Wednesday, May 27, 2020

My Food (and Flower) Porn Life

I knew something was wrong when I found myself looking at a recipe for avocado toast, that $25 brunch staple that was apparently invented in my neighborhood.
Since this pandemic has forced me to spend more time at home, I’ve embarked on a cooking/home decorating spree that would make Martha Stewart jealous.  But so has everybody, apparently. Even reformed slutty comic Amy Schumer has embraced both motherhood and her own home cooking show (the difference being that she can repair to Martha’s Vineyard with her chef husband while I’m home alone in my tenement studio).
Maybe it’s about having a new appreciation for the simple pleasures in life, or maybe it’s just because all the restaurants in New York City are only open for take-out.
But lately I’m on what you might call a food and flower binge.
My best friend and I have been joking about this because our daily phone calls now consist of us trading recipes for such dishes as lemon caper butter sole and roasted Cornish game hen. We find ourselves saying such things as “Yes, it really is the dill that really makes the salmon!”
And we’re saying them unironically!

My other new extravagance is flowers. Now, I like a good bouquet as much as the next guy, but who has time to worry about such things when you’re working 40 hours a week and you just want to veg out in front of the TV when you get home? But my pandemic-enforced “staycation” has caused me to look around my apartment and say, “I can do better than this!”
It’s amazing, but just by adding a few well-placed flower arrangements to your living space, you too can turn your crappy apartment into an Architectural Digest-ready mansion! In fact, I’ve gotten so out of control with my flower buying that I actually had to purchase a vase! (A water pitcher just won’t do for my newly acquired lifestyle!)

The other day I was sitting in Hudson River Park as a group of picnickers next to me was being ticketed for not socially distancing and my first thought wasn’t, “Shame on you!” It was, “Is that brie or camembert that you’re eating?”
I’m now one of those annoying people who posts pictures of his culinary creations on Facebook, but I have plenty of company. In fact, I was recently food-shamed when one of my Facebook friends one-upped me with his purple yam pancakes with fried banana purée and maple bourbon syrup. (And I thought putting some fruit on my bowl of Kashi was a big deal!)

So it should come as no surprise that when I recently watched Nancy Meyers’ Somethnig’s Gotta Give—the ne plus ultra of lifestyle porn with its drool-worthy Hamptons summer house—I duly noted that there were fresh flowers on every table and nightstand.
My drug of choice these days isn’t a quarter ounce of cocaine but a one-pound bag of cherries. They light up the same pleasure centers in my brain without causing a perforated septum.
So don’t hate me because my apartment is beautiful and my cooking is mouth-watering. Just surrender to the siren call of psychedelic red carnations and overflowing piles of fruit.
You’ll be happy you did. 

Monday, May 4, 2020

A Love Letter to My Late Partner

 A month ago, I woke up crying, a month after my partner passed away from cancer. Now I’m worried that I can’t cry. I want to remember the suffering my partner went through, as well as the good times we had together. I feel guilty that I’m sitting here typing this on the computer that he helped me buy, surrounded by the belongings that he left me, and that he’s not here to enjoy them with me.
I think I’ve been suppressing my feelings of grief, that I didn’t even have time to grieve before I was (we all were) confronted with a pandemic that brought a new level of grief to all of us.
I thought, what would be the point of writing these feelings down when there’s so much suffering going on, when there’s so much death around us?
But I wanted to remember.
I remember the last time we took a cab ride around the city. Jerry said that he wanted to see New York—his city, my city—one last time. As we passed the restaurants we used to go to—El Centro, Marseilles, Fish—I thought, Is this what my life is going to be like? Every time I pass some place Jerry and I used to go together, I’m going to start crying?
I want to remember the good person that Jerry was. When he was first diagnosed with cancer, he said, “I’m glad this is happening to me, because if it was happening to you, I’d go crazy.” That’s the kind of person he was.
There were so many moments that gave me pain.
I remember when I first learned of his diagnosis. I was sitting in the Apple store, where I had taken my computer to be repaired, and I just started crying uncontrollably as we talked on the phone. I tried to convince myself that this wasn’t serious, but when I Googled the prognosis for people with lung cancer that had metastasized, the life expectancy was four to five months.
As it happened, Jerry wound up living eight months, but it was a steady decline.
When he first came home from the hospital last July (during which time he’d lost one-third of his body weight), he was able to walk around with a walker, and sometimes even by himself. But by December, his legs were so weak that he fell in his apartment, and spent the entire night on the floor before he was able to crawl to where his phone was and call 911. After that, he was never able to walk again.
There were so many painful experiences.
Before he was diagnosed, he spent the last two weeks of June fixing up his apartment because his niece was coming to visit and he wanted it to be perfect. He ordered a new couch, dining room table and ottoman and spent the entire night cleaning his apartment. Then, when the furniture was delivered, the couch was the wrong color, the dining room table was missing a part and the ottoman couldn’t be assembled properly. I was furious.
I was furious over many things, because I wouldn’t want the slightest bad thing to happen to Jerry, and here he was dying of cancer.
I remember the day I took him to the hospital the last time, his home care aide had done his laundry and someone in his building had left some chewing gum in the dryer and it got stuck to his blanket. I was livid. What kind of monster would do such a thing? I killed myself trying to get that gum out of his blanket, to no avail. But it didn’t matter. That blanket was left in his apartment, along with his other belongings.
So now I’m sitting in my apartment with no job, nothing to do and nowhere to go, surrounded by Jerry’s belongings. I know they should bring me peace, and they have, but I also feel guilty. Everything I now have I owe to Jerry, but he’s not here to enjoy it.
And so I write this essay, hoping it will bring me some peace.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

An “Affair” to Remember?

There are spoilers in this review.

When I first watched the series finale of The Affair, missing the first 30 minutes and falling asleep during the next 60, I thought it was the most howlingly bad 60 minutes I’d ever seen. I was quickly taken to task by Affair fans on Twitter, who were calling it the best season finale they’d ever seen. I thought, “Did we watch the same show?” So I watched it again last night. (Showtime didn’t make it available on demand, so I had to tape the next airing.) My verdict: maybe not the worst 60 minutes I’d ever seen, but corny, cheesy and sentimental? Abso-fuckin-lutely! In fact, there were several moments when I literally put my face in my palm or shouted “No!” at my TV set.
A perfect example of this was when Helen was giving a dramatic monologue about her marriage in Noah’s motel room and Noah offered her a Pringles potato chip. Real life moment? Product placement? Either way, it took me out of the story.
One of the reasons why The Affair was such a “love to hate” was that it could be profound one moment and completely off the wall the next.
To say that there was an effort to tie up a lot of loose ends in the series finale would be an understatement. Some of the coincidences that occurred strained one’s credulity, even by The Affair standards. Most glaring was finding out that Joanie’s hook-up, E.J. was the son of her father’s first wife’s second husband and his mistress. Huh?!
Next was the fact that Noah and Helen got back together after five seasons of acrimony, divorce and new marriages/relationships.
I think it was Olympia Dukakis’s character in Moonstruck who, when asked why men cheat, said “fear of death.” That was the ostensible theme thrust upon this final episode, but it seemed to come out of nowhere.
Also coming out of nowhere: that “flash mob” dance sequence to The Waterboys’ “Whole of the Moon.” (When did Noah become a choreographer?)
There was such an effort to tie up loose ends that when Whitney and her bridal party discovered her parents having sex at the motel, it was presented as “quaint” rather than the shock I’m sure it would have been for most children. (My middle-aged parents still have sex? After a divorce, no less?)
And let’s not forget Joanie, one of the most hated characters on television, reuniting with her husband at the end of a poorly developed subplot.
This is why I’m still fulminating about The Affair, the show I’ve loved to hate for the last five years, three days after its series finale.
And I’ll be damned if I can’t get that song out of my head!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

I Hate Everything

I hate reality TV. Now that we’re in the “golden age of television,” there’s no excuse to watch any Real Housewife ever again.
I hate “entertainment news,” which has become about the personal lives of “celebrities” (as opposed to entertainment). And everyone is hawking their own line of clothing (or something else that has nothing to do with entertainment).
I hate jukebox musicals and theatrical adaptations of movies. Doesn’t anybody write anything original anymore?
I hate the evening news, with its human interest stories and manipulative emotional uplift.
I hate social media. I hate the way it shows us people’s carefully curated, perfect lives and the way that makes us feel. I hate the way it spreads hatred and misinformation. And I hate that nothing is being done about it.
I hate iPhones. I hate the way we’ve become a society of iPhone zombies with nobody looking up or interacting with other actual human beings anymore. In my Travis Bickle moments, I think that a bomb could go off in one of these zombie's laps and they wouldn’t even notice.
I hate corporations for paying their workers nothing while they rake in record profits. For selling us expensive crap we don’t need. For claiming ownership over anything authentic and trying to sell it back to us at a profit.
I hate Republicans. I hate the way not a single one of them (except Justin Amash, who just left the party) has stood up to Trump or uttered one peep about any of his wrongdoing.
I hate Trump with a passion. Because, on a daily basis, he’s breaking the law and destroying the institutions of democracy. Not only that, but he seems to enjoy doing these things. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “I dare you to stop me.” And, so far at least, nobody’s stopping him.
I hate Mitch McConnell. Mainly for refusing to even hold a hearing on Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court and ramrodding Kavanaugh’s appointment through the Senate, thus turning the Supreme Court into a partisan institution.
I also hate him for passing Trump’s tax cut for the rich (Trump’s only legislative achievement) and refusing to bring almost any Democratic bill before the Senate for a vote.
McConnell is another man who seems to take pleasure in cruelty.
I hate hating everything. Because I like to think that I’m basically a positive person (I can hear you laughing) and hating everything is increasing my stress levels and reducing my lifespan.
They say that a cynic is just a disillusioned romantic.
Your move, universe.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Ode to Abercrombie & Fitch Cargo Shorts

When I first saw you, you were hanging, by chance,
Off the ass of a muscle queen on line for Pier Dance.
Precariously suspended by inside drawstring.
How I wanted have you! (The thought made me sing.)
The shorts, that is, silly! (OK, muscle queen, too.)
But not just any cargos. Old Navy would not do!
They had to be from Abercrombie & Fitch.
A perilous thought for this gay man (not rich).
So I trekked to the Seaport, the A&F store.
And bought myself two. (I couldn’t afford more.)
At last, I would be at fashionable heights.
And no longer feel scorned by fashion queen slights.
But somewhere in time, and against all odds,
These shorts came to stand for old men with dad bods.
Other styles came: dress shorts, gym shorts.
But still I stuck with you against other sorts.
Your pockets were hole-y, your legs they would bag.
I splashed myself peeing. I looked like a hag.
But still, I stuck with you, through thick and through thin.
And wondered when I could wear jean shorts again.
I saw said jean shorts on an old friend of mine.
And, wearing them, I thought he looked mighty fine.
Thoughts of Madonna and Sandra Bernhard.
Madame X wore them, and she’s no retard!
But jean shorts are older and even less stylish.
But I’m an outsider, so jean shorts I’ll buy-ish.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Not Proud (Again)

As the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots approaches, I’m filled with not pride but dread. Actually, I’ve been dreading this month for about a year. I read somewhere that the city was expecting six million rainbow-clad tourists to descend on the city for Gay Pride Month. As a claustrophobic loner, this doesn’t make me excited. It makes me terrified.
I suspect that more couples break up on Gay Pride Day than any other day of the year, just because there are so many hot men flooding the city, it forces one to reconsider one’s life choices. Ironically, it’s this same influx of hot new faces and bodies that makes it impossible to actually hook up with any of them.
If New Year’s Eve is a day that people are supposed to be happy and celebratory, Gay Pride Day is like gay New Year’s Eve on steroids. And this year is even worse because, everywhere you look, businesses are sporting rainbow flags and companies are making their corporate logos rainbow-hued. That doesn’t make me proud. It makes me feel like a failure for not measuring up to the popular image of gays as being financially successful. (The fact that I got “laid off” from my temp job three weeks ago isn’t helping, either.)
In fact, so great is a portion of the gay community’s disgust with the corporate takeover of Gay Pride, that this year there’s actually a counter-march to the official Gay Pride March, and it’s banning corporate sponsorship altogether.
The truth is, there’s not much to be proud of these days, whether you're gay or not. We currently have a president who, on a daily basis, is breaking the law and destroying the institutions of democracy in plain sight, and a Democratic Party that’s too spineless to do anything about it.
Right now, it looks like we’re set for a replay of the 2016 election. Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner, is seen as the “safe” choice, but no one is actually excited about him. (Sound familiar?) Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are being labeled by Trump as “socialists,” as though “socialism” was a dirty word and we didn’t already have a number of socialist programs (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) that are wildly popular.
On his show last night, Bill Maher suggested (jokingly, I hope) that the Democrats nominate Oprah Winfrey, because America is now a nation of ignorant starfuckers.
So forgive me if I’m not in a celebratory mood this week, but right now I’m too worried about being able to pay my bills to celebrate.

Friday, June 7, 2019

My First Night as a Cater Waiter

Among the temporary jobs I’ve had between “real” jobs were two years working as a doorman at a co-op building in the West Village and delivering newspapers (fine when you’re a teenager, not when you’re middle-aged). My life seems to be on a downward trajectory, since the publishing industry I’ve worked in for most of my adult life has completely collapsed.
I’m trying to “think outside the box” and consider other professions/industries I wouldn’t normally consider.
The most recent among these was cater waiter (which I will refer to hereon as “CW”). How was it that I had spent my entire adult life pursuing a career as a writer/performer and had never worked as a waiter or bartender? I thought it would be glamorous and exciting, and that I would bond with my fellow writer/performers, like on that Starz TV series, Party Down. If nothing else, I might get a good blog post out of it.
There was just one problem: I didn’t have any waiting/bartending experience.
No matter. Thanks to Craigslist and a CW agency in desperate need of people, I was booked for a major party at the Museum of Modern Art. The dress code was all black which, as a New Yorker, shouldn’t have been a problem. Nevertheless, I needed to borrow (and the agency was kind enough to lend me) a black dress shirt and tie. My only black dress pants were too tight and their lining was falling apart. They would have to do.
On my way there, I saw a veritable United Nations of people in black shirts, pants and ties heading north on Sixth Avenue towards the Museum of Modern Art. Could they be my fellow CWs?
When I got to the museum, I was given my assigned area and was asked to help set up. I started talking to some of my fellow CWs, most of whom were about half my age. (I did see one middle-aged woman, with whom I exchanged knowing glances.)
I asked if any of them had seen the Woody Allen movie, Manhattan, part of which was filmed in the sculpture garden in which we were standing. They all shook their heads, “No.” I didn’t dare ask them if they knew who Bella Abzug was.
My job was to circulate throughout the party, carrying a tray of hors d’oeuvres, which seemed easy enough. With my natural people skills, I took to it like a duck to water. But those hors d’oeuvres trays were heavier than I expected. I had to alternate arms to keep from developing tendonitis!
During a break before the event officially started, the head CW told everyone to stay by their station. I took this opportunity to check my email on my cell phone. Suddenly, I realized I was the only CW in the garden. When I went inside the museum, all the other CWs were eating and all the food was gone!
CW Rule Number One: Always find out when your dinner break is scheduled.
The party went well and the extremely attractive and well-dressed guests were very polite. But I couldn’t help but think, there’s nothing like serving extremely attractive and well-dressed people to rub your nose in your how unattractive and poorly dressed you are by comparison (my all-black outfit, notwithstanding).
The other CWs were nice, too, and I gathered that a lot of them knew each other from previous gigs, as they fist-bumped each other throughout the evening.
I guess there’s a certain kind of camaraderie among CWs after a while. I wasn’t there yet but, perhaps with enough experience, I too could enter this secret society!