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:

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:


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:


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):


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:


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):


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:


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.


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:


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.


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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mahwage is what bwings us together today

I had this weird dream the other night where Puck and I were at their grandmother’s place in the East Village, getting ready to go to Houston to visit my birth family (which is probably never going to happen, but whatever, it’s a dream). Her grandmother is talking to us and saying how everybody accepts us as a couple now, but that I don’t deserve to marry Puck because I haven’t proven myself worthy yet.

It kind of reminds me of the plot of Kushiel’s Mercy, the last book of the Imriel Trilogy that I just finished reading, so maybe that has something to do with it.

I also was chatting with Yandy, one of my kinky friends at Poly Cocktails on Monday, and she works for the Alternatives to Marriage Project. I’ve also been thinking about this upcoming Friday company picnic, when Puck will meet my coworkers for the first time.

It’s interesting semantics to introduce her as my girlfriend, because for vanilla straight people, that can be so easily misunderstood. I’m sure there’s also an assumption that two people who have been “dating” for going on three years must be contemplating marriage by now, but we’re not. I wouldn’t even say we’re “dating” at this point because that’s usually what we call the audition process for a potential spouse.

Not that we don’t go on dates, but we’re beyond the idea of getting to know one another or making any kind of concrete plans for the future. We’re together until such time as we both don’t want to be together. I think it’s most accurate and least misleading to say that we’re in a three-year relationship and leave it at that.

PC was fun on Monday. Laura, Adam and Lizza from Saturday’s RenFaire trip came, and it was nice to see them again. On the downside, Laura and Adam might be moving to Austin in November, just as we were getting to be better friends - that’s a pity.

I met Meredith, one of the organizers of SlutWalk, which is happening next month – she was delightful and very pretty. Dave and Katie (from the PWG) showed up, along with Adele, Linda, Jeremy, Tam, John, and the usual crowd.

I was also surprised to see Bellatrix there for the first time ever – we’ll see her again at House PNJ's Sketchy Party on Saturday. Kacey’s coming to that with me and Puck, right after our Poly Picnic in Prospect Park on Saturday afternoon.

It’s shaping up to be quite a memorable weekend. But now I have to focus on the present, so back to work for me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A sword story

I was in such a rush this morning that I forgot to put on earrings and my amulet. This happens maybe once a year. It was so hard to get up since I had a fun evening with Kacey and Puck that ran until about 1 am – it was the first time they’d met and they both had nice things to say about each other afterward.

Kacey came over first about 8 pm and we chatted and got caught up with her significant changes since Labor Day, and ideas on promoting her filmmaking project. Then around 9 o’clock Puck arrived on their way through Manhattan back to Stony Brook. We had some food, chatted and watched some videos online for about an hour until they had to leave to catch their train. Then Kacey and I watched a movie as we originally intended.

Friday night I went out to the Stonewall Inn for the second time to meet up with Angel and her friend Terry, a poly woman who was visiting from Wisconsin – we seemed to hit it off pretty well. I stayed for one drink until some more of her friends showed up then went home since I had a early start for the New York Renaissance Faire.

Laura and Adam organized a big group for the RenFaire and everyone was full of mirth and good cheer like our common friends Jon and Christine. I was content to watch other people participate in the camel rides, mazes, games and such while I mostly shopped, tried out hand drums and watched the shows. I did not find a talisman there as I have for the past two years, but I found many other things of interest: a vial of ambergris-scented oil, a long-sought kitchen witch and a medium-sized handcrafted broom with a deep red, knobby pine handle from a broom and walking stick shop, and a beautiful Japanese samurai sword with a glossy black scabbard, or saya.

It’s a fine sword, with a composite steel blade that is much stronger than cheap display swords, and honed to a sharp edge (although not to the sharper-than-razor's edge of some swords I’ve seen at the RenFaire in the past, blades so sharp they could shave the surface of a sheet of paper without fully breaking through). It’s a much better sword than the one I used to have in my house in Houston that I lost in the fire of 2005, and I’m glad to finally have one again.

I suppose it’s my own tradition that I feel that every home should have a sword. My birth family has an old Spanish saber in a jeweled scabbard and the handle made in the shape of a horse’s head that was pretty to look at, but dull as Keanu Reeves’ acting. My new sword is actually made for serious cutting (i.e. tameshigiri, the Japanese sword art of cutting rolled bamboo mats with a single strike) if I were ever inclined to pursue it.

So I was rather heavily laden on the way home, carrying an artisanal broom and a samurai sword (which was safety-tied and in a black sword bag, but I’m sure it still got curious looks on the subway). Fortunately, I did not get stopped and searched by any cops on the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, although there was a cop at the Queensborough Plaza station that looked at me funny. I don’t think anybody is worried about the terrorists who use swords anyway, unless they’re as good as Deadpool or Deathstroke the Terminator (the DC comic character, not the movie cyborg).

In other news, this is the last week of the Borders liquidation, and it makes me very sad. I’m sure my family is taking it very hard over in New Jersey, as we’ve been through store closings together before, but not the whole chain. I went into my Penn Station Borders once after the bankruptcy was announced to buy The Hunger Games, but haven’t been back – it’s too depressing to see the chaos - *sigh*

9/11 itself was very quiet for me. I cleaned the apartment, making room on top of my DVD cabinet for my sword, cleaned the stove and vacuumed the floors. Then I went out for a pedicure, and to shop for new indoor slippers and groceries. The police closed 7th Avenue going through Times Square down to one lane so they could scrutinize each car that went through. I felt bad for the people stuck in the massive traffic backup that caused.

Friday is Nearing’s company picnic, and Saturday is Open Love NY’s Poly Picnic in Prospect Park in Brooklyn that Puck and I are organizing, so I’m thankful that 9/11 was this weekend and not next, when I’ll be driving around. Tonight is Poly Cocktails, but other than that it should be a quiet week until a busy weekend to come. Let’s hope that’s the case.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Mid-week update

Short week, so I'd better update before another busy weekend is upon me.

On Labor Day, I went out to run some errands and had my planned visit with Kacey. Our brief history since meeting each other on Easter Sunday seems built on unplanned time spent together, from our first outing on the High Line Park that was supposed to be a group walk ("Sherlock, Potter and pen pals" - July 5, 2011); to yesterday's visit, which was supposed to be a brief one between the time she got off work and other plans she had. But as it turned out, those other plans got moved to Sunday, so I had the entire afternoon with her, which suited me just fine.

I first went to the Home Depot to return my unused bedroom curtains, then to CVS to pick up my remaining prescriptions that didn't get filled last time. I routinely deplete a normal pharmacy's supply of hormone pills in filling my 90-day Rx supply. After a quick browse at the bookstore I went to meet up with Kacey at her workplace.

After she finished work, we went down to Ess-A-Bagel for a light meal and coffee and talked for a while. Then she took me to a public outdoor space on 51st that had a waterfall and we sat there for almost two hours, taking advantage of the white noise that afforded some privacy from other people sitting in the square. We were finally chased out when some people behind us started to smoke, so we got up and went back to the bookstore, then she accompanied me to my next stop, the Chinatown grocery store I frequent, before heading home to Brooklyn.

Later that night Puck stopped by on their way through Manhattan back to school. They still had to finish writing their paper, so they worked on it while I finished cooking and eating my dinner of curry chicken and rice. After the paper was done and sent off for editing, we watched an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (almost done with Season 3 now) before they had to get back to work. I left them to finish and went to bed, and they crawled into bed some time later after I'd already fallen asleep.

We were supposed to have an Open Love NY leadership meeting on Wednesday night, but I've been so busy at work with deadlines that I forgot to remind everyone and most people couldn't come, so we have to reschedule that. I thought this week seemed a little too quiet outside of work.

I am looking forward to going to the Renaissance Faire in Tuxedo, NY on Saturday with a new group of friends - Laura and Adam, who gave Puck and me a ride home from Jon's birthday a few months ago ("Jekyll and Hyde week" - June 14, 2011), are organizing the trip. Puck is off even further north for a Russian music campout festival at the same place her sister Ella got married two years ago ("A wedding story" - Sept. 13, 2009)

Saturday night there's a Papacookie event I might try to attend if we don't get back too late from the RenFaire. Then Sunday Kacey might come over and watch a movie with me. Back in mid-August she came over to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. What an amazing movie that was! Maybe I can organize a full Harry Potter marathon when the finale comes out on Blu Ray next year. I wonder who will be up for that?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Visit with Ben

This Labor Day weekend I've been resting up, although I did get a commuting respite because Hurricane Irene shut down train service to Princeton on Monday and Tuesday so I worked from home. As you can see, the train station itself was pretty much underwater:


Thursday night I went to Papacookie for a fundraiser for Kacey's Coney Island Wall film project. I met some nice people once again and heard a fellow named Aziz play some of his haunting songs around life in New York on guitar. Didn't win any of the lottery prizes though - it seems like my luck in drawings has run bone-dry.

Friday night I met Puck at Penn station about 11:30 pm and walked together over to the Mid-Manhattan Midnight Munch to meet with our kinky friends. Jet, Elisa and Bellatrix were there, and I introduced Puck to Beth and Jamie. We didn't stay long because Puck was super-sleepy after an early class, coming from Stony Brook all the way to New Jersey to visit Ryan in the afternoon, and then coming back to Manhattan, so we went home and went to bed.

Saturday my old boss, friend and mentor Ben was in town with his friend Dale, so we went out to brunch with them at Petite Abeille downtown, a place famous for its Belgian waffles that I'd seen on the Travel Channel. I've been wanting to try them for years and I'm happy to say it lived up to all my expectations. I had a smoked salmon eggs Benedict that was heavenly, and shared some waffles with Puck.


Puck left after brunch with their parents for a trip to Baltimore, while Ben, Dale and I went uptown to check out the Museum of Sex, or MoSex for short. There were some very interesting exhibits about sex in film and sex in comics, animal sex and an exhibit about Samuel Steward. Here's a picture of me and Ben, where you can see my new hair coloring a little better in the sun:


Afterward we retired for a few hours before meeting up in front of the theater for Priscilla Queen of the Desert at 5:30 pm to try the lottery. They already had their tickets, so we put in three entries to try and get me a ticket, but to no avail. It seems like forever since I've won a lottery - I guess I've lost my mojo. So we went to a hidden speakeasy on 46th called Bar Centrale to have a light dinner and drinks - I ordered one of their specialties in traditional drinks, the sidecar, served in a carafe on a bed of salted ice to make it as cold as possible:


Then I walked them over to the theater and said our goodbyes, hoping to see each other again, perhaps the next time I'm called down to Houston for work.


Today has been a lazy day of doing laundry, reading and watching movies. Tomorrow I'll have lots to do, including a planned visit with Kacey at her workplace on the East side. Then it's back to work where I'm sure it will be busier than ever, but at least it's a short week.