lonely lovely city

lonely lovely city

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Breakup With Facebook

I broke up with Facebook a week ago. I have yet to be compelled in clicking on my phone or laptop to see what others are up to or what fabulous life they are navigating in the world. My relationship to it lasted five years. It was an amicable parting. I acquired a good deal of knowledge about the power of sharing, over sharing, the notion of mystery, and the art of becoming more understanding and respectful; however, here are the reasons I fled.

1. Gloating about every virtual achievement, promotion, relationship, relative, child, party, thought, vacation, birthday, anniversary, opinion, view, success, injustice, complaint, rant, every photograph, place one has visited, or is going to, restaurant or bar frequented, other places subsequently arriving to, what one ordered for their meal, and every person your eating or doing it with, some of which I was guilty of. Longing for that beloved reply to a posting, just to witness one's reaction, when ironically many were from a group of friends kept at bay who truly don't know who I am, who don't care what I do or where I am doing it. Anonymity can go a long way in a city of 9 million residents.

2. Feeling insecure, inadequate, envious, sad, jealous, slighted, ignored, doubtful, secretly hostile, juvenile, competitive about the things, loved ones and fate that was not handed to me, insensitive to others' beliefs and politics (even when they are far right, which was harder than I thought) not thinking before I responded to a post, making snap judgments, allowing my imagination to get the better of me, overindulging in what ifs, pondering if someone cared.

3. Allocating precious efforts to updating my wall and background when I could have been writing and committing to creative projects. Its surprising how a few minutes in the morning, afternoon, evening, and before bedtime attribute to: an hour, which accounts for seven hours a week on Facebook, seven hours that could be spent exercising, reading, writing, or hanging out with a good friend, which ultimately accounts for 28 hours a month, and 336 hours a year on FB, which in the end, 336 hours x 5 years = 1,680 hours spent on Facebook since my relationship began and ended. Essentially that is three full months of my life, 24/7, I will never get back. Imagine that. Staggering.

4. Accessing everyone's thoughts and locations, having hundreds of those thoughts and postings from others in my head, which while some made me smile, I still felt disconnected and empty. I guess I was also lazy about taking a moment to email or call someone. Why have to when its on FB? I felt it enabled me to connect through a screen, not bothering to reach out, knowing all too well what others are up to, even when you don't see or hear from them in months, if not years.

5. Wanting to develop healthier ties to my real circle of friends. As far as I checked, email, texting, and other shared forms of social media exist, proving to remain far more effective, in my opinion, when trying to access someone you long for. I also learned that reaching out to those who are near and dear requires an effort. Those are my truest, most sincere friends. I can reach them whenever I want as they do with me. I don't need FB to facilitate that.

6. Having access to every individual from my past seemed unnatural. While I hope all are well, I didn't need or want to be reconnected to every former co-worker, childhood friend, college classmate, former boss, acquaintance, and so forth from my past that I was once connected to, but no longer am. Another clincher was having everyone know when I logged on with the pesky green button lit up to the right, informing others when I was on, lacking any shred of privacy surrounding the activity.

7. Being misunderstood with my responses to posts or lack there of. Its incredible how even the most secure person can conjure a jolt of anger if you don't reply with something witty or make a casual remark. Again, the immature aspect of myself lurked out when I lingered on FB. Certainly not a quality I take pride in.

When I announced the decision to leave on my wall, I sent out personalized messages to most, who I have every intention of staying in touch with and having in my life, people I deeply care for. I added many to an organized contact list on Google, chalked with phone numbers, addresses, and birthdays. I began to do it because I wanted to see if I could actually pull it off and if I would feel better about the direction of my social path.

"Is everything all right?" asked one friend. Or, "What made you want to do it?" asked another.

I found myself defensive, justifying the reason to leave, when it clearly had nothing to do with them, and everything to do with my peace of mind.

I don't think any less of others who continue to remain loyal to the site. If it works for them, so be it. Most of my close friends still have an active account. I admit, I'll miss seeing their colorful photos and like buttons.

There are awkward moments when I realize I won't be able to witness one's relationship, work, or location status with a simple touch on the smartphone app. But, then I look at how lighter I am, ten metaphorical pounds to be exact, and how much ample time I can figure other stuff out.

During five full years, questions were raised in my afterthoughts regarding how I viewed myself and others, and how I was benefiting from it. I don't have many answers, but I know I wanted to feel better about who I am without the constraint of pressure and social influence. On FB, my self-esteem grew distorted when I tried to reassure myself that I was fine the way I was when reminded of how richer someone's life is.

Facebook emailed me twice as I clicked close account in bold letters. "Are you sure you wish to deactivate? Your friends will miss you. Are you sure?" They even had yellow sad faces to accompany it, as if it made a difference. What am I? A child?

Yes, FB, I am sure you will miss me. No one is holding me hostage or putting a gun to my head. I received an additional email with an option to reactivate my account. It felt like I was escaping a cult who are waiting in open arms when you choose to return. No thanks. I honestly saw myself impinging on people's sacred, treasured moments. Being a voyeur isn't all that.

Breaking up with someone or something is not simple. I contemplated this for a year. I devised a list, detailing the pros and cons, fully aware of its impact before I took the plunge. It was a window of opportunity and I took it. Of course, there is always the off chance of going back to FB, much like one can do with a former boyfriend whom you still hold a torch for. I don't know about you, but I want to move forward, not backward.

I am certain for now, if not indefinitely, the charade, gig, game, whatever you wish to call is over. I have Linkedin, Twitter, and Google Plus. My articles, updates and shared stories will be available to read if ever and whenever you're curious. I hope to see all of you on some of these pages and for you to share with me your latest news and updates.

Goodbye Facebook. I hold gratitude for our special memories. XXOO.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I will miss you...

This has been a weird period. Sporadic work. Financial uncertainty and demise. The acceptance of personal changes. Infrequency with writing (this blog especially). Good friends who have since departed or are planning to depart the city. 2013 has proven to be the year that bit my ass. 

The unending tides of NYC march forward with endurance, even when you don't believe you can run along with it. It doesn't seem to love you, even when you continue to unconditionally love it. Yet, you remain in this dysfunctional relationship, convincing yourself that it will improve, that you will finally secure the acceptance you've craved since moving here.

One minute, you're enjoying being in the moment, doing your thing, off to see someone, running to an appointment, taking a class, working at a cool job, or indulging in one of the endless activities; shows, exhibits, restaurants, museums, shops, parks, cafes, and monuments that are offered here on the island. There is always something to do and somewhere to go. Yet, it is socially awkward at certain times to enjoy it without a special person you share commonality with, especially when you're at a crossroads.

So far, five people I know and liked quite well fled NYC. Three more are planning to move next year too. I am sure a few others will soon jump ship. Sustaining true friendships isn't the same as it was in my twenties, even early thirties. Your interests evolve. Your career blossoms. You begin a new relationship. You adopt a dissimilar mindset to one you had previously. You grow up (hopefully). So, what constitutes letting go of a person or a place that no longer fits you? Change presumably.

I am sad my friends left NY. I often wonder when a person announces they're leaving NY. Its like Samantha in Sex And The City says, proposing the same sentiment to the rest of the girls at the coffee shop, "I never understand when someone leaves NY. Where do they go?"

Some of my friends left for a job opportunity. Some left for love. And others returned to where they originated from. I get that for a few, NY isn't part of their entire identity, much like it is mine. It doesn't define them or provide a false anchor. They can live anywhere and be happy. Most are secure in their decisions and trudge into the unknown, fairly, if not seemingly certain that joy or fulfillment, perhaps both, are on the horizon. Otherwise, why leave such as great, mammoth city like NY?

Perspective and for a better life? While NY offers a world of opportunity and advancement, there is an unspoken plane field of harsh rejection, fierce competition, expensive costs, overwhelming noise/people, never a dull moment to just be, always in a path of someone walking faster than you, with loftier goals, a larger apartment, a hotter boyfriend, a thicker wallet. Its like you're chasing something that might never arrive because you're not fast or lucky enough. A thick skin is needed when surviving here.

No, I am not a defeatist. I am a realistic dreamer who still believes in the power of New York. I get that while the years taper off, some imagine a life elsewhere, where snagging jobs, apartments, and partners, is actually possible. And, I don't blame them. I've been incredulous in imagining the people that were in my circle would stay put. Life doesn't work that way. People have their own lives. So, they live them, away from the hustle and bustle.

Humans constantly evolve, just as the city does. It doesn't stop or justify what is happening so you don't feel left out. If you don't follow the pace, NY can flush you out, much like the rest of life does when you're adverse to adapting. I happen to admire the strength of others and the journeys they tackle. I respect the courage it asks to pick up and leave NY, a place I am having such a difficult time staying in myself.

I want to parrot the ambitious actions and fearlessness of others who leave. I want to hop in a plane and live another life, far from the one I created here for the past thirteen years. I want to reclaim my indestructible twenty-five year self from LA, with limited savings, no job, no place to call his own, no friends, who forged a new path. I know he is somewhere, lurking, waiting to be released, to explore, and redefine his priorities.

I will always be linked to NYC, but realize other countries are waiting to be adopted. For the rest of you, my loyal readers, if and when I choose to leave NY, I will keep you apprised. If I happen to stay put, perhaps that is okay too. After all, it is my only home. I've declared this is probably the only livable city in America. The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave, much like a comfortable companion who you know so well.

For my friends who have left and who are leaving, please know I will miss you and treasure our memories. Goodbye.


P.S. The photo taken above was down the street from my flat. I couldn't resist posting it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A moment at the Highline

I heeded a friend's advice in choosing to take advantage of visiting The Highline; it was one of the last, exquisite Autumn days here in the Northeast. Normally, I carry an aversion of the Meatpacking District on weekends and during the summer with the entourage of tourists taking over. Today was unusual. There was foot traffic, but it was manageable. I even secured a huge, wooden chase lounge chair, which I thought could never happen.

The sun shined brightly. The waves of the Hudson oozed through the tall trees and made their way through its, brittle colorful leaves and onto my cheeks. I couldn't believe how still and beautiful it all was.

Today was a respite from an otherwise arduous job search that has not seemed to end. I closed my eyes and savored the nothingness of a quiet Monday afternoon, under the guise of 66 degrees, scribbling in my Moleskin notebook, listening to the Italian couple that is resting to my right on another bench.

An older woman wearing a thick pair of sunglasses sits on the ledge of the chair and merges next to my side within 30 seconds, eventually snug, taking a deep breath, staring at me for a brief, passing moment.

"I hope you don't mind," she says. "Two people can easily sit here."

I shrugged my shoulders. "Sure," I said. "By all means."

"It's a beautiful day, isn't?"

"Yes. It is."

I didn't speak for a bit and took notes on a project. I then look to the left as she removes a crusty, croissant like sandwich out of a foil wrapper from a paper bag that says,"Amy's." She grabs her short cappuccino, which is still steaming with its vapors. The sifted cinnamon somehow make its way under my nose. I suddenly crave the same drink; the weird thing is I don't even drink coffee.

She begins to eat this meal in a such a discrete fashion, the way she holds it with her hands, making certain the crumbs fall into the wrapper, how she dusts the other remnants off her black pants (making their way to the ground) patting her mouth with a white napkin, and placing the drink next to her hips with the lid off that has a traces of pink lipstick. She then takes a tiny, wooden stick and wipes the remaining froth from the milk on to her tongue, pursing her lips, like a child who has inhaled a scrumptious chocolate shake with a grin of content.

I am silent with my observations, but feel compelled to say something, anything to this character I am sharing a close space toward.

"How are you?" I ask.

"Good. You? I love this weather."

"Yes, its nice. Are you from here?"

"Born and raised. Queens girl, through and through."

I could tell she was a sincere person. I just knew. I don't know why. I liked her subtle accent, how she uttered her words, "coffee and weather", which were so endearing, with the elongated usage of her vowels, the delivery of tone. It wasn't obnoxious. It was great.

She began to discuss her childhood and how different NYC was. She said NY was affordable and glamorous going over the bridge on the subway with the skyline coming at you. She had been raised with a brother in Flushing, "back in the day." I am presuming she was in her late sixties.

I loved hearing of her retirement, her past, her history, and her family. Then we spoke about NY present day, and how much of it has transformed into a virtual, unknown, divisive city, separated between rich and poor.

"Bloomberg spent too much time in office, if you ask me. Two terms were quite enough."

I laughed, shook my head and shared her sentiment.

"It was so different. When I was a kid, you're were middle class. As long as you worked hard, you could afford a decent place and have a good life. My father had a car. We had a two story home and a summer share. We had nice clothing and went out to restaurants on occasion. We even had a maid, but we didn't live beyond our means. We were middle class. That doesn't exist today."

I looked toward the river, one of the few places that beckons me when I can't seem to breathe or be practical about my future. I couldn't imagine the city she vividly described. The only NYC I've known is expensive with a unwelcoming job, housing, and dating market.

"Do you have a partner?" she asked.

"No. Not right now." I said.

"Don't worry. He'll come along."

We proceeded to speak of culture, economics, theater, fashion, and real estate. It was like chatting with a favorite Aunt. This lovely, thin, elegant woman with the blonde hair, snack, and drink, was talking to me, a complete stranger, with the utmost respect, listening to my every word. Our conversation flowed for twenty minutes.

"My nephew and his partner bought a house near the water on the island, beautifully decorated, of course, with gay men in charge. Men like you and him know what you're doing. Leave it to a straight man to decorate, fudgetabout it, it usually falls apart.'

Lastly, we spoke about her fascination with Charleston, SC, and how she visited in September.

"The food is too die for. Beautiful architecture. Gracious people. You must visit. I'd live there in a heartbeat."

She rubs the helm of her black cotton sleeve shirt past her watch.

"Ooh. Look at the time. I must be going. There's an art exhibit on Jane Street I need to see. It was a pleasure, young man."

Oddly it became one of the most sincere connections I've shared in recent memory. This woman was a gem. Honest. To the point. Classy to the end. It's moments like this that rectify the shitty altercations I endured last Saturday. Living in NYC can be random and sublime.

She raised her hand out and delicately shook mine.

"My name is Barbara darling. I wish you the best."

And off she went, just like that.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

People are crazy

I had two random altercations with strangers yesterday. One began in the park. I was walking to meet a friend when a middle aged man was walking his dog. He must have been lost in his own little world, as many New Yorkers are, when I walked in front of him, trying to avoid getting caught. He looked at my path and didn't move the leashed four legged mut out of the way or even say excuse me. I waited for a few seconds and he did nothing, just stared, and gave an evil look. I took a deep breath and stomped my feet over his leash only to have him laugh out loud and say, "Whatever bitch."

The other incident occurred a few hours later when I was walking on Christopher Street. A woman was trying to open a door at a store with a stroller in hand. I opened it like a good gentleman that I was raised to be and waited for her to go inside. Another person walked through the door as well. She answered her cell phone and carried on like I wasn't there and said nothing. "You're welcome," I said as I shut the door. She apparently heard and opened the door, screaming, "If you do something nice, don't expect anything in return. Just a tip for the future."

WTF? How can two asses behave like this and think it is okay. While I realize this is NY, we should still be civilized adults. Since when do others feel the need to be awful, direct and confrontational? I've been in the position of wanting to confront individuals for being rude, yet I usually say nothing, the passive person I sometimes am. And referring back to my behavior, I honestly didn't feel what I did or said was rude. I was trying to avoid his pet. And, I just opened the door, not expecting praise, but stunned how entitled some people are. What is this? The UES? I am miffed regarding the lack of regard from others in this overcrowded borough.

Just because one lives in NY, it does not mean that you are granted free reign to say whatever you think, whenever you want, to whomever you wish. Just when you think you're fine, minding your own business, a random stranger emerges and sets you off.

On the way home, I scratched my head and wondered why I am still living here after thirteen years.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mr. Fred

I've been a bad blogger. I know. It has been nearly six months since the last post. For those who continue to follow my work, thank you for hanging in there with me. Sparing the details, I needed some time off. It was a culmination of reasons; the proverbial avalanche of life's pressing, but all too pertinent questions: who am I? Does anyone care? Who is reading my work? Am I really a writer? Matters such as this held my brain hostage until I couldn't write that much. What's important is that I returned to this platform. So here it goes.

There is a man who lives on my street. I see him everyday. He must be in his mid 80's, wears all black clothing with white trainers. His skin and hair are silver. I will call him, Mr. Fred. Mr. Fred sits on one of the endless stoops aside the many tenement buildings on my street in the East Village.

Not one day has passed in the three years since living in this hood where I haven't seen him. Mr. Fred sleeps quite a bit. I'll catch him dozing, only to find him waking up for a mere moment, then resting peacefully again.

I wonder who is he? Where did he come from? Does he have any family? He is all alone in the world? What was his story?

Sadness is in the eyes of many who live anywhere, but especially here in New York. Its easy to get lost in the shuffle and to dissolve into nothingness. Upon the millions that reside here, feeling lonely or unseen is more common that you can imagine. Mr. Fred never talks to anyone. He just sits on the stoop, alone, staring into space, breathing heavy, completely vacant in his eyes, without anything to do or say. This makes me sad. I don't like to see anyone suffer needlessly or to trudge through life, in what appears to be the last stages, a hollow existence that doesn't seem to account for much.

Perhaps this sounds harsh. I'll try to rephrase. Perhaps Mr.Fred is truly happy. Perhaps he has someone there for him at home? A dog? Goldfish? A live in nurse or assistant?

Some of the moments I do see him, I often wonder if that will be me and will anyone care. With all due respect to Mr.Fred, I don't want to grow into someone who is a shell and who appears to be lifeless, as if they are waiting to leave the world. He must have had a life years ago, flourishing with companionship and professional stature, and financial security.

I honestly see him as one of the characters on Mad Men. I see him as a man who used to be a player, who had everything he wanted, who was big during his day. I don't know why this is, but this is who I imagine him to be. He probably had a family, a wife, a couple of children, many friends, a mistress, and golf buddies. I am getting over zealous, but you get the idea.

He reminds me of my grandfather who used to sit in his recliner for hours, watching television, but not really paying attention. He would just stare at the screen and zone out. When I visited him as a little boy, I wondered what he was thinking and if he was cognizant of his surroundings.

While most are caught up in their own world, why can't we take the time to reach out and just say hi. Maybe even smile or wave your hand to someone. A simple acknowledgement can make a huge impact on your day. This is one of the very reasons I don't like living in NYC. Too many of us are in our head, not bothering to care about others. I understand that this is a big city and that in order to survive, we must self-protect. I can see that part of myself intact. I am guilty of this where I don't want to be bothered. I don't smile. I don't say anything. I carry out my day. This is not good enough.

I don't think others like Mr. Fred should be alone like this all the time. Older people need others too. We often forget that if we are fortunate enough to live that long, who will be by our sides?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Love Letter

My brother emailed me a link today pertaining to this viral internet sensation in which a father wrote his gay son a love letter. These beautiful written words contain a short, concise reassurance from the father who inadvertently overheard his son in another room, exchanging words with a friend named, "Mike." In the conversation with Mike, the son tries to figure out how to disclose his sexuality to both parents. The father writes that he's known his son was gay since six, and could care less, and that he loved him without condition.

My heart danced and offered a window of reflection as I finished reading it. I couldn't help but refer to my own seventy-three year old father who passed away in 2011. Our relationship was complicated, perhaps even non-existent. There were tremendous gaps of miscommunication followed by estrangement.

In 2007, we reconnected at a Thanksgiving dinner before we lost touch once more. He admitted to making several mistakes, by not being physically and mentally accessible, by not saying the things that needed to be said when I needed to hear them. I took it as a sign of personal growth, adaptability really, knowing how brave it must be to admit fault to anyone, much less their own child. While I was still immersed with anger and disappointment, I knew where his heart was and how broken he became for allowing our relationship to suffer. I admired him and saw sincerity in his eyes.

During that time, we said things to each other that continue to shock and move me. Some discussions were sad, brutally frank, and heartfelt. One singular aspect that I've taken with me from that reunion and since his passing, something that I still feel from within, was how much he loved me without any conditions, how he always knew who I was since I was a little boy, how much he always accepted me since birth, and how he ultimately wanted to see me with a loving partner.

My father who was born in the late thirties and who had me when he was 36, was someone I just didn't understand. He was someone with a completely aversive ideology than the one I was raised with, yet he resembles this caring, modern father who wrote that simple letter, who didn't care if his son was gay, who simply wanted him to know how he was fine just the way he was, who also knew when son was just a baby.

For what seemed eternal and unexplainable, I resented not being close to him, where an opportunity of sharing an infinite, unspoken closeness as some sons manage to do could've transpired between us. Now that he's gone, the residual uncertainty of ever having closure with him has diminished. I didn't have the ability to be near his side when he died, or to clear the air, or to give him one last hug, to tell him I loved him, or that in spite of our misconceived perceptions of the other, that I knew he loved me, and how the rest was irrelevant.

Fathers are human beings just like us. They can break your heart, lift you up, abandon you, love you, provide solace and support during bouts of pain and adversity, and fashion themselves as champions who have lived long and hard, grounded with sage advice. If a few are lucky, they will seep into our hearts and remain at bay, even when they are no longer with us. Yes, my father is gone. No, I cannot reply with a letter.

What I can do is to treasure our time spent and the power of how his unconditional love and acceptance have impacted my own journey as a gay man struggling to find his place in a often discriminating and narrow minded world. Where ever you are Dad, I wish you peace and love.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Hello 38

Both of my parents threw birthday parties for my brother and I. Friends from school arrived, games and music played, goodie bags distributed and eaten, decorations in tow from ceiling to floor, laughter rampant, with this abundance of joy that filled the confines of our home. All the latter was a staple in my life until adolescence.

I felt cherished and oblivious to the passage of time. Every year, the presents would be carefully arranged near the birthday cake towards the front of wooden dining room table. Everyone watched as I unwrapped every box with anticipation. I smiled and waived into the camera. While I wouldn't want to return to my childhood for anything or anyone, I am fond of those memories, recalling and relying on each of them whenever I am down or doubtful.

When you're a small child, being in one's late thirties is foreign, that you almost never imagine it could arrive. And, yet, on the eve of my 38th birthday, here I am. Alive and living in New York City, single, still waiting for those dreams to happen, for my mystery man to emerge, to quell anxieties.

What I am fast learning now is how everything is temporary. Whether it be sadness, loneliness, discontent, or even happiness and comfort. All of it comes in waves during different phases. I used to fight some of those feelings, thinking that if I tried harder, perhaps resisted against it, something would change.

I want to believe that this year will be better. That more things will fall into place, making some sort of sense. I want to also believe that there great things are in store, whatever they may be, whomever they are with. I used to think so far ahead in the future, planning on where to live, what to do, how I should do it, and what outer extremities would attribute to my personal scope of inner happiness.

This year feels grown up more than ever. While loved ones flourish with their own lives, I am done comparing myself to those standards or achievements. I am savoring 38, realizing how far I have come from that sick little boy in rural Nevada who wanted to live in the big city and be an artist. I am going to love myself more, be kinder, not so hellbent on having more. I am going to try and be there for myself the way a good friend would, in the background, cheering, and supportive.

As I write this, I look out into my window, facing the falling snow, listening to the cars tread on the streets. A stem glass full of Sauvignon Blanc sits next to me along with a to do list with the must do things of the year. While my plans have foiled this evening as a result of the blizzard of the century, I am making the most of this time, alone for now or until the current weather pattern improves. I am not ashamed to admit that, nor should I feel weird or uneasy. I have an ease and gratitude in my heart. While I often didn't think I could get this far, I did. There must be reason for it all.

Whatever 38 has in mind for me, I am waiting.