Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Funny Apples Part III

Okay....I'm going to have to wrap up my New York tales with a quickness. Relative quickness. You know how I type. It's going on almost a month and I may want to blog about something else. In case you need to catch up, here's Day 1 and Day 2.

Actually before I hit New York, I must say I've been impressed with this Half & Half website that was put up by the show's killer CBS Studios. They have numerous pictures of the cast, episode guides for all four seasons, and a schedule for when those episodes appear on syndication. They even have clips from select episodes. I'm not sure how long the site's been up but I must admit I'm impressed with the detail behind it. Of course it doesn't make up for its cancellation but at least I can see episodes (hopefully they're not cut up too bad) again.

So Hemingway Day 3 started just like Day 2 did. We hit the subways. Our destination this time was Coney Island. Rock wanted a lot of this trip to be all about me since I've never been to the Big Apple. Coney Island was the one place that Rock totally desired to go see. Our driver that picked us up at the airport among other folks Rock's talked to warned that Coney Island was run down. Rock himself heard rumors that Coney Island would close at the end of 2007 season, which made seeing it all the more important.

So we took the long, long ride to Coney Island. We got there and it was as Rock's detractors told us it would be. We walked around and enjoyed the surroundings anyway. It almost reminded me of a smaller scale Venice Beach or Boardwalk. If Coney Island were to close, I could totally see some developer or two buying up the land and putting up high rises or condos there. I would think they'd definitely want to take advantage of the ocean front. We wound up capping our short visit to Coney Island with a stop at Nathan's Famous. We shared some fries that were to die for.

Soldier and I were trying to schedule a time to meet today as well. We came up with the possibility of meeting after our visit to Coney's. Unfortunately that didn't work out. Neither did the other times we suggested for Day 3. Sigh.

So Hemingway while making our way back to Manhattan, Rock had a caffeine attack. He just had to have a cafe latte at Starbuck's. So we stopped at the one near our hotel. Rock wound up not really liking it. I think they rushed his order since it was such a crowd at the tiny Starbuck's.

We chilled at the hotel for about an hour before heading out to the nearby Empire State Building. On route to the Empire, we wound up randomly stopping at this movie poster store. The workers there were really nice to us as Rock made his selections. I mostly window shopped. *LOL*. They put Rock's posters in a giant movie tub so instead of lugging the tub to Empire State, we decided to take it back to the room.

So now we're off to Empire State Building. The journey to get inside the building was annoying. The staff there was pimping item after item that supposedly would make the tour more enjoyable. For an extra fee, you could even pay to bypass the long, long lines. I couldn't help but wonder if they got a commission each time they sold an item. So eventually we get to the top floor. I have to admit it was really cool seeing everything from up above. We even got a view of our hotel building.

So that's that. Didn't I say I was going to make this quick? Guess I lied.

After Empire State, we made our way to Barneys of New York in New York. Rock really wanted to go there and do some shopping. He particularly was on the prowl for a certain set of loafers he saw advertised in the Chicago Tribune. He didn't find those loafers but he found a snooty salesman that assumed that both of us were just window shopping. But his snooty ass lost a sale when Rock wound up buying a pair of pricey sandals from another salesperson. Actually had Rock not bought something, I may have bought something just to show him.

So Barneys is like six or seven stories, right? So Hemingway Rock wanted to check out some of the men's clothing up there. I followed him and both of us were scoffing at some of the prices. $2500 for a leather bomber, $275 for some faded t-shirt, $425 for a dress shirt (I think it was Armani...*LOL*). A black (gay) salesman came up and asked if we needed help. Rock started this conversation with him and eventually both of them were going on and on. I didn't think I was doing the 'you better stay away from my man' stare, but apparently Rock insists that I did. I think I may have been more annoyed that the conversation was going on longer than normal and I wasn't really part of it but just standing off to the side. forwarding a bit. Rock wound up calling an old friend of his that lives in New York and wanting to see if he wanted to hang out with us. The friend did. Rock and Stoney met up and they immediately were one-upping each other in witty satire. It was a bit hilarious listening in as we were walking up and down Manhattan.

We wound up hanging out in the gay part of town....Greenwich Village I believe. We hit a couple bars and a hip-hop club. The highlight of the evening was my getting hit on by an older dude. Rock and Stoney were at the bar getting drinks while I stood off to the side waiting for them. I happen to spot a basket of condoms at the table and decided to grab two. (I didn't want to look like a slut like they treat you at the health clinics and grab two dozen...*LOL*) So after I grab them and discreetly put them in my pocket, I feel someone's hand lightly grab my wrist. I look up thinking it's Rock but it's the guy. We chat a bit and I casually mention that I'm with Rock. He doesn't seem to get the hint until Rock himself finally comes by and places himself strategically between us. I did feel a little sorry for the guy as he tried covering up and later talking about his dead lover.

Overall Stoney showed Rock and me a good time that night and I got to see some of the gay life in New York. New York has some hotties in the house. After stopping at a late night greasy spoon at some point, we wind up getting back to the hotel after 2AM. So ends Day 3.

I woke up on the final day with the worst heartburn and a bit of an upset stomach. It took Rock and I a bit longer to get ready. Luckily both of us had the foresight to pack mostly earlier Day 3 so we didn't have much to pack. Rock wanted to go to the gift shop and get some last minute souvenirs. I was still feeling a bit off so I stayed in the room.

Eugene called me moments later and we were chatting it up while catching each other up on our respective weekend's. I forget about how Eugene's weekend was...*LOL*.

Soldier and I also talked that morning. He was actually on his way to the hotel and wanted to meet Rock and I for breakfast. I couldn't believe it. Even though I didn't harp on it much in my entries, I was excited that Soldier and I were finally going to meet. We've gotten to know each other over time and it was just nice putting a face to a voice. Most of you know what a cool guy he is. Meeting Soldier in a way was like meeting other New York bloggers since he's met most of the New York crowd.

So the highlight of our meeting actually took place after breakfast. Rock excused himself earlier so Soldier and I could talk "blog stuff". We do that and as we're leaving the hotel diner and walking back towards the lobby, Soldier fills me in on a little secret.

When I first headed down to meet Soldier, I noticed that an older lady was sitting at the table with him. The fact that she sat with him threw me off from identifying him initially because I was under the impression that he was coming by himself. So Hemingway he does eventually come up and introduces himself to me. I noticed after we introduced ourselves, he went back to the older lady. It made me think that maybe she was a relative or something that came along for the ride. But I thought nothing of it, despite the fact that she didn't join the three of us for breakfast. up done. So Hemingway Soldier confides in me that the lady (who was actually a stranger) asked him to ask me if I would take a shower with her for $20. I know I was looking good, but damn. Of course I would've never done anything like that, though if it was some hot guy, I may have to stutter a 'no'...*LOL*. But $20 in New York wouldn't even get you a decent lunch. She was a bit behind the times on the going rate there. Needless to say, it was a funny way to end my meeting with Soldier.

On that note, Rock and I checked out and eventually made our way back to the airport. I felt a bit ill (I think I had a stomach virus or something) on route but otherwise the flight back was uneventful. And that in a nutshell (yeah right) was my trip to New York. The End.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Biz Interlude

Eugene and I got into a conversation about Lady T. We both were admiring a lot of her songs. I recalled that Sally and I went to a concert she had years back at House of Blues. If I had to pick one hit song that stood out for me by Lady T, it would have to be Square Biz.

"I've been called Casper, Shorty, Lil� Bit
And some they call me Vanilla Child
But you know that don't mean my world to me
'Cause baby, names can't cramp my style
[I love chick-icken] And Buff�s collard greens
A little hot water corn bread
I love you too Cat daddy
But don't you let that go to your head
That's what I'm talking, baby
Square Biz, Square Biz

You know I love spirituals and rock
Sarah Vaughn, Johann Sebastian Bach
Shakespeare, Maya Angelou
And Nikki Giovanni just to name a few
Well, I'm wild and peaceful Lady Tee
I got to keep my irons in the fire, you see
I got the point, the scam, the low, the deal
What you feel, say what "

Now I know that was the jam back in the day. I found the song on YouTube, of course. Enjoy while I get Part III of my New York trip together.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Funny Apples Part II

I guess I see why Fredrick was a one-hit wonder...*LOL*.

If you didn't read about Day 1 in New York, check it out.

Now that you're caught up, let's get to Day 2 in the Big Apple. This was the day Rock and I would first navigate our way through New York's Transit system. I'm not going to lie. I was a bit intimidated by the NY subway system. I've heard years back that people could be downright rude down there and push you out of the way. From the New Yorker, the stations nearest to us was 34th and Penn Station (lines A C E) and another block was 34th & Penn/7th Avenue (lines 1 2 3).

Rock and I had tickets that night to see Wicked at Gershwin Theatre. So we thought our first trip on the train should be to figure out the best way to get to Gershwin. We had a handy guide with the entire transit line and concluded that the best route was to take line C or E to 50 street. From there it would be a quick little walk to the theatre.

We went down to the station and went to the ticket kiosk. Looking through the options, we decided to purchase the all day pass for $7. Each. We each had to get our own pass because the all day pass could only be used by one person. I guess that's done to avoid one person giving multiple folks free rides.

Fortunately the system wasn't as complicated as I thought it would be. Actually it's really neat how interconnected a lot of the different lines (goes from A through Z, and 1 through 9...*LOL*) were. As long as you knew if you needed to go Uptown or Downtown, you were set. Rock and I quickly figured out that we would need to go Uptown to get to our stop.

Oddly enough, I remember having that Obama Girl vs. Guiliani song in my head. I think it was the fact that the video was shot in New York bought it to mind. I kept expecting Obama Girl to pop out any minute. Actually I was a bit surprised not to run into any type of celebrity. It would've been wild if Miss Holiday (miss ya still girl) or any of the NYC bloggers crossed paths with me unawares. A certain blogger from Montreal I found out was in the area and we did try to make plans to meet on Day 2. But all attempts that day failed.

But Hemingway...we got off on 50th street and familiarized ourselves with another part of New York...Broadway. We eventually found the Gershwin theatre and kept the location in mind when it would be time later on that evening to see Wicked.

Our next stop today was the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Just like museums past, there was just too much going on there. You know I couldn't remember every exhibit. Nonetheless Rock and I had a good time traversing the many floors of the museum and checking out the artwork. One of the cool things the MoMA had was the free audio listening devices. For a number of art pieces, you would look for an associated number, type it up on the audio, and a blurb on what you're looking at would play for your listening pleasure.

The one art piece that seemed to draw both Rock and my attention was this large abstract art piece that was in the center of the room (unfortunately I don't have a picture of it) that in essence were like two pyramids both connected by their tips. The larger of the two pyramids was on the bottom and reminded Rock of the Great Pyramids. The other upside down pyramid seemed reminiscent of the Washington Monument (except it was cut off about half way). That piece happened to have an audio associated it and we both were stoked when the observations we made were confirmed by the speaker.

We later stopped at the MoMa gift shop, where I purchased a few postcards that I plan on putting together in a frame. Rock did some souvenir shopping for folks in his life.

Our next stop was a trip to Harlem. Since Bill Clinton moved his headquarters to Harlem, I've heard that Harlem has gone through a lot of changes. As we exited the subway station for Harlem, I couldn't help but notice the differences between mid-Manhattan and Harlem. One thing they both had in common were all the street vendors were out selling their wares.

It was mid-day and time for a late lunch. Rock wanted us to lunch at Sylvia's, Harlem's Queen of Soul Food. Actually the last time I recalled having a semblance of soul food was when I went to Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles in LA (and that was a while ago). I definitely looked forward to the lunch. We had to ask a couple locals for confirmation on Sylvia's location but once we got there, it was all good.

Rock was excited too because it wound up we were sitting not far from Sylvia herself. She was sitting with members of her family I'm assuming enjoying some food. Sylvia was quite the pioneer when she started her restaurant over 45 years back and it was cool seeing she was enjoying the fruits of her labor. Sylvia came over and chatted with both of us and gave some general life advice.

It wasn't long before we received the food ordered. Rock had ribs, mac n cheese, and spinach. I ordered fried chicken and waffles (don't laugh...*LOL*) with a side of sweet potatoes. We also ordered a pitcher of lemonade. Everything tasted great and needless to say we were both full.

Before heading back, Rock and I decided to walk along some of Harlem's neighborhoods. A lot of the homes reminded me of the apartment buildings seen in the TV series Women of Brewster Place. A lot of the buildings on this particular block seemed vacant but were being rebuilt. Rock decided to take a closer look at what we thought was a vacant building. As I looked from a safe distance, I saw from the open window that a ceiling fan was running in the back and I saw someone stirring about. A young guy came towards the door and I wasn't sure what he was doing but it looked like he was making gang signs. I freaked out but Rock was all calm saying that he was just admiring the brownstone building. The guy didn't say a word, which freaked me out even more. I motioned for Rock to back away and Rock eventually stepped back but didn't show any of the fear that I did.

After that incident, we continued walking down the rest of the block and made our way back to the subway. It was a good thing we were heading back to our hotel because the soul food I had eaten earlier was doing a number on my stomach and I needed relief. *LOL*.

We later got ready for another subway trip to Broadway to catch Wicked. Since we had been in the area earlier that day, we knew where we needed to go. Despite knowing that, we wound up taking a wrong train. Luckily we were able to divert our way around the system and even wound up getting off closer to Gershwin itself. It was totally cool.

Wicked was off the chain. I was amazed how they were able to take what was defined as an evil character from the Wizard of Oz and make her human. Plus they were able to subtly incorporate various pieces of the original movie into their play. For example, we learn how the cowardly lion and tin man came about. I think what resonated for me was how the other characters teased Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) because her skin was green. The obvious connection to racism resonated inside me and I actually teared up (but no tears fell this time...*LOL*) when it seemed Elphaba was going to die from the hands of Dorothy.

I'm definitely glad that Rock and I had the opportunity to see the play. We both were humming parts of the song Defying Gravity as we made our way back to the hotel for the night. We also had an AWW moment when we said that us meeting each other "Changed us for good".

So just before getting back to the hotel room, we stopped at a food vendor to get some chicken kabobs (we hadn't eaten and didn't feel hungry since our lunch at Sylvia's) and we then stopped at a liquor store to get some rum to go with our cokes. We rewatched the conclusion to Team America and shortly afterwards went to bed.

So ends Day 2. More to come.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Gentle Interlude

I interrupt my adventures in New York to post an entry for this old school song that I remembered enjoying. Anyone remember this one hit wonder by Fredrick? This used to be the jam.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Funny Apples Part I

Rock and I recently completed our first major trip together. We spent several days in the Big Apple. I know last year I blogged that I wanted my next trip to be to Hawaii after hearing Eugene singing the praises of it. But I want to spend a week there not a few days so for now Hawaii's been scrapped.

I truly enjoyed New York and I believe it's brought Rock and I even closer together. We acted as a team throughout our three days. He really went out of his way to make sure my trip was enjoyable. I really wish we were still on vacation.

It started with him picking me up at 5:30 AM. I cracked up because as he was pulling up towards my garage, my next door neighbor was leaving his house. Rock mentioned that the neighbor gave him quite the stare. Maybe he thought I was having an early morning rendezvous. Though what was my neighbor doing leaving his house that early. Maybe he had his own rendezvous? Hmmm.

But Hemingway...we made our way to O'hare. We went to one of the kiosks at American Airlines to check in and wouldn't you know an opportunity came for us to upgrade our seats to 1st class. It was only an additional $180 total. Rock asked if I wanted to take the upgrade. I hemmed and hummed ever so briefly before saying yes. After we checked in and made our way towards the gates, Rock mentioned that with his credit card membership, he had access to enter the Admiral's Club. The Admiral's Club is considered the VIP waiting area. They have free beverages (alcohol extra charge), pastries, and plush chairs to sit on. We made our way to the area and waited for our flight in style. Rock said that he knew he had it but had never taken advantage of it before. So it was a nice experience for both of us.

The pampering continued as we made our way to 1st class. They served free alcohol. Rock drank about three glasses of rum and coke to calm his nerves. Rock jokingly told me one of the rules of 1st class is not to make eye contact with the coach folks. Other benefits of first class included a continental breakfast and of course being among the first to deplane when landing. During the flight, Rock pulled out his portable DVD player and we watched Blades Of Glory, which starred several Saturday Night Live alums. The movie was freaking hilarious. It made the plane trip even more enjoyable.

Rock surprised me further by hiring a car to whisk us to our hotel, which for this trip was Ramada's New Yorker. As we walked towards baggage claim, a guy stood out along the side and had Rock's last name on a poster board. It was so cool. I watched as other passengers looked at Rock and I curiously all the way to the car.

We got to the hotel around 1PM and since our room wasn't ready yet, we couldn't check in. There were quite a few guests in a similar predicament. Fortunately there was an area where we could drop our bags off until we could check in. We did just that and took our very first steps into the streets of the Big Apple.

The streets were littered with so many folks. Men and women, young and old, many nationalities, many looks. New York truly is what's coined as the melting pot. I admit I was a bit overwhelmed by it all. Rock made me feel a bit more anxious when he told me not to keep my wallet in my back pocket.

We stopped at Village 38 for a quick bite to eat. It was interesting hearing various New York accents. This one lady was barking loudly on the phone for directions somewhere. The person on the other end I assumed couldn't understand her so she wound up asking Rock to speak to the person and get the information.

After lunch, we continued making our way around the neighborhood and spied a nearby Duane Reade (they're like cockroaches...and yeah I saw a monster in one of the underground NY) for our water and toiletry needs. There were dozens of gift shops and other knick knack paddy wack stores. Not to mention all the people.

We eventually checked into our tiny room. Luckily at least the door didn't hit the foot of the bed. I assume that would happen if we stayed at a 2-star hotel. The room was adequate for our needs as Rock and I immediately lounged on the bed. We were tired.

About thirty minutes later, Rock gets a phone call from a guy that he hasn't seen in years. Jerrod lives in Tennessee and just so happened to be in the New York area at the same time. Rock mentioned the exact area where we were and Jerrod took the subway over there to meet us.

So the three of us are making our way to Time Square. I can't help but think of Hiro's scene when he first time travels himself to New York. In case you're wondering what I'm talking about, it's NBC hit show Heroes. With all the cult following of the show (check out some of the mob scenes of people waiting to meet the cast), it's the 21st century's new Star Trek. Twenty years from now I bet they'll still have Heroes conventions. Scary...*LOL*.

Hemingway Jerrod and Rock were catching up with each other on their lives and such. We went to Virgin's store to check out their merchandise, killing at least 30 minutes there. I swore I saw a plain clothes security person lingering nearby. He didn't seem to really be looking at merchandise yet was standing in the same spot. I purposely remained in the same area for several minutes until Rock and Jerrod (who seemed oblivious to what I suspected was going on) were ready to leave. We eventually made our way to Madame Tussaud's wax museum. There was a lifesize figure of actor Morgan Freeman in front of the museum. Admission price was $28. I was a bit dismayed because I forgot my camera. Rock was hinting that we go back and get it, though Jerrod needed to leave us soon to get back to his part of town. Since admission was so high and I probably would want to take pictures of some of the wax figures, I decided to go along with Rock's suggestion.

So we all went back to the hotel, Jerrod christened the bathroom, and then left to head back to his part of town as Rock and I made our way back to Tussaud's. It was quite the sight seeing all the various celebrity wax figures. Rock and I took quite a few pictures posing with the different celebrities. Rock even posed with "The Rock"himself, both of them giving "The Rock's" signature brow look. The most hilarious part was seeing the Jennifer Aniston figure standing off by herself looking at the Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt figures. Just before leaving the museum, Rock inquired about the Beyonce figure. According to the guide, Beyonce would've been there but she was currently under repair from numerous hair pulls & body tugs. I guess it's nothing like getting close and personal to a wax figure.

We decided to dine at AppleBee's nearby. I began to experience more sticker shock upon looking at the food prices. A turkey burger that would normally cost $11.99 in Chicago cost almost $19. Various entree prices averaged at least $5 higher than it would at a Chicago AppleBee. One thing for sure. I probably wouldn't go out as much as I would if I lived there. I realized too that I probably wouldn't be all that happy living in New York. It's a nice place to visit definitely, though.

Rock and I were talking about our day. He mentioned that he kept insisting we go back and get my camera because he had a feeling that Jerrod would want one of us to pay his admission. He said that Jerrod was in the habit of always crying broke yet always wearing the latest fashions. I imagine keeping up with fashion trends would make one broke...*LOL*. Rock wasn't really feeling up to paying an additional $28, which I understood.

We eventually made our way back to our room where we capped off Day 1 with another DVD Team America. Actually about halfway through the movie, Team America was watching us. Rock and I were knocked the fug out. I woke up just in time to see part of the climatic end before the batttery in the portable player went out.

More on the trip soon.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Word Power

Power of Love/Love Power - Luther Vandross

When I say goodbye it is never for long
'Cause I know our love still lives on
It will be again exactly like it was
'Cause I believe in the power of love

When you're close I can feel the power
When it's love I can always tell
Love for me is the best thing now
It's something that I know so well

Hold me closer and every minute
Of every hour, feel the power of love, yeah
Hold me tighter and take me higher
And feel the fire of the power of love

Did you know that your feelings show
You thought your love was locked up inside
But when your senses start to overload
Love is something you should never hide

You've got to believe in love
It's a feeling that's next to none
Can't stop until we are one
With the power of love

Tell everyone to try
I promise you'll reach the sky
One thing that we can't deny
Is the power of love

You've got to believe in love
It's a feeling that's next to none
Can't stop until we are one
With the power of love

I know I'll be committing sacrilege by admitting this. But here it goes. I never was the biggest Luther Vandross fan. I had no doubt of his talent but his songs never did anything for me. Worse yet, his single Here and Now is forever and always (*LOL*) tainted due to the fact that it was my high school prom theme. I hated high school Hemingway and anything associated with it.

The only song I really liked from Luther was Dance With My Father. Sadly it would be Luther's last single. It's a very beautiful touching song that to me is about a young man's adoration of his father. It of course makes me think of my Dad. It's amazing how much I looked up to my own Dad growing up and sought his approval.

I was reminded of that in a recent visit to my folks. I took an early morning road trip to Detroit last month. I didn't get a speeding ticket....hey! Hemingway about an hour or so after my arrival, my Dad was coming home from Sam's club and there was a lot of stuff to carry. I found myself grabbing several things at a time. On one of my trips I carried a case of bottled water and on top of that, a giant bag of kitty litter. As I was walking with the items, my Dad remarked about how strong I was. I admit that put a bit of a smile on my face as I told him that I try to work out every now and then. I remembered in my previous trip, I carried in one hand a box filled with 3 large bottles of Clorox and in the other hand, a box with two 64-oz bottles of OJ. It made me think, damn I am strong.

In the past, my Dad had seen me as being weak. At least that was my perception during those times he would say he'd want a couple other guys to help do some manual labor. Or those times when he'd say 'that's ok E, I'll get some help.' My lack of strength has been a bit of a sore spot for me. Besides making me question my manhood (as if my attraction to guys didn't make me question it enough), it made me feel like I could never measure up in my Dad's eyes. A failure in that respect.

So you could imagine how his words recently gave me a lift. I was so elated I even sent a few texts to Rock expressing it. Of course Rock told me that I've always been strong. He's such a good guy. (Ten months in a couple days ya'll. Woo hoo!)

Hemingway I have a long way to go before I feel like Hercules and I don't know if I'll ever get to that point. But I know at least I'm not as weak as before.

It's amazing the power that words can have on some folks. Particularly for me. I'm someone that internalizes lots of things. Anyone that knows me knows my tendency to beat myself up. Add a few words to the mix and it provides the potent punch. It just goes to show how important positive reinforcement can be for everyone. Especially me.

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