Using a different set of crayons

It’s National Coming Out Day, but I don’t want to talk about coming out, or at least the whole process of it. I want to talk about being gay.

It’s actually quite boring.

I put my pants on one leg after the other, brush my teeth more cavalierly than my dentist would like, butter my toast with abandon. I worry about my midsection, paying my bills, and the state of the world, but will full-on belly laugh if someone pronounces “dicks” just right. I have a system when shopping the grocery store (don’t make me veer from it), and I can’t carry a tune to save my life.

Everyday, I get to kiss my wonderfully goofy, brainy, sensitive boyfriend good night, then goodbye every morning on my way to work. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, half-asleep with racing thoughts, I’ll turn to my left and kiss his shoulder. He’ll grunt, and I’ll fall back asleep.

Besides the boy-love stuff, how is any of this gay? Well, it’s not. Not really, because being gay is as normal as being straight, as breathing. It’s incidental to my life, as well as that of many millions of others.

Being out, though? Being open?

That, friends, is magical and wondrous and joyous.

Not long ago, the choice of being out was ostracization, and quite literally death, or the lighter life sentences of conformity and silence in the closet.

Fuck those times and the system that built it.

Praise the universe that today, choosing between the closet or being out is more akin to sitting quietly and coloring within the lines with only gray crayons, or saying “fuck you” to the quiet, flipping the table and ripping up the coloring book.

Being out – as a gay man, or a lesbian, or a trans man or trans woman, or asexual or bisexual – is like saying “fuck your crayons, and the primary colors, too, I’ve got my own fucking paint set. Fuck your lines, I’m coloring on the walls, dummy! With CHARTREUSE.” (My significantly quieter significant other would disagree with me here, but I digress.)

Everyday is a choice to say fuck you to shame, fuck you to bigotry, but also hell yes to living, hell yes to me.

Being gay is normal. The ups and downs, though sometimes more acute, are also normal. Coming out, being out, is spiritual and special, a full-body experience that you never really forget, and one that changes you for the better.

Featured image by Alysa Bajenaru

BeRoll, Vol. 1

I love the b-roll feature over at Good Beer Hunting, these little vignettes that peek into the beer world with just the smallest bit of explanation. Who has time to show everything? Moments can be as special as the whole story, some times, more.

A friend and her boyfriend invited me and my own SO out to the ‘burbs this weekend (specifically, Barrington), to meet her friends and their animals. They have a charming little farm set behind their ranch house, with seven lambs, two goats, countless chickens and roosters and, most excitingly, two mini-horses named Penny and Stella.

“They used to be named Special and Delight, but they sounded like retired strippers,” said Pam, one of the owners.

We spent an hour or so feeding apples and Mrs. Pasture Cookies for Horses to Penny and Stella — “flat hands, unless you hate your thumbs,” said Suzanne, the other owner — and then spent the rest of the afternoon talking, laughing and drinking wine. I even got to ride a lawnmower, so all in all, Saturday was a Delight, or something.

feeing a horse a red apple

 

Bright flamingo mural on a Chicago club

002. Weekly Dose: Gay Stuff

A look at the stuff that’s fueled my week, published every Sunday occasionally or whatever, don’t judge me. 

“Queer, tender, true. I like those things.” – Gabrielle Hamilton, Mind of a Chef

I spent my first birthday in New York at the now-famous Prune, a narrow little charmer of a restaurant in the East Village. My friend from Kasey took me — it was more like a treat for the both of us, since she’s two weeks older than me. There’s a banquette just underneath some mercury-glass mirrors; they pull out a table for you as you slide in, scoothing it back over your legs as you settle in. I don’t remember much of the meal — some sensible rosé or other in a cute tumblr, impossibly cool New Yorkers all around me, a kitchen humming with activity — but I do remember one dish in particular.

We started with a simply prepared avocado half, with olive oil spilling out the concave once housing the pit. Flaky sea salt covered the avocado’s fleshy surface, a sprig of parsley the lone garnish. The effect of the golden oil and verdant fruit mirrored that of the dappled fall sunshine just outside the window. It was barely anything, truth be told, but life changing in its way.

I’ve had meals conjured from foams and gums and wizardy, but the combination of that honest avocado, shared with one of my closest friends in a nondescript restaurant — I’ve never felt so welcome.

I’ve never felt truly part of the LGBT community — lots of baggage to unpack — but I do hope that each of us, this Pride week, Pride month, find some measure of belonging. Cheers to the queer, the tender, the true.

//TASTE:  

I recall the avocado at Prune because Kasey and her new husband were in town this week. When I first moved to Chicago, Kasey (a student at Northwestern) and I shared a teeny apartment in Uptown — it’s been a decade since she last saw the city. She and Brian are big beer fans, so I took them to the newly designated Malt Row in Ravenswood for some local brews from Dovetail and Begyle. Afterward, we headed to Map Room, still one of my favorite bars in the city. My guests agreed.

map room.jpg

//SEE: 

I had to kill a mouse this week. A few months ago, when we initially realized there was a problem, our landlord came in and plugged up all the holes with steel wool. He left some traps, and we thought that was it. It helped for a little while; we caught a mouse that week and thought that was it, the our unwanted roommate was just sneaky. Then last month, we noticed little paw prints on some butter in the counter, plus some scratching noises underneath the sink. There was an entry hole we missed in the cabinet, so we laid two traps and the tainted butter down there, and a few days later, we caught the mouse.

Then this week happened. I came home from picking up pizza dough from the grocery store and as I placed my keys on the kitchen counter, I saw the scurry of another grey lightning bolt duck back behind the oven. The other trap held another teeny brown thing, squeaking and writhing in panic. My heart leapt out of my chest, first because there was now a fourth mouse in as many months, and I didn’t know how long the little guy was there. It could have been hours, torturously wiggling to get out of the glue.

I set up a ziplock plastic bag with baking soda, placed the trap, mouse first, into it and slowly dropped in some vinegar. As the baking soda started to fizz, I quickly closed the bag, and placed it into a grocery bag as quickly-gentle as possible. I couldn’t watch the life get snuffed out of the silly little creature, but I also couldn’t let it suffer.

I did something I haven’t done in a long time: I prayed for the little one’s quick, painless passing.

//HEAR:

It’s a two-fer this week, with two podcasts that should be on your radar. First up is The Sewers of Paris. It’s not new, but it’s new to me, a real pleasure because I have a whole backlog of episodes to listen to. Billed as “interviews with gay men about entertainment that changed their lives,” the show is produced by Matt Baume. Matt asks very poignant questions of these men, going beyond just the musicals, books, and television that left a lasting impression — topics span loss, love, nostalgia, coming to terms with identity, really the gamut of the queer (and human) experience. The episodes I’ve listened to so far feature Glen Weldon (NPR), Guy Branam (Talk Show the Game Show), and author Dave Holmes, and each one is a seamless blend of charm, hilarity and insight.

//FEEL: 

Next podcast? Nancy, hosted by Tobin Low and Kathy Tu. Speaking with them for the Chicago TribuneI asked them about representation even within the LGBT space and how they navigate their newfound platform. The most recent episode, which explores Orlando one year after the attacks on Pulse nightclub claimed 49 lives, will give you all the feels.

millennium.jpg

//SMELL:

Chicago is in full bloom, and like any good Chicagoan, I’m spending as much time outside as possible. Millennium Park’s lawn is fresh and sharp, thanks to semi-frequent rain, while walking near the Chicago River in my neighborhood smells of jasmine and linden and ozone (a tree branch was struck with lightning, and the smell is not unpleasant). I’m not synesthetic (I wish!), but it does smell like the color blue, if that makes sense?

001. Weekly Dose: The Wait of Everything

A look at the stuff that’s fueled my week, published every Sunday occasionally or whatever, don’t judge me. 

Confession: I’ve been working on this thing–whatever this thing is–for about two months now.

I just let myself become one of those writers, stewing and marinading and sous vide-ing over a bunch of ideas. (Just look at my Notes on my phone. It’s like the Magna Carta of gibberish.) Oof, amirite?

Though the concept of these posts is straightforward enough — “stuff I like!” — I’ve been roundabout and ultra-picky, reading tons and listening to hours on end of podcasts, watching everything recommended to me, tasting everything from shitty apple whiskey to transcendent duck tart. The stuff people make is just so shiny and wonderful (most days).

So I’m finally just gonna twist open the spigot, once backed up with excuses, to finally publish something here. Enjoy or whatever. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

//TASTE:  

It’s spring-ish, still, and the farmers markets are heaving with the weight of strawberries. In a herculean effort of self-care, I’ve been avoiding my usual breakfast sandwich fix for a bowl of sharp Greek yogurt with a melange of berries, local honey and bee pollen (allergies are a bitch) and some muesli. So far, so good.

//SEE: 

I’m way behind on Sense8, which is all the more of a shame, since it’s now canceled. The two seasons that do exist are thrilling and fast-paced and charming, but it’s also such a testament to the power of diversity and humanity. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the definition of family, and this show is a glorious celebration of the families we choose to create for ourselves, in spite of what the world throws at us. I don’t know why I didn’t watch it sooner, but I’m already regretting its loss.

//HEAR: 

I’ve been a subscriber to the Song A Day newsletter for a while now, and it’s been usually hit or miss. Somethings just don’t land for me, but that’s ok. In my dotage, I’ve lost the desire to seek out new music, so I like when people just send it my way. And boy, did I need today’s song. It’s by Tom Rosenthal, a musician who has apparently made a name for himself online in a big way, and the song is the title track off his new album. Simple and optimistic, Fenn is the kind of indie song a younger, simple and optimistic version of myself would’ve loved (hello, Garden State soundtrack).

I’ll tell you Fenn, I’ll tell you when
It’s now now now now now now now now now

//FEEL: 

Fun story: At 31 years old, I’m considering therapy for a kind-of growing anxiety problem. Last I went was over a decade ago, to some sheisty Christian family fucker who, long story short, didn’t really help. Can I get an amen for honesty and newsletters, though? Like above, an email landed in my inbox today that I needed to read, a day after a convo between myself and my friend Emily. My main problem of late has been impostor syndrome, which seems, I don’t know, so self-indulgent of me. In his “It’s My Stupid!” email, Tyler Coates (an editor at Esquire) wrote:

It has been hard for me to take compliments lately. My friend Jami gave me a really good one recently, which was that I have come a long way since the time she first met me seven years ago. “You were just an office manager at a startup, and look at you now!” That is one of those objective truths that I try to remind myself whenever I’m feeling low or unaccomplished, that my station probably seems much more impressive to everyone else than it does to me. Which is the crux of it, too, I guess: I have managed to meet other people’s expectations, but I can’t meet my own. Likewise, I cannot listen to my own affirmations when I believe, to my core, that I am just lying to myself.

Which, like, is kind of my deal right now? IDK, the whole thing just seemed very timely, considering my grappling.

//SMELL:

I got to puppysit my good friend Wendy’s moosh, Luke, for just under a week. He likes to lick my knees and has the worst breath, but he’s a good boy.

happy dog in a park looking up at owner

 

//BONUS: Buy Preorder the reprint of first issue of the zine, Do What You Want, co-produced by Great British Bake Off contestant/bad ass, Ruby Tandoh. It’s all about mental health and stories, filled with wonderful people like Heather Havrilesky, Mara Wilson, Diana Henry, Tejal Rao, Meera Sodha, and Tandoh herself.

 

 

16 Lessons I’ve Learned After 4 Years in New York

I’ve made it something of a regular occurrence to post anniversary checkins every year at August 15, but this year, my fourth anniversary as a New Yorker came and went. Rather than a long winded essay—as is my wont—I thought it’d be appropriate to post some lessons I’ve learned so far. (Hashtag basic, amirite?) I posted a version of this on my Facebook, so apologies for the repetition.

Without further ado:

It’s ok to cry on the street. It’s even better to cry in an ATM vestibule. Let your account balance be your guide.

If you believe a cab is a quicker way from Point A to Point B, you WILL get stuck in traffic.

More money makes it easier to live here, yes, but don’t underestimate the restorative power of a walk through Central Park while eating a plain slice.

New Yorkers are a lot nicer than their reputation belies. Except the Times Square Cookie Monster. He’s an asshole.

Never tell a cabbie where you’re going until your ass is firmly in seat. Until then, be prepared to “call” the “cops” to “report” your cabbie’s refusal to drive to Brooklyn. Or Queens.

Queens liquor store

Your local bodega always has the best sandwiches. Boar’s Head for president.

New York/Harlem/Brooklyn/Queens is safe. Stop asking, MOM.

It’s ok to leave a date halfway through. Especially when they have to “take a coke break.” Bai, Crazy!

Be nice and smile. At the very least, people will smile back. At most, doors open.

If someone invites you to weekend country escape, TAKE IT. Go to a farm. Visit the North Fork. Travel upstate. Hating the city? Refresh and recharge by getting the fuck out of town.

Avoid liquids in public at all costs. Yes, that was a hot puddle of human garbage you just stepped in. And yes, you did just sit on pee in the subway. Accept the inevitable.

Flowers beneath the Manhattan Bridge

Feeling down? Find a song that makes you strut, put in your headphones and hit the pavement.

Never wait in line. Whatever is inside the door is never worth it. Spoiler: it’s a bar with shitty and expensive drinks.

Tip your bartender, server, busboy, any service person you cross paths with. Tip them well. Service karma is real, and service industry employees are paid too little to put up with shitty customers.

Get out of your neighborhood. Visit Harlem. Take advantage of the Met. Ride the Staten Island ferry. Go to Prospect Park. Eat everything on Arthur Ave. Don’t brag about having “never left the Island.” You sound like an idiot.

Holding hands in public with your boyfriend on a beautiful day is therapeutic. Make a habit of it.

It’s New Year’s. Get Me a Sandwich, Stat.

Like, oh, the rest of the world ringing in the New Year, I’m reflecting on 2014. Was it a good year? Yeah, I’d say so. I traveled more, worked harder, developed new skills and largely avoided not dying. Someone get me a prize!

The flip side of reflecting on the New Year is dipping a hopeful toe in Jan. 1, the calendar date equivalent of fresh fallen snow.

“Should I be prettier and thinner this year, or just nicer?”

“Should I try harder or maintain the status quo?”

“Do I finally make it to Paris this year?” Read More

Feeding My Obsessions: New York’s Best Bookstores

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It’s the last weekend of Christmas shopping and I’ve basically checked out of consumer culture.

Don’t expect much from me this holiday season, unless of course, it’s wine. Or books. From, y’know, the bookstore, not that Internet-commerce hydra, Amazon.

Because, try as you might to deny it, bookstores are cool, bro. Cliche, I know, loving bookstores, but! Their smells! And the quiet rustling sounds of spines cracking! Pages fluttering! Other readers breathing!

Read More

My Cup Runneth Over

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This last month has been quite the doozy and frankly, I’ve been bad at Internet as a result of it. It’s hard to keep up with the blog when there’s so much to do IRL, but let’s give it the whole college try, eh?

November was a big month for work: lots of projects, lots of learning. But it was also a fun month of events and press trips. A cruise out to sea—I billed it as the world’s fanciest U-turn—kept me away from the office, while Virginia’s Eastern Shore treated me to waterway adventures in and around Chesapeake Bay, whereupon I ate all the oysters and clams. All o’ dem.

15879301295_4718b99e2d_k Read More

For Public Consumption | Racing Thoughts

LJIZlzHgQ7WPSh5KVTCB_TypewriterEveryday around 5 PM, I can hear the trains rolling through Mt. Kisco from my desk.

The aggressive horn starts off in the distance, and I can’t help but look at my desk clock. The sound comes closer, and I pack my bag. The doppler’d noise goes off into the distance, and I’m getting into a cab, eagerly waiting for my own train to whisk me back to the city.

It’s a process that I neither hate nor love, but helps me mark the time nonetheless.

This week’s been a doozy, what with rain, ebola scares and terrible commutes, it’s all a guy can do to hold out until Friday. Since Monday, I’ve been expecting that train to remind me to go home, perking up to the sound, only to be roundly disappointed because I remembered yet another thing I had to do once I got back to the city. Another event, another friend to hang out with.

But now it’s Friday. Though I’ll be bartending tomorrow, I also have a relaxing weekend of adventures planned. I’m looking forward to head up to Beacon for art and Doctor Who-themed eating on Sunday, and then of course, Saturday is gonna be cray: I’M JUDGING A PUPPY COSTUME CONTEST. Let that sink in.

As I wait for the train to sound off and tell me to go home, I’m gonna practice for my role of a lifetime with a trip down the Buzzfeed hole. Have a great weekend! Read More

Rainy Autumn Playlist: Color | Drain

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By the time I got off the L in Bushwick this evening, the sky—which had threatened rain all day—released its wet freight.

Underground a mere minutes before I butted heads with meteorology, I had already decided to take the long route home, if only to be outside for a short while. I even wanted to go on a run, imagine that. Instead, I was stuck with a drizzly 12 minute door-to-subway-door jaunt. Sigh.

Then again, if the worst thing in the world during a light autumn rain is having to take off one’s glasses, well, there’s not really much to complain about.

Plus, over the course of my drizzle-stroll, I was able to decide three things: Read More