Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Crop Circles and Vampires


Sav·age: fierce, ferocious, or cruel; untamed

Alexander McQueen was not limited in creativity; his designs knew no limits. Isn't that the way we should live our lives?

If he wanted a dress decorated with fresh and silk flowers he designed it.


If he wanted antlers as the headpiece to complete the look of a gorgeous cream gown, he made it or had it made (most often by Phillip Treacy).


He was not afraid to push the boundaries of fashion and actually create new and innovative designs. His runway shows did not often provide something ready-to-wear, but they did give the viewer drama, extravagance and spectacle. Fashion is all of those things. If the wearer chooses well, the clothes merely enhance the persona or mystique. McQueen had a penchant for fantasy, rebellion and shock value, all of which are visible at Savage Garden, the new exhibit showcasing his work now on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Costume Institute.

There were two quotes of McQueen's that stuck with me as I walked through the exhibit. I was trying to stay in the moment and be present in front of each piece so I did not write them down. One was about loving the grotesque and the other was about making people look.

We as creative artists have to make people look. We have to make them see. We have to make them read or listen. There is beauty in everything, even the grotesque.


I felt euphoric as I walked through the exhibit. It was stunning in its design, both visual and sound. Every room was created to help you visually and aurally experience the clothing it housed – from the eerily mysterious to the Scottish plaid to the romantic to the dramatically over-the-top.

Alexander McQueen was limited in his life. He was a tortured soul, as many creative types tend to be. He committed suicide by hanging himself on February 11, 2010. A life cut short by demons that nothing could heal, brilliance taken from the world of fashion way too soon.

We only have now. We are here for this brief time; this one moment that in a blink is over. We have to dare to be different and have the courage to be so.

As I approach 40 I am overwhelmed by the desire to create something moving, lasting, emotional.

As for the title of this blog, I was walking to the subway with my friend Sara. We passed a small yard with concrete circles filled inside by circles of grass. Sara yelled out, "Crop circle." We laughed. As we continued to walk we passed what appeared to be a stake in the road. I made a comment about vampires. Sara said "Crop circles and vampires, it's gonna be an adventure."

Fashion is always an adventure. Daring fashion even more so. Alexander McQueen dared. He may be gone from this world, but his contribution to fashion lives on to show the world what it had and what it lost.

Crop circles and vampires are each savage and beautiful in their own way. They go together about as much as plaid, tulle and a bustle. If you get the chance to see McQueens’s use of those three things you’ll get to see how awesome an unexpected combination can really be.

Beau·ty: the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.) or a meaningful design or pattern.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Push Your Destiny to its Boundaries with the Wind of God at Your Back


“You are responsible for your own life.”

Desire is not enough to change your life. Real change takes the courage to act upon your desires. I don't seem to possess enough courage - yet.

I never attended the church of Oprah on a regular basis. That does not mean I think she is anything less than a powerful woman. She puts her money where her mouth is. She pursues what she believes in. She is not afraid to tell you what she believes and she's not afraid to tell you why you should believe it too. On the flip side, I think she will listen to why you don’t believe. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but we all have to be able to listen, right? She was a master at giving us the powerful story of survival and redemption. She found the truth and exposed the lies. She sat and she shared and she talked and she preached and she gave.

After 25 years of trying to help people change their lives Oprah has now signed off; at least The Oprah Winfrey Show has signed off. As most of us know, Oprah will continue to try and enlighten the world through her own network, OWN. It seems fitting that her initials Oprah Winfrey followed by Network should spell OWN as she has owned the daytime talk show crown for most of that 25 years.

“Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this place.”

As I watched Day 2 of The Oprah Winfrey Show 2-day secret celebration (an event if ever there was one) I enjoyed watching the surprise-hating Oprah's face as she was met with surprise guest after surprise guest. Then I found myself struck with tears as one man after another began to talk about his education. An education he would not have had without Oprah’s generosity. Each man was a recipient of the Oprah Winfrey Scholarship at Morehouse College in Atlanta. A select few had recorded their stories. She was visibly moved. I was drenched. My glasses actually started to fog up as the tears fell from my cheeks. Then, as if that accomplishment weren’t moving enough, Kristen Chenoweth took center stage to sing “For Good” from the musical WICKED. The song in itself is powerful enough as its lyrics talk of friendship, forgiveness and how life has been changed because "you" were in it. Then the ultimate surprise – small lights began to fill the stage as men who had earned degrees thanks to the Oprah Winfrey Scholarship filled it. It didn't stop there. Lights began to move down the aisles as man after man filled the space – men there to celebrate how Oprah and her generosity had changed their lives. Four hundred and fifteen men with educations from Morehouse College because of Oprah. She wept. I wept. I wept as I thought about how blessed I am that I didn't have to worry about getting an education. I thanked God for it and realized how I had taken for granted that my parents would pay for my education then I thanked God for them. I continued to weep as I asked God for the courage to make a change in my own life and to inspire others with my actions and words.

“You have to know what sparks the light in you so you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.”

It takes more than desire. I don't know my purpose. I'm not clear on my road. I just want to be able to proceed with an open heart and mind. I wonder how much potential I squander every day just sitting on the sofa?

“Embrace the life that’s calling you.”

Courage is hard. I have the word tattooed on my right wrist. I look at it often. I pray for the courage to face the challenges of my life and make the changes that will affect me and maybe someone else along the way.

“Everybody has a calling and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it.”

Oprah left a legacy of courage to fight for what you believe in, to find change through spiritual enlightenment, to read the words of a good book, to value the merits of a getaway with your best friend.

I may not have always agreed with what she said, but I never would have experienced The Secret and the changes it brought to my way of thinking if it hadn’t been for Oprah showcasing it on her show and my friend Neal calling me to tell me I should watch that day.

Desire is the seed. Courage is the water. The fruit the tree will bear is Change.

“We have the power to change our own lives.”

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thornclyffe - Part 2



How could this have happened? How could it have happened here? Things like this don’t happen here. People don’t get that carried away. Lila’s brain was working overtime.

Thornclyffe was an affluent village located within the Town of Philipstown, New York. It may not have been New England, but it was as picturesque as any postcard representation of a New England town you’re likely to see. The harbor was the focus of the town. That might seem odd considering the focus usually lies at the center of something, but there was nothing more beautiful than when the sailboats were docked in various places of anchorage in the water. In the fall, when the foliage burned with oranges, reds and yellows you couldn’t find a more gorgeous place in which to take a stroll. Life was easy and genteel. People greeted each other with more than a nod.

Of course the harbor wasn’t the only thing to see. In the center of town stood the Presbyterian Church; home to almost every wedding and funeral in the village since it was built in 1901. There was also the Clementine Hotel; built in 1918 at the end of the Beaux-Arts era and named for the daughter of the man who owned it. That building alone had seen its share of liaisons. Main Street, the historic district, was lined on both sides with shops old and new. The streets that curved through the village passed by many august estates hidden amongst the trees. 

There was history, families that had lived there for generations. The place might be small, but for most of its residents leaving it was out of the question. New York City was just a train ride away if the desire for something bigger than ones own life was called for. However, a return past the Welcome to the Village of Thornclyffe sign was always a welcomed sight at the end of the day.

Of course, behind the closed doors of houses that dot every beautiful landscape there are secrets. Thornclyffe, it turns out, was no exception.

Lila saw a custodial employee enter the room in the reflection of the mirror. The lady was about Lila’s mother’s age. She met Lila’s reflected eyes and gave her a kind smile. Lila turned around to face her.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, trying to prevent her spout of tears from starting to flow again.

“There’s no need to apologize, sweetie,” the lady said as she started to mop up the coffee spill. “Things happen. Lot’s worse things happen in this place than just some spilled coffee. You don’t worry yourself about it now, okay.” She was kind and smiled a warm smile at Lila.

“Thank you,” Lila responded mustering the best sorry grateful smile she could.

Lila stayed standing until the lady had finished mopping up the spilled coffee. It was out of respect that she chose to do so. She couldn’t fathom sitting down while another person cleaned up a mess she had made. When the lady was gone Lila sat back down in a chair and placed her forehead in the palms of both of her hands. Somewhere down the hall she heard a little girl laughing. It seemed odd to hear childlike laughter in such a solemn place of a fear and waiting. Children don’t know the same kind of fear as adults. She got up from her chair and walked to the doorway to peer down the hall in the direction of the laughter. She saw two little girls holding hands walking behind a woman whom Lila presumed to be their mother.

It reminded her of when she and Cordelia were little girls.

§

Cordelia had a way of getting what she wanted. She could convince a person of anything without trying. She was a master manipulator. Sometimes the manipulation was used for good and sometimes it was used as a ploy for her own enjoyment.

One afternoon on the playground during their early prep school days, Lila had witnessed Cordelia in devious con artist mode.

Some of the kids were trading food. It was a daily game, pitting one snack against another. Inevitably, there was always something someone saw as gross that another found irresistibly enjoyable. So the trading would begin. 

Cordelia had watched this happen during snack time many afternoons on the playground. Although she herself had never traded before. She had devised a plan and had decided that day was the day she would put it into action.

She had a beautiful piece of fudge covered in butter cream icing. It was small and round; if cut into quarters it would give four people a triangle that could be eaten in two bites. She claimed to have made it herself, but was not feeling quite up to such a rich dessert during playtime that afternoon. Therefore, she explained, she had decided to take part in the “trade” ritual.

The kids were intrigued. It definitely looked amazing. It made your mouth water. Anyone who had eaten fudge, or butter cream icing for that matter, knew what those flavors tasted like. It smelled rich with vanilla. She stood at the center of everyone’s attention as they all offered her their treats in the hope that she would bestow upon them hers. Cordelia, used to being the center of attention as an only child, was perfectly at ease commanding the barker’s stage with her fudge. 

Lila was watching Cordelia, her long brown hair blowing slightly in the wind. It was years before she would have her signature pixie cut. At this time her hair was long and straight and she always had part of it tied meticulously with a bow.

Cordelia ended up choosing a perfectly dull rice crispy treat for the trade. Of course, rice crispy treats just happened to be her favorite, but it was still trading down as far as any of the children were concerned.

She took her rice crispy treat over to where Lila was sitting watching the action. She had a cat-who-ate-the-canary smile on her face that Lila didn’t understand. She sat down and immediately turned to watch the scene play out. Without looking at her, she mouthed to Lila to watch. Lila turned her face towards the group of children who had gathered around the recipient of the trade to watch in sadness as he, not they, bit into the fudge.

Lila was shocked to see the fudge being spit to the ground, the onlookers scattering. There was a fierce look of anger on the boy’s face and he searched the playground for Cordelia. When his eyes locked on hers he strode over to her with a purpose Lila had never seen a child use before. He was spitting the entire time.

Cordelia was sitting on the bench watching his approach with a look of mischief on her face. She was waiting for what he was going to do, but not scared of him. In fact she took a breath and sat up straighter as he stopped in front of her.

“Mud?” he said and he threw the remaining “fudge” at her feet. “What gives?”

“I just wanted to see if I could convince someone to take it without doing anything.” Cordelia responded. “It was a test.”

“It’s gross, that’s what it is,” he responded, spitting again.

“Well, don’t think you’re getting the rice crispy treat back. A trade is a trade and fair is fair.”

“There’s nothing fair about trading a rice crispy treat for mud, but I wouldn’t dream of asking for it back,” he responded, calming down from his initial anger. “I took my chances and lost.”

“Well, thank you,” Cordelia responded with a smile, every bit the entitled princess.

“You’re welcome, you shyster.” He smiled back at her, spit one more time for her benefit then turned to walk toward the playground water fountain.

“Was that a mud pie?” Lila asked, shocked before Cordelia could answer.

“Yes,” Cordelia answered with laughter in her voice, beaming with pride. “I mixed it with vanilla flavored milk. Our housekeeper, Syrene, knows that I don’t like the taste of milk so she mixes fresh, crushed vanilla bean in it. I think she calls it infusing. I saved mine from yesterday,” excitement in Cordelia’s voice.

“You made a mud pie with milk?” asked Lila, astonished.

“Yes,” Cordelia giggled again. “I poured the milk into a container and kept adding dirt from Mom’s flower bed until it was thick. I used one of our biscuit cutters to make it round. Then I put it in the refrigerator to harden. The vanilla in the milk helped cover the mud smell. Adding the butter cream icing helped even more. We just happened to have some because Syrene was making a cake. It was a challenge to get some of it without her noticing, but I did.”

“That’s disgusting. I can’t believe Ryan took a bite out of it.”

“I know. I just wanted to see if someone would take a bite out of it based on what I said it was.” She smiled and laughed to herself. “It is funny though, don’t you think?”

Thinking about the absurdity of watching the wealthiest boy in school take a bite out of a mud pie Lila started to laugh as well. “Yes, it is pretty funny.”

They laughed even harder.
“That doesn’t make it right though,” Lila said, always the good girl.

“I know, but at least Ryan talked to us,” Cordelia responded, the mischievous grin returning to her face. “How could I have known he would be the person to actually have something I wanted?”

Lila shrugged her shoulders as they heard the bell ring to end their afternoon recess.

Turns out Ryan appreciated Cordelia’s cunning and wasn’t too mad that a blend of dirt and vanilla was still vulgar on his tongue. Their friendship started that day and by extension his friendship with Lila.

§

As the mist of memory began to clear, Lila couldn’t help but smile as she watched the two little girls walk into the elevator. One of them had a bow in her hair. Maybe that’s what had triggered the memory of her and Cordelia as 12-year-old girls. It didn’t really matter why she remembered it; the point was she’d remembered it. 

The longer two people are friends, the easier it is to accept the way they act and overlook when their actions might be inappropriate. Cordelia was always looking for amusement and a good time; she was never one to stand for boredom. Lila had always been happy to be part of Cordelia’s inner sanctum. Right now, however, she couldn’t believe how she’d become unconscious to Cordelia’s actions in the name of friendship.

Lila left the waiting room doorway and walked down the hall in search of the restroom. She needed to splash some cold water on her face. When she opened the door there was a slight change from the florescent lights of the hallway. The bathroom lights were slightly more kind to her face, slightly. 

As she stood there looking at herself in the mirror she couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that it was a mud pie that had brought Ryan into her life. She also couldn’t help but notice that she looked much older than her 21 years.

The coolness of the water felt refreshing as its iciness made her nerves tingle. Her skin felt renewed as her cheeks turned pink.

As she patted her face dry, she took the opportunity to rid it of the raccoon eye look that was a result of too many tears.

Walking back down the hall toward the waiting room she saw Dr. John Martin. He was a friend of her parents. She wanted to know if there was any news, but she also didn’t want to bother him. Just before she walked through the door of the waiting room he saw her.

“Lila,” he called to her.

“Hi, Dr. Martin,” she responded with an insignificant smile.

“How are you?” he asked.

“I – I guess I’m as well as can be expected,” she said, fighting the urge to ask him about Ryan, fighting the urge to cry.

“Lila, this is completely against protocol, but I don’t think anyone will mind if I take you to Ryan’s room.”

Lila’s heart leapt at the possibility of seeing Ryan. She was so appreciative that she hugged Dr. Martin before she could stop herself.

He pulled her out of the hug and held her by her shoulders, looked into her eyes. “Lila, I can only let you stay for a minute. He’s not awake. He probably won’t even know you’re there, but I know you want to see him.”

She nodded her head yes. It was an acknowledgment of understanding and confirmation.

When they arrived at Ryan’s room Lila approached his bed cautiously. Dr. Martin stood in the doorway. Ryan was hooked up to machines. The beeps seemed to be coming from everywhere. She reached out and took his hand. It was warm. She wanted him to move it, to clasp her hand in his own. He didn’t.

“Lila, come on now,” Dr. Martin said in the voice of a parent, stern yet loving.

Lila leaned down and kissed Ryan on the cheek and whispered, “I love you” in his ear. She gave his hand a final squeeze before turning back to Dr. Martin and walking to his waiting arm.

She couldn’t keep the tears at bay as they walked back to the waiting room. Dr. Martin kept his arm around her the entire time. She was thankful. She needed something strong; she needed to feel protected.

She found herself back inside the cream-colored walls of the waiting room, waiting—for Ryan and Cordelia to wake up, for their parents to arrive, for the nightmare to pass.

©2011 Michael Rohrer

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thornclyffe - Part 1


In retrospect, she should have known. Lila Hayward sat in the ICU waiting room of Julia Butterfield Hospital waiting for news, any news, that anyone could give her on the prognosis of her boyfriend, Ryan Lake, and her former best friend, Cordelia Boston.

She shook her head as she stared at the cup of cold coffee in her trembling hands. Things looked grim—as grim as that dark coffee. There was no comfort to be found inside that cup, its liquid as unsteady as her pulse. She continued to stare at it as if searching for the answer to how she could have ignored the signs; to how she could have missed what was happening right in front of her. 

She heard the code blue alarm sound and watched as a multitude of doctors and nurses ran past the waiting room door in the direction of Ryan and Cordelia’s rooms. She didn’t know which one of them the alarm was for; she just knew it was happening. She jumped up and ran to the door, dropping the coffee cup from her hands in the process. Tears were streaming down her face as she stood in the now empty hallway. She didn’t even know she was crying until she absently reached up to wipe away the tear that was tickling the side of her nose. She hadn’t seen whose room they had entered. She turned back toward her seat and saw the expanding mud-colored puddle. She cried harder. She cried because of the mess, she cried because she was alone, she cried because all of this could have been prevented. She saw her reflection in a mirror hanging on the wall.

§

They had known each other since childhood and had been fairly close for the past 10 years. They had attended Allendale Prep School together and later went to the same university. It was just a little more than 3 years ago when things started to change between them.

The relationship between Lila and Ryan had blossomed from one of mere friendship to one of love. Neither of them had seen it coming—hadn’t even entertained the idea—but still it happened. Lila couldn't wait to talk to Cordelia about it. It was the summer between their freshman and sophomore years of college.

Lila and Cordelia had both been accepted to Brown University in Rhode Island. It was the one university they both wanted to attend. They were over the moon when each learned of the others acceptance letter. Right away Lila called Cordelia.
“Hello,” answered Cordelia. She was trying to maintain her excitement because she didn’t know exactly why Lila might be calling.

“Did you get a letter?” Lila asked. Cordelia could hear the smile on her face.

“I guess this means we’re going to be roommates?” answered Cordelia.

Lila started screaming and jumping up and down. Cordelia was doing the same thing on the other end of the line. Lila’s mother burst into her room, wringing her hands dry on a dishtowel, terror on her face at what might be causing her daughter’s piercing scream. Lila’s face reddened in embarrassment. She covered the receiver and mouthed: “Sorry, it’s Cordelia. We both got into Brown.” The terror on her mother’s face softened to one of relief and she couldn’t help but smile even as she rolled her eyes at her daughter.

Ryan was uncertain about where he wanted to attend college. He had applied to Columbia and Brown. When he found out that his two best friends were attending Brown, he allowed his desire for their company and his unknown feelings for Lila to make his decision for him. He too chose Brown University.

It was near the end of their second semester that things truly blossomed between Lila and Ryan. They had chosen to take the same English class that semester. It was at 8am class and they thought if they took it together it would motivate them to actually get up and attend the class. By taking it together, they has someone other than the professor to be accountable to. One night after studying in the library Ryan walked Lila back to her dorm and it was then that he kissed her. He’d been wanting to for weeks, he just hadn’t found the courage. It was that night that courage found him and he kissed her with no warning. He was pleasantly surprised when she kissed back. When their kiss ended, they stood staring at each other with the goofy smile of first love on their faces. They made a pact to keep their kiss a secret, at least for the time being. 

They were home for the summer now, though, and it was time that Cordelia knew the truth.

Lila had planned to tell Cordelia over cappuccino and scones at their favorite coffee house, Windsor, on Harborview Street. They had enjoyed patronizing it from the day its doors opened. It had old school New England charm; it was eccentric and charming without being too stuffy. It was the place they could always be themselves and relax. The view of the sailboats in the harbor didn’t hurt either. Inside this place of comfort there was no reason for her to be nervous, but she inexplicably was. It was kind of like the time she had borrowed Cordelia's vintage Pucci dress to wear for a photo shoot and had accidentally ruined it by spilling liquid eyeliner on it. She was sick with nerves when Cordelia got to her house and the moment was upon her to be honest about the dress. It was irreplaceable and Cordelia's favorite. Cordelia had been upset, but not angry. She had, in fact, forgiven Lila with a hug and a few tears.

It seemed odd to Lila that she should be feeling that same sense of dread at the idea of telling Cordelia something happy, something incredibly unexpected. The situations were completely different, yet she couldn't shake the feeling. If she was honest with herself, she just wanted to get it over with. The quicker she could say the words, the quicker she could assess Cordelia's reaction.

Cordelia had carried a torch for Ryan through most of prep school, though he never reciprocated her feelings. He might not have even been aware of her feelings for him if it hadn't been for a vicious rumor started by Livvi Grant who just happened to want nothing more than to humiliate Cordelia Boston. 

According to Mrs. Grant, Cordelia's mother had treated her poorly at a recent “Save the Oak Trees Around the Eroding Bank of the Harbor” fundraiser committee meeting. In retaliation, Livvi told Ryan, and the rest of the student body at Allendale Prep, how Cordelia felt about him in an attempt to humiliate her. She took the mere telling of a secret a step further by spinning blatant fiction into fact, saying that Ryan not only wanted nothing to do with Cordelia, but that he was so disgusted by her that he would rather be gay than date her.

The plan backfired, of course. When Mrs. Boston found out what Livvi had done she promptly called Mrs. Grant and removed her from the fundraising committee altogether. Cordelia felt vindicated, superior, and crushed at the same time. Ryan never treated her differently after her true feelings were exposed. He acted as if nothing had changed between them. They all new it wasn’t true, but he didn’t want things to change with their friendship. 

Ryan was good guy. He had had a solid upbringing in Thornclyffe. He was born into one of the oldest aristocratic families in New York. However, he had never let his birth into monetary privilege make him a snob. He was down-to-earth and honest; a well liked man, with a perfect smile and golden blond hair, his face accented with sapphire blue eyes. He was the epitome of a stylish, upper class gentleman. He would never do anything to intentionally hurt Cordelia’s or Lila’s feelings. So, never speaking of the knowledge that Livvi had brought to light was his way of making sure their friendship stayed the course.

Lila felt her stomach lurch, nerves and happiness duking it out, when she saw Cordelia.

Cordelia’s brunette pixie cut was perfectly in place; her large brown eyes shining, their makeup impeccable; her big, gorgeous smile highlighted by her trademark red lipstick. She saw Lila and waved at her as if they hadn’t just spent the past four months as roommates.

“I’m so glad you called and suggested we come here today,” Cordelia said as she gave Lila a peck on the cheek then sat down in her chair. “I know we were just here over Christmas, but I love this place.”

“Me, too.” Lila responded. Cordelia could sense the hesitancy in her manner and voice.

“What’s going on, honey, you seem weird?”

“It’s nothing really. I just have something to tell you,” Lila responded with a nervous smile parting her lips.

“Well, what it is? Nothing can be that bad. It’s Cordelia you’re talking to.”

Every way that Lila had rehearsed telling Cordelia went the way of the melting winter snow when she blurted out, “Ryan and I are dating.”

Cordelia’s eyes minutely widened and turned glassy; her eyebrows arched, almost imperceptibly, but she didn’t move otherwise. She sat stone still, staring at Lila, through Lila, as if to let what she had just heard penetrate the depths of her brain. To wonder if she’d left her body was not irrational.

Lila in turn held her breath waiting for what she feared would be a bad reaction.

Finally, Cordelia broke from the statue she’d become to look directly into Lila’s eyes. 

“Well. That’s great, honey,” she said as she reached across the table and took Lila’s hand. The saccharine edge to her voice was not lost on Lila. “I can’t wait to hear all about how it started-“

Lila finally started to breathe again.

“-but I just remembered that I told my mother I would meet her at her office to help her look over her new remodel samples.”

Lila watched as Cordelia stood, then approached her for a goodbye peck on the cheek.

“Rain check on the cappuccino and scones?” she said, attempting a genuine smile, but failing. As a journalism student Cordelia was learning how to be impartial. As a friend her feelings were almost always the headline.

“Sure,” said Lila, trying to keep the astonishment and shock from her face.

“Good.” Cordelia smiled at her without focusing on her. “Ta.” She turned and confidently strode out the door.

Lila was surprised at not being surprised. She knew that Cordelia would react and she’d been trying to figure out what that reaction would be for the two weeks that she’d been keeping the secret. It had been miserable sharing the dorm room with her best friend and not sharing something as momentous as the kiss. She’d hated the secret and she’d hated even more that she had to tip toe around Cordelia’s feelings, but that seemed par for the course, as any friend of Cordelia’s knew.

§

Lila didn’t recognize the person looking back at her. In her features she couldn’t find the innocent face of the Botticelli angel, a description used to describe her appearance since her youth. Her normally bright green eyes were rimmed red from crying. The only thing she recognized as truly her were the pre-Raphaelite auburn curls that framed her now puffy face, swollen from tears and exhaustion. She seemed to have aged over night. There was darkness behind her eyes, sadness. She was not the one lying in a hospital bed, but she hoped that she too recovered from this night.

©2011 Michael Rohrer

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 1, 2011

“Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?”

I was sitting on my sofa in my living room enjoying a cup of coffee and reading The Queen of the Damned on the morning of September 11, 2001. I remember it clearly. The Queen of the Damned was the first book in my life that I read until I was too tired to focus and then picked up off of the floor and carried to the living room when I got up in the morning to start reading again. It was a good book. I was so into it that I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to read it. As for the coffee, I like a dark roast with French vanilla creamer.

So there I was, sitting on the left side of the sofa leaning on the arm, coffee on the side table, book in hand when my cell phone rang.

It was my sister calling. It was early, but not too early. I answered with a normal hello and waited for a response. She asked me if I was okay, with a sense of urgency and need for an affirmative response. I’m sure I made a confused face as I answered “yeah, why?”

She asked me if I knew what was going on. I said no. She told me about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. In disbelief I turned on NY1. I couldn’t believe it. I was stunned, as the rest of the world was stunned. Even crazier was the fact that I was in NYC; a resident blissfully unaware of the tragedy of terrorism happening mere miles down the street.

I couldn’t sit at home. I had to get out of the house. It was too claustrophobic to sit and watch the smoke billow from the towers and wonder what was going to happen, to wait for what might happen. I went to the gym. I had no intention of watching television, but I tuned my Walkman to the frequency of the television that hung above my treadmill and power walked while I watched the smoke billow from the towers and waited. I was on that treadmill when the first tower fell. It was sickening. I remember the lurch in my stomach. I had to hold on to the side of the machine and fairly quickly had to stop it and step off. I walked away, but was determined to not go home. I tried to use a triceps weight machine. It didn’t work. I couldn’t concentrate. I had to go home. I don’t know what I wanted, but I couldn’t be at the gym. If that sounds confusing to read, it was just as confusing as life that day.

When I returned home I found my roommate, with his co-worker, sitting on the sofa glued to the television. I sat with the two of them until the second tower fell. Devastation – sickening and perverse. I felt as if I was going to come unglued. I watched the same reports over and over for hours until I finally had to leave the apartment. I walked into Times Squares. I thought I would occupy my mind with a trip to Virgin Megastore. It was closed. Times Square wasn’t exactly a ghost town, but it was different, eerie.

May 1 2011, I was sitting on a sofa in Astoria when my friend Tynan turned on her computer and got a message from someone who told her to turn on CNN. She relayed the message to us with no explanation as to why. We couldn’t find CNN. Finally, Andrew told us what channel he thought it was. Simultaneously, Tynan spoke the words that the President was going to announce that Osama Bin Laden was dead.

I couldn’t’ believe it. I sent a text to my cousins, Whit and Casey and my friend, Susan. I called my parents and told them to turn on CNN.

I sat in the living room of my friend, Michael with our friends, Tynan, Sarah, Andrew, Scott, Emily and Ken and watched the correspondents talk about: firstly, being told to come into work with no explanation as to why; secondly, changing their lack of why to speculating on what the President was going to say; to thirdly, telling us that Osama Bin Laden was dead.

Social media was slamming. Facebook statuses were proclaiming Osama’s death. Twitter feeds were proclaiming Osama’s death. The correspondents began to talk of him as dead rather than allegedly dead.

Was this really happening? Could the mastermind behind the worst terrorist attack on the United States in history actually be dead? What would it all mean for us as a country?

For nearly an hour we listened to reporters and correspondents on television, read our twitter feeds and laughed at Osamacentric facebook statuses while we waited for our President to appear on screen and tell us what had happened. When President Barack Obama finally walked down the red carpet covered hallway in the east room to stand at the podium, a hush fell over the room. We listened as he told us that Osama Bin Laden was dead and that the body was in United States possession.

It is indeed an historic moment.

How are we to feel about the death though? Is it better that he is dead than a prisoner? Probably. If we had brought him to trial would we have put him to death like Sadam Hussein anyway? Probably. He was a cruel, sadistic human being, but a human being nonetheless. I know, I know, he was in charge of all the 9/11 deaths. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have been killed; I’m just trying to reconcile my feelings. There is a sense of relief that he is no longer drawing breath in our world. There’s also the forehead-wrinkling sense of happiness in his death. That kind of sounds like confusion to me. Should I been reveling in the fact that he was killed? Or just feel that sense of relief that maybe his death will weaken al Qaeda? Truth be told, I’m afraid of what his death might mean. I’m afraid that his militant followers will be angry retaliates. It’s a struggle.

The reflection I am faced with at this moment is that I was sitting on the left side of a sofa when Osama Bin Laden’s evil plot hit its target on September 11, 2001, and I was sitting on the left side of a sofa when knowledge that Osama Bin Laden, himself, had become the target nearly 10 years later.

This was not the day the world stop turning, but it was the day that the world signed a sigh of relief.

Tea (√) Scones (√) HAT (√√)

As the carriage pulled away, led by four white horses, it was time for reflection and anticipation.

It was like Christmas morning at Lady Marmalade’s house on the morning of April 29, 2011. Well, not exactly like Christmas, but the excitement in the air was as thick as London fog. Looking out the window, however, we were in Astoria, New York, under the beautiful blue skies of a sunshiny day.

I slept over at Lady Marmalade’s house on the evening of the 28th so that Marmalade, Lady Loughtry and I (the one and only Lady Notoriety) could wake up together on the morning of the big event. The event in question is, of course, the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.

I’m not really that much of a royal watcher to be honest. I mean, I find it all fascinating; the monarchy, the house of Windsor, the drama, the titles, the scandals, but I just view it from afar. It’s like reading a fairy tale; I don’t know what it’s like to exist in that reality.

On the Monday night, prior, I was having drinks with Lady Marmalade and I suggested that since she was in town on a staycation and I was off work on Friday that I come to her house on Thursday after I finished work and that we watch the royal wedding together. At this point, Lady Loughtry was out of town, but was returning, we hoped, before the wedding. As it turned out, she was returning the next day so she would indeed be present for the festivities.

I wasn’t even sure that I was going to watch the royal wedding to be honest, but after making this suggestion, plans and ideas began to formulate in my head faster than a party planner with no budget trying to spend a millionaire’s money on his bimbo fiancĂ©’s outrageous wedding ideas.

The first thought through my mind was: hat; I needed to find a hat. There was no possible way I was going to watch the royal wedding and not wear a hat. Now, being gay I knew it would not be a mans hat that I chose. No! Why choose something dull and boring when the women have so many beautiful, over-the-top options available to them. Yes, I knew I would be looking for something in the style of Philip Treacy, the haute couture hat designer from Ireland. It had to be Kentucky Derby worthy – festive, fabulous and dramatic.

I was more surprised than anyone when I found the perfect hat on the very day I started my search. It was in the first store. I hadn’t even seen it when I walked in. I had looked at everything else and was on my way out when I saw it. It was like a light from the millinery gods had suddenly been turned on above the purple hat sitting on display. I took it off its display stand and put it on my head right there in the store. I didn’t care that it was for a woman. I was determined to see how it would look on my head. It was the only one in the store. The only one in that style, the only one in that color. There were no more. That didn’t stop me from accessing my inner Gemini though and putting it back on the display and leaving the store in order to see what else I might find down the street. That may seem a little more Libra than Gemini, but it’s what I do. One side of me wants it and the other side wants to see what else is available. The answer to that question: nothing. There was nothing else as striking and appropriate as that hat. Thankfully, it was still there when I got back.

Once the hat was purchased, it was easy to move on to less important things like scone recipes. I know how trivial it sounds to be concerned about a hat when you’re attending a party of three people and watching a wedding that is being televised from across the pond, but I am dramatic and truly wanted to find a hat that would make a statement. I knew everything else after that would be easy.

Lady Marmalade found scone recipes. She found two, in fact, that she decided to make. I was in charge of buying the tea and finding clotted cream. I completed both of those tasks on Thursday afternoon. I knew that the Amish Market had a small, but complete, Twinings of London tea section. I was tasked with buying English Breakfast tea and any other kind I might find appealing. For the English Breakfast we had already decided that we wanted loose tea. When brewing a pot of tea, I can’t imagine the British use tea bags. I could be wrong, but it’s my under researched opinion. While standing in front of all of those glorious teas I saw a box of Prince of Wales tea. Well, as William is known as Prince William of Wales, I had to buy that box of tea bags. Can you blame me? It occurred to me while in the Amish Market that they have many interesting, odd and hard to find items that you can’t find at Food Emporium or Trade Fair. My suspicions were proved correct when I found a small bottle of English Double Devon Cream. Okay so it’s not exactly clotted cream, but it’s the closest I could find. Clotted cream can also be referred to as Devonshire cream, so with the words Devon and Cream in the title and the appropriate thickness of the cream visible through the glass I breathed a sigh of relief after paying for my items. If you’re keeping a tally, that’s one hat, one jar of cream and two types of tea purchased. This party was taking shape before my eyes.

Thursday evening when I got to Lady Marmalade’s house, we had to make a trip to Trade Fair and purchase the ingredients necessary to make the scones. It wasn’t until after my arrival that I actually learned there were two scones recipes to be made. I was very excited and couldn’t wait for us to bake the next day. I’m telling you the excitement started the night before. We just didn’t leave cookies and milk out for Santa before bed. Speaking of bed, we didn’t go to bed until 1am. We had scrapped our original plan of getting up at 4am to watch the wedding in real time. We decided to be more realistic and record the royal event and watch it at a more reasonable hour.

I thought the reasonable hour would have us waking around 8am or so the morning of April 29th. I was mistaken. Lady Loughtry was knocking on my door about 6:20am. She was already dressed in hat and jewels. Lady Marmalade was already in the kitchen working on the Strawberry Rosemary scones. That’s right folks, Strawberry Rosemary scones. I later dubbed them Berry Mary’s.

I quickly put in my contacts and ran to the bathroom to wash my face. I returned to the bedroom and began to put myself together for the morning’s festivities. I chose to make the hat the focal point of my costume for the party. I wore jeans and a white v-neck tee. Over the tee I wore a black vest complete with lapels. I needed the lapels, you see, because along with the hat, I purchased a crown, set in black stones, which I turned into a lapel pin for the occasion. As my hat was purple, I wanted to find something with a bit of purple in it that would also add a splash of color. It occurred to me on Wednesday, when I was trying to decide what to wear, that I had a shiny, multicolored tie that included the color purple. I tied that tie into a Windsor knot and wore it strategically bloused out of the vest. It was just enough zing, but not a distraction from the hat.

I emerged from the bedroom and went straight to the kitchen where I was not only given a Ruby Red Grapefruit mimosa, but the name Lady Notoriety. It was while I had been still asleep that my two companions had come up with our names: Lady Marmalade, Lady Loughtry and Lady Notoriety. Cheers, now drink! The moment our titles took shape so did the English accents that we would use throughout the day.
As I mentioned previously, the scone making was already underway by Lady Marmalade. Lady Loughtry was starting her spinach/mushroom/cheese frittatas and I helped out where needed. I floured the counter and the rolling pin for sticky scone dough. I peeled and sliced apples for the second scone recipe. It was full of apples and cinnamon and topped with sliced almonds. I added the dollop of strawberry preserves to the Strawberry Rosemary scones prior to placing them in the oven. I helped in small ways. Everyone had their task and the laughter and drinks flowed and the kitchen began to fill with the smells of our English breakfast.

When the scones and frittatas were out of the oven it was time for the tea. That was where I came it. I made the English Breakfast tea. Lady Marmalade made the pot of Prince of Wales.

The table had been set with Lady Marmalade’s grandmother’s china. It was laid with two platters of scones, a platter of frittatas, two pots of tea, cream and sugar for the tea, clotted cream, orange marmalade and raspberry jam. It was a feast and we did just that – feast.

We retired to sofa and chairs post breakfast with our teacups in hand. We watched the Abbey fill with fabulous, stunning, ridiculously excessive hats. It seems the women were required to wear a hat. I felt right at home in my own. We watched the procession of Royals to Westminster Abbey. We watched William and Harry wave to the crowds of cheering Londoners. We watched Charles and Camilla. We watched the Queen and Prince Phillip.

Then she appeared – barely visible, by design, to the cameras. The anticipation was growing as we waited to get a full glimpse of Kate and her gown and to learn who had designed it. We watched her wave to the crowds from behind the glass of the Queen’s oldest car and held our breath as the car came to a stop in front of the Abbey. When she stepped out of the car the crowd went wild. There were even a few tears shed in the room in which I sat. She was the gorgeous, living, breathing, epitome of a fairytale princess. Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen designed the gown. Sophisticated, stylish, elegant and sexy, it was daring and conservative, modern and nostalgic. More than one person, both on television and at my gathering, compared it to Grace Kelly’s wedding gown.

We watched as she walked down the aisle in the grand tradition of a royal wedding. Slowly, methodically, allowing all to take in the beauty of the moment. She may not have been born of royal blood, but she seemed surprisingly relaxed and composed for someone not born to that life. Maybe it’s because she was truly happy to be marrying the man whom she loved?

I couldn’t help but remember watching Lady Diana marry Prince Charles. I was 10 years old, gay even then. It’s hard to believe that she is dead now and that her eldest son married the love of his life in the same pomp and circumstance tradition that we, the world, watched her marry his father nearly 30 years ago.

The ceremony was a little too steeped in tradition to be personal, but the personal moment was to come. That horse-drawn carriage had taken them to Buckingham Palace and the crowds had gathered outside the gates in anticipation of the kiss. When they emerged from inside the palace, slight trepidation gave way to smiles as they waved to the crowd from the balcony. The crowd roared when they actually kissed for the first time in public as husband and wife. But William didn’t stop with just one kiss; he kissed her twice. Prince Charles has been the first to kiss his bride on that balcony and his brother Andrew followed suit when he married Fergie, but William was the first to kiss twice. Neither kiss was lengthy, but both were appropriately sweet. It was worth all the anticipation and waiting.

I did my best to document the silliness of our posh, pretentious tea party/English breakfast. It was everything that I imagined it would be. I remarked near the end that there were no two people I could have been more at ease and happy with in watching the royal wedding than Lady Marmalade and Lady Loughtry.

Thank you, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge for sharing your day with us. Could it be that a new era of British Royal has now taken center stage?

Signing off from my ground floor flat,
Lady Notoriety