Happy NYC Pride!

Sat, Jun 25 2011 | 8:08pm

Every year near the end of June, thousands and thousands of people gather in the streets to celebrate Gay Pride. I have been to many Pride events in San Francisco, but this will be my first Pride in New York City. This is kind of a big deal, because New York City is where it all began.
In June of 1969, the NYPD raided a bar on Christopher Street called the Stonewall Inn. While this bar is now very famous and known as a gay destination, that wasn't exactly the case back then. It was merely a bar that would openly serve homosexuals and transgenders, which made it a target for police raids. When a group of policemen raided the Stonewall Inn that night (homosexuals were labeled as a “threat to society” during those times), the patrons did not give in and suddenly the cops found themselves in the middle of an impromptu riot. This incensed a series of riots over the next few nights and essentially kickstarted the gay rights' movement as political groups were created and succeeding in getting their voice heard. Suddenly homosexuals had a loud, collective voice, and were finally feeling enough support to fight back against the rampant discrimination and violence they had continually faced. The following year, demonstrations were held in L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City in commemoration of the weekend that the gays fought back at the Stonewall Inn. And now, of course, Pride parades are held all over the world with hundreds of thousands of queer and straight revelers taking over the streets for a bright summer weekend.
So while we gather in the sun to party and have fun, we should remember that 40 years ago, such a thing would not be possible. 40 years ago you could be arrested for having a girlfriend. And we should also take a moment to reflect that while this country has certainly grown in the area of civil rights, discrimination is still prevalent and heartbreaking. But tomorrow we celebrate! And we celebrate with an extra smile in our hearts now that New York has passed a same sex marriage bill. Starting at the end of July, gay couples can book an appointment at the courthouse and get hitched! Isn't it grand?

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

Tue, Jun 14 2011 | 8:08pm

Sometimes I think that if there is not photographic evidence of it occurring, it did not happen. Or if I do not write about it, I will forget about it, which is kind of like it did not happen. But really, I base it on whether or not I have relayed the story to my little sister. That is the test, the proof that something occurred and was real and has been stored away in my library of memories and tales. Today I rode my bike down FDR Drive along the East River and then I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge. It sounds cheesy, but the breeze on my shoulders and the sun glinting on the water and the bridges crisscrossing ahead of me was so overwhelming, I cried. I live here, and I belong here.

P.S. My front brake broke as I was careening off of the Manhattan Bridge on my way home. You know those moments? Had one of those. It was still an epic day on my bike.

The Great Church Hunt of 2011

Sun, Jun 12 2011 | 8:08pm

The hunt continues. Tonight I joined a couple of my friends for the evening service of Trinity Grace Church in Chelsea. The pastor was an amazing speaker, with polish and humor and a personable smile and pull, and the music was loud and proud and powerful, but the service was two hours long. Two hours. So what am I left to think about as I drift to sleep? The message? Nope, even though it was a good message. I am sitting here wondering why the service was so long, even longer for those who opted to pray some more at the very end, and then I chastise myself for complaining. And then I think about all those other people and how happy and comfortable they seemed, and it seems pretty obvious that not everyone is bothered by this whole two hour thing. It's like I am less holy for wanting a service under an hour and a half. Let's get serious, I want it to be more like an hour and fifteen, even. And then I think to myself that if I truly loved the message and the singing, and if I connected to it like I was holding one end of a tin can on a string and God had the other can, then I would probably want a longer service. Crave it. But I have church throughout the week, and maybe my church is during my bike ride or when I am soaking up the sun on a bench by myself or when I am walking the dogs in the morning, but it is there and it is real. So maybe that is why I have less tolerance for lengthy services. And then I think to myself that I should have more patience and more focus. And then myself reminds me that I am not infallible and I should give myself a break. So I am not quite rejuvenated, but I am not discouraged.

Fall Short

Mon, May 30 2011 | 8:08pm

I am enough for you, but are you enough for me?
Take this, and a little more, but you should know
you are not taking anything at all.
That wasn't me, you see,
And today, this me is merely.
What surprises me is that you are pleased with the slice I have served you.
The sample I have given you is enough for you
and it is enough for you to take it
without wondering if it is enough for me.
You take and you smile and your grin lengthens into a gaping cavern dripping dark,
at least that is what I see,
for you don't know the me in me,
but you take what I give with a satisfaction I never know.

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Happy Birthday, Betty.

Tue, May 24 2011 | 8:08pm

Happy Birthday to my Grandma Betty. To Grandma Elizabeth Bird Lake Stablein. Grandma Buttsy. The woman who will always remain in my mind as slightly chubby and jovial and blessed with a head of thick and lovely hair. Seeing her now, light as a child and just as helpless, it is hard to envision her as a bustling busybody shooing the kids out of the kitchen while she adds more butter to the giant bowl of mashed potatoes. Grape soda. Grandma Buttsy always had grape soda on hand for us, even if it was sometimes flat. She loved to watch the news. She taught us how to gamble. Even if we used make believe money, it was still gambling. It is her birthday and she will not be celebrating today, for who is there to remind her it is a day to celebrate? And if we did remind her, how long before she forgets and wonders why there are people or balloons or presents present? Birthdays lose their pizazz when dementia takes over.
Grandma Betty is 90 today, and that is quite a feat. But the real accomplishment lies in the family that exists because of her, the slew of people across the states connected by love and blood and history.

Dating in 2011: Part Four

Mon, May 23 2011 | 8:08pm

So it turns out that as we get older, and by “we” I mean “I”, the men that we attract get older, as well. Logic tells me that as I venture into an older dating pool, I will inevitably encounter men with extensive, sometimes more colorful, pasts. A rainbow of divorces and kids and ex-girlfriends that made off with all of the furniture. Joint custodies. Kids. Children. Babies? Probably less likely, but a toddler is basically a baby that can walk so maybe not that uncommon. And then maybe you say, “Nah, I can't date a guy with kids. Too serious, too heavy, too much pressure, too much work dealing with an ex all of the time. Not for me.” And maybe that is true, and will remain true for years to come, or maybe you will fluctuate on a case by case basis, or maybe you will stick to it until suddenly you find yourself ten years older with a lot less options. I just do not know the answer. But the thing is, restrictions or dealbreakers or requirements and regulations can be stifling. And I do not want to be stifled. So I guess that means I am open. It's a good thing, being open, and it feels pretty nice, too.

Crissy the Bike

Mon, May 23 2011 | 8:08pm

The thing about Crissy is that she is hip without being overt about it. Understated is the word, I suppose. Or unassuming. She is incredibly helpful, which some would say is one of the most important qualities to have, maybe even top five. Crissy is a lithe speed demon who fears very little, but please do not accuse her of being naïve. Let's be clear, she likes to race, but she also believes in safety first. She is not blemish free, no way, though her loveliness outshines her dents and rust to the point that you really have to look twice, look deeply, to see the imperfections.
Crissy has opened up a whole new part of New York to me, and for that I am both grateful and excited. If you are out and about and you see a girl in a pink retro helmet riding a sky blue retro bike, make sure to yell out a happy 'hello'. Crissy and I are always happy to see a friend.

Dating in 2011: Part Five

Mon, May 23 2011 | 8:08pm

When a girl texts you, “Hey, buddy, take it easy on the texting. You've sent me like a dozen texts and we haven't even met yet”, do not respond with “Wow, do you have some hangups or what?” followed by three more text messages.
Speaking of hangups, I am declaring right here and now that I am unamused by your “jokey” comments about my eyes being closed in every picture.
I am especially unamused when you say you find my “chinky eyes” to be cute and funny.
If you have recently decided to alter your diet to include more fruits and veggies, say so succinctly, rather than telling me you “have decided to eat good and stuff”.
Are you looking for a woman who is more traditional in the “stay at home and cook for her family” type of way? Perhaps wording it as “looking for a female who don't mine cookin n things” is not the best avenue.
Do you have three kids that live with you part-time? Don't lie about it.
Are you going bald? Stop posting photos from three years ago, when your hair was long and shaggy.
If I lightly allude that you are coming across as needy, please do not be offended. Also, please do not leave me drunken voicemails insinuating I am out slutting around.
Ironic moustaches=funny. Patchy moustaches to make you look older or more sophisticated=also funny, but in a different way, as in sad funny.
Are you the father of children that are my age or slightly older? Not going to happen, partner.
If I gently break it to you that I am not keen on dating someone in the military, please do not reply with a combative inquiry searching for motives or make an attempt to persuade me otherwise. I do not want to fight you, sir!
Do you have an amazingly fit and sexy body? Nice. Did you post multiple photos of said hot bod, with different angles to showcase every toned and shiny muscle? Gross.
Do you want to be my friend? Excellent. Do you want to date me? Sweet. Do you want to sleep with me before moving on to the next girl? I am not the one for you. But, good luck to you!

Bowery Mission

Tue, May 10 2011 | 11:11pm

Bowery Mission is one of the oldest missions in the country. It is the oldest mission, if one is to believe Leonardo, my fourth client of the day. When you pass it on the street, walking down Bowery Street, it looks like yet another old but beautiful church, somewhat small in size, and complete with ornate windows and door frames. Dark wood. Creaky, but noble. It is unique in that it holds tight to its Christian roots, and that is clear as soon as you walk in to the old fashioned chapel.
The thing is, this place is massive. There are multiple floors, and there is space to house 80 men on a regular basis, possibly a hundred more on the cold nights. Downstairs in the basement is a room full of clean and even fashionable clothing, with one man standing guard. The guard is in charge of timing the “shoppers”, men off the street allowed ten minutes to pick out one item. This time limit and clothing allowance is strictly enforced, and the guard takes his job seriously. Next to that room is my work space-a sectioned off concrete block with an overhead lamp and a bonafide barber chair. Dennis, my liason, brought me a water bottle and an extension cord, then proceeded to send the men down, one after another, so I became a one woman assembly line.
The usual banter ensued. . .”*** woman * do you know how to cut a fade ***** too young ** not bad *** check her out! ** take it easy ** . . .shared between me, my clients, and the consistent peanut gallery gathered next to my work station. I think I surprised them with my ease, my barbershop skills (honed in San Francisco through other volunteer gigs, 'cuz let's get serious, I didn't have a lot of clients requesting barber cuts and fades in my salon in the Marina) my Spanish fluency, and my bossiness. Yep, definitely my bossiness was a shock to those men 20 years my senior and many at least 8 inches taller than myself.
Two hours, seven clients, five of which were sober thanks to the Bowery Mission program, and one of which was reeking drunk and straight off of the street. He fought in Vietnam, and after he told me the same Vietnam story (literally word for word) he apologized for his repetitiveness and attributed it to the alcohol abuse. “I'm a drunk, Lacy. I am not gonna lie to a nice girl like you. I am a drunk, and that is my life.” That was a rough twenty minutes, especially because he had not showered in quite some time.
But in reality, my first client was the roughest of all. He was sober and living in the house and therefore in the program-meaning he goes to Chapel four times a day, is subjected to random urine tests, cannot work outside of the mission for the duration of his program, and sleeps in a dorm with 79 other men. He was 28 years old, and his English was limited, especially when he broached a subject that was hard for him to talk about. So I told him, “Rafael, habla en espanol si quieras.” And he told me about being born on the streets, about living on the streets, about having no family as in no relatives as in no mom or dad as in no one. When he moved to New York City, he got sick and someone found him and took him to the hospital. Before the hospital turned him back out, they introduced him to Bowery Mission and basically told him that he would only get sick again, potentially never to recover, if he returned to the cold concrete. So he opted for the Mission, simply because his life depended on it.
And six months later he is healthier, and warmer, and at the end of his appointment, he was eager to share something with me.
“I was sick, my body was sick, and I went to the hospital and eventually I got better. But my spirit was sick, also. My spirituality was ailing, and when you are not healthy in your spirituality, you will die. I was sick, but I got better. My spirituality was sick, and now I am finding true healing in Jesus, and my life is better.”
It stuck with me, you know?

My Birthday Friend

Sun, Apr 24 2011 | 6:06pm

I met Sally last week while I was walking north on 2nd Ave in the East Village. I was wearing my pink polka-dotted party dress in anticipation of a night of partying and celebrating my 31st birthday. I was excited for my first birthday in New York, so even though I was in a hurry and had to dodge between other outdoor revelers, I was smiling. Whether it was the happy dress or the happy face that drew her in, I don't know. But this very old and very short woman saw me scurrying and she called out, “Excuse me!”. I turned. “Excuse me, dear . . .can you help me?”
Part of me wanted to look at my watch to confirm that I was in fact a minute late to the restaurant, but I refrained and instead gave her my attention. “Um, sure, I mean, of course! What do you need, Ma'am? I asked her. She was this woman, this very short woman leaning against a bar used to segregate restaurant seating, and she was staring at me in earnest. Her voice was nothing but old New York, and her facial features were scrunched in anxiety and beadiness. Her pixie haircut would be considered edgy, if intentional, and her vintage eyewear were the real thing, though they did nothing to alleviate her cross-eyes.
“Oh, Dear. Can you walk me home? There are so many people in the Village and they shove me when I am trying to walk and I have these bags to carry and it gets so hard and I live real, real close, but maybe, just maybe you could walk me home? I've asked so many others but you were the first to stop” And what could I do? So I gave her my arm and I directed her through the pedestrian madness. She walked with a heavy limp, made even more pronounced by her unevenly laden arms. When I offered to carry her bags, she refused, which of course amused me because she was clearly afraid I would make off with her loot. My dinner buddy encountered us just as we were crossing East 10th St. and with a nod from me, took her other arm and completed our short train. We walked a mere three blocks, but with the limp and the cautionary crossings and the crowds, it took a good fifteen minutes. In that time, I discovered quite a few things:
Sally has lived in New York her whole life, and the East Village for 12 years.
Organic vegetarian food is GARBAGE.
She does not believe in pets. Why bother?
Not only did Sally praise my parents raising me “just right”, she was very enamored with my “figger”-“Did you check out her figure?”
She was very worried I would go to a bar on my birthday (which I did) and that people would attempt to get me drunk (they did not). She is so worried about men getting ladies drunk, especially on their birthdays!
San Francisco breeds good people. I was proof of this, even after I told her I am from southern California, which apparently did not matter in her proclamation about the good people of San Francisco.
“But did you see her figger?”
A lady that cooks and wears cute dresses to show off her cute figure and does not like bars and is so helpful is one you cannot afford to lose. (I am actually in agreement with this last bit of wisdom.)
We walked Sally all the way home, almost. She did not want us walking up to her actual door; I presume her suspicion of strangers crept in and warned her just in time. When I asked to take a photo, her face lit up like a birthday candle. Quite a treat.

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