Davy Jones died today. At age 66, of a heart-attack.
Before Justin Bieber, before the Jonas brothers, before Shaun Cassidy, there was Davy Jones. He burst onto the scene in the late 1960's as lead singer of "The Monkees". Davy instantly won the hearts of millions of young girls and became the heart-throb of his generation. Magazines put him on their cover, posters were made of him, and thousands of girls wrote "Mrs. Davy Jones" on their school notebooks.
Davy had boyish good looks and an appealing innocence. He made an ideal imaginary boyfriend. Millions of girls grew up dreaming of Davy as their first love.
For those of you living in a cave, I'm about to have the very first party at which I can "present" as female. Which means, in simple terms, I can wear a dress!
I'm very excited about this because I never get to be in girl-mode around people. Dressing up, picture-taking and blogging all occur in sorry isolation for me, so this party is a big deal. Big thanks to Nicole and Jamie who are making it happen.
Given the importance and significance of the event, I want to share it with you. A few of you are lucky enough to attend in person. The rest of you are hereby cordially invited to be "Guests In Spirit" (GIS). Every GIS can, if she wishes, submit a picture which I will post on my blog Saturday or you can put the picture up on your own blog and I'll link to it here.
I want all of you to feel included in this joyful experience. Break out a pretty outfit, take a picture and be a GIS. The theme of the party is "Dreams Come True," so imagine a dream of your own. Any outfit, including those trespassing into costume-territory, are welcomed.
Here's what I'm wearing to the party. I want an outfit that is pretty and feminine, but not too fancy; the event is a cocktail party, not a wedding. I'm looking for a bit of color and an interesting print. Plus, I want the dress to be short (but not scandalous) so I can show a little leg. Finally, I want clothes that are comfortable. I want to relax and have fun, not feel pinched.
Most menswear is boring -- with one exception -- I think women would enjoy borrowing this style. In my whole life, however, I've only seen one woman who appropriated this item; that's the fearless Sheila whose blog is a model of creativity and style.
The style I'm referring to is French Cuffs with cufflinks. The look is elegant. And, as with all jewelry, there's no limit to how interesting and pretty cufflinks can be.
I wear cufflinks with my male clothes all the time. I've acquired a nice collection of them, some of which are very unusual. My favorites are ones made from real baseballs used in a MLB game (sold by MLB) and replicas of a motorcycle speedometer. These and others are shown below.
Last August, I had the good fortune to meet Lorena, a blogger from another country in Central America. She was visiting New York and invited me for a cup of coffee at a diner in the city.
We had a delightful time. Lorena is exceptionally charming with a generous spirit. I liked her instantly and I believe she felt the same way. The hours we spent together flew by in minutes.
Today, Lorena returned to New York to see a concert. She again invited me to join her and this time we had a wonderful meal together. We talked as if no time had elapsed since our last meeting. Our rapport was manifest and enjoyable. I hope to see her again before she flies home.
Have you ever met other bloggers in person? If not, I recommend it.
While in the city, I snapped a few shots which came out nice. Here they are...
I don't know if you guys do this, but I often play with clothes to experiment. I want to see if certain things look good on me. I'm often surprised at the results, in both directions, because they frequently differ from my expectations.
For this reason, I'll sometimes pick up a dress at the thrift-store simply to explore possibilities. This dress, for example. I'll rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to wear such a formal gown but it was only $6 and that was cheap enough for me to play with it. In truth, I learned several lessons from wearing it.
Do you ever try clothes on, just to see how they'll look?
Oh, and for you young ones who don't know the cultural reference of the title, it's an interesting story.
"Queen For A Day" started out as a radio show in the 1950's and later became a TV show in the early 1960's. It was a forerunner of the reality-tv of today.
On the show, female contestants who had lived hard lives were asked questions about themselves. A live audience of women voted (by clapping) who it liked the most. The audience usually rewarded women who had endured the most difficult troubles with the most positive attitude. Some of the contestants cried while talking about their lives.
The winner was then crowned with a literal crown, wrapped in a sable-trimmed robe, seated on a throne and given a dozen roses. They were, in all appearances, made "Queen For A Day."
I only got a purple gown, but a girl can dream, can't she?
I've learned we blog for different reasons. For me, it's an essential opportunity for expression, which is I will never give up blogging. It is too important to me. Yet, for others, I've learned blogging can be much less significant -- which is why some blogs end.
When a blog I follow ends, I grieve. That window into another woman's life was a portal through which I learned about her and female culture in general. Its closing shuts me out of that education and the personal connection I hoped to foster with the blogger herself. I try to remain connected to people after they stop blogging (via e-mail, etc.) but with varying success.
Occasionally, a blog will end but after a few months, the blogger will return with a new one. That's nice, especially if the new blog is obviously more fulfilling to the blogger than the previous one. Sometimes people blog out of perceived obligation and it becomes joyless. For them, pulling the plug is healthy and their later return with a re-focused blog is a smarter approach.
Have you ever considered ending your blog? Wouldn't life be empty without one?
The Oscar award ceremony is Sunday night. Last year, I hosted a big party for the event. No party this year, but I'll be watching with interest.
When I was growing up, Johnny Carson hosted the awards every year. He did it with dignity and humor. I miss him. This year, the Academy hired Eddie Murphy -- but he quit when the producer he was friends with had to resign from the show in disgrace. On short notice and with some desperation, the Academy got Billy Crystal to host again. Billy did a few Oscar shows that were well received. He's a showman who, unlike Ricky Gervais or David Letterman, is positive about Hollywood.
My favorite movies of this year, in order of preference, are "The Artist", "Midnight In Paris", "Moneyball" and "Tree of Life". All four made the Best Picture list, along with some others I wasn't fond of ("The Descendants", "Hugo", "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close", "The Help", and "War Horse"). The complete list of all nominees is here.
I've had a lot of jobs in my lifetime. I mentioned my cheese-shop experience (at Martinelli's in Boston) in my cheese post and someone, in a comment, asked to hear about other positions. Here goes...
The reason I've had so many jobs is because my parents were immigrants and believed you should work every waking moment. Even though I was both a scholar and an athlete in high school, they insisted I squeeze a few hours of working at a clothing-store into my crammed schedule. I worked at Loehmann's, a women's discount-clothing store that was walking-distance from my school. It was an easy gig -- mostly picking up clothes women had dropped on the floor and putting them back on racks. The job had the nice perks of letting me get close to female attire and to socialize with girls my age. (There were 30 girls and only 3 boys working there.)
Let me tell you about my worst job...
My parents insisted, every time I came home from college for break or vacation, that I get a job. I never had a real vacation, never went on Spring Break. I worked every summer and all my time off school. That is what was expected of me so that's what I did.
When I'd be home for only a week or two, it was impossible to get a full-time job so I'd wake up early and go to the temp agency at 6 a.m. for whatever crap work they had available. Those jobs were mostly menial labor for minimum wage. Horrible stuff. The kind of work where your day drags on forever, you go home exhausted, and have no real money to show for it. A sinkhole of effort.
I explained to my parents that it was unprofitable and unpleasant for me to fill my only spare time with jobs that paid nothing and sapped my energy. That argument went nowhere with my parents. Immigrants often have a work-ethic that's extreme and divorced from reality. My parents simply wanted me to work every moment and that was my fate.
So, back to my worst job...
I got the job through a temp agency because nobody in their right mind would choose to do this work. It was in a factory cutting carpet. The factory reeked of toxic chemicals because huge rolls of treated carpets were soaked in vats of chemicals, then unrolled by machine while humans (me) cut them into five-foot lengths. (The rolls were about four feet wide.) Critical point -- the rolls of carpet were MOVING while we cut them. To increase efficiency, they didn't stop the machine unrolling them while we reached across, used a razor and sliced through four feet of wet, chemically material. If you weren't fast and exact, the cut wouldn't work, the unrolling would continue, the entire line would back up and shit would hit the fan. You'd have to hit a button to turn off the machine, an alarm would sound and you'd get yelled at by a supervisor. You didn't want to get yelled at too often or you'd be out the door.
First negative of the job was the toxic contamination. The air reeked of a horrible, unnatural chemical odor. Your hands and clothes got soaked in the wet chemicals of the material you were cutting. I'm sure my exposure to these chemicals took ten years off my life.
Second negative was the people there. Obviously nobody would want to work in a place like this. So it shouldn't have been a surprise (even though it was to me) that every single one of my co-workers was an ex-con. They'd all served time in prison. And here am I, a polite young man of 19, among real criminals.
One of my talents is a chameleon-like ability to fit in to almost any crowd. I was a scholar among scholars, a jock around jocks, and now a pseudo-criminal among ex-cons. I accepted these people as people, treated them with respect and they ended up liking me. I became one of them.
A key consequence of this assimilation is how we behaved during break. All of my co-workers, during our break, would consume a quart of Colt 45 (a malt-beverage like beer but stronger) and smoke a joint. Every one did this, during every break.
Wanting to fit it, I followed the crowd. Then I'd be back on a moving assembly-line, with a sharp razor in my hand, trying to cut moving material. I quickly realized that getting high was inconsistent with workplace safety. I'm amazed more of us didn't die or seriously injure ourselves. I eventually got accustomed to functioning stoned.
I learned something in that job. Our employer treated us like dirt. We were subjected to toxic materials, we were paid minimum-wage, our working conditions were abysmal, and the risk of physical injury was high. To compensate for this oppression, we self-medicated with liquor and marijuana. Of course, that increased the chance of our being injured but -- and here is the lesson -- we didn't care.
When you're treated like dirt, you feel like dirt. We didn't give a fuck. Truly. Excuse the profanity but it's warranted. If or when we got caught in moving machinery and got maimed for life, it hardly mattered -- our life already sucked. The prevailing attitude was, life can't get worse. We were already living in Hell.
This was my first taste of life among the hopeless, the oppressed, the disadvantaged. My co-workers weren't going back to college at the end of the Summer, they were going to stay there until they got some drug-addled idea for a crime that would land them back in prison.
It was my worst job, but I don't regret the lessons I learned from it.
Cheese is my favorite food. In the world. Seriously.
There are so many varieties of cheese, full of wonderful flavors and textures. Cheese enhances anything it's put next to and can enliven even plain vegetables. I use cheese as the key accent in my best cooked dishes.
In my long life I've had many jobs but my favorite of all-time was working in a cheese-shop. I was a student in law school, poor and hungry. I'd study all day and then go to work at 6 pm without having eaten dinner. For the next four hours, I'd consume vast quantities of cheese -- which was allowed because we were encouraged to sample all 365 varieties to be able to guide customers on what to choose. I tried them all.
It was that opportunity which taught me to joys of blue cheese, goat cheeses, sheep's milk cheeses and exotic fare most people never try. I discovered an obscure English cheese that appeals perfectly to the American palate and, when I recommended it to customers looking for something new, they always came back with big smiles and repeat orders.
The cheese is called Cotswold. It's a type of cheddar (Double Gloucester) combined with chives and spring onions. The cheddar flavor is familiar to Americans (one of our standards) but the texture of Double Gloucester is softer than what we know. The chives and onions add a delightful perk that is also reminiscent of our cuisine. The reaction people most often give upon tasting Cotswold the first time is, "I know this flavor!" They recognize the taste but can't figure out where. The answer is simple: the flavors are common in many of our foods.
Recently, I tried something else new and different -- Huntsman, which is Double Gloucester cheddar spiced with lines of Stilton blue. Double Gloucester is yellow; Stilton is white; combined, they look like a layer-cake. Again, the DG supplies a soft, cheddary base for the sharp blue-cheese tang of the Stilton. A nice combination.
My last few posts have been a little sad, so I want to lift the mood.
Here's a pretty new dress with a happy new attitude. I styled the dress a few different ways. I'll bet not many of you out there own long pink gloves!
What do you think?
Oh, and if you notice odd bumps in the hip area, they are the dress bunching up from pockets there. Dresses don't normally have pockets, but this one does and the extra material bunches up there. Strange thing.
I don't know if you want to listen to this. I'm not sure I'm making sense.
When you're wrapped up in one of life's riddles, do you ever realize that maybe you're missing the big picture? That you're losing perspective? That may be happening to me. You be the judge.
I am excited about my party. SUPER-excited. So excited that the outfit I'll wear is a daily obsession. I want it to be perfect. Not merely adequate, but perfect. But perhaps striving for perfection isn't the right attitude to have.
My obsessing over this issue was initially joyful but now it seems to be descending into anxiety. I'm begining to think if I don't have the perfect outfit, I ruin my One And Only Chance of ever being happy in the presence of other people. I've been assuming -- and this is where I lose sight of the big picture -- that this particular party is the One And Only Time I'll ever be granted the privilege of dressing up around others. Viewed that way, the pressure for my outfit to be perfect is taking a negative turn.
Fortunately, I just re-read something my friend Jamie wrote when we first talked about the party. Jamie said this could be a new beginning for me -- that it could be the first of many social occasions. Her statement jolts me into realizing that maybe people will let me do this again. Maybe this isn't my ONLY shot at happiness. Maybe, maybe...
The focuses of my obsession are, first, my clothes and, second, my hair.
I have nothing to wear!! Now, I really understand what that means.
Of course I have ordinary outfits but nothing really special. Nothing fit for The Most Wonderful Evening Of My Life. Thinking this is my One And Only Shot made me worry that whatever I choose won't be good enough. But... if this is merely the first of several opportunities, that pressure dissipates. Perhaps I should view the party that way. I want it to be purely joyful and keep out any negative thinking, so maybe I should hope that someone will allow me to do this again.
Second, my hair. For the first two years of blogging, I had medium-length brown hair in a style that is often seen on older women. Just yesterday on a news show, I saw a 70-year old woman with the exact same style. Not an encouraging sight.
Recently, since my birthday last November, I've been sporting a new look -- much longer hair with noticeable color variation. It's certainly a younger style and I've grown accustomed to it.
I've been agonizing over which style to wear. In public, should I look old (which I actually am) or try to create my ideal appearance (which is younger). Will I seem foolish to attempt the latter? Of course, I don't want to embarrass myself. Then, again, nobody is unaware that I'm really an average-looking old guy beneath it all. Since they are overlooking that elephant, can I shoot for the Moon?
What do you think? And since you're being my therapist, feel free to send a bill. :)
I do my best thinking on a motorcycle. Today, as I rode an hour to a distant courthouse, my mind floated in a blissful sea of calm. First, I solved Zeno's Paradox (a math problem), then I figured out how to negotiate peace in the Middle East and, finally, I came up with a blog-post worthy of your time.
The best gift you can give someone is something personalized, something that connects specifically to them. A few years ago I discovered such a gift and now I'm going to let you in on the secret. It's a great gift -- not only your recipient will love getting it but you will enjoy making it.
Pick a loved one or friend and make a list of personal things you know about them. The name of their pet, their favorite food, inside jokes the two of you share. Then take that list and make a crossword puzzle for them!
It really isn't hard. You line up words horizontally and vertically and fill in blank spaces with black boxes. You create clues to the words that trade on your shared knowledge. The process is ripe with opportunities for humor and intimacy.
I made a crossword puzzle for Robin a few years ago and she was so impressed she had it framed. Some of the fun clues were: "Ralph's Second Love" (Motorcycles); "World's Greatest Dad" (Milton); Our Furry Friend" (Juno).
That fact that only the recipient can figure out the puzzle makes it special for them. And creating it is fun for you. If you decide to try this and hit a snag, write me and I'll help. I'm good at making words fit the puzzle.
I wanted to create an image of myself that shows who I am inside. That displays what I see when I look at myself in my mind's eye.
It's sometimes difficult to reconcile our inner vision with physical reality. Mirrors show us signs of aging, crooked smiles (I have one) and various flaws. No matter...
I took a recent photo and played with it a little. Softening the focus, smoothing out the background. Of course I'm not this good-looking in person; this is an idealized view of myself, not a literal one. I'm striving to capture my spirit.
What would a portrait of you look like if it showed your true spirit?
Every year, in the depth of Winter, my friend Bob takes us all out on his Annual Five Bar Tour. It's a great way to re-connect with old friends and generate some cheer during the dreary season.
The event originated in my old motorcycle club but has transcended beyond it; now more than half the people who attend are former-members who, like me, are just looking for fun. Bob's been organizing the tour for about 15 years. That's him in the Nassau Wings Motorcycle Club jacket above.
We went last night and had a great time. We were a roving party of about 20 people, walking, laughing and making noise. Some of us drink; some of us don't; all of us have a good time.
Every year, Bob picks a different neighborhood for us to explore and we pub-crawl to five local bars. We used to take the subway to different parts of Manhattan where Bob, between bars, would point out historical locations and tell us entertaining stories. After exhausting those areas, Bob branched out and started taking us to Queens, Brooklyn and even Staten Island. Anywhere reachable by NYC subway.
The neighborhood Bob picks is always a surprise. We all meet at Penn Station and he announces our destination with fanfare. Last night, Bob took us to Greenpoint, which is an old industrial part of Brooklyn which is being reclaimed by hipsters and young kids with lots of style but no money. Exactly the kind of fun, cool place I enjoy hanging out in.
It took two subway rides to get there, but was worth the travel. Greenpoint, next to Williamsburg (the current capital of hipster life), has a gritty and fun vibe. All of the bars were hopping and one even had a small retro bowling-alley attached to it. Watching 20-year olds in plaid shirts (men), short skirts (women), and wacky hair (both) rolling bowling balls while drunk was amusing.
Every year, a big challenge is to see if we can catch the "last" train home. I live an hour outside New York City and the Long Island Railroad normally runs a train every hour -- with one exception. On weekend nights, the last train is at 1:42 a.m. If you miss it, the next train isn't until three hours later, at 4:14 a.m. Sitting, drunk, in Penn Station for three hours in the middle of the night is not one's first choice.
Normally, our tour ends right around the time for the last train home and we try to catch it. Last night, we were on track to doing that and, travelling on the subway, were only 14 blocks away at 1:18 a.m. when a fellow-passenger had a seizure. They stopped the subway to get him medical attention and, as a result, we missed the last train home. We felt sorry for the poor guy and chalked it up to life in New York.
We waited in Penn Station for the next three hours, eating bad pizza and laughing at the evening's events. During Bob's tour, clothing often gets removed for comic relief (in bars and out on the street, boys lower pants, girls raise tops) and those crazy enough to do it get immortalized in tales of glory.
I arrived home at 5:30 a.m., slept fitfully to around noon, and am now trying to tell you this story with a throbbing hangover. The things I do for you people...