Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Wrong Choice


I had the chance today to do the right thing, to change the outcome, to be a leader by example. I failed. 

A test was presented to me and I reverted to an old way of thinking. I got stuck on what I thought the answer should be instead of examining all aspects of the situation and understanding what would be the best outcome for all involved.

In the moment I felt as though I would be challenging the information that had been previously given, and by challenging said information, stepping on the toes of the person who gave it. I didn’t feel it was my place. I chose to stick to the rules (a dirty word in the instance) as I saw them. I didn’t even realize until later that by doing so I was making a choice not to help. I shake my head discouraged by my inability to see that clearly in the moment. 

Not only did the people I could have helped not end up happy; I didn't end up happy. My own frustration with my actions affected the rest of my day. If I could go back and make a different decision - the better choice - I could change the course of their day and mine. Instead I stuck to the black and white (the dirty rules) that is more comfortable for me, more familiar to me. 

Though I’ve gotten much better at it, I still struggle with gray area dilemmas. I struggle with them every day. It is difficult to face each situation for its own unique set of circumstances. Hindsight shows me that there was an easy end result for this situation. Hindsight shows me it wasn’t really gray at all. However, the “I’m right and you’re wrong” light blinking in my brain blinded me to those results. 

I'm not only frustrated with my actions, I'm disappointed in myself and saddened at the disappointment that my actions caused others. Also, I don't want to see the disappointment in the eyes of the one who will have to reiterate to me one more time how there isn't a set rule; things aren't always black and white; we function in a gray area.

I always try to do my best. I don't always succeed. Today was proof of that. I attempted to rectify my mistake, but it was too late.

Today I could have made a better choice. Today I could have made someone happy. Today I failed. Today I disappointed myself.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Upon Reflection...


***the below is a piece I started in July 2012 but never published***

Upon reflection...

To spend a week alone on an island full of strangers is an intimidating prospect. I was daunted. I was nervous. I was anxious. I was excited.

Upon reflection...

What was there to fear? I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. I wanted to do more than I did. I won’t often give myself permission to experience the life I want to experience. 

Upon reflection...

I’m the only person who stands in my way. Worrying about the way people perceive me is such a detriment to living my life. I’m so thankful that I managed at times to place worry in the back corner of my mind. Doing so allowed me to take off my clothes and experience the freedom of being nude on the beach. Basking in that moment of nudity nobody else mattered; worry or concern about what other people might be thinking about me didn’t pack the same punch I would normally let it pack.

Upon reflection...

Saying hello to strangers is one of the surest ways to put a smile on my face especially when the stranger says hello back (who knew?). On the flip side, when the stranger ignores me like I didn’t just speak, well, that pisses me off like you wouldn’t believe. Thankfully, in Cherry Grove almost everyone spoke or acknowledged one another with a smile or a nod of the head. It’s nice to be acknowledged. Living the on-the-go, focused life of a New Yorker doesn’t allow for moments of looking into the eyes of another person, moments of actual connection.

Upon reflection...

The vacation truly ended when I stepped on the crowded Manhattan bound train in Sayville, NY. Strangers no longer spoke to one another. Generosity seemed to leave us somewhere in the ocean on the ferry ride back to the mainland. There were more people than seats available on that train. Seats without bodies held luggage or propped feet. In some instances a single person lay across two seats reading or pretending to sleep. (I say pretending because I saw the eyes open and close and avert - I’ve played possum before myself so I recognize this traincentric selfishness.) No one offered their nonhuman occupied seat to the old lady or the father with two children - not the people who were lying down on two seats; not the ones who had their luggage in the spare seat; and definitely not the lady whose feet were propped up in the seat across from her. No one seemed to want to relinquish their hold on the spoils of getting on the train early. I observed as they watched person after person search for a place to sit down. I observed as they stopped making eye contact. I observed as they sat by and allowed people to stand with luggage in the cramped aisles and baggage area.  

Welcome back to reality. Welcome back to New York. Welcome back to the place where I chose above all others to make my life. It’s a love/hate relationship that I would trade for the world.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Island to Island


***the below is a piece I wrote in June 2011 but never published***

“Every day is a gift even if it sucks.”

I have been reflecting upon my week (June 2011) spent upon the glorious island of Martha's Vineyard. The one thing I can say without a doubt that I noticed upon being back on my home island is that the people are different - more guarded, more closed off, and definitely more rude.

We don't look at each other here. I started my Vineyard vacation with my eyes averted from one on one contact, but I quickly saw the difference in the people. Vineyardites actually said, "hello" and "good morning" to the familiar and the stranger. What a difference. I've been living the NYC life for so long that my normal is ignoring. My normal is not acknowledging. My normal is walking down the street with my iPod blasting, tuning out the world. Tuning out the bullshit of city noise is not a bad thing, but missing the sounds of the birds chirping or the breeze rustling the leaves in the trees is a pity of a sacrifice.

People are selfish, all of us in some way or another. For example: on the subway, iPod’s are played too loudly, conversations are conducted across the car. When we don’t pay attention to what we’re doing we’re sharing our entire lives with those around us. If we were aware of other people we would realize that many of us are just trying to mind our own business, read or grade papers, or contemplate the day ahead or just completed. Respect is what we don't have for each other.

I don’t want to hear your gangsta rap. I don’t want to hear your bipolar rant. I don’t want to hear you pushing your religion. I don’t want to hear about your boss or last night’s date. I just want to read my book, enjoy my coffee, and make my way to work or home. Of course, it’s a free country and there’s not much one can do about their surroundings when trapped in a subway car in a tunnel between Manhattan and Queens.

The people on the Vineyard have respect for each other and their island. I wouldn't even allow myself to spit gum out in the woods on the Vineyard.  I had this image in my head of some forest creature choking to death on the discarded gum or of the area in which the gum landed rotting away. That last image sure makes me look like I have toxic saliva. You get my point though, right? The space was too precious; nature too important. 

New Yorker’s can be rude and obnoxious. (We can also be kind and generous.) The rude and obnoxious label most often goes to the young people who strut around like they’re tough as shit and ain’t gonna take smack from nobody. I witnessed four of them in a row jump the turnstile at my subway stop on my first day back to work post vacation. I paid the new outrageous price of $104 for an unlimited monthly metro card so that I can ride the train. I guess my price includes the freeloaders. Thank you MTA for your higher prices and staffing cuts. I appreciate paying for it.

Two of the aforementioned jumpers proceeded to get the attention of a female they knew waiting across the tracks on the uptown side. She didn't have time for them. They honestly were such stereotypes that it was amusing as hell to watch her use her words to put them in their place. Of course, they referred to her as a bitch the minute they boarded the train to Manhattan. I guess because she wasn’t buying into their Rico Suave game she couldn't be anything else. Good for you girl for knowing there’re better guys in the world.

So, in an effort to recapture the spirit of the Vineyard I chose to go iPod free on my first day back to work. I listened, I observed. 

What I observed and heard made it difficult to hold on to my week of leisure, but I will always have the memory of life in the glowing sunlight, cool breezes, and “hello’s” from perfect strangers with no agenda on an island in the Atlantic.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reclaiming the Center


Friday night I took back the center of my bed. I unconsciously propped myself up against two pillows to read and realized that I was not propped up on the right side, but in the center. That may sound strange given that I’m a single man and can sleep anywhere in my bed I choose. If you’re familiar with The Secret by Rhonda Byrne you might understand why it is I was letting this middle zone go unused.

I was introduced to The Secret several years ago by my friend Neal. He called me one afternoon to tell me that the panel on Oprah that day might interest me. I was busy and the call went to voice mail. I didn’t listen to the voice mail until Oprah was nearly over. If memory serves, there were five minutes left in the program; enough time for “thank you’s” and “goodbye’s.” Thanks to the invention of the DVR I didn’t have to miss it though. Having walked away from my television while watching the ABC station on which Oprah aired in syndication in New York City, I merely had to rewind to the beginning of the episode to see what Neal thought I might find so intriguing. 

I have always been glad that he called and that the DVR rewind option gave me the opportunity to not miss that episode.

I was stuck in a rut and yearning to change my life back then. I’m still craving change now - but the struggle is much different; I was at the beginning of it then. I was desiring change, but hadn’t started to make one yet. You might say that The Secret was the catalyst that started me on my journey toward change. I had read or attempted to read other self help books in my life, but it wasn’t until The Secret that I connected to the possibilities that lie in the Universe just waiting to be called upon for service. Maybe the content was dumbed down or maybe I was in a more open place mentally to receive, but the words made more sense to me than any others I had ever read.

I watched that panel of experts talk about asking and receiving, creating vision boards, and being thankful for what you want but don’t yet have, and knew I wanted to be part of their be-positive-get-results world. Being positive is hard for me. It was hard for me then, but thankfully it was harder then than now. I have grown, even if just slightly. I may still struggle with seeing the silver lining when I’m really just waiting for the other shoe to drop, but at least these days if that shoe does drop it’s a silver shoe.

What does all of this have to do with me sleeping in the center of my own bed you ask? I’m getting to that.

There is a story in The Secret that tells of a woman who thought she had done everything right in order to attract her perfect mate. She had gotten clear with the Universe about what she was looking for and was confused as to why the Universe had yet to provide him for her. She returned home one day and parked her car in the center of her garage. It was that moment the cartoon light bulb switched on above her head. She realized she wasn’t making any room for her potential mate. I know you may be rolling your eyes. I know this sounds silly, but these kinds of things are what The Secret is about; being clear about what you want and acting as if you already have it.

She was ready for her him to enter her life, but all signs she was giving the Universe were contradicting. From that day forward she started parking on one side of the garage to make room for his car. She made room in her closet for his clothes. She started sleeping on her side of the bed in order to leave a side for him. In true fairytale fashion her fairy godmother did a little bippity-boppity-boo and her perfect mate came into her life.

I don’t know how long it took for him to show up and I don’t know how she remained positive. The Secret uses the story as an example of getting clear on what you want and living like you already have it; being thankful for it everyday.

It’s not as simple as “ask and ye shall receive” tomorrow, and there’s no fortune teller on the boardwalk saying, “your wish is granted,” but it does make one think differently. 

I was affected positively by The Secret. That’s not to say that I believe it’s magic. What I mean is, reading it gave me the tools to act and think more positively than I used to. I say, “thank you” every morning when my feet touch to ground as I’m getting out of my bed. That is the smallest gesture of gratitude I can offer the Universe, but I do it because I am thankful; thankful that I had a good night’s sleep; thankful that I have another day to live, breathe, see, sing, write, and enjoy the life I’ve been given. It seems a no-brainer to start the day by saying, “thank you” now. Funny how it took reading The Secret to understand that.

I don’t have a car and I don’t have the closet space to leave room for a potential mate, but what I could do was sleep on “my” side of the bed. I’ve been doing that for years. There is no mate yet. But the reason for that, I realize, is that I am so unclear with myself and the Universe as to what I want that no amount of sleeping on “my” side of the bed is ever going to bring him magically to my door. 

So, I’m still working on figuring out me: how to be happy with me, how to love me. There will come a time when my happiness will envelope me and might even extend to another person. Until then, there’s no reason that I can’t sleep in the middle of my bed or even diagonally if I choose.

I just have to continue to be thankful there’s a center of a bed to sleep in. Maybe my potential mate likes to cuddle and we’ll share the center. Who knows.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

(A)Shame(d)?


Honesty can be painful. It can be embarrassing. It can be freeing. It can shed light on the dark inner workings of one’s soul.

I’m going to open the honesty door and reveal a truth that from most I keep hidden. Fear of societal judgement causes me to hide this truth, but here it is: I watch pornography. Shocking, I know. Hey, I’m a single, gay man. It’s part of my normal.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t masturbate to pornography. I don’t deny myself the carnal pleasure of watching two, three, more men engage in sexual activity. Sometimes I try to limit my intake, but that never works. I’ve tried to cut it out cold turkey, but without fail I fall off that wagon; I succumb to the only sexual outlet I seem to be able to count on these days - Porn: men fucking with wild abandon, sexual activity for pleasure, no consequences, beautiful bodies fulfilling a fantasy that doesn’t exist in the real world. 

Here’s an example: I’m walking down the street. I make eye contact with a hot guy. He looks at me as we pass. I wait the requisite three-seconds, if my patience holds out, and turn to look again, hoping he too has turned to catch another glimpse. More often than not he doesn’t turn. There’s no impending sexual explosion; no sex in the alley or inside a beautiful, Manhattan hotel room with fantastic views. When I stop to question why the person didn’t turn to look at me like I turned to look back at him I then realize I’m not living in a pornographic scenario. Duh! Combining your “sexy” smile with that smoldering, come hither look that you practice in the mirror might make the soufflĂ© rise, but doesn’t mean anyone is going to eat it. 

When I finally got around to watching the film Shame I quickly saw that there was more to it than the gorgeous-bodied-and-not-afraid-to-show-it-off Michael Fassbender. Those piercing eyes. The smile that works as a smirk or a full blast of teeth. That penis that makes one covet. It’s a film in whose central character I could see myself due to his inability to connect or be vulnerable.

Fassbender plays Brandon Sullivan, a seemingly intelligent man; a man of means; a man who happens to be strikingly handsome; a man with the inability to open his heart to love someone, or himself. Brandon funnels all his self loathing into getting off. He needs to have sex or some sort of sexual experience. During sex is when he’s at his best, when he most loves himself. During sex is when he doesn’t have to think about anything, least of all how disappointed he is in his life. His outlets for sexual activity range from watching porn (he cums, he turns it off), to video chatting on websites (he cums, he closes the laptop), to the purchase of escorts (he cums, they go). There is no connection. There is no intimacy. There is no vulnerability. For a fleeting moment the flowing blood and tingling nerves replace everything in his life and transport him to a place where debt, work, family and yes, his self loathing doesn’t exist. 

I am so familiar with this scenario. Okay, so I know sex is connecting; it can be intimate and there’s certainly vulnerability, but you’re not really letting anyone in. It’s physical intimacy; it’s physical vulnerability. It’s not emotional. With a sex-only life, one never has to get to know another person. Words that are exchanged include: are you negative? when was the last time you were tested? top or bottom? what do you like to do? yeah, baby! i’m cumming! bye.

When I do find someone that shows the slightest bit of interest in me, I usually end up chasing him away because I don’t know how to interact with him. My desire for a sexual connection is so strong, so desperate sometimes, that I pursue it like a needy child. It’s no surprise that he then avoids me as if his life depended on it. I know how to be sexual. I know how to use the sex outlets Adam4Adam and Grindr - showing my pics to potential partners, allowing the pics to do all the work - I don’t seem to know how to just flirt, talk, be me. It’s never been more evident to me that I don’t know how to flirt with a potential mate than when I’m flirting with a gay-friendly straight man or gay man who’s in a relationship. There’s no possibility for rejection and I can flirt with no consequences. In those moments, I’m just being me - comfortable, at ease, flirty me. I’ve begun to question why I can’t be me in a situation that might gain me something incredible in my life. Question: What am I so afraid of? Answer: I’m intimidated by men who might actually be interested in me. 

I watched Brandon struggle and suffer with his addiction to sex in stunned silence. At one moment I realized I wasn’t moving. I was so still that I felt it, if that makes sense. My mouth was even slightly agape. This must be what Blanche Devereaux feels like when she’s, “... stunned, just stunned! Stunned is the only way to describe how, stunned I am!” You see, while watching Shame I saw myself. No, I don’t go out in search of (and consistently achieve) sex like the character in the movie. I don’t pay for escorts. I don’t Skype or FaceTime sexually. But I need to get off just like Brandon. My desire overwhelms me sometimes. Brandon’s life is unfulfilled. There is such sadness. Sex does not make a life; it enhances life, but can’t be all there is to life. I am unfulfilled. Frequently it’s out of pure boredom that I masturbate. I wish for a sex partner, a life partner, something, but how much of myself am I willing to give? Mostly I just aim for the release and the goodbye.

Staying on the topic of boredom, I’ve recognized lately I get bored with porn. Seriously, I’m watching two beautiful men have sex, maybe even wishing one of them was here with me, and I get bored. It’s not exciting enough. I press pause, open a new tab on my computer and go in search of something hotter, dirtier, kinkier. Something that will help me get off one more time. 

According to the article “Sacrificing Sex for Porn” by Alexandra Katehakis, published May 15, 2012, in The Huffington Post, “Pornography usage is all about being alone and isolated, it’s voyeuristic by definition, and about a constant search for surprise, novelty, and even shock at times.” Who am I? How will this affect me the next time I’m with an actual breathing human being? 

Tom Matlack recently posted a blog via The Good Men Project, that I reposted here on my own blog, called “25 Things I Want My Sons To Know.” Number 5 says, “There’s nothing wrong with looking at porn, but having sex with someone you care about is a thousand times more fun.” I question my own ability to get out of the porn scenes that run through my head and have fun with a flesh and blood person. Katehakis goes on to say in her Huffington article, “Use enough porn and, like the alcoholic over time, you’ll go numb to feeling pleasure in everyday life.” What is this doing to me? What am I doing to myself?

I can connect. I’ve done it before. Trying to connect can be so frustrating though. “Courting another for the sake of seeking sexual contact requires human interaction, touch, smell, gazing into someone’s eyes, and making yourself vulnerable. Who needs that?!”  Again Katehakis puts my thoughts into words. I’m so much more charming and sexy in my head than what often comes out of my mouth. It’s so much easier to find that 20 minute clip and just get off. Wait. Did I say easier? The search for right clip can be endless. Don’t even get me started on the amount of time wasted trying to find that right clip. I sometimes wonder what I could have accomplished with all that time. No use crying over spilled orgasm.

Desire and sex are twins that can control our lives. Part of the problem I have in my own life, apart from realizing that I don’t live in a porn scenario, is that I proclaim to want someone, to want intimacy with a person, but if I’m honest, I don’t know if I know how to be emotionally intimate anymore. I think there was a time when I did. The truth is I understand better the immediate gratification of the hook up more so than the emotional satisfaction of a caring relationship; the coming together for nothing more than pleasure and the going home. It’s my uncomfortable comfort zone. I’ve never really gotten past the emptiness that it causes me though. I think Brandon felt the same way. He was empty. His life was full of nothing but sex and the next opportunity to cum. When those opportunities didn’t present themselves, he created them - at work locked in the bathroom stall, at home when his sister (I’ll get to her) was finally out of the apartment, or the rock bottom moment when he went into a gay bar and followed a man to a dirty back room and allowed him to suck his dick. That is rock bottom. A heterosexual man in need of sex so desperately that he allows a man to suck his dick just to get off. The look of disgust mingled with pleasure that filled Brandon’s face was brilliantly conveyed by Michael Fassbender. It was heartbreaking. If I’m going for honest, it was hot and heartbreaking. It might have even been a little disturbing.

Now for Brandon’s sister. Sissy Sullivan. Sad, desperate Sissy Sullivan. She ended up in Brandon’s apartment because of trauma with her boyfriend. She seemed to be left with no where else to go; no other family to turn to. One could only wish for her anyone other than Brandon. She throws his world into chaos. In his mind his life is pristine, in order. Her life is vagabond. She has no stability. His way of dealing with life is sex. With her at his home he can’t have sex. Turmoil and frustration ensue. She is just as damaged as Brandon, but in a different way. Sissy wants to be loved - by the man who’s breaking up with her via phone, by her brother who is more annoyed than happy to see her. She’s full of sadness. She’s lost. She’s desperate for human connection just like her brother, but they act out in different ways. He’s a sex addict. She’s a cutter. That’s one fucked up family tree. Stacked on top of one another in the City that never sleeps. I recognize this frustration. I recognize myself in both of these characters. I recognize my desires. I recognize my longings. I recognize my breaking point. I recognize myself.

Brandon had a moment of clarity in the film where he threw away all of his pornographic material: all magazines, all videos, vibrator, even his computer. Tied it all up in a black trash bag and put it out on the street in New York City. The lady with her buggy looking for tin cans that night was going to get more than she bargained for by opening that trash bag. I’ve done that - thrown away all porno magazines and videos before in an effort to cut it from my life. In an effort to force myself to try to meet people. And wouldn’t you know that’s what Brandon tried. He attempted a real date with wine, dinner and...small talk. 

What a challenge. It was awkward. Maybe even a little intimidating. He didn’t know how to connect on that kind of emotional level and just be himself and let someone in. That scene held the most intimate conversation in the film and may have been its most uncomfortable to watch. Brandon doesn’t know how to be himself. Maybe he doesn’t know who he is. He’s uncomfortable. He can’t open up.

His small talk included a statement about people in restaurants, who’ve been together for years, being boring, how conversations don’t happen anymore. He doesn’t know how to sit in comfortable silence with a partner. I understand that. I tend to always feel like I should be trying to make conversation. It’s an impulse. If we’re uncomfortable we want to fill the silence. The only time I don’t feel this way is when I’m with one, or both, of my best friends of 20 years. We can be silent together and there’s nothing uncomfortable about it. Of course I’m not sleeping with, or trying to sleep with, either of them. 

I’ve only had one relationship with a lover in my life and it lasted seven months. Brandon’s longest relationship was four months. I could feel how uncomfortable he was, but I knew that if he was naked with the woman he would be in his element; the only place he’s in control and feels comfortable and knows what to do. The end of the date was awkward. What do you do when sex is not an option? A few days later he approached the woman from the date at work and they went to a hotel for a lunchtime rendezvous. In the moment of purest, truest intimacy the girl stopped kissing him and looked into his eyes while caressing his cheek. He took pause and tried to be present in her moment of intimacy and to give himself over to it. He couldn’t. He tried to move the situation into the direction from which he gains his power and couldn’t get erect. His power was as fizzled as Samson’s strength after Delilah had a servant cut off his hair. The moment was too personal, too intimate. In a moment of weakness he’d let her in. Now, because of fear, or any other reason you can name, he couldn’t have sex her. 

If I’m attracted to someone sexually I never think about having coffee or a drink or dinner with him. I think about how to get him naked. If he doesn’t want to go there with me, I take offense. Truth! Brutal honesty from the shallowest part of my personality. I get offended that my body is not the object of his desire. He should be offended at me for looking at him as merely a piece of meat. I wanted Brandon’s date to work out. I wanted him to be able to have sex with her at their lunchtime encounter. I must admit though, I wasn’t surprised by the ultimate outcome. 

As much as I may talk of finding someone in which to share my life, proper or sexual, there is nothing like the feeling I get when it’s just me alone with my computer and the images of guys going at it with wild abandon. I didn’t realize that the dopamine in our brains that gets released when watching pornography can literally rewire our brains. We can become stimulated by merely opening our laptops especially when we’re opening it to begin our porn search. Do you know that our frontal cortex can actually change so drastically from chronic porn use that we become unable to get erect for actual sex? “Your brain is numb to real-life sexual encounters due to overstimulation by pornographic images, so it can barely send signals to your penis to stand up,” says Katehakis. I had no idea. Katehakis goes on to give a thought provoking analogy to describe what happens to us. “If you put [a] frog in boiling water, it hops out. If you put it in cool water and slowly turn up the heat, it will never feel its demise.” Am I not even feeling my demise, my separation, my isolation?

Intimacy issues, vulnerability concerns, frontal cortex problems. Good Lord! Only a gorgeous Tom Ford tux is going to hide this mess.

I’m too scared to experience most of my sexual desires for myself so I hide and relieve my tensions in the privacy of my room where no one can judge me for being too vanilla or too aggressive or too shy or too kinky. In this privacy I can be who I want to be without sharing me with another person; without letting another person help me evolve, explore and develop the me that explodes in secrecy.

“Of all sexual actions, masturbation remains the most difficult one to discuss openly,” says Mels van Driel in his May 31, 2012, article “Facts and Fantasies About Masturbation” published in The Huffington Post. “When it is good it is a strictly personal experience, which many people have learned quite wrongly is dirty, sinful, shameful or even unhealthy. It is, however, the most common human sexual expression and is perfectly normal.”

So I come to end of this piece and I’m left with questions. Should I be ashamed? Am I disgusting? Am I a cynical New Yorker who can’t allow himself to commit to anyone because someone better might be just around the corner, but when no one better is, gets angry at what he doesn’t have? Should I be ashamed that sex is constantly on my mind? Am I a normal (define normal) man? Should I be ashamed that I masturbate often? Should I be ashamed that I use pornography? That last question is the one I pose to myself most often. I still have no answer.

Honesty can be painful. It can be embarrassing. It can be freeing. It can shed light on the dark inner workings of one’s soul.

shame: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Return to Different


I realize it’s still officially summer, but let’s face it, Labor Day came and went, school started, the days are getting shorter and there has been a nip in the morning air. That basically screams fall to me - my favorite time of year. For me, fall is a time for new beginnings; rebirth. The heat of summer goes away. New shows debut on television while old favorites return. Sweaters move from the back of the closet to the front. Hot chocolate becomes appropriate. Pumpkin makes its annual return and the scent of nutmeg and cinnamon fill the air. All that’s missing is that little square on the calendar making it official. 

I kicked off the approaching most colorful of the seasons with a return visit to Provincetown - P-town for short - during that purgatory time between summer ending and fall beginning.

The streets were the same: narrow, one-car lanes lined on either side with shingle houses, familiar to the Hampton’s and Cape Cod, in weather-worn gray that showed their age with grace. White-painted, grand homes that looked out upon the water. Colorfully painted homes that seemed to invite a party. Homes with widow’s walks that distanced themselves from the sadness of the widows that once stood, longingly staring out to sea in search of their missing husbands.

The sidewalk made of brick still lay under the tread of feet carrying visitors to the next restaurant for another lobster roll; to another art gallery to see this year’s pieces (and in some cases familiar pieces from past visits); or to the next bar in which to sip a drink and possibly strike up a conversation. In my case to gaze at the people in conversation wishing I was part of it. My issues are a subscription that I just keep piling in the basket, slowly working through until I can recycle them into something new and useful.

The lighthouses were still there, majestically standing at the far reaches of the Cape, ready to warn passing ships of the dangers that lay below the water. 

There’s something about standing in P-town, breathing deeply, that makes me close my eyes and find the stillness of being, all the while filling my lungs with oxygen from a deep inhale of salt tinged air. NYC goes away. The thump of music that I hear isn’t necessarily from a bar, it’s from a porch where men dressed in pink from head-to-toe are having a good time or from a music store trying to lure me inside. Laughter is abundant. People on bicycles whiz by. Dogs and their owners stroll down the street. 

People are not as friendly in P-town as they are in Cherry Grove on Fire Island, but it’s okay because to each his own and we each have our own reason for absorbing the atmosphere of P-town. 

This year brought a change in rental house location. We actually rented a home on Winthrop Street. For those of you who have patiently been reading my current piece of fiction, “Return to Winthrop St.,” this is the same street of the story’s title. I was inspired to start the story last year at the end of my visit to P-town. It was quite interesting to me to find myself staying on said street this year. Even more interesting was to see that one of the businesses that inspired the name of one of the characters was no longer present on the street. “Return to Winthrop St.” is inspired by true events. Inspired means loosely based. Very loosely. The story is fictionalized and embellished; it has been a way for me to work through some things in my life. I found it very telling that one of the inspiring names was no longer present on the street. It was almost as if the universe was showing me that people can move on, that we can get over things.

This time last year I was expressing the need for living my life as my own and taking risks for progress. To look at the words on the pages I’ve written since then it’s hard to see that I’ve taken any steps forward, but I have. They may be tiny steps, but I have moved. I’m still close enough to where I was to see it without the need of my glasses, but any step forward is a step away; a step toward change. 

I was very distressed emotionally last year when September rolled around and I stepped off the ferry onto the dock at P-town. I let the emotional conflict playing tennis in my head prevent me from having the vacation I should have had. I was determined this year to enjoy myself. It was my vacation and I wanted to do whatever I wanted to do. Isn’t that what vacation is about?

I’m such a sit around kind of guy. Somedays I like having no plans. I realize that can get boring. I get bored with my own company sometimes, but there are days when having nothing planned - choosing to sit outside at the plastic table that has a hole for an umbrella to block the sun but no umbrella in sight, reading the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar - is just what I need. Add to that a morning bloody mary and a comfy T-shirt with the neck cut out and I’m describing a perfect morning with no cares, concerns, or anxieties.

This vacation brought the rental of bicycles. I actually wanted to rent bikes. Renting bikes last summer during my trip to the Vineyard showed me that I could still ride a bike and made it easy to say yes to renting bikes in P-town this trip. I won’t lie. Riding a bike in any kind of traffic makes me nervous, but the trafficked streets were so few compared to the open bike trails that took me to and past the beach and through a beautiful hilly, wooded area that it made the traffic worth it just to get to there. The excitement of feeling the wind brush my face as I coasted down a curvy hill can’t be matched. Not even by the serene morning of Harper’s and a bloody mary. I brought up the rear of our threesome of bike riders, but that was fine with me. It allowed me to just exist in my own space and experience my surroundings on my own time.

This trip to P-town also brought a visit to the beach. I’m a sucker for the water. Most of you who read my blog know that. I love sitting on the sand and staring out into the vastness that melds into the horizon with barely a break in color. This beach was rockier than I care for, but it was still calming - the waves rolling in and flowing out. I will admit that I don’t enjoy the slather of sunblock to prevent sunburn and skin cancer, but I know it’s a necessity. And please, I’m vain enough at 41 that I don’t want to give my skin any extra chance to wrinkle than it already has from life in general.

There were beautiful sunsets to behold. There were sailboat dotted views of the ocean from the back deck of The Red Inn - while sipping the best Cucumber vodka flavored drink I had while on vacation - that allowed for an exhale of stress so decompressing that my body became smaller. Rosie O’Donnell was there with her new wife. I gave her a shout out before I could stop myself. We’re all just people, right? 

There is still conflict in my life. Some might say I brought it all on myself. Maybe I did. Looking back over the year between P-town visits I realize that I have been dealing with so much in my life that it’s no wonder I have anxiety. Friendships have changed. Relationships have grown and in some cases fallen apart. Writing has continued with even more honesty. More responsibility has been placed upon my shoulders at work. Parasites wreaked havoc. It’s just another year in my life, but oh what a year it’s been.  

Cucumber vodka takes its place in my freezer among my other favorite - Firefly Sweet Tea vodka. A new piece of art hangs in my home. Yep, I finally bought one of the pieces I’d admired from my two previous visits. I’m ready to see the leaves change; add a dash of cinnamon to my coffee. I’m ready to put the anxiety behind me. I’m ready to close the chapter on the old challenges, and, no matter how apprehensive I may be, face the new ones. Although that scares the shit out of me. My subscription basket just got one more issue full. 

“Seasons change,” Carrie Bradshaw says in the “I Heart NY” episode of Sex and the City. She’s right and life changes along with those seasons. I continue to struggle; to grow; to change; to progress in my life. Reflection can be a melancholy affair. Cue “Moon River” and the leaf gently falling to my feet, but pour me a drink first. Maybe something cucumber flavored.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"25 Things I Want My Sons To Know" by Tom Matlack


When I read this post via twitter by Tom Matlack, written for The Good Men Project, I was so moved by the honesty, humor and truth of Tom’s words that I not only retweeted it immediately, I wanted to post it to my own blog. The 25 Things listed below should be printed and placed on the refrigerator door, displayed in a visible place to be seen every day; a reminder of things to strive for.
25 Things I Want My Sons To Know
1. It’s harder to take a punch than to throw one.
2. Find the people who make you laugh and follow them around like a golden retriever. Laughing is like a vitamin. You can never get enough of it.
3. A guy who hugs a lot is comfortable in his own skin.
4. Read poetry.
5. There’s nothing wrong with looking at porn, but having sex with someone you care about is a thousand times more fun.
6. When you feel like crying, for joy or out of pain, let 'er rip. If you don’t get those tears out, they will calcify in your chest and make it harder to love as fully and deeply as you would like to.
7. Crank the tunes when you have to clean the house.
8. Look deeply into the eyes of the one you are falling for to get a glimpse of his or her soul.
9. Spend a chunk of time every year with people who are much less fortunate than you are. It will fill your heart with gratitude.
10. Never lie about anything really important. The first lie will cause you to have to lie again and again to cover up the truth. And each time you’ll chip away an important piece of yourself.
11. Find work that makes you happy. If you can change the world in the process all the better.
12. If you get the chance to travel across the country or across the globe, take it. You will learn way more from people who are different from you than the ones who are the same.
13. Doing nothing is better than doing the wrong thing. But you are going to make mistakes. Tons of them. The real question is what you will learn from them.
14. Don’t be in any rush to get married. Divorce really sucks. A good marriage can start when you’re 21 or 61.
15. There’s nothing wrong with a Cuban cigar once in a while.
16. Money and power look good, but they won’t fill your being with joy the way your family will.
17. If you like guys, I will fight for your ability to have equal rights in every way.
18. Find a way to move your body that gives you pleasure. You don’t have to be an athlete to be a man, but your body is a temple and you need to care for it, enjoy it, and use it to express yourself.
19. Drinking can be fun in moderation. Just make sure to ask for help if you find yourself blacking out or doing things you regret.
20. Radical honesty will get you very far in this world. Most people don’t have the guts to speak their mind, regardless of the consequences.
21. Always give your spouse birthday presents in bed.
22. Find a spirituality that you can wear like a loose coat that keeps you warm no matter the weather. God should provide you comfort not make you feel ashamed of yourself.
23. Sex is great but holding your spouse in the middle of the night is one of the best feelings any guy can have.
24. Live passionately. Dream big. Don’t back down.
25. Always remember I love you, no matter what happens. You cannot lose me. I will always be there.
Thank you, Tom, for sharing these words with us. Even though I don’t plan to have children, I can apply these 25 Things to my own life.