Sunday, May 29, 2011
Friday the office closed early so I came back and got my haircut with Cristine at Sassoon Salon. It now falls just around my collarbone, so about three inches shorter. All the better since the weather has really turned the corner and started getting truly sauna-like.
In the evening I met Bellatrix for dinner at Kum Gang San, my favorite Korean restaurant. As you might recall, we got to know each other at the last Mid-Manhattan Midnight Munch ("MMMM" - May 1, 2011). After dinner, Bella and I went over to the MMMM a few blocks away and chatted with the group. I sat down next to Dave, Puck's former sub (and whom I would see again 12 hours later) and was pleasantly surprised to see Jenn from Leon's birthday party (see "MMMM" above) who sat next to me. I had chocolate mousse (in the shape of a chocolate mouse) and we talked about graphic novels, movies and nail polish. She's a fan of Frank Miller and Alan Moore just like me, and also loves the Scott Pilgrim series. I had a really good time with her and with everyone sitting around me, but still left about 1 am (which is early) so I could get some sleep for tomorrow.
Puck came by at 1 pm to pick me up for Dave's tea party at Radiance Tea House and Books a few blocks north of my apartment, and had a four-hour tea party with Dave, Ilan and Anastasiya (I had just met Ilan at the munch 12 hours earlier, and met Anastasiya at a TNG munch months ago with Puck, who went to high school with her). We had several different kinds of iced and hot teas, plus dumplings, rice and noodle dishes, and mochi and mochi ice cream for dessert. It was a wonderfully balanced and fun group for conversation, which ranged all over from sci-fi to comics, linguistics to physics, LGBT and kink. I think we were all surprised that we stayed so long, but we were all having such a good time that no one wanted to leave.
In the early evening, Puck and I entered the ticket lottery for Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the show that took the place of our beloved West Side Story in the theater next to my apartment, but we somehow missed the drawing by coming back a few minutes too late. Undeterred, we walked over to Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and entered that lottery. They drew all the double seats and had only a single seat left by the time they drew my name, so we turned it down. So my record on lottery drawings is now six-for-10, not including the last one, since technically I won something, but it wasn't enough for both of us. I'll count that as a forfeit.
So instead of a show, Puck and I got our nails done at a salon in Times Square, and then went home to watch the last two X-Men movies to get ready for X-Men: First Class, which opens next weekend. And it's always a rare treat to sleep together when we don't have to get up crazy-early the next morning.
Today we had breakfast of omlettes and turkey bacon, and they read The Ultimates while I made peanut noodles for my event later tonight. Then we watched a couple episodes of Buffy before they had to leave for a family birthday party in Brooklyn. We're now past the halfway point in Season 3, so if we keep at this pace, we should finish all seven seasons around the time they graduate from college :)
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
I went from there directly to the Empire AMC movie theater to see Thor for the bargain matinee price of $6, which is less than half the price of a movie in Manhattan (the 3D showing at the Ziegfeld cost $16.50, for example). I was glad that I could see Thor in 2D, actually. The movie was alright, probably in the upper part of the second-tier of superhero movies (the top-tier being movies like The Dark Knight, Batman Begins and the first Iron Man).
After the movie I went home and quickly made my curry chicken with livers and hearts and had a quick lunch before heading down to Union Square to see my endocrinologist for my bi-annual checkup. That didn’t take very long and I got a clean bill of health, so I was out of there quickly. I walked down 14th Street to the Loehmann’s to get some color safe shampoo and conditioner, and then back to Union Square to Nordstrom Rack and Sephora to get some other cosmetic items before going home to take a nap before the show.
My seat in the theater wasn’t in the front row like I’m used to, but certainly worth what I paid for it. The show was sexy and clever, although all the big musical numbers seemed to be stacked in the first half before intermission, so the second half dragged a bit. I’m a big fan of the movie by Rob Marshall, which is probably one of the most energetic movies ever made.
By comparison, the acting wasn’t quite as good (especially Ms. Brinkley, who starts out very wooden, but loosens up over the course of the play until her natural charm starts to peek out). But of course, there is no substitute for seeing live dancing, bodies moving in real space in real time, and true acoustics from the live big band orchestra on the stage.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Saturday I went to Vidal Sassoon on 56th Street to get my hair colored - the first time it's been done by someone other than Edison in a few years. My stylist was named Kelly, an Asian woman, so I felt a little reassured about that. I loved the color she had in her hair, a lavender purplish tint, so we tried for that.
Mine turned out to be more like fuchsia, but it might change after a few washes. It's the first time I've had chunks of my hair tinted like this - usually I get highlights that are more subtle and natural. But I guess part of my explorations includes playing with my look and pushing the envelope. Fortunately, I feel more and more comfortable at work expressing my non-mainstream identity with my co-workers and not feeling like I'm being judged for it (even though I probably am by some of them, but I really don't care).
The coloring took 3 1/2 hours, a lot longer than I thought it would, which made me a little bit late for my 3 pm meeting at the Ziegfeld Theater with my Women's Poly Group. Loli came for one more visit before she leaves for the summer to upstate New York, and Sylwia came for the first time in almost a year. A new member, Katie, also attended for the first time - she's been to the last two Open Love NY meetings though. She's 24, a recent graduate from Ithaca College in journalism (what's with all the journalism students crossing my path lately?) and dating a college sweetheart named David while exploring an open relationship.
We saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which was just okay. I'm not a huge fan of this franchise, although I liked the first movie when it came out. I felt like it was a little too tricksy with the 3-D effects, like having characters point their swords on a few occasions at the audience. I'm not a fan of 3-D in general because they usually give me a headache, and did on this occasion. I think I'm going to actively avoid 3-D from now on, which shouldn't be hard since I don't get to see many movies in the first place (although I do want to see the new X-Men movie , Green Lantern, the Harry Potter finale, and of course, Breaking Dawn, Part 1 this fall).
After the movie we went to the nearby Topaz Thai restaurant for a long, enjoyable meal and talked for almost three hours until the waitstaff were practically begging us to leave. I had to share Sylwia's pitiful umbrella to keep my freshly colored hair from getting wet. All in all, it was one of our best meetings in a while, and I'm going to make an effort to do more fun things with this group.
Today I did a lot of my grocery shopping at my usual stores in Chinatown and the Food Emporium on 9th Avenue. I'm planning to make curry chicken with liver and hearts again to eat with the fried rice I made last week. Then I also had to spend a few hours working on Nearing's sustainability report, which I didn't have enough time to do last week.
Monday I'm taking a rare day off (probably only my second day off this year so far, not counting holidays) to visit my endocrinologist and maybe do some shopping. Tuesday is Open Love NY, and then the holiday weekend beckons. It will probably give me a sense of deja vu because I'll be going back to the same salon on Saturday for a haircut to go with my new color.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
I'm still feeling the effects of the softball game in my back, shoulder and neck. I really played hard, dammit! I even got a hot stone massage at the Hand and Stone spa near my office on Friday, which felt wonderful but didn't really help my injuries. I also got a facial, which was equally as good.
So yesterday I visited Times Square Metro Massage which is right across the street from my apartment building because my neck and shoulders were really hurting. This spa is not nearly as nice as Hand and Stone, which is also not nearly as nice as Spa Merge, where Puck and I visited earlier this year ("Ski, sauna, spa and shibari" - Jan. 13, 2011). But the therapist at Metro really knows what she's doing, and she massages with her whole body, like really good sex :) The fact that it's super-convenient and has late hours are both big pluses.
The downside is that they don't really have their service very fine-tuned. Their credit card machine didn't work, so that forced me to pay in cash - fortunately I barely had enough. They also did something that I consider a big no-no, it's one of my pet peeves actually - they asked for a bigger tip than I wanted to give them. This is a capital offense in most cases for me. A nail salon that I'd been going to for a year did that to me once and I never went back there. Spa Merge did that too, which is why I don't plan on going back. I might make an exception with Metro because it's so convenient, but I'm probably only going to tip 15% next time, instead of my customary 20-22%.
To me, a gratuity in most cases has to be earned. The rule of thumb is that acceptable service gets 15%, good service gets 20% and exceptional service gets 25%. Also, first-time visits usually get 20% as a default, because I have no baseline yet to measure what exceptional service is for that establishment. If the service is unacceptable, it's best to speak to the management and then leave 10 or 15%. I've hardly ever had unacceptable service in my life (although there was one time at a Holiday Inn on family vacation that I remember well because we wrote a long complaint on a comment card), but there are different standards of service.
For example, I once went to Brennan's with some friends, a world-class Creole restaurant in downtown Houston. We went late on Mother's Day, when the waitstaff I'm sure was tired after a long and busy day. The food was excellent, but there were several service gaffes: a steak had to be sent back because it was not cooked well-done as ordered, courses were brought out overlapping each other, and a few other things. Nothing that would completely spoil the meal, but sub-par for a five-star restaurant.
So upon leaving, we spoke to the maitre d' about the problems, and he offered us an after-dinner cordial by way of apology, but by that time it was very late and we were ready to go. Without hesitation, he took back the check for the entire table, which amounted to almost $300. And believe you me, this is not the first time or place that I've told that story - it remains one of my gold standards for how world-class establishments should treat their customers.
Anyway, as you might guess by now, my standards for good service are pretty high, especially at finer establishments. I was greatly disappointed with the experience at Spa Merge, for example, because it was otherwise a very fine (and quite pricey) experience but they fumbled several things, possibly because of the disorganization from the blizzard the day before.
In fact, when I think of great service, the only place in New York so far that comes to mind is the Palm Restaurant and it's no coincidence that I've taken Puck there three times this year. Not that they don't slip up now and then, but they are consistently of a high quality and display the right attitude in making the customer feel not just welcome, but valued. And perhaps, for the average price of a meal there, you might say it's expected, but I've come to find that's not always the case.
I would also be remiss if I didn't mention my regular hair stylist of renown, Edison, who has been doing my hair for going on three years (although I've recently been trying a new stylist my co-worker Jennifer introduced me to). Even though Edison doesn't always do exactly what he's supposed to (he did butcher Bonnie's hair once and Puck's bright colors have not always turned out exactly how they expected) he never fails to be gracious, attentive and cheerful. The right attitude goes a long way, and I've always been incredibly loyal to businesses that treat their customers the right way.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Finally life is settling down a bit and getting back into my routine after a busy weekend following my hectic week of travel. Puck came over early Saturday morning and crawled into bed with me so we had some nice morning snuggles.
We had intended to visit the parents in Staten Island that day, but since we woke up late we decided it was going to be too hectic to drive there for only an hour's visit and back. We had a leisurely breakfast, followed by a rather intense relationship check-in, because we haven’t actually seen each other since the ice cream social a few weeks ago. In keeping with our history of small moves, we agreed on a change and voiced some of the things that needed to be said. We both used quite a few tissues, but ended on a positive note and our relationship is certainly the better for it.
So not going to Staten Island was good because it also gave Puck a chance to chill after that while I went to Chinatown and got ingredients to make my peanut sesame noodles for the House Penguin Slumber Party that night in Springfield, MA. My version of these noodles is based on a dish my dad used to make, but his is far superior. I just made it up to be as close to what I remember, but I’m sure I’m missing some kind of secret technique or ingredient because it doesn’t quite taste the same. Here’s my recipe:
8 oz jar of peanut satay sauce
1/3 cup of creamy peanut butter
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sambal oelek (southeast Asian chili sauce)
2 bunches of green onions, sliced diagonally
1 large red bell pepper, julienned
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 jar of chili bamboo shoots
1 package of round white Chinese noodles
Combine the sauces and vegetables (except bamboo shoots) in the bottom of a large bowl while noodles cook to a firm texture. Drain noodles and mix with sauces and vegetables while still hot (to melt the peanut butter and soften the vegetables), adding bamboo shoots on top with some, but not all of the chili sesame oil to keep the noodles from sticking. Serve room temperature or also tastes good stir fried.
At 5 pm the noodles were ready and we went downstairs to meet our friends at the garage across the street to get Yoshi. To fit everyone in, they helped me take out my Christmas tree and two of my large storage tubs and bring them up to the apartment, which was a great help since my back still hurt from softball. Then we all piled in for the 3+ hour drive to Springfield.
By the time we got to the party, things were in full swing. One girl whom I met at Wicked Faire along with one of our hosts, Dark was in the kitchen laying nude on a massage table being drizzled with colorful melted wax and candles to be a birthday “cake.” Upstairs at the food table I met Sarah and Rose, two roommates from the western Massachusetts area – unfortunately, Sarah couldn’t eat my noodles because she can’t handle spicy food.
Downstairs, I walked into the living room and sat down in a chair because my back was hurting and met a lovely woman before another girl, um, distracted her from talking to me.
As the evening entered the wee hours and local people started to leave, I set up the air mattress for Puck in the living room. I had a dream that I was a prostitute who drove around on a motorcycle, taking her tricks back to a motor home parked under a freeway overpass, but I did actually sleep quite well.
The next morning we ate leftovers for breakfast and played card games on the floor, while other people had a sing-a-long in the next room with a guitar and lyrics on the flatscreen TV. We left in the early afternoon, dropping everybody off before heading down to Staten Island to visit Puck’s family. The nomadic sister Ella and her husband Sasha are back home from their year-long sabbatical, so it was nice catching up with them.
Finally, we came back to the apartment to park Yoshi and took the subway down to Union Square to meet up with Peter (Puck’s other from the Netherlands) and have a late dinner at Max Brenner’s. We had a gorgeous sesame-crusted salmon with a wasabi mayonnaise aioli and I had probably the best milkshake ever, a chocolate hazelnut concoction. Puck and Peter both had spicy Mexican chocolate coffee.
Friday, May 13, 2011
There was an Indian family sitting all around me, a mom and dad, brother and sister. They were sitting in the middle seats of four different rows, and the 6-year-old girl sat next to me. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t sit next to her mom and was complaining loudly when she first sat down. So I started talking to her and established a little bit of a rapport while her mom asked the other passengers around her if they wouldn’t mind switching with her. By the time she found a taker and asked her if she wanted to move, she said no, she was okay sitting between me and another woman.
So for nearly the entire trip I chatted gaily with the girl while she watched Disney Channel shows, occasionally offering me one of her earbuds to listen along with her. We shared snacks with each other (I had brought some pizza-flavored Combos and a tangerine on board). It was a lot of fun and her parents were so appreciative.
It’s not the first time I’ve made such a connection on a plane. I remember back in 2005 on my way back from Los Angeles I sat next to a teenager and her aunt and had a very nice talk on the short flight from Phoenix to Houston. And talking to this young girl reminded me of the times I shared with Pearl when she was that age, so it was very nostalgic for me.
I landed in San Diego and drove up to the Marriott Del Mar, a very nice hotel halfway up to Carlsbad, where our offices and power plant are located. I ordered a yummy late supper of fried duck tacos and fancy macaroni and cheese and went to bed.
In the morning I took a tour of the power plant and then watched the Coast Guard drill of setting up buoys and pretend to clean up an imaginary oil spill in the lagoon that supplies water to cool the plant.
I also toured the aquafarms that grow oysters, mussels and abalone for local restaurants. It takes five years to grow an abalone to market size, so it’s quite an investment. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get Kelly, my tour guide, to give me a sample.
After the drill was over and the TV cameras had packed up and left, I drove over to the headquarters and visited some of my colleagues in the West region and the Solar team. It was still early, so I went to a nearby outlet mall and bought a scarf and two pairs of jeans from Lucky (finally, long enough for me and without rips in them so I can wear them to work).
Then I went into the Addidas shop and found one pair of baseball cleats in my size for only $10. Thursday I was going to play in a softball tournament in Maryland, so I took that as a good sign and bought them. I also found some yoga pants at the Gap for $6. Heavily laden, I drove to the West Grill for a dinner of a trio of fish tartare dishes and a New York strip steak with mushrooms and gnocchi on the side.
I went to bed at midnight and woke up at 3 am to catch the first flight out from San Diego to Chicago, then on to Baltimore. I got off the plane and took a shuttle bus to a lovely Hyatt resort for a company dinner of the best crab cakes I’ve ever had (with a Cajun and a caper remoulade), followed by a funny and pretty amazing magician act.
Thursday morning we went out to the ball field for the softball tournament. Each region of Nearing fields a team, so I was on the Princeton team. Although I normally play second base, our coach needed a pitcher because our regular pitcher had a family emergency and couldn’t make it to Maryland for the tournament. I’ve never pitched softball before, so I was very nervous about being put in such an important position.
The first time I took the mound for practice, I couldn’t even get the ball to the plate underhand. I took a lot of time figuring out my grip and a pitching windup (based on my bowling motion) where I could get the ball over the plate with some arc. Our first game was against the Texas team, usually one of the powerhouse teams, since they are the largest single office in the entire Company, they have a large pool of talent to draw from. But somehow I managed to hold them to just a single run, plus I went 2-for-2 at the plate, and we won the game 6-1. That was a nice bit of payback because Texas knocked Princeton out last year (although I wasn’t playing on last year’s team). They did have one scary moment when a Texas batter hit a sharp grounder right back up through the mound that just missed me:
I repeated the pitching performance against the next team, which we also beat 6-1, setting up a showdown with the defending champions, the South Central team for the title. We took an early lead and managed to hang on for a hard-fought 5-3 win, bringing the trophy home to Princeton.
Then it was on to the party tent and tasting all the wonderful food that the various teams from different regions had prepared, from braised ribs over polenta (from the Princeton team again, which won first place for that dish) to crawfish etouffee, fajitas and some outstanding shrimp ceviche. The Texas team won the overall best menu prize for the cooking contest.
There was a live band and a wonderful grapefruit drink made from freshly squeezed grapefruit, ruby red Absolut vodka, triple-sec and a splash of Sprite over ice. Plus there were games for kids and adults too:
I was so tired and worn out from being outside and traveling and playing softball that I went back to the hotel as soon as I could and crashed. This morning I got a ride from some co-workers back to Princeton and we talked about relationships and polyamory, since they are both single and have complicated, non-traditional relationships. Tonight, I’m really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, with the added bonus of having Puck sleeping next to me.
edit: Unfortunately Puck couldn't make it tonight, so more of the bed for me. Which is kinda good because my back hurts from playing softball :/
Monday, May 02, 2011
Of course, I am still poly, and I’m still a leader in the poly community. But in short, I feel I’ve learned everything I want to learn about polyamory and have incorporated that into my identity. Now I feel that it’s time for me to put that aspect of my life on the back burner and focus on something different.
I’ve been part of two alternative communities in my life, starting with the transgender community, both online and in the real world, when I was transitioning. I spent two years in that community in Houston and on the old Transgender Boards, where I was a sponsor and an leadership member before they migrated to a different server and I lost contact. But it was through those Boards that I met Tara, and guided me to my new life in the Northeast.
In January 2008, I joined the poly community by attending meetings at Polyamorous NYC, and in October of that year, I met Puck at the Poly Pride rally in Central Park, where we were both volunteers for the event. The idea for Open Love NY was hatched at Poly Living 2009, where I was a volunteer on the tech team. That year I also started going to the monthly Poly Cocktails events and went to 13 of them in a row. I took a lead role as a liaison between PolyNYC and OLNY to create the new organization, and then organized the first public event in November celebrating Puck’s 19th birthday. In March 2010, we started our regular monthly meetings, and I was appointed OLNY’s first president in July.
It has mostly been Puck who has introduced me to the kink community, starting with rope play with Ryan back in August 2009 ("Polys in the wild" - August 11, 2009). But I also attended Manhattan LoveFest IV in July of that year on my own ("Manhattan LoveFest IV" - July 31, 2009), and Alphabet Soup back in April 2009 where I saw fire play for the first time ("Fire play" - April 24, 2009). Bonnie also had a small amount of influence in 2010.
So I can say I’ve dabbled up until now, but I want to start exploring it with intention. I don’t know where it will lead, but I also certainly never thought I’d be the president of NYC’s largest poly group only two and a half years after coming out poly. When I put my energy into getting involved with something (or someone), I usually get some kind of significant result. So we’ll see where this new direction leads and how far I want to go.
Sunday, May 01, 2011
Jet and James were already there when I arrived. I first met Jet at the February munch, and I saw them both last Saturday at an ice cream social Puck and I attended, where I met James for the first time. He and Puck have been close for a few months now - since he lives out on Long Island, he is able to visit SBU. I also met one of his others, Charity, last weekend as well. They had just come from her gang-bang party last Friday night.
So I sat with James and Jet (who are currently involved) until my food arrived and I went searching for hot sauce, as I often have to do when I dine. Upon having the bottle placed in my hand by the waiter, I was grabbed from behind by Piper and we greeted each other - we hadn't seen each other since late February's Oscar nominee roundup, although we've been communicating on FetLife.
I also spent some time that evening getting to know Bellatrix (whom I met back in February, but she didn't really remember me) and Rose, who was also at last Tuesday's Open Love NY membership meeting (she's others with Ben on the leadership team for OLNY). Piper and I had a nice talk about what's going on with me and Puck, and it was good to get her perspective on it.
Since I didn't get to sleep until about 5 am, Saturday I woke up around noon and didn't really get much going on the things I wanted to do. Puck signed on and we finally had our big relationship check-in where I got to say a lot of the things that have been on my mind, and they clarified a little what's going on with them. It was long and difficult, and a couple times bordered on meltdowns, but we managed to end on a fairly neutral note. It was the hardest talk we've ever had and probably the hardest relationship talk since last year's breakup with Bonnie.
After that I went to the gym to burn off some of the stress, then got ready for Leon's birthday party at River NYC where the birthday boy was guest-bartending for the night. I sat with Poly Cocktails founder O Man and his date, Jen, and had Leon make me a Long Island iced tea, a blueberry cosmopolitan and a sidecar (Jen was kind enough to look up the recipe on her phone because Leon didn't know how to make it).
In about 90 minutes I was pretty drunk, probably more drunk that I've been since college. I talked to some people at the bar, but I really just wanted to be alone, so I stumbled my way home and went to sleep. Thankfully, I'm feeling okay this morning.
I don't like that I engage in self-destructive behavior when I'm feeling badly about relationships, but I just don't know what else to do. Puck needs me to be patient with them, so I'm going to try and just put this episode behind me and not think too much about a future that is becoming very cloudy all of a sudden.