Monday, November 26, 2012


It started with a text.

Me: Any interest in seeing a movie this afternoon? Life of Pi, Lincoln, and Argo are all playing at Lincoln Square.

Matt: I’d love to see Lincoln or Argo.

Me: Argo @ 4. Meet you inside the lobby.

Fast forward to 3:30pm. The lobby of the Lincoln Square cineplex was crowded. Two out of every four ticket kiosks: broken. The line for the ticket counter was snaking almost to the end of the stanchion dividers. I was nervous. I hate going to the movies in NYC. The hotter the ticket the more possible the theater will be filled with those inconsiderate movie goers who think nothing of texting, talking on their phones, or talking to each other. 

Picture me in a lobby full of people when I got to the front of my ticket kiosk line to print my pre-purchased tickets and saw that the movie I’d purchased tickets for was sold out. It was less than 30 minutes to showtime, Matt wasn’t there, my kiosk was one of the broken ones; I had to join new line. My brain was forming a picture of the crowd of people who were already filling seats to the 4pm showing of Argo. I wasn’t planning on getting a snack, but the fact that time was ticking away took the option away from me. I’m not one of those people who will wait in line for snacks while the previews are playing then sneak in just as the movie starts. No, I want to watch the previews. That’s part of my movie going experience.

At 3:40pm I had made it to the front of a working ticket kiosk line and had my tickets in hand. Matt was still no where to be found. I called him. He answered with the voice of someone in movement. He was on his way. I was standing in a prime location. One that would ensure I saw him and that he saw me. I doubted I would be missed. I mean I was wearing my gray coat with my blue scarf thrown fashionably around my neck and my Coach bag was draped over my arm. Even if you weren’t looking for me, I was hard to miss. What can I say? Sometimes I stand out in a crowd. It happens.

People were walking past or splitting up to stand it two kiosk lines determined to waste no moment in purchasing or retrieving their tickets. Others were riding up escalators, laughing with their friends. Shouts of joy erupted as one of the split pair reached the front of their line first, the other jumping out of line to join them. My friend wasn’t there. Time wasn’t slowing it was actively moving forward. I was checking the time on my phone. I was still standing fashionably ensembled in my prime location. The last I looked there were no texts or voicemails. I was no nearer to getting a seat in the sold out showing of Argo.

Then I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check again. Two missed calls. Of course with all the hustle and bustle of the crowded lobby I didn’t hear it ring. I called Matt back. As obviously visible as I thought I was, he had missed me and I him. He was upstairs looking for me when he’d called and failed to reach me. I called him back as he was riding the escalator back down. He was asking me where I was when I caught sight of him. We laughed, said our hellos, and headed back up the escalator.

Argo was showing in one of Lincoln Square’s smaller movie theaters. It made since. The film had been playing for a few weeks. Smaller theater means less seats to sell before sold out. Sold out means crowded. We ended up in the second row.

That’s normally a groaner of a seat location for me, but you know what, this time it wasn’t. I was okay with sitting that close. I asked Matt if he wanted to split up to get seats further back, but the choice was made to stick together. So we had the aisle of the second row. Scooting way down in the seat provided a good viewing angle and the perfect head rest. I won’t lie. As okay as I was with sitting in the second row, my 40 year old eyes wished they’d been a little further back. Eyesight in your 40s starts to suck. I can’t believe I need a little distance now for clarity, but that’s another story. I’m not saying the images on the screen were blurry or anything, they just would have been less strain on the eyes with a little distance.

What can I say about Argo? I don’t want to give anything away, but that film was wound tighter than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs rocking at full tilt. Seriously! If I was a nail biter I would have no more nails. I went along for this ride and forgot to buckle my seat belt. I couldn’t have been more excited to by flying by the seat of my pants. I don’t know if it’s the directing or the editing or the way it all works together combined with just the right music, but this story was taut and I was terrified the high wire was going to snap. That’s an amazing feat considering it’s based on a true story, and we know how it turned out. Amidst the riveting scenario, the screenplay was laced with comedic lines, like that of the title of this blog, to help break the tension. Moments of much needed respite for the heart to stop its agitated pounding and calm down to a resting pulse only to speed up again. Who knew watching Argo was also a way to burn calories?
When I saw the musical 1776 for the first time, my friend, James, saw how anxious I was about whether or not they would sign The Declaration of Independence. He leaned over to me and whispered, “You know they sign it.” History. I know it was signed, but the tension was palpable. Sometimes when I watch Titanic I think maybe this time it won’t sink. To me both of the above references are examples of good storytelling. We know the outcome, but are so engrossed in the story that we aren’t sure it’s going to be what we know.

I was 8 years old when the hostage crises depicted in Argo happened. My sister wasn’t even a year old yet. I don’t remember much about it except there were hostages. What I do remember are the yellow ribbons tied around trees, lamp posts, electricity poles, etc. I remember that. Seeing those yellow ribbons in the film was an immediate connector to the time. Images of Ted Koppel, Walter Cronkite, and Diane Sawyer reporting were priceless -- real life history on display. The Star Wars memorabilia took me to my cousin Kevin’s house. He lived just down the street from me. He had all of those figurines as well as the Millennium Falcon. Memories of my youth were before my eyes on screen. The glasses, the hair styles, the clothes. I was a child of the 80s. I would bet the only event more talked about during that time was Who Shot J.R.?, which happened four months after the hostage crisis began. That phrase is still in the lexicon today.

As my 40 year old eyes watched history’s denouement play out from the second row on a 20 foot high screen (#secondrowsarcasm), I cried. There was nothing I could do about it. I had to release. I was finally able to breathe along with the characters on the screen. I was filled with joy. The pressure I’d been feeling in my chest had welled up into my eyes, rolled down my cheeks and suddenly been replaced with joy and happiness. That joy and happiness was for the characters as well as for the fact that I had just witnessed a damn good film. Oscar viewing season, for me, was officially in swing.

You know what follows a great movie? An amazing burger. Matt suggested we go A.G. Kitchen. I’d never been and was game for the new experience. That burger was of the holla-praise-to-Jesus variety; so juicy that you’ve either got to forget about wiping you hands each time you take a bite or get over yourself and not be embarrassed if you need to ask for another napkin. I didn’t ask for another napkin, by the way, but the one I had was filthy with goodness. Our dinner conversation ran the gambit of what we’d done over the past two days, to work, to food, to drinks, and then turned to twitter. I talked to Matt about setting up a twitter account to promote his business. While he didn’t do that, he did set up a personal twitter account. I showed him how to tweet, follow, retweet, discover. Then I tweeted Ben Affleck about Argo. Why not? He’s on twitter and I had something to say.

After the film and after dinner, Matt and I walked seven blocks in the direction of his apartment and my train. It was a crisp autumn night. I felt like I was right where I belonged. I was walking down the sidewalk in New York City having seen a fantastic film with an audience too engaged to talk. I had what might possibly be the best burger of my life at a restaurant I’d never been to before. I was with one of my two best friends, feeling lighter than air, not a care in the world. It was a good night. “Argo fuck yourself.” Smile.

Hope Ben Affleck reads my tweet.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Golden Girls are Boys

To be comfortable one on one in the presence of another person is an incredible feeling. To sit across the table and listen as he recounts the day, or week, he’s had, and to find genuine interest in said recounting is gratifying. Then when the tables turn and he’s listening to me bemoan my day, well let’s just say the comfortability level increases to the moon. I’m up there waiting for Alice should Ralph ever follow through with his threats.

I wasn’t on a date and I haven’t met the man of my dreams. I had dinner with one of my two best friends from college. I’ve written about them both before and I’m sure I will again. One lives here, the other in Boston. This particular dinner was with the New Yorker.

We’ve known each other more than twenty years, the three of us, but I consider our best friend status to have turned 20 years old this past summer. You see it was the summer of 1992 when the three of us were doing summer stock together that our friendship took roots. Over the course of the next school year those roots took hold. I have literally grown as a human being, as a man, as a gay man with these two remarkably indulgent, caring, forgiving men. They know everything there is to know about me; the good, the bad, the ugly, the comical, the stinky, the wrong, the right, the confused, the selfish, the generous.

They are my brothers; family that I chose and who chose me in return. They help me through rough patches and laugh with me in good times. Over glasses of Pinot Noir or Malbec in a darkly lit wine bar. Over beer and pizza at John’s Pizzeria. Over Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, and Jamison on the rocks whenever, wherever.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be the best man at each of their weddings. When the New Yorker got married, the Bostonian and I had a moment alone with him in the hotel where we all stayed. I told a story of the TMI variety that I was not one bit ashamed to divulge in front of them. We three laughed so hard in that room there were actual moments of lost breath and tears. I remember it today as if it just happened. Pure joy. Nothing hidden. No holding back. No judgement. 

When the Bostonian got married, the New Yorker was out of the country. I carried a picture of him in my pocket during the ceremony. That may sound cheesy, but we three love each other dearly. That picture was a stand in for the missing piece of our friendship triangle. If he could have flown home to be there he would have. That picture was our way of feeling his presence. 

I am a better man because these two men are in my life. I can say with some certainty that the road in my life’s journey has been shaped in part by them. We are individuals, our personalities distinct, but we compliment each other. We last. We graduated from reason and season to hit lifetime status.

Matt’s Grill was where The New Yorker and I had dinner. It’s one of those neighborhood restaurants where you expect customers to know the staff and vice versa. The New Yorker frequents the place more often than I and he does know some of the staff. The waitress, for example, knows what he drinks. It’s kind of nice to feel like somebody knows you in this big old City we call home. It’s like mom’s mac and cheese or grandmother’s potato salad; mamaw’s sweet tea or the Bostonian’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. It’s comfortable, easy. Being around the two of them is comfortable and easy. It’s like slipping on that warm sweater you’ve had for years, but wouldn’t trade in for a new for any amount of money.

At dinner we talked about our lives over a hearty meal. We listened to each other. We laughed. There is genuine love between the two of us. That comes from history. Our history has deep roots from Kentucky to here.

That’s not to say there haven’t been times of discord. We’re not saints. I’ve gone months without speaking to the New Yorker before for one reason or another that seems right at the time, but in hindsight is ridiculous. He forgives my childishness and folds me to his chest wrapping me in his arms and I know that he loves me, flaws and all.

I share my life with the New Yorker and the Bostonian because I want to. I’m proud to call them my best friends. The Bostonian wrote a letter to the two of us once, day dreaming of what it would be like if he owned a brownstone and the three of us lived there together, each occupying our own floor. To me, that idea still sounds heavenly. We may never find ourselves occupying the same house, eating ice cream, watching reruns of The Golden Girls, but we will grow old together.

For now, I look forward to the next story I can tell them that will make them laugh or shock them into laughter. I look forward to laughing with them. I look forward to hugging them and feeling their arms around me in return. I look forward to the next bottle of wine we can share together. I look forward to the New Yorker’s next move in owning his own business. I look forward to finally taking that hot air balloon ride the Bostonian wanted us to take two years ago even though he’s “horrifying of heights.” I look forward to the music the two of them will expose me to. I look forward to the moments that are few and far between when the three of us are together in one of our homes; existing in our universe that’s infused with history, breathing in the present, while anticipating the future. 

That future holds amazing things for us; beautiful memories we haven’t made yet. I forget sometimes that I’m the luckiest man alive to have two of the most generous, kind hearted, understanding, supportive, loving men possible in my life.

The New Yorker and the Bostonian are easy to take for granted. They’re always there if/when I need them. I couldn’t be more astounded that our friendship has not only lasted these many years, but has grown stronger.

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you’re a pal and a confidant.
And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew.
You would see, the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say,
Thank you for being a friend.

In high school I used to watch the movie St. Elmo’s Fire anytime it was on television. I always cried at the end. I used to pray that I would one day have friends in my life who would stick by me through thick and thin. That is one prayer that I know got answered. I don’t need pudding to see the proof either; I have it in memories, in pictures, in my heart.

Ballerinos forever!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Perfect or Not, Practice Makes

The desire to write something, anything, can sometimes be overwhelming. Especially when the ideas bouncing around in my head won’t clarify and merge into complete thoughts. I have so many pictures flashing before my eyes, but the slideshow doesn’t pause on any given one long enough for me to say, “That’s it! I’ll write about that today.”

I’ve been staring at the proverbial blank page on this computer for days. There have been times when the black letters -- typed side by side to create words, those words strung together to create sentences -- break the blankness; but mostly it’s been a blank white page.

I desire to write, but I don’t make myself sit down and do it. Writing can be easy for me, but I can be bloody hard, too. When it’s hard I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to sit and stare at the blank page. I don’t want to wait for an idea to reveal itself. I don’t want to wait for the idea that I have to form itself into complete thoughts and sentences. What I’m realizing is: if I just sit down at my desk and begin, something will happen. “If you build it, they will come.” Look at that. I’m having a Kevin Costner moment.

I was watching Days of our Lives yesterday and the twist in one their plot lines became annoying apparent. I could see what was going to happen from a mile away. I was also disheartened. You see, I had the same idea for a couple of characters in a piece of fiction I’m currently working on. An idea that came to me several years ago when I wanted this piece of fiction to actually be a television show; a soap opera to be exact. You can imagine how my heart sank as a saw an idea of my own play out on television in front of my eyes. I’m not suggesting plagiarism. I’m suggesting that someone else had the same idea as I and they used it first. Now it will seem as if my idea came from watching theirs.

This is the third time I’ve found myself in this situation. It’s frustrating every time and always lights a fire under my ass to move on my ideas, to be creative. Then that fire begins to die and instead of throwing another log on it and stoking it to keep it burning, I let it burn itself out until it’s nothing but cold ashes.

I’m frustrated with myself. I’m lazy. I want to go to the gym three to four times a week, but settle for one or two. I want to write every day, but don’t. I seem to have no motivation. I go to work. I come home. I watch television. I go to bed. Sleep. Wake. Repeat.

It’s no wonder my creative juices are stifled. I don’t do anything to get them flowing. I like to think the television I watch is research. I honestly do believe it is research. I love to see well crafted story lines play out. I love to be surprised and stunned by plot twists. I love to cry at the emotion of a scene. I use all of those hours of television viewing when I’m crafting my own stories. But sometimes I find myself numbing my way through an evening with red wine and bland characters instead of creating something that might be more exiting and would definitely be more emotionally fulfilling.

When I started this blog I challenged myself to do something every day so that I would have something to write about. As the years passed, I got comfortable in my life. I no longer lived in a noisy apartment building that I did everything possible to stay away from. I no longer lived with a roommate that I tried to avoid. I created a home for myself that was comfortable and safe; walls that I enjoyed being locked within. I have to talk about the word safe. It is safe. There’s no one here to judge me, but there’s no one here to challenge me. There’s no one to hold me accountable.

The more I write the easier the words flow. The more stories I tell the easier it is to tell the next one. The more I practice the better I get. And right there I landed on a word that I hate. Practice. I don’t like to practice. I like to be good at something immediately. If I have to work at it I tend to walk away from it. I don’t understand that about myself. I know that I have a perfection complex. I need everything to be perfect - from hair to wardrobe to vocal prowess to stories of fiction and non.

I am not perfect. Shocking revelation. I know. As I look back over my life I see things that I had to practice in order to be as perfect as possible. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t want to practice anymore. It’s sad to me that I find it easier to walk away from something rather than practice it in order to get better at it.

I’m not making excuses here, but I think it stems from the fact that I started singing when I was 7-years old, and it was the most natural thing for me. I took voice lessons in high school to learn how to breath properly and to support the notes coming out of my mouth, but nobody had to teach me to sing. Unfortunately, I have gotten myself stuck in an if-it-doesn’t-come-easy-I-don’t-want-to-do-it rut.

I’m the one missing out. I’m the one not singing anymore. I’m the one who isn’t telling his story. There is no one out there missing out on my life more than I.

These are just words. In less than half an hour 993 of them have spilled out of my head. I took action this morning to do that. It didn’t cost me anything and it feels so good. It also exercised my brain to organize my thoughts and get them down on paper. It was practice and it was easy. 

I’m trying to realize that everything I write doesn’t have to be a profound statement. I’m trying to get back to the place where telling the story of my adventures was fun. I’m trying to get back the place where I couldn’t go to bed until I had written of that day’s excitement, sadness, or joy. Whether I want to or not, I’m going to have to practice. 

Practice makes perfect and hindsight shows me that I love the outcome. No one has to know how grueling the process is to learn the song or write the words. They just have to sit back and enjoy the story. Then I, too, reap the benefits.

I’ve got to get it together. This in my life and no one is going to make me live it except for me. I’ve been told more than once I’m the only person standing in my way. That is a true statement. 

So, now that this blank white page on my computer is no longer blank. I can see that I’ve practiced today. It wasn’t painful and I’m still alive. There are no bruises. Practice doesn’t have to be hard it just has to be done.

My journey continues...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Next Stop Is...

As I stepped off the bottom step into my subway station I noticed I was missing a train. It was literally discharging itself of passengers and shutting its doors. My first thought was "shit!" Which I uttered aloud. Then I saw the letter on the train. It was a bold face R in the middle of a once-bright-but-now-dingy dirty yellow circle. I couldn’t believe it. The R train had not been in service since Hurricane Sandy ripped through NYC leaving a flood of devastation and power outages in her wake.

Almost immediately following the R train was an M train. Another train I hadn't seen in a week. My initial reaction was one of relief at its emptiness. NYC had been so limited in its train service that for four days getting to know your fellow strap hangers was not an option; it was a given. Crowded trains were the only trains. Thank God there were crowded trains. In a City that thrives on mass transit anything was better than nothing. 

My train car had three riders including me. I cautiously sat down, prepared, as I had been for the last three days, to listen to the announcement for stops and service changes. 

Was there ever a more welcomed sound than the automated female voice of the train calling the stops? It was the sound of normalcy returning. She calmly and soothingly called the stops, including stations where service had been suspended for days.

It was but a small gift considering all the devastation that still exists, but sometimes the smallest gift can bring the most joy.