Monday, April 23, 2012

Breakup songs

I am not a Glee fan. I like some of the musical numbers, but I can't stand the high school drama. So usually I DVR the shows and just have them run while I'm cooking dinner or something where I can't pay full attention to the TV. And I was doing that tonight with an episode from a couple weeks ago (I'm catching up) and the duet Blaine and his brother sing, "Someone That I Used to Know" caught my ear.

The lyrics, of course, make me think of the various breakups and estrangements from birth family (especially since it's two brothers singing, and I do have an older brother) and ex-lovers. But it was really the impassioned performance by the two leads and the instrumental arrangement that made me rewind and listen to it again.

I have kind of a thing for breakup songs. Sometimes they are the best songs, because maybe the artist was inspired by the fact that we sometimes feel love most intensely when it's freshly gone. Longing for something or someone is a powerful emotion that can be evoked through the right music. And even though a song might bring unpleasant memories to mind, some of them are so good that they can be enjoyed on their own merits.

So here's a list of my favorite breakup songs of the moment, in no particular order:

Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye (featuring Kimbra) - I think the voices in the original version are more interesting than the American Idol-inspired Glee cast, and the video is pretty cool. Plus I think it works well as a duet.

Last Kiss by Taylor Swift - I love, love, love this song. It's probably my favorite of all her songs. Her lyrics of "I watch your life in pictures like I used to watch you sleep / And I feel you forget me like I used to feel you breathe" are the perfect description of breaking up in the Facebook world.

Forget Her by Jeff Buckley - This song is only available on the Legacy edition of Jeff's first album, "Grace" because he originally didn't want it released. It was too personal for him. After his death, his family and friends felt it deserved to be shared in its original form, instead of the imperfect bootleg copies that were already circulating.

Brighter by Paramore - This one reminds me most of Tara. Sometimes when you break up with someone, there's a part of you deep down that knows that maybe you just didn't deserve someone like them in your life. It's the second song after "Decode" that I really liked from this band. The lyrics are rough, ragged, unpolished - just like a breakup song should be.

It Ends Tonight by All American Rejects - I love the melodic line and the lyrical imagery in this song.

Don't Stay by Linkin Park - A hidden gem from the band's Meteora album, this is typical LP rap rock, but I love the visceral energy of the song. This one opens the Live in Texas concert on DVD.

Pictures of You by The Cure - This song actually reminds me of Agnieszka Prime, and not because we ever had a breakup. It actually reminds me of one of the happiest periods of my previous life, when we were together at the University of Houston. This was one of her favorite songs back then, and it's now one of mine.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lively performances

It's been a nice run of fun times with some of my favorite people this whole week, as I alluded to in my previous post. Wednesday I managed to drag Lori to my poly women's group meeting, where Katie and Sylwia joined us for a lively chat until the store was about to close. Since Lori is sex-positive but not poly, she brought a nice alternative view to everything.

Thursday I worked from home because it's been a bad allergy week and the office has been empty anyway. Since I was home, I took the opportunity to try the Book of Mormon ticket lottery. There are fewer people on weekdays, but I still didn't win. Piper was coming over for our Hitchcock movie marathon, but as it turned out, I did win the lottery for Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which is playing at the theater around the corner from my apartment. So instead of our movie, we had a quick bite to eat at the Famous Dave's barbecue and then saw the show from the front row (I sat right behind the conductor, and he gave me one of the souvenir ping-pong balls). The show was a spectacle of drag opulence, and a fitting accompaniment to the student drag show I saw last Friday at SBU.

On Friday, I joined Kacey, Becker and their friend Erin (whom I met several months ago when we saw the play "How to Begin") in Williamsburg for a site-specific production at a private residence. The play was titled "The Foreplay Play," and it's about a straight, vanilla couple that comes to a lesbian, kinky couple's apartment for dinner, drinks and a foursome and things do not go as planned. I enjoyed the acting and the production, but since I'm part of both the kink and poly communities, I found a lot of the plot a bit cringing, since I don't have much respect or sympathy for people who throw themselves headlong into these situations without educating themselves first. And sure, everyone can have bad experiences no matter how prepared they are, but I thought it was overly dramatized, and everyone knows I'm not a fan of drama in relationships, fictional or otherwise.

What I also liked was that after the show, all the actors and crew came out and mingled with the audience, many of whom were friends. Kacey did the photography for the show and materials, as you see on the web site. A group of a dozen of us went out afterwards to a nearby Mexican restaurant for dinner, and I sat between two new people named Liz and Lita. Liz, who you can see on her web site is "the little lady with the big voice," is also from Texas, born in San Antonio and went to a Catholic high school in Houston just down the road from Pearl's family home. She looks 17, but she's actually 27, and she does have a much bigger-than-expected voice, which I guess she uses to great effect as a stage manager.

I spent the day Saturday cleaning the apartment, specifically the pile of mail on my dining table, since I had invited Beth to come over in the evening. But first I went to White Castle and picked up a case of burgers and took a cab to Riverside Park to meet up with Kacey and Becker and more of their friends to have a picnic and watch the sunset. I met Christina again, an actress and director whom we've met at the last two Shotz! productions, and another friend from her work who looked familiar (and I to her) but I can't say if we've met before. I had to leave to meet Beth, and so missed Storm who arrived later (she texted me for directions). For some reason, even though Kacey and I met at Storm's Easter egg party last year, we have never all three been at the same event since then.

I took a cab down to SoHo and met Beth as she was closing up her bakery store. We walked around the neighborhood for a bit, then stopped to have a quick bite of food. We came back to my apartment and watched the original "Tron" movie and played some games on the PS3. As it was getting late and the weather was starting to deteriorate, I invited her to stay over and she accepted. It was the first time since Bonnie two years ago that someone besides Puck has slept over, even as just friends.

So it's just been a terrific week of experiences since last weekend, spending time and doing fun things with many of my closest friends. It takes a bit of the sting out of the Rockets missing the playoffs again this year.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Moving thoughts

I finished reading Terry Moore’s “Strangers in Paradise” series last night, the second time I’ve read the series through. It has one of the best endings of any comic series, a nearly perfect ending. You all know how much endings in books and movies mean to me, so that’s saying something.

The confluence of reading SiP and other recent events in my life has made me think a little about the future. I know, dangerous. Trying to see the unseeable future almost always opens the way to fear of the unknown. So the challenge is to consider the future in a disinterested way (the right definition of disinterested, please, not what most people think it means – look it up if you’re not sure).

Two of the three people most involved in my day-to-day life – Kacey and Piper – are both moving with their roommates to new residences in the next two months. Both of them were forced to do so by their landlords. I, on the other hand, am staying put at least until March. I love my place, or at least I will once all the renovations are done. They say it’ll be in June, but who knows. Right now I just want them to hurry up and get the second elevator replaced so we’re not all relying on a single elevator that is prone to breakdowns.

Anyway, all this to say is that I’m thinking about what’s going to happen next March when I sign a new lease. My expectation is that my rent will skyrocket beyond my willingness to pay because of the upgraded building. I don’t think my landlord is paying thousands of dollars in renovations just to keep the same customers they already have. With a modernized building, they will want to price the old tenants out and re-let units at a higher price. So whether it’s next year or the year after, I can see the writing on the wall.

I hate moving about as much as I hate looking for a new job. So I’m thinking about buying a place – I have enough saved up for a downpayment. So this year I need to start looking at where I might go. My job at Nearing seems pretty secure, but you never know. My company went through a takeover battle in 2009 right before I joined, and if it had been successful, our office would have been closed. That could happen again at any time. See what I mean? Fear.

But if I bought a place and my job situation changed, it wouldn’t be much different than if I were renting. I’d still have to deal with a possible move and either breaking a lease or selling a property. And it just makes sense to start building equity at the rent prices I’ve been paying the last two years in Manhattan.

The big issue is, where would I go? My job in Princeton confines me to living on the west side of Manhattan or New Jersey, rather than Queens or Brooklyn. If I moved back to the Garden State, I could get something bigger and nicer and not pay New York prices and state taxes. But being outside of Manhattan makes it much harder for Puck and my friends to visit me, and for me to justify coming in for my three to five monthly activities for my poly/kink groups. I’m sure I could adjust, but I would feel the loss after living in the convenience of Times Square.

The other option is to stay in Manhattan and find something I can afford to buy. That would probably involve a downsizing and moving to a different neighborhood, but it would have to be relatively convenient to Penn Station to keep my long daily commute bearable. That’s probably where I’ll focus my search first and see what’s available.

Aside from logistics, my other concern is how it affects my relationships. Puck is my family even though we don’t live together, so I want to make it as easy as possible for them to see me and be comfortable staying over. We’ve joked that I should get a place near Ryan and Beth so they could visit all of us at the same time. It’s a nice thought, since that would be very close to Princeton, but quite far away from Manhattan. That would probably mean driving to work and taking the train in for fun, which means I’ll have less of it.

Anyway, whatever happens, I know I’ll get through it the way I always do, with hope and faith that things will work out where I’ll find happiness and make others happy as well.

This past weekend was full of good stuff with Puck. I left work after lunch to drive out to Stony Brook and took Puck, Perri and Dave to dinner at our favorite Indian restaurant. The food was excellent, but we had to rush a bit to have time to get ready for the LGBTA Drag Show.

Puck and I grabbed front row seats for ourselves and Gillian and Jenn, who drove down from Massachusetts to attend. I also finally met Lauren in person, which was a treat for me. We didn’t know each other when we both marched in Slut Walk several months ago. I took a picture of her holding a sign and posted it on Facebook, and our friend Emily recognized her and introduced us online.

So we’ve had some nice conversations about trans issues and other social justice topics – she’s much more active in that than I am and I admire her for it. She used her assets to her best advantage by volunteering to collect donations for charity at the show, having people deposit bills into her front of her dress.

The show itself was a series of lip-synched performances by drag performers, including Emily, who did an impression of British comedian Tim Minchin singing a song about boobs. During the song she plucked Puck out of the front row and buried her face in their corseted bosom (she asked permission before, of course!)

After the show we took Emily and her partner Ken to the diner for a late supper and then back to her room to watch a few episodes of "Firefly" (she wasn’t around for our Firefly marathon in 2009) before we returned to Translandia (Puck’s former suite) to crash on the air mattress.

Saturday we got up at noon and went home, stopping at the Cheesecake Factory for brunch. We unpacked and got dressed for the evening’s performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Classic Stage Company near Union Square. It was a wonderful modern interpretation of the play, with beautiful effects using smoke and mirrors, and thousands of rose petals. The costumes and props were also beautiful, as were the performances by well-known actors like Anthony Heald (Silence of the Lambs), Christina Ricci (Addams Family Values, Sleepy Hollow, TV’s “Pan Am”) and Bebe Neuwirth (Jumanji, TV’s “Cheers”).

Sunday Puck had made plans but they fell through, so we took a drive upstate to the Woodbury Common outlet mall to do some shopping. I got them some nice button-down shirts at Calvin Klein, and I got a couple pleated skirts at Tommy Hilfiger and Jones New York. We looked in some high end stores like Versace and Zegna just for grins, but CK’s shirts fit the best.

After a few hours we were both worn out, so we drove back to Staten Island to watch Doctor Who, have dinner, and watch the first half of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King on my projector with the family.

This week has been quiet in the office with everyone out traveling. Tonight I’m meeting Lori for dinner then going to my women’s poly group. Tomorrow Piper’s coming to continue our Hitchcock marathon with Rear Window. Then Friday I’m going to see a play with Kacey at a private residence in Brooklyn.

I’m also going to note that I’m in the sweet spot with one of the books I’m reading, Charles de Lint’s “The Mystery of Grace.” You know, the part of the book where you’re hooked and can’t wait to pick it up again, but you don’t want to finish it too quickly.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


This weekend was my third Passover spent with Puck's family. As always, I appreciate being included in these family functions - to me, it's a small gesture of acceptance of my relationship with Puck.

Friday night's Seder dinner was family only. There wasn't as much singing as last year, but the food was good. We had matzo ball soup, cubed veal, mashed potatoes, gefilte fish and a pickled shredded cabbage. I brought two kosher wines, a bottle of Moscato and a Cabernet Sauvignon for the toasts.


On Saturday Puck had to work so I went out to explore the Staten Island Mall in the afternoon. I walked the whole mall, then went to Marshalls to get a few things - a new purse, a couple skirts and a few tops, pillowcases and some odds and ends. When I got back Puck made me an omelette and we started watching Doctor Who before Seder. For this one, we were joined by Puck's neighbors and an out-of-town family friend, Pavel, with whom we went skiing two Christmases ago.

Sunday I led a group to see Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about the world's greatest sushi chef, at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. Our group included Piper, Kacey and Becker, Lourdes and Azizi, an actress I met at one of Kacey's fundraising events.

Easter Sunday was also my "friendiversary" with Kacey, since we met last Easter at Storm's Easter egg decorating party - she even wore the same jacket to honor it. When I think of Kacey and how our friendship has developed, it always brings to mind that quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald from This Side of Paradise: "They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered."

So back to the movie. After watching all that food porn, we had to walk up a few blocks and have some sushi at Tenzan (although Azizi had chicken teriyaki, so I guess she doesn't eat sushi). It was mediocre sushi at best, but it's impossible to compare after watching a three-Michelin star sushi chef at work.

I had to rush back down to the apartment and change to get right back to Papacookie in the same neighborhood for yoga, and I arrived 20 minutes late. I really need to be better about arriving to yoga without being a giant bundle of stress. We've also been off the last two weeks, so it was a strenuous workout for me. I'll be glad when my apartment finishes its remodeling in June because it will include a workout room so maybe I can use it to get in better shape. The problem with my gym has always been that the hours don't go late enough on weekdays, but an on-site gym should do the trick.

Oh, I will also mention that last Monday, Puck, Kacey, Becker and I attended Shotz! again and had a really nice time. The theme was that in each short play, a character had to be lost (physically or figuratively), there had to be a power outage, and the line "In the end, you to have choose whether or not to trust someone" was to be included. That's a quote from Sophie Kinsella, the author of my beloved Shopaholic books that I used to read. I think my favorite was the first short, where a man conquers his fear of heights with the help of some tough love from a carnival barker so he can go through with his marriage proposal.

After the play we went to a nearby St. Marks restaurant and chatted over sweet and savory crepes. It was the first time Puck has met Becker, and I hope to have more outings together with the four of us.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Fun with friends

It's been a really cool week. Active in a nice way. And this weekend has been pretty much the same. It's been a good balance between the intensity of work this week, despite Lori and Meredith being on the left coast.

Tuesday night was Open Love NY, and for the third time, I facilitated a discussion on negotiating relationship agreements. Puck came with Kiwi and Piper, so it was nice having all of them in my corner of the room. The discussion went well, and I was pleased that we got a nice flow of viewpoints introduced from both experienced polys and newbies. Afterwards we went to the diner and then Puck went home since they had something to do the next morning.

Wednesday after work I came home to watch the Rockets, then headed out to Bloomingdale's to get some makeup and meet up with Kacey for a short visit. We walked down a few blocks to the Melt Shop for some grilled cheese sandwiches and had a good catching-up chat. She walked me home to Times Square so we could continue talking then took her train home.

I had related a story about Houston to her and it reminded me of Stella. We've been messaging back and forth on FetLife and it's been a nice conversation. It's nice to see our connection last a bit longer than just our meeting in Massachusetts. It's just a shame she's so far away.

Thursday night was my movie night with Piper, but on the way over, she got some bad news and arrived in a bit of a sour mood (which was completely understandable). So rather than watch our Hitchcock movie, we just visited and talked for a few hours over a dinner of roast beef sandwiches I brought from work, and chips. Plus, she brought over some blackberry tarte for dessert. We'll try again next week to continue our marathon.

Friday night was the MMMM, and I sat next to a girl named Rachel, whom I've seen at past events but had never talked to. She's a delightful person, and it turned out that Piper had brought her into the scene (they were both at NYU before Piper graduated).

Saturday morning I was going to meet Lori for brunch, but she had to cancel because she wasn't feeling well. That was actually welcome since I was out late the night before. I just watched TV most of the day until going out to the grocery store for ingredients for peanut noodles that I made for Papacookie that night. Kacey and Becker showed up and we made some plans for next weekend. Jonathan started off the music program with a piano song, then a couple performed a solo dance accompanied by piano.

But the star of the evening was Azalea (or Za for short), their six-year-old child who did her first public performance, belting out a song she had written called "The Gleaming Eye." This was no patronizing kid performance. This girl has real talent that is simply astonishing for her age. I don't think anyone there that night will forget her performance, nor fail to marvel at the fact she wrote such a extraordinarily powerful song at such a tender age. I spoke to her briefly during the break and she has six more songs that she's in the process of teaching to her accompanist (her dad, I presume). I wish I'd captured it on video, but here's a photo taken by someone else of Za - her voice reminds me a lot of Amy Winehouse - and trust me, that's no insult to either of them.


After Za, we had a couple poetry readings, including one from Miriam, and then a string player who did several songs on ukulele, banjo and hand beats on his chest. He used to perform in the subways, where he shared that his best annual income equals what I make in about three weeks. What a huge economic gap! But having talent and artistic integrity doesn't often pay the bills.

Today I did some long-overdue dusting, vacuuming and cleaning of the apartment, plus culling through both my wardrobe and my DVR. And best of all, I had a moment of inspiration and finally got my wireless internet router to work in my apartment, getting around the stupid Time Warner cable security. So now I have both my laptop and my PS3 hooked up to the web at the same time so we can watch NetFlix on the TV, and Puck can now connect their MacBook wirelessly when they come over.