Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Brooklyn wedding

Just a quick update from work about the wedding this past Sunday. Polina invited me to her cousin Gene’s wedding at a synagogue in Brooklyn, possibly the first time I’ve ever been to a synagogue. There was a short ceremony in the afternoon, accompanied by a singer who also played guitar.

Yana & Gene

Afterward we went to a nearby restaurant where we hung out in a smaller room with hors d’oeuvres and drinks until it was time to go into the main room. The appetizers were so good (sushi, caviar crepes, brie on crackers, etc.) and we were so hungry by the time we arrived that I ate enough so that I wasn’t very hungry when we sat down at the table in the main room. Which is a shame because they had some delicious food waiting for us.


There was dancing pretty much from the get-go, led by a quartet of musicians and singers, one of whom doubled as the emcee. He was a wild looking guy with white spiky hair, and dressed in a white-tie tux and tails. One of the other singers was vaguely Asian and reminded Polina of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (from Inception).

Polina dancing with her dad in the skirt I found for her

Polina and her family sang a song in Russian for the bride, Yana, and the groom. They did this at her sister Ella’s wedding too. This is a family that loves to sing! For those of you who understand Russian, here’s the performance.


Finally, it was time to cut the cake and then they opened up a whole another room filled with desserts, including a croquembouche of profiteroles (choux pastry filled with cream).

Bird cake

Then there was the traditional bouquet and garter toss, except they did it in reverse – Yana threw her bouquet to the guys, and Gene threw her garter to the girls. Which reminds me: there was another queer couple there, Anna and Nat (Natalie) – Anna is the tall person below in the splendid black velvet tuxedo, which I complimented them on. Unfortunately, they were sitting on the opposite side of the room, so we didn’t get to talk to them very much.

Bouquet and garter

Our ears were definitely ringing and our feet were sore by the time we left, but we had a wonderful time, and I’m happy that we were able to go together. It was definitely a wedding to remember.

Matching black jackets

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tosca and Dogma

We had a fun time at the Metropolitan Opera last night watching Tosca, one of my favorite operas. The performances were marvelous and the sets were distinctive, if a little austere, a pretty radical departure from the heyday of Franco Zefferelli's extravagant productions (e.g., La Boheme). And Polina looked rather dashing in their new clothes - I commented that they looked like a younger and smaller version of the person I used to be, which is no surprise since I picked out the clothes.

We had box seats at the Dress Circle level, which is one level lower than when we saw Carmen, but the view was not quite as good because last time we were more in the corner of the hall with a more direct line of sight to the stage. Plus it was a little tighter in the box for tall people like me, although it's always nice to have space around you to put your purse and coat. Next time I'll know better which seats to get.

**SPOILER ALERT!** For those of you who have seen Tosca, there was a story my dad used to tell me about a diva who played Floria Tosca in a performance where at the end she was to jump down onto an offstage platform from the tower where she meets her death. The diva was a heavy woman, and when it came time to perform the dramatic leap, she simply turned around and refused to jump. Now that is playing a diva like a boss.

Anyway, after the opera when we were waiting for the subway there was a saxaphone player playing "E lucevan le stelle" ("And the stars shone") so we dropped a dollar in his case. When we got home it was about 11:30 pm, and Polina was showing me an article about athiests, which sparked a desire to watch Kevin Smith's riotous parody on religion Dogma. So that kept us up until about 2 am, but fortunately because of snow and ice, the office opened an hour later this morning so I could take a later train.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ski, sauna, spa and shibari

Thursday night, and I'm finally winding down for all the activity from my week off work. Let's recap the highlights.

Sunday night Polina came over and we went across the street to Famous Dave's Barbecue for dinner. We had a good talk about the three topics that were bothering me, namely the proliferation of metamours, the encroachment of our week together from other things, and our second talk about money. It was a good discussion, and also a good affirmation of our relationship and where we stand in each other's lives.

Monday we headed down to Brooklyn so she could visit her dentist to fix a filling that had come loose. From there we went to her home in Staten Island so we could water the plants, do some cleaning, eat dinner and pick up more clothes for later in the week. We dressed up nicely for Poly Cocktails - her in a smart striped vest, necktie and pants, and me in a sparkly black top, leggings and a short grey wool skirt that didn't fit me three months ago until I'd lost weight.

At Poly Cocktails Polina went and had fun while I had meeting after meeting with my Open Love NY committee members, planning February's meeting, getting several fires put out and smoothing ruffled feathers that made one member on the verge of resigning. I did get to spend a little time talking one-on-one with Phrannie, Jill and especially Kerry, who rarely comes out to poly events these days, so it was wonderful to see her. We got home about 12:3o am, so we only got about four hours of sleep until the next morning, when we woke at 6:30 am to go skiing.

We picked up the Volvo ZipCar from the garage one block away, the silver chariot of justice as we call it (a Twilight reference) and drove out to Camelback Mountain in Pennsylvania. It's a relatively small mountain, so the trails are pretty easy. The highlight of the day was when Polina broke one of her skis, probably when she tackled some scoops alongside one of the trails and had a wipeout. Luckily, they didn't make us pay for it, and we just got a replacement. We left early because Polina had taken quite a beating on the slopes, so we stopped at an outlet mall to do a little improptu shopping and had dinner at LongHorn Steakhouse, one of our favorite restaurants, where we had a couple of exceptional steaks before driving back home.

We dropped our things and took the subway downtown to Wall Street Bath and Spa, a Russian bathhouse for my first such experience. We sat in the Russian Sauna, which was kept at 245 degrees, and watched guys get platza, a theraputic flogging with branches of oak leaves soaked in hot water. Unfortunately, the platza guy was all booked up, or else Polina would have gotten one.

We also sat in the Dutch-style sauna, which was a little cooler and had water available in buckets to splash or dunk on you to cool off. There was also a cold plunge pool, just large enough for one person about five feet deep and filled with ice-cold water. This is where you dunked yourself after you got really hot in one of the saunas, and it is a pretty shocking experience! I preferred the Turkish steam room, which is a wet steam heat. We also swam in the very ornate pool and took a dip in the jacuzzi to massage our ski-weary muscles. Afterward we ordered some chicken dumplings with sour cream and a pitcher of tea before showering and trudging home in the falling snow.

Wednesday we visited the American version of the spa by going to Spa Merge 10 blocks north of the apartment. We each got a three-and-a-half hour package that included a facial, a full body aromatherapy massage, and a manicure/pedicure. Other than a few minor service gaffes, the experience was lovely, and I especially enjoyed the facial by my esthetician Hiroko.

After the spa, we came home and were preparing to go to Dance Manhattan for Polina's Argentine tango class that she attends with one of her ex's, Louis, and afterwards to a TES event on basic Japanese rope bondage (shibari). We didn't have any rope, so it turned out that Dave was going to go to the same event and he was going to lend us some rope to play with. This set off another very difficult conversation about relationship boundaries and metamours, but we managed to resolve it and headed to the dance class. I just sat and watched, and it was the first time I'd ever been in a dance studio watching someone teach dance. It was fascinating to see the movement and instruction going on.

At the TES class, it turned out that the instructor brought plenty of jute, or Japanese hemp rope made from natural grass fiber, so it wasn't necessary to borrow Dave's rope, but he did sit behind us in the class. We learned the basics of rope bondage, like safety tips, types of rope, and basic ties like the Somerville Bowline, which Polina and I practiced on each other. We also did a Takate kote, or box tie on each other, which is where the arms are tied behind the back and double strands of rope run across the chest above and below the breasts. It was actually quite a lot of fun - somewhat like the art of origami that I enjoy.

Afterward we went to Dafni Greek Taverna, Polina's first visit to a Greek restaurant, for a late supper before going home and finishing up Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Today we really slept in until almost 1 pm, then got up for some breakfast I picked up from Financier Patisserie across the street. We started in on Season 3 of Buffy before she had to leave to meet Dave and take him home to Staten Island.

A few hours later I met up with Agnieszka, who came into the city to catch up with me. We entered the lottery for the Broadway rock opera American Idiot, and of course, I was the second name drawn. Agnieszka's name was drawn fifth, but we didn't need to use her entry since I'd already won. My record on drawings is now 6-for-8, and with tonight's win, there's no show I've entered that I haven't eventually won.

We had a quick dinner at a nearby Turkish restaurant and then took our front row center seats ($27 each) for the show. Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead singer of Green Day, was supposed to play St. Jimmy in this performance, but it was an understudy instead, so that was disappointing. The show was a fiery, kinetic extravaganza of punk rock indulgence, but ultimately there wasn't a very coherent storyline. I also caught a little bit of spit from one of the singers from being too close to the stage - it would have been nice to be in the second row for this one. Agnieszka, on the other hand, caught a guitar pick that was tossed down to her by one of the three leads in the finale.

So that's been my week so far. A lot of fun stuff, and a lot of firsts. Lots of time-spending with Polina and good relationship talks. Thankfully I have the next three days by myself to get caught up on Open Love NY stuff, laundry and cleaning up the apartment before work starts again on Monday.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Angel ornament for 2010

So, now that I'm feeling better, it's time to tie up one last loose end from 2010 before anything major happens in 2011; namely, the issue of the Christmas ornament.

As I've said before, I wanted this ornament to represent Bonnie, and my previous ideas have really not panned out the way she deserves. So I had in my refrigerator the bottle of champagne that she brought the first time she came to visit me at my apartment in New Jersey. I thought it very appropriate that a year and a day later, that champagne was finally consumed at Polina's New Year's Day party.

When I opened the bottle, I did so with extra care, thinking back on all the wonderful memories of early 2010 when I was falling for Bonnie, and somehow the bottle itself seemed to take on a great deal of meaning. After all, other than her extraordinary birthday gift, a hand-illustrated scrapbook of our time together, it's one of the very few tangible things I have that she's given me.

So it occurred to me that I should make the Christmas ornament out of the parts of the bottle itself, namely the cork, foil wrapper and wire basket. And since my tree is predominantly decorated with angels, why not make an angel? Most of my angels come from the Metropolitan Museum's collection, which I buy every year, but there's also the handmade paper angel made in Buenos Aires that Polina picked out in 2008 while we were shopping at the Holiday Market in Union Square. That was the year before she went to Argentina, of course.

To make my 2010 angel, first I fashioned the halo by cutting and twisting the wire that holds the cork on the bottle. Then I cut out the wings from the foil wrap around the bottleneck using the pinking shears I got for scrapbooking to simulate feathers. I used leftover strips of the foil to gild the halo to match the gold color of the wings. I also glued the wine label to the back of the wings, so I'll remember the vintage.

I borrowed the tiny Santa hat and a golden hanging thread from the penguin ornament I bought to complete the ornament, and assembled the whole thing with a single pushpin. Here's what it looks like:

Angel ornament

What I like about this ornament is that it reflects the creativity and effort that she put into the scrapbook she gave me, still the most overwhelming birthday gift I've ever received, or am likely to receive.

And that's the great thing about the way I love someone - even if they are not around, I can still be inspired by my feelings for them. The holidays, gift-giving, the people I love - they inspire some of my best creative work.

I think about the handmade book of marriage vows I gave to my ex as a wedding present - bound with a leather spine, gold leaf lettering and hand-marbled endpapers, and die cut pages that revealed a golden wax seal of a cherub inside. That book took almost a year of planning (which is how long we were engaged), buying materials, finding the right bookbindery and die cutter, designing the pages with artwork, finding the right handmade paper, etc. etc.

I think of the puppet videos I used to make for Christmas with my stuffed animals hosting their own movie awards shows, interspersed with clips of some of my favorite movie lines. A Christmas video I made on my old iMac of one of M's first Christmases. More recently, I think of music mixes I've made for Tara, Bee, Polina, Linda and Lori, and the associated designs that went into their packaging. I'm no artist, but I am a creative person that just needs an excuse to flex those muscles.

I do miss Bonnie. I think about her a lot, obviously. I miss the days when we texted back and forth every day, when she would distract me at work, when we couldn't imagine our lives without each other. I miss showering her with affection, and being so close that molecules of air would bounce off her, getting caught in my hair to be carried away when we part ... and invisible moisture that escapes with her exhaling breaths would splash on my skin like a million microscopic kisses.

I know that we'll never share those feelings again, but goddess, it was fun while it lasted. And that - more than anything - is what I want to honor and remember with this 2010 Christmas ornament.