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.