Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Walk to Remember

I’ve been struggling with the idea of buying a phonograph and starting to collect records again. If it were just a matter of money, it’s not a problem of course, at least not in the short run. Especially since my company launched a spin-off IPO a couple weeks ago and I bought 250 shares at the initial price of $22 per share and now they’re worth almost $28 per share. So that’s like a $1,250 bonus when I cash out (unless the stock goes down).

No, the problem is space. I simply don’t have room on my dresser for another piece of equipment, especially a turntable that you have to access from the top. That, plus I don’t have a place suitable to store records, mostly on account of how many books and digital discs I own. It’s rare that I really, really want an affordable material possession that I simply can’t have. The wants that I can’t have are usually on the magnitude of Lamborghinis and penthouse apartments. But the massive changes I’d have to make in my space (or moving to a new space) to accommodate a turntable are too overwhelming to contemplate.

I suppose the right thing to do is to get rid of more old stuff so I can free up room for new things. I have tubs of junk that I need to sort through and get rid of, both in the apartment, in the office and stored in Yoshi. It’s kinda ridiculous.

Speaking of Yoshi, he’s been showing his 14-year age lately and I worry that I might have to put him out to pasture soon. I’ve been putting off things like new tires and brakes, but I won’t be able to much longer. So that’s another reason not to spend money too freely.

One thing about turntables is that it opens the door to a lot of extra purchases – performance upgrades, record cleaners, stylus cleaners, setup tools, etc. Not to mention that new vinyl costs more, sometimes twice as much as the CD or mp3 album. So buying a turntable is kind of like a starter baby for people who don’t have babies.


It’s been pretty quiet since my blowout birthday weekend, although last weekend was quite eventful. I found out my yoga teacher Emily is moving to California next month so I won’t be able to continue my practice with her, which is really sad. I’m trying to organize a going-away party for her at TSMC before she leaves.

The heat wave that’s been sapping my energy lately has finally started to break this week. The worst was the Poly Women’s Group at Kat’s non-air conditioned apartment in Queens on one of the hottest days of the year. But it was nice seeing Katie, Sylwia, Tamara and meeting some of our new members. The stories we tell at our meetings really should be dramatized someday.

Speaking of drama, a lot of my time lately has been taken up running the Unchained Love Playwright Competition. We average about one entry per day, more than 30 in the first month, and they are still coming in. I’m compiling bios and synopses and trying to find judges to read them.

Last weekend was time to catch up with everybody. Friday night Piper and I went to Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain for dinner and then continued our Stanley Kubrick series with Full Metal Jacket. Saturday afternoon I met my friend Stephanie at the 59 Theater so I could give her my old ergonomic computer keyboard and we watched Kacey’s play “Safe” together.

After the play Stephanie went to meet some friends and Kacey and I had some extended alone time to talk about the competition and catch up on each other’s lives. We had supper at a nearby Korean restaurant and then took a two-hour stroll through Central Park, entering at the zoo and strolling up the writer’s Mall, through the Ramble, up to Belvedere Castle, down through Shakespeare’s Garden and Bethesda Fountain. We went over famous Bow Bridge (which I always thought was spelled “Beaux Bridge,” as in “beautiful”) and came out at Columbus Circle. Along the way we saw Argentine tango dancers, acrobatic skaters, drum circles, giant soap bubble artists, a luxurious Italian gondola, a guitar and ukulele duet, an electric acoustic guitarist playing Richard Marx’ “Right Here Waiting” while watching a small bunch of balloons float off into the sunset.

Kacey is leaving today for Edinburgh, Scotland for a few weeks as “Safe” is moving overseas to continue performances, so the imagery wasn’t lost on me. Becker is taking it a little hard, as would I if I had the privilege of seeing Kacey as often as he does.

As we walked we talked about many things, even politics, my least favorite topic. We saw many things in the same way. We laughed at the same things. Spending time with Kacey is a rare and wonderful treat for me, as I know it is for many people. More than anyone I know, she embodies the combination of joy, sincerity, sophistication and positive energy that is nourishing to the human soul.

After exiting the park we walked down Broadway and had coffee and macaroons at Cafe Bene before parting for the evening. Then, about 15 hours later, Kacey texted me to tell me that Becker made a proposal of marriage and that she has accepted!

Sunday afternoon I went down to Union Square to do some post-birthday shopping, using my gift offers before they expire at the end of the month. I bought some Kenneth Cole black leather sandals and daily moisturizer. It was very humid and on the brink of rain all day, so I was pretty tired by the time I met up with Natalie at Balducci's at 4 pm. We had tea and macaroons (again!) and got caught up with the important things going on in our lives. Then we went across the street to TJ Maxx and did some shopping before Matt came to meet us and they went off to their gaming night, right as it started to pour down rain.

I had just seen an episode of Great Performances ("Dancing at Jacob's Pillow: Never Stand Still") earlier in the day and was feeling like I wanted to see the evening performance at The Next Stage Project, my favorite modern dance troupe. I got a salad and walked over to the City Center, but found out the performance started at 7:30, not 7, and by this time I was really tired and dripping with rain and sweat, so I decided to call it a day.

Monday was cooking day so I put out an open invitation to visit and Chelsea accepted, so I was happy to get to catch up with her as well. I made a black bean and garlic chicken with onions and green bell peppers over rice, and eggplant with a miso dijon mustard sauce. Neither turned out quite as good as I'd hoped, but everything was edible at least.

Kacey came by and we got to congratulate her in person and hear the proposal story. I gave her a couple plays and the summary document, plus some competition flyers, to take with her to Scotland. Then she left and we watched "The Brothers Grimm," which was lots of fun. 

And with that, my four eventful days were over. Time to recharge for a while.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

9th Birthday

So, who's still here?

It's been almost three months since my last post, and I'm still alive. Nothing significant has changed, except maybe that one of my co-workers left Nearing so I've had to pick up a lot of extra things and that means less time for blogging during the day, and less energy to do it at night.

But mostly the reason I haven't been writing is that aside from a few ups and downs, things have been flowing along pretty routinely. I see most of my friends regularly, either for TSMC at my place or one-on-one events, and I've immersed myself in various things (books, movies, TV shows) during my downtime from work. Let me offer a lightning-round recap of the past three months:

4:26: Steven Wilson concert at Best Buy Theater - awesome concert!
4/28: Christine's birthday at Citi Field, watching a Mets game from a private box
5/2: Saw Kinky Boots with Liz
5/15-16: Jury Duty at NY Supreme Court, but thankfully didn't get picked
6/12: Helped Chelsea move to her new apartment on St. Marks
6/29-30: Weekend trip to Connecticut with Puck to see Drum Corps International

In addition to the show, we also visited several Connecticut culinary landmarks that I've been wanting to try, like steamed burgers at Ted's Restaurant - this is the "Dragonfire" steamed cheeseburger with a fried egg, sauteed onions and habenero ketchup:

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We also went to Frank Pepe's Pizzeria on Wooster Street and had their famous white clam pizza, which was astounding (if you like shellfish):

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Before the show we found some time to visit the Yale Museum and hang around the town square in New Haven, plus visit Atticus, a very cool independent bookstore for tea:

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This past weekend was my 9th birthday (officially Monday) and it was every bit as good as last year's shindig. Once again, Morgan came to visit from Pennsylvania, so I went into work on Friday for the first time since July 4 (I had an eight-day staycation) to meet up with her and ride the train home. We went to Papacookie that night, where my miso garlic noodles and mochi were big hits and I got to retrieve my yoga mat since Emily's classes are on hiatus. We heard some good music and got to see Jonathan, Miriam and Richard for the first time in a while. Chelsea and Kacey also showed up and we got to chat a bit before heading home.

Puck came over the next morning and we met up with Perri in Times Square to try the Kinky Boots lottery. Unlike when Liz and I went, they are no longer doing rush tickets, so we struck out on the matinee drawing (three people from the same Australian family all won) so we went uptown for brunch at Peacefood Cafe, a vegan restaurant. We sat at the counter because it was quite crowded, but that turned out to be a good call because they gave us a lot of free stuff, like extra watermelon that wouldn't fit in a container, cookies that were not perfect enough to sell, a watermelon and mint drink they whipped up to try on us and more.

We stopped in a store to get some bedsheets for Puck, then went down to Beard Papa's for creampuffs and Lush for bath products. Then we went home and watched the 2009 Star Trek movie before heading out to try for the evening KB lottery, where we lost again. So we went to Queen of Sheba for Ethiopian food and came home to watch Les Miserables on the big screen, so that at least we would get to see one musical that day.

The next morning, Morgan, Puck and I switched tactics and tried a multi-pronged strategy that consisted of each of us waiting in a different line - Morgan at Once, Puck at Pippen and me in the TKTS line. My line came up first and we got three half-price seats for the matinee for Once: The Musical. After we got the tickets we went down to Union Square to have brunch at La Petite Abeille, a wonderful Belgian restaurant. We came home to change for the play and my birthday party and went to see the show, which was fantastic! The music was captivating and the performances were solid. The seats were in the back row of the orchestra, but the view was close to center, so that was better than expected.

We walked a block from the play to Buca di Beppo to wait for everyone to arrive. Altogether we had a party of a dozen lovely people gathered to celebrate my 9th birthday. Our server, Anthony, looked a little shellshocked and made several blunders on service - including forgetting the salad so it came out after the entrees, dirty plates that needed to be replaced, and running out of both the Chianti braised ribs and tiramisu (TIRAMISU?!?! in an ITALIAN RESTAURANT???). And, their cappuccino machine wasn't working - they barely managed to serve hot water (in lieu of Lipton Undrinkable Tea).

I had tried to order a large plate of ribs, but Anthony said they only had a small plate left (which feeds two people). Apparently, another large party had ordered ALL the ribs that the restaurant had on hand (and probably the tiramisu as well, which led to speculation that it was a room full of people gorging themselves exclusively on ribs and tiramisu), so we literally got the last two little ribs left in the building, which we all found very amusing. On the bright side, the ribs were very good ribs (although not as good as last year's Malaysian-style ribs) and were easily split up among the whole table.

But on the brightest side, despite all the service snafus (and even because of them) it was a great party! We told stories and laughed for three hours. They brought a candelabra out for my birthday wishes (but thankfully didn't sing to me) and my friends gave me lots of beautiful and unique presents.

As I look back on the first half of this year, I feel a profound sense of gratitude for my friends and family, most especially Puck. By most measures, it is a strange fate that brought me to this life, and I know it can take me away at any time. But for one night, for one moment on Sunday, I knew what it felt like to be surrounded by people who care about me and about each other, just the way a real family would.