Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"What I Learned On My Summer Vacation"

Visiting my brother Aaron in NYC is always a breath of fresh air. (Okay, it's somewhat polluted air in NYC, but you get the drift). He and his girlfriend Stephenie are gracious, accommodating hosts. They now live in Gowanus, a Brooklyn neighborhood, and they have three adorable dogs whom are my "nephews" -- Pug Oscar (aka Booger or Buddha), Pug Cru, and Chihuahua/Brussels Griffon mix Leon (Noel spelled backwards, since he came into their lives this past Christmas). Aaron and Stef have a gorgeous backyard, which they are currently remodeling and landscaping, as well as kind and fun neighbors -- Nolan is a hoot (you can't help but smile around him) and Bill is one of the head-honchos for the Sci-Fi Channel and recently ran press interference for, yes, the now viral Sharknado. (You all know I am both terrified and fascinated by sharks -- and now that I've learned they can attack us amidst swirling tornadoes, I'm definitely going to have to bust out my chainsaw from storage to hack my way through them.)

Here's the Sharknado trailer:
*yes, that's 90210 alum Ian Ziering (Steve Sanders!) -- you've aged well, Ian!

I learned a lot on my summer vacation -- here are some tidbits that would make it into my grade school essay on the first day back at school:

1. Beautiful artwork can be found everywhere in NYC. Sometimes it's city-sanctioned, other times it's graffiti. In any case, I never lacked for inspiring, gritty, urban images of life and lovely chaos.

2. Catching up with old friends warms the heart. Jim, Carl, Aaron, Stef, and I went for a delicious Italian dinner at Gradisca. Another day, Robin, Octavio, baby Ella, Nick, Tony, Aaron, and I checked out the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

3. Horror buffs can rest assured that New York holds a special place for them. I fell in love with Times Scare, located -- yep -- smack-dab in the heart of Times Square. ( Guillotines, skulls, and coffins at the entrance? Check. Texas Chainsaw Massacre hooks hanging over the liquor in the Crypt Cafe? Check. Creepy old-fashioned wallpaper, bloodied walls, dining tables in the "mausoleum," and zombie bouncers? Check galore. Aaron and I drank some absinthe (the Green Fairy, mind you) and wove our way through Times Scare's haunted house on my last night there. I was especially fond of the decapitated clown heads hanging on hooks in the room filled with strobe lights. Just sayin'.

4. Tom's Restaurant -- the inspiration behind Suzanne Vega's song "Tom's Diner" -- is kitschy, fun, crowded, sports a harried by lovable staff, and has delicious black cherry Italian sodas. Gus, I wish you were there with me! But one of the pictures on Tom's walls is apparently an ode to you and me.

5. The movie theaters in Times Square are size queens. No, really. I had to take escalators all the way up to the 5th (!) floor in one of them. Thank god I'm a little neurotic about getting to the movies early so I don't miss the previews. (Previews sometimes are the best part, aren't they?) I loved all the grandiose banners and posters, the winding hallways, the signs directing you back to 42nd Street so you don't get lost. Since New York was experiencing some intense heat and humidity during my stay, I thoroughly enjoyed my two guilt-free afternoons lounging in those comfy seats, soaking in that air conditioning, and nibbling on my chocolate-covered raisins and Reese's Pieces. I saw This Is the End (hilarious, irreverent, smart, timely, and oddly poignant) and The Way, Way Back. The Way, Way Back is not only my current favorite movie of the year but maybe one of my favorite movies ever. I laughed, I cried, I got lumps in my throat. The protagonist, Duncan, reminded me of me at age 14 -- if Duncan were gay and more of a bookworm, that is. Heck, I even saw the film again this past weekend here in Portland -- I wanted to make sure Gus saw it on the big screen.

Here's the trailer and poster:

6. Confirmed once again: Aaron and Stephenie are creative and fashion-forward. (As Aaron would bluntly say, "Duh.") Here they are with friend Ashley (in blue) at a recent Keith Haring inspired party at Cheryl's ( I mean, how cool is it that they donned themselves this way? Ashley and I got to spend some great time together one day while Aaron was working; she took me all over the city so I could hit up my favorite spots: Rice to Riches (best rice pudding ever), Housing Works Bookstore (proceeds help those living with HIV/AIDS), and Lombardi's Pizza. We also hunted down my new pair of fake snakeskin Vans. Thank you, Ashley, for such a wonderful day together!

7. Seeing Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds in concert was just as amazing as I wanted it to be. Even the heat and sweat added to the intimate feel of the evening at the Glasslands Gallery. (Stef and Ashley might argue otherwise; they weren't big fans of the lack of air conditioning.) After introducing himself and his bandmates, Olafur "conducted" the audience and got us all in pitch with our voices; we sang "Ahhh..." in this haunting fashion, and then he looped the vocals into his opening number. And for his encore, he sat alone onstage but the violin player starting chiming in at one point from down a hallway, and this beautiful melody filled the air between them. Here's Aaron, Olafur, and me.

Okay, that gives you a nice taste of my trip out east. There were a couple days where -- while Aaron worked -- I got to wander around the city by myself. I was surprised that I was able to channel a sense of direction and that I didn't get lost during my miles of walking. (Trust me, a sense of direction is a rarity with me.) I people-watched and listened to my headphones and found -- with my long legs and the way I lope like a gazelle -- that I was able to fit right in with the bustling city crowds. I'll leave you with these pics of Stef, Oscar, Leon, and me at Mission Dolores, a cool Brooklyn pub we frequent sometimes when I visit. I love you, NYC -- thanks for the great vacation.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pie & Coffee

By cracky, I'm just tickled to have discovered this on MSN online today:

Naturally, I had to post a comment.


Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Quote of the Day

"I learned that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws will be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings."

- Henry David Thoreau, regarding his time at Walden Pond

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Shame on me.

Actually, The Conjuring is the next scary movie I'm looking forward to. But You're Next is next in line!

Here's the poster for The Conjuring:

Friday, July 05, 2013

Next scary movie I can't wait for --