a twin-sized memory foam mattress topper, four inches thick, for $88 at Wal-Mart. I cut out the box and tail shape to fit the playpen using a utility knife, and used the extra material in the seams around the outer sides, since those are getting lower. Then I put the couch cushions on top of the memory foam, and covered with the comforter as usual.

I also addressed the problem of drift (the two halves moving away from each other) by putting a non-skid carpet pad under the rug that the playpen sits on. The fact that there's a single piece of foam under the cushions should also alleviate this problem.

So here's what it looks like:

Playpen v2.0

I tried it out last night and oh, what a difference! The seam in the middle is now pretty much gone, and the whole area feels like a single space instead of two areas joined together, and like a soft mattress instead of a lumpy old couch. It's heavenly. I love being a DIY'er.

I can't wait to try it out with Polina tonight after the Porcupine Tree concert :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On an extended hiatus

Dear Reader,

Circumstances in my life have changed somewhat, and I feel the need to retreat a little from the public blogosphere for a while - maybe a long while at that. I don't know who reads this blog, and I don't really care (as you can infer since it's strictly a one-way conversation). I seriously doubt anyone reads this space who would miss it if it goes away. But as I said, I need to be a little more private for now to work on some things outside the public view. Depending on how things work out, I may or may not be back.

So here's the deal. I have many ways of communicating online, and this is but one of them. So if you are a dedicated reader, or if you know me in person and want to stay connected with me, send me an email at and tell me who you are. If I want to stay in touch, I will tell you where you can find me elsewhere on the Internet. If I don't, then I'll write you a polite reply saying so. All emails will be answered - I promise.

Thank you for reading this far, and if I don't hear from you, then brightest blessings on your journey through life. Even though we may have never met, I've enjoyed our time here together.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Happy New Year!

It was a nice four-day New Year's weekend for me that will probably have some lasting repercussions going into 2010. I wanted to get everything down before this weekend's activities start.

On Thursday, New Year's Eve, Polina went with her family to Baltimore to visit friends and spend the holiday with them, so I invited my friend Bonnie (whom we visited at Christmas) over to my apartment to keep me company. We watched The Tale of Despereaux and The Last Unicorn (because she reads my blog, of course) and I got her started on Firefly by watching the first two episodes. When the clock neared midnight, I called Polina and we wished each other a happy New Year, and Bonnie did the same with her long-time partner, Hiba, who also attends our monthly women's poly group.

Bonnie stayed over and the next morning I woke up feeling headachy and nauseous, so I took some pain reliever and went back to bed to take a nap. Bonnie watched the Loony Tunes marathon on the Cartoon Network while keeping me company. Eventually the medicine took effect and I got up to make peanut noodles for Polina's New Year's Day party at her house.

We packed up everything and drove into Manhattan, where I dropped Bonnie off at the subway station to go back home to Queens while I continued down to Staten Island to help Katie and Polina get set up for the party. It was a masquerade party, so I decided to do my take on Neil Gaiman's Death of the Endless using a leather mask I'd bought at the New York Renaissance Festival last year when I went with my Open Love NY friends. For those of you who don't know this character, here's a representative drawing:

Death from Neil Gaiman's Family of Endless (DC Comics) Pictures, Images and Photos

I drew Death's distinctive glyphs around my eyes, which you can see a little behind my mask. I think Polina is dressed as a very fancy mime.

Death and the maiden

Polina's parents stayed in Baltimore, so it was just the younger crowd this year, unlike last year's party when her whole family, including the Baltimore people, attended. Patrick and Alyssa, who attended Polina's karaoke party for her birthday, also sported some fancy outfits and masks:

Patrick and Alyssa

Polina, Katie and Aidan

We had a few first-time attendees this New Year's: Ryan and Aidan, who are both persons of interest for Polina right now. Aidan is a former classmate at Stuyvesant who now attends Cornell University, and of course Ryan is our resident BDSM guru.

Aidan and Polina

Over the course of the evening, we played lots of games (Apples to Apples, Never Have I Ever, Mafia) and opened lots of presents. I gave Polina a whip/crop, a book on Japanese Rope Bondage, a Remo drum practice pad and Pro-Mark drumsticks that her school snare drum line uses so she can start practicing for tryouts in the fall; and more books - Castle Waiting, Death: The Time of Your Life and The High Cost of Living. Ryan performed some rope ties on Polina and me, and Polina and Louis performed some of their Argentine tango:

Tango in the night

Rounding out the crowd were Anya and her boyfriend Peter, Dakotah, and their friend Vanessa. As it started getting close to 6 a.m. and the party was winding down, I set up my two air mattresses in the master bedroom and eight of us slept in that room while Peter and Anya shared the guest bedroom. The next day was spent looking at stuff online and general socializing as people started drifting off one by one.