Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kalamazoo and Saugatuck

Dave and I have been busy the past few days, running around Western Michigan visiting people and places. We saw a friend of mine from the Peace Corps in Ann Arbor, and then drove to Portage, where Dave used to live. We're staying with our friend Kellee.

I really dig this part of Michigan. It seems very clean, spacious and inexpensive. We went to downtown Kalamazoo a a few mornings ago and had breakfast at a granola-y kind of restaurant, and then walked around a bit. I was impressed with all the activities and cool shops downtown. We also went to a concert by some of Dave's musician friends before hopping in the car and speeding off to Battle Creek, for a performance by raucus comedienne Kathy Griffin at a big cheesy casino called FireKeepers. (A gambling casino is my idea of hell. All that noise, those flashing lights, the bad food. Bleah. Kathy made it bearable.)

Yesterday we went to Saugatuck, a resort town on Lake Michigan. We wandered around and popped into some little shops with local wine, antiques and stuff like that. I bought some old Florida postcards and managed to leave them on top of the car when we drove away to lunch. When I realized what I'd done (about an hour later) we went back and the postcards were still there, lying in the road. How lucky can you get?

We visited Oval Beach, a nice sandy stretch along the lake. I didn't get in the chilly water, but some people were swimming. It was enough for me to just see the lake and put my toes in.

(Photo: Downtown Kalamazoo.)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


We went into downtown Detroit on Monday and explored a bit. We took the dogs with us, so we were a bit limited in terms of where we could go. No plush hotel lobbies! No martinis!

Dave's dad had suggested we check out the riverwalk, a beautifully landscaped path that runs along the Detroit river. So we parked near the Renaissance Center and walked north to a small park, where we had a hot dog and sat out enjoying the day. My hot dog had just about everything in the world on it -- tomatoes, hot peppers. Dave called it "Chicago-style," which seems a bit municipally insulting when I'm eating it in Detroit, but whatever. We're all one, right?

We popped into the Renaissance Center so I could stop by Starbucks for a Detroit city mug. Then we drove west of the city to find the headquarters of the orchestra, and we passed through some dicey-looking areas where graffiti was plentiful. I got out of the car several times to shoot interesting stuff. I wish I could go back and spend more time there, but I didn't want to drive Dave crazy and I'm not sure when I would get back on my own. (Or even if it would be safe.)

We also took a drive through Dave's hometown of Grosse Ile. Then we spent yesterday cleaning out some boxes Dave has stored here -- old photos and yearbooks and stuff. We kept the memorabilia, but also loaded lots of bags for Goodwill. It's fun learning more about Dave's past and seeing it all first-hand!

(Photo: One of the buildings we encountered in the dicey part of town. Move in now! To be fair, most of downtown Detroit looks much better than this.)

Monday, July 26, 2010


We've arrived in the Detroit area after a fun drive yesterday across Pennsylvania and Ohio. (When you drive across it lengthwise, Pennsylvania seems to last forever, though I'm sure it can't compare to Texas!) I decided early on in our trip to pay attention to unusual place names. In New Jersey, we passed beneath both Rattlesnake Bridge Road and Petticoat Lane. In Pennsylvania we drove within a short distance of Lumber City, Glass City and Oil City -- and through a town with the wonderfully bucolic name of Snow Shoe. In Ohio I didn't notice any fun place names -- maybe Ohio is very serious, or maybe I was just tired!

We stopped for lunch in Clearfield, Pa., at Aunt Lu's Cafe, which is part of a big truck stop. Lots of locals in the restaurant, and quotes from famous people like Will Rogers and Neil Armstrong on the walls. I had blueberry pancakes. So home-town!

We're staying with Dave's parents, and they've been great hosts. Today we're off to Grosse Ile, the town where Dave grew up, and also to look around the city of Detroit a bit. We brought the dogs, so we're going to find a place to walk with them so they can get some exercise. They were great in the car, even all the way across the looooong stretch of Pennsylvania!

(Photo: Incongruously, Anna Maria Island last week.)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Off to Michigan

Tomorrow Dave and I are off to Michigan to visit his family and some friends. I'm going to see a friend from Peace Corps and an old friend from college, and Dave has lots of of folks to see too. Should be a whirlwind! We're planning a 10-day trip, but we're driving so we have lots of flexibility on where we need to be and when.

We're also taking the dogs, which will be an adventure!

I'm not taking my computer, though, so blogging may be a bit more sporadic until I return.

I ran five miles at the gym today, after finally figuring out how to operate the video units on the treadmills. I've been relying on my iPod for months because I couldn't figure out how to turn on the TVs! Of course it turned out to be easy, and I spent my whole run watching videos from the '80s, which were pretty awesome. Theme for the day: "Walk Like an Egyptian"!

(Photo: Anna Maria Island, last week.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Moving On

Well, I'd like to say I've been living in a fog of married bliss the past few days, floating on air and honeymooning in some virtual Tahiti. But truth is, life has pretty much resumed its normal pace.

Not that I'm sad about that. I'm a person of routines, as we all know, so I love walking the dogs in the morning, having my coffee and cereal, working a bit, going to the gym and such. And that's exactly what the past two days have been like -- busy, busy, busy with everyday stuff.

I've had quite a bit to do on the freelancing front, with a couple of articles in the works. I also appeared on a local TV show with the mayor yesterday (the day after he performed our Civil Union, coincidentally) to discuss the hyperlocal news Web site. I went to the gym, and then last night I went to this talk about Houdini, which was pretty interesting.

I've had a little more activity on the job front, and also on the apartment-sale front. Nothing I want to describe in too much detail lest I be jinxed, but it's all promising.

Life goes on!

(Photo: Clouds after sunset last night, spotted as I walked home from the library.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Civil Union-ed!

Dave and I had our Civil Union ceremony today. We agreed from the very beginning to keep it as simple as possible, so we didn't do rings or special vows or tuxedos or flowers. We went to City Hall and were married by the mayor, in his office, with our three witnesses looking on. In fact, we didn't even stand up. (We sat around a conference table, which I thought was a little weird.) We did wear suits, our one concession to formality.

Afterwards we adjourned to a gazebo behind City Hall and took some photos, and then headed out to brunch at the Skylark Diner. We treated two of our three witnesses, our friends David and Adam. Third witness Bill had to go to work.

I can't imagine how people pull together huge wedding ceremonies! We're thinking about having a party in a couple of weeks, and even that thought stresses me out a little.

But still -- holy cow -- I'm married! It's exciting, but a little strange, too. All my life, I never imagined I'd be here. I dated, sure, and I wanted a partner on some abstract level, but at the same time I wasn't terrified by the prospect of being permanently and happily single. In fact, I regarded it as likely. And I certainly never imagined marriage, coming of age as a gay man at a time when it was utterly impossible.

Yet here I am, a New Jersey suburbanite, with a patient, laid-back, funny, occasionally perplexing partner. During the past year and a half, my single, urban life collapsed and rose again as something else entirely. Happily, I feel like I'm still plain old me, just dealing with different daily habits and different sets of circumstances. The ins-and-outs of my breath are the same, the pulse of my bloodstream and the patterns of my thoughts. Soon I'll (hopefully) be getting a job and buying a car. Wow!

It's weird to think that when people in the future look back on my life, in an obituary or for genealogical purposes, using public records, today will figure so prominently. Just think: One of the single biggest events of my life. Today!

(Photo: Century plants blooming on Anna Maria Island, at sunrise. Century plants are a type of agave that live for decades before blooming once and then dying.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sock Monkey 2

A couple of years ago I did a post about a vintage store in Tampa called Sock Monkey. My friend Sarah had stopped there and was enthusiastic about all the fun stuff inside as well as the cool tile walls of the building (click the link for close-up pics). I'd always planned to visit, so I stopped by Sock Monkey on Sunday afternoon and was disappointed to find it completely closed.

In fact, the entire building was vacant, from what I could tell. Makes me wonder if Sarah's prediction that "someday this building will go" is coming to pass.

Dave and I are back home in New Jersey after an uneventful trip yesterday. We were somewhat delayed and didn't actually walk in our door until about 4:30 p.m. I unpacked while Dave hit the grocery store, and then Adam brought the dogs over. They were SO excited to see us!

Monday, July 19, 2010


I'm at the airport with Dave, about to take off for Newark and home. We're both ready to return to real life, and to poor Ernie and Ruby, who have been staying with friends while we've been gone. We've received assurances that they're doing fine, but we miss them and I'm sure they're anxious, being away from home.

This has been a fun visit. My family and friends all seem to like Dave and everyone's been excited to hear about our impending union. My dad asked me this morning if I was nervous, and at first I thought he meant about the flight home -- I'm so not nervous about the union itself. (As one of my blog commenters pointed out, though, I probably would be a lot more nervous if we had a big, elaborate ceremony planned.)

Our time in Anna Maria was fun, but I have definitely become a Yankee where my skin is concerned. If I was ever used to the intense Florida sun, that's subsided over the years I've been in New York. Every time I stepped outside it felt like a blast furnace. I think my friend Sue was a little frustrated that Dave and I spent so much time inside, but after about 9 a.m. and before 6 p.m. I just couldn't stand to be in the sun!

We did have a fun day going to garage sales on Saturday. For some reason, Anna Maria has the best garage sales in the world. Sue is quite an aficionado, so we piled into the car early Saturday morning and scoped out the scene. I got some fun stuff -- cute salt and pepper shakers shaped like cats (am I a 90-year-old woman?) and a pulp mystery paperback from the '50s.

Yesterday Dave and I went to an outlet mall near Bradenton. We heard there was a Le Creuset outlet there, but none of the cookware was much of a bargain, so we didn't buy any. I did pick up a few items at the Banana Republic store, though. I'm going to go home and throw out some of my old stuff -- one pair of shorts in particular, cut-offs I made from the pants of an ex-boyfriend about seven years ago. I don't really need to wear those anymore.

(Photos: Zinnias along a fence in Land O' Lakes, near my mom's house.)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Anna Maria

Dave and I are on Anna Maria Island with my friend Sue. We came down from Tampa yesterday over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, me driving my dad's pickup truck. This was after Dave and I had lunch in historic Ybor City and I bought a great shirt at one of Ybor's legendary vintage clothing stores.

I'm happy to report that there's no visible damage here from the oil spill, but of course that doesn't mean there's anything healthy about the Gulf of Mexico these days.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Telephone Pole

This telephone pole is in front of my family home in Florida. I've
always been intrigued by these metal medallions and identification
tags. I have no idea what some of them are for, but the dated ones go
back as far as 1983 -- which is pretty cool because I was living here
then, and going to high school. This pole has witnessed a lot of my

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tarpon Springs

Continuing our Florida odyssey, Dave, my family and I drove over to Tarpon Springs yesterday to have lunch. Tarpon Springs was settled largely by Greeks who came generations ago to dive for natural sponges. The sponge-fishing industry is a relic of the past now, but the town still thrives on its Greek pedigree. The main strip along the water, Dodecanese Boulevard, is lined with little souvenir shops selling standard Florida fare like lacquered gator heads and shell-covered jewelry boxes, along with pseudo-Mediterranean items like olive oil soap and beaded sandals. There's a Hellas restaurant, a Mykonos restaurant and a Santorini restaurant, as well as a statue devoted to the sponge-dovers of old. And nearby, some random political graffiti.

We'd planned to go to a restaurant on the water called Rusty Bellies (like the belly of a ship, I suppose?) but it was closed on Mondays. So we wound up at Paul's Shrimp House, where my brother ate something like a pound and a half of steamed shrimp.

I've driven Dave around my hometown, showing him my elementary school that's slated for demolition (it's still there) and my high school. Dave cooked dinner for my mom last night, and he plans to do the same for my dad and stepmother tonight. The way to my parents' hearts is through their stomachs!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Dave and I flew to Florida today. We're hanging out with my family,
and on a walk tonight around the neighborhood we found this
spectacular butterfly. Turns out it's an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. We
also saw a horned owl, cardinals, bluebirds and deer. It's nice to be
back in my home state! (No fireflies, though.)

Friday, July 9, 2010


Last night I went up to the library to hear a program by some local songwriters. I thought I could make a story out of it for my news blog -- and indeed, it worked out really well. At first I was worried because they were pretty much just singing, but they talked enough about their songs that I could cobble together a story. I added some video, and voila! Hyperlocal journalism at its best! (If I do say so myself.)

If you watch only one video, choose the first one. That woman was terrific.

I'm glad this came together, because I didn't have anything else to post. Plus I was stressed out last night -- I didn't even have time to eat dinner before racing off to this event, and then I had to wrestle with some large video files to get them down to a manageable size. So at least something came of it.

(Photo: Good advice from street art in SoHo, June 15.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010


The hot, dry weather is taking a toll on some of the plants in our neighborhood. The pokeweed growing along the edge of the field has taken on autumnal colors, maybe because it's sun-scorched and thirsty. I like the bright pink colors that emerge in its leaves.

Some plants have fared worse. On my daily walk last night with the dogs I noticed many that are withered, brittle or browning. Here's hoping they bounce back when the rains return!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

World Cup

I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to this year's World Cup soccer games. I don't follow soccer, or any other sport involving a ball, but I like the enthusiasm that the World Cup creates around the world. I recently came across this bejeweled soccer ball in the window of a jewelry store in New York's Diamond District. Given the tawdriness of the surrounding bling, I doubt they're real jewels -- but it's still pretty fun.

The only World Cup game I caught so far was when the United States beat Algeria. I happened to be running on the treadmill at the gym and the game was on TV there, so I was a captive audience. And I have to admit, it was fun to watch -- partly because those Algerian players were hot.

Speaking of hot, man-oh-man, the temperature here is unbelievable. It's better today than it was yesterday, I think, but going outside still feels like stepping into an oven. I'm pretty much staying inside in the air conditioning, with occasional forays to my air-conditioned gym. I wonder how I ever tolerated summers in Morocco, where I had no air conditioning and the temperatures were surely comparable to these. I guess I was just younger and tougher!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Civil Union

So did I mention that Dave and I are tying the knot? After almost 15 months of dating, we're going to have a civil union ceremony. We'll do it in two weeks or so -- just us, with the mayor officiating, and a few friends as witnesses. Very low-key!

I've lately been perplexed when I watch movies or TV shows and see people having jitters before their marriages. I am SO not jittery. In fact, as we sat in the city clerk's office this morning applying for our license, I felt only certainty.

We pick up the license in 72 hours. Then we're off to Florida for about a week, so Dave can meet my family and see my home turf. When we return to New Jersey, we'll make it all official.

Of course I've told my family about my plans, and they approve -- as much as they can, anyway, since some of them haven't yet met Dave. Dave's family is pretty conservative, so I'm honestly not sure how they feel. We'll learn more when we visit them in Michigan later this summer!

Gay marriage is not an issue that gets me greatly fired up. At the same time, it's a drag that our union will only be good in New Jersey, and carries no federal recognition for tax purposes and whatnot. It's marriage in our minds.

(Photo: Leaf shadows on West 14th Street, on June 15.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fourth Report

In our continuing campaign to terrorize the dogs, we piled them into the car and took them to our friend Adam's house for a barbecue yesterday. (We went to Adam's last year too, sans dogs. It's becoming our tradition!) Adam lives in suburban Pennsylvania, and by evening his neighborhood was popping and crackling with all sorts of fireworks. We were sitting out on the patio with Ernie and Ruby, and when a particularly bright, loud shell went off, Ernie dove under a chair. We promptly took them inside.

Between this and our previous day's adventures, the dogs are eventually going to refuse to go anywhere with us!

To add to Ruby's stress levels, she goes to the vet today for a test to determine whether or not she has Cushing's Disease. Her swollen belly hasn't subsided, and in fact it seems a bit larger. The vet thinks Cushing's may be the answer -- and depending on its origins it can be treated in a variety of ways. We'll see!

(Photo: Chelsea, June 15)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Molly Pitcher

Yesterday morning Dave said in a chipper voice, "Let's do something fun!" (Famous last words.) We considered the local options and decided to visit Monmouth Battlefield State Park, in nearby Freehold. We thought we'd take the dogs for a walk in the countryside, and maybe learn some history along the way.

The only thing I know about the Battle of Monmouth, a Revolutionary War conflict, is that it gave birth to the legend of Molly Pitcher, a woman who selflessly lugged water to the American troops. Turns out the battle occurred on June 28, 1778, so we were just a few days past the anniversary.

We drove to the park via a circuitous but scenic route, through historic Englishtown, and when we got to the visitor's center I picked up some maps of walking tours. We set out on the shortest one, thinking that might be all our aged dogs could tolerate.

Almost immediately, we were completely confused. We were walking a dusty path through a parched-looking cornfield that led to an orchard, but we weren't seeing any markers or signs that we were on the right track. To make matters worse, the brochure was written in painstaking detail about troop movements and whatnot, when I needed something that gave me a simpler overview of the battle. And the map was terrible. I couldn't make heads or tails of anything.

I asked some of the teenagers working at Battleview Orchards, a u-pick operation in the park, and they couldn't figure out the map either. Finally I realized we'd started at the end of the trail, not the beginning.

About this time, the dogs -- already panting heavily -- began to look a little distressed. It was about 90 degrees, and because we're idiots, we hadn't brought any water along. We'd decided to return to the visitor's center when Ernie plopped down in the middle of the path and let it be known he wouldn't be walking further.

Dave went for the car, thinking he could come and get us via the service road for the orchard. (Other cars had driven by.) But almost as soon as he left I knew he'd never be able to find us, so I called him and told him to stay at the visitor's center.

I parked the dogs beneath some apple trees and let them rest in the shade. Eventually they were ready to move again, and for the next half hour or so, I coaxed them through the orchard and along a line of forest, stopping occasionally to give them a break. I realized what I needed more than anything was Molly Pitcher! Where the heck was Molly Pitcher?

Finally we got back to the center and met Dave, and gave the dogs some water. Poor Ernie didn't stop panting for about five hours. What a fiasco!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Note to Super

Saw this posted in the laundry room of my New York apartment building on Thursday: "Please tell 7E to stop flushing her hairpieces and wigs down the toilet. $200 plumbing job."

Friday, July 2, 2010

Promises, Promises

I went into the city yesterday afternoon to line up at TKTS for discount tickets to "Promises, Promises," with Sean Hayes and Kristen Chenoweth, on Broadway. Fortunately it was a beautiful day, so standing outside in Times Square for an hour wasn't the torture it could have been.

I've wanted to see "Promises, Promises" for years, ever since I became a fan of Dionne Warwick's '60s renditions of many of the Burt Bacharach and Hal David songs in the show ("Knowing When to Leave," "What Do You Get When You Fall in Love," "I Say a Little Prayer," "A House Is Not a Home," and the title song). The original show ran on Broadway from 1968 to 1972, and it's never been revived, until now.

I'm happy to report that the show is a joy to watch, especially for someone like me who reveres '60s styles and design. The sets brilliantly capture the clean, modern aesthetic of office space in the early '60s, the costumes are colorful, the dance numbers energetic and tightly choreographed. I think Hayes did a great job as the lead character, a forgettable accountant in an insurance firm, and Chenoweth does well as his amoureuse, though her singing voice can get a bit piercing. A supporting actress named Katie Finneran literally steals the show as a drunk and overly willing conquest of Hayes' accountant.

Dave came into the city to meet me for the show. We went to Chipotle for a cheap burrito, to save money, and then killed our budget by going to the Cellar Bar in the Bryant Park Hotel for a glass of wine. (I used to like that bar, but last night it was pretty crowded, and kind of thumpy, musically.)

I also stopped by my apartment, which looks the same as the last time I was there, a few weeks ago. I cleaned out the mailbox, which despite my forwarding orders had accumulated a stack of mostly useless mail. Chatted with one of my neighbors, who said they miss me in the building and on the co-op board. It's nice to be appreciated, even belatedly!

(Photo: Window boxes in Chelsea, two weeks ago.)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Joyce Maynard

I'm reading Joyce Maynard's book "At Home in the World," a memoir of her years as a writer and her relationship with the reclusive J.D. Salinger. The book came out about ten years ago, and created quite an ethical debate. Was she right to relate the intimate details and behavior of a man who so valued his privacy?

I got the book for $1 from a used-book vendor when Kim and I went walking in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. I'm just about done with it.

I'll say this for Maynard -- she's an engaging, interesting writer. This book has been like crack for me. I haven't been able to put it down.

But she's also a bit of a train wreck. She had an unorthodox childhood (to put it mildly), and she appears to be awfully needy, even as an adult. I admire her honesty in writing about herself so candidly, but it's left me with the feeling that she's pretty high maintenance. I don't think I like her.

She also has an immense sense of entitlement. She is repeatedly offered jobs at The New York Times, for example -- positions most writers would cherish -- and she takes them utterly for granted. She and her husband struggle with money problems, yet there always seems to be enough cash on hand for her to quit a job or buy a house. In one case she writes a magazine article ostensibly quoting other women and admits all the quotes were her own -- an offense that would kill the career of any serious journalist.

As for Salinger, she devotes a huge portion of the book to the brief period (about a year) that she lived with him. Obviously she perceived that readers would be interested, and no doubt saw that as the key to the book's success. I don't begrudge her the right to write about that period or about Salinger himself. She doesn't quote his letters directly. Salinger doesn't come across very well -- an eccentric, at best -- but he had to realize when he entangled himself with her that she was likely to mine the relationship for material. That's what writers do.

Anyway, as I near the end of the book, I'm left with two impressions: One, it's a good read, and two, I'm glad I don't know her personally.

(Photo: Shadow from the High Line on an industrial tent roof in Chelsea.)