Monday, November 30, 2015

Sweet November

Well, a whole month has come and gone. I just haven't felt much like blogging lately, plus writing love letters has taken up some of my free writing time. I'm only halfway done with the project (5 of 10) so it looks like I'm going to be later than I was last year when I completed 10 before the end of November.

Anyway, this month started out with Puck's birthday the first weekend - as it's been in some years past, it was a multi-part affair. On Saturday a group of friends visited the Alice Austen House on Staten Island. Katie M stayed over with me Friday night and we went together. Teresa came separately and got there first - it's been more than a year since I saw her so it was nice to catch up. Evan and Adele came from Long Island, plus Patrick and Alyssa so it was a nice crowd of very familiar people.

The next day we had a dinner at Puck's home and Emily came, although she couldn't eat much since she was preparing to have surgery in a couple of weeks. So we had the traditional carrot cake and multi-course homestyle dinner. I gave Puck a small blue Totoro doll and a novelization of the movie, items that go with the giant Totoro that I presented to them a week prior and that has been staying at TSMC with the rest of my stuffed pals until I can move him out to Staten Island.

The following weekend Puck and I had a private date for their birthday and got to cross something off our funzies list that's been on there for many years - we visited the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum. We started with the 360 degree flight simulator ride and then explored all the decks of the USS Intrepid. For dinner we went to Gotham West Market and had some small plates at The Cannibal (Salumi board of bresaola, finochietta and sopressata; Thai sausage with bok choi, jalapeno and peanuts; and Brussel sprouts with mint and country ham gremolata). After that we went to see the new James Bond movie SPECTRE at the Empire 25.

The following Thursday we did a TSMC showing of "My Neighbor Totoro" at TSMC, since we had a plethora of Studio Ghibli characters in residence. Puck brought their Catbus doll to join the party. Michelle and Katie B came for the movie, and after it was finished Michelle left, but Katie, Puck and I watched a second Ghibli movie called "From Up on Poppy Hill," my favorite of the more realistic works in that genre. Lillian came by near the end of the movie and we all chatted for a bit before calling it a night.

The next morning Kacey came over to start our long-awaited Boston trip to visit Lourdes and Illona, who have both relocated to Beantown this year. We had a lovely drive up and met up with Nick at Lourdes' place in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. We went down to Centre Street where we found all sorts of quaint bookstores, toy stores and thrift shops. I bought a children's book for Illona and Tom called "What is Punk?" and we had dinner at a Lebanese place called Cafe Beirut, followed by ice cream at J.P. Licks. We met up with Lourdes at home and started watching "The Man in the High Castle" on Amazon before turning in.

Saturday Kacey left early to meet up with another friend who happens to live in the same neighborhood, while I met Lourdes' other houseguests, Mary and Roberto who came in late the night before from a concert. We all went out for brunch at a nearby place and then met up with Kacey back home before saying goodbye and heading to Illona's house, which happens to be very near Puck's old place of residence, the Magic Treehouse, in Somerville.

Tom and Illona were cleaning the house when we arrived, so they shooed us away so they could finish. We took the subway downtown and walked along the waterfront until it was time for dinner at The Daily Catch. The food at the Seaport locations isn't quite up to the standard at the North End location that Puck and I visited last summer ("Staycation 2014" - August 31, 2014) but it was still top-notch. We had dessert at the Mister Crepe in Davis Square back in Somerville before returning home.

I had planned to visit my friend Linda the next morning for brunch, but she unexpectedly had to work so we had a little more relaxed time leaving the next day. Kacey and Illona did a pregnancy photo shoot, as Illona is due to give birth to their first child in mid-December. I got to finally meet Illona's pet hedgehog (surprisingly, this is the first time I've ever visited her residence, since I never visited her in Brooklyn).

We left Somerville about 1 pm and stopped at Frank Pepe's in New Haven for an early dinner - it was my second visit and Kacey's first. We made it back to New York smoothly and I dropped her off before heading down to SI to drop off Yoshi. I had a little supper and tea with Puck's mom and dad before heading back to TSMC to meet up with Puck after their date with Alex.

The following Tuesday I had lunch with my friend Chrissy at my nearby Kung Fu Noodles. As I mentioned in my last post, I met Chrissy at the Pride march earlier this year and we've been Facebook friends since. I've convinced her to let me mentor her to join the Open Love NY leadership team, so we'll be working together for the next few months. We came back to TSMC so I could cook my noodles and we watched the MTV True Life episode about polyamory that included my cameo appearance. Her husband Charles came over and we went to the Open Love NY potluck party together.

For Thanksgiving I took a 24-hour trip to visit Chris and Bruce in Harrisburg. I left Wednesday evening and we had a late late Friendsgiving dinner at their home with Fiona, Bruce's friend Tony and Fiona's friend Jay. Chris and Fiona did all the cooking: a roasted duck and duck fat fried herb potatoes, a leek and cheese quiche, dandelion salad and an apple cobbler for dessert.

We started eating at about 12:30 am and finished up close to 2 am. Once everyone left, Chris and I stayed up to watch some MasterChef Junior while she baked a pumpkin pie for the next day. I finally went to bed around 4 am and she probably only got about four hours of sleep before we were up to go to her parents' house for Thanksgiving dinner at 1 pm.

The dinner was the same group from last year minus Aunt Christa, who had to work on the holiday this year, but it was the first in their new home so there was enough room for everyone at the table instead of having a separate kids' table. Chris' mom Julie read an Irish blessing before the meal and we all dug in. There was roast turkey with stuffing, homegrown mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry and raspberry sauce, plus an apple pie to go along with Chris' pumpkin pie for dessert.

Since we started dinner so early I came back home the same day and hosted Natalia on Friday, where we watched two more of the Fast & Furious movies. We are doing them in movie timeline order, so we saw Fast and Furious 6, followed by number 3, Tokyo Drift. We'll finish with Furious 7 in the next few weeks.

Finally tonight I ended the month with the first of a two-part Star Wars marathon I'm hosting for Katie and Lillian's friends. One of them named Jen acquired the Harmy Despecialized Editions of the original trilogy, which I was very keen to see. We're also watching them in the so-called Machete order, which is supposed to produce a better flow in the story. So Jen brought the discs over to TSMC and we were joined by Lillian, Katie, Carolyn and Rebecca. It was Jen and Carolyn's first visit to TSMC, and Rebecca's second (after Furious 7). Although I've met Carolyn many times now, I think it's the first time I've met Jen and it's always a treat to meet someone who loves movies as much as I do.

We did Episodes IV, V and II this time, and we'll reconvene on Saturday to view Episodes III and VI. Carolyn has never seen the movies before, so we're trying not to spoil things for her. This is actually my first time doing a Star Wars marathon and it's very interesting being submerged in that universe for a whole day. We also talked about doing an extended edition Lord of the Rings series at some point, which I've done in a single sitting before with my family in New Jersey. But for friends, I think if it happens we'll break it up into two or three sessions.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The great outdoors

October has always been my favorite time of the year, and not just for the aforementioned reasons concerning love. It's also the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the smell of autumn, when the temperatures drop and there's still a decent amount of sunshine to light the way. So this autumn, since my energies aren't being sapped by working, I've been out every weekend on adventures with my loved ones.

On the 18th Puck and Natalia met up with Chris at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, the first time I've been since 2012. We didn't have very long to spend there, and it rained heavily for about an hour during the day but the weather was lovely when the sun came out. We had hot cider and turkey legs and it seemed like we were constantly finding new foods to try, like funnel cake sticks and crepes stuffed with pears and cheese.

My most interesting find was at a medieval bookstore where I found a large pewter seal of a unicorn, something I've never seen before. It was a unique piece to add to my growing collection of seals that I use for my Free Love Letter project.

On Tuesday of that week we had a women's group meeting at Natalia's place. I went to meet up with a new friend, Chrissy, whom I met at the Pride March this summer (she carried my "Marriage is just one form of family" sign) at the Argo Tea before heading to the meeting. On the ride up we happened to be riding in the same car as my other friend Lauren, who was also attending the group for the first time. Lauren only realized we were there as we were leaving the train.

I first met Lauren in person at the 2012 Stony Brook LGBTA drag show but we actually have a much more interesting first meeting story. When I marched in SlutWalk back in 2011 I snapped this photo of her sign (below), which caught the top of her head. Puck's friend Em recognized her and introduced us online through my posting of the photo on Facebook.

On Thursday that week I attended a free tasting of Macallan Scotch Whiskey that was quite an interesting production. They offered samples of their 10-, 12-, 15- and 18-year aged Scotches, along with orange chocolate truffles. In the blind nose test, I picked out the 18-year as my favorite, so clearly I have expensive taste! Afterward I met up with Kacey and Becker at TSMC to watch The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1.

On Friday Katie M came over after work and we watched Heroes until Puck joined us and we all went down to the PIT to watch Josh perform as Riff Raff in the Rocky Whore-er PIT-ure Show. Katie's friend and my new acquaintance Amelia played Janet. And I just learned that Victoria is dating the actor who played Rocky, but I can't remember his name. It was Puck's second time to see RHPS but I think they enjoyed it a little more than when we saw it at Wicked Faire in 2012. Aside from knowing people in the cast, this "shadow cast" was done in real-time without stopping the film for skits. However, it wasn't as much fun as years past without Liz present, because she actually knows some of the audience lines.

Saturday I went back to Staten Island with Puck to get Yoshi while leaving Katie to fend for herself for the day at TSMC. Sunday morning Katie and I drove out to Springwood, the family home of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a lovely spot I visited back in 2006. We took a walk down the trail toward the Hudson River but didn't make it too far before we had to turn back to make our tour time for the house. There was one beautiful moment when the wind swirled up, like an orchestra tuning up before a concert, and blew leaves into the crisp autumn air.

After touring the house and taking in the gorgeous view from the rear balcony, we took a quick tour through the museum, but we could only stay long enough to realize that we had to come back again someday to really take it all in, as Katie had to get back to the city for a prior engagement.

On Monday I attended the opening night of the play that Liz is stage managing called "Veritas," based on the true story of homosexual students at Harvard in the 1920s.  Josh and Victoria also came and it was quite a production. The cast members served as hosts, seating groups of the audience and complimentary drinks were offered (although I can't remember when I've had a more undrinkable wine). The first part of the play was a little hard to follow (partly because we were seated in a far corner) but the second and third parts were very powerful and very crisply choreographed with lights and movement. Liz even got to make a brief, non-speaking appearance as the future wife of one of the cast. The play seems to come off like Orwellian satire, but in truth it shows us that even though we've come a long way, we continue to damage and destroy lives because they don't conform to our conventional ideas.

Last Saturday was Samhain, pagan new year, and I celebrated alone as I always do. It's one of the strongest reminders of being in Tara's family that I left in 2009 that I continue to celebrate my beliefs this particular way. I had found a new amulet at the Ren Faire, a tree icon that I want to symbolize growth and the growing connectedness with the people closest to me. 

In the evening I went to the Met as I did last year and thankfully this year they didn't have any kiddie art stations set up so it was much quieter, just the way I like it. I found a striking sculpture (below) in the modern art collection entitled "Lilith" (appropriate for the sabbat) and my usual spaces were delightfully empty, making for some wonderful photos.