Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas shibori project

This was the first Christmas I can remember being alone. But truth to tell, I haven't really had many strong traditions since 2009 when my family broke up. Puck and I have always tried to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas together, and we would have liked to continue that this year, except their family made plans to visit Ella and Sasha in Vermont to await the birth of the first of their family to be born in America, which is a big deal. But since they didn't include me in that plan, I didn't arrange to take time off to go with them for such a long stretch. And truth be told, I probably wouldn't have liked to be away from home that long anyway, so it all works out for the best.

So instead, I spent my Christmas Eve and Day working on a project I've been planning for a few months now, dyeing silk scarves with indigo using Japanese shibori methods. I started by mixing the indigo dye into a large two-gallon tub:


I had two large white silk scarves and two small ones. For one of the small ones I did an accordion fold and sandwiched it between two pieces of wood about the size of playing cards and secured with rubber bands before dipping in the dye:


For one large and one small, I did an accordion fold and clipped them before doing a simple dip three times into the dye before hanging them to dry:


For the last large scarf, I did my accordion fold and wrapped it once around a can of hairspray and secured it with three rubber bands. Then I carefully dipped just the open folded half of the cylinder into the dye:


I left these to dry overnight, and today I opened them up and rinsed them out, squeezing out the excess dye and hung them to dry. Here's what the square pattern looks like:


Here's what the single side dip pattern looks like:


And here's the cylindrical pattern:


Once they were mostly dry, I washed them with a special textile detergent to set the color and included a couple of color trapping sheets to keep the colors from bleeding. The final result was a nicely faded blue in differing gradations. I carefully ironed them and signed them on the label with the letter "M".:


This is my first time doing anything in the textile arts (except for a latchhook project when I was a kid) and it was a lot of fun. I saved half of the dye to work with again if I want to get some more articles to dye.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Movies, musicals and opera

The last couple of weeks have seen a shift at work and my social life. Up until the 14th, work has been crazy, getting ready for the closing of a merger with another company. On the 11th, Kacey invited me and Chelsea to join Becker for a read-through of McGoldrick's Thread, a play her boss is trying to get produced.

A run-through is like a movie preview for stage plays. They read some of the scenes, and do some of the musical highlights, and in this case, perform some of the Irish stepdance numbers in the show. The troupe includes some really world-class dancers of all ages, many from a school in Long Island. Because we were seated on standby, we got put in the front row, center, so close that our knees practically extended over the edge of the stage. Chelsea said she feared for her knees when some of the dancers performed their kicks!

The next night I was supposed to screen A Beautiful Mind for my Times Square Movie Club, but Natalie (who was the only person signed up to come) couldn't make it. Instead, Kacey and Becker came over late and we watched The Cider House Rules, which is one of the movies on our Literary Movie marathon list.

Last Thursday night I texted Natalie to see if she wanted to catch up on Elementary, but she had tickets to see Bare the Musical on Broadway and asked if I wanted to come with her to that. I was on call to post a news release, but I still managed to see the first few numbers before I had to go out to the lobby and work on that. I finished up the work and saw the second half of the play with her. The music was really good, but I thought the story was pretty derivative of works like Rent.

Friday night we closed the merger and I pretty much crashed all weekend, recovering from an intense week of work, only leaving the apartment for yoga on Sunday. On Wednesday, my friend Liz (whom I met back in April - "Lively performances" - April 22, 2012" - but haven't seen her since, although we converse on Facebook) invited me to see a play called P.S. Jones and the Frozen City. I met Liz watching The Foreplay Play, and P.S. Jones included one of its stars, Diana Oh.

Thursday night was my first big, successful TSMC event, the holiday screening of Love Actually. Puck came back from school, and we hosted Marton and Anna (from Open Love NY), Elisa (from House JAPaN), Natalie and Chelsea, so seven people altogether. As many times as I've seen this movie (it's one of my favorites) it was so much fun watching it with a crowd that included people who haven't see it before. There was a lot of laughter and snarky remarks, and a fun time was had by all. Afterward, Marton and Anna left (since they had a long drive home to Princeton) and the rest of us chatted until past midnight. Natalie even favored us with a few tunes and carols on my violin, Midori.

I love having friends from different parts of my life and different communities come together. I think the cross-pollination is more interesting than hanging with the same crowd again and again. But most of all, I think all of my friends are such wonderful people that getting them together is a fun time for everyone, especially me. A big part of my starting the TSMC was a decision to focus more of my attention on the core group of 37 of my closest local friends, or those people I want to get to know better, even while I'm on my current hiatus from dating.

One of those persons is Liz, whom I saw for a second time in three days when she invited me to a midnight screening of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation with a group of her friends. We were supposed to meet up at a bar, but I accidentally left my wallet (and my ID) at the office so we relocated to a diner across Houston Street. Liz and I were there early so we sat together for about an hour until other people started showing up.

Chris is a young gay guy who works in theater lighting, Josh is Liz's boyfriend who bartends at The Book of Mormon and Jersey Boys on Broadway, and we met up with a gay couple, Chris and Zack, who are both in theater and are getting married in a couple weeks on a cruise ship out of Miami. They are also two of the most gorgeous men I've met in a while. So it was a lot of fun meeting all these cool new people and spending time with the charming and vivacious Liz, who, like Kacey, is a theater stage manager.

Saturday Puck and I had our annual pilgrimage to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center to see Aida. It was one of the most impressive, lavish and complex set designs I've seen yet, including live horses and scores of extras in the cast. We had orchestra seats, so a different (and probably better) view than we've had in the past when we've sat in the boxes above.

Puck went with their family to visit Ella and Sasha in Vermont today, and I'll head up there for New Year's next weekend for the long holiday. So this weekend I get a couple days to chill out and shop for presents before heading back to work on Wednesday. It's the first time I can remember being alone on Christmas. The idea doesn't bother me as much as it used to - I welcome the quiet and the solitude before my next TSMC event on the 28th.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pen geeks

I enjoy being a generalist. I have a pretty short attention span and that's why the field of public relations seems to suit me. The constant variety of work and the generally short-term focus on writing projects fits with my preferences as a writer. So I don't think I'll ever write the great American novel, and I'm fine with that.

I'm similarly flighty when it come to hobbies and interests. I know a little about a lot of things, but am not an expert in anything. A Jill of all trades, master of none. My dad used to make fun of me that I would never stick with one thing.

Today I brought a couple of press releases to our General Counsel, the top legal officer in the company, to review. He whipped out a pen to begin his edits, and I recognized the trademark shape of the clip as a Waterman. I used to have a gorgeous British racing green and gold Waterman rollerball that I lost in the fire of 2005, so I commented on it. We started talking about pens and he took from his coat pocket a very fancy fountain pen that he received as a gift from his old law firm and I recognized it as a Delta, one of the pricey Italian brands I looked at just last month ("Samhain 2012" - Oct. 31, 2012). I think he was very impressed that I knew that right off the bat!

He talked about trying to find a pen for his teenage daughter, her first fountain pen, and I suggested he try Art Brown's, where I got my Waterford pen. I poked around the site and sent him some recommendations in the under-$100 price range. He later responded with a very nice note thanking me and telling me how nice it was to find someone else with the same extravagant and unusual interest in fountain pens.

It's a small thing, but given how few things I could possibly have in common with a senior officer of my company, it reminded me that no matter how different we may appear to be, we are all capable of making a human connection around something we're passionate about. Geekery is not limited to the young.

12/24 edit: He chose a mustard-yellow Aurora pen for his daughter, so I sent him a link to this video on how Aurora fountain pens are made. He said he would share it with her on Christmas.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Unexpected encounters

Monday I had one of those nights that started out looking like it was gonna suck, but managed to turn around nicely into a blog-worthy evening. Then Tuesday it happened again, to a bit of a lesser degree.

It was the final Shotz! of the year and I was meeting Kacey and Becker for the 7 pm show. I got on the subway from Penn Station coming back from work and was surprised by my train skipping my usual stop. Apparently the station was closed due to a police investigation of a homicide. So I had to get off at 57th Street and walk back down, but I still had plenty of time so I wasn't worried yet.

I was greeted by my doorman with three packages: an Amazon shipment of books and movies, my new Denon receiver and a giant, coffin-sized box that could only be my new bookshelf. For a moment I felt like the crew of Firefly in "The Message."

Ordinarily, I'd have preferred to leave everything and pick it up upon my return, but since the Denon was in its own box, I was concerned that someone might make off with it if my doorman had to leave his post. So it took me two trips to bring everything up to the apartment and by then I was cutting it close.

Since my close-by subway station was closed and that's the line I use to get to Shotz!, I had to walk through Times Square to the 42nd Street station. As I was crossing the street, I felt someone pinch my elbow. I turned to see a former work colleague from Agent K, my last job, and one of my closest friends from that office. We spent a few minutes catching up: she's raising a family in Edgewater, NJ and working at BET in Midtown now. I broke off as gracefully as I could, explaining that I was late for a show.

I hopped on the Q express train, which took me down to 14th Street, but watched helplessly as the connecting local R train pulled out of the station just as we pulled in. I decided to walk the remaining distance to St. Marks, but because I was coming from the north instead of the west as usual, I got confused with my landmarks.

As I was standing at the corner trying to remember how to get to the theater, my friend Kiwi came sauntering over on his white horse and two slices of pizza on a paper plate. He was headed to a show at 80 St. Marks, across Avenue A from my destination, Under St. Marks. He looked up directions on his smartphone and we walked over together to meet up with Kacey and Becker and I made introductions before he departed.

Unfortunately, at this point, the show was standing room only because the theme is James Bond 007. Each play has to feature a gadget and the line, "Don't worry, I've done this before." With Skyfall breaking box office records, I guess it's a spillover effect. I sent Kacey into the theater to find Chelsea, a friend from yoga class whom we had invited to come, and we decided to come back for the 8:30 pm show.

So the four of us walked down to the Anywhere Cafe and had a light pre-show supper. I ordered a salad, Kacey had the borscht, Becker (who was feeling a little under the weather) had Earl Grey tea and Chelsea had a glass of absinthe, which was dramatically served over a brown sugar cube set on a strainer and ignited. It was Johnny Depp’s scene in From Hell, minus the laudanum.

We went back to the theater and it was definitely the largest crowd of the year. One of the skits was excellently done by a company of mimes who were appearing as featured guests, but my favorite was titled “Bond Bitches” which had us in stitches. Kacey had to go back to work (she has a new job and a big event tonight) so we walked everyone to their subways and I went home to start installing the Denon receiver.

Tuesday I had thought to see Puck for a TSMC showing of Moonrise Kingdom so I worked from home that day. It also allowed me to visit Best Buy at lunchtime to pick up some HDMI video cables so I could finish the installation I had started the previous evening. It turned out that Puck had a last-minute family event and my friend Liz got buried in work, so I wasn't sure if anyone was coming at all. I started building the bookshelf and lost track of time until Katie (Puck’s former FB wife) knocked on the door.

I greeted her apologetically, asking her to step around the coffin-sized box remnants and the half-finished bookshelf on the floor. I quickly washed up and we spent a little time catching up. She’s interning at the Herstory Archives and had an interview the next day with a staffing company. We watched our movie, which I found to be delightful. It made me realize that it’s been a long time since I've seen an independent movie or even a foreign film, and how different they are from Hollywood mainstream movies.

After Katie left, I quickly finished the bookshelf and installed the projector, along with consolidating my framed photos and decorative items on it, including my Japanese sword and lightning sphere. I stayed up late to watch the Rockets sneak a win by beating the Lakers down the stretch in the fourth quarter - which was immensely satisfying - before going to bed.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Movie theater 3.0

One of the things that I love doing is designing and installing home theaters. Seriously, nothing makes me happier. I'm weird that way. And unfortunately, without doing it as a profession, it's rare that I get to indulge.

Five years ago on Thanksgiving weekend, I bought a Panasonic HD projector and installed it in my existing home theater at my New Jersey apartment. The layout of the apartment was ideally suited to installing the pull-down screen so that it covered my flatscreen and books behind it ("My new theater" - Nov. 25, 2007). The projector was simply set up on the kitchen counter behind the sofa, so it was a bit exposed but convenient to adjust manually.

When I moved out of that apartment into my Manhattan apartment, I found that I couldn't install the screen or projector because 1) the ceiling is very high and 2) I don't have wood studs in my walls. So instead I installed the projector at Puck's house in Staten Island, along with a new Blu Ray player, Onkyo receiver and speakers ("Staten Island home theater" - Nov. 8, 2010). Their home had the same protruding beam on the ceiling that made the screen convenient to use.

Unfortunately, all that equipment got washed away with Sandy, but the projector survived since it was mounted on the ceiling. So I've figured out a way to install it in my apartment now without using any mounting hardware - by using a pop-up portable screen and a new bookshelf behind my new couch.

To go along with this installation, I'm also upgrading my old Harman Kardon receiver to a new Denon that switches HDMI and decodes the latest surround sound formats on Blu Ray (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD). Strictly speaking it's not a necessary upgrade, but the HDMI switching will make it a lot easier to operate my theater because switching video inputs on my monitor will no longer be required. An HDMI splitter will send the video signal to both my Philips LCD display and the Panasonic projector.

I'm expecting the Denon to be delivered tonight, and then the only thing left will be the bookshelf, which will hold the projector and serve as a display and end table behind the couch. So hopefully I'll have the whole thing up and running by next week in time for my Wednesday showing of A Beautiful Mind.

I started a group on Facebook called Times Square Movie Club (TSMC, which could also stand for "The Secret Movie Club") and started posting events and organizing viewings of movies and TV shows. I didn't include out-of-town friends (in case any of my distant friends were wondering) since it's intended to be a casual thing for people who can drop by on short notice. I invited about 30 people to join the group, and they are mostly people who have either already visited my apartment or I have visited theirs. Other than that guideline, it also includes people I'd like to get to know better.

So I'm definitely going to have a Dark Knight viewing but I haven't decided if I want to do the full marathon or just show the third movie. I'm also doing a Miyazaki marathon in January. I'm showing Moonrise Kingdom on Tuesday and then Piper comes on Thursday for our private marathon of Stanley Kubrick movies, continuing with Lolita. So I guess for now, this is what I'm putting my focus on now that I'm no longer president of Open Love NY.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Movie recap

I neglected to mention in my last post that I did have a little mini-marathon of my own last week on Tuesday after my Japanese sword class - did I forget to mention that too?

I have my third class tonight where we'll be focusing on drawing the sword. It's been interesting to learn the movement and relate them to the focus and discipline from yoga, albeit for the purpose of violence versus peace. I bought a wooden practice sword (bokken) to use at home, because handing my real sword means I'd have to clean and oil it each time I touch the blade. Besides, I wouldn't want to accidentally slice open my brand-new couch.

So after class last week I went to the AMC Empire to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower before it went out of theaters and maybe a couple other movies around it. I got there early and started with Lincoln, knowing that I was going to have to leave before the end. So I saw about 3/4th of Lincoln, then saw all of Wallflower, and then the midnight premiere of Anna Karenina.

Of the three, I liked Wallflower the best. It reminded me of a teenage version of Bernardo Bertolucci's 2003 film The Dreamers, starring Eva Green. And like that movie, you can't take your eyes off the female lead, here played by Emma Watson in her first big post-Harry Potter role. But other than Ms. Watson's undeniable star quality, the movie is a hip and touching coming of age story with a few dark twists thrown in. The characters are a bit one-note, but it was a satisfying ending.

Lincoln I can't really say much about since I didn't see the whole thing, but my impression was that Daniel Day-Lewis is a front-runner for Best Actor this year. He loses himself so completely in the role, not unlike Christian Bale did in The Fighter two years ago. I was very impressed.

Anna Karenina was something of an enigma. I give it points for being true to the novel (one of my favorites of the classics when I read it) and for a lush, sumptuous concept and production design. I want to like Joe Wright's work (Atonement, Hanna) more than I do, but there's something about his films that don't quite click for me. The movie itself reminded me of Baz Lurhmann's Moulin Rouge! but gentler. And like the first 15 minutes of Baz's movie, it was difficult to emotionally connect with Karenina. I've often heard it said that if you can get through the first 15 minutes of Moulin Rouge!, it will become one of your favorite movies. If you can't, then you'll never know what all the fuss was about.

Speaking of movies that people make a fuss about, I want to say again how much I enjoyed the Twilight finale. Tara once retweeted how Twilight is like soccer in that people run around for two hours, nobody scores, and its billion fans insist you don't get it. That is an apt description of the phenomenon.

I did a video interview with a VH-1 blogger at the premiere and I talked about how there's an innocence to Twilight that does not hold up well under scrutiny and cynicism. But if you watch movies with an open heart and not let tabloids and snarky GIFs on Facebook influence your opinions, the Twilight story is actually a very beautiful and loving work of fiction. And the quality of the movies, just from the production, script and acting, are on par with just about any popular movie out there, which is something you can't say about every fan franchise that is not based on Tolkien.

Here is the short interview I did for the blogger and a link to the full blog post on the marathon itself:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday melancholy

Puck just left to get the train back to school, after staying with me since last Wednesday night. We had a little bit of a rough parting, not because of a fight, but because they are feeling sad and depressed and I'm frustrated that nothing I do seems to help. So this has not been the best holiday weekend ever, even though I spent so much time with Puck. In years past, that alone would have been more than I could want or expect.

The reason Puck was staying here is because their house in Staten Island continues to be uninhabitable as it is being repaired from Hurricane Sandy. I went there a couple weeks ago to remove my projector and screen and the first floor is almost a total loss. It feels awful seeing them have to go through what I went through with my fires of 2007 and 2009. I can't imagine how hard it would be for me to have that kind of disaster hit me now, with the lack of support system I used to have back in Houston (such as it was) and in New Jersey.

It's been a while since I've had to get up for work. I took Thursday and Friday before Thanksgiving week off to see the Twilight Saga marathon, which was all five movies culminating with the finale at 10 pm that night. It was a great ending to the series and I really enjoyed myself.

On Friday I got a ZipCar and drove out to Stony Brook to pick up Puck for the weekend because we hadn't seen each other in a month to that point and we were missing each other. We were supposed to see each other at Ryan's wedding earlier in the month, but that got postponed to January due to Sandy. Saturday we went to House JAPaN for a hot cocoa and hookah party hosted by Alex, then went to visit Puck's family and sister at their grandmother's place in the Lower East Side.

Sunday I packed my stuff to go on a business trip to Ivanpah, our large solar thermal plant in California. It was a fun trip, as those go, especially since it was only one night and spent in Las Vegas at a posh hotel. I even won $0.10 playing video poker.

I got home late Monday and woke up Tuesday to have lunch with my past summer intern at Nearing. We went to the Tick Tock Diner near Penn Station and got caught up on each other's lives. She's eager to come back and help out during the winter break, and I will be happy to see her in the office if we can make that happen.

The rest of Tuesday and Wednesday was spent grocery shopping and preparing food for the upcoming holiday weekend with Puck. We had Thanksgiving dinner at their grandmother's place with all the grandparents, including a wonderful pie their mom made.

Friday Puck went to visit Ryan and I spent the day hiding from the shopping crowds. In the evening, Puck, Lori and I went to try our luck with the Broadway ticket lotteries, but struck out twice. So Puck went home and Lori and I had dinner at Schnipper's and then contributed to a record-breaking Thanksgiving box office tally by seeing Wreck-it Ralph, which surprised me as being the best animated film I've seen since Toy Story 3, (which admittedly wasn't that long ago) but also probably one of my top 5 animated films of all time (Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story 3, Wall-E, and Howl's Moving Castle are the other four). It was amazingly good. When I got home, I woke Puck to let me in and we stayed up late watching a bunch of episodes of the new CW show Arrow (the Oliver Queen/Green Arrow character from DC Comics) before heading to bed.

Saturday I went to get my hair coloring redone, which was long overdue, while Puck went to visit family. My colorist, Kelly, left Sassoon with a bunch of other coworkers and opened Salon SCK, near Columbus Circle. It's a gorgeous space, so open and airy, with a view of Trump Towers and Columbus Circle from the second floor. I got my hair all done in a slightly darker shade with purple highlights like I used to have.

In the evening, Puck and I went to see the play Cyrano de Bergerac from orchestra box seats we bought the night before. It was a sumptuous, grand staging and full of action, romance and comedy. We were lucky to see it before it closed today - Puck is reading the play in Russian with their mom. I've been a fan since I read it in high school, and of the 1950 movie starring Jose Ferrer. When we got home, we started a marathon of James Bond movies (just one more thing we're planning to go through) with Dr. No and From Russia With Love.

Today's been a quiet day, other than the way it ended. We walked over to Best Buy to see if Puck could find an e-reader, but no luck. I got a copy of Prometheus, which I missed in theaters so I'm looking forward to checking it out. We got some vegetable dishes from the Sichuan restaurant on 48th Street and I made some fried beef dumplings and curry chicken to go with it. I went to yoga, but I felt scattered and unable to focus in the now. So now to bed and hopefully things will be better tomorrow. Good night.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Samhain 2012

It has been a bit of an unusual week to be sure, with the widespread disruption of Sandy. I am greatly fortunate not to have been directly affected at all. My electricity flickered a few times on Monday night, but never went out, so for me it was a non-event. The primary effect has been that I've been pretty much housebound since Sunday night until today, since there is no subway or rail service to Princeton, and the Nearing office has been closed and without power until it was partially restored today.

Today is Samhain, pagan new year, what most Americans now celebrate as Halloween. Recognizing that I wanted to make an extra effort this year, I arranged to have the day off, which is also good because I've been working 12-hour days from home, trying to get a load of documents edited. So it was nice to have the break.

Besides my spirit practice, I'm also finishing my love letter writing project today. So for those of you who received them this year, I wanted to give you some background on the tools and materials used to make them. As it happens, there was a pen fair at the Art Brown International Pen Store on 45th a few blocks away, so it was time for me to buy a new fountain pen. I haven't had a nice fountain pen since I lost several in the fire of 2005.

There were some gorgeous limited edition Italian-made Delta pens that were 50% off, but that still put them a little out of my price range. Eventually I found a Waterford Celebration fountain pen with a star crystal cap, 18k gold fine-tip nib that had the heft and smoothness I was looking for. I also got some Iroshizuku asa-gao (Morning Glory) ink, from a line of inks made by PILOT and inspired by Japanese flowers in a handmade glass bottle.


The paper is cotton fiber (Crane & Co., naturally) and scented lightly with Chopard Casmir perfume, which is Irene Adler's prop perfume in "Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia."

As for the rest of my day, I went to visit the Met, which had been closed Tuesday due to Sandy, but reopened just in time for me today, and with free admission to boot. Unfortunately, many of the galleries weren't open, but I did see all the special exhibits and some of my old favorites. Also, since the subways aren't running, I rode my bike Mario about 40 blocks up to the museum, and snapped a photo of the damaged crane on 57th Street.


At the Met, the exhibit on Bernini's sculptures in clay in the Lehman wing was truly inspiring, and made me want to watch "Angels & Demons" again just to admire the scenery. The inventive and beautiful furniture and salon pieces of Roentgens must be seen to be believed. I wish someone would mass produce working replicas at reasonable prices so I could get a proper writing desk.

I also explored more fully the new Islamic wing, since the last time I visited it had just opened and was packed. The first picture is one of the main rug rooms with a striking ceiling, and the second is a replica of a  reception room from a large house in Damascus, circa 1707.



Tonight I'm going to charge my new amulet for the year, plus cleanse and prepare my new wand for magickal work. As I mentioned in my last post, I found the wand at the Pennsylvania RenFaire when I visited with Morgan. The handle is Burmese rosewood and the shaft is willow, which is a type of wood I've always been drawn to (cricket bats are made of willow, as you may know). The detail on the handle is dichroic coffee beans.

I had ordered the amulet online a couple weeks ago, but I wasn't sure it was going to get here in time, and I wasn't sure if it would be suitable for me. I never really know until I hold it in my hands. So last weekend I went down to Stick Stone & Bone, my magickal store in the West Village to have a look. I found one that I thought might be suitable, although it wasn't exactly right for me. I didn't want to take the chance of not having a new amulet for Samhain, so I got it anyway.


But when I came home to drop stuff off and prepare for my yoga teacher Emily's party that night, I found that the other amulet had arrived in the mail while I was out. I liked that one much better - it's black onyx in a convex shape on one side (like a scrying ball) circled with roughly wrought silver, and the other side has a pentacle that can be hidden by turning it against the skin. No matter how much we like to think we have religious freedom here, it still takes guts to wear a pentacle openly. Which is too bad because it represents balance between all the elements, a worthy state for anyone to aspire to. So I returned the other amulet to the store on my way to Emily's place and I'll get something else later with the store credit.


I'm not sure when trains are going to be running, or if Ryan and Beth's wedding is going to actually happen this weekend since they haven't restored power at the venue yet. It all reminds me of when my friend Joanna invited me to her wedding in Ohio and I couldn't attend because a freak blizzard grounded all flights into the state of Ohio ("Blizzards & waterfalls" - March 10, 2008). This story is not going to get me invited to many more weddings!

Being cooped up and working from home (even though I'm doing it more and more) also reminds me of my one and only snow day with Bonnie and Hiba back in 2010. Since many people were messaging me Monday night as Sandy bore down on us, I decided to text Hiba and tell her I was reminded of our snow day. She texted me back and agreed, saying she had just told Bonnie the day before that it reminded her of it too.

A blessed Samhain to all, and may the new year be filled with peace, love and light.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Sorry that I've been away so long. Things have been rather hectic at work and at home, but hopefully they will get better soon.

Big news first - I submitted my resignation as President of Open Love NY, effective Oct. 31. It's something that's long overdue. So now, hopefully, other people will step up and it will become a more diffuse leadership structure - we've already elected co-presidents to take my place.

I'm looking forward to having more time to pursue other things in my newly single life, once my commitment anniversary with Puck passes in a couple weeks. A lot of that will be exploring new areas outside kink and poly, but I haven't decided on a direction yet.

While work has been busy with the merger integration we're currently undergoing, my personal situation has improved in the sense that I've been able to manage my commute more to my liking, doing more work at home and on the train and being in the office less, or at least taking express trains so I'm not spending as much time actually traveling.

So now, an update on my busy social life. Two weekends ago I was just getting over a cold, so managed to feel well enough to attend Becker's 31st birthday at Shake Shack down in Battery Park City. I had visited a cool notions shop called Tinsel Trading Company in the Fashion District near the apartment to get him a box of long kitchen matches with a vintage map of New York printed on it, plus a set of vintage cigar box stickers (since Kacey told me she gave him a cigar box to store things).

Afterward we walked around the World Financial Center and I snapped this lovely photo of them together:


From there I took the ferry to Staten Island to meet up with Puck and friends for their play reading and to have dinner. We watched "The Avengers" on the projector and settled everyone in for bed.

On Sunday, Puck's roommate Adele and her friend Evan came with us to Anachronism. Puck dressed up as Delirium from Neil Gaiman's Sandman (as they did at Steampunk World's Fair earlier this year) and this time I joined them as Delirium's sister, Death.

Death and Delirium

We had dinner at a nice Japanese hole-in-the-wall place on St. Marks before heading over to Element, the club for the event. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that Anachronism was a 21+ event, so Evan and Adele had to go back to my apartment and wait for us. We stayed for a couple sets of performers, including a band called Amour Obscura, then we left for home.

Last week I had stuff every single night of the week, which was a bit exhausting in the cumulative. Monday I had dinner with Jet, Piper's partner, to get her up to speed on OLNY so she can join the leadership team. Tuesday I met with Antonia, a friend doing a dissertation on polyamory and the differences in attitudes and activism between the U.S. and her native Germany.

Wednesday was movie night at work, where I hosted my theme, "Men Out of Time (Without a DeLorean)" and we watched "The Final Countdown," a 1980 movie starring Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen. Thursday night was a doubleheader, with the Open Love NY leadership meeting at my apartment until 9 pm, then Natalie, Kacey and Becker came over to watch Elementary at 10.

Friday I left from work to go visit Morgan in Harrisburg and the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, one I've never been to before.


Morgan got some tea and spices, and I got a cauldron, a wand and a new altar cover for my spirit practice, something I hope to have more focus on in the coming year. I wasn't able to find a pendant yet, but I still have a few more days to look until Samhain arrives on the 31st. I also got this year's holiday ornament, a tiny bear dressed as a pumpkin, wearing a witch hat and holding a broomstick. To me, the ornament symbolizes Morgan, who has been a welcome new presence in my life this year since meeting him for the first time on our road trip in March ("Road Trip 2012" - March 14, 2012), then going to SPWF ("Steampunk World's Fair" - May 25, 2012) and him attending my birthday ("Birthday dinner" - July 16, 2012). It also symbolizes to me a renewed focus on my magical practice.

Later that evening, we went out to a very nice Italian/Mediterranean restaurant called Mangia Qui and had grilled octopus, caprese, duck and filet mignon, served up scrumptiously.




We also found time to go see "Argo" at the movie theater, which was a really good spy thriller. Ben Affleck is coming into his own as a director. It would make a good recruiting film for the CIA. I stayed another night and came back Sunday in time for yoga, even taking time to stop by the Nordstroms Rack in Grove Hill, PA to buy some rain boots.

Tuesday night was Open Love NY, my last as presiding President. Then we had four first-timers at the Poly Women's Group, plus Tamara, Loli, Sylwia and myself, so it was the biggest crowd in a while.

Tonight I'm doing a marathon of "Sherlock", watching "The Great Game" and "Scandal in Belgravia" with Katie, then Natalie and Kacey are coming over later to watch "Elementary". Everybody has been coming over pretty consistently to watch that show, so it's been nice to have that as a regular event, along with my usual movie nights with Kacey. Hopefully Piper's life will settle soon so we can also resume our Kubrick marathon, as I'm eager to watch "Lolita" and "Dr. Strangelove" again.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Fourth anniversary

Four years ago today, Puck and I met each other on the Great Hill in Central Park, helping to set up for the Poly Pride Rally in 2008. For the past three years, we've celebrated this anniversary, either by attending the Rally together, or being together somewhere else when that wasn't possible.

This year, for some inexplicable reason, the Poly Pride Rally did not happen, with no explanation from the organizers. So perhaps it's fitting that our celebrations are changing as well. After four years, Puck and I are "graduating" in a sense from being girlfriends to being "frubbles," our word that best describes what our relationship has become.

"Frubble" is a poly term that is a synonym of "compersion," which is the feeling of happiness in sharing a partner with someone else, to be happy when someone you love is happy with someone else. It's often called the opposite of jealousy. So we decided that it worked just as well to use as a relationship as well as a feeling. By calling ourselves frubbles, we're saying that we love each other in a way where our greatest wish is to see each other find more love. It takes off some of the assumptions and baggage of calling each other "girlfriends," but it means more than being "friends."

We are family in a way that means we're always looking out for one another, but we don't have any formal agreements to keep. No obligations. Living our own lives but never being too far away. We are each other's John Watsons, the sidekicks to our own starring roles.

The graduation analogy works well to describe the change. In the past four years, we've learned a lot about each other, and about ourselves, during a very formative period in each of our lives. Puck was only 17 when we met, and was taking a year off between high school and university to travel. I was only 4 years into my new life, working at Agent K in the city and living in New Jersey near Tara's family. Neither of us had any friends in the New York kink scene.

During the time we've been girlfriends, we've followed a curriculum of sorts, having relationship conversations, applying poly theories, making agreements, testing results. We've seen other relationships with metamours come, stick around, or go. We've figured out what works for us and what doesn't. Now, we're leaving that structure, that test environment behind, and we're moving forward where possibilities are less defined and less predictable. In a sense, we are graduating from the structure of "relationship school" and entering the expansive freedom of the "real world." We're not so much changing our relationship as much as we are acknowledging a change to the environment in which we relate to each other.

For this anniversary, I drove out to SBU on Friday to visit them. I met up with them off-campus at a meeting of the LGBTA leaders, where I shared a short testimonial of my personal experience of coming out in Houston. On Saturday we had breakfast at our favorite diner, then went to the historic part of Stony Brook to visit a community apple fair, where we shared an apple fritter and took pictures in a church cemetery. We also drove around a bit near the Grist Mill pond to see the gorgeous antique and modern homes nestled in the woods, one of the places I visited with Bonnie's family.


We came back and took a nap before we opened Puck's presents - the tailored Calvin Klein suit and all the accessories I've been picking up for the last month or so. In addition to the Nordstrom's white French cuff dress shirt, I got them two pairs of coordinating ties and cufflinks. One set is a Brioni light blue tie with white dots and a transparent overlay of a leaf pattern with cerulean blue oval cufflinks. The other is a Calvin Klein silver check tie with gray lenticular pyramid-shaped checkerboard cufflinks. I also got them brass collar stays, a magnetic money clip, a Calvin Klein belt and black suspenders with tiny white polka dots. Add the Oxford shoes I got them earlier this year and a pair of Calvin Klein trouser socks and the outfit was complete.


After all that was tried on and cleared away, we ventured out again to Port Jefferson to watch the waning sunset over the crashing waves on a windswept beach. We even found a pair of swings on the beach, something we had forgotten to do at last weekend's camping trip, so we rectified that by taking a ride on the swings. Then we went to the theater to see Looper, which was pretty good, and then a romantic dinner at Pentimento, a place that Puck and Ryan discovered together.


Sunday was a much more low-key day - we got up and had brunch at the commons, then hung out at the Sci-fi Forum for a bit. We came back and hung up their posters and artwork on the walls. Puck's roommate Adele joined us to make a meat pie for lunch, made from ground lamb, carrots, onions and celery in a rice flour pie crust. We watched an episode of Doctor Who before I left for home.

Although this is the fourth anniversary of our meeting and starting this journey together, there is still one more formal anniversary to recognize before we dissolve our commitment - the anniversary of our year and a day commitment to each other. We made that commitment to each other on Nov. 6, two days before their 21st birthday. So on Nov. 7, we will fulfill that commitment and start our journey anew.

Happy Anniversary, my dearest Puck. In every ending there is a new beginning, and so it shall be with us. I look forward to many more years of adventures together. I love you.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Free love letters 2012

For me, October is a special month for a number of reasons. It ends with 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 - because I've physically met all my past lovers in the month of October. 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 fourth and final this year) but last year, I started a project that I want to continue in order 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. 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. I wanted to do something for the sake of art, without any other purpose or agenda beyond putting something beautiful out in the world.

So each October, I write a personalized love letter to anyone who requests one by sending me their physical mailing address. You can make the request through any means available to you - Facebook, email, phone, text, whatever. 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 paper 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.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bear Mountain

The weekend before last I took Yoshi home with me to move the molecules instead of staying in the city as I usually do. The weather was perfect and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to spend a little time out of doors. All summer long I hide from the heat and the sun, and around Mabon (the autumnal equinox, Sept. 22), this is traditionally my favorite time of the year.



As the sun faded from the sky, I found a big rock in a closed campground area and sat to meditate for a while, saw a family of deer grazing while I walked along the road, and took a short hike on one of the circular trails that lead from the summit at Perkins Tower down to where it joins the Appalachian Trail down to Georgia. It was a wonderfully peaceful, refreshing visit, and a proper antidote from shopping at the Woodbury Commons Outlet Mall earlier in the day.

Sunday I had a visit with Agnieszka and we visited a couple of parks in New Jersey, including one with an arts and crafts fair. Then we walked around my old haunts in Montclair for a bit before heading to Eagle Rock Reservation, where you can see the New York skyline on a clear day.



We had dinner at Uno's and I rushed back to my yoga class (just 5 minutes late, miraculously) where Kacey joined us for the first time. It will be nice to see her more often if she joins our practice on a regular basis.

Last week we had Poly Cocktails at the DL which was fine, but of course it's not as much fun without Puck there. I had a talk with Marton, who is joining the Open Love NY leadership team, and hung out with some of the Pinjas. On Wednesday we had our women's group, where we met a new member, Natalie. She's only 20 and moved here a month ago for graduate school. She's a big fan of Sherlock too, so I invited her to tomorrow night's Elementary viewing party, the American version that premieres on CBS.

Last Tuesday I had dinner with Jen, the woman I played with at the last Myth party. She's moving to Australia for an indeterminate period of time, so I wanted to spend a little time with her. She's a rarity in my life, someone my own age who I feel a connection with. But there's a reason why we haven't done anything except play once this year - we don't have that spark, that chemistry, the NRE that gets the rocket off the launching pad. Nevertheless, I went to her farewell party on Friday before MMMM to say goodbye one last  time.

Beth came over on Saturday and we watched a bunch of the Sherlocks together so she could finally finish Season 2. She's also coming tomorrow night, along with Kacey and Becker. It will be Becker's and Natalie's (obviously) first visit here, and the first time I've ever had more than three people here for an evening, a product of having conventional seating instead of the old playpen. I'm looking forward to playing hostess for the first time in a long while.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Great Adventure Shindig 2012

My crazy July is finally coming to a close. We did the Dark Knight marathon last Thursday into Friday, then met up with Katie Friday to try and buy Puck a suit, but there was a freak fire in Union Square that blocked the entrance to Nordstrom Rack, so we couldn't get in.

I went down to Princeton to pick up Yoshi and Morgan Friday evening and we visited the Princeton Record Exchange and did some grocery shopping at Wegmanns before heading home.

Saturday morning we led a group of friends (Beth, Perri & Dave, Morgan and Laura) to Six Flags Great Adventure. We rode Kingda Ka, the big rollercoaster; Superman, and a few other rides. We really only had time to do half the park, so maybe another trip is in order.


Sunday I was actually a bit glad that yoga was cancelled because it gave me time to clean up and do all the laundry after sending Morgan on his way home. Plus, I had to work a little bit before leaving the office. They've been keeping me busy all this week, although my intern has helped shoulder a lot of the load - I'm so glad we got her for the summer.

Tuesday night's Open Love NY was the largest crowd we've ever had - 63 by Murray's count, including our presenters. However, we had to cancel our leadership team meeting last night because of scheduling conflicts, so that was one less thing this month. So last night I finished my Harry Potter marathon and made a second batch of ceviche, this time with bay scallops added to the snapper. I marinated it for about an hour in freshly squeezed lime juice, chopped garlic and chile peppers (jalapeno and serrano) and then added avocado, diced onion, cilantro, salt and pepper.

I'm just glad that this weekend is going to be relatively placid. Puck is coming out to MMMM tonight, then there's a Papacookie event Saturday night, and hopefully yoga on Sunday, after a month-long hiatus. There's some stuff bubbling under the surface, but not ready to talk about it yet.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Birthday dinner

Sunday morning I woke up from a dream ….

I had just gotten the keys to a new apartment, an extremely large apartment. An enormous floor-to-ceiling marble column, 10 feet in diameter, was the dominant feature of the room. However, the old tenant was still occupying it and was having a poker tournament in part of the main space. The entire tournament was conducted in Thai. I hosted a small housewarming party with my closest friends in a cluster of sofa and chairs on the other side of the room.

And that is what basically happened for my eighth birthday on Sunday in the waking world when I hosted a small party of eight for dinner: Kacey and Becker, Piper and Jet, Puck, Storm and Morgan (previously referred to as Alex, from Pennsylvania). Instead of Thai food, however, we went to the New Malaysian Restaurant in Chinatown.


Flashback 48 hours: this weekend started with a Friday night MMMM, where Puck and I introduced Morgan to some of our friends – Kiwi, Ilan, Rachel, Danielle and Jill from SBU (the latter whom Morgan met at the Steampunk World’s Fair a couple months ago).

Saturday the three of us spent most of the day watching a run of the TV show Firefly, which Morgan has never seen. In the evening we went out to Empire Steak House on 52nd Street for dinner and walked back home through Rockefeller Center. We went out again to Rodeo Bar & Grill on Third Avenue and 28th to meet up with Aaron and some of his friends for a drink. The honky-tonk bar was kitschy and loud, peanut shells on the floor, so it wasn’t really my kind of place, but we didn’t stay too long.

Sunday we finished Firefly and Puck went out to meet some out-of-town friends who were staying at the nearby Doubletree hotel while Storm came over and played violin with me and Morgan.

Dinner was wonderful and everybody seemed to like the food at the restaurant. Plus, it seemed that everyone was having a good time and enjoying each other’s company, which is important to me. Piper and Jet brought me a present of five framed photos printed from my blog of me and various people at events throughout the past few years. She’s noticed that I don’t have any photos of people in my apartment, and it’s true – I only had three framed photos and none of them are prominently placed. It was sweet of her to help me fix that omission.




After dinner we walked a block to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory and got some dessert (caramel sea salt ice cream was the popular choice) and then went our separate subways. Morgan, Puck and I finished the night watching the movie Serenity to cap our Firefly marathon.

This eighth birthday has been a real treat for me. Everything I planned came off perfectly (believe it or not, that rarely happens). Morgan is the first out-of-town visitor I’ve ever hosted at my current apartment, and the only friend I have who dates back eight years ago to the event I celebrated this weekend. So it was fitting and extremely satisfying to bring together the new and the old – as the saying goes, one is silver and the other is gold.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Birthday musings

I'm really excited about my birthday coming up. It's probably the most anticipated birthday I've ever had. And maybe it's because, for the first time, it's something that I've planned all by myself, without anyone else really having a say about it. I decided what to do and whom I wanted to be there purely on what would make me the happiest, without really any regards to anyone else's wishes or traditions.

There's something else about this birthday that makes it special to me. Three years ago was my last birthday with Tara's family. Two years ago was my one and only birthday with Bonnie and Hiba, along with Puck and Katie. Last year, I spent my birthday alone because Puck was in Russia and I was still recovering from breaking up with Bonnie so I really wasn't feeling companionable without Puck being there. As sad as that sounds now, I think I made the best of it by going to see Parts I and II of the Harry Potter finale. So it was something memorable and historic that I did for myself.

So this year, I look at my celebration as coming full circle from birthdays that have involved ex's or those that I might not look back on very favorably. Of course, I do cherish those happy times with them, but when it comes to birthdays that are so important to me, it's easy to spoil those memories with the melancholy of the fact that those relationships don't exist anymore.

Plus, this week leading up to the big party on Sunday has managed to play out like the whole Marvel Studio strategy for The Avengers, namely, that I've been able to have one-on-one time with each of my major attendees before they all come together with their SO's for the blockbuster extravaganza. Puck and I spent Saturday through Monday together, last night Kacey came over to watch Sherlock, tonight Piper comes over to see Vertigo. Alex will arrive at Nearing Friday afternoon and we'll ride home on the train together before going to MMMM that night with Puck. And Sunday, Storm is coming to teach violin right before the party. I seriously couldn't have planned this week better, but it all came together rather organically and I'm only now seeing the beauty of the entire event as it is playing out.

I was telling Kacey last night that I feel incredibly blessed this year by not just my life in general, but also by the quality of people around me at work and in my personal life. The core team at work has been together and stable for more than a year now, and it's a fun and dynamic group of individuals. I've been more aware of it lately because we have a summer intern, which has caused us to sort of "reintroduce" ourselves and make our group dynamics more visible.

And of course, the people in my personal life, both here in New York and elsewhere, are all wonderful in their own right and co-create joy and friendship with me in many different ways. We've all come so far together in just the past year. I can't wait to see what happens now.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Calm before the storm

It's been a very quiet two weeks since my last post, which was around the time Storm came over for my first violin lesson. I've done hardly anything with my social life, other than the Open Love NY meeting and seeing Shotz! with Kacey, Becker and Puck on Monday. After that we went to Anyway Cafe for a late supper, and Kacey snapped this lovely shot of us with her iPhone:


July is going to be an incredibly busy month of fun (and not-so-fun) activities. In addition to the usual OLNY and movie nights, there's House JAPaN's housewarming party tomorrow, my birthday weekend and Firefly marathon with Alex after that, then two medical appointments before the Dark Knight trilogy with Puck and a group trip we're organizing to Six Flags. Plus an OLNY leadership meeting on the 27th.

On the home front, my apartment replaced all my windows so that's caused some disruption. I've been thinking about replacing the playpen with a proper couch, but I haven't found one that I love yet. Since they had to move my air conditioning unit, I don't have any place for my altar, so I'll have to figure something out.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Disc world

My DVD/Blu Ray collection is getting out of hand again, so I bought some binders yesterday to start shelving them that way. I think I'm going to sort them by daytime and nighttime movies because I can't really think of a better way to divide up my very eclectic collection.

Daytime movies are those that I feel can be watched at any time of day or night. This is a very subjective analysis, but certain movies just have a daytime feel. Part of it probably comes from the ratio of daylight scenes to nighttime scenes in the movie itself. For example: The Sound of Music, Legends of the Fall, The Shawshank Redemption, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Great Train Robbery, Top Gun, the Die Hard series, all James Bond movies not starring Daniel Craig, Harry Potter I-IV, most comedies and superhero movies, etc. This might also be influenced by how often I've seen them played on TV during daytime hours.

Nighttime movies are, you guessed it, more dark, more evil, or have more complex themes that I feel are more appropriate to enjoy at night. Examples: Let Me In, Gladiator, Brazil, Mulholland Drive, Dark City, the Alien series, Harry Potter V-VII, the Matrix series, etc. That's not to say that I can't watch one of these during the day or vice versa. It's simply a preference that informs how I'd choose a movie, which is what's important when I'm picking something to watch.

Since I have three binders, I'll probably put all non-movies (concerts, documentaries, TV shows) in the third binder. Next I'll need a bookshelf to put all these binders eventually.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

NYC good life

Here's my five free articles from the New York Times online this month!

Recipe to try: A Mussel Sauce That Is It's Own Excuse for Making - New York Times, April 25, 2012

Cheap Taiwanese eats: Baohaus, New York Times, Feb. 23, 2010

Cost-no-object sushi: Seasonality's Master Practitioner, New York Times, April 11, 2012

Another take on peanut noodles: As Summer Nears, Cold Noodles to Chill With, New York Times, June 13, 2012

Spas and Saunas: Where to Go to Sweat Your Face Off, April 20, 2012

Young girl, violins

Puck and I spent a lovely weekend together, the first time we've had a laid-back weekend at home in a long while. Friday night we went out for dinner at St. Andrews, a nearby Scottish restaurant that actually did serve haggis, but we didn't try it. I'm still on the ultra-restrictive Phase 1 of my diet, so I had an assortment of shellfish.

I'm doing really well on the diet so far, down about seven pounds in the first full week. Aesthetically, I've lost most of my tummy bump so I can actually see my abdominal muscles now :) Doing certain yoga movements is easier, like lowering myself to the floor from a push-up or plank position. I have arms like a T-Rex when it comes to their relative strength versus my body weight. Hopefully losing weight will narrow that gap.

Saturday Puck went out to visit a friend and I stayed home to do laundry and practice my violin. I decided that I needed a new case for my violin because the antique case it came with is falling apart and not suitable for any kind of movement since it's not padded or fitted. So I walked over to the Sam Ash store and found that cases cost about $40, but I could get an entire used violin package with a case for about $120. True, the violin is one of those Chinese-made mass market ones, but for an additional $80 it made sense to get a second practice violin, plus a nicer bow and a pitch pipe for tuning.

Another benefit in getting a "new" violin is that it helps me to listen more closely to the sound of my original violin (I'm going to call the "new" violin Sarah and the original one Midori). Sarah has a lacquer finish and Midori has a dark matte finish. I think that is part of why Midori has a more powerful, complex sound. Sarah sounds a little "one-note" in comparison, like it's missing some of the harmonics. Midori also has the benefit of being recently refurbished with new strings and hardware, plus repairing a crack at the top of the body.

After bringing Sarah home, I proceeded to enter some show lotteries for Book of Mormon and Peter and the Starcatcher, but missed on both of them so I came home and made lunch. Puck arrived soon after and joined me. We took a walk over to Fifth Avenue to browse at the bookstore, only to find that it was closing earlier than expected. Still, it was a beautiful night to be out walking. We watched Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom - the beginning of his "Red Curtain Trilogy" - before going to bed.


Sunday we went out for a late brunch with the Pinjas crowd from House JAPaN who were headed to the Folsom Street East festival. Open Love NY had a table last year, but not this year, so we skipped actually going - once was enough for me last year. Puck and I went grocery shopping and later I browsed the bookstore again before going to yoga. Puck made their signature steak and asparagus for dinner and we watched the extended cut of Gladiator before bed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day moving

So it was quite an eventful Memorial Day weekend – perhaps not as significant as ones I’ve had before but significant in its own way with a lot of firsts.

Friday night’s poker game was so much fun! Just like at Nearing’s Casino Night event a couple weeks ago after our charitable giving day, I hit a hot streak early (at the previous event I got dealt pocket aces twice in a row) and built a big stack early. I pushed all-in on an early hand with A-J and got called by my friend Stefan (who used to sit across from me at work) with A-10 and won with my jack kicker, doubling up to about $70 (buy-in was $40).

Around 11 pm I was thinking about leaving because I had an early rise on Saturday, but I didn’t want to go out with a big stack since it was my first game there and I thought it would be a little rude. Fortunately or unfortunately, on the last hand I lost about $40 on a hand where I had a straight, someone else had a full house kings up, and we both got beat by quad 7s. So I ended the night down $12, which was a very respectable outcome for my first “competitive” poker game in four years.

Saturday morning I drove out to House PNJ in Astoria, which is moving to Bushwick in Brooklyn and becoming House JAPaN (Jet, Alex, Piper and Ninja (Elisa)). Jet and her friend Daniel (visiting from Arizona) helped me load up Yoshi and I drove to Bushwick, where Piper, Alex and Kiwi were waiting to help unload and start carrying stuff up four flights of stairs while I drove back for another load. I made three trips altogether, and they also moved the big furniture with a moving truck, so there was a lot of stuff.

Their new place is new and modern, with a soaring two-story skylighted ceiling in the main room, with an open staircase leading up to Elisa’s two rooms in the loft and three more bedrooms downstairs. I’m sure there will be many great parties there in the future.

After we were done for the day, I went to visit Puck in Staten Island, where they were looking after their grandmother while the rest of the family had gone to a birthday celebration in PA. We had dinner together and watched an episode of Doctor Who before I left for home to get cleaned up and sleep for the next day of moving.

Sunday I drove back to Brooklyn to neighboring Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy for short) where Kacey and her roommates are also moving. In fact, their new place is only a few blocks away from House JAPaN in Bushwick. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen the inside of Kacey’s home – I’ve only ever dropped her off late at night and never had the opportunity to make a proper visit. Her room is as tiny as I imagined it to be, about half the size of my small bedroom. But her bathroom was huge by New York standards; it was practically the same size as the bedroom. And since she has three roommates, there was plenty of common living area to enjoy.

Kacey, Becker and I finished packing and moving what was left of Kacey’s room, while Lourdes and Emily (my first and probably last time meeting her since she’s moving back to Buffalo – she has pale skin and soft blue hair) took care of their respective rooms. The new place is only a few blocks away and much smaller, but completely updated so it has beautiful finishes. Unfortunately, instead of two huge bathrooms (Lourdes’ old bathroom was just as large as Kacey’s, with a wall of built-in cabinetry) all four women (Kacey, Lourdes, Hanna and Megan) will have to share a closet bathroom that reminded me of an airplane lavatory. And while Kacey’s room is slightly smaller than her previous room, Lourdes is moving into a room about half the size of her previous room. Like a lot of New York apartments, there’s not really a dining area but the living room is gorgeous. We’ll see if they can make everything fit properly!

Since Kacey’s room was so small, her move was much easier and after we were done we still had enough energy (and were not so disgustingly sweaty) to go out for an early supper at a rustic Italian restaurant Kacey has fallen in love with, Saraghina. I had a grilled octopus salad that was really fantastic, and we shared our desserts of tiramisu, chocolate mousse and pancetta. I dropped Kacey and Becker off and went home to clean up and grab stuff to stay at Puck’s for Memorial Day.

It was a full house in Staten Island since both Puck’s sisters and their husbands were home to share some big news: Ella is pregnant with their first child, the first of the next generation for their family. It was also Puck’s dad’s birthday, so Monday we drove to Queens to visit a Korean-style bathhouse called Spa Castle. Ella couldn’t go since she’s pregnant, so she and her husband left for home in Vermont, and Puck’s mom stayed home with grandmother. Puck’s dad, sister Sophia and husband Robert and their Uncle Alec formed our party.

The experience was actually quite fascinating. We wore waterproof badges on our wrists that opened lockers and kept track of purchases. Once Puck, Sophia and I put our clothes away, we went into the bath area, which is “no-clothes-allowed” to shower and get ready for our full body scrubs. We were set down, completely nude, on padded massage tables and scrubbed head to toe (including a facial scrub and hair washing) by three Asian women, and rinsed with buckets of warm water.

We spent some time in the pools, which each had a digital temperature readout (63, 75, 100 and 109 degrees) and various features, like touch-activated water jets, waterfalls, underwater seating areas and overhead waterspouts coming out of the ceiling. There was also a cold deluge shower outside the wet and dry sauna rooms and a seating area for self-scrubbing.

After a while we went back to the lockers to don our bathing suits and uniforms to go upstairs and meet the men. The middle level is a large seating and dining area with numerous other services and traditional hot and cold saunas. We had some sushi and food from the buffet bar (wonderful Korean-style spareribs), some milk bubble tea and then got manicures and pedicures while we waited for the men to finish their scrubs.

We tried each sauna one by one, and explored the sleeping area, the resting room (where each lounger had its own TV monitor) and the outdoor pools on the upper floor (which were too crowded to use since it was a holiday, no doubt). There’s also a Korean restaurant on the top floor, but Puck and I missed going to that.

Since it was so crowded in the pools upstairs, Puck and I went back down to the women’s bathhouse for some more soaking and ended the day in the heated resting room. This room was a comfortable and dry 100 degrees and scented with a large sachet bag on the wall. One wall had two panels of backlit rippled glass windows decorated with ivy leaves. It was a peaceful and pleasant way to conclude our visit.

We went back home to Staten Island for dinner and some family time before I left to go home and get ready for work in the morning. Puck actually came over the following night after their date with Alex (of House JAPaN) but after I was already asleep. They took a bus to Massachusetts today to visit some friends and get their MacBook fixed.

Today at Nearing we formed a movie club, since we all love talking about movies in the Communications pod. Each month one of us will choose three movies based on a common theme and we’ll vote for one to watch on our projector in the Board Room. Everyone seems really psyched about it, so we’ll see how it goes. So one more viewing night to add to my ongoing marathons with Kacey (Sherlock), Piper (Hitchcock movies) and Puck (Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel and Doctor Who).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Steampunk World's Fair

It's been a while since I've had time to post. I feel like a lot of things have passed by, but I'll try to hit on the highlights.

Last week Puck came to Poly Cocktails with me and pretty much stayed in a corner with friends while I did my hostessing duties. I had a long conversation with my friend Jennifer about the nature of being genderqueer and using gender-neutral pronouns and then a few minutes later she slipped up and used female pronouns when I introduced her to Puck. How deflating. At least she apologized and expressed a desire to learn correct pronouns.

Wednesday was Nearing's annual charitable giving day, so hundreds of us went out to do volunteer work. My job in all this is to get media coverage, and I did get a TV spot for our local efforts in New Jersey, so I was happy with that. It's the first time I've organized a broadcast interview since I left Houston, although I used to do it quite frequently in my old life.

Thursday night I drove Yoshi back up to Wayne to drop him off for some work, and drove a loaner vehicle to meet with Agnieszka, our first get-together since our Ireland trip together. We went to one of our favorite Polish restaurants (well, my favorite anyway) Royal Warsaw and I got caught up with her tumultuous life. Since my relationship life has been pretty stable for the past two years, she did most of the talking, thankfully. I'm happy to have little drama to report. After dinner I drove down to Staten Island to stay with Puck before our weekend adventure at Steampunk World's Fair.

Friday I had the day off and we had lunch at Macaroni Grill, picked up Yoshi, bought hair dye and got Puck a half-buzz cut so they could do their Delirium costume. We met Alex at the Fair and checked into our hotel room. Ryan came by too, since he lives only a short distance away, and we met up with our friend Aaron (who is the most recent in a small group of people who have stayed the night in my apartment).


The first night was the Goblin Market, where Puck once again traded for memories, names and other intangibles. Alex and I got playing cards with quotes on them from a male burlesque dancer playing a mime. The performers included a magician/escape artist, a burlesque dancer and Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band (another reference to Neil Gaiman's Sandman, like Delirium).



We also saw a performance by a Japanese steampunk band called Strange Artifact, their first trip outside their home country. Later outside the Goblin Market I got a picture of Puck with them.


We also talked to this very intricate makeup design of a nurse who looked like she stepped out of a zombie apocalypse or something:


Friday Alex bought a couple pieces of clothes that he fashioned into a costume he dubbed "Nikola Tesla's pervy assistant" (with the aid of some hair wax and my black eyeshadow to make singe marks from too many electrical shocks). He and Puck's Delirium made quite the pair:


We met Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, two of our favorite podcasters at the authors' tables and got free copies of their upcoming book, The Janus Affair.


ENSMB had a new record release party outside under a tent, and there was also a costume contest - check out this wonderful outfit from a steampunk cyborg:


Saturday night we had dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse and then saw my favorite group of the weekend, This Way to the Egress, who once again opened for Voltaire like at Wicked Faire, and this time we finally got to see him perform (we'd tried and failed at the last two Wicked Faires for various reasons). After that I went to bed while Puck and Alex went back down for dancing and merriment into the wee hours.

Sunday we packed up the room and then went to our favorite diner in Somerset for breakfast. Alex and I spent most of the day together looking at vendors and hearing an encore performance by Egress and ENSMB while Puck spent the afternoon listening to author panels. We eventually said our goodbyes, with an eye toward getting together again for my birthday weekend July 14-15. Puck and I drove back to New York and I went to yoga while they chilled at home. In the evening we watched Thor on Blu Ray, which we had picked up at the Best Buy in Wayne on Friday.

Monday was an off day, then Tuesday was Open Love NY with an old friend, Robin Renee (who I used to work with back in 2009 when I was freelancing). Wednesday was the Poly Women's Group, where I met a couple new members and had a nice chat. Thursday I went shopping at Loehmann's and then got a pizza and watched The Secret World of Arriety, a movie I had wanted to see in theaters, but it disappeared too quickly so I got it on Blu Ray when it came out Tuesday. What a beautiful movie, in every way. Loved it. Maybe I should do a Miyazaki marathon soon - I have several of his movies, although for some reason not my favorite one, Howl's Moving Castle. Must correct that soon.

Yay, all caught up. Time to go play poker now. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Puck's Broadway debut

Puck’s grandmother was finally released from the hospital after her 10-day stay, so Puck is now staying home in Staten Island to help take care of her. It was wonderful having them stay for so long, and I think that during this period we’ve managed to grow even more comfortable spending time together and being involved in our daily lives.

Sunday night we saw the first episode of the second season of BBC's Sherlock on PBS and it was every bit as marvelous as the stellar first season. Monday was the first of the month, so just like last month we went down to the Under St. Marks theater to see Shotz with Kacey and Becker. Unfortunately, we got there too late to all sit together. We sat in the back row (which was fine since there’s only about 40 seats in the theater) and they sat in the front row.

The theme this month was Greek myths, and all the plays had to include a kiss, and the phrase, “As for me, I know nothing.” There was a mime presentation of the tale of Narcissus, an inventive association between the history of flight and Icarus, a comical retelling of Phaeton and Apollo, and my favorite, a visit to the Minotaur by Pac Man and one of his ghostly friends. There was another play dealing with the Fates and one that I think had something to do with Sisyphus (or maybe it was someone with OCD who kept stacking soda cans into pyramids).

Upon completion of the plays Puck had to leave for an overnight stay at the hospital and Kacey, Becker and Azizi left for another event so I did some shopping at the Walgreens and went home to clean the apartment and change light bulbs.

Tuesday Puck was back and I was coming home early from work, so we decided to try and see Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I thought we were going to have to try and win the lottery for tickets, but Puck went by the theater and found out that they already held the lottery and they didn't have enough entries to sell all the front-row tickets so we could just buy them without having to win them - how fortunate for us!

The show was marvelous of course, and since I'd seen it with Piper last month, I knew they were going to ask audience members to come up at the beginning of the second act to dance on stage. I clued in the usher that we would like to do it, so when the moment came, one of the cast members asked the usher if there was anyone who wanted to come up and dance and she motioned to me. I pushed Puck up to accept the invitation (although the usher thought he was making a mistake by taking them instead of me) and they got to dance a hoedown to the tune of "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." Later in the show, I also caught a ping-pong ball that bounced off the stage out of the mouth of one of the cast members that still had her lipstick on it.

After the show we waited outside and got autographs from most of the cast and took some pictures with them. Then we went across the street for a late supper at Famous Dave's Barbecue and back home to sleep. That was a really fun date, and a wonderful cap on our extended co-habitation.

Tonight Piper and I resumed our Hitchcock marathon after a few weeks hiatus. First we went to Bann Korean restaurant at One Worldwide Plaza a few blocks away and grilled a dinner of duck breast and beef shortribs on a gas grill built into the table. I haven't done Korean barbecue for many years, probably since Genghis Khan in Houston closed. It was a very tasty and elegant meal, and it was nice to catch up with Piper, since she's been super-busy with a project at work.

The movie tonight was Rear Window, and unfortunately we couldn't finish it because the disc was damaged, but that's OK because we've both seen it before. Next up is the final appearance of Grace Kelly, opposite Cary Grant, in one of my personal favorites, To Catch a Thief.

Tomorrow night I'm going to see Kacey again at a gallery showing that Storm invited us to (which might finally be the chance for the three of us to reunite since I met Kacey last year). Friday night is MMMM, and Saturday I'm going to visit my old stylist Edison for a haircut. It should be a quiet weekend so I can recharge for next weekend's Steampunk World's Fair, where Puck and I are both looking forward to seeing Alex again.