Happy


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.

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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 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.

James Wolcott writing about Katie Couric (and referring to her blog entries on this line) from Vanity Fair’s December issue wrote that “no one over the age of 30 should be resorting to all those exclamation marks and capital letters like some juiced-up Crackberry addict.” I thought it was quite a funny and sensible crack at the much-maligned tv diva. I mean, are all those punctuations and capitalizations really necessary for ANYTHING?!!!! Unless your intent is to be rude (which is social suicide in mature and civilized discourse), then there really is no need for it. What lingered in me though, after the initial bite of this juicy barb, was the bar by which Wolcott raised this rule. Thirty apparently is the milestone for crossing over to the new age of soundness in structure and propriety in punctuation. (Maybe 30-year-olds should start running high school papers.)

Then, it hit me. I am turning 30 this year.

I’ll be checking this new box in 6 months. Sometimes, I wish it were as easy to say goodbye to my 20s as it was to my teens. (Only God knows what I did with my teens. Seriously, I can’t remember.) It was such a definitive decade — my big move out west, my coming out, my first great love, my first great heartbreak, my radical reinvention (enough to make me seem like Madonna in the late 90s) among other things — that I feel the need for another 10 to just make sense of it, enough to let it go. But I know I’m not going to be wasting my 30s just living in the past. (I’ve never been one to waste time. Even idling around for webporn is rationalized as creative indulgence in multimedia.) The challenge is always to fully be in the present. It’s bad enough that homos are so ageist. (I might as well be in my old age. Then again, I can always be 29 online for the next 4 years. Heck, I can pass for 27. It seems everyone else lies about their age on their web profiles anyway.) It’s even harder when I realize that it’s not going to be as easy to fall back on my family. (I rarely do anyway — only on money matters.) It’s toughest when I start going all neurotic and start imposing on myself all these delusions of grandeur owed to my new decade. (I’ve already started getting down on myself for still being a studio renter.) But I know that all these petty paranoia are not going to stop me from making the most of the inevitable. Besides, all my friends are in their 30s and it’s just reassuring that they’re all having a grand, old time, pun intended. They’re finding their dream job, buying their own condo, practically getting married. I listen to them and I learn so much. Tim, my bf, is 41 and he’s one of the most well-adjusted people I know. The world doesn’t end after 29. It seems to suddenly start over, refreshing and renewing, in the similar way that a new year begins.

A new year, a new decade. No, not a double whammy but a double whopper.

It is 5 AM and I am already wide awake. I’ve been having this schedule for quite some time now. I crash when I get home and wake up at some ungodly hour after my requisite 6 hour-sleep time has been satisfied. It is quite unsettling to beat my alarm clock by over an hour for its wake-up call. But I guess it’s not such a bad thing. There aren’t as many distractions at this time. I get to clear my head. Coffee is brewing in my kitchen and my soundtrack of the moment, Spring Awakening, is playing on my IDock.

It is just 5 days before Christmas. (I have already played out my download of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition of Handel’s Hallelujah chorus, after an overkill of Sarah McLachlan’s followed by Mariah Carey’s Christmas albums.) I can proudly and happily say that I am done with my shopping. (I think going through another store that sells overpriced tchotchkes will give me nosebleed.) Tim’s gifts are neatly-wrapped underneath the tree (except for the new wool coat hanging in its bag on my rack. I think I’ll just put a ribbon on it.) Gifts for my family and friends lie around in their bags, ready to be hauled away. Yes, it seems the only thing left for me to do is to wait. The time will come for the giving of gifts during the office party (which is tonight) and during holiday dinners with friends and family and my Christmas Eve and Day with Tim (which comes on the 22nd and 23rd since he leaves on the 24th at 5 AM to head back to Atlanta where his family will spend the holiday at his brother’s farm.) This season’s inevitables are made more palpable with each sweet second passing. Will my boss’s kid like her pop-up book? Will my friend like this bottle of wine? Will my aunt like her hobo bag? Will Tim like his shirt? I sit here and look around and imagine the many different reactions to the many different gifts I spent many hours thinking about and looking for. (Giving gifts, after all, is basically an appeal to one’s id and ultimately an expression of one’s affection. It is a process more simply written down than actually lived out. Being in the Union Square Market on a Sunday afternoon in December, for instance, can be like being in Pamplona during a bullrun.) The many different scenarios running through my mind right now make me smile and cherish even more the reason for these gifts to begin with. It cannot get any more complicated than the plain statement that I really like these people and am just grateful to have known them and been with them during this insane year.

How sweet it is when even the waiting partakes in the present.

It is 5 AM on Saturday morning and I am wide awake. I’ve been nursing a flu the past 2 days and crashed as soon as I got off work yesterday. Sleeping at 7 PM on a Friday night and waking up 8 hours after is a dreadful way to start the weekend. (It could also be remnants of jetlag from 2 weeks ago. It is, after all, peak time in Honolulu right now.) But I really wouldn’t have been in the mood to go out last night anyway. It is way too cold out. After a week of being so unseasonably warm, the temperature has since dipped 50 degrees. It is now 10 degrees below freezing outside. I had 5 layers of clothing on me yesterday — undershirt + buttoned-down + vest + coat + scarf — along with gloves and ear muffs and I was still shivering walking to and from work. Spending time indoors drinking coffee in undeniably wintry days like this is a good way to be. Besides, I’m still gushing over Nicholas and wouldn’t mind spending more time with him.

I’ve always had a fake tree growing up. My family would hoist this 8-foot extravaganza right smack in our living room on the first day of December and adorn it with collected ornaments, some heirloom, lush tinsel and bright lights. (Growing up, I always thought our home had the most amazing tree.) When I moved here so many years ago and stayed with my aunts, their house in Queens had a similar tree, still fake and as amazing. I have since moved out and into a studio that barely has enough space for me and all my dust collectors. Christmases swept in and out and I have always wondered about decorating my apartment. (My aunts even got me a fake wreath one year which, unknown to them, I didn’t even bother hanging.) That wonder soon turned into yet another holiday frustration and onto another forgotten resolution for the new year’s new season. Until this one.

Tim and I were walking in the Village last Friday. As usual, I was lumbering around drunk after a few drinks (because I’m such a cheap date) and blurted out how I’ve always thought about having a Christmas tree as we passed by a streetcorner that sold cut firs. Unblinkingly, he replied that I should get one. He had all the ornaments anyway (since he used to have a house back in Atlanta and he and his ex-hubby would gay a tree up every year. The tree ornaments, along with everything else, were split after they separated.) We walked a block over from my apartment that Sunday to the corner where cut trees were lined up for sale. (I wish getting my first tree were as rustic as how one of my friends from Minneapolis got hers; she and her hubby walked into a tree farm and cut their own tree. But this is NYC. There are no tree farms; only tree corners.) We settled on a 6-ft balsam fir from Nova Scotia. Nicholas (as I’ve named my fir) has been sitting in the corner of my (ever more crowded) studio since(, 2 feet away from my bed and 2 feet away from my dinner table).

I am such a newbie to the fresh tree circuit. Googling this whole new scene has given me some conclusions: buying the trees early in the season is smart since the good ones always get snatched up early on; keeping it watered is essential since leaving a tree dry allows it to sap and wither quicker; the frasier firs spruce up nicer but the balsam firs smell better (though they shed more too); adding on sugar (as Tim suggested) or aspirin to the water solution does nothing more for the tree. (Did the trees get sugar in the Canadian forest?!) More importantly, having this tree has renewed this holiday for me. I’ve (again) come to realize that this holiday really is about bringing people together. Having a tree, for starters, really isn’t meant to be done alone. First of all, I could have never carried a 6-ft tree into my apartment, let alone hoist it onto its stand and screw it still by myself. The even better part, decorating it, is always more wonderful shared. I look at the tree and see so much of Tim’s history on it with his many ornaments hanging on the needles — a set of gold balls he used to own with his ex-husband, his name handwritten on a snowman, his old puppy’s pic on a red ribbon, a brown gingerbread house he got in Europe while on tour for a show, a silver snowflake from his mom from Alabama. I’ve yet to add my own and am hopeful of sharing and building memories with him, hung up on a tree and beyond. The best parts about the tree, as Tim says and with whom I agree with, are the lights on it and the gifts under it. Tim came over Thursday night and spent the night with me when I told him I was feeling sick. I came home last night and saw that he had put the lights on the tree along with some gifts for me at its feet. This is the first night (or morning) that the tree has been lit. Resplendent in white cascading light, it casts a warm glow over my studio as well as on the wrapped boxes underneath as Sarah McLachlan sings Noel off the IDock in the background. I can’t help but smile. This season, of which the tree is a symbol, is so much about bringing people together and sharing with them. I can’t wait to share this Christmas moment with Tim as he comes over tonight. (Hopefully, I’ll have some gifts for him too by that time.)

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