July 2006


I am importing some songs from [title of show] into my IPod. My laundry’s washing in my building basement. Some new, clean summer sheets are on a heap on my bed. (My old summer sheets ripped right in the middle. My colleague thinks it’s from getting too much action. I just thought it was a convenient excuse to indulge in new ones with a much-higher thread count.) Dishes are sitting in my sink. (My pre-war building doesn’t provide the amenities of post-war urban residences such as a dishwasher.) The new shower curtain — duck prints on clear fabric — I got from Delphinium Home lays on the floor, waiting to be installed. (It matches the duck prints on my toilet seat and my red rubber duckie perched on the tub.) My windows are open letting in the warm summer wind. It’s already kinda stifling (since this week’s supposed to be simmering) but I welcome the fresh air since I was feeling pretty dry after a night of crisp a/c air. (I need a humidifier.) The chores can wait. I am taking a break to enjoy the crackling wit and catchy snazzy melodies of my new fave musical. (I just bought the CD.)

It was the second time I saw the show 2 nights ago. (I had seen it during its original run a few months back.) The experience wasn’t any less satisfying. Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen were as sharp and smart as ever. (Charles Isherwood of the NYTimes describes Jeff as “Chelsea-boyish” but it really is Hunter I have the hots for. My peculiar tastes seem to lust after this redhead. Then, again, I’ve always had a fascination for redheads. But I digress.) But my faves really are the 2 women, Heidi Blickenstaff and Susan Blackwell, who are just phenomenal. Heidi’s flawless jazzying and Susan’s delectably deadpan dry wit are just too irresistible. These women are the bomb (in gangsta talk as inspired by the song playing right now, “An Original Musical,” where Hunter plays a blank sheet of paper that talks in mothafucka and bee-otch slang to Jeff as he writes.)

This show is about a pair of writers doing a show and making that the show in itself. It may not be groundbreaking (since this genre of postmetaparody began with Urinetown) but I think it is the wittiest so far. The crux of my claim to this conceit lays in the title — or the lack of it. As they mull over one for their submission to the NY Theaterfest (which was where this all began), they decide against all the hokiness and insist on the paradox of leaving the line blank and co-opting what was on that box on the form.

After all, it is hard to capture any experience in so few words. Labels are limiting and there is always that fear in attaching the wrong symbol to the right object.

I saw the show because Tim got tickets. Tim is this guy I’ve been seeing for almost 4 months now. He’s a 40-year-old actor from South Carolina. (After a disastrous dating stint with an actor who was raised Baptist in West Virginia, I thought I would’ve already learned.) A music graduate from Furman (whom he dismissively calls Southern Ivy League) with a graduate degree from Florida State, he taught in Atlanta for so many years before moving to NY to pursue an acting career. (He is currently working on 2 OffBway shows.)

I actually met Tim last winter on a drunken Saturday night at a Midtown bar where we exchanged numbers. (I’ve always been a sucker for geek chic and there he was, cool in his D&G glasses.) We went out on a date — dinner at Ginger, a sushi joint in the East village, and a movie at Sunshine (where we saw Bee Season). Then, we had a nightcap at Slide, this bar nearby. I thought we both had a nice time so I called him to let him know. I emailed him too. I had come and gone from my brother’s wedding, Christmas passed and the New Year rolled by but I never got a response back. I really wasn’t waiting for one anyway. I had already moved on to the next hook-up. Until I bumped into him one night at gym. I walked up to him and said hi — it was amazing I still remembered his name. What was even more amazing was that he remembered mine. He said that he had moved to Michigan for the rest of the winter where he had a guest teaching stint in some college’s undergraduate theater program. He also said that he had been meaning to call me since he got back. I raised my eyebrows but decided to not pursue the truth behind these stock gay answers. We went out for coffee after changing from gym clothes and have been hanging out since that night in April.

I used to always tell everyone how he was this guy I’m “dating.” But I just went to pee and saw that he already has a toothbrush sitting in my bathroom. He’s left some of his shirts in my hamper. (I don’t think he’s brought back my shirt he wore home that night we saw History Boys.) I’ve met his friends and he’s met mine. I hung out with his roomie from college who was visiting from upstate (whom Tim said found me charming.) Surprisingly, even Henry, who never likes any of the guys I’m dating, warmed up to Tim and found him to be a nice guy. Getting past the third date is always a hurdle but I think meeting each others’ friends (which kinda feels like sooo many first dates happening simultaneously) and moving past that ordeal unscathed is a milestone.

So does that make Tim my boyfriend? I can’t remember the last time I faced this dilemma. Carter and I were inseparable that whole summer we first met that it simply wasn’t an issue. I seriously think that Tim is the first guy I’ve seen for more than 3 months in 3 years. (Then, there was that guy from West VA whom I was seeing all spring last year who simply gave me the “talk” about the need to “simplify his life” after I had a 10-day Memorial Day vacation in Vancouver and Seattle. Everything was going so well before I left that the “talk” was simply unexpected. In gaycode, “simplifying my life” is an easier way of saying “I’ve met someone else.” I swear you can’t leave a guy you’re dating in NY for more than a week.) Though not inseparable, there is that unspoken reliability in our dynamic wherein I pick Tim up after his show on weekend nights and then, we hang out. My corporate day schedule and his Off Bway night schedule seem to make things a lot harder to coordinate than they really are. What matters is that we manage to make it work for both of us. There is no threat to overdo and overkill.

So how do I define this relationship? A lot of times (especially at work where I sit with these newly-hired fresh grads and talk to them about cash flow), I find the functions so much more effective than the concept. It may sound like a convenient way out of this quandary but the reality is that we enjoy doing things together. It cannot be any simpler than us choosing on whim to sun in our skivvies on the grass in the Christopher Street piers on a Sunday afternoon. Tim is, after all, my [label in relationship.]

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Somewhere I Have Never Travelled
EE Cummings

Somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond
Any experience, your eyes have their silence;
In your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
Or which I cannot touch because they are too near.
Your slightest look easily will unclose me
Though I have closed myself as fingers,
You open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching, skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose.

Or if your wish be to close me, I and
My life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
As when the heart of this flower imagines
The snow carefully everywhere descending;

Nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
The power of your intense fragility; whose texture
Compels me with the colour of its countries,
Rendering death and forever with each breathing.

(I do not know what it is about you that closes
And opens; only something in me understands
The voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.

I have always held on to my life as one big journey. Every day is, as it is, a measure of time’s passing; every night a stop for rest and recollecting. I see no specific final destination though since I do not live my life as a tourist. I inhabit each place as hopefully a native would, struggling to know how people do and, in the painstaking process, learn more of who I am.

I am currently living in NY and have known so much more about myself in the past 7 years than I ever did in the previous 22 in Manila. Yet, as I travel deeper into myself, I feel running into that great risk of, and, actually fear, forgetting who I was back then. So integral in this journey is unraveling my mystery and remembering who I was back then is inevitably linked to understanding how I am now. I know I used to be a totally different person. But, also, I find great comfort in knowing that my good friends back then have remained good friends till now. This sense of consistency, no matter how fragile, anchors my history in a sense of soulful (and, needless to say, sane) continuity.

In my journey where meeting new people are considered routine stops but making new friends a milestone, I find keeping (really) old ones a treasure, ultimately gift. I may not know where I am going but I am assured of who I can always come back to. I have never travelled there yet but these old friends who have shown me where I have been inspire me to go where I could and should.

I remember them dearly as some of them celebrate their birthdays this week.

I am listening to Katrina and the Waves sing Walking on Sunshine. Exactly a week after the start of the heatwave, I am left craving for some sunshine to bathe in on this very hazy Saturday morning. No, not the sunshine that she sings about but the real deal. I want to lay out on the Promenade with my shirt off and read Vanity Fair. (It has become such a desirable alternative to doing laundry and cleaning my apt during this summertime.)

But I guess it is better that I just stay in. I’d probably not be able to get a nice tan anyway (if there was sun out) since I’d be quite shy to take my shirt off when I can still feel my dinner from last night bulging in my belly. I had a late night dinner with my friend, Henry, at Grand Sichuan in Chelsea and had a LOT of Aui Zhou Spicy Chicken. (I luv Chinese food — the really good, tasty kind, needless to say — so much that I overindulge in it to the point of inconvenience. Ah, the story of my life in most cases.)

Herny is one of my really good friends in this city where acquaintances simply fizzle out and relationships, despite being more deliberate than random, are usually fleeting. He is Asian-American of Hongkong Chinese descent who grew up in Florida and moved to the city more than 15 years ago (which was right after finishing college.) I met him right after I broke up with Eric, this Jewish lawyer who was my first bf more than 5 years ago, when Eric’s friend dragged me to all these different gay spaces to meet people so that I could get over my first (real) heartbreak. I met Henry then and we’ve been hanging out since. He studied to be an engineer but his resume runs the gamut from fashion house whore to corporate slave to “consultant” (which is just another term for temp.) I luv that he’s been around and respect the edge that he carries owing to all these different kinds of experiences. His range can swing from mellow museum homo to leather top bitch. I find it hilarious and comforting.

Over Sichuan chicken and pork soup dumplings, we had easy dinner conversation. It’s always great when one can simply sit back and enjoy the food and silly banter that comes with friendly dinner. This is such a welcome counterpoint to all those date dinners that necessitate intelligent conversation and inhibited laughter. (First date dinners are always the worst since the need to impress is upped to a notch over crazy with the expensive entree more often than not being left half-eaten and where pregnant pauses become more like white noise than mere gaps in conversation. Of course, these kinds of first dates always end up being the last too.) Over bouts of laughter and chopstick chatter, we talked about work and bitched about boys. We made fun of our own hopeless gym routines. We planned vacations that will never happen. We talked of loves we haven’t found and booty calls that are always around. We spoke of Thanksgiving and of families. He asked me about my dad and my family. (My dad has since survived his triple bypass surgery and is now on post-op rehab.) He has lost his own 2 years ago to a heart attack.

My family is still the same. I don’t think families ever change except that everyone grows old. We do talk more now though. I just don’t know if that’s owing to the maturity that comes with age or with the breaking down of walls that comes with a family emergency such as my dad’s heart illness. In any case, I like my family a lot now. We’ve moved on beyond the sadness of small talk to more open conversation and have actually even enjoyed some genuine bouts of hearty laughter together. We will never expose our bare souls to each other (since we were never brought up that way) but I believe that we have come to respect each other’s grown-up lives (which is already a big step knowing how we do.) I used to be asked all the time about girlfriends and marriage (since 2 of my siblings are already married and my oldest brother has a steady gf) but, recently, they’ve stopped. (I also find it funny how my aunts who used to buy me shirts that are medium men’s sizes — which I never wear because they’re too big — now go around buying large shirts at Bloomie’s boys which snug me just right. Luv it.) Henry says they already know that I’m gay. I don’t know for sure yet but I’m not pushing the buttons. I’m still enjoying and getting used to these welcome changes.

I also told him how, as I grow older, I realize that what seems to matter more, and not that it should matter most, is not the family we were born into but the family that we create around us in the space we spend our adult lives in. He paused to gather the thought in my statement and its heavy allusion. Then, we were back to our usual bitchy banter.

Blood is thicker than water which is why the latter is more fun to swim in.

I think I found a tear in the time-space continuum today. Jason Mraz suddenly came on randomly on my itunes player while I was opening the blog and guess what played? Why, Summer Breeze of course!

Glad to hear that West’s summer has began in earnest. Ours has just passed and though I must say that a big part of me is relieved that the killer heat and stifling humidity have passed, I’m not a big fan of storms and flood either, unless of course it means that work gets suspended. 8 years after college, I would still be yearning for unexpected days spent doing what I want instead of what I ought to do. I’ve always found these unexpected breaks so much more pleasurable than the expected weekend.

In any case, I’m glad that I heard Jason Mraz today, he with his gritty lyrics about such mundane things as starbucks and love. His songs often border on tacky but somehow they pull back with just enough self loathing humor that it becomes redeeming. Now, why does that sound like my life all of a sudden?

Mr. Curiosity (Jason Mraz, Mr. A-Z)

Hey Mr. Curiosity
Is it true what they’ve been saying about you
Are you killing me?
You took care of the cat already
And for those who think it’s heavy
Is it the truth
Or is it only gossip
Call it mystery or anything
Just as long as you’d call me
I sent the message on did you get it when I left it
See this catastrophic event
It wasn’t meant to mean no harm
But to think there’s nothing wrong is a problem

I’m looking for love this time
Sounding hopeful but it’s making me cry
Love is a mystery
Mr. Curious…

Come back to me
Mr. waiting ever patient can’t you see
That I’m the same the way you left me
In a hurry to spell check me
And I’m underlined already in envy green
And pencil red
And I’ve forgotten what you’ve said
Will you stop working for the dead and return
Mr. curious well I need some inspiration
It’s my birthday and I cannot find no cause for celebration
The scenario is grave but I’ll be braver when you save me
From this situation laden with hearsay

I’m looking for love this time
Sounding hopeful but it’s making me cry
And love is a mystery
Mr. Curiosity
Be Mr. please
Do come and find me, oh
Find, find me, find me

I’m looking for love this time
Sounding hopeful but it’s making me cry
Trying not to ask why
this love is a mystery
Mr. curiosity
Be Mr. please
Do come and find me

Love is blinding when the timing’s never right
Oh who am I to beg for difference
Finding love in just an instant
Well I don’t mind, at least I’ve tried
Well I tried, I tried…

The seasons hit you some days more than most. Today, summer is pounding on my door.

This is the first day of this year’s first heatwave. I have the Isley Brothers singing Summer Breeze on my IDock. My windows are open, letting in the cool morning breeze that the duo sing so passionately about. There is a bird perched on my fire escape, chirping a happy tune. A couple sits on the stoop below, enjoying their coffee. The brownstones built around are glowing, seemingly ablaze. Sunlight is creeping through my blinds (whose beige outlines quilt with the sky’s clear blue.) After days of dreary gray and rainy dark, this bright blue expanse is a welcome sight.

Saturday mornings are usually errand mornings — laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, balancing my checkbook. But this time, I’m feeling really lazy. It must be this perfect summer morning. The Isley Brothers may sound cheesy but they do sing true, “summer breeze makes me feel fine/ blowing through the jasmine in my mind.”

Summers in NYC are usually awful with the city smelling like garbage burning on the streets. This morning paints me a different picture, reassuring and exceptional.

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