Saturday, November 27, 2010

Laundry Lady

I was talking to Antonio yesterday about gratitude. He said that Oprah had once told people they should keep a gratitude journal. Each day you write down something or multiple things for which you are grateful. It doesn't need to be something big or important; it can be something as simple as having someone holding the elevator for you. Eventually, you will begin to notice the positive more and the negative less. If this lesson would be helpful to anyone, it would be New Yorkers. I'm going to give it a shot. The only thing I have to lose is negativity.

I dropped off my laundry yesterday. I have my laundry done roughly two to three times a month. There is an old, Chinese couple with a tiny, little shop next to my building. Each time it's simply a pleasure. The woman is always unbelievably friendly! Come to think of it, I really should asked, "Nǐ jiào shénme míngzi?" It doesn't matter what kind of mood I am in when I see her, she always puts a smile on my face. I actually enjoy the little conversation that we have for those few minutes I'm in their storefront.

I went in there today to pick my clothes up and was really surprised how cheap it was. $16.80 for about 2 1/2 weeks worth of laundry is a bargain. I gave her a $20.00 and as she gave me my change she said, "Three dollars. Enough for coffee, but not tonight. You won't sleep." Picture her saying this with the most adorable, 60-year-old Chinese accent.

I only see her for a few minutes a couple of times a month, but it always warms my heart. Seeing her today is something for which I am grateful.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Welcome to Burlesque

I rarely anxiously await the release of a movie. When I first saw the trailer for Burlesque months ago, I was instantly transfixed. The glitter, the music, and the costumes - it all seemed so perfect! I thought that November 24 would never come. Well, come it did! Antonio and I saw the movie the day it came out in an older theatre near Union Square. The audience was exactly as you'd expect for a Cher / Christina Aguilera film - the gays came out in full force! I was nervous because I knew that Antonio was going into the movie with low expectations. I was also nervous that I had been touting this movie for months and it was going to let me down.

Well, neither of those situations came true. The movie was great and I can't wait to see it again next weekend with Katherine. The best part of the movie was, of course, the music! Christina returns to sound of her third album, Back to Basics, and it's a welcome change from her fourth album, Bionic. She has the most incredible voice I've ever heard. The songs really showcase her amazing voice and the dancing / cinematography are just spectacular. You really want to get up on stage and be there with her. Cher has two songs in the film and they are both songs that will be on iPod constantly. Her big ballad, You Haven't Seen the Last of Me, actually received a round of applause from the audience in the theatre. The collective energy and love in the audience was electric.

People will be divided by this movie. There will be some who enjoy it for what it is - a glittery, predictable musical. Then there will be some will criticize Christina's acting and the lack of a surprising storyline. I didn't see this movie because I wanted a three-hour epic masterpiece à la Titanic or Atonement. This movie is fun! It's an escape from the mundane moments of our ordinary lives. It has a great love story and an innocence that's hard to find nowadays.

As soon as I got home, I bought the soundtrack and spend the rest of the night Burlesquing in my apartment. It's quite a sight! After months of waiting, I am pleased that this movie was everything I expected and more.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I really regret that I've only begun watching Oprah this season. I've seen several episodes and she really has a way of evoking such intense emotions. Some of the shows were disturbing and depressing, some were hilarious (watching the gays go crazy on Favorite Things was truly amazing) and some are truly thought provoking. Today's episode was a fascinating look into two unusual wedding ceremonies. The first was some crazy lady who married a murderer in prison and we won't even get into that one. One look at her multi-fabric, colorful wedding skirt was enough to convince me she wasn't all there.

It was the second story that really got me thinking. Oprah's cameras followed a group of young women who were beginning the journey to become nuns. At first I thought that they were just girls who couldn't get dates and needed a safe alternative to watching Lifetime and eating lots of cake. The more I watch, though, I began to realize the real wisdom, strength and sacrifice in their decision. They had to give up all their worldly possessions, say goodbye to their families and engage in a rigorous new lifestyle. Not talking to my parents regularly would be hard, but giving up Facebook and my iPhone would be impossible. Why would someone make this choice?

Of course, they are strong Catholics who believe in Jesus. That part didn't really speak to me, but it was the sense of peace and calm that really resonated. Oprah asked one of the sisters if she missed all the technology of the modern world. She said that she felt freer without it. She said that her laptop was her biggest ball and chain. Another sister said that she was sitting in front of her entertainment sister (before she became a nun) and realized that if she lost it all the next day, it would matter. She said that becoming a nun and "marrying" Jesus would be eternal. One sister said that if you don't believe in a power greater than yourself, how could you achieve anything greater than yourself. Wow! That's so powerful and it makes total sense to me. These girls, most younger than me, have such wisdom and poise.

Now, don't get it twisted! I'm not thinking of becoming a nun. That'd be crazy, but I am a little envious of their simple lifestyle. It's much more than a lack of technology. There is no pressure to have the perfect body, hair, and skin - pretty much the exact opposite of the gay community. There is no worrying about paying for cable, internet and gym memberships. For all that they give up; it looks like they get so much more in return. It's an interesting view on life and I'd like to see if there is a way to incorporate some of these ideals into my overly connected, hectic, modern, American life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I was hesitant to buy Rihanna's new album, Loud. I loved the first single, Only Girl (In the World) and loved her second single, What's My Name, even more. Looking back, I should have been anxiously awaiting the album's release. After days of craving What's My Name, I finally broke down and bought the album. I figured that it'd be cheaper in the long run to just buy the whole thing than buying each song individually. It's hard to review the album because I have somewhat mixed feelings about it.

I loved Rated R. It was a dark, serious album that showed her vulnerable side. At the time, I could really relate to the themes of the albums. Even now, I can see the artistry of the music. For anyone looking for depth on Loud will be disappointed. Most of the tracks are very poppy and shallow. Cheers (Drink to That) is an anthem for drinking on the weekend and Raining Men is a shout out to the ladies that all men are replaceable. Don't get me wrong - I love both songs and Nicki Minaj is amazing on Raining Men! But it's something that I'd expect from Ke$ha or someone with a little less talent. I expect more from Rihanna. I also noticed that the lyrics of several songs don't flow well.

Even though the tone of the album isn't my favorite, I still really enjoy the album. Something that's a new direction for Rihanna was the blatant sexuality. Two songs in particular were a big departure for her usual sound - S&M and Skin. While S&M is a dirty song with a dance beat, Skin is a slower groove with a very seductive vibe. Fading Away and Complicated are two very break-up songs. Her voice sounds strong and confident. Love the Way You Lie (Part II) and the piano version bonus track improve upon the original. The first part was almost all Eminem, so I was glad that Rihanna took the spotlight on the second part.

It's a bit of an odd album. Some songs are very dance-pop oriented, some a very sexual and adult, some are sad, and some are ballads. All are very strong on their own. The album just never comes together to form a single idea - it's more of a hodge-podge of good songs. It is different (and not necessarily in a bad way) from Rated R and it's definitely more artistic than Good Girl Gone Bad. It'll be on my iPod for quite some time, though I do home for a little more depth next time.

PS: She looks GORGEOUS on the album cover.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Staying Put

It seems like I'm going to be sticking it out on the Upper East Side. The plan was for me to move out, but it seems like Spencer either doesn't care or doesn't feel like putting in the effort to find someone to take my place. The situation has gotten a little bit better - platitudes and greetings. Eh, it's a step. I think that I had a good plan in moving back to New Jersey, but liked it less and less the more I thought about it.

Why should I have to move? The whole situation (without beating a dead horse) was his fault. I found the apartment, scheduled the viewings, arranged to sign the leases, dropped off the paperwork. He would never have even found this apartment without me. Those are logistics and I was happy to find a place for us, but it's more than that.

I love walking to the bus stop in the morning. I like passing little shops and looking in the windows. I like the Upper East Side. I've worked hard to get where I am. Why should I be the one to leave? I shouldn't. I deserve to live here and I am going to stand up (though it doesn't seem to be an issue at the moment) and assert that I have every right to be here. Plus moving is such a bitch.

The financial ramifications will be tricky. It would have been nice to pay off some debt and have a little more breathing room. But it's not as though I'm sinking. I can pay bills (with a little budgeting). I'll just need to watch my spending and hope that Dr. Goldstein comes through. There's always the potential opportunity with Reshma. We'll see what happens. But for the meantime, I'm staying put.

Monday, November 15, 2010


The world can be tough place. It always has been and it always will be. I get it and I accept it. The one respite from all the weathering and abuse of the world is your home. No matter what's going on out there, it's usually a warm and welcoming place at home.

I used to consider Radford to be my home since it's where I felt most comfortable. I grew so much in those four years that I felt like it really became my hometown. Living in Radford was the last time that I really felt like I had a home. My first apartment in New York was great, but it wasn't mine. It was quite clear that it was Ari's apartment and we just lived there. He had the final decision on anything and I completely understand that.

I thought that my current apartment would become my new home for the next few years. At first it wasn't home because it wasn't done. We did things slowly and there was always something missing. I wanted to get a nightstand and a kitchen table and maybe some end tables or ottoman for the living room. Once the apartment was complete, then it'd feel like home. Well, we never quite made it there.

After the big arguments, the apartment has become a battlefield. Every step feels like a game of minesweeper. It is now less of a home and more of a hostel. I have never felt more uncomfortable in my life. Especially after Spencer's comments about my sexuality, I feel like I can't even be myself in my apartment. If I want to watch The A-List, I do it cautiously and only when he's not home. If I want to listen to Madonna, I have to put on my headphones or listen so quietly that it's easily drowned out by the television.

And what's next? If I actually end up moving to New Jersey, I still won't be home. I'll be a guest in a house that isn't mine. I love Michele and Kasey for inviting me to stay with them, but it's still their home. I just want a place of my own. I want a small studio that is mine. I want to make my own rules and be free and comfortable. I feel like I'm an adult and this is the next step. With all the other little things in life, it's just too much to feel homeless.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My First Icon

My divas tend to rotate through my iPod. For a while I was really into Christina and her new album. Next up was Judy and her soundtrack to "I Could Go on Singing". I am anticipating Rihanna's new album, though I doubt it'll be as deep as her last. There's one diva that I've loved for years and who I keep revisiting over and over again. And guess what? It's not Madonna! Before I knew the Queen of Pop, I was obsessed with the Queen of Country, Reba McEntire.

I remember listening to Reba at a very young age. I have all her albums after 1991 and even have two VHS concerts. I saw her in concert in 1996 / 1997 and remember it being a spectacle. Her band entered the stage in taxis and then the stage opened up and she came out in a private jet. Fabulous! I can see why I love her so much! But more than her persona, her voice and choice of songs attract me. She sings such emotional songs that really touch my heart. She is one of the very few artists that can make me cry.

And the more that I think about, I see how much I can relate to her songs:

My Parent's Divorce
• And Still
• Starting Over Again
• Somebody Should Leave
Past relationships
• Does He Love You (feat. Linda Davis)
• You Keep Me Hangin' On
• I Won't Stand In Line
My Mom
• Secret
• What Do You Say
• I'll Be
• You're Gonna Be
• Is There Life Out There
• Til I Said It To You
• Somebody's Chelsea
• I Keep On Lovin' You
• Read My Mind
Losing my grandparents
• All Dressed Up (With Nowhere to Go)
Struggles / Death
• She Thinks His Name Was John
• Fancy
• Invisible
• Nickel Dreams
• Walk On
• He Gets that From Me

Her new album, All The Women I Am, is a perfect collection of songs! She has the tender ballads about love, songs about rolling up your sleeves and getting it done, songs I feel like my mom could relate too. She continues to prove that there is real talent and emotion in a musical world filled to the brim with young girls who get by on sex and autotune. I'm excited to be re-discovering my first musical love. And I love that I still know all the words to all the songs after all the years.

Plus, she's gorgeous!! I love my spitfires with red hair.

Monday, November 8, 2010

New Teen

I know that everyone says that time flies. I never realized how true that really is until today. As hard as it is to believe, Renee turned 13 today. I still remember being called out of school when my mom went into labor, rushing to the hospital and then hiding in the bathroom. Kasey, Michele and I went down to Pennsylvania to celebrate with the family since 13 is such a milestone age.

Michele and I took Renee to the mall so she could pick out an outfit. And by pick out, I mean choose and then have Michele pay for. To say it was an interesting experience would be an understatement. I've written many times on childhood and how kids grow up too quickly today. That was reconfirmed several times today during a relatively brief shopping excursion.

One of our first stops was Abercrombie and Fitch. I've matured past that store. I'm over the phase where I am willing (and able) to pay $30 for a cheap t-shirt. They are trying to sell a lifestyle and I'm not buying it. But I remember the age when being cool was essential (Hmm...maybe I can still relate). I was shocked as we walked through the store. There were tags on the winter jackets with topless women with men blocking their breasts with their arms. Call me crazy, but I think showing models wearing the clothes helps sell the clothes. Then there was a table display with a topless girl standing in front of a clearly naked guy. I guess I'm an old man, but I felt this was something Renee should see. Oh well, Renee got her $30 t-shirt that was probably made by another 13-year-old girl in an Indian sweatshop.

Then she wanted Starbucks. Really? A 13-year-old that drinks coffee? Next was Hot Topic. It was traumatic. Not only was the music horribly obnoxious, but the cashier was flirting with Renee. Renee then told me that her favorite perfume comes from Victoria's Secret. I pretty much threw up my hands at this point. 13 for me consisted of video games and hanging out with my dad.

The only glimmer of hope is that Renee is very smart. She's bright and I hope she knows that there is so much more to look forward to after middle and high school. I know that it's common for people to get trapped in our area. It's a great little collection of towns, but I hope she makes it out. I want her to do great things like Michele and I have done. I've realized that she's pretty much all grown up. If she turns out to be half as much of a bitch as I am, I think she'll be just fine.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Always Searching

I'm always searching for that one thing that's gonna change my life. I'm never content. I'm never just able to sit, breathe and be at peace with myself. I've been thinking about it a lot lately.

Antonio and I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond today to pick up a few things. They had gourmet boxes of tea and I put it in the basket. I carried it around for a bit and then set it on a random shelf. I told him that it wasn't so much that I wanted (or even liked) tea. It was that I felt that drinking tea would bring with it a tea-drinkers lifestyle - very calm and tranquil. Next, we walked through the farmer’s market in Union Square. They had several unusual artists selling paintings and little trinkets. One booth had paintings with aliens and philosophers, or something like that. Those made me think that I need to try a strange, new religion. I think it was at this point that Antonio tuned me out.

I started thinking about all the things that I've done in the past few months in search of something else. I started going to a Unitarian church, volunteering, and tried yoga. I did all these things to fill a hole. There's a contentment that's missing and I'm trying to fill it with distractions. I keep looking for something external to be the key to fixing everything. Maybe I should start searching internally.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Used By Nicki?

I feel like I was one of the few people that liked Nicki Minaj before she was mainstream. I have several of the tracks from her various mixtapes - way before she was on MTV or the radio. I thought she was funny, sassy and creative. I could listen to her over and over again. I was uber excited when I found out that she was working on her first studio album.

A few songs from the album have come out and I am underwhelmed. More so, I feel like she's been pandering to her gay audience. The first few songs were okay, but nothing compared to Go Hard or I Feel Free. Roman's Revenge was released on Tuesday and I had high hopes, despite seeing that the track featured Eminem.

I was shocked that she let him use the word "faggot" in one of his verses. Nicki had the cover and full spread in Out magazine. She was supposed to be the rapper who bridged the gap between the rap and gay communities. Now I feel like she used us to gain popularity. It's no secret that the gays are really the power players. If we like you, you're in. Madonna, Cher, Britney, Gaga, Kylie, Christina, Judy - all have huge gay followings and have taken over the world.

I think Nicki pandered to the gay community and turned her back on us when it came time to record her album. How can she be on the cover of a prominent gay magazine and then allow such derogatory, hate speech on her album? I will not pre-order the album. I'll give the 30-second previews a chance, but I am definitely not the hardcore fan that I used to be.