Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Elton John - "Amoreena"

It started on Saturday. I was getting my hair cut at a neighborhood barbershop. They started playing Dog Day Afternoon on their television. I didn't immediately recognize the movie even though I had seen it some years ago. I was instantly taken with the opening. There was a beautiful Elton John song playing that I was not familiar with, but which had those qualities that the best Elton John songs have: somehow even though you only half understand the lyrics, you are sent tumbling into some deeply sentimental state, realizing the beauty and comedy in the sadness of this human life. Even though you don't really understand all the lyrics, you can hear it, the meaning, in those piano chords, the moments of restraint and then the clanging build, keys pressed harder and harder, and in Elton John's voice its sad wails sings his subject's name, Amorrena. You can hear what it is he is feeling. You feel it too. It doesn't even matter what he's singing, what the words are, because you know what he's saying. You hear the feeling.

This song happens over shots of a seventies New York City, images of which always stir something inside of me, which show the city I dreamed it to be before moving here, shows the city in some state that seems in some ways better, shows a time now forever lost before air conditioning and cellphones and everyone staying indoors to play on the Internet, before huge impersonal chain stores ate up every single block.

Together, the two of them, the song and those opening shots of seventies New York that it serves as the soundtrack to, sent me far, far off somewhere. I have been there since Saturday. I like wherever it is I ended up. I play the song on repeat again and again throughout the day, wanting this feeling, this sentimentally to continue, still hearing the deep feeling in this song each time, sometimes hearing new aspects to it that I had not heard in the many, many previous listens to it over this past week.

I have been reading Dancer From the Dance this past week also, often doing so while listening to the album this song is from, Tumbleweed Connection, on my headphones as I ride around the city. I listen to this sad song about ardor and distance and read this novel about a gay culture also gone, men struggling with the closet in a way that I think will feel more and more foreign to people just discovering their gayness, that the process they will go through will be so different (thank God!) than what men of these earlier generations went through, and this book will seem so silly and repressed to future generations who may not get what these emotional struggles were about. There is so much shame and self-loathing on just about every page of this novel. I love those subjects though, which is probably why I like these early gay novels so much. My head is swooning reading about these moments, seeing so much of myself in some of these scenes, in some of these actions:

"That night he got out of bed and put on his maroon polo shirt, which everyone said he looked so handsome in, and went downstairs and drove off in his car, where he did not know. He just drove. He drove around that wilderness of gas stations and fast-food franchises that surround Washington as once the armies of the Confederacy had, drove around in that crimson glow of doughnut shops and new-car showrooms, in which all things, cars, faces, bodies, gleam with an otherworldly light, and he kept driving - never admitting what he was about - until he came to Dupont Circle and there he stopped and got out under the green trees and met a man and went into the park and blew him." (73)

As once the armies of the Confederacy had [surrounded Washington] - what a gorgeous and unexpected phrase for describing the suburban fast food places encircling DC.

I sigh at pretty turns of phrase, at scenes of love, at the way Elton John's voice says everything sometimes, at the cute guys on the subway, at this one guy I see on Scruff who I have an insane and probably hopeless crush on. There is so much beauty out there to see and take part in. Just keep playing that song you like. Play it again and again without care if it makes you feel like this, makes you feel more alive.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Paul Simon - "Under African Skies"

I was a bit stoned when I arrived at Black Bear Bar last night for the Xanadude party, a bit buzzed on whiskey. I heard a Smiths song and got really excited for this party, was really surprised they were playing the Smiths, as I thought the party was all dance music. Unfortunately, the Smiths song was coming from the party in the main room. Xanadude was happening in the back bar and was indeed straight-up dance music. It was dark, it was crowded, bodies pressed against bodies. Soon after getting there, this one guy started dancing with me. He danced closer and closer. I kept backing away from him, doing a circle around him get on the other side of him, all because I wanted to dance, to feel my limbs move with rhythms. I felt cramped. This guy just wanted to dance close and flirt. The darkness had me wary. I didn't know who I was dealing with. I have terrible night vision. I didn't know if he was cute or what. He would punch me lightly in the stomach every so often in a way that kind of turned me on, the thrill of violence. I escaped a couple times to go to the bathroom. Each time, I could hear another Smiths song coming from the main bar, some Morrissey theme to the night seemingly. I kept thinking I was at the wrong party. Will someone please make a gay Smiths night somewhere, please?

Every time I came back to the party, I would linger in back, taking in the scene, trying to eye friends through the darkness. Somehow in the darkness, this guy kept finding me. I couldn't escape him. He was nice and so I wasn't trying too hard to do so. Also keep in mind that I was stoned and had very little social skills as such to try to extricate myself from this situation. I kept on eyeing people I had crushes on but was unable to pursue them as I had this person dancing against me all night. I saw an acquaintance, a beautiful man who I have a crush on. I decided that it would be a good time to dip out of this scene, that I didn't want my crush to see me grinding dancing against this person all night. I told the dancing guy that I was going to pee and instead left, another Smiths song I loved playing as I walked out.

I got a burrito from the Mexican truck on North 6th Street. There were packs of gays on the march, a Saturday night, people looking good, looking for sex. I had different priorities. I just wanted to go home and lie in bed and eat this burrito and dream about boys. In some ways, I get more pleasure from these imagined encounters with people, of what I might do, than the actual things, me leaving a bar where various crushes were because I was too stoned to shake off this one boy. It was easier to leave.

But let me tell you one thing, I don't regret the decision. If you had tasted that burrito, you would understand.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Eleven years ago, I moved to New York, this city I am still living in, that in many ways I feel married to. I have dated some guys while I have lived in this city, been in love with a couple of them, thought I would marry one of them. It didn't last with any of them. I am alone on these streets walking from here to there, alone until I realize that this is my man, this is my love, this is who I am married to.

I used to dream about moving to this city as a child. It seemed cool, exotic, slightly dangerous. It held the promise of everything my suburban upbringing seemed to lack. I imagined some bohemian life of poetry and cocktail glasses clinking all the time and conversation until the early hours. The city is and is not like those fantasies. It is whatever you want it to be, whatever you make of it.

A lot has changed. I have. New York has. Bars I used to like no longer exist. Good friends have moved other places. I sometimes wonder how they did it, how anyone could leave this. And then there are days when I don't wonder that, days when I wonder whether I may soon some day leave all this, the city I love erased more and more each month, bookstores closing left and right, record stores all gone, frozen yogurt places and drugstores on every block multiplying. The diviness that I love requiring more and more seeking.

But you can look at these signs of change, 16 Handles and Duane Reades, and focus on them, get depressed about things, or you can look at the gorgeous limestone and brick buildings that this city is made of. You can look at the beautiful and ugly people that walk up and down these streets, all of them walking with places to go, determined. You can look up from your own circular thoughts and see a man who makes something in you crumple because he is so goddamn sexy. You can wonder where he goes out, where he came from, and where he is headed to. You can wonder this until another person catches your eye, which will happen not too soon after if you are alive to the environment around you, if you are open to this city and what it has to offer. You can see the confidence with which that woman in that nice trenchcoat marches down the street. There is an energy here that I love, that is somehow part of the landscape here.

Last year, unhappy with the direction my life had been taking, I decided to make some changes. I applied to school for advertising, where I am now writing this, from an industrial building on the Dumbo waterfront overlooking the Manhattan Bridge. I got a tattoo on my wrist of this date, 4/24, to always remind me how I felt when I moved here, with what enthusiasm and dreams I had at that point, how hungry I was to take on things. I have gotten that back. You can't be lazy here. Or, you can, and you will be unhappy. But it's about staying hungry. We walk fast for this reason - there is palpable hunger out there in these crowds - it's invigorating, something that gives me charge.

It's amazing to look at the sun shining on the East River below and to follow its shorelines, seeing the outline of lower Manhattan, thinking of all the people who have been here over the centuries, all of them hungry for the promises this city holds.

New York, I love you. I am not going to let you down. I am going to be the man you love.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


It being 4/20 and all, I got stoned today, though really no excuse is needed. For some reason, I thought it would be a great idea to watch Downfall while stoned. The last days of Hitler spent in his bunker somehow proved a riveting movie to watch on this sunny day. I looked at Scruff on and off throughout the day, messaging various cuties of varying distances away. There were flirtations that went nowhere.

A cute boy messaged me. We flirted. He said he was looking for company. I asked him if he was looking for sex or company. Sex, he said. He used the word company though. Like one does, he said. I told him I would be there in fifteen minutes.

I walked over, listening to Sky Ferreira's "I Blame Myself," a song I have been listening to over and over again all weekend. I buzzed his buzzer, number 7, walked up two flights of stairs, and knocked on his door. He answered and I was in a goofy mood from still being slightly stoned. He was a little nerdy looking but had a really cute smile. There was that awkward conversation in his bedroom, the making out with our clothes on in his bed. We took off our clothes and this guy was really beautiful. Clark Kent/Superman. Out of his clothes, he was really cut, had this stunning chest that I kept running my fingers against as my eyes took it in, up and down, my hands trying to understand this beauty, my eyes wanting some physical confirmation of it.

He had his windows open. I watched people walk past on the sidewalk below as I got head. I wondered if that man parking his car across the street could see up to this window, little lit box of me eating this guy's ass.

There were Deleuze books stacked on his bedside table, maps on the wall. We came lying side by side jerking off.

I told him how I didn't really do much this weekend except for look at Tumblr porn and talk to guys on Scruff. Me too, he said. We started talking about Scruff. He lamented that he spends so much time looking at a grid of male faces. He made an analogy to Foucault's idea of the panoptican, that this was its inverse, that there are all these little squares out there, human faces, and we hope, really hope, that they are looking at us.

He's beautiful. He's smart. He's a math teacher. He plays piano. I wasn't expecting to like this person so much, but he was super sweet and cute, and I found myself more and more attracted to him as we kept talking, hoping that I would get to hang out with this person again.

He told me about the awkward date he had the night before. He really likes this guy and hopes he gets another chance to hang out with him, that he wants to date him. Despite my hopes being dashed by this guy talking about some other guy he liked, I kept our banter going, talked about how gay men don't know how to go on dates, that most gay men never participated in those rituals growing up. He told me he liked my outfit once I was dressed. We kissed goodbye. I walked down those two flights of stairs, put on my headphones, and blasted this song, "I Blame Myself," over and over again, walking home down Grand Street, taking in the night, past memories floating around, hoped for future ones somewhere out past those.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

the time, having it

While I was waiting for the subway, I was reading in The New Yorker  a story about advances in fancy airline seats for business- and first-class passengers. Airlines are trying to one up each other, an arms race of luxury, comfort, and isolation, these airlines in search of these big spending passengers.

A guy, vaguely skaterish dude, came up to me. He asked me if I had the time. I looked at him suspiciously, annoyed that someone was talking to me while I had been lost in reading, also sensing some scam, some trouble. 99 times out of 100, when someone approaches you in New York, it is not anything you want to hear. And so I have learned to deflect, to avoid. They usually want something, your time, your money, your sanity, your phone. 

I was about to tell this guy that I didn't know what time it was, didn't want to take my phone out of my pocket. It's a defensive crouch that I have taken so many times on desolate streets in sketchy neighborhoods when at an hour no one needs to know the time, someone asks it of you. It comes from some not entirely ungrounded fear of being mugged. Instead, when this guy asked me, I did pull out my phone, but accompanied by an audible sigh, vaguely annoyed, and told this guy the time.

He heard my annoyance. He apologized, said that he had just lost his phone yesterday and how much it sucks not having a phone. I felt like a dickhead. I probably am a dickhead most of the time. I don't mean to be. But there are so many moments that I have closed myself off to by always being in some figurative crouch, hoping to prevent any sort of crazy from even coming near me.

The guy was really cute and really friendly. I wanted to know him, imagined that we could hang out and get a drink because it's not like he had a phone to contact any of his friends to meet up, that we could have fallen in love as we wandered Brooklyn and the night talking about phones and how sickeningly dependent we are on them and life in general. And yet I closed off to this fantasy from every even having whatever small chance at reality it may have had on some fantastical faraway land. Once I actually looked at this person, looked at his eyes, saw this human being, bothered to look away from the magazine in front of me, I saw this beautiful person, this human being, vulnerable, open, and looking to make a connection.

On the train ride home, I mulled further on my assholeness and also pondered these social changes that have occurred in my lifetime, that this person apologized for a casual approach to a stranger, something that in the time before smartphones used to be such a common occurrence, people asking other people with watches what time it was, the asking of people for directions before we each began carrying a GPS in our pockets. This is a fairly recent change. How many chance encounters have we closed ourselves off to with these technological changes? How many people will never know a happiness they may have because they never met that person who in not too far off times, would have asked them if they happened to have the time?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Taylor Swift - "Holy Ground"

It was yesterday that I really noticed. I was taking numerous selfies of myself at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Trying to select a real cute one to post on Instagram - because self-preservation isn't a full time occupation, Ani, so much as self-presentation is - I kept on not choosing photo after photo noticing striking crow's feet around my eyes in them. I am turning 33 in a couple months and so this isn't really shocking news that I am developing wrinkles around my eyes. I am going to spare you the gay panic of physical imperfections setting in more and more noticeably, of youth fading. These things happen. This is life. People age. People die. This is not another gay narrative fearing aging, fearing the loosening of one's grasp on youth, on what a large part of your culture celebrates as the erotic ideal.

And yet, after work today, were you to look, you would have found me in the aisles of Duane Reade looking at various eye creams for a good long while, reading reviews of certain ones on my phone while I stood in the aisle holding this or that brand, reading over their youth-renewing, age-defying, time-warping claims. 

I bought one of them, its claims of youth seeming the most convincing, skirting just perfectly that line where reality brushes up against fantasy. 

I got stoned tonight after class, ate a burrito, and listened to (and am still listening to) Taylor Swift, who grows on me more and more as a songwriter with each listen.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ben Harper - "Burn One Down"

I was getting a blowjob from this guy. A sunny afternoon, the middle of the day, a lazy Sunday. There were a lot plants in his apartment. It looked lived-in for decades. Out his windows were beautiful tableaus, an old New York made of West Village buildings that I could have easily been looking at decades and decades ago. I could have been getting this blowjob in the 50s, some closeted gay man, and would probably be looking at the same collection of brick buildings outside these windows as now.

I was on my back on his bed. I looked down at my own body, at my dick disappearing and reappearing. He paused and held my cock in his hand. He looked at my body in this hungry way, took the sight in. The attention made me feel really good. His eyes scanning my body felt as good as any caress from his hands. I saw in a way I don't always do what he was seeing. I was looking really good. He said, "Beautiful," and kept looking at my body. I looked it over, the sunlight coming through the window was doing my stomach some great favors, throwing shadows, making things look more defined than they are.

It was nice, an intense physical encounter. It felt really good afterward to lie back exhausted with this guy for those couple moments you allow yourself before the weight of some notion of reality forces itself upon you again. For a brief moment, the spell had yet to be broken, that joy, that pleasure, that comfort. It has such a short lifespan.

I got dressed and left. I ate a burrito. I then went to the gym to make myself something else.

After this long, long, so long, miserable winter, the sun and some warm weather made an appearance. I forgot how good it feels. Mid-April now, some trees have finally started to blossom. Most trees are still bare, ugly branches sprouting nothing but their own sadness, nothing but ours. Finally, little flowers are appearing, bits of green.

I listened to music on my headphones and walked around from here to there, from there to there. There were people in t-shits, forearms showing, men in shorts, women in skirts without tights. People were starting to blossom also. Everyone was looking so good today and I think everyone thought the same thing, everyone walking about town with smiles that just can't be helped, everyone feeling everyone and everything, a great Spring vibe that everyone was jamming to, feeling.

Life can feel this way. I forgot what temperatures in the seventies felt like, forgot how heavenly such days can be after months and months of miserable coldness. Happiness is back in town.