Saturday, October 01, 2016

Free Love Letters 2016

For the fifth year in a row, I am kicking off today my own personal creative project called "Free Love Letters," dedicated to celebrating love in all its forms.

The FLL project celebrates love itself, not love for any specific person. To me, love is the most powerful force for good we have in the world (#LoveTrumpsHate). I sincerely believe that if there's more love in the world, it will make the other problems we have easier to handle.

Each October as we enter the dark half of the year, my energy for creativity and renewal waxes when for many people the opposite is true. It is perhaps telling that nearly all of the romantic relationships in my life have begun in cold weather, not in the heat of summer.

So each October, I write a personalized love letter to anyone who requests one by sending me their physical mailing address between now and 11:59 pm ET on October 31. Even if you've gotten one before, if you enjoyed it I encourage you to request another! 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 handcrafted using some of the many tools I've collected over the years - fine writing instruments, a vintage manual typewriter, various seals and waxes, handmade papers, etc. Once completed, it will be delivered to you anywhere in the world by old-fashioned postal carrier and thus its contents will be as confidential as things get in this modern world.

Your letter may be philosophical or romantic, funny or sincere. It might be perfumed or decorated. 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. It will be the product of my deep reflection about you and possibly a lot of research on how we've interacted over the years. 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.

Since I started doing this project, the number of requests have grown significantly - one in 2011, three in 2012, five in 2013 and 10 in both 2014 and 2015 - 29 letters in the last four years. I usually don't start writing them until after October because I shop for materials only after I see all the requests. So it may take a few months to receive your letter, but I promise you will get it (unless it gets lost in transit) and that it will be worth the wait.

Finally, no response will be expected from you - the letter is my gift with no strings attached. All individual letters and requests will be kept confidential on my end, but you are welcome to share the experience publicly if you wish, as many people do #freeloveletters

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Big damn update

It's been a fairly hectic few weeks since my last post. The Monday after the weekend that Jen was sick was Open Love's Leadership Team meeting, the first one of the year since Gette resigned as President. Chrissy assumed the presidency, and I took on VP duties in addition to Director of Communications, while Ben stepped up to take on some of my duties at Membership Director.

The next night Chrissy, Puck and me joined Jen at the Beacon Theater for her late birthday celebration to see Alice in Chains in concert. We had supper at Hummus Place behind the theater and joined the show. I didn't know any of the music, but it was fun to experience the concert.

That Friday Puck took me to their surprise birthday event, which turned out to be tickets to Dominic Turretto's Backyard Barbecue, a Fast and Furious-themed party in Greenpoint. We had hamburgers and fries, and of course, Corona beer. Puck got a free tattoo on their upper arm that says "Ride or Die." There were driving video games, karaoke, and lots of fancy cars to ogle. We screened the first F&F movie, which we watched most of the way through until we decided to leave and watch Fast & Furious 6 at home.


The next day Puck and I met up with Jen to watch Hadestown and then we went uptown to attend Michelle Z's going-away party at Mel's Burger Bar, although Puck had to leave early since they were feeling completely drained at that point after such a full day.

The following Monday I met up with Chrissy to finally have our makeup Met date that was canceled by a blizzard last winter. I wanted to see the Turner Whaling exhibit before it closed. We also saw a lot of beautiful dresses in a technology and fashion exhibit, all while Chrissy related her latest news about Rob.

In the evening Chrissy and I went a few blocks south to meet up with Jen and Puck, who were joining me to see Garbage in concert in the park. We said goodbye to Chrissy and waited in line until they let us in, and then we grabbed some top row seats in the bleachers so we wouldn't have to stand. Luckily we avoided rain and the concert was great - they played all their best songs and the sound was decent for an outdoor show.

The following Friday afternoon Jen and I took a weekend trip up to Albany so I could meet some of her family for the first time. Her cousins Beth and Giovanni wanted to hang out with her so it ended up being a good excuse to meet the other uncles and aunts as well.

We had dinner Friday night at a sports cafe in the hills overlooking Albany and then turned in early for a hike in the morning to Kaaterskill Falls.

In the evening we went to Gia's house and had Chinese takeout and then a little bonfire, plus drinking and some music making in her backyard. We also saw a doe as we were going to pick up the food.

Monday was Poly Cocktails, and I was there to meet a New York Times Magazine reporter so I had to stay a while before I headed over to Jen's for a sleepover. I also met a new potential volunteer named Kim and we exchanged info so I can mentor her into the OLNY Leadership Team. Tuesday Jen and I celebrated our six-month milestone with dinner at David Burke Kitchen during Restaurant Week. Jen started with the Pineapple Carpaccio and Tuna Tartare, while I had the Burrata & Grilled Artichoke. For entrees, I got the Young Roast Rack of Lamb and she had the Jurgielewicz Farms Duck Breast.

For dessert, I got the Valrhona Illanka Single Origin Truffle Cake with raspberry preserves and whipped crème fraîche, while she got the DIY Mini Monkey Bread with toffee brioche, banana caramel and maple pecan ice cream.


The next night I had a movie date with Rebecca at her place - we ordered some marvelous Indian takeout and watched two movies directed by Martin Scorsese: Hugo and Goodfellas. Thursday night Matt and Natalia came over to watch a few episodes of Young Indiana Jones, our current TV show after finishing Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.

Friday I went to the DMV and finally got Yoshi registered in New York State, which was long overdue. I've never seen such a huge DMV, and it felt a lot like Purgatory. There must have been at least 150 people sitting and standing (every seat was taken) and waiting to be called to a window. If I hadn't made an appointment, I probably would still be there.

Afterwards I went over to Jen's to chill for a bit, then we went into Manhattan for Suzie's 50th birthday party under the Williamsburg Bridge. We narrowly missed getting a thunderstorm, which passed us to the north and rained on Alex Rodriquez's farewell party at Yankee Stadium.

Saturday I had a movie day for myself in the theater, watching Star Trek Beyond, the first hour of Finding Dory and then Suicide Squad - all of which were pretty mediocre. Then I headed down to Poly Chai at Bluestockings and met up with Jen, Puck, Alex, Natalia and Matt. After that, I hopped over to the PIT to see Liz, Victoria and Lytle, and watch Josh perform in the 40th episode of Gas Station Horror, an improv show based on scenes from really bad horror movies.

Today I went to the College of Staten Island to check out their athletic facilities because Jen and I want to try and play racquetball, as well as ping pong. So we've been gathering equipment and the place looks like a good place to play, plus it's cheap and doesn't require a contract. So we might start doing that this week.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Pride weekend 2016

Well, another month has passed since my last post. Life continues to be in a holding pattern but I'm really enjoying the music-on-hold I have with Jen and Puck in my life and continuing to find my role in Puck's family in Staten Island.

The week following Memorial Day was eventful in a pretty negative way. It started well as Jen and I went to Shotz! for the first time. The theme was "The Melting Shotz" about immigration. The conditions were 1) A character must cross a border; 2) A character is forced to leave home; and 3) The line "How did we get here?"

A few days later we found out that Puck's great-aunt passed away in the hospital so we attended the funeral on Friday. I was meeting Jen and her friend Martha to see Alice Smith in concert at Irving Plaza and Puck had plans for a Welcome to Nightvale dance party that night with out-of-town friends Seth and D, who drove down from Delaware. It upset Puck's mom a bit that we kept our plans despite the passing, but we both simply didn't want to cancel our plans with such short notice.

The next morning things sort of reached a crescendo as I was rushing to make breakfast (and finding out all the eggs were gone) and food for the Brooklyn Queer Femme picnic that Natalia and I were going to while Puck and Jen played their tabletop game with Matt and Alex, who also came over with Natalia. So there were a lot of people in the house and I was scrambling to make food and on top of that, Chrissy texts me with unexpected news about Open Love NY. So it was one of those Calgon moments, as Tara used to say. People born in the 80s and 90s probably will need to Google that to get the reference.

The picnic was alright - Sabrina and her new girlfriend Sarah (both from the Cuddle Party with me and Natalia) joined us and we had a nice time in Prospect Park. I had a day to recover on Sunday and then Jen and I went to see a performance of Mozart's Requiem at Carnegie Hall. We sat through a couple of student choir performances before intermission, when we moved down to empty seats at the front of the mezzanine section for the Requiem. That made the experience so much better, without any of the visual and auditory distractions from sitting higher up. Although I have four or five different recordings of the Requiem, it's the first time I've heard it performed live.

Wednesday Liz invited me to see a play called "#liberated" about a women's group that decides to make it's own porn video. She is writing a review for a theater site, so we got reserved seats in a very small theater. The eight members of the all-woman company called The Living Room are dedicated to making work about contemporary American women. I thought the play was pretty inventive but I didn't care for the very dark ending.

On Wednesday the 22nd, I had my first in-person job interview since the move in Rockefeller Center. I thought it went very well - as well as any interview I've had since the start of the job search. I'm really hoping that it was the same on the other side.

Saturday was Pride weekend and unfortunately Puck was sick for most of it with a cold. Seth and D came back down for the weekend so I took them to the Poly Picnic in Prospect Park and met up with Jen there to eat, socialize and make signs for the march the next day. Chrissy and Charles also came with their kids, Andrew and Annabelle, whom I met for the first time. Kara also came since she's back for the summer from the west coast. I also got the unexpected bad news that Buck was out of town and couldn't bring the banner pole for the march, plus I'd left the banner at home so we had to go back to SBSC and then go to Lowe's at 11:30 pm to get a PVC pole to hold the banner. So it was completely exhausting and left little energy for actually celebrating Pride in the way we had wanted to.

The morning of the march was also pretty hectic because we were driving in from Park Slope and it took longer than I expected so I had to send Jen out on foot to deliver the banner and pole while I parked Yoshi. Luckily the whole march was behind schedule so it turned out we had plenty of time, but I was worried for a bit that I wouldn't get there in time with all the signs we made. Here's some pictures from the march.

On Monday I finally took care of something I should have done months ago - I applied for free health insurance through Obamacare. I was surprised how easy and painless it was and I'm now covered by Medicaid for free. My health plan starts in August and I'll be able to see my endo again and get back on my medical regime.

Tuesday Chrissy took me out to get a spa pedicure for my birthday and we spent the afternoon at the salon and shopping together. As I left her to meet up with Puck to head home I randomly ran into my dear friend Lori in the middle of Herald Square at a food stall and made plans for dinner on Friday. Wednesday Jen and I went to Bindle & Keep, a custom suit tailor specializing in non-gender conforming individuals, to get me measured for a new suit. Jen had gotten her order in a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed the process and meeting Daniel, the tailor featured on the HBO documentary "Suited." But unlike Jen's masculine-cut suits, mine will be a woman's suit, obviously, when I receive it this fall.

Thursday I hosted an SBSC viewing of "The Danish Girl" - notable because it was Katie M's first time staying over at SBSC as she joined me, Puck and Jen for the movie. I didn't care for the movie very much so that was disappointing but it was delightful as always to see Katie and to have her get to know Jen a little. That night Puck, Jen and I also shared the same bed for the first time as I stacked air mattresses so that we could sleep on our queen mattress sideways. Unfortunately, my snoring drove Puck downstairs to the other guest room so the experiment wasn't entirely successful.

Saturday was our long-planned SBSC Beach Day. Rebecca and Jen both came over Friday night and we watched "Guardians of the Galaxy" with Puck. In the morning Jen and I, who are not beach people, went shopping for food while Puck led Rebecca, Carolyn, Kal and a new friend named Jesse to Midland Beach. I grilled hamburgers, corn, peppers, onions, hot dogs and veggie burgers on the charcoal grill in the backyard and we had potato salad and chips and dip as well. It's the first time I've ever been in charge of a non-gas grill and I guess I acquitted myself reasonably well.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


It's a rare thing when something you've wanted for a long time and you've hoped would blow you away actually ends up being even better than you could have ever imagined. It's even rarer when it comes twice in a three-month period in the form of both a new relationship and Broadway's all-time most Tony-nominated show.

Since my last post, Jen and I have started navigating a new poly relationship between us (my long-term relationship with Puck continues to deepen as co-habitating partners). The tremendous NRE Jen and I are co-creating makes me joyful, excited and hopeful that we will make each other (and perhaps those close to us as well) very happy for a long time to come. Aside from a brief exploration in 2014, I haven't found myself in a new relationship since 2010 - but rather than feeling out of practice, I think that all I've learned in the past six years has better prepared me to create a more loving and sustainable romantic partnership that is integrated into my other significant relationships.

Last week Jen and I saw Hamilton together and it was probably one of the best experiences on Broadway I've ever had. It didn't top seeing Wicked from front row center but it was a close second. We were in the fifth row, just to the right of the center section in the orchestra.

We had sushi for dinner and actually got to the theater just in time because of the subway but we managed to sit down about five minutes before the lights went down. A lot of people came in late for the 7 pm show, which it pretty astonishing considering what a hot ticket this is. I've been trying to win the ticket lottery for the better part of last year - I probably entered about 10 times, which I know isn't much when there are hundreds of people entering each and every lottery.

I also approached the show cold, as in I didn't listen to the soundtrack beforehand. I saw the opening number on a TV show a while ago so I had an idea what the vibe was going to be like but otherwise I was a blank slate about the show.

The thing that impressed me most about Hamilton is the clear narrative flow despite the rapid-fire lyrics. Jen pointed out that the solos with King George ("You'll Be Back," "What Comes Next?" "I Know Him") were a welcome respite from the pace of the show and I agree. So the story is easy to follow, even if you miss a few words along the way.

One of the highlights for me was Washington's goodbye ("One Last Time"), not just because it's a stirring song but because the historical act of Washington giving up power is such an important (and somewhat overlooked) part of the history of our country. I remember my father telling me once how much he respected Washington because of that one action and how other political leaders throughout history have been unwilling to follow his example, sacrificing their benevolence in the pages of history.

I was also greatly impressed with the songwriting throughout, but especially with the songs featuring the female cast ("The Schuyler Sisters," "Helpless," "Satisfied"). The finale, "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story" brought me to tears. I didn't expect a musical about one of our Founding Fathers to be such a moving love story.

As a thank you for the tickets, I bought Jen a hardbound copy of "Hamilton the Revolution" that has essays about the production and the entire libretto with annotations. Some of the footnotes are pretty hilarious and reveal obscure references that capture a glimpse of the creative process. We started reading it together on the trip back to Staten Island so maybe we'll pick that up next time we're listening to music together.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Steven Wilson at the Beacon

As the time remaining at TSMC counts down from months to weeks to days now, I find myself striving to enjoy every precious moment of living in the heart of NYC. For me at this stage in my short life, it's not really about going to shows or hanging out in Times Square (although I will have one last stroll through it before I go) but rather having people I care about share my space with me and using it as a convenient departure point to plan fun activities.

It took me a couple days to recover from the 24-hour Best Picture Showcase, but the following Thursday Katie M came over and we finally watched Interstellar. Puck joined us for the second half, right after the crew went through the wormhole. I still think it's a stunning cinematic achievement even though it overreaches in many aspects. But it's better to aim high and come up short than to settle for mediocrity.

Rebecca joined me and Puck last Friday evening for my first attempt at making quesadillas (successful, I think) and we watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E., followed by Pulp Fiction. But the real excitement was the following night when I took Jen to see Steven Wilson at the Beacon Theater.

Ordinarily, I get concert tickets months in advance but it happened that this one snuck up on me. I saw an email from the Beacon in my inbox on Tuesday and there were still great seats available and they were very reasonably priced so I bought two, figuring I could find someone to go. Fortunately Jen was available, which was great because I introduced her to Steven Wilson just a few weeks ago while we were playing cards. So I was very excited to see the show with her, even though I'd seen him perform only nine months prior with Puck at Playstation Theater in Times Square.

Before the show started, the PA voice announced that, for the first time in 20 years of touring, Steven had almost completely lost his voice due to illness. For a second I wondered if they were going to cancel and reschedule the show, as happened with the Diana Krall concert that Katie B and I attended two years ago, also at the Beacon. But it turned out that he had his backup singer, Ninet Tayeb, in the house and she would sing some of his parts, sharing duties with the lead guitarist.

So the show went on, and we counted ourselves fortunate indeed to see a show that few people will ever get to see. Ninet sang the lead on the song "Hand Cannot Erase" and I loved how she did it in two octaves, something Steven can't do. Steven introduced the song "Routine" by saying he considers it one of the most depressing songs ever written, comparing it to specific songs by The Cure ("One Hundred Years") and another by Joy Division (whose lead singer committed suicide, in case you didn't know). And Ninet just killed that solo version of "Routine" - it was already my favorite track on the album but now it's stuck in my head all the time.

If you don't know the song, here's a link to a Live Nation concert performance by Steven and the band (unfortunately, not including Ninet live, but her part is recorded). Here is a link to the animated video that is projected during the song.

The first half of the show was pretty close to what I saw last year, except for Ninet's involvement. In the second half the band performed songs from his EP "4 1/2" just released this year and some of it was instrumental but also included Ninet's reworking of "Don't Hate Me" from the older P-Tree album "Stupid Dream" and a powerful rendition of "Sleep Together" to wrap the set.

The first encore was something I'd seen on YouTube - they did an acoustic tribute to David Bowie by singing "Space Oddity" (although for our show Steven just played guitar leaving Ninet to solo). The only real disappointment for me was that they didn't do the two songs from his previous full album, "The Raven That Refused to Sing," both of which are accompanied by videos - "The Watchmaker" and the signature title track. Instead he closed with a popular P-Tree song, "The Sound of Muzak," which he didn't sing at all but asked the audience to sing for him and we all obliged as best we could.

Sunday I finally got to reconnect with Piper, whom I haven't seen since last autumn. We've been trying to meet up but she's been sick a lot this year. We met at the arch in Washington Square Park and went for Vietnamese food at Saigon Market near Union Square. We had a good long conversation over fried spring rolls, pho and curry pork - although the waiter mysteriously absconded with the spicy condiments from our table.

Monday night I met up with Chrissy at Tortaria, a taco place Kristina took me to when we used to do yoga across the street. We talked about a project she wants to take on for Open Love NY, so I gave her some feedback and advice on that. Then we went to a free play reading of "The Ash Tree Spinners" by the Shotz! crew, the first of four being held in the lounge of the Daryl Roth Theaters just off Union Square. It was a thought-provoking musical play about the the Fates of Greek mythology - Clotho, who spins the thread of life; Lachesis, who measures it out; and Atropos, who cuts it off.

Afterwards we meandered our way back to TSMC to drop off some things and then walked all the way up to 90th Street where she showed me her building's roof and the breathtaking views on a perfectly cool and breezy night. Since it was late, I said goodnight and took a subway back home.

Wednesday Katie M came over and we had a long talk - so long that we couldn't watch any of the lengthy movies in our queue, so we watched An Education instead. This little film was Oscar nominated for Best Picture in 2010 (losing to The Hurt Locker) and also garnered a Best Actress nomination for Carey Mulligan, one of my favorite actors. It was a charming movie, but I actually thought some of the deleted scenes should have been edited and worked into the final cut.

Last night Jen came over and we finished our game of 10-card Gin we left in progress - she beat me again 352-218. So we started playing her version of 500 Rummy, which is new to me, while watching The Talking Heads concert film, Stop Making Sense. I've only just watched this for the first time this week and I was blown away so I've been listening to a lot of their music in the past few days. And finally tonight Rebecca came over again to join me and Puck in watching her recent favorite film, Crimson Peak, and my movie pick, Glory, which I felt any fan of composer James Horner needed to watch.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Oscar Weekend 2016

It was once again a wonderful Oscar time this past weekend, something I've looked forward to every year since 2011. That was the first year that Piper and I attended the 24-hour AMC Best Picture Showcase, which I've attended every year since. It's also the fourth year in a row I've hosted an Oscar viewing party, which has grown to become the biggest TSMC event every year.

This year my friend Rebecca attended the marathon with me; it was her first time at the event so I prepped her as best I could. This was the 10th anniversary of the event itself, but I was rather disappointed in the way it was presented. There were no trivia prizes or any kind of banter between movies, and the breakfast was poorly planned compared to years past. It's as if they lost all the great people who have run it before and all that institutional knowledge about doing the event has been replaced by cold efficiency (since they were extremely precise in their show schedule).

As usual, here's my recap of the eight nominated movies and my thoughts about them:

Brooklyn (10:30 am) - I'm lucky that I didn't watch any previews of this charming little movie because I realized later they give away too much about the story. This was, quite simply, one of the best pure love stories I've seen in a long time. The writing and performances were delightful and it was refreshingly free from melodrama and contrived tragedy. This is a movie that I'd like to have in my collection to watch over and again.

The Big Short (12:46 pm) - At the end of this movie, there's a postscript that counts the cost of the events depicted in the movie: trillions of dollars in value lost, millions left homeless and millions unemployed. I was one of those who lost their jobs because of the financial crisis. So the story of this global event was compelling stuff, driving home the scope of the disaster as seen through the eyes of those who saw it coming. As a movie, it kind of reminded me of Oliver Stone's Wall Street, but this was a real and much larger story.

Room (3:20 pm) - We walked in a little late for this movie because we took a break at TSMC so I was a little confused that there didn't seem to be an explanation for the first part of the movie. Of course, it is revealed over time. Brie Larson may have won her Oscar, but I think Jacob Tremblay should have gotten a Supporting Actor nomination. I got a little choked up when he asks for a haircut to help his mom, and when she gives the hair back to him. What a masterpiece of storytelling.

The Revenant (6:25 pm) - We once again walked in a little late on this one because we went across the street to Five Guys Burgers and Fries, bringing the food in with us. Thankfully, we aren't squeamish people when it comes to eating during a movie as gory as this one, plus we'd both seen it before I think. Upon second viewing, I was actually a little less impressed than the first, which was the opposite reaction I had to Mad Max. It is still obviously a gorgeous and meticulously crafted movie and I admire the fortitude it took to make it. But at its core, I feel that it lacks heart in that I don't care as much about the characters as I did with some of the other movies.

Spotlight (9:30 pm) - The surprise winner of the Best Picture Oscar, this movie is All the President's Men for a new generation. As a former journalist, I am in awe of the work portrayed by the Boston Globe reporters depicted in the film. I think my lone disappointment was that it didn't seem to play up the resistance from the community and the Catholic Church as much as I would have expected, but maybe that was the most authentic portrayal.

Mad Max: Fury Road (12 am) - My second viewing of this movie allowed me to acclimate myself to the relentless and high-octane action sequences that overwhelmed me when I watched it the first time with Lytle last summer. I was able to more fully appreciate the nuances of the characters and the story, plus marvel at the production elements that swept through Sunday night's awards. I've never seen any of the original Mad Max movies, but I've been an admirer of director George Miller since The Witches of Eastwick and the Babe movies. I can't wait to see what he does next.

Bridge of Spies (2:25 am) - This movie was like Catch Me If You Can crossed with JFK but with less pizzazz and hardly any humor. I certainly found it the least entertaining of all the movies in the marathon, although still a superior movie overall compared to the dreck that is found in theaters year-round. I mean, the story is basically a little courtroom action followed by a seemingly endless series of negotiation meetings. In other words, all men, all talk, very little action (except for a plane crash where we know the outcome).

The Martian (5:10 am) - This was a nice little sci-fi movie, heavy on the science, reminding me of Robert Zemekeis' Contact. I thought the humor was a little heavy-handed and the disco soundtrack seemed an odd choice. For a rescue mission, I thought it was a little lacking in emotion, but perhaps the book was better in that respect. I liked the twists and turns of the plot, but at the same time, I was constantly thinking the Star Wars line, "I've got a bad feeling about this." It's also hard to get emotionally invested in a movie when it's clear from the outset that there's one objective (to rescue the stranded astronaut) and there's really not much suspense whether that will ultimately happen or not.

I got home at about 7:30 am Sunday morning and started my beef shortribs cooking in the slow cooker before joining Puck in bed briefly before they woke up a couple hours later. I slept until about 3:30 pm and then Puck and I started getting ready for the party.

My co-host Liz came over at 7 with her Bridge of sPies (chicken pot pie), Crystal (Spot)Light, and Martian-mallow Krispie treats, made with brown butter and sea salt. I had two tubs of Mad Max: Fury (Rocky) Road ice cream in the freezer, plus plenty of Land-O-Lakes whipped cream.

I made my The Big Short(Rib) tacos, a Radish-mint (Revenant) salad, and Stuffed MushROOMs. Josh brought the Brooklyn Lager and Victoria brought a bottle of #OscarsSoWhite wine. We were all set for the big show!

This year I added a new prize category called the Surprise Prize, a $15 Regal Cinemas gift card for anyone who correctly picked a winner that no one else also picked - that went to Katie B for picking Bear Story in the Best Animated Short Film category. Liz and Puck also had surprise picks for Best Supporting Actor and Best Picture respectively, but Katie's pick was first.

I did pretty badly this year because I thought The Revenant would do better than it did, and I didn't anticipate that Mad Max would sweep the technical categories the way it did. Katie M was the grand prize winner of a $50 AMC Theaters gift card with 16 of 24 correct picks. Michelle was second with 15, and Victoria and Liz tied with 14 each - they all got consolation prizes of DVD movies.

Carolyn and I tied with 13 each. It's probably my worst Oscar ballot in many years, but I still had a great time. Movies are great, but enjoying them with friends is what makes a love of movies really special!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Movie madness and SmartGlamour fashion

It feels to me like I'm cramming as much fun stuff as I can in the last days of TSMC. I hope the withdrawal when I leave isn't too depressing. It will be a different set of circumstances and I'm looking forward to the change of scenery and being with Puck. But even they recognize that it's the end of an era and they are going to miss being here almost as much as I will.

My friend Carolyn came over and watched The Last Emperor with me on the 12th, appropriately since we're both Chinese. I have a personal connection to the movie's central character (unfortunately this does not make me the Lost Empress of China) as chronicled in this 2008 blog entry. Watching it with Carolyn made me realize that she's practically the only Chinese person I'm friends with, as we both have this lingering first-generation Chinese-American perspective.

It's sort of an interesting feeling being isolated from my cultural roots the way I am. Katie M came over earlier this week and we watched Saving Face, a Chinese lesbian comedy that was filmed in Flushing and Manhattan and half the script is in Mandarin. I wouldn't say that I miss the idea of a Chinese community because most of it collides with my current beliefs and lifestyle.

The following Tuesday another new friend, Rebecca, came over to watch Beauty and the Beast with me, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of becoming the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. We had a wonderful time talking about movies, as she is as passionate about movies as I am. I'm really happy that she's going to come with me for the AMC Best Picture Showcase this year - I think we're going to have a great time. We're both super-excited about it - it's her first time going, and my sixth.

In other news, Liz hosted a lovely Galentine's Day brunch at her apartment on the coldest weekend of the year. All her furniture she brought up from Texas has now been put into place, minus a few inches of wood here and there. I brought deviled eggs and she made some very tasty bacon and set up a waffle bar with lots of toppings. I got to see Victoria briefly before she had to leave for a show, and Marguerite, Michelle and Andrea all came as well. I noticed that Michelle was wearing a Beauty and the Beast-themed Valentine's shirt that was covered with heart-shaped candies that read "Flowers," "Chocolates" and "Promises You Don't Intend to Keep."

On Friday, Liz and I attended the all inclusive + body positive runway show presented by SmartGlamour for their new Spring 2016 collection. Liz blew up the internet as part of SmartGlamour's #imflattered campaign earlier this year.

After the 20 minute show, we went around the corner for a complimentary glass of Prosecco before heading up to the PIT Loft on 29th Street to meet up with Josh for "This Live Show with Nate Foster," an SNL-style improv performance that Josh helped to write. One of the skits was a contest of movie charades that I volunteered to participate in and ended up winning a $15 Regal Cinema gift card. Afterward we had a late dinner at nearby Black Iron Burger before heading home.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

First post of 2016

First post of 2016, so it's time to recap the holidays.

But first I'll mention that I had a lovely day yesterday with Puck's sister Ella and her daughter Maya, who is nearly 3 years old now. As I've mentioned before, Maya already recognizes me as a member of the family but this was the first time we've actually had any real playtime together. The three of us went out to the beach and scared seagulls, drew in the sand and made this face in the sand with seashells.

As long-time blog readers know, it's been more than a decade since I've had a child present in any part of my life. Having fun with Maya felt like reaching deep into a long-dormant part of my personality and waking it up a bit. There's so many things I've learned and forgotten over the years about raising children. I'm actually looking forward to dredging some of that up as more of my dearest have children of their own.

Anyway, now to catch up on the holidays. On Yule the winter solstice I went to see Star Wars TFA at 9:30 am by myself at the AMC Prime theater at the Empire 25 on 42nd Street. It's my first time in the premium AMC theater and it was okay, but I wasn't super-impressed. I felt the sound was a little overblown and fatiguing, but the picture was perfect. The seats were also comfy, but there wasn't enough legroom for me to fully recline (which I probably wouldn't do anyway since I might fall asleep). But I wanted to see it before Katie M came over that evening because I knew she'd want to talk about it, and we did. I explained the whole "George Lucas loves to tinker/Han shot first" controversy and showed her clips from different versions of Episode 4 to illustrate.

Christmas Eve was a quiet evening at TSMC with Puck watching Ben-Hur, the first time they've seen this classic. It's one of my top 3 all-time favorite movies, and my 50th anniversary restored Blu Ray looked fabulous on the projection screen.

Christmas Day I spent making a bourbon bread pudding and bringing it over to my friends Jennifer and Tam's place on 23rd Street for their party. I met Jennifer's other partner who is visiting from the UK and many of their friends in the Burning Man community. They have a gorgeous top-floor apartment with a view of the Empire State Building and the new United Nations building that's under construction. We went up on the roof for a bit and watched oddball movies like The Ref and Rent while other people sang karaoke in the adjoining room. I ended the night walking home at around 2 am in the brisk cold air.

On the Sunday after Christmas I had a day with Chrissy and Rob, her West coast husband (although not for long, as he is planning to move here soon). I met Rob briefly at Poly Cocktails on Chrissy's last birthday, but this is the first time we've had a chance to actually get to know each other. We met up at an Ethiopian restaurant (their first time having such food and they said they enjoyed it) and then meandered through Riverside Park for about 20 blocks up to 72nd Street. We took the subway back down to Union Square and saw Star Wars (their first time, my second) and then said goodbye as I stayed to watch The Revenant.

The next day I had lunch with Lori before heading down to Staten Island to join up with Puck's family for a trip to Glen Rock, NJ, to visit Puck's eldest sister's husband's family home for his 40th birthday. We had a splendid dinner of roasted chicken and herbed fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, green bean casserole, salads and the most extravagant French patisserie desserts, followed by a screening of The Bourne Identity. It was the first time I'd visited his family's home where he grew up.

Afterward we stopped by Ella's friend's home nearby. They have two older children so we played with them and Maya while the adults had tea. As we were leaving it started to sleet but not too badly. I was trying to get to Secaucus but we couldn't find it on GPS so I ended up dropping myself off at the ferry terminal to go back into Manhattan while everyone else continued home, since I had a lunch the next day.

Lunch was with my friend Kara at Bareburger, my first visit there. I met Kara after the Pride March this past year when she joined us for a post-march supper at Good Times Diner and met up with Storm there. This time around she brought two of her friends (one of whom said he'd met me at a bowling event some years ago) and Storm came later. It was a nice lunch, although I did have to remind the fellow about consensual hugging and it gave me an opportunity to teach group hug protocol. I'm going to keep at this until it becomes the standard.

The next evening was the day before New Year's Eve and Puck and I had a hard time getting out of Times Square to get home for their mom's 60th birthday. Fifth Avenue had been closed off for an NYPD funeral, and some bus routes were already affected by NYE traffic control. We got stuck in the Rockefeller Center area long enough to watch the Saks Fifth Avenue lightshow, which was beautiful this year.

We managed to finally catch an express bus and make it to the restaurant directly from the bus, where we had a traditional Russian banquet feast, punctuated by toasts and dancing. I even gave my own toast, which is a first for me at these family events that I've been attending for many years now.

Even though I was coming back the very next day, I went home after the party since Puck's house was filled with guests and I didn't want to have to compete for bed space two nights in a row. So I turned right around the next day and made my way through the barricade in Times Square at 2 pm to get down to Staten Island again for the big NYE bash. When I got there Maya was having a grand time re-enacting a scene from the movie My Neighbor Totoro when the little girl Mai wakes up Totoro while lying on his belly.

I presented Maya and her cousin Kyra with a New Year's gift: a set of Neurosmith Music Blocks that I found at the Met Store when I bought my annual Angel Tree ornament. This was one of my favorite kid toys I'd bought years ago so I was probably more excited than the girls to play with it again. It may be a few years before they get interested in this particular toy.

Although I didn't realize it was a costume party, I happened to wear an outfit of white dots and sparkly pants that suggested a starry night, so I declared my costume to be "The Cosmos." There was the usual banquet of food, and this year it was mostly Mediterranean and Indian food with some homemade salads.

After dinner Puck called for everyone to write down something they wanted to leave behind in the old year and something they wanted to take forward into the new year. Guests were invited to burn one or the other (or both) as a symbol of destroying the negative things or releasing the positive intentions.

Once that was done, the champagne was handed out and we greeted the New Year with toasts and kisses, followed by an appearance by Grandfather Frost and his partner, who handed out presents to everyone. I got a wonderful illustrated book called "World Without Fish" by Mark Kurlansky, who wrote "Cod" and "Salt," two of my favorite non-fiction books. I gave Puck an illustrated book called "Radioactive" about Marie and Pierre Curie. We played a few rounds of charades as people started to drift away from the party, and then Puck and I prepared the couch and an air mattress for ourselves and our guests. It wasn't quite as big a crowd as we were expecting, so everyone got a good night's sleep to usher in the new year.