I think I’m in an Amy Winehouse funk. I know, I know it’s the cliché for the summer. I’ve never been one to listen to radio these days so latching on to what’s hot and hip and current is quite difficult (except when I catch the Top 20 countdown before my lowbrow pleasure, Best Week Ever on VH1 every Saturday morning.) (I’m already an old dog and am quite content to simlpy hold on to what was hot and hip when I was twelve.) But when I heard her Rehab song blaring through the speakers during Low Tea in Fire Island sometime Mid-May (and saw every homo shaking their hip and wagging their finger in no-no-no fashion), I knew there was something worth noting. I’ve since danced to her songs countless (shirtless) times in the Pines and bought her CD (to dance to it even more here in my apartment in front of my mirror, in underwear!) It is now the last Sunday in July and Amy W is cranking out You Know I’m No Good off my IDock. There is a mix of 50s beats and technofunk thumping around my apartment. I can’t help but write on my IBook, shake my head and wag my finger in no-no-no good fashion.

I turned 30 over 3 weeks ago, and, no, the world has not come crumbling down. I’m still working, still with friends, still with a boyfriend, still alive. (This last phrase has become more poignant in light of Tim’s appendectomy on the 1st day of July. I had to spend my birthday in the hospital with him. But he’s recovering now – that is a totally other thread altogether.) Three decades into this planet really isn’t that bad. Naturally, I’ve noticed how much different my body looks from, say, when I was 8 (d-uh, of course) or from what I looked like 8 years ago. I feel like my features have grown sharper or maybe I somehow grew taller (or maybe it’s because I just got even slimmer due to an extended period of body dysmorphia.) There seems to be a weathered quality to my face (but that’s due to all those summers baking out in Fire Island and Thanksgivings back in Honolulu.) The more important matter is the issue of wisened quality that usually comes along with weathered. One of the better messages I got for my birthday regarding my (overly dramatized and apparently, in hindsight, unfounded) anxiety over hitting 30 is that the best years lie far beyond one’s 20s. The gift of wisdom and the promise of fulfillment become more portent as one matures. Knowing that the future will take care of itself, my anxiety over what is here and now remains to build and compound. So far, I have been consumed by long hours at work, sometimes even overwhelmed by the pressure, understandably so owing to the learning curve. (What ever happened to the lean summer season?!) I have been coming home to my shoebox of a studio and into uneventful tv, quick dinners and, maybe the gym to burn off the Indian take-out, if I don’t crash into food coma after eating chicken tikka masala with a side of CNN. This vision certainly doesn’t cry wise and fulfilled 30-year-old. It screams corporate whore, a cliché in the New York ratrace of apartment space sacrificed for location and middle-class liberal sympathies, if not contrived cosmopolitanism, tinged with the narcissism of one’s own physical beauty as it equates to power in the social, political and sexual arenas.

I guess turning 30 really isn’t that life-altering. I’ve held on to my jaded and cynical sense of life (which I’ve painstakingly carved out of failed relationships and my frustrating former job.) Yet, I can quite tell a sense of extremes. My cynicism has become more nuanced; my jadedness even more tense. But, concurrently, my attentiveness to its exact counterpoints flow with the same sense of intensity and urgency. I am now more enthralled by moments of youthful exhuberance and child-like wonder. They cut just as sharply, if not wound freshly even longer, than thrusts of my own bitter strokes, whether self-inflicted or dealt by fate, absolutely independent of my control.

I was watching this documentary, Camp Out, last night on Logo. It was about a group of gay and lesbian Lutheran teens in Bible camp (given by gay and lesbian Lutheran pastors) somewhere out in the Midwest. It was a very simple and straightforward telling with a cast of contemporary young adults – the hot redheaded jock, the chubby gay kid, the gay kid who luvs ballet and prays three times a day, the Goth lesbian, the big (like trucker-dyke big) lesbian chick, the thin gay nerd kid, the token gay kid of color (and so on). These were teens who were faced with issues of sexuality as well as struggles with religious identity, if not a desire for a genuine faith. One kid expressed it quite well when he said that he went to the Bible Camp hoping to discuss subjects that matter, for a change, relative to the sexually-charged world of high school he left behind. (This was his abrupt response to an impromptu game of Truth or Dare that was played, which he found objectionable given their setting.) I mean, these were kids who were asking real questions – the Goth lesbian, at the docu’s end, realized that Christianity was not her path and that she decided to open herself to other religions while remaining respectful of Christians and their beliefs – and, yet were also living out their developing history if not their hormones – one kid had a crush on the redheaded jock, well, I think 7 kids did. I found the kids, in their confessionals [no pun intended], to be very introspective and articulate and pointed. Unlike adults who belabor a point until a good and notable impression is made (which is usually what happens over brunch with a group of my friends), these kids are simply telling how they think and what they feel, stripped of any self-aggrandizing agenda. I can’t even remember the last time I was in that state. (It seems everything, even talking points, is a commodity and has been negotiated to my advantage, whether at work or in social circles.)

I was riding the subway on my way to work 2 days ago and saw this little girl, no more than 8, with her sketchbook, doodling what seems to be a really well-drawn out caricature of herself in black ink. (I remember being so bad at art class that it was my next most hated subject, next to gym.) She was showing it to her mom, who smiled, and to the adult stranger, who seemingly shrugged her off. She simply went back to her drawing and sketched some more, quite unaffected by the rejection and ably continued being consumed with her art. This brings me back to those days when I would play Dungeons & Dragons with my cousins all afternoon during the summer and wrote stories about the characters at night, after which I would read my Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms novels (with the fervor that teens these days read Harry Potter.) It was an all-consuming endeavor, unaffected by my mother’s rants and my dad’s commands.

I was doing laundry yesterday morning when I bumped into my neighbor and her kid, this 4-year-old Jewish boy, strolling in the hallway. He cried out my name and smiled. I have probably met this kid once a year ago and have bumped into him a handful of times, and he has called me by name all those times. I could even barely remember the names of any of the people on my floor. (I mean, I know his name and his nanny’s name, but I certainly don’t remember his mother’s name.) I could barely remember the day when I was not yet a snob and yet, was just shy, not saying hi not because he or she was just uninteresting, but because he or she was unfamiliar.

Yes, the future will take care of itself, but only if the present restores the past enough to enrich what is of the moment. The years ahead look promising, but what is here and now can be quite, and yes, even more wonderful. I mean, I know there are Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. But there is also Amy Winehouse (who seems to resemble Shirley Bassey with the Propellerheads) and Rihanna (who reminds me a little bit of TLC.)

If these past few days were any indication, then growing old really isn’t that bad. It is quite wonderful; like a stream-of-consciousness bubbling through. It certainly is about getting in touch with my inner Proust which, for a gay cliche, is one worth embracing.

The River Singing Stone
Myrna Pena-Reyes

Through brush and over boulders
we followed the sound of water
hidden in trees.
The natives we met on the narrow trails
carrying chickens and bananas
to sell in the city answered,
“the waterfall? — not too far,
after the next hill.”
We walked to he hill, and the next,
and the next.

You were annoyed.
You had said you would find it easily,
having gone there often in your youth.

We stopped counting the hours,
kilometers we walked uphill and down,
forward and back, pursuing that sound.
We couldn’t just follow the river –
there were boulders, thickets, cliffs,
and we, no longer young.

Winded and sweaty, we rested.
Such trickery – was it near,
did we hear the roar of the falls,
or just the sound of water
pounding rocks into pebbles,
grinding gravel into sand?

But it was late.
We had to go home.
We listened
to the river singing,
the river singing stone.

It’s 4:30 AM and I’m already wide awake, drinking my coffee and listening to Julia Fordham. I crashed after feasting on duck dinner while watching tv last night. (I faintly remember the taste of hoisin sauce lingering in my mouth as Clemens grounded the last batter out to end the top of the 1st inning of the Yankees-Mets game.) I was supposed to hang with James, one of the guys I met last Thanksgiving in Honolulu, as he was in town for the weekend hanging out with his college buds from UPenn. I woke up an hour ago to my phone vibrating with voice messages and missed calls. I guess that is what my life has come down to — Friday nights at home making tv dinner out of Chinese food while watching men in tight suits bat balls. It seems to me that it used to be that my life was so much more exciting (if excitement were to be measured by a frenetic and hectic Friday night schedule.) I could still remember the not-so-distant past wherein I would just be getting home at this time, slumping out of a cab drunk out of my ass, or just falling asleep in someone’s arms in someone else’s apartment, bare-assed and still as drunk. Now, I’m wearing boxers and onto my 3rd mug of coffee, writing a few feet away from my unmade bed, windows wide open welcoming the cool breeze of early summer morning. My life may not seem to be that exciting right now, but I find this quiet moment as exhilarating. Or maybe it’s just all that caffeine rushing through my veins.

Undoubtedly, a lot of this comes with age. I’m turning 30 in 2 weeks and I really don’t want to romanticize this event. I am a sucker for symbol and all that but I just don’t want to mislead myself into thinking that I’m plopping down onto a bed of immediate maturity or monkish reflection as I go on into my fourth decade. (I don’t even know why I’m getting all hyper about this since I probably won’t even remember this 10 years from now. God knows I don’t know what I did when I was 20.) What I do know is that I’m plopping down onto my bed earlier and earlier. My boss was out sick for the most part this week and I’ve been having really long and stressful days at work that I’d come home exhausted and fall asleep right after dinner. (I actually passed out Thursday night after eating 2 bananas slathered with peanut butter. I guess it’s okay then that I pigged out on duck the following night.) Now, I do know why they call it “falling” asleep. It’s like an unexpected and inescapable trap that sticks you into a pit of slumber, ,unless either coffee or a pesky live-in husband comes to the rescue, God knows I’m a much more effective competitor in this vicious market I work in (than when I first started) but I know that to go on with my daily routine the way I do necessitates a trade-off with my nightly schedule. I can pump in 10-hour days but my nights have got to give back just as much, if not less. My weeknight schedule of eating dinner out, going to the gym, running across the Brooklyn bridge and back, even watching Jon Stewart and going to a Bway show have got to be rethought and planned out. Growing old, realizing this as I turn 30, means that my will and my wants have got to negotiate with my body. Growing old is getting deeper into a relationship, not only with other people, but also with myself. I think that is, after all, the ultimate negotiation – when I attain a compromise with my own self.

But I also don’t want to demonize this rite of passage. God knows it’s already been stigmatized enough. Being homo, I know how intense ageism gets. I’ve read more than enough online profiles that misrepresent one’s age and have met more than enough men whose ages keep on going up with each consecutive date. (There was this one guy who was 32 when I met him, and jumped to 39 after our third date.) Everyone seems to want to be still in their 20s or, at least younger than they really are. Do I? I mean, my 20s were a blast. As it comes to an end, I realize that it’s turned to be so much more than I could have ever imagined it to be. Looking ahead into my 30s seems to be so much more exciting. I’ve always luvd older men. (Ugh, I hate it when amateur shrinks oversimplify this statement and contextualize it as merely looking for a daddy-ish figure.) Maybe this decade will demistify the allure, as I weave myself into the web of who’s older. I also luv hanging out with them. All my good friends are in their mid 30s – an ex-top tier lawyer who’s now a psychotherapist, a lab chemist, a magazine writer, an army doctor, a music director for the Lutheran church, a publishing exec, a commodities trader, a licensed architect. I’ve known them for a long time now and have witnessed each other grow, from entry-level angst to grad degrees to professional licenses to job jumpings to successive promotions. The 20s were fun, non-stop and freewheeling, but it seems the 30s offer the promise of ongoing fulfillment, stable and dynamic and consistent. (Maybe I’ll just be 30 for the next 5 years.)

I’m seeing them all as I have my bday dinner to celebrate this passage this week (since my good friends from Seattle and San Diego are in town for Pride and I thought I might as well do it while they’re here.) Then, we’re all off to my Fire Island house for the weekend. (Geez. I still remember when I used to day trip so many years ago. What a schlep that was.) I better rest up.

I’m drinking my coffee (whom my housemates in Fire Island have affectionately called mud since I like my coffee the way I like my tops, alpha strong) as I write this with the a/c buzzing in the background. I live in a studio and this wall unit suffuses my entire apartment with cool, crisp air as if it were centralized conditioning. Tim, still tired from his OffBway show last night, is still sleeping, huddled up in my purple comforter (which, at 4 years old, is ready to be replaced by a bluegreen one I just got on sale at Bloomie’s Home.) I’ve been reading the Sunday Times online and browsing through the website of my newest athlete crush, the Serbian player Novak Djokovic. (He replaces my old crush, the hottest torso in town, swimmer Michael Phelps, who replaced Spanish tennis star Tommy Robredo who replaced the yummy Jewstud ballplayer Gabe Kapler. Anyway, you get the picture.) It is the first Sunday in June and I’m happy to have found my life at a momentary standstill, It’s surprisingly quiet I think I could still hear my heavy dinner last night churning in my tummy.

I had dinner with my old spinster aunts last night. (My friends have branded them my lesbian aunts, which they’re not.) We went to our reliable, fave Chinese restaurant on Grand Ave. and I feasted on duck, lobster, sea bass and salty fish fried rice. I must’ve practically starved myself all day to prepare for the meal. (After eating so much meat last weekend at the Pines house, this was a refreshing treat.) I always feel bothered by a sense of distancing from my family (in both the physical and emotional sense, a la the film, Babel) and every opportunity I get to bridge this gap without crossing intimate personal lines, like non-threatening dinner at Ping’s, is always welcome. (I’m not out to my family which my friends disclaim since they do claim that anyone who hears me talk – well, there is a fem inflection somewhere – and sees me act – okay, so I flail my arms when I’m excited with fey abandon – with half a brain can make their own educated guess,) But what struck me last night was not so much the news at the table (such as my bro-in-law, this yummy but pretty dumb surfer dude shacking it up with my sister in Waikiki, getting busted for cocaine, which I already knew before they did) but the scene in the Asian supermarket. I’ve been so used to going to my neighbrohood Keyfood chain that I forget what happens in Asian ones. Suddenly, I feel like I was back in my mom’s kitchen, recognizing the different stuff she uses for her signature dishes. What rekindled this memory, I guess from sheer repulsion, is watching the fish vendor go on with his routine. I was supposed to look for flavor sauces to take home to Brooklyn but instead got transfixed at the fish counter. A customer selects a fish from this murky tank, which the vendor scoops out with a net. He raises the caught fish high enough so that the buyer can see it, wildly moving, in its final seconds, before he overturns the net in this single theatrical swoop and drops the fish to the ground where he deals it one fatal blow with a mallet. (It was a thud followed by a bop.) He hoses the fish down, scales it and guts it with this badass knife, as he pulls out its internal organs, all these while the fish’s tail is still flapping wildly. The fish vendor puts the bloodied fish in a clear plastic bag, labels it $4.99 and hands it to the client, as if he were at a deli handing over half-a-pound of pepper jack cheese. (I forget that dead fish never shut their eyes — which I blame on every anthropomorphic animal animation from the Little Mermaid on — so gazing at the bloodied dead eye, lolling itself on one corner through the clear bag, was enough to make me shudder.)

Come to think of it, I had fish at a Chinese restaurant less than a mile away from that Chinese supermarket last night. I think I’m getting a tummyache.

I know the seasons are changing when I feel the itch to rearrange my closet and change the kind of sheets I have on my bed. (I live in a studio so closet space comes as a scarce commodity.) My scarves and sweaters have been pushed deeper into the shelves and my shorts and short-sleeved shirts have become more visible again. My wash is tumbling in the basement dryer right now and, soon, my dykey flannel will give in to sleek cotton satin – and why shouldn’t they be?! For the first time in a week of record-breaking rainfall, I woke up to clear skies and welcome sunlight. My windows are pulled open and the blinds are drawn up; the sun subsuming my studio in its warm yellow . There are runners outside, with shades on and some wearing visors, off to cross the Brooklyn Bridge in tanktops and shorts. Belinda Carlisle is blaring in my IDock in the background as I write this in boxers. (I use 80s music to transit into summer, when it’s either 90s – high school – angst or the Beach Boys. Maybe Joni Mitchell singing California too.) Spring officially started a few weeks ago but this weekend feels like its first real blast.

I could have never expected this week to end on a bright spot considering it started very grimly. I found it really hard to work Monday with news of the Virginia shootings. It was really depressing watching the death count rise through the afternoon with every refresh of the NYT web page. Coming home that night and continuing on with my daily evening routine of take-out dinner (since I don’t cook) in front of CNN was particularly difficult. As the victims were identified slowly on tv (and, more exhaustively, in NYT yearbook-type portraits the day after), I found myself heartbroken and close to tears. (This brought me back to a similar, but even more cutting, weeknight 6 years ago when, after walking home covered in dust and soot, I ended up bawling in front of the tv, muted, as the indescribable carnage was recounted all over again in screen images.) I guess anguish is the mechanism with which to deal with a senseless loss. I didn’t even know these dead and yet I felt compassion with those they left behind. I was inevitably drawn to suffer with their loved ones. Tuesday left me inundated with a barrage of news and articles analyzing the killer and his psychosocial profile. (It was made even more awful by this unwarranted comment from a co-worker who, obviously triggered by the killer’s Korean background, said, “Look at [referring to me], he looks like he could kill us.” I know it was in jest since I believe I’ve reached that level of comfort with him. But I’ve since given up on the effort at trying to explain that not all Asians look alike – there are marked differentiations – so I just shrugged my shoulders and humored the comment off.) Everything was sickeningly overwhelming that day that I had to shut down my routine web newspages and just leave my Bloomberg up, reassuring in its white text on a black background, unfeelingly delivering hard news surrounded by stark, emotionless ticker symbols and mundane statistic. I realize that trying to understand what happened is aiming to redeem the situation by knowing how to prevent it from happening again. But how do you explain something so senseless as a killing spree?! Wednesday brought the NBC video packet bombshell with the killer exposing a festering anger at the environment around him, borne from a deep sense of inescapable alienation. Does this anger make this killing any less senseless?! Does his twisted sense of martyrdom, alluding (blasphemously) to the cross, somehow alllow him an ounce of justification? Does his ranting, now obviosuly heard, marked with poses of defiance redeem him from his (self-dug) pit of alienation? Absolutely not. The means can never justify the end. If a person has a rage against the consumerist and alienating enivronment around him, then expose the critique and write a book or something. Don’t go around gunshopping then shooting people. I can’t even find words to describe how sick that option is and how what happened Monday sickens me to the core.

Thursday is the unofficial start of my weekend and the night brought a welcome distraction. I saw Terrence McNally’s new play, Some Men, with my friend. Henry. (I wrote about him in A Sichuan Dinner from July ’06.) I luvd his Love! Valour! Compassion! after watching the film and seeing the play in a North Chelsea (?!) theater space production. I thought SM was staged really well – luvd the lighting design – but he must have been swept by the play and scriptwriting zeitgeist since this play unfolded in what has become the increasingly predictable storytelling manner of choice in recent time (since Pulp Fiction), the non-linear narrative of seemingly disparate yet ultimately concurrent stories. I thought watching the separate scenes were illuminating and fun by themselves, but I was underwhelmed by the tie-in in Act II (which this form of telling exacts more need for.) I even found one scene hanging – why was the solider guy in the wedding party?! Despite these letdowns, I still enjoyed watching it. (I always enjoy watching anything gay anyway. I mean, I should’ve canceled my Here! subcsription a long time ago but I still submit to its mindnumbing offerings that highlight a new cultural low every time I watch it. Case in point: Dante’s Cove.) I’ve found new actor crushes – Kelly Aucoin and Romain Fruge. (I’ve even seen Michael Kors – again –since he was just 2 seats away from me in my row.) I’ve seen almost-naked men acting out relevant themes in my life in a gay play that doesn’t suffocatingly focus on this guy dying of AIDS but, instead, consciously chooses to tell more nuanced stories that both reflect on the intergenerational lifestyles and celebrate the lives of those it reflects upon.

Friday, somehow, was the unofficial start of my summer. I took a summer share out in Fire Island this year. This is my second since I dauntingly submitted to one 2 years ago (and what a fun summer that was) and took a break last year. But, after realizing how expensive it is to just go out there on a random weekend, I thought that it was wiser to just do a share. I met my housemates last night in a Chelsea bar during happy hour for a meet-and-greet sort of event. I’m basically a cheap date so I was swirling after 2 cocktails immeditately after work. We talked about swigging alcohol during the train ride on the opening weekend (which is the second week of May.) We planned a 9-day cleansing and purging diet before it. (I’m sure I can’t do it ‘cause they claimed coffee was on top of the what-not-to-take list and I simply cannot go through a day without caffeine.) We spoke of just opening cans of tuna for meals and laboring through elaborate dinners; making Mudslides and playing beach volleyball; furnishing the house with either Ikea or West Elm. We spoke of guests through the weekend and “guests” for the night. Ah, yes, my gay NY summer seems to have already begun.

Now, I’m reveling in this bright Saturday morning, doing laundry and looking ahead at going with Eric, my friend, and his dachshund (along with his sister and mom) to Washington Square Park for the annual weiner dog festival.

Looking back at this long week leaves me with a divided impression of my self — heartbroken and compassionate vs hedonistically homo. I blame my Catholic past (and all my Jewish ex’s) when I start feeling guilt over (even a) mere indulgence in selfish pleasure (especially in light of ongoing tragedy.) (I guess that also easily comes as a component of liberal middle-class sympathy.) But should I continue to feel strapped down with sorrow? I’m sure not. I think the only way to deal with senselessness is to meet life head on (after a meaningful pause) and find renewed meaning in its usual groove. To remain mired in one’s interior grief and refuse to reconnect with what and who is around us is to validate the killer’s harsh indictment of society and his foolish submission to a final senseless option. To continue to move in it and to engage it is to take a stand for life and its being an undrying well of meaning.

I really should be studying right now. My trading licenses – Series 7 and 63 – expired and I have to retake the exams again. (S7 is for General Securities Representation and S63 is for Agency Sales which are basically NASD memberships yadda yadda yadda.) But, instead, I am again putzing around online, alternating between reading my fave blogs, googling (or stalking?!) my ex’s on myspace and falling back on my netporn subscription as a convenient diversion. (I used to be a Sean Cody fanatic until they went anti-Mac on me; now I settle for Randy Blue. I always wonder how they come up with these site names. They seem to be a distorted version of nursery rhyme characters. Is Randy Blue a distant cousin of Little Bo Peep?!) I know it reads a little bit like multitasking (of the quite unproductive nature) which is kinda how I rationalize these wasteful indulgences. But, really, this is just my normal scatter-brained, ADD-afflicted self operating as usual. I know my self well enough to realize that I have a focus issue (among a lot of other things in a very long list that is better saved for my overwhelmed shrink.) That’s why, today, even more than not strapping myself down in reading my work stuff (and as an overstretched tangent to this topic,) I am ruminating at how I have been strapped to someone for almost a year now, scatter brain and ADD notwithstanding. After all, Tim and I will be celebrating our first year anniversary tomorrow.

I always kid (myself and my friends) about how I would run away in the opposite direction if I saw (an exact version of ) me at a bar. I wouldn’t hook up with myself (since 2 bottoms certainly don’t make a party) and, even more, certainly wouldn’t date myself. I don’t need another scatter-brain with a neurosis for drama and a hypothalamus on overdrive. I already had that before with Carter (since he was basically me but psychotic) and I know where that got me (which is basically anywhere than where I’d rather be). (Read A Year and a Day from Jan ‘06.) I guess that’s why I’ve always been attracted to older men and the qualities that they stand for – stability and groundedness and deep self-awareness (or maybe ‘cause my first bf was just older than I was – and Jewish! — and I believe first bfs are like childhood abuse – they mark you for life. Hot Jewish men now always get me wet and bothered.) I find someone who knows what they want and lives to pursue it directedly very sexy. Tim was all these qualities when I met him and I find it amazing that he’s remained with me this long (since, relative to my usual 3-month timeline which I’ve resignedly called expiration dating, this is very much long-term,) despite my propensity for self-indulgent drama.

Are we rushing to NJ to get married? Certainly not. Are we buying His and His towels? Far from it. (I’ll shoot myself if I end up like one half of some old gay couples who go all matchy-matchy.) Are we moving in together? No. I’ve thought about it and have rejected the notion and, no, we haven’t talked about it. Are we monogamous? No. I’ve thought about it and have rejected the notion and, yes, we have talked about it. Are we still having hot sex and enjoyable dinners? Yes and yes. I think these matter so much – to rekindle the spark of the third date in the hundred and third and still reassuringly feel the heat – in keeping a relationship. But I also know that sustaining a long-term relationship isn’t simply about holding on to what’s hot. The mundane counterpoints to the sexy (like getting it on in bed) and the sensual (like sharing candlelit dinner at Craft) equally matter. Being comfortable in leaving a toothbrush in each other’s apartments and sharing worn-out flannel pjs on cold winter nights as well as knowing the bf’s hectic weekday and crowded weekend schedules are subtle milestones that become especially poignant in hindsight post-break-up. More than two bodies melting together, it is two lives comingling seamlessly and less selfishly, slowly, that irons a relationship out from being a mere seasonal fling to a much longer-term commitment.

I once asked a straight ex-colleague of mine, a nice preppy boy from Connecticut who was dating this chick for over 2 months then, if they were monogamous. He said yes. I asked him if they actually agreed to it. He said no. He just knew. (Hetero mating rituals are so alien to me they might as well be doing it in Mars.) It seems, for straight folk, the assumption is that you’re monogamous until you talk about it and break it. (Yet, I know so many straight boys who cheat on their girlfriends.) For gay men, the assumption is that you’re not until you talk about it and agree to it. (Now, cheating for gay men in an open relationship is quite a murky topic since, on one end, there already is a given free pass.) But, regardless of the distinctions in this parallel, what this affirms is that so much depends on what lies unsaid. There is a deep chasm of the unknown in every relationship and the bridge safely through it is made up of words. Communication, as much as it is cliché, is key and the challenge is in knowing what to say. A day into a year with Tim, I realize that we still have a lot of things to talk about. What I can happily say now though, as I grapple with the exact words for my wants, is that I still want to continue the (if not begin certain) conversations.

I’m writing here with pjs, a shirt, sweater, socks and robe on. I should have my windows open at this time of the year enjoying the welcome spring breeze but, no. Instead, I’m freezing because it’s still freezing outside and I feel as if my heat isn’t working. It’s bad enough that I didn’t even have hot water yesterday. It’s even worse that I feel sick and have to warm myself with aspirin and coffee. Tim is still in bed, still asleep and bundled up in my blanket and comforter. (I luv how he infuses all my sheets with his manscent.) It’s Easter Sunday morning and he, my ex-Southern Baptist bf, agreed to go to Catholic church with me today. (He even brought nice clothes to wear for the event – which means I have to do my usual attire of jeans and shirt up a notch. I guess an Easter service and him going to church – a Catholic one too! — are each events in themselves.) But I don’t feel like going anymore. More than my flu that’s weighing me down, it’s my lack of desire to go to church, or go back to it that’s keeping me in. I’ve already had my Easter fix last night when I went to culminate the Triduum in the Easter Vigil at Xavier. Even better, also unexpectedly, I already had my satisfying Easter message in watching the matinee yesterday afternoon of Matthew Passion, the new play by Phil Hall at the Chernuchin Theater.

The Vigil was a full 3-hours long filled wih pompous prayer and pageantry. I have always loved spectacle, and delivering it meaninguflly (against its normal bent which is hollow showmanship) is quite satisfying. There were the lighting of candles, the blessing of water, the anointing with chrism, the holding of hands and greetings of peace; even the breaking of the bread was cast in fresh, radiant glow. There was this buff man at the altar, littered with yellow and orange tulips and cascading white trim, dancing to the story of Moses’ liberation through the water and lithe women moving to the song of Ruth’s faithfulness to her sister. The choir and orchestra climaxed in a powerful rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus as the congregation was blessed with incense. The cantor invoked the saints (which included Gandhi and Oscar Romero this year; Matthew Shepard was mentioned a few years ago) to bless everyone including the newly-elect who were washed at the basin — a shellful of water, very wet clothes and a churchful of people — to welcome them into their new faith. (Sometimes, I wonder how my life would’ve turned out, what [religious] choices I would’ve made, if I was not baptized as a baby and raised Catholic.) Even the congregants, old couples in spring colors, families in easter outfits, even the gays decked out in suits (some of whom I recognized from my gym’s steam room and some from Manhunt) and the lesbians still in denim, were swept away in sharing song and prayer. Fr, Joe, the Jesuit priest, spoke of the image of the tomb in his homily. But I was only half-listening. I was still consumed by the message of Matthew Passion, the play I saw a few hours before.

Tim had mentioned the play to me before but I must have dismissed it as some outlandish idea. But the NYT (decent) review on Thursday prompted me to go see it before it closed (today). Matthew Passion follows the play-within-a-play format wherein 9 actors play multiple roles (not to mention also double as stagehands) as they tell the parallel stories of Jesus, Matthew Shepard and Jim, an HIV-positive actor under the guise of developing and rehearsing the play of the same name. (So watching Matthew Passion is basically watching the actors rehearse for a play also called Matthew Passion.) The theater is rundown and the transitions are clunky and the stories widely-arcd yet seemingly loosely-tied (but this, as Tim reminds me, is simply an Equtiy showcase which means the actos are basically given $4 for commutefare and a stipend if lucky and so all is forgiven.) But the acting is earnest (Jay Sulllivan notably anchors the dramatic arc of the show) and the singing is endearingly good (Andy Redeker, Chad McCallon and Jeff Applegate restore the good and the gay to the Greek chorus.) But who cares?! Next to Naked Boys Singing, this is a damn hot cast of actors (and they have their clothes on!) and watching them on stage is already a (visually) satisfying treat. James Royce Edwards, playing Jesus, clad in a V-cut tunic that shows off his perfect pecs and sculpted 8-pack and later on in a loincloth on a cross showing off his bulging biceps and quads must be the hotttest Jesus guy I’ve ever seen. (Damn, I’d be going to church every Sunday if I knew…..) But, seriously, it is the message (in the words more than the music) that still gets to me most.

I was watching it and was asking myself, what tormented homosexual Catholic mind can write something like this? Then, I realized it was something, if I had the talent for writing a play with music, I would have totally done. Tim corrected my Catholicentrism by saying that Phil Hall doesn’t have to be Catholic. His questions were profound (what would Jesus do if he wandered into a gay club?) and his theology was astute (the tumbling of the walls of Jericho to Joshua’s horn was paralleled with the ripping of the temple screen to Christ’s last breath.) His telling was heartrending. Jesus Christ and Matthew Shepard are deemed parallel stories. Both died senseless deaths. Christ died slung on the cross because he was an innocent defenseless Jew; Matthew died tied to a wooden fence because he was an innocent defenseless homosexual. (Tim had a problem with this deification of Matthew Shepard because he was, allegedly, a crystal meth addict who bought the drugs from his murderers. He feels that this linear parallelism would have been better served by a fleshier, more human enactment of Matthew’s passions.) This show reminded me of what I had forgotten about the cross; it was a historic hate crime, yet another statistic of a senseless killing.

I also learned 2 new things from the play. First, that Matthew Shepard was HIV positive. Second, that the news of the Resurrection was first given to Mary Magdalene, the prostitute. The cornerstone of Christianity was laid in the heart of a woman who sells her skin for sex. If the message of Christmas was born by the Virgin Mother of Immaculate Conception; the message of Easter was born by someone who is the opposite of immaculate; whose virginity has been defiled many tmes over. Here is the crux of her story; the hurt and the hollowness is never the finality, there is healing and there is fulness. There lies heaven, not even in the afterlife, but already in the struggle for sense.

The cross was about hate and senselessness; the empty tomb was about love and meaning. As told in Phil Hall’s play (and as written in news many times over),Matthew Shepard’s dad talked about pardoning the killers during their sentencing and Judy Shepard, his mom, established the Matthew Shepard foundation and is now an outspoken activist against hate crimes and for human rights. They have enobled their son’s senseless death with renewed purpose. Unknowingly, they have rewritten the Easter story in a context that is more contemporary and hits easier to home.

I am hopeful of continuing to write my own this Easter morn; inking word for word a slice of heaven.

I was raised a good Catholic boy. I was taught the sign of the cross along with my ABCs and the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears along with that account about sin with Adam and Eve and the evil snake. I went to good Catholic schools and piously attended Sunday service. I took confession and received communion. I thought I made my parents and their god proud for a long time. Then, I moved to NYC and, suddenly, found myself reinventing the wheel that countless other people have turned for me since I was born. I suddenly found myself in a land of limitless possibility where, far away from the adoring eye of my parents and the watchful gaze of both loving peers and strict society, I was able to experiment with my newfound freedom. I reclaimed my Sundays and stopped going to church. I reinvented my moral code and moved away from the absolutes of sin and into the ethics of consensus. I did away with all kinds of bread and went on a no-carb diet and, yet, drank all the good wine I can. I now only knelt when I was giving good head to someone (wherein I wasn’t the one giving thanks to but being thanked for). I began to cast every tenet of my Catholicism against a shadow of doubt and, inversely, grew in believing in my power of self to actualize evey option that was available and desirable. I was both doubter and believer. This dueling of modes, or this paradox in duality, is a strong leitmotif in my life and I relished this specific one.

It was particularly heavy today as I found myself sitting on a church pew in Xavier, the Jesuit parish on 16th/6th. Today is Palm Sunday and I found myself in church.

I used to disavow my Catholicism. But, I have since gone back to calling myself a lapse, if not holiday, Catholic. I would go to all the big holiday services and sleep in on the ordinary Sundays. I particularly loved the Triduum (which is that axis of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve Vigil services) and have religiously attended them for a few years now. I was drawn to this period because it struck at the heart of my skepticism . Here was a church founded on a god who was born as man only to die in man’s hands and resurrect himself all over again as god. (I mean, this statement could easily have been read as any other Hindu legend if not for the Christian context. But, yes, I was raised Catholic and was brainwashed to be Christocentric.) There were themes of love and denial; despair and redemption; hurt and forgiveness. Hollywood cinema is built on these and, being a cinephile, I am helplessly moved by what is billed as the greatest story ever told.

The irony is that I moved to another Christian land (and not to a Buddhist or any other one) and, yet, I find it even harder to believe. (The motivation is also at issue here – do I genuinely want to or am I merely responding to ingrained habit?!) Unlike in Manila wherein you would think that Christ was Divine Providence to the deprived, here in the East Coast, you would think that he was raised in Kansas. Every hard-line Christian, oftentimes represented in the media by a fire-and-brimstone Southern Baptist preacher, spews hate in the name of the love of god. I am angered and confused and saddened and, yes, enobled by some of these mindless attacks who aim to strike at how I love and who I am. The god of boundless compassion, silent and unseen, is suddenly replaced by the god of abominable hellfire, as seen and heard through his ruthless and rabid demagogues.

I went to Xavier today to make more sense of this tension ( as well as somehow give better purpose to my 4-day workweek. The market is closed on Good Friday but not because of any religious reasons; it is in commemoration of the Big Crash in the 20s that led to the Great Depression.) I know I will come back on Thursday for the Washing of the Feet and Friday to hear the Last Words and on Saturday to hold Vigil. I return every year at this same time because I seek answers. Why will I want to believe in a god whom people claim says that how I love is evil?

Today, I sat and witnessed a line of initiates into the faith, adults who have chosen to be Catholics and who await baptism on Easter Sunday. They have chosen to believe. I looked around and saw people moved by both song and story. I, myself, am moved by this church where Matthew Shepard is a saint; where men with AIDS are given a haven for spiritual directoin in the Gonzaga Group (which is billed as an “ecumenical HIV Spiritual Support Group”); where gay and lesbians find shelter for their desires and solace for their brokenness. How am I to respond to this outpuring of faith both from priest and present and future laity?

Fr, Joe, the Jesuit priest who gave the homily, talked about how we are all victim and victimizer (in reference to the people who condemned Jesus to the cross and yet also wept for him upon seeing him bear it up Mount Calvary.) I have been both victim of my past borne of a textbook faith as well as victimized by my revisionist present. The challenge is in hashing out what is most genuine from what has been blindly held on to and responding to this newfind thoughtfully and faithfully. That is what I believe in right now and where my hope for answers in the future is built upon.

I have always been a musical theater queen. Growing up back in the 80s. my second cassette tape (after my first purchase of Madonna’s Like a Virgin) was a compilation of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Broadway hits. (I still wonder why I never came out sooner. Of course, I blame my parents’ atmosphere of naivete/sexlessness at home but I also blame myself for not making the connections. I mean, Weber and Madonna were as simple a formula as 1 + 1 back then – now, where everyone can seem to be into just about everything without falling into a box, is a different story.) I had known every word to I Don’t Know How to Love Him after listening to Yvonne Elliman’s rendition of this anthem to the circumstantially celibate and their crushes everywhere before learning what was material to school and homework. Now, in NYC, I go see Broadway musicals as much as I happily can. Plays, not so much. I have recently enjoyed Douglas Carter Beane’s The Little Dog Laughed last fall and the Public’s Theater in the Park presentation of Brecht’s Mother Courage (from a Tony Kushner translation) last summer. (But even the latter seems some sort of musical hybrid with Meryl Streep battering her heart on stage both with word and song.) The ratio of plays to musicals that I go to see is quite heavily disproportioned. Dance doesn’t even fall on my radar. (My two left feet are more than enough explanation.) Opera remains the other frontier.

So it was quite a welcome treat when I went to go see Edward Scissorhands at BAM on Thursday night. I revel in every new opportunity and going to see a dance performance is as fresh as they come.

However, I was not without prejudice. I knew this was a much-hyped Matthew Bourne piece. But I had seen Mary Poppins at the end of January and I was so underwhelmed, or, rather, unimpressed. Bourne had also choreograohed this Broadway spectacle. Maybe I had such high hopes for it that night that I had set myself up for such frustration. But could I blame myself?! Mary Poppins is, after all, up in the canon of great musicals and to do a mediocre stage adaptation of it would be a disservice to the Sherman brothers and their company and a dishonor to everyone who made the 1964 film a classic like, ahem, Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke.) It had also been a London import and I shamelessly have more respect for the West End than for Broadway. (I had seen Mamma Mia in London when it first came out and was bowled over by it. I saw it again on Broadway last year to take my family out to see it and regretted paying such a high price for something so flat.) I thought Bourne and his fellow English would deliver Poppins on Broadway. But I was disappointed. I mean, Gavin Lee walking like SpiderBert all over the the 4 corners of the stage was fascinating and Ashley Brown flying into thin air as if SuperMary was heart-stopping. But it seemed the gimmickry took precedence over the choreography. When the flying umbrella becomes the highlight of the show (like the flying car in Chitty Chitty Gang Bang was) instead of the people holding the umbrella, then I think the artistic draw from the audience becomes problematic.

Taking the train from the city into Brooklyn with Tim and his college roomie (who went to see it with me) Thursday night, I pondered over the Poppins disbelief and decided to suspend it and box it under Bourne Disneyfied. As soon as I sat myself , I looked around and began to wonder if I was indeed in Downtown Brooklyn watching Scissorhands at BAM or in Midtown West watching Terrence McNally’s new play, Some Men. The audience was (mostly) gay. gay, gay all the way. (I even bumped into 2 friends I knew in the restroom, but not in the George Michael sense.) There were, of course. hetero couples too and some family couplings. I, unfortunately, had to sit right behind a girl (who kept on asking her mom what was going on through the show) and her brother,a boy who had an incessant cough problem. (Her mom’s female friend kept on giving her water. I could only stop myself from pulling her hair and telling her to give the kid a cough drop instead to stop the annoying coughing.)

I’d have to say it was an odd choice for a ballet adaptation, Tim Burton, long shears and all. But, like a Tim Burton movie, it was terrific. Hearing the movie’s dreamy music live was otherworldly and watching the sets come to life (since they were integral in telling the story on stage as much as the performers were) was enchanting. The stage’s transformation from the dark cemetery atop the hill to Middle America’s everysuburbia to a lavish Christmastime banquet hall all tied in by the topiaries constistent in their form but constantly changing in their attire was thrilling in their seamlessness.

I’ve never been a good critic of dance but I was struck by how good, not great, most of the pieces were. Some of them actually left me wanting for more when the pieces, each an amalgam of pantomimic deftness and dexterous ballet, ended. But, almost at the end of Act II, during the Farewell Duet, where Edward danced alone on stage with Kim, I saw the genius, if not the conceit, in Bourne’s show. Here was a man dancing ballet with a woman while he had foot-long shears attached to his hand wherein one small mistake in movement could end up being a big bloody one. (I knew these shears were not merely dull blades as, in a display of brilliance in the middle of Act I, Edward actually made a topiary, cutting and shearing through leaves with the blades on his fingers.) The two principals were gliding and comingling and, yes, dancing in every possible sense all across the stage that was both grand in its effort and most graceful in its execution. It was riveting and breathtaking, all the way into the end, when in one final moment of spectacle, confetti rained from the ceiling which, coupled with brilliant lighting, gave the illusion of falling snow.

I wish I had seen Swan Lake. Tim’s friend saw it and claimed that this piece, Bourne’s big all-male coming-out piece, was genius all throughout. But I’m glad I saw Scissorhannds. I enjoyed the whole experience — the sublime sets, the wordless music, its pure dancing. It’s always a good thing when I learn to like even more a new genre. I find it even better when I renew my admiration for someone I’ve quite fallen less fond of. I mean, I even bought the CD of Bourne’s show as I rushed out of the theater, holding Tim’s hand on the street on the way home that rainy night.

Spring is supposed to turn this week. Yet, I look out and I still see snowdrifts on the sidewalk. The weather is still freezing, my scarf , just worn, is slung visibly on a chair and my boots, still wet on the soles, are drying on the rug. I know it’s still winter and these conditions are not supposed to be unusual but the chilly weather and the snow have been more like the exceptions than the rule this season. The noreaster 2 days ago that dumped over 4 inches of snow on the city served as some sort of wintry interlude; a seasonal spell that cast a break from the rut of springlike weather coming too soon.

It seems that the recent weather has been sympathizing with my life, or vice-versa. It’s been exactly a week to the day (and a few days shy of the big noreaster) that I had my own winter interlude. What began as quite a spell has ended to be more like a curse.

I was hanging out with my good (gay) friend, Eric, the writer(who is not to be confused with my other friend, bi Eric), last Saturday night at Barrage, this bar in Hell’s Kitchen. We had just finished watching Talk Radio, Eric Bogosian’s play reincarnated on Broadway and topbilled by Live Schreiber (who gave a solid performance), and were catching up on each other’s lives when we bumped into Conrad, a 35-year-old software programmer, who was also there with a friend. Conrad is an Irish-German boy who grew up in Connecticut, went to Northwestern and now lives in Astoria. Eric and I were talking about getting glasses and there was Conrad, geekchic in his own (and recommending his optometrist). We ended up exchanging numbers and hanging out the following night. I had spent the whole day shopping for my chair and ottoman with Tim, and dinner with my aunts at a Chinese restaurant in Queens, when Conrad and I decided to catch the last showing at Angelika of The Namesake, Mira Nair’s faithful adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel. Tim and I had discussed about how we were not yet ready for monogamy but were content enough with each other to admit to not even look to date with anyone else anymore and, yet, that night, I found myself handholding with Conrad throughout the whole movie. We went to Mr. Black for a nightcap and, at 2 am, both headed back home to my apartment for what turned out to be a sleepless night. (We were in pjs and shirts when we lay in bed; we were both naked when we woke up.) I lent him my copy of The Namesake, then, walked him to his train back to Queens at 7 AM while I clung to my transit reading, Rupert Everett’s autobiography, as I boarded mine to work. I grappled with undefined relationship dilemmas (in between yield analysis reports and client conference calls) through the haze of caffeine, Catholic guilt and a cloud of sleeplessness all throughout Monday. If I knew then what I know now, then I would have simply spared myself the terrible hassle of having to deal with the unnamed conflicts. It turns out I didn’t even need to. I called Conrad on Wednesday to discuss my issues. It is now Sunday and he still hasn’t called back. After a whirlwind of a weekend, it turned out to be like any other no-strings-attached Manhunt hook-up; but with a movie and a sleep-over (and promises of watching a Puccini opera at the Met in April coupled with the loss of my Lahiri novel.)

It was so bizaare, like a dumping of snow last Friday after the temperature hit 69 degrees on Thursday. Totally unexpected and yet, the snow blanketing the city in white as if in a dreamy Christmas wonderland, welcome as it was happening. Now, there are only pools of melted snow clogging the streetcorners, murky and dirty. Snow has turned to slush which has turned to muck.

I don’t even know why these things happen. What I am left to see and hold (and maybe even try to begin to understand) is what had indeed happened and what lies in its aftermath. One thing I do know though is that sense of relief in realizing that time turning on its wheel will be moving me past this bleak winter episode and onto the bright clarity of spring shining in the foreground.