Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in review

As many of you know, I have one tradition that is entirely my own for the secular New Year, and that's to post a year-in-review blog.

The overall theme for 2011 seems to be one of continuity. It was my second full year at my job, and only the second year I've had an uninterrupted year at a job since 2005. It's been a full year since my breakup with Bonnie and even though she is never far from my thoughts, the memories of our time together are definitely fading.

This year has been an interesting mixture of the new and the old. Starting with Wicked Faire ("Wicked Faire!" - Feb. 21, 2011) I've been exploring and cultivating a new set of friends in the kink space. Through a lucky chain of happenstance at Wicked Faire, we met Piper and in a short 10 months she has become one of my closest friends. Through her and Puck and House PNJ, I've gotten to know some really cool people and to attend some really fun events.

The second major thrust of new came from meeting Kacey on Easter that led to further interactions ("Sherlock, Potter and pen pals" - July 5, 2011) and led me to develop another entirely separate set of friends at Papacookie (that includes not only Kacey but also Storm, one of my oldest acquaintances). In an even shorter amount of time, Kacey has also become a close friend, confidant and one of my favorite people in the world.

Obviously one of the highlights of the year was going with one of my dearest friends Agnieszka to visit her family in Dublin ("Ireland" - Aug. 2, 2011). And further on my longstanding friends list, I got to have an epic catch-up with Linda ("Houston trip, week one" - April 3, 2011) and my mentor Ben in Houston, with a reprise over Labor Day weekend in New York ("Visit with Ben" - Sept. 4, 2011). Plus, Lori and I have managed to spend more time together in recent days now that she's single again and living closer in Queens ("Weekend wandering" - Dec. 13, 2011).

So as far as friends go, this has been a very good year. It's been a bit more challenging for Puck and me though. We've certainly had a lot of good things, not the least of which was making it to our third anniversary ("Third anniversary" - Oct. 11, 2011), surprise visits ("Valentine's Day" - Feb. 15, 2011), and introducing them to my co-workers for the first time ("Crossing boundaries" - Sept. 20, 2011). We celebrated their 21st birthday with much gusto ("Wonderful weekend" - Nov. 21. 2011).

But if you've been following my blog this year, you probably have seen more than a few difficult check-ins and bad episodes, although certainly not enough to outweigh the good times. School took a heavy toll this year (which is why they are taking some time off), and there were some unexpected family issues around Passover. Ironically, at two of our lowest points ("Easter egg party" - April 24, 2011 and "MMMM" - May 1, 2011) coincided with my meeting two very special people, Kacey and Jen respectively.

The good news is that after our latest check-in ("Slinging bricks" - Nov. 7, 2011) things have been on an even keel once again. Every relationship goes through its ups and downs, and getting through the downs only makes it stronger in the long run. And there was certainly one positive note that should not go unremarked - we finished Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so it appears we are averaging one season each year of our relationship.

Other personal highlights from this year were watching Tosca at the Met ("Tosca and Dogma" - Jan. 18, 2011), finishing Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin, addressing a huge crowd of half-drunk and half-dressed gay men at Folsom Street East ("Folsom Street East" - June 19, 2011), all the wonderful House PNJ events and watching the Pride Parade after the legalization of gay marriage in New York ("2011 Pride parade" - June 30, 2011).

I can't wait to see what 2012 will bring. Happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Privilege

As part of the aforementioned Facebook discussion, Puck and I have been chatting about privilege today. There a very illustrative blog titled "Of Dogs and Lizards: A Parable of Privilege" that everyone should read.

My caffeine cessation effort is going OK after 10 days. I've only had one headache, but I find myself hungry all the time. I hope that my body adjusts before I gain weight over this. Addiction is a bitch.

I'm excited about all the movies coming up this holiday season - Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows and War Horse. Then we have Arrietty, Underworld: Awakening, and Hunger Games early next year. And of course The Dark Knight Rises next summer. I'm planning to see the first 8 minutes of the Batman film when I watch the IMAX premiere of Mission Impossible tomorrow.

I'm also secretly happy that Puck isn't going to St. Petersburg next semester. Of course, I'm being totally selfish in saying I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of not seeing them for six months.

I suppose that scenario is inevitable, since Puck's life goals include travel and living in different places and I'm more settled at the moment, but one never knows what life will bring. For now, it's enough to be together and enjoy each moment that we can.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sound of Musak

One of my least favorite parts about the holiday season is the inescapable holiday music in public spaces, especially in Penn Station. The "background music" in Penn is always bothersome to me, but during the holidays it seems like they turn it up even louder.

What I completely don't understand is what is wrong with having no music at all. It's a train station, not a cocktail party. If anyone wants to listen to music, there are plenty of ways to hear your own through headphones. It's like we have an unnatural aversion to silence, or simply hearing ambient noise.

One thing Evelyn Glennie demonstrates in her documentary ("Touch the Sound" - Oct. 31, 2011) ambient sound can be interesting and beautiful in its own right. It's also so much more authentic than having someone else's music forced through your ears. I imagine it's worse if you are a fan of Baroque music to be hearing it constantly in Penn.

In Milan Kundera's book "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" there's a section about music (starting on page 92 in my version of the book) that describes the character Sabina's dislike of music for similar reasons:

"Noise masked as music had pursued her since early childhood. During her years at the Academy of Fine Arts, students had been required to spend whole summer vacations at a youth camp. They lived in common quarters and worked together on a steelworks construction site. Music roared out of loudspeakers on the site from five in the morning to nine at night. She felt like crying, but the music was cheerful, and there was nowhere to hide, not in the latrine or under the bedclothes: everything was in range of the speakers. The music was like a pack of hounds that had been sicked on her.

At the time, she had thought that only in the Communist world could such musical barbarism reign supreme. Abroad, she discovered that the transformation of music into noise was a planetary process by which mankind was entering the historical phase of total ugliness. The total ugliness to come had made itself felt first as omnipresent acoustical ugliness: cars, motorcycles, electric guitars, drills, loudspeakers, sirens. The omnipresence of visual ugliness would soon follow."

I'm also reminded of the lyrics for Porcupine Tree's song, Sound of Muzak: "Soul gets squeezed out / Edges get blunt / Demographic / Gives what you want"

It's ironic that they could write such a good song about how people don't seem to care about music anymore. If you'd like to hear the song and see my favorite drummer Gavin Harrison at work, check out the video below:


Watching Gavin makes me long to play the drums again, and I've been tempted to buy a small electronic kit (since playing acoustic drums in an apartment isn't very practical). The only thing that stops me is that I don't really have the space for it. I might look at some over at Sam Ash next week and just see if there's a small kit that can easily be stowed away when not in use - we'll see.

Potty postulations

There was a recent Facebook discussion about gender-free bathrooms, and of course, the tired argument of male rapists dressing up as women to gain access to women’s bathrooms was raised.

It’s troubling that this is the first thing anyone thinks about when discussing the issue of gender and bathrooms. It is blatant fear-mongering and it doesn’t make sense if you really think about it.

Let’s say I was a male rapist (defining male as having a penis). If I wanted to rape a woman, the last place I’d think about doing it is by dressing as a woman and picking out a victim in a women’s bathroom.

First of all, a cisgendered man dressed as a woman attracts a LOT of attention, hardly something a rapist wants. So just getting into the bathroom unnoticed or unremarked is going to be near-impossible. That also means in all probability he will be recognized by witnesses after the crime is committed.

Second, a public bathroom is a busy place, and typically only has one entrance/exit. There’s constant patrolling by custodial staff. Any loud shenanigans happening in the stalls have a high chance of being caught in the act, and little chance of getting away. If your goal is to assault someone and get away with it, I can’t think of a worse place to try it than a public bathroom.

Third, it’s an insult to anyone who is not a rapist to assume that just because you are in proximity to someone in some state of undress that there’s a higher chance of rape occurring. Rape happens when a rapist decides to do it – not because the potential victim made it easier on the rapist by taking off their clothes.

Let’s get real: what we’re actually afraid of is for cisgendered males invading the privacy of female-only spaces – not because there’s any actual danger of rape, but because it makes a lot of cisgendered females uncomfortable to do perfectly human activities around them. There’s probably a fair number of cis-males that feel the same way about male-only spaces. The real problem is embarrassment, not fear of rape. It’s why we have men’s and women’s dressing rooms at the store, even though everyone is ensconced in their own private stall (except at Loehmann’s where they have open dressing rooms).

Unfortunately, that once more leaves transgender and other non-binary people out of luck – victims of oppositional sexism (the idea that you must belong to one of two binary categories of sex or else your needs are not valid).

The advent of the family restroom arose because of the need for parents to take their mixed gendered children into public restrooms, so there is precedent and another good reason for non-gendered bathrooms. Currently, there’s usually one private family bathroom available in addition to any two public bathrooms.

I think the long-term solution is to make all public bathrooms open to everyone, but keep the family bathrooms available for private use by people who want them (just the way Loehmann’s has private dressing rooms for women too shy to change clothes in front of other women). But that’s never going to happen unless we get over our deep-seated issues around oppositional sexism and just deal with the fact that we’re all people and we all have to use the bathroom eventually.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Weekend wandering

I had an unexpectedly busy but lovely Saturday with my BFF Lori. I had posted on Facebook how unfortunate that last weekend there was so much going on that I missed because I was getting over my cold and this past weekend there’s nothing going on and I’m healthy, and Lori had the exact same situation. So we decided to meet up near the Met to visit an art gallery Saturday afternoon.

It turned out the gallery I wanted to go to was closed for renovations, so we visited the two galleries on either side of it, Skarstedt Fine Art and the Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery. At the latter, we saw a very interesting piece that is made from hand poured crayons mounted in a frame to create a Seurat-like image of colored dots.

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We also went to La Maison du Chocolat for a taste of their very fine truffles and ganaches, then sat on a bench in Central Park to enjoy them and take pictures of ourselves. In mine you can see the new buttons on my coat.

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I had to pick up my prescriptions, so we killed some time near my old offices at Agent K, picking up a grilled cheese sandwich at the Melt Shop and shopping at the Barnes & Noble. I got a few DVDs, including the BBC's Sherlock, the first two seasons of The Guild, and a documentary on Andy Goldsworthy called Rivers & Tides.

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Lori invited me to come with her to her friend Andrew’s birthday, whom I’d met at her birthday earlier this year ("Seventh birthday" - July 19, 2011). We met at the New Malaysian Restaurant in a hard-to-find Chinatown alleyway, along with several other friends to enjoy a family-style dinner that included some of the best Malaysian spare ribs I’ve ever had.

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They also served a Hainanese chicken dish which was almost exactly like my mom’s cooking, except her dipping sauce was much more potent. In fact, almost everything we ordered was super-tasty and satisfying.

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I met one of Lori’s friends Jenny, a Korean girl from Australia (such a cute accent!). She, Andrew, Lori and I went to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory for dessert.

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I ended the night by taking a solo visit to Rockefeller Center and taking some pictures of the tree.

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On Sunday I had a much more domestic day. I went to the gym for the first time in a while and did some more grocery shopping. I baked my brownies for Poly Cocktails Monday night (it was a potluck for the first time in a while), plus made a huge bowl of my peanut noodles for this week. That left me with a lot of dishes to clean up, but I still had time to finish my Lord of the Rings cycle on Blu Ray that I started a couple weeks ago.

Monday’s Poly Cocktails was a big success, and as usual lots of House PNJ people showed up in varying degrees of sartorial splendor.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Top 13 movie endings

I was recently watching The Usual Suspects, which has one of the best endings in recent movie history. Endings are so important for my enjoyment of a movie, but have you noticed that most movies don't really have killer endings?

The best scenes of most movies are at the beginning or in the middle somewhere. Sometimes movies like Lord of the Rings: Return of the King can be excellent in every way, but the ending is a bit of a letdown. What's worse, a bad ending can completely destroy an otherwise good movie - think A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

Some movies like The Third Man have endings that are acclaimed by others, but I just don't get. It's so rare to see a movie where the end is the highlight of the entire work, a surprising revelation, or says something about the story with a perfect touch - for me.

Naturally, if you haven't seen any of these movies, I'd advise you to skip that write up to avoid reading any spoilers.


13. Titanic - Before it became a phenomenon, James Cameron's melodrama was actually a pretty good movie. Let's face it, how creative can you get when you know the damn ship is going to sink and hundreds of people are going to die? That's a pretty downer ending you're saddled with in your screenplay. But by restoring the two young lovers in front of all those who perished to a swelling James Horner score, Cameron makes lemonade out of lemons, fashioning an ending that is uplifting in the face of tragedy.

12. Unforgiven - This is one of those movies that you either love or hate. It's subtle and quiet, a modern reinvention of the Western by Clint Eastwood, who won the Oscar for directing in 1992. The ending is just a melancholy guitar solo and a text crawl in front of a silhouetted scene of a grave marker. Those few words say volumes about the character of William Munny and how misunderstood a man can be.

11. The Shawshank Redemption - The friendship between Andy and Red is the heart and soul of this movie, one of the best ever made about unlikely friendships and the #1 movie on IMDB's top 250 (for years it was second to The Godfather, but it has finally overtaken it). Interestingly, this ending almost didn't happen. The original cut's final scene was Red in the bus, driving toward Fort Stockton. It was only when it was screened for test audiences that director Frank Darabont realized everyone needed to see the two main characters actually meet again at the end.

10. Ben-Hur - Here is another movie that, like Titanic, turns what looks like is headed for a tragic ending into a triumph, with a little deux ex machina (literally). The reunion between Judea and his restored mother and sister always makes me cry.

9. A Beautiful Mind - Another one of my tear-jerking endings, when John Nash takes the stage in Stockholm to accept his Nobel Prize after all his trials. He says words that I try to keep in mind for myself, every day: "It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reason can be found."

8. Let Me In / Let The Right One In - I get to sneak an extra movie in here because one is a remake of the first, and a reasonably good one too. I love this ending because it is at once poignant, horrifying, touching and tragic. Oskar and Eli have forged an unbreakable bond of love. Two outcasts have found each other, and they are happy in the moment. But you also realize that you've just witnessed how a vampire finds and captures its human servant, something no other vampire movie has ever portrayed. You also realize that you are seeing the birth of a serial killer and the continued murder of untold numbers of future victims.

7. Inception - Is the spinning top going to fall or not? Was it all a dream or is this reality? After watching Christopher Nolan's mindbending masterpiece, this ending makes you hold your breath a little bit longer.

6. Raiders of the Lost Ark - Government bureaucrats finally do the right thing: pack up the Ark of the Covenant and put it where it can never be found in a crowded warehouse that seems to go on forever. It's an ending that is unexpected and unforgettable. The fact that it makes a cameo appearance three movies later in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a clever bonus.

5. Schindler's List - Like A Beautiful Mind, the fact that this is based on a true story lends extra weight to this ending that shows descendants of the 1,100 Schindler Jews paying their respects at Oskar Schindler's grave site. The caption stating that only 1,000 Jews are left in Poland and there are over 6,000 descendants of Schindler's Jews brings home the scope of both the atrocity and the triumph.

4. Toy Story 3 - This ending benefits because it's the finale of a trilogy of movies that were all excellent, groundbreaking movies. These are the characters that built the Pixar juggernaut that has yet to put out a flop in theaters. Woody, Buzz and the gang get a proper send-off as Andy passes them along to a worthy successor, completing the circle of love and happiness for everyone. Like all the Toy Story movies, it's an improbable ending that ends up being pitch-perfect.

3. The Usual Suspects - This is the movie that launched Brian Singer's career and gave him a shot at helming X-Men and all the movies that followed. This is the standard by which all modern movies are measured when it comes to powerhouse endings, surprising on many levels and making you realize you had no idea what's been happening. Kevin Spacey delivers a monologue that makes you want to watch the entire movie over again.

2. Casablanca - The whole five minutes at the end of this classic is a veritable cornucopia of quotable lines and memorable turns of phrases, none so much as the last line, which had to be dubbed in post-production because the writers hadn't thought of it yet during filming - "Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

1. Citizen Kane - The original mystery ending to arguably the single greatest cinematic achievement in American cinema. One word - Rosebud. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A quick update

It's been a long while since an update, and this is going to be a short one. I'm feeling really foggy since I've been sick for the past few days.

I had a nice Thanksgiving weekend in Baltimore with Puck and their extended family. Puck was not feeling very well, so we spent most of our time indoors playing cards, drinking tea, reading books and watching movies.

I took Monday off work and had a lovely day with Kacey, shopping for buttons in the Fashion District. Wednesday night was the Poly Women's Group, where Barbara joined us for first time in a while. Thursday I worked from home to get some extra rest, but it didn't seem to shorten my illness perceptibly.

Saturday night I went out to see a play called "The Myths We Need or How To Begin" with Kacey, Richard and some of the Papacookies crowd. It was an allegorical tale of the Book of Genesis set in Reconstruction Era times. Afterwards, we went to a Hill Country Chicken around the corner to talk about the play.

Today I wanted to go to Kerry's 23rd birthday party, but didn't really feel up to it. I've been resting and watching my copy of Horatio Hornblower, which has been fun. But now I have to venture out and buy some additional cough syrup so I can get through tonight and show up for work tomorrow.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wonderful weekends

So, at long last, I got my camera back and I'm ready to write about Puck's birthday weekend.

But first, this past weekend was also very nice and much more low-key. We stayed in Staten Island for most of it with their family, and Saturday Puck and I went to the nail salon and then to a European waxing salon, with a stop for frozen yogurt at the Red Mango in between. The bikini waxing was actually a pretty interesting experience (as far as painful, violent hair removal qualifies as interesting) because they don't use muslin strips there. The wax is a really deep dark blue and it goes on super thick and dries to a gummy mass that they grab a hold of and pull the whole thing off. So it uses a lot more wax, but no muslin.

Saturday night Ryan came over and we three hung out together, which is, notwithstanding the fact it was the second time in eight days, usually a rare occurrence and always fun. It allows us to recognize that our love is not confined between just any two of us and of course, as the point of the "V," it makes Puck very happy. We played a game of Blokus and watched funny videos on YouTube and chatted like the big nerds we are for a few hours until he had to go.

Sunday Puck and I left after breakfast and drove to northern New Jersey to pick up Agnieszka - amazingly, it was the first time Puck has met my longest-tenured friend who is still in my life. After a short visit in her home, we drove the short distance (maybe a quarter of a mile?) to Ryan and Beth's place and dropped Puck off there before she and I went to grab a bite at Hooters (her first visit ever).

After a meal of fried pickles, buffalo wings and salad, we drove out to the Delaware Water Gap at the Pennsylvania border with New Jersey for a short hike in the woods. After all the recent rains, the water was especially beautiful in the park:

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As it started getting dark, we drove back and I dropped her off and picked up Puck, and we drove through Manhattan and Long Island to Stony Brook and had a light dinner at Carrabba's (which included a nice chocolate brioche bread pudding). Then we went to see a late showing of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Pt. 1 before I headed home.


So, flashback to last Friday, the last time Ryan, Puck and I were together. I was having a very intense day at work because a negative story about my company Nearing appeared in the New York Times online Friday afternoon, so I had a lot to do late on a Friday afternoon when I should have been driving to Brooklyn for the party. I got to the Branded Saloon almost two hours late, but fortunately there were still lots of people there.

Puck has had some epic birthdays in the past three years since we've been dating and this one was no exception. There were probably about 30-40 people who came (not all at the same time) from various distinct communities. There were old friends like Patrick; lovers (me and Ryan); kinky people from House PNJ (Kiwi, Piper, Jet, Beth and Dave); Open Love NY people Ben and Simon; and a bunch of Stony Brook people like Ri, Emily, Ivy, Adele, Morgan and a bunch of others who were new to me.

Kiwi showed up early and commandeered the basement that had the pool table in the middle and by the time I showed, the party was in full swing. I played a couple games of pool (Jet beat me on a technicality, but I whomped on Ben) and had some of the barbecue quesadillas and a Guinness. Puck sampled a wide variety of drinks since they finally, FINALLY turned legal drinking age (so I am one step closer to dating someone who is NOT underage by some measure - next up, car rental companies).

The party started breaking up around 3 am so Puck and I piled as many people into Yoshi as we could fit and headed back to Staten Island to crash. I thought it was fitting that we got lost yet again in Brooklyn and came across the same Poly Place street sign that we saw in 2009 after Poly Pride ("Poly Pride 2009" - Oct. 13, 2009). But we finally made it home close to 4 a.m. and set up everyone in beds before we flopped down exhausted.

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The next day the guests left and we had a family outing in Brooklyn, making a quick visit to a hilltop in Prospect Park where we could see the Manhattan skyline:

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Then we drove down to the water's edge and walked along one of the fishing piers, where we saw people fishing and catching stingrays:

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Then we went to a hibachi grill for dinner and had a low-key chef, thank goodness. Then we went back to the grandparents' place for tea and birthday cake.

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The parents dropped us off at the Way Station, a steampunk/Dr. Who-themed bar with its very own TARDIS (pictured below) where we were supposed to meet Ri for her birthday, but the guest of honor got lost in the subways from Manhattan. So we had a drink and chatted with some of the other party guests and watched the second Indiana Jones movie on a projector.

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Hours later, when Ri and her party finally showed up, we were ready to go so we said a quick hi and goodbye before heading back to Staten Island.

.....and I can't remember what we did on Sunday before I drove back to Manhattan. This is why I shouldn't wait so long to blog. Well, if it comes to me, I'll drop an edit in here.

I don't know what else to say about my beloved that I haven't already said here. It's been somewhat of a difficult year for us, but our relationship continues to be strong and bring us joy. We've found a pretty comfortable equilibrium that I think we both find sustainable, and that's important to both of us.

Happy Birthday, my love ... my star. Thank you for our wonderful weekends and for being the special person you are.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rockin' at work

Since I work in an open office environment, it’s easy to get distracted. My colleague Erik sits directly across facing me, and there are two other people in my pod who are not in Communications, so I have no interest in their work conversations.

And since my work is usually either routine (compiling news clips) or creative-intensive (writing brochure and Web copy) I use headphones to drown out the noise and focus (or be entertained) while I’m working.

I also have a flippin’ huge widescreen monitor, in addition to my small laptop monitor I use simultaneously as an integrated desktop. So I have plenty of screen real estate to have a video window going in addition to my email accounts, documents and AIM.

I brought a bunch of concert DVDs from home to watch/listen at work, but it’s pretty much narrowed down to six that I just use over and over again. The reason these six are best is because they are all high-energy, don’t have any bad songs that I’d want to skip, don’t have a lot of monologuing, and each artist’s performance is at the top of their game.

In alphabetical order, they are:

Duran Duran – Live in London
Best song: "Notorious," the band’s funkiest number, is a highlight
Best moment: The band’s introductions during "Girls on Film" and brief instrument solos are a highlight (one woman holds a sign that reads “Play the fookin’ bass, John!”)
Behind the music: The documentary and the song commentaries are unusually insightful and really give a sense of how far the band has come and how much adversity they’ve been through after almost 30 years of fame

Linkin Park – Road to Revolution, Live at Milton Keynes
Best song: "One Step Closer," which opens the show, starts things off with a huge rip-roaring bang
Best moment: Jay-Z comes out and does two encore songs from their mashup album
Behind the music: After the credit roll, you get to unlock three additional songs, including "Papercut" and "Points of Authority"

Muse H.A.A.R.P.
Best song: "Supermassive Black Hole" always makes me bounce in my office chair
Best moment: The incredible crescendo at the finale ("Take a Bow") leaves no doubt why Muse is one of the best live bands today.
Behind the music: An aerialist performing under a giant balloon soaring high over Wembley Stadium is breathtaking and thrilling.

Peter Gabriel - Growing Up Live
Best song: Tough to pick from any of these, but it has to be "Secret World"
Best moment: Peter getting inside a giant inflatable ball and bouncing up and down during "Growing Up;" it’s an iconic image
Behind the music: This is hands-down the most theatrical rock show I’ve ever seen, and it doesn’t have any dancers.

Porcupine Tree - Anesthetize
Best song: "Anesthetize"
Best moment: Every shot of Gavin Harrison, Modern Drummer’s two-time Drummer of the Year, is pure magic.
Behind the music: I bought this DVD from the merchandise stand at Radio City Music Hall when Puck and I saw the band perform on Sept. 25, 2010.

Yes: Live from the House of Blues
Best song: "It Will Be a Good Day (The River)"
Best moment: Chris Squire’s bass solo in “Lightning Strikes”
Behind the music: To me, Yes’ The Ladder is one of the all-time great albums of the decade, and there’s an insightful behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of that album on this DVD.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Slinging bricks

"Brick by brick, we can build it from the floor / If we hold on to each other, we’ll be better than before" - Train

Last week was quite exhausting at work, as we had our quarterly earnings announcement in addition to a lot of things going on in the solar energy side of the business. I didn’t work longer hours, but the time I was at work was especially intense.

So possibly I wasn’t in the best frame of mind on Saturday when I went to visit Puck and a group of past and present SBU people for their annual LGBTA field trip to NYC. I had woken up early that morning to go to Nordstrom Rack’s large-size shoe event, which turned out to be disappointing and didn’t buy anything.

I met up with the group after they were done at the Museum of Sex (since I just visited on Labor Day, I didn’t care to see it again) and we went down to the East Village for ice cream at The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. I got a Monday Sundae, which is a chocolate/vanilla soft-serve swirl in a waffle cone lined with nutella, topped with chocolate and dulce du leche, sea salt and whipped cream.

From there we had dinner at a ramen shop near St. Marks, where I had a bowl of spicy seafood ramen. We headed toward the sex/fetish shop Purple Passion on 20th Street to shop a bit before it closed. On the way to Penn Station to catch the Long Island Rail Road back to SBU, I told Puck I wasn’t feeling really up to continued hanging out this weekend – partly because of just being tired, but also partly because I’ve been feeling disconnected from them lately as a result of our last relationship check-in (in hindsight we were long-overdue for another one, because the last real check-in was way back in mid-June (“Folsom Street East” – June 19, 2011).

We hung back from the group on the walk to Penn and talked things through a little. It reminds me now of when we were walking with Laura and Patrick back on their 18th birthday in 2008. Our issues are different now and we’ve both grown a lot since then, but thankfully, we haven’t lost our ability and willingness to communicate in the moment about our feelings, even in the midst of other things going on. So we got on the train for the two-hour ride back to SBU and I met some of Puck’s new room/suite mates before going to bed.

The next morning we were supposed to have breakfast with some of the people from the day before, but one of them bailed so we just saw the other one off and came back to make breakfast on our own. We were also supposed to have lunch with Emily and her friend Lauren (with whom I marched at SlutWalk before I even knew who she was), but Emily was delayed in the city, so that plan also fell apart.

So once we were alone in their room, Puck and I had a good check-in and didn’t really make any new agreements or changes (other than we're going to be more regular about our check-ins rather than wait until things are going badly), but just reaffirmed our existing ones and said what needed to be heard. Then we ordered pizza and watched Captain America with some of their suitemates until it was time for me to catch my train back to the city.

I was pretty exhausted by the time I got back home, so I debated on whether to go to Papacookie on a Sunday night. In the end, I’m glad I did because Kacey was there and we had a good catching up after her return from Amsterdam. We’re going to try and get together again soon for movies or plays or just to get out and take a walk. I only stayed for the first two performances, a solo bassist and a duet of bassists, before I had to go home and get ready for another busy week at work.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Outside the lines

My friend Emily turned me on to this site called Secret Regrets, which is like a very specific, text-only version of PostSecret that is focused on what we regret the most. Here's one from a few days ago that caught my interest:

SECRET REGRET OF THE DAY: October 30, 2011
I regret I have so little to regret. I am truly sorry I did not go "outside the lines" more and live the grander life of which I was capable. I regret that there are not more broken hearts, damaged lives, irresponsibility in my life. It it an odd regret, but heart felt.


It's an interesting way to look at my life from the opposite direction, because sometimes I get down about the trail of broken, damaged and mangled lives I've left in my wake, mostly over the past 10 years since I strayed "outside the lines," so to speak.

And that makes me realize that there were, are, and always will be reasons I don't conform to other people's expectations of me. We are always "at choice" with the way we live our lives. At any time, we ourselves decide how we want to feel, who we want to be with, and in what direction our lives should take - no one gets to decide that for us unless we choose to let them.

I've always seen my regrets as the price I paid for exercising this freedom, and I always weigh the cost of my actions carefully. So while I certainly think back on choices I've made with regret because I now know the outcome of those choices, I rarely think I would have done things differently, given what I knew at the time. We can never know how things may have turned out if we'd taken a different road in life - that's why it's important to never lose your focus on the present and be able to improvise in the moment.

Touch the Sound

One of the things I did on Saturday was watch the DVD of the documentary Touch the Sound, a sound exploration with percussionist Evelyn Glennie, who happens to be profoundly deaf. You can watch the entire video online here.

While of course this film reminds me of Tara, who is also a world-class percussionist, it's also an inspiring look at an artist and the artistic process, especially the process of improvisation. Practiced by masters like Robert Fripp and Keith Jarrett, the art of being totally improvisational is something I really admire, and, to my mind, probably the highest form of talent and skill one can hope to achieve.

There are some wonderful scenes of Evelyn playing snare drum in Grand Central Station and a drum circle with Japanese Taiko drummers. But the real message behind the movie is opening our ears to the sounds in the world around us, even in a city as noisy as New York. It's about finding the beauty in the everyday mundane world that we easily miss if we're not open to it.

Then of course I had to go right over to the Sam Ash drum store a block away and play on their selection of hand drums and electronic kits. I saw a really neat compact conga that I might buy someday, perfect for my little apartment. I also have a mind to start experimenting with my violin bow on my guitar, the way Fred Frith does in the film.

Monday, October 31, 2011

New amulet

I had a nice and quiet Samhain weekend, just relaxing on Saturday and doing my ritual on Sunday. Saturday I went to the gym, then tried the Book of Mormon lottery on my way to the grocery store. Even in the slushy, blustery conditions, there were still about 150 people out there. It’s actually quite fun just to do the lottery itself – a woman from Ecuador won and it was fun hearing/seeing her reaction. One winner was standing right in front of me. Close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades, as the saying goes.

Sunday I did my ritual, starting with cleaning my altar and the surrounding area. This led to me going out and getting some a hot glue gun to finish my 2010 Christmas ornament, which proved unexpectedly difficult as I had to visit three stores to find it. I finally got home and charged my new amulet for the coming year, a nine-fold star that is symbolic of the divine feminine aspect.

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As October draws to a close, so does my love letter project (“Free love letters” – October 1, 2011). I’m actually kinda disappointed that I only had one taker to date, but after all, not that many people read my blogs. Some people asked verbally, but the parameters of the project specified that people had to send me mailing addresses. Maybe next year I will get some more interest.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Brief encounters

This is one of those days when I walk through the door, strip off all my clothes, plop down in front of my computer and start writing because it was a day worth writing about.

First, to catch you loyal readers up to date - Tuesday's Open Love NY meeting was our most well-attended ever, with 52 being the official count. It's the first time we've broken 50 people. Wednesday was our women's group meeting, where only Sylwia, Loli and a new member Claudia showed up. I know Claudia from Open Love NY, she came and hung out with me at Poly Pride in Central Park. Even though we had a small group, there were lots of laughs. We're going to try and do something special for next month's meeting, but we'll see if we can pull it off.

Tonight I was headed home on the train and there was a large group of female Princeton students all headed into the city together. Two of them sat in the seats facing me and carried on a conversation while I worked on my computer. They talked about dating and boys and mutual friends, and one of them just broke up with a guy because he wanted to have an open relationship. I took all this in without commenting because I thought it would be awkward to enter the conversation and tipping off that I had been listening all this time. But truthfully, unless I put on my headphones, I couldn't help but hear them since they were facing me and talking less than two feet away.

It was a strange experience to hear this very intimate conversation between two total strangers and not participate at all. Normally I would have listened to my iPod, but I found their conversation interesting because frankly, I rarely hear straight vanilla people talking about relationships anymore. Everyone who talks about relationships within my earshot these days is polyamorous, queer, kinky, or some combination of all three.

As we got closer to Penn Station, I shut down my laptop and just looked out the window, continuing to listen. Eventually, I did find a graceful way to enter the conversation and we introduced ourselves. One of the young women, Elle, talked about how she wished she could have more straight guy friends, so I suggested maybe she should pretend to be having a long distance relationship with someone so that guys she meets would know she's taken. That somehow led to my talking about polyamory and telling them about Open Love NY.

I gave them each a membership bracelet I had in my backpack and we talked about that up until the train pulled into the station. As the train slowed, the other girl (a Polish beauty with the face of a supermodel) asked how I got to be the president of Open Love NY, and I told her that was way too long a story for the time we had left, gesturing to the platform outside the window.

It proved to be a bit of foreshadowing for my second random encounter of the evening when I went to Papacookie. Kacey's in Amsterdam this week, but Lourdes was there, and Storm came later with Caroline (pronounced Karo-leene in the French way), whom I met at SlutWalk a few weeks ago. Of course it's always a pleasure to see Jonathan, Richard and Miriam, and I met a girl named Jill in full Halloween facepaint looking like a skeleton and wearing a black short tophat. I probably won't recognize her next time I see her.

I was standing at the table when the woman next to me asked me if I'd ever been to a gallery in Chelsea, a name that didn't sound familiar. And funnily enough, although I've been to many art galleries, I've only been to one located in Chelsea (although Kacey did try to take me once, but they were all closed) and that was for Puck's 19th birthday party and the first public event for Open Love NY ("Polina's birthday, part 3" - Nov. 16, 2009).

So I told her (Jesse) I was at the Lyons Weir Gallery in 2009 and that's where she recognized me - she was one of the few random people who were hanging around the gallery that night while Puck, Laura and I were setting up for the event. She had been visiting a friend who worked at the gallery, but none of them were associated with Open Love NY. I was flabbergasted that she recognized me from what could have only been a moment's glance, two years ago, without our even being introduced. She said it might be that she's a painter in her leisure time, so she has a painter's eye for faces. She introduced me to her boyfriend and we chatted about other things before the performances started.

So it turns out that a few hours after someone asks me about my origins with Open Love NY, I meet someone from outside the poly community who happened to be present at the very beginning. How extraordinary is that?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Inside outside weekend

I had a super-productive weekend, and managed to have some fun as well on Friday night. Puck was in the city Friday afternoon so they bought groceries for me (so sweet of them!) and waited for me to come home. I caught an early train and found them deep into the second book of The Hunger Games trilogy. We ordered Chinese food (tea smoked duck, shredded pork with garlic sauce and sauteed pea shoots) and watched a couple episodes of Buffy while snuggling in the playpen.

They got picked up by the parents around 9 pm to go home, so afterward I thought I'd go to Papacookie for a while, then the Mid-Manhattan Midnight Munch. But I got all the way up to Jonathan's apartment and found it locked - Papacookie is next Friday not this one :( I did a little shopping and just came home until it was time to walk over to the diner.

Kiwi, Beth, Dave, Ilan and Anastaysia were already there, along with many other familiar people. Piper came a little after me, and we spent most of the evening sitting in a group with House PNJ people and chatting. BTW, she is the first person I've ever met who is also a fan of Tampopo, one of my favorite movies - that really surprised me. Aaron came really late as we were about to leave, so he, Kiwi, Piper and I walked up to Port Authority so they could catch a bus back to NJ and I walked home from there, arriving about 3:30 a.m.

So, no surprise, I awoke just short of noon the next morning and called my hair salon to see if Taylor was working so I could drop off the CD I made for her. She was not, but would be working Sunday, so I decided to do all my domestic work Saturday. I did laundry, including washing and ironing the tablecloth and placemats, mopped the floor, dusted lampshades and furniture, washed my sheets and watched a bunch of movies.

Today, I got a much earlier start, like out the door at 9:30 am, dropped the CD for Taylor (she was so happy to receive it, and I look forward to hearing via email what she thinks), then grabbed a croissant breakfast sandwich at au bon pain on my way to Nordstrom's Rack at Union Square. I found a very interesting dress, a shiny crinkled fabric with a mesh top and flounced hem, and a black and white abstract print. I have no idea where I would wear it, but it was striking and quite affordable, so what the hell.

Then I got a new Sugar Rose lip balm at Sephora on the other side of the square, and browsed the Barnes & Noble next door and got a Blu-ray copy of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. I walked a couple blocks over to Loehmann's on 7th Avenue, but didn't find anything worth getting there. Then I stopped at a grocery store to get stuff for my chicken curry and peanut noodle dishes. I'm still missing bamboo shoots, but as it was getting late and I was too hungry to make it to Chinatown and back, I got most of what I needed.

When I got home I ate the rest of my leftovers and took a break from all the running around. Then I made my curry chicken parts for the upcoming week and cleaned up the kitchen.

Next week is going to be super-busy, with stuff happening every night except Thursday. Tomorrow I'm going to check out the space for the Open Love NY holiday party, Tuesday is Open Love NY, Wednesday is the Poly Women's Group, and Friday is Papacookie. And next weekend is coming on Samhain, so there's some planning to do around that.

Hopefully it won't be too busy at work this week to boot.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fetishes and funerals

I have two topics bouncing around in my head that are completely separate things, so they really should be two blog posts, but I don’t have time to do all that so I’m just going to lump them together.

The first thing is the idea of social convention, and this came out of the encounter with the foot fetishist in the subway and being propositioned outside my apartment last weekend. It made me think a lot about the idea of rape culture we have that I marched against at SlutWalk, how women are made to fear being sexual beings in public but men are not. And I find one thing sorely lacking in modern society, especially in a city like New York, is the idea of social conventions on how people (especially strangers) are permitted to interact with each other.

I must be terribly old-fashioned to think that people should not greet or talk to each other without first establishing eye contact – that’s my rule. Especially these days when everyone’s on their cell phones and talking into the air, I don’t respond to anyone talking to me unless they’ve established eye contact and made some form of direct address first (i.e. good morning, hello, etc.).

Now it gets a little trickier when a foot fetishist sits down next to you and start complimenting your toe polish. Ideally, it would be nice if they were to introduce themselves first (although I tend to frown upon that too, as I always prefer someone else to introduce me to someone I’ve never met). But at least it would be closer to proper social protocol. You don’t just bust out a compliment without creating some kind of rapport – it’s incredibly rude in the nicest possible way.

I’ll give you an extreme example of violating social conventions that I witnessed a while back. On older commuter trains, the seats are arranged in rows of three seats and two seats (think rows of sofas and loveseats). The established convention is that outer seats (window seats) are taken first, then the inside seats of the couches, leaving the center seat vacant. After those are all filled, then the inside loveseat places are taken, then finally, the center seats on the sofas.

Well, once I saw a man asking to sit next to a woman who was sitting in the window seat of a two-seater when there were plenty of empty inside seats available on three-seaters. She looked at him as if he had two heads. I couldn’t believe such a serious breach of social convention was happening. I believe the woman surrendered the entire bench to the man and moved to another car rather than sit next to him.

When strangers greet you on the streets of New York, there’s an assumption that they need help with directions or something. When it turns out they just wanted to say hello to you for no particular reason, it’s creepy. It’s especially creepy when they address you with an endearment, like “hey gorgeous” or “good morning love.” It’s ironic that those words are having an opposite effect than what they probably intended them to.

Anyway, the next time a fetishist approaches me in a public place, I will have a firm response ready, something along the lines of “while I appreciate that you have a fetish about _____ and it’s great that you feel so open about it, please understand that I don’t share that fetish and you do not have my consent to talk to me about it.” I wonder how that would go over?


So the second thing I’ve been thinking about is funeral arrangements, only because I just finished “A Game of You” in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. For those of you unfamiliar, there’s a pre-operative transsexual character named Wanda in that story who lives alone in a New York apartment. She’s from Kansas and her conservative religious parents have disowned her, presumably when she came out to them.

Wanda dies at the end of the story and her body is taken back to Kansas for burial under her birth name, Alvin, but not after her hair is cut and she is made to look like a man. Wanda’s best friend, Barbie, attends the funeral and in a final gesture in honor of their friendship, uses Wanda’s favorite lipstick to cross out “Alvin” from her tombstone and writes “Wanda” in its place.

Since my situation is very similar to Wanda’s (other than the pre-operative part) I wonder if that will happen to me someday. My parents aren’t quite as religious as Wanda’s (last time I checked, anyway), but it’s very unlikely they would choose to bury me as Michelle.

And on the one hand, it’s not like I believe in a Christian afterlife where I’d care what happened to my body after I die. But the idea of someone having that control over the way I am remembered by the living disturbs me. And not that I think people will be lining up to visit my grave, but it could be the last permanent marker that I was ever here (if the Internet ever got wiped out by a super-virus or global EMP).

I haven’t made any specific plans to make sure this doesn’t happen, other than making sure my parents are not listed anywhere as my emergency contacts. But in the event of my death, I wonder if the authorities will be obliged to research next-of-kin through public information databases, rather than simply acceding to my written wishes for those decisions to be handled locally by my loved ones. I’m sure law enforcement has ways to track down my birth family, and even my ex through court records – the question is whether they are compelled to do so.

Anyway, sorry to be so morbid, but that’s what I get for reading stuff like Sandman. It does make you think about how these messy details get handled when one of us departs this mortal coil. There must be a lot of people employed just doing stuff like this. What an awful job that must be.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Making art

It's been a very balanced, relaxing weekend after a very quiet week when I actually spent four of five nights at home (Poly Cocktails on Monday being the only exception).

Saturday I went to the salon in the afternoon and got my hair recolored back the way it was in August, with deep jewel-tone red and purple layers. The colors had faded to light red and lavender so that it was much more noticeable. It was pretty in its own way and I got lots of compliments on it, but I prefer the more subtle deep tones that blend well with my natural base color.

I was talking to Taylor, one of the assistants I know at the salon about music and other things - she came to NYC from Scottsdale, AZ a year ago and now lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn with her boyfriend. I offered to make a dance mix for her since she's never heard of mashup music, and clearly, I have a thing for redheads (even straight ones):

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After my hair was done, I went out to House PNJ for my second Sketchy Night party, and as usual, I was the first to arrive. I set up my computer and worked on my love letter project and gathering images for Taylor's CD. Kiwi, Dave and Beth showed up, plus Dee, Rhea, Theresa ("T") and a couple other people I didn't get introduced to who spent their time setting up in the kitchen to dye nylon rope for rope play.

Dave, Rhea, T and I walked to the train station together, and while Rhea worked on undoing the braids she made in T's hair, a guy sat down next to me and started complimenting my toes in a very creepy way. He said he liked my toenail polish, told me which of my toes he liked the best, asked if my toenails grew any longer, and complimented the pattern of my skirt. I did my best to ignore him, but he was persistent. I didn't have to put up with it long because I'm only a few stops into Manhattan, but it was really annoying.

Then, to top that off, I stopped by my grocery store to get a drink before going inside and as I came out, another guy basically asked me if I would like to have a one-night stand. I didn't even acknowledge that one, but by then I was super annoyed. Two propositions in one night! That what I get for making my hair look nice, I guess.

So today has been a cleaning day and working on Taylor's CD. I've been watching movies, ironing clothes, cleaning off the piles of bills on my kitchen table, washing dishes, etc. I went to the Fifth Avenue Best Buy and Staples for CD supplies and used a lovely image of Ganesha being a DJ (which goes well with my intro track that intones, "For tonight, God is a DJ"). I wrapped the CD in cotton ecru paper and sealed it with the same image on the disc itself and addressed it on the back. Here's what it looks like:

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I'll probably actually hold onto it until next weekend when I know Taylor will be working since I don't get home from work before the salon closes on weekdays (unless I have to work from home again like I did on Friday because of train tunnel problems). The mix itself is a bit of a revision on the one I posted before to emphasize mashup and in order to fit on an audio CD:
  1. Intron - Robin Skouteris
  2. One More Dance! - Robin Skouteris
  3. Super Bass - Nicki Minaj
  4. Till the Torture Ends - Fissunix
  5. Against the Floor - Robin Skouteris
  6. 4 Minutes - Madonna featuring Justin Timberlake
  7. Drop Dead Pretty Girl YEAH - Jimmy Klok
  8. Slow - Kylie Minogue
  9. Circus Numb Encore! - Robin Skouteris
  10. Carry Out - Timbaland featuring Justin Timberlake
  11. Sweet Mix (Is Made Of These) - Robin Skouteris
  12. Starstruck - Lady Gaga
  13. If You Kiss Jesus - Robin Skouteris
  14. Rolling Till The World Ends - Jarod Ripley
  15. Seal It With A Peacock - Dylan Vasey & OneLove
  16. S&M Remix - Rihanna featuring Britney Spears
  17. L.O.V.E. - Robin Skouteris
  18. I Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas
  19. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) - Arcade Fire
  20. It's All Over But The Crying (Remix) - Garbage
I'm really happy that I'm making beautiful things and sending them out into the world to be enjoyed. It's been a really good exercise for me.

Finally, for those of you who haven't heard, I'm also writing a new public blog, a joint project with Leon, my vice president for Open Love NY. We're writing a poly advice blog called "Poly Wanna Answer" and you can find it at www.openloveny.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Third anniversary

On Sunday, Puck and I celebrated the third anniversary of meeting one another, and the start of what has been an unexpectedly long, but amazingly wonderful road together.

I say unexpectedly long because we recently confessed to each other that neither of us thought we'd make it together this long in a relationship. Celebrating our third anniversary means we've been able to keep the emphasis on the positives in our relationship instead of picking at the negatives.

To celebrate we took the train out to Princeton to get Yoshi and drove to nearby Monroe Township to ride horses at Superior Horse Farm We saddled up with an instructor named Jen for a 45-minute lesson where we practiced walking, trotting and steering our quarter horses in and out of poles (I rode a tall muscular fellow named Joe, and Puck was on a shorter, stouter horse named Buddy). Jen rode her black thoroughbred, Victoria. After the lesson we took a short break and then went out on the trail for an hour to ride through the woods.

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After our riding experience, we drove further east to Freehold to pick some apples at Battleview Orchard where they had purple-ribbon Fuji apples ready to be picked. We found the biggest ones on the ground already, but they were undamaged. We also looked for a pumpkin, but those were pretty well picked-over by then.

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On the way home, we stopped by a homemade ice cream stand for some ice cream cones - I got chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate cake crunch and chocolate Oreo, Puck got cookie dough and butter pecan. Puck said they were treating me to the "high school boy date," which I thought was cute. It was even better than Dairy Queen.

We came back to Staten Island to hang out with the family, since sister Ella and her husband Sasha were visiting from Vermont. I gave Puck a very special present and a card to officially mark the anniversary and we went to sleep. I had arranged to work remotely on Monday, so we got up in a fairly leisurely fashion and I took them to their doctor’s appointment and got myself some White Castle for brunch. We came back to pack and then headed into Manhattan, where I dropped them off at Penn Station for the train back to school.

Monday night I went to Poly Cocktails and had a nice talk with Kiwi before going downstairs to join the rest of the group. It was fun as usual, but I was pretty exhausted from the busy weekend, so I left around 9:30 to go clean up my apartment, hang up some window draperies and other home improvements before collapsing into bed.

Happy 3rd anniversary, dearest - I love you!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Papacookie and Poly Pride

Short post today because it's late and I have a big day tomorrow with Puck, celebrating our third anniversary.

Puck came over in the wee hours Thursday night on their way home for Yom Kippur - I'd forgotten they don't have classes on Fridays anymore. I slid over in the bed and we had nice snuggles until I had to wake up for work.

I went to Papacookie Friday night and Storm introduced me to her younger sister, Hannah. Richard wasn't there, but he left instructions that no one was to take photos in his absence, so instead we all drew pictures with pencils and crayons. I drew an abstract of the first performer at the piano in a style reminiscent of Cy Twombly and Picasso. Storm drew quite a good sketch of me, since she was sitting behind me.

Since I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the performers, I took one of the view outside the apartment, facing Midtown:

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When I got home, I found that Puck had left me about a dozen little love notes all over the apartment. Here's a sample of them:

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On my eye makeup remover in the bathroom cabinet

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"Look at all those books! Someone really intelligent must live here.... <3 P"

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On my framed copy of "An Out of Doors Study" by John Singer Sargent: "What great taste you have! You surround yourself with so much beauty ... it is a pleasure to be around you <3 P"

Today I went to the Poly Pride Rally, which wasn't much of a rally because so few people showed up, maybe 50-60 at the most. But I had a nice time with a few of the Open Love NY people who came, and just sitting outside on a perfect, cloudless day and reading my book.

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Katie and Dave

Now to wrap up a few more preparations for tomorrow before I got to sleep. I'm sure I'll have lots to write next time.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Unexpected encounter

Lots of thoughts bouncing around in my head, but not that many for public consumption – if you get private time with me then you’ll get to hear it.

I had an extremely rare instance of unexpected private time with someone for the first time on Wednesday night. The circumstances started Tuesday night, which was a leadership team meeting for Open Love NY at Murray’s apartment on the Upper West Side. We welcomed Linda to our leadership team and covered our major issues, planning the holiday party and setting some goals for 2012. It was late when we finally adjourned and Leon hurried me out because the elevator had arrived so I left my scarf on Murray’s couch.

Since he had given me an Open Love NY t-shirt to exchange for a size larger, we arranged to meet the following evening at Pleasure Salon, which is kind of like Poly Cocktails, but sexier. It’s held the first Wednesday of each month at Happy Endings lounge in Chinatown. I got there early and chatted with the organizer, Patricia (whom I’d met at Diana’s barbecue party a while back) to see about doing some kind of co-sponsored event.

I also saw Jen there and chatted a bit with her and promised to make one-on-one plans soon. I bumped into Aiden, who holds the distinction of being maybe the fourth or fifth person I’ve ever kissed in my life with romantic intent (this was at my first Cuddle Party in October 2007 before their gender transition).

I made the exchange with Murray and was about to leave when Beth (from House PNJ friends) came in and greeted me. It was her first time at Pleasure Salon, and she wasn’t feeling very comfortable there, so we left together to do some grocery shopping and have dinner at the usual cafĂ© on Grand Street. We talked about being shy and socially awkward and relationships of course, and our own versions of "failed experiments" over the years. Thankfully she’s not a picky eater even though she was raised in a Jewish family, so we got to share my favorite clam and sizzling chicken dishes, plus snow pea shoots with garlic.

My boss Lori always makes fun of me because when we first met two years ago, I described myself as “painfully shy.” So every time she learns more about my personal life, she throws that back at me, saying I’m being disingenuous describing myself that way. Like the fact I’m the leader of a 700+ member group, or that I’ve attended play parties.

But what I find is that people see a very different person at events like Poly Cocktails than they might see when I’m alone with them. I talk about personal things and I listen much more intently. I talk more, to keep up my end of the conversation, rather than hang back and let other people jump in and introduce new topics. I’m much more daring in what I say to one person than I would be in a group.

But of course I’ve also grown up a bit from two years ago. Two years is a long time for a 7-year-old. I’m much more comfortable with myself and confident with my interactions with others. It’s good to see and recognize this.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Dance mix

So Puck and I have been talking about doing a dance mix together. So this is my contribution so far. It's kind of repetitive, but I guess dance music is like that. Once we fold in Puck's contributions, we might have a pretty good result.
  1. Till The Torture Ends (Fissunix) - a mashup of Britney's "Till the World Ends" and "Torture" by the Jacksons. I love the old 80's bass line from the old Jacksons tune. For those of you who are too young to remember, this song is from the "Victory" album, which was the first time Michael reunited with his brothers after establishing himself as a great solo artist.
  2. On the Floor (Jennifer Lopez) - It mixes cities, countries and continents indiscriminately, but the lambada carries the day.
  3. Carry Out (Timbaland, featuring Justin Timberlake) - from Timbaland's solo record, Shock Value II, which also includes songs featuring Katy Perry, Nelly Furtado and Miley Cyrus.
  4. 4 Minutes (Madonna, featuring Justin Timberlake) - from the movie soundtrack of "Get Smart," the big screen remake of one of my favorite old TV shows.
  5. Super Bass (Nicki Minaj) - such a catchy song, makes me wish I had subwoofers in Yoshi.
  6. I Gotta Feeling (The Black Eyed Peas) - not strictly a dance track, but a toe-tapper nonetheless.
  7. Slow (Kylie Minogue) - from an old album called "Body Language" it's the British version of Britney.
  8. Circus Numb Encore! (Robin Skouteris) - a mashup of Britney's "Circus" and "Numb Encore" by Linkin Park and Jay-Z. The first mashup song I ever heard, and it was love at first listen.
  9. Rolling Till The World Ends (Jarod Ripley) - a mashup of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" and Britney's "Till the World Ends". The challenge? Make Adele danceable. And it succeeds.
  10. Against The Floor (Robin Skouteris) - a mashup of "On the Floor" by Jennifer Lopez, "Hold it Against Me" by Britney Spears and "S&M" by Rihanna. Probably Robin's second-best mix, after L.O.V.E., his tribute to Michael Jackson.
  11. SexyBack (Justin Timberlake). I first heard this used at a professional ballroom dance competition and it just stuck with me for weeks until I could find it on iTunes.
  12. Drop Dead Pretty Girl YEAH (Jimmy Klok) - a mashup of Britney Spears' "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" and Chris Brown's "Yeah 3X" and Keri Hilson's "Pretty Girl Rock". Another great mix off the Mash Fatale album.
  13. Starstruck (Lady Gaga, featuring Space Cowboy and Flo Rida). Puck and I always wonder why this song isn't more popular. We both think it's one of Lady Gaga's best.
  14. Seal It With A Peacock (Dylan Vasey & OneLove) - a mashup of Katy Perry's "Peacock" featuring Pitbull and Britney Spears. Always fun to make peacock noises at the end of this song.
  15. Lose Control (Timbaland, featuring JoJo). A very catchy, tuneful song. Timbaland doesn't get much recognition as a solo artist as he does when he collaborates.
  16. One More Dance! (Robin Skouteris) - a mashup of Daft Punk's "One More Time" and Madonna's "Into the Groove". Another one that brings back memories of the 80s.
  17. S&M Remix (Rihanna and Britney Spears). When I saw Britney and Rihanna perform this at last year's VMAs, I was blown away. A great dance duet.
  18. Gimme More (Britney Spears). From her under the "Radar" album Blackout, which I picked up used just to try it out after seeing a favorable review on a Borders staff picks once.
  19. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) (Arcade Fire). Also not really a dance song, and lyrics are too serious for this mix, but it's a different kind of beat.
  20. It's All Over But The Crying (Remix) (Garbage). Slowing it down now, this is from the band's greatest hits collection, Absolute Garbage.
  21. Nil Recurring (Porcupine Tree). An instrumental bridge, featuring guitar from the great Robert Fripp.
  22. Wedding Nails (Porcupine Tree). A second instrumental bridge, which I rediscovered in watching my concert DVD, which the band plays it at a slightly faster tempo and nails it.
  23. Hey, Soul Sister (Train). After all the dancing, here's a song just to sing along with, and my favorite tune over the last month or so.

Sony, SlutWalk & Sandman

I finally bit the bullet and got a new camera, a Sony NEX-3, my first "prosumer" camera of the digital age. There's nothing wrong with my old Sony point-and-shoot that has taken just about every photo you've seen on this blog, but after seeing and appreciating photos taken by others with better cameras (the one of Puck offering the cupcakes in Prospect Park, for example, was taken by someone with a DSLR) I decided it was time to upgrade. Too bad I didn't do this for my trip to Ireland, but better late than never.

Also, this Sony was on sale as a refurbished model at the Sony online store for only $329, and it can be found cheaper than that now. They are updating this model soon, so the existing ones are heavily discounted.

The last SLR I had that I lost in the fire of 2005 was a Nikon 4004, and that was a film camera. Since going digital, I've never had a camera with a decent sensor size, which is the main factor in digital picture quality.

So here's the first photo I took of my little family in the apartment:

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On Saturday I went out to march at SlutWalk NYC to support that cause and to meet up with Puck and my Open Love NY and kinky unicorn friends. We marched through the East Village, down St. Mark's Street, chanting and waving our signs:

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Spreading the Open Love NY message

A couple young women in front of me were marching topless (which is allowed by law regardless of gender) and a spectator angled in with a camera phone for a closer shot. Another marcher, dressed as Wonder Woman, got in his face, screaming "BACK OFF!!" repeatedly. Somebody yelled out "Wonder Woman saves the day!" The group of women marching with the topless women hugged and thanked Wonder Woman for her intervention.

When we got back to our starting point at Union Square for the rally, I met up with Storm and then Puck, and our kinky friends:

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Mila and their Muppet - their shirt says "Muppets Against Rape Culture" or something like that

Unfortunately, the sky opened up and rain poured out, sending us to the subway, where we actually ran into Bellatrix by chance, saying a quick hi&bye before heading to lunch at Plataforma Churrascaria and settling into a major food coma back at the apartment.

In the early evening, we stopped in at Murray's apartment for the SlutWalk afterparty, but didn't stay long. We ended up at the Papacookie event, Puck's first time at one, and I brought my peanut sesame noodles to share:

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We only stayed for the first performance, which was violinist Katt Hernandez, a pianist and Jonathan on the accordion. Puck was exhausted after the busy day and they were also starting to get sick, so we left about 11 p.m. Hopefully next time we'll get to stay longer and see more performances.

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Sunday I started a reading project I've been wanting to do for a while, and that's to re-read the entire Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, which I own in four large Absolute Sandman editions, and read concurrently with The Sandman Companion by Hy Bender. This will, optimistically with my busy life, take me until the end of the year to complete, especially since the books are too bulky to read anywhere but home.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Free love letters

For me, October is a special month for a number of reasons. It's pagan new year (Samhain) on Oct. 31 and time for the cycle of the year to start anew. The weather is usually as perfect as it gets, and I love the smell of fall.

But most of all, I've come to realize that October is the month I most associate with my loved ones - past and present. I was first introduced to Puck on Oct. 4, 2008 at the Poly Pride Rally in Central Park. I first met Bonnie (and Hiba) on Oct. 20, 2009 at the monthly Poly Women's Group at the Westside YMCA. And the first time I met Tara, Buffy and Bug (my erstwhile family) in person was Oct. 14, 2005 at the Metropolitan Museum any in Wayne, NJ.

Coincidence? Maybe. But I wouldn't be surprised if I met someone new (or something happens with a person who is already in my life) this month that turns out to be the start of a new relationship.

Puck and I have our own traditions for celebrating our anniversary (our third this year) but I wanted to do something new to mark October as my own month dedicated to love. As you can see from this blog I am a pretty prolific writer, so I came up with an idea after reading this article in the Wall Street Journal: "Stationery's New Followers" - Aug. 25, 2011

I wanted to do something to celebrate love that didn't have anything to do with a specific person, like Puck for example. The idea of love is bigger than one relationship between two people - love is what binds us all together and the most powerful force for good we have in the world.

As longtime readers know, I'm also searching for my artistic path and I wanted to do something for the sake of art, without any other purpose or agenda beyond putting something beautiful out in the world. And since I'm lacking skills in the musical and visual arts, I don't think I can produce anything authentic in the areas of music, dance, sculpture, painting, etc.

My one skill that I've honed over my entire lifetime is my writing. It is my livelihood and occasionally has been used in the service of love, but rarely for art. I'm not a poet, although I've written a few poems in my life; none recently.

So here's my idea: for the month of October, I'm going to write a personalized love letter to anyone who requests one by sending me their mailing address. Everyone who gives me an address will get a letter - guaranteed - whether we've known each other a minute or a decade. Each love letter will be handwritten with liquid ink on cotton fiber paper (so as not to harm any trees) and sent via U.S. Mail - not by email, text, IM, Twitter or Facebook post. I'll even spring for international delivery for anyone overseas.

Your letter may be long or short, funny or sincere. It might be perfumed or decorated with a wax seal. It might recall some tiny, distant memory of our time together, or it might be five pages long if we have a history. It might be lyrics to a love song that reminds me of you. It could be a story I've always wanted to share with you, but never found the right moment to tell it.

But whatever it is, it will be honest, and it will be about you and me - and whatever is between us and how it relates to the experience of love. And for those moments it takes you to read it, you and I will share a personal and physical connection that is so rare in this fleeting digital world.

No response will be expected - the letter will be my gift to you, in honor of all the love that has found me in Octobers past. And obviously, requests received after Oct. 31 will have to wait until next year.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Love and law firms

I was chatting with Puck today and they were interviewed by the campus newspaper about gay marriage. And it occurred to me that the institution of marriage is to relationships the way a traditional law firm is to lawyers.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the traditional law firm, it’s very similar to investment banks, consulting firms and even PR agencies, where I’ve spent about half my working life. Most law firms are set up as limited liability partnerships (LLPs) or limited liability corporations (LLCs) in order to protect the personal assets of the partners from being seized in a legal action against the firm itself. In such an arrangement, the highest rank one can achieve is to become a Partner, thereby securing an equity stake in the firm. It’s like becoming a tenured professor at a university, and usually means your name gets added to the firm’s official name.

So the employment structure at law firms is what Human Resources specialists call an “up-and-out” – meaning you have to continue to move up in the ranks until you make Partner, or you will eventually be out of a job. Unlike big corporations where someone can stay in one mid-level position for decades, partnerships are constantly turning over employees, seeking superstars that fit with the firm enough to make Partner. And when you make Partner, you are in effect, marrying the firm in a legal sense. You legally join the partnership that controls the firm.

The institution of marriage and the ripple effects it has on the way we relate to people also work as an “up-and-out” design when it comes to love. For many people, meeting potential partners is akin to a law firm hiring new graduates, getting to know them and their work, and working the way up the ranks to “boyfriend/girlfriend” before finally becoming “Spouse/Partner.”

But if you don’t get to that top spot, the relationship is jettisoned in favor of finding someone else who can achieve it. You are, in the words of Donald Trump, fired from the relationship. As always, I’m not saying this is wrong or bad. It’s just an observation on how things work in the larger world that I don’t personally subscribe to.

In my world, love does not need to compete. It doesn’t need to conform to a specific ideal. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. In my world, if I love someone and they love me, we can find a way to make things work so that everybody has a job at Michelle Inc. for as long as they want it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Purple haze

Today is my old birthday. Not anything worth celebrating, but noted here.

Before I recap my weekend, I want to tell you something about my past. In high school, I had a huge crush on a girl named Sonya. She was in the color guard in marching band, and two or three years younger than me. I think I must have taken dozens of pictures of her because I was band historian at the time. I used her younger sister Kari as a model for a science project about the effect of vinegar on Dektol, a Kodak chemical used in photographic printmaking (that project actually made the finals in Science Fair that year). I wrote poems for her, Kari, even her mom, who I thought was really cool for a grown-up.

But the thing you notice first about Sonya is that girl loved purple. LOVED it. Every day, she wore something purple, and her room was one big shrine to the color purple. She wrote with purple pens in purple ink on purple notepads - you get the picture.

In the whole scheme of things, Sonya wasn't a very important person in my life. We were never more than casual high school friends. I think we went out one time so I could write a restaurant review for the newspaper (always a good excuse to ask someone out for a meal). So it's interesting that I seem to be rather taken with the color purple these days. People notice it in my hair, most of my work outfits are based on something purple (tops, skirts, tights). I'm drawn to it in almost anything that comes in different colors.

Maybe this means I'm finally reaching high school age in my development? Who knows. I just thought it was an interesting link to an obscure person in my past.

Saturday I was kind of headachy all day, so I didn't get to the gym. I watched a couple movies and took an afternoon nap until it was time to meet up with House PNJ at Bryant Park:

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From left are Piper and Ilan, Dave, Beth and Kiwi

After much discussion we decided on Radiance Tea House for dinner, where Jet met up with us. Dave had his graduation party here back in May, which seems so much longer ago to me ("Socializing" - May 29, 2011). Then we walked a few blocks to an off-Broadway theater nearby to see "The Tramaine Experience: An Urban Dramedy". The large murals Jet was painting on House PNJ's Sketchy Night last weekend were displayed on the floor of the stage:

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Afterward the gang went to a nearby cafe while I went home. I had originally entertained having people come over, but our group had swelled to a size that would have been too large for my little apartment to handle comfortably and I didn't see any graceful way to invite some but not all. Plus we added a person at the theater whom I was meeting for the first time, and I normally have to know people pretty well before I let them into my personal space.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Weekend goals

Goals for this weekend:

1. Sleep late Saturday and Sunday mornings

2. Work out at the gym I haven't been to since before I went to Ireland

3. Have a fun time with Piper and the gang at Jet's play Saturday night

4. Finish Mockingjay, the last book of the Hunger Games Trilogy

5. Laundry

Everything else is negotiable. That is all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Crossing boundaries

What a wild and wonderful weekend it was! Counting Friday and Monday, it’s been a non-stop whirlwind of activity, crossing boundaries that had never been crossed before.

Of course the most meaningful was Puck finally meeting my work colleagues at Nearing in Princeton Friday night when we had our annual company picnic and fundraiser. The theme of the event was Country Fair, so we dressed up the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton with a barnyard theme:

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Puck took the train out from Stony Brook all the way to Princeton and I picked them up from the train station to bring them back to the office. We met most of my co-workers in Communications, and some of the other people I work with here. Then we drove down to Trenton in Yoshi to attend the party, which had a petting zoo, inflatable slide, games and face painting for kids, plus a mechanical bull that threw Puck twice – this second time causing them to tear their jeans from knee to crotch:



Luckily I had brought a skirt with an elastic waist they could wear, and they changed their shirt to the “Dance Your Ass Off!” shirt to match the blue, but I asked them to put their nametag over the “Ass” since there were children at the party.

Wardrobe malfunction sorted, we proceeded to have some food and place bids at the silent auction (we tried to get tickets to a Mets baseball game, but were quickly outbid):

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I also bought $100 worth of raffle tickets, but we didn’t win anything. There are way too many people at Nearing who make a lot more money than I do, so we were pretty doomed from the start. But we had fun hoping anyway, because some of the prizes were pretty cool (iPads, dinner at Nobu, round-trip first class tickets to anywhere in the world, etc.) After all the raffle prizes were drawn, we drove back to Staten Island and crashed at their house.

In the morning we got up early to buy stuff for the Poly Picnic at Prospect Park, an Open Love NY event we’ve been planning together for the past few weeks. We got drinks and ice at the local grocery store, then drove to a Subway near the park to order 40 sandwiches. Then I accidentally locked myself out of Yoshi, so we had to call a locksmith, which made us late for the party. But we managed to have a good time anyway, and it was only the second time we got to use our banner publicly:

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I was especially happy to see my friend Stephanie there – we haven’t seen each other for a couple years now (last time was at a Shanghai Mermaid party). She’s married now and living in Brooklyn near the park.

Leon, my vice president, was sporting an Open Love NY shirt of his own design, which has the web site on the back and the symbols “+ > ^” on the front (“and” is greater than “or”). I think it would make more sense if we added “f<3” to indicate “as a function of love.” But he’s the Mensa member, not me. That’s also Puck’s kinky fellow student Danielle over Leon’s shoulder, who came all the way from SBU to attend and turned out to be a delightful person (there were actually three Danielles at the picnic):

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It was my first time visiting Prospect Park and it’s a gorgeous place, especially our spot near the Audubon Boathouse on the lake. A pair of newlyweds was getting wedding photos taken at various places, and the best moment of the picnic came when Puck ran up to them and offered them cupcakes, baked by my friend Adele. The irony of poly people giving treats to a (presumably) monogamous couple was not lost on any of us:

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As the shadows lengthened, we packed up our stuff and drove to Puck’s grandparents’ place nearby to say hi to them and Puck’s parents before shooting off to Manhattan to pick up Kacey from her workplace on the Upper East Side and drive to Astoria for House PNJ’s “Sketchy Night,” a party for people to come and make art together.

Of significance for me is that it’s the first time I've brought someone from the Papacookie crowd (Kacey) to meet the young queer kinky crowd. And it turned out to be the right party for a successful visit. Whenever people from different communities mingle, I think of the “Dancin’” musical scene in one of my worst guilty-pleasure movies Xanadu, where the bandstand performers merge with the heavy metal band.

During the party I did origami figures while Kacey sketched, Elisa worked at her drafting table and Jet painted on 10-foot wide canvases. Ilan, Dave, Beth and Kiwi also showed up to socialize while Piper baked cookies and played hostess. As we started getting tired, we said goodnight and drove Kacey back home to Brooklyn, then turned around and went home to Manhattan to sleep.

Sunday morning Puck and I had brunch at Petit Abeille on 20th Street, a much larger one than where we took Ben and Dale over Labor Day. We had a cheese board, a baguette with homemade jam, a tasty omlette and blueberry pancakes.

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Then we drove back to Staten Island to do laundry and spend some time with the family until they had to go back to SBU. We made the long drive out to Long Island, but I didn’t stay long before a fire alarm drove us outside to the parking lot, so I just went home rather than wait around for it to end.

Monday night was the next Papacookie event, another fundraiser for Kacey’s film project. Since I was coming from work, I couldn’t bring a lot of food, so I got some five-year aged gouda cheese from Holland at my local Wegmanns store, along with some blackberry cobbler candy corn and organic crackers, plus a food-safe piece of slate to serve it. I cut the cheese into little blocks and made a rough pyramid to match the candy corn shape, and served it like so with colored toothpicks:

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I was the first guest to arrive since I was only 15 minutes late (which is early by New York standards) so I had time to set up my dish. I chatted with Mary, one of Kacey’s roommates, who is leaving in November to vagabond indefinitely in Europe with a friend. I also bid on a tour of Coney Island and a visit to the original Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog stand there, a place I’ve always wanted to go after seeing it on countless hot dog shows I’ve seen over the years. While $100 doesn’t get you to first base at Nearing’s auctions, for the Papacookie crowd of minstrels, artists and bohemians, that’s a lot of money. I didn’t stay until the end to see if I’d won, but I doubt anyone outbid me for that prize.

The guitarist Plus Aziz who played at my last visit was back, this time with a backup singer and a percussionist playing a hand drum and shakers on his feet. They did a set of four wonderful songs and that was all we had time for in the program because we got started so late.

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So I’m also currently tearing through The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, which I’m enjoying immensely, but they are so light and short compared to the Kushiel’s Legacy books. I wish they would last longer. Still, there’s plenty other books on my shelves that need to be read.



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