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:


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.


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:


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:


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.


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.


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.