Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in review

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes - how do you measure a year? It's been a most unusual year in 2015, the first time since 2009 that I've been out of work, and now the longest stretch of non-employment since I started working full-time back in 1991. So while it's been a restful and rejuvenating break for me, I'm also a bit disappointed that I haven't done very much to improve myself. If I'd have known I was going to be not working for so long, I think I would have set a few more personal goals. I guess that's why people take sabbaticals.

To me, the highlight of the year was the wedding of Chris and Bruce in September, my first time as a bridesmaid ("A bridesmaid's tale" - Sept. 16, 2015) and as such, the corsage of dried flowers I wore that day is the ornament that represents 2015 on my holiday tree.

Chris was one of the first persons I connected with online in my new life (predating even Tara) and is thus my longest-standing friend besides the six holdover friends from my old life (Pearl, Linda, Meredith, Norm, Meador and Agnieszka Prime). The night before the wedding I posted a blurb about us on Facebook:

In 2004, I met a 15-year-old kid who lived about 1,700 miles away. We were both going through difficult times that would have life-altering repercussions. We showed each other that love and friendship can flourish regardless of age, culture and distance, illuminating both our darkest hours and our most joyous occasions. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that more than a decade later, I'd be sitting in her guest room on the eve of her wedding day and preparing to witness her next transition, from a soloist to a duet in the chorus of life. We've come a long way together, and we've only just begun.

But in addition to the long-planned wedding, 2015 will be best known for the curveball of starting the year with one set of expectations and having them completely derailed barely a month into the year. It seems such a distant memory that this year started with a plan for Piper and me to become roommates and we were just about to begin visiting potential apartments when I got the surprise at work on February 2nd.

For the first two months of unemployment, my body decided it was time to cash in all the missed sick day chips over the past five-plus years working at Nearing. In fact, I was so ill that I couldn't attend the funeral of Puck's grandmother Zoya, who passed away on MLK Day in January. However, being under the weather didn't completely stop me from having fun. I managed to make it out to the Met to see Don Giovanni with Kristina on Valentine's Day (we were both pretty sick) and I hosted another epic Oscar Night party with help from Piper and Liz. Victoria barely edged out Piper to tie with me and take first prize.

In April I helped celebrate birthdays for two of my dearest, Liz and Kacey. Liz's 30th birthday was an extravaganza feast at The Cannibal, where I had my second whole roasted pig of the year (the first was a suckling pig at Pig & Khao with Lori and her friends back in January). Liz's family and friends came up from Houston to help celebrate so I got to meet her parents and sister for the first time. Kacey planned a yoga party in Prospect Park, but it was so cold and windy that we had to use my picnic blanket as a makeshift shelter instead. But it was a lovely intimate group of people and we still had a fun and memorable day.

May was the bittersweet highlight of the year with my first real trip to Chicago - Puck and I helped move Kristina out to the Windy City for a fresh start ("Eating through Chicago" - May 8, 2015). I got to cross off a few culinary bucket list items (Lou Malnati's pizza, Al's Italian Beef and Superdawg) and see many of the key tourist sites. But I was sad to see Kristina exit from my day-to-day life, as we'd gotten quite close over the past two years.

In June, Katie M and Sylwia helped me organize Open Love NY's first march in the New York City Pride March, and we had a great turnout of about 40 people. It's probably the first time since 2009 that the polyamorous community has been represented in the march. I met several new people that day, but the one who is most significant at this point in time is Chrissy, who carried one of my signs during the march. She and I have become friends, and I'm currently mentoring her to become a leader for Open Love NY.

In July and into August I took trips to Harrisburg for Chris' bachelorette party and to Philadelphia with Lori, ("Adventures in Pennsylvania" - August 3, 2015) after visiting the same two destinations earlier in the year (with Katie M to pick out bridesmaid dresses, and with Puck to visit ex-coworkers in Philly). Then in September we had the wedding and in October Liz and I rounded up friends to go apple picking again, reprising our fabulous 2013 adventure. I also continued my Free Love Letter project with 10 requests, same as last year, and eight of them first-timers.

It was also in October that I went to the Pennsylvania Ren Faire with Puck, Natalia and Chris. Katie M and I had a beautiful trip up to Springwood, rounding out the month's outdoor adventures ("The great outdoors" - Nov. 3, 2015).

In November Puck celebrated their 25th birthday in style with several events, and I presented them with a trio of stuffed Totoro animals in addition to a trip to the Intrepid Museum. For the second year in a row, I had the privilege of spending Thanksgiving with Chris and her family in Harrisburg. Later in the month, Kacey and I took our first road trip together, visiting Lourdes and Illona in Boston ("Sweet November" - Nov. 30, 2015). Even as I write this tonight, Illona and Tom are in the hospital right now meeting their firstborn, so I'm sending good thoughts to them.

Overall, this has been a highly unusual year without the structure and routine of work. I've crammed just about as much fun as I prudently could into my life, and I've also been going on job interviews but so far without success, although I feel I've gotten to the final handful of candidate on one or two opportunities.

I've also gotten to see several wonderful shows on Broadway this year (Aladdin, Finding Neverland, Fun Home, Spring Awakening, The King and I, Airline Highway) as well as smaller shows my friends have put on, or have had friends in (The Skin of Our Teeth, Play On!, Eleven Reflections on September, Kafka's Belinda, Veritas, Songbird). I've attended two spectacular concerts (Diana Krall at the Beacon and Steven Wilson at Sony Playstation Theater).

With my closest friends I've completed first seasons of "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" and "Heroes" this year, and we are well into the second seasons on both. I've read all the Horatio Hornblower novels by C. S. Forester and completed Bill Willingham's run on the comic Fables. I watched the entire seasons of "Game of Thrones," "Sense8," "Daredevil," "Jessica Jones," "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "The L Word" and others.

Obviously, I'm looking for more changes in 2016. A new job, hopefully in the city, and new experiences in my professional life. But I love my intentional family and the friends I have around me. If anything this year has been about them, and strengthening my connections with all of them, near and far. I continue to be profoundly grateful for all my many blessings in this intentional life.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday ramp-up

Picking up from my last entry, I've been seeing even more of Liz, Josh and others who are closest to me. Liz hosted an Ugly Mug / Housewarming Party on the 11th, her first party in her new apartment. So when I went to my women's group meeting that Tuesday, I stopped at several thrift stores in the area to find an ugly mug - mine had a ceramic rabbit molded into the well of the mug with one of its ears broken off.

Thursday Puck and I had a double date with Kacey and Becker to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 at our usual theater in Battery Park. We had a quick bite at the Shake Shack and afterwards walked along the Hudson back to their place before saying goodnight. Then the next night we went to Liz's party, which was also attended by the usual suspects Josh, Victoria, Lytle and Michelle, plus a bunch of new people. After opening a couple of cool mugs and getting them stolen from me, I wound up with a FDNY mug for the evening - poorly played on my part. At least I did better than Puck, who got stuck with a Duck Dynasty mug!

That weekend I stayed home to read "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and watch some of the movies to prepare for a Harry Potter trivia night that Katie M invited me to on Tuesday. She's been dealing with a death in the family so I hadn't seen her in nearly a month.

But first on Monday was Poly Cocktails, where I was meeting up with Chrissy to introduce her to O Man as part of the Open Love NY mentoring process. Chrissy actually ran into a former co-worker and they both discovered that each other is poly. As the bar got crowded she and I left to get a late dinner at a nearby gastropub called Set LES that was charming as it was uncrowded. We sat in the corner table and had some sliders and drinks, and possibly because it was so empty, the waitress brought over free shots of Jameson to thank us for coming in.

Tuesday's trivia game was held at Professor Thom's near Union Square and it was a lot noisier and chaotic than it should have been, but then I've never been to a trivia night before. Katie ordered a Butter Beer, which was made with vanilla flavored vodka, and a huge plate of nachos. Even though we had some HP experts on our team (our friend Amelia, her Rocky Whore-r castmate Bella-Carolina and two people I've not met before, Jacquelyn and Caroline) we didn't score perfect enough to even get to the tiebreaker of any of the four rounds. Not that I expected to win, but it was a bit frustrating.

Wednesday I visited the Manhattan (Harlem) Costco for the first time to stock up on supplies for TSMC events last week. I also got some baking supplies for Liz - 20 pounds of flour, 10 pounds of sugar and a liter of olive oil. Natalia and I finished our Fast & Furious series with Furious 7 on Thursday, then she came back to watch Star Wars IV and V with me and Puck on Friday. Saturday we hosted both Matt and Natalia for Star Wars II, III and VI.

Sunday I met up with Josh and Liz to deliver the groceries and have brunch at a brand new gastropub called Treadwell Park. Liz found it while searching for a venue for work, and it was recently written up in the New York Post. I had a very acceptable eggs Benedict and we shared a giant pretzel that was as big as a frying pan. The atmosphere is unusually open for New York, with ping pong tables, pinball machines and communal dining tables. The big negative was the women's bathrooms, which Liz and I both felt was lacking.

Monday morning I woke up early with Puck and I went to see the new Star Wars movie because Katie M had seen it on Sunday and she was coming over that evening. Even for a 9:30 am Monday show in the premium theater, the auditorium was almost full. I enjoyed it a lot and I'm glad I saw it before anything was spoiled for me because there are a lot of spoil-worthy things in that movie.

Katie and I had a good time talking about the movie and about the positives and negatives of George Lucas before we finished our Star Trek trilogy by watching Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. That is one advantage Star Wars has over Star Trek - because it's a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Star Wars movies don't get dated the same way that the Star Trek movies do. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to seeing what Justin Lin does with the rebooted franchise when Star Trek Beyond comes out next summer.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Storytelling, Star Wars, Songbird and Spring Awakening

It's actually been a fairly busy first week in December so instead of waiting until the end of the month as I've been doing, I'd better post sooner.

After Monday night's episodes of "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" with Puck and Natalia, Puck and I ventured to Brooklyn Tuesday night for a new event called "Take Two Storytelling" at a bar called C'mon Everybody. Puck went to school with one of the organizers, and we met Kelli Dunham, one of the storytellers, at a Poly Pride rally several years ago.

The idea behind Take Two Storytelling is that people take a true story and tell two versions - one the way it actually happened, the other where they rewind time to make it all turn out differently. You tell what happens when you take the other fork in the road, right the wrongs or wrong the rights, say what you could have said, do what you could have done, flip to a different page in the choose your own adventure. The event tied in nicely with the book we just finished reading this week, one of my childhood favorites called "A Necklace of Fallen Stars" where one of the characters is a storyteller.

On Wednesday I planned to help Chelsea move a dresser with Yoshi, but a few minutes before I was to leave, I discovered that my GPS died. So I had to scramble to print a map to get me to the destination, and I relied on Chelsea's smartphone to get us to her home. But after we finished moving the dresser and we parted, it took me almost an hour to get out of Brooklyn and into Manhattan, and even then only with phone help from Puck.

I planned to go back to TSMC and get stuff to bring to Staten Island, but I didn't realize that the Rockefeller Center tree was being lit that night, so when I finally got close to home the entire area was cordoned off and police were everywhere. I couldn't turn on my street so I decided to give up and head back to SI. I was calling Puck to let them know my status when a cop started yelling at me to get off the phone and he smacked my window a couple times, very hard. Obviously I wasn't going anywhere fast and it rattled me - I hung up the phone immediately. But then I nearly hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk because I was so shaken by the incident. By the time I got back to Puck's place I was nearly in tears and I couldn't wait to get home.

Thursday night Angel invited me out to see her play for The Snarks, a theater company, called "Play On!" It was hands-down the funniest play I've ever seen! The play is about, well, the making of a play - Act One takes place at a rehearsal of "Murder Most Foul," three days prior to opening night. Act Two is the dress rehearsal the night before the opening, and Act Three is opening night. The play cleverly sows the seeds of chaos throughout the rehearsals and everything that can go wrong does go wrong on opening night. Of all the plays I've seen in New York, only a few select Shotz performances have made me laugh harder than I did Thursday night!

I spent Friday night alone to relax and put up my holiday tree, including this year's ornament: the dried flower corsage I wore at Chris and Bruce's wedding. On Saturday, I hosted the second half of the Star Wars "Machete" cycle with Katie and Lillian, and their friends Carolyn, Rebecca and Jen. For food I made my curry chicken salad and stuffed it inside mini pitas to make finger sandwiches. Rebecca asked for the recipe but I've only made it twice so I'm still working out the exact proportions - but it's mostly seasoned to taste anyway. So here is the basic recipe:

Mischa's version of Ess-a-Bagel's Curry Chicken Salad

2 pounds chicken breast fillets
1 cup cashews halves or sliced almonds
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup chopped celery (use the tender hearts and chop to about Tic Tac size)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup capers
2-3 cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon habanero or cayenne chili powder
Salt and pepper

1. Boil chicken for about 30 minutes, then cool and cut into chunks (about grape sized).

2. Mix the mayonnaise and dry spices together in a large bowl until well blended. Add all other ingredients and toss. Adjust seasoning to taste.

3. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

Sunday I spent the whole day with Liz, which was a treat because we haven't seen each other in months, since the apple picking trip in early October by my reckoning. We met up at Amali Sustainable Mediterranean Restaurant for brunch, where we both got a very appetizing shakshuka, which is baked‎ eggs, tomato, chilies, feta cheese and grilled pita wedges. I've made this dish once before at home based on a recipe in the New York Times but this version was much better. I might try to reverse-engineer this one next.

We poked our heads into Dylan's Candy Bar for just a moment, then went to Sprinkles cupcakes for dessert (Katie M introduced me to my first Sprinkles just last week). Then we made our way to the 59th Street Theater to see the closing performance of Songbird, a musical play set in Nashville and based on Chekhov's "The Seagull." The music and lyrics were by Lauren Pritchard, who originated the role of Ilse in the Broadway musical, Spring Awakening (which we were to see later that same night).

The show and especially the music were fantastic, even though I didn't particularly like the ending, which I attribute to the characteristically bleak Russian source material. It reminded me a lot of the Broadway musical Once, which I saw back in 2013 when I experienced a renaissance in my musical interests. Since this was their final show, we even got treated to an extra song by the composer and cast post-curtain. Liz's friend and cast member Eric told us after the show that they might do a cast recording at some point, but in the meantime, most of the songs were performed by the cast on YouTube - here's my favorite, Cry Me a River.

We walked back to TSMC (getting caught in the Rockettes RCMH show crowd for a bit) to have tea and snacks before heading to the 7:30 pm performance of Spring Awakening. Our seats were high in the rear mezzanine but since it wasn't crowded we moved down several rows at intermission. The show was enjoyable with several high points, but overall I actually liked Songbird's music and story better, despite the conclusion. The Broadway show was flashy and had interesting visuals, but I had trouble following the story and keeping the characters straight - probably in part due to being so far from the stage. At Songbird we were in the fourth or fifth row of a much smaller theater.

This week I am once again busy four of five nights, so I'll probably need to post next weekend as well. In addition to lots of fun stuff, I also have a second interview with a big company tomorrow, and possibly another second interview with another company later in the week. Maybe this time one of them will turn into a job offer.