Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Natural Beauty

I woke up yesterday morning, and my cold was almost -- but not quite -- gone; naturally, I called in sick. I figure they owed me after Monday. Anyway, I slept until after ten, and then I did nothing of note for a few of hours, and then b&c (who is still more ill than I) said he was going for a short walk. I said I'd join him, and he said he'd be walking slowly, so I told him to go ahead, and I'd catch up. I never did, but only because as I was heading towards the door, I detoured to get my camera.

It's one of those suburban spring days when everything is so beautiful that you entirely -- if temporarily -- forget that the suburbs are e-vil. ("E-vil," in case you're wondering, is less evil than "evil," but still far, far from good.) Really, everyone seems to be in a good mood. I was taking some close-up pictures of some dogwood blossoms and a woman I've never met called out, "You can take pictures of my dogwoods!" I'm assuming here that "take pictures of my dogwoods is not some bizarre and frightening breeder euphemism. I'm pretty sure it's not: we had a brief, pleasant conversation about just how nice the dogwoods are right now, and then I continued on.

I'm sorry, readers, but there is just no other way to say this: I'm disappointed in and a little bit miffed at you. I might even describe myself as hurt. Some of you have been reading this blog for days or even weeks, but not one of you has ever mentioned Turkish oil wrestling to me.

What's the deal, people? Surely you didn't think I wouldn't be interested in a sport that involves hot young (sometimes too young) Turks who cover themselves in olive oil and then wrestle? I have never expressed anything other than unguarded enthusiasm for a) turks, b) wrestling, and c) olive oil. And, really, did you think I wouldn't find out? Let this be a lesson to you, readers: if there's hot and sexy man on man action out there, I'm going to find out about it sooner or later, so you might as well 'fess up now.

I'm waiting.

In any case, it's difficult to imagine a sport designed more to my liking (as a spectator, that is) than Yağlı Gűreş. Just take a look at some of the rules. If you dare, that is. There are no pictures on that link, but it's decidedly NSFW.

Seriously, I can't be responsible if you read the rules at the office and have to put your briefcase in front of you while you walk to the men's room. Who wouldn't get excited by a sport where the ways to win a match include:
(3) Since a wrestler is not restricted from placing his hands inside his opponent’s kispet (he may not grab his balls or invade his rectum, however), he can also use the waistband to hold the other man in place. Occasionally the kispet is yanked so far below his hips that the fighter being held cannot rise without exposing himself. Having lost his trunks he also loses the match.

The real winner, of course, is the audience.

I always thought that wrestling singlets were the hottest gear out there, but, well, the kispet may have the singlet beat. It's tough to decide, so I think the Turkish wrestling authorities should send me five or six of their most attractive wrestlers and let me see them in (and out of) a singlet and then a kispet. Nothing beats a side-by-side comparison. Ease of removal will, of course, be one of the judgment criteria.

I can't understand why the gay travel organizers haven't been busy hawking Yağlı Gűreş to Istanbul. I know that Turkey is not the most gay-friendly country on earth, but it's certainly not the worst either, and while a lot of guys I know probably couldn't help moaning loudly at the sight of those hot glistening muscles taking each other on, surely they'd be drowned out by the noise of the crowd.

I, sadly, probably can't go to Istanbul. I don't recall whether I've mentioned it here, but I suffer from a very advanced stage of musical connectedness. Certain words just send me off. My children stare at me warily when we're approaching the orange section of the Monopoly board because they know that if any of us lands on St. James Place, I cannot stop myself from singing, "I went down to the St. James infirmary. I saw my baby there," and that's usually when they shut me up. I have many such musical associations, but none is stronger or more irrepressible than the Turkish capital. I fear that if I went on a tour, I would offend the locals and annoy my traveling companions: at any hour of the day or night, I'd be likely to break out into a loud (but always tuneful)
Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks

Naturally, I above all wish to avoid an international incident. Besides the dollar is worth shit right now, so I'll probably stay closer to home, where, at least, the scenery is pleasant. On my walk yesterday afternoon, for example, I noticed these perky red protuberances on some of the many pine trees I pass during my standard walk. I'd never noticed them before.

I'm pretty sure these are immature pinecones, but I prefer to think of them as some of nature's many, many phallic symbols. I often get lost in thought during my walks so that I'm more aware of the general sense of being in nature than I am of the particulars, but obviously sometimes it pays attention to the details. Who doesn't love nature when it's simultaneously beautiful and erotic. The young cones may not oiled Turks, but they certainly are pretty.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fundamentals of Appropriate Word Choice, Chapter One

I've ranted here before about the abuse of apostrophes and about some of the other atrocities of grammar and usage so common on the Internet these days. There are other errors that I notice almost as much, but I generally keep them to myself because a) no one cares, and b) even when faced with clear and convincing evidence, offenders don't think (or won't admit) that they're wrong. I attribute this attitude to the laissez faire use of language so common today, which I, in turn, blame upon the descriptivist editors who are going to be the first bastards up against the wall when the revolution comes. These people think that if a few people misuse a word, we all have to accept the new usage of the word as appropriate.

I maintain, however, that poor word choice is an error and one that must be decried as often and forcibly as possible. I don't mind so much when someone intentionally tries to stretch the meaning of a word, but when people do so mindlessly, it gets to me.

Let's consider some examples.

The otherwise excellent Typo Hunt Across America is, I maintain, founded on a fundamentally incorrect notion of what a typo is. Consider this definition:

Main Entry: ty·po
Pronunciation: \tī-(,)pō\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural typos
Etymology: short for typographical (error)
Date: 1878

For years, the common usage of "typo" has been an inadvertent error due to an error in typesetting or typing. Something, in other words, that the person responsible for putting the words into type didn't mean to do and didn't realize that he'd done. Most of the errors on Typo Hunt Across America, however, are due to grammatical ignorance or error rather than a slip of the fingers. This may seem like a fine point (and, truly, I am a huge fan of anyone who's willing to drive across our fine country and tell people that their signs are wrong), but if your blog is all about pointing out errors, shouldn't you get your basic word choice right?

In some cases, the blog points out handwritten or hand-lettered signs. How can a sign written in magic marker have a typo? There's no type!

[I redacted a number of examples of word choice errors from blogs that I like and regularly or occasionally comment on. A lot of these guys are fine people and writers, and nothing is to be gained by saying that so-and-so doesn't know what such-and-such really means. Rest assured, reader, that if you're also a blogger, I'm not talking about you: I'm talking about all the other bloggers.]

You will not, I'm sure, be surprised to find that word choice is a particular issue on craigslist. The problem with the ads I'm about to quote is not the choice of words in the ads themselves: it's a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of the category. For no apparent reason, I decided to read the "strictly platonic" section of the local craigslist postings. I found this:
Tired of nsa sex/one-night stands, but not ready for LTR yet - m4m - 46 (Alexandria/Park Center)

Reply to:
Date: 2008-04-28, 11:39AM EDT

I'm a w/m, 46, 5'11.5", 215# medium to stocky build (working out so getting better), crewcut (usually) thinning s/p hair, clean-shaven every third or so day, average looks, casual smoker (yeah, yikes!), casual drinker, and open-minded to most things. I'm looking for some, I hate to admit, because I should be better than what I'm about to say, but I'm not, good-looking guys, with nice bodies, to start something up with. Not a full-blown relationship, and not even anything monogamous, but something that leans toward a date (a movie now and then, dinner maybe), and something that includes sex, even if it's just the veritable "booty call" late one night every week or so. So, that's it, I guess. The pic attached is recent (last week), and if you're interested, shoot me a response, and your pic, too. Thanks. Peace out.

[This, by the way, is not the picture that went with the ad, so don't get all excited. Or, get excited if you like, but don't jump to the wrong conclusion.]

Perhaps, I thought, I have an entirely incorrect notion of what "platonic" means. But I checked, and I was exactly right:

Main Entry: pla·ton·ic
Pronunciation: \plə-tä-nik, plā-\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin platonicus, from Greek platōnikos, from Platōn Plato
Date: 1533
1capitalized : of, relating to, or characteristic of Plato or Platonism
2 a: relating to or based on platonic love; also : experiencing or professing platonic love b: of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex

And then I thought that this one person had misunderstood, but that it was surely an isolated error. But then, a mere two listings above, I found this:

athletic asian surfer seeks dates/potential relationship... - m4m - 32 (va/dc/md)

Reply to:
Date: 2008-04-28, 1:50PM EDT


i'm an artist as well who takes hikes, goes to the beach, or visits the gallery on the weekends...looking for cute guys usually w/in 8 yrs of age range and w/ similar interest to talk to and get to know...would like to chat thr email first and exchange pics then meet up for coffee/drinks later.

i'm 5'10", 31w, 175, lean and built


[Here again, the picture below is not associated with the ad above. As you might have guessed, the ass below does not belong to an Asian surfer: it's just an ass that I would really love to get to know on a (much) deeper level.]

These people are clearly looking for sex and/or romance. I suppose it's possible that each of them is looking for a man who comports strictly to the Platonic ideal of a man and a partner, and, in that case, one could argue that their ads were properly classified. This interpretation seems overly charitable to me because a) "platonic" is not capitalized in the section list (but nothing is on craigslist), and b) clearly, neither of these guys would know Plato if he bit him (I realize the pronoun reference is vague here, but, truly, the statement is equally true whether the poster's biting Plato's ass or Plato's biting the poster's ass.) in the ass, but maybe I could be persuaded to give them the benefit of the doubt. Which, of course, raises (but does not beg) the question of whether it's worse not to know what a word means or to be so unreasonable as to only want the ideal man. I leave each of you to answer that question for yourself. I, fortunately, don't have to choose: I figure these guys don't know what the word means, and they're holding out for Mr. Just So. We may live in a world where oil and grain are scarce resources, but there's no shortage of error.

Monday, April 28, 2008


And not in a good way.

I thought, Thursday, that I was coming down with a chest cold. B&c appears to have had two distinct illnesses last week (one likely from eating something unsafe in Managua; the other more like a common cold) and YFU was also sick, so I was pretty sure I'd get hit with something. On Thursday, it mostly was affecting my voice. On Friday, I was feeling lethargic and uninspired, but it's often difficult to tell whether that's the result of a rhinovirus or the current administration.

By Saturday, though, it was clear that I had something, and I had resigned myself to a day of switching between drinking orange juice and sitting in front of the television and playing Paper Mario on the Gamecube with YFU.

And then I heard the sound of the lawn mower. B&c had been saying that the grass was getting way too long, but given that he was barely capable of walking, I figured that he'd wait until one of us was better. Anyway, I really wasn't as sick as he, so I got dressed, went outside, told him to go back in, and started cutting the grass. I spent the next hour or so walking behind the lawn mower and emptying clippings into lawn bags.

And then I had a headache. I realized I hadn't had any caffeine in nearly twenty-four hours, so I got myself a diet coke, but the headache didn't go away, so I lay down for a while. Lying down is a good thing, but dangerous. There hadn't been any sex in a while, due to b&c's recent illnesses, and then I may not have chosen the least provocative reading material. In any case, I found myself in bed with a fairly severe headache and a particularly insistent erection.

I'm no stranger to headaches, but they're normally the sort of mild sinus headaches that become less severe when I take matters into my own hand. This time, though, stroking myself made the pain more intense. I had a pillow over my head to keep out the light and to press down on my forehead to help keep the pain in check, but it only worked partially and intermittently. I must have been pretty horny to persevere through all that, but extreme horniness and I are not exactly strangers. Anyway, getting myself off was hard work because I had to focus on erotic thoughts through occasionally intense pain, and focusing was difficult because I kept worrying about whether my body would somehow become confused and start to associate pleasure with pain and then I'd be one of those guys that I occasionally tie up and spank, and I really don't want to be one of those guys. Anyway, I managed to make it work, and when I was done, the pain seemed to lessen somewhat.

Temporarily, that is. Maybe there was some sort of potassium or zinc depletion or something, but not long after I had finished cleaning up, I was struck with the mother of all headaches. A simultaneous sinus and vascular headache that made me want to simultaneously scream and whimper. I didn't do much of either, but I really wanted to. Mostly I lay still and worried about sinus infections and/or brain aneurysms, and then I told myself not to be so dramatic. It was the worst headache I can remember, though, so it was tough. Eventually, a combination of meditation, caffeine, Alleve, and nasal spray brought the whole thing under control, and since there are no other symptoms of either sinus infection or aneurysm, I can only conclude that in future, I need to be more careful about hydration and maybe not jerk off when my head is already pounding.

Anyway, the cold isn't gone, but I've been keeping the headache pretty well under check. I came to work today because I really like to reserve my sick days for days when I'm very sick or when I'm not really sick at all but need a day off. And it's been a couple of days since I've ejaculated, but the memory of the headache is doing a great job of (temporarily, I'm sure) curbing my horniness. Right now, I mostly have notional horniness. Like when I was at Costco yesterday, and I saw this totally hot late thirty-something Asian man in jeans and a t-shirt, and I said to myself, "Damn. That is the kind of man who stirs my loins. Why aren't you stirring, loins?," and my loins told me to just drink some more water and chill. This, obviously, is an intolerable state of affairs, but the cold is receding, and I'm sure that within a few days, everything will be back to normal. In the interim, it's pleasant enough to see hints of better things to come. Sort of like these pictures.

BTW, remind me sometime to start a discussion of butt cleavage. In the past it's always been done badly and by the wrong people, but I think it should be the next fashion frontier.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Down on the Farm

I spend a lot of time thinking about real estate (among other things, of course: I also spend a lot of time wondering whether it's time to fully embrace misanthropy). Home ownership has long been considered the core of the American dream. We can argue another time about what it means that what we aspire to is wealth and security: wealth seems an awfully pedestrian and uninspiring goal, and security is something that -- in a less horribly flawed world -- we should be able to take for granted. The fact remains that, for many of us, there exists an unreasonable but inescapable sense of inadequacy and insecurity associated with not owning a domicile.

I used to be a homeowner (I never found it particularly burdensome, by the way.), but my ex got the townhouse in the divorce, and I have since rented. B&c owns the house I live in now, and I pay him an especially paltry rent. I also pay for the house cleaners, but even when you toss that in, I pay a small amount to live in a very large house. Financially, this arrangement works out very well for me: I'm able to make significant 401(k) contributions, contribute towards EFU's tuition, afford nice vacations, put a little extra away in savings, and purchase pretty much anything I want. It helps that I don't want things that are terribly expensive (I would get no feeling of luxury from owning an expensive car, but the act of putting an especially nice piece of cookware in my shopping cart made me so happy that I didn't even have to buy it), but there is no reasonable measure by which I am not wealthy. Still, I think I would feel a lot more wealthy if I earned 10% less but owned a home.

The housing bubble is a big part of why I'm thinking about all this. Maybe two years ago, I did a local real estate search to see whether there was anything in my price range. Ever since then, I have gotten daily results for all new listings within my search parameters. My parameters were fairly conservative. In past decades, home buyers could reasonably expect to find a decent home for between 2.5 and 3 times their annual incomes. Of late, the multiple has been closer to 4, which I deem ridiculous and untenable. The multiplier is somewhat influenced by interest rates, and a better way to look at affordability is to look at monthly home-related as a percentage of monthly income, but any way you look at it, homes have become much less affordable in recent years. There's a good and interesting discussion of this phenomenon in one market here.

Over the last year, what's available within my search criteria has gotten better and better, going from 2br/1ba condos farther out to 3br/2ba condos or even townhouses and single family homes significantly farther in. I'm highly unlikely to purchase any of these places, but knowing that I could makes me feel better and more secure.

A big part of the reason I'm unlikely to purchase any of these places is b&c, of course. (Lately, though, he's been traveling so much that I'm not sure he'd really notice if I were living in a separate house. That's not a complaint: it's merely an acknowledgment of the situation, and it seems to be a situation that suits both of us.) But beyond that, while I would really like to own a home, I don't so much want to own a home in the suburbs. What I want more than a house is land.

Home ownership and land ownership are, of course, related phenomena, but while McMansions sitting on half-acre or one-third-acre lots fill me with bile, small houses (with ample kitchens) on large tracts of land are the things that keep me hitting the snooze button, so that maybe I can get back to that dream for another nine minutes.

There is, clearly, a security factor in owning land. Especially now, with climbing grain prices and food shortages, the belief that you could, if you had to, hunker down on your piece of land and raise your own crops and gather eggs from your chickens and milk from your goats is a balm. I'm not one for believing that we live in the end times or that societal collapse is inevitable, but the current situation is not good (Except, apparently, in Kansas, where increasing grain and oil prices are creating a whole class of nouveau riche farmers. Explain to me again why we had to spend so much money on the farm bill.), and the potential certainly exists for things to get a lot worse.

But there's a lot more to it than security. I concede that it's a marvelous thing to look to the heavens and ponder the infinite, but my spirituality is much more grounded and corporeal. I feel the most connected to the divine when my hands are in the soil. (Or my body is on some guy. Sex is as sure a path to the holy, and it's often a lot more fun, but with soil you get fresh tomatoes, so it's kind of a toss up. And why not have both?) The feeling I get from working the earth or sitting under a tree is something that I can tell you is holy to me, but it's ineffable, and I won't try to describe it.

I might have a shot at the land thing. My parents' summer place is about an acre with a smallish (though not truly small) house on a mountain in Southwestern Pennsylvania. It's a little farther (2.5 hours) from where I live than I'd like, and the altitude makes the growing season a little shorter than I'd like, but global warming and some gardening ingenuity can likely ameliorate that problem. I expect that within a year or two, my folks will decide to stay in Florida throughout the year, and I've told my father that I might be interested in buying it. (My mother cannot fathom why I'd be interested, but she is pretty much a McMansion kind of person.) It's a beautiful spot, and it would be a great place to retire to. I could walk in the mountains, cultivate my gardens, and alternately indulge my social and hermitic tendencies.

In any case, thinking about it gives me a sense of peace that's very much like post-coital contentment, so I'll likely continue to put money by against the day when it's time to buy that property or one like it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Know This Much Is True

(Regular readers may relax: this post is indeed NSFW, though you may have to go down a couple of screens to get to the pics of naked guys.)

There are no absolute truths in this universe. Except perhaps that there are no absolute truths, and even there I can't be certain. I mistrust certainty. People who are certain about their own lives are to be smiled at or perhaps pitied. People who are certain about what you should do with your life are to be avoided and perhaps feared. People who embrace uncertainty may be following the truest path, but at the same time, they can be maddeningly indecisive when it comes time to choose a restaurant.

I tend to view everything as a series of competing forces where both sides are, if not always equal, at least necessary. This is not, of course, a new idea. I reckon that it's expressed most elegantly and succinctly by the concepts of yin and yang and, most especially, by the yin-yang symbol. Two forces in balance, each containing the seed of the other.

I'm not sure that Christianity or Judeo-Christianity has an equivalent. There is some verbiage about "to everything there is a season," but there is a lot more of law and absolutism than there is about pluralism and inclusion. That's one of the reasons why I find gays (and everyone else, but especially gays) trying to reconcile their lifestyles with the precepts of Christianity the logical equivalent of the string quartet playing on the Titanic. But I'm willing to admit that I have a jaded viewpoint on Christianity in part because of my relatively great familiarity with its central text.
You know the Bible 93%!

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My view on eastern traditions is likely rosy. I reckon that if I went and read the original texts of Taoism or Buddhism or whatever, I'd find something of a mishmash and learn that my notion of those traditions is based on incomplete information from newer converts who may have glossed over the messier or less pleasant bits.

Or not, but in either case, I find Christianity insufficiently subtle to handle the complexity of modern life. I am skeptical of people who try to simplify things for me. Of course, I'm also skeptical of people who try to make things more complicated.

Every positive has its negative. If there's something you like about someone, that trait has its flip side that you won't like sometime. Guys who are attentive and loving can sometimes be clingy. Guys who are low maintenance will sometimes be cold. A close relationship that's nurturing will occasionally be suffocating. A guy can't really be good at sex unless he also sucks. The list is endless.

Living is a matter of balancing these competing forces. We all tend to think of balance as finding that spot of perfect equilibrium, but that is a misguided notion: balance is not about perfection; balance is about not falling over. Getting along well with someone is about finding someone who's lopsided in ways that are similar to the ways you're lopsided. Or maybe it's about finding someone who's lopsidedness complements your own. Most likely, it's about both: finding someone who's like you in important ways and unlike you in other important ways.

I'll admit to some envy towards people who live with great certainty. People who have something that they believe in absolutely and who thus feel that there life has a direction and purpose certain live simpler (if not always easier) lives. But faith is something that you can't truly fake: you either have it or you don't. And if you don't, then you just have to do the best you can. Some people will tell you that uncertainty is better because you know the truth and truth is always better than false belief. This, readers, is a load of crap. Truth is a lovely thing in theory, but in practice, it's a very harsh master.

People without faith and certainty have several options. First, they can fake it. If you pretend for long enough that something's true and/or that something matters, perhaps you will come to believe it in time. I have tried this approach, and it doesn't work for me, but I reckon it must work for somebody.

Another option is ambivalence and indecision. If nothing is certain, then why bother making choices? This option has certain fairly obvious practical drawbacks. Also, it's not always easy to distinguish between indecision and acceptance, to know whether you're recognizing the fundamentally ephemeral and nonsensical nature of life or just plain lazy.

A third option is to live life on your own terms: to choose precepts to live by in full recognition that they are good only in a practical rather than intrinsic sense. The precepts can be anything: care for your friends and family, hedonism, grand larceny. This idea boils down, more or less, to: you only get one short life to live, so take care of what's important to you and have fun while you're here.

It's not that simple, of course: almost everyone has some faith, and those who have little combine approaches. But it's a decent framework for thinking about various life choices. Personally, I tend to straddle creating my own terms with a certain amount of indecision. All of which, of course, is a crapload of sound and fury, signifying nothing, but I maintain that it was a decent excuse for posting hot pics of men coupling. Yin-yang is great, but, really, if you want an illustration of disparate forces working in harmony to create something beautiful, what's better than two guys getting it on?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Vacation Slides

Now see here, readers: don't say you weren't warned. There follow nearly sixty pictures from my recent short trip to New York City, accompanied by suitably tedious narrative. Blogs are, by their nature, self-indulgent, and every blog post is a form of wankery, but this one is more so. I am my own audience here, so if you want to whinge about how dull this post is, have to, but don't say I didn't tell you so.

We decided to take the bus to New York this time. In the past, we'd always driven most of the way up, parked at some place in New Jersey, and then taken a New Jersey Transit train into the city. But one of the bus services that's popped up recently has a stop right across the street from my office building, so we can park in my building's garage and take the bus all the way to Penn Station. The picture above is the Post Office on 8th Avenue. I took it from outside Penn Station, on my way to the hotel. Because b&c is a) a creature of habit and b) really, really cheap, we almost always stay at the Ramada New Yorker, on the corner of 34th and 8th. It's undergoing renovations.

In fact, it's been undergoing renovations for the past three years, but we always seem to end up on a floor (the 20th this time; the good thing about being on the 20th floor is that you can take either the 1-20 or the 20-40 elevators) with ugly green carpeting that looks like it's older than Eustace Tilley. Our bed was especially uncomfortable this year, but the room is clean, the shower has power, and the location is great. Having a subway stop on the corner helps you overlook the absence of a comfortable place to sit in the lobby.

We checked in around 3, and we didn't have to be at Lincoln Center until 8, so when b&c asked what I felt like doing, I said that I'd like to go down to Canal Street and see how much of an impact the recent raids had had on counterfeit commerce. It's one of the great disappointments of my life that I've been to New York multiple times, and no one has ever offered to sell me a counterfeit Rolex. Sure, I have the one I got in Italy, but it's not really the same, is it?

Anyway, the last time I was on Canal Street was probably fifteen years ago, so I don't really have much of a comparison point, but I am still sans Rolex. There were plenty of shops with gaudy watches on display, but no guys in trench coats or small Asian women offering to sell me a watch. Do you think it's because I look cheap? I'm not cheap! Heck, I'm willing to go as high as $20 for a fake Rolex. Maybe $40 if it says ROLECKS. Anyway, we wandered around Chinatown and the intersection of Chinatown and Little Italy, and we ate on the sidewalk of some nondescript Italian place that was still serving its lunch special at 4:30. The glass of Chianti was fairly generous, I thought, and my cannoli was tasty.

I did a little shopping for YFU, and we walked around some more. We always spend a lot of time walking around when we're in New York. B&c is mostly, I think, looking at the architecture, and I am mostly looking at the restaurants, bakeries, and food markets. (We both ogle the men.) I was particularly intrigued by the dried oysters in Chinatown, but I didn't buy any.

After a stop back at the hotel to shower and change, we took the subway up to Columbus Circle, where I was once again confronted with my aesthetic failings. I kept looking at the taxicabs and trying to work up some indignation about the change of design, but I truthfully don't mind the new design. I apologize to all the New Yorkers who were traumatized by it, but I just don't see the big deal. They look like taxis to me.

Anyway, b&c headed up to the box office to retrieve our tickets, and, after enduring the line at Starbucks, I joined him. Lincoln Center is having its own renovations. Apparently, the big deal at the Met now is the Met debut of a Philip Glass opera.

We, however, were seeing something by Verdi. Going to the opera, especially in New York, is my version of taking one for the team. I like opera, but I don't especially like going to the opera, especially at the Met. Un Ballo in Maschera is a perfectly pleasant, tightly paced opera that the Met manages to stretch into a three-and-one-half hour ordeal by inserting two thirty-five minute intermissions to allow them to sell drinks. During the first intermission, I shared an elevator with a priest. He argued that the booze was watered down, and I argued that it was overpriced, but we decided that we were both right.

Anyway, the production was very well done, and all of the singers were in very good voice. The tenor was perhaps not able to fully articulate all of the speedier passages, but he had a good tone, and so did everyone else, especially the baritone (Dmitri Hvorostovsky). It is very tedious to go to the opera and be confronted with a principal singer who does not have a lovely voice, and I was spared that. Of course, the flip side to beautiful singing late on a Wednesday evening in April is that it's easy to fall asleep, and I confess to nodding off during the death scene. I mostly blame the Met and the length of the evening for that, but I also think it's funny to have such a well paced opera end with such a loooooong death scene. Shut up and die already, tenor.

When the opera was (finally) over, we were both exhausted, and it was already clear that b&c wasn't feeling well, so we headed back to the hotel and went to sleep. I had wanted to get a relatively early start the next day, but b&c was slow getting going. After breakfast (I have got to stop having big breakfasts when I'm traveling: it cuts down on how much street food I can eat later, and that's a bad, bad thing), we got on the subway, changed lines, and then totally missed our stop, which we somehow thought had a different name because neither of us can, it seems, read a map. Anyway, after getting off the train, taking a train back, walking semi-aimlessly around, and asking a policeman, we finally ended up at the pedestrian entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.

And, you know, NYC has Broadway and the Village and fantastic shopping and lots and lots of gay bars, but if you're there on a glorious day in the spring, there's just really nothing to beat a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

There were a lot of fine looking New Yorkers and tourists crossing the bridge. I was particularly taken with this German lad who appeared to be traveling with his parents and sister. I don't usually lust after tall and youthful Teutons, but I'm pretty sure this guy was over twenty, so why not?

Of course, even after the Giuliani years, there is still a lot of crime in New York, and even on the Brooklyn Bridge, you're likely to stumble across a crime scene.

In this case, the perps were still at the scene of the crime, unrepentant and ready to repeat. It was almost like it was just a job to them.

We got off the bridge and started our trek through Brooklyn. And, hey, it's true: a tree grows there.

B&c had originally suggested that we spend some time in Brooklyn. Of course, he didn't think of any details, it was just, "Let's go to Brooklyn." It was up to me to do some research, so I came up with the idea of walking across the bridge, and -- since he had no specifics in mind -- I came up with a list of places I'd like to visit. They were, unsurprisingly, mostly food places, beginning with Jacques Torres Chocolate.

That's the great thing (one of the great things) about New York: you can walk around for hours for free and then drop major bucks in moments. I didn't, though, drop major bucks at JTC. The little chocolates were $1.25 each, and I only bought four. The fillings were passion fruit ganache, Mexican spice, port wine, and coconut, and they were amazing. They make all the chocolates in the shop, and if you're there at the right time, I reckon you can watch. I could see all the equipment, but it wasn't being used just then.

There was some sort of work being done, so when we got to the gate to the Fulton Ferry State Park, we couldn't enter there.

So we doubled back and used the Main Street entrance. It's a very nice place, and we were there at lunchtime, so a lot of people were wandering in with their lunches to eat and enjoy the sunshine.

Despite my four (tiny) chocolates, I was ready for lunch, or at least a snack, so we walked to the next place on my list, Grimaldi's.

But there was a line, and a sign that said "NO SLICES," and, well, if you can't sell me a slice in Brooklyn, then I can't be bothered to patronize you. We walked in the other direction, towards the ice cream store, and I got a Diet Coke and sat on the deck to drink it. Nice view.

We climbed the hill next to all the Watchtower buildings (apparently, Brooklyn is the world headquarters for the HoJos) to get to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. B&c wanted to take a brief detour through the neighborhood to check out the architecture. I took this next picture at the corner of Willow and Cranberry streets, where there were neither willows nor cranberries.

I whistled "Zombie" for a while, in an attempt to compensate. Then we promenaded.

I sat down on a bench that was already occupied.

B&c was clearly fading by this point, but he kept insisting that he could carry on. So we walked along Remsen Street.

And then down Hicks. For some reason, the fine for honking your horn in most of New York appears to be $350, but here it's a relative bargain at %125.

I still heard more than my fair share of honking, though. I considered making a citizen's arrest, but I wasn't sure I'd get a commission, and, really, 10% of $125 won't buy a lot in New York. Though I suppose I could have gotten another ten chocolates.

We walked down Atlantic Avenue, where I stopped in at Sahadi's.

B&c didn't want to come in, and I could tell he wasn't feeling so well. That was too bad because I'd hoped to buy some provisions here and then picnic in Prospect Park, but it was clear he couldn't hold out, so I didn't take a number. I didn't even buy any spices. B&c did say that he'd like to sit down and get something to drink, and he insisted that he could keep walking for a while, so we walked along the Fulton Street Mall, down to DeKalb St. and Junior's.

I know that Devil's Food Cheesecake is a bad, bad idea, but a lot of bad, bad ideas are both irresistible and fun. B&c had the plain cheesecake, which was probably a better choice. Junior's cheesecake and devil's food cake are both wonderful things, but chocolate and cheesecake really don't belong together. I kept telling myself that as I couldn't stop eating it. Then it was back to the subway. We took the Sixth Avenue line to 34th street and walked back to the hotel. I thought about stopping in at the bar and asking for Cooper.

But I figured he was too busy studying for exams. Besides, his loathing of tourists is well documented, and I didn't want to arouse his wrath. B&c was pretty out of it, so he went to bed for a couple of hours. I checked my email and read for a while, then I took a short nap. Then we showered and dressed. It was still early, and we were hungry, so we took the train down to the Village and had some cheap eats at Risotteria. It was cheaper than usual because b&c wasn't up to sharing a bottle of wine. I don't like to drink alone, and now that I'm an atheist, God no longer counts, so I had some iced tea to go along with my calimari, roasted red pepper, and black olive risotto.

It was delicious. Then it was back in the train to see Avenue Q. I'm probably among the last people to see it, but in case anyone cares, I did think it was a lot of fun. Not so much fun that I didn't notice that there was no there there, but enough fun that I didn't much care. Besides, the actor playing Princeton and Rod was hella cute. All of the actors were terrific. It didn't seem to me that the score was terribly inventive, but the lyrics were fun. Anyway, if you want to know one of the reasons why I don't go to New York more often it's because most of my friends would consider Avenue Q edgy. Over the past few years I've feigned reluctance as I turned down chances to go see The Lion King, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Mamma Mia.

It was back to the hotel and an early night after Avenue Q. I knew that b&c was in bad shape because he wanted to take the subway from 42nd Street to 34th Street. Normally, I have to threaten him to get him on the subway to go from 34th to 59th. The next morning, he said he'd try breakfast, so we went down and ate at the diner next to the restaurant, but then he said he needed to go back to bed. I was so surprised that I headed out without my sunglasses or a plan. I headed back to Brooklyn (which, in case you don't know, is a big, big place), intending to walk around Prospect Park, but I got sidetracked by the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.

And it was such a gorgeous day and such a beautiful place that I spent half the afternoon there.

I enjoy my own company, and there was plenty to look at.

I did eventually leave the Botanic Gardens and head over to the park.

It was very nice there, but I thought it could have used more runners and fewer shirts. After forty-five minutes or so, I was ready to move on. As I was leaving, I saw the John Hus Moravian church. I initially read the sign as "John Husmor Avian Church," which led to some confusion. But, hey, I mostly think religion is for the birds, so why not?

I got back to the hotel at about 4, and b&c was still out of it, so I went downstairs for a salad. Then I decided to walk across town to Kalustyan's.

I should have gone earlier so that I could have spent more time wandering the aisles. I could spend hours there. Anyway, I picked up some spices and some lentils of a variety that I can't get at home.

Then I headed back to the hotel. Along the way, I was struck by some statuary at the Church of the Transfiguration.

Another church had a memorial to the fallen soldiers in Iraq. They're all so young.

B&c managed to get up and dressed so that we could go down to the Village where we had tickets to see the current production of Edward Albee's The American Dream and The Sandbox. Albee recently turned 80 and directed the productions himself. When I heard about them on NPR, I immediately checked to see whether they'd still be running and suggested we get tickets to them. I've wanted to see a production of The American Dream since I read it as a junior in high school, and I was not disappointed. I'd never read The Sandbox, and it was even better. It was really what I most wanted to see in New York.

We'd planned to have dinner after the plays, but b&c was really feeling poorly, so we headed back. I suggested, given his illness, that we take a cab, but even when he seemed like he could barely walk, he was too stubborn to spend an extra five bucks. Oh well.

We were supposed to check out at noon on Saturday. Our bus home wasn't until 4:30, so we normally check our luggage. But b&c was feeling so poorly at breakfast that I told him to ask the desk if they'd let him have the room for another couple hours, and they gave us until 2. So he went to sleep, and I went to Central Park.

I took the wrong train, so I didn't get to spend as long there as I'd have liked, but even ninety minutes in the Park is a treat. I sat by the reservoir for half an hour or so. During that time, I only saw two people who were running clockwise. There's a sign that tells you to run counterclockwise, but I guess they didn't see it. You'd think they'd have noticed that everyone was going the other way, but perhaps they were rugged individualists. One of the two was the guy in the red shirt above. You can determine for yourself whether he looks like a rugged individualist.

Central Park is, of course, huge, and because we generally approach it from the south, I usually only see the lower portion of it. So this time, I entered at 96th street and meandered southwards. Despite my lengthy sit at the reservoir, the next time I came to an exit, I was at 80th street, so I figured I'd just keep going down to 72nd and catch a train back to the hotel there. This was a fine plan, but I reckon I got too caught up looking at all the sunbathers, and when I approached what I thought must be 72nd on Central Park West, I found that I was actually on Fifth Avenue. Oops. But I figured I still had plenty of time, so I started walking south only to find police barricades five or six blocks later. I think they must have been for the Pope. They weren't allowing pedestrians, so I walked back up to 72nd and crossed the park. I was now running late, but I still had time to get the uber touristy shot of the fountain.

I made it back to the hotel at about 1:50. B&c was anxiously waiting. I'd already packed, so I sent him downstairs to check out while I washed up a bit and collected my last things from the room. Then we sat in the downstairs cafe for the next couple of hours. I read some more and catalogued my pictures, and then we headed back to the bus.

Five hours later, we were home. It was a good trip for me, anyway. I feel bad that b&c spent so much of it in bed, but he goes there a lot, and he'll probaby be back there by himself in a month or two. I may have to go for a weekend without him sometime, perhaps if he goes to Jordan for a month later this spring or summer, as he may do. Being in New York doesn't really make me want to live in the city, but it does make me not want to live in the suburbs. It makes me want to live in the country and visit the city on occasion. The country is all about being self-sufficient and having wide open spaces. The city is all about having everything brought in and available within an easy distance. The suburbs attempt to give you both but end up giving you neither. When all is said and done, I'd rather be raising my own vegetables and gathering eggs from my own henhouse than able to walk to a bar or restaurants or, even, Kalustyan's. But the fact that so many people can do neither is very sad and probably unsustainable.