From Chilly Coney to the Costa Del Snow

At first, I thought it was soot. When I was a kid, the apartment buildings in our neighborhood had huge incinerators. Sometimes when they were burning trash, stray ash would float in the air. So, when I looked out the window from the Duchess’s apartment Wednesday morning, my first thought was “soot.” Then I remembered that the buildings now all have huge trash compactors. Also, it was (and still is) November in New York. It could snow. Happily for us, it passed quickly and the ground was too warm for anything to stick.

BROOKLYN, WEDNESDAY.  SNOW MIXED WITH RAIN. ATLANTIC OCEAN IN BACKGROUND.
(CLICK ANY PHOTO. YOU CAN STILL HEAR US WHINE.)
THE WEATHER IN NEW YORK WAS “SPRING-LIKE” …
THE WEEK BEFORE WE WERE THERE.

Although we miss The Duchess and The Kid Brother, we’re glad to be back on the milder Costa Del Sol (a chilly 63F/17C right now). So, imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon, when I passed a snow-covered village on my way home from the market. A few minutes later I noticed the beach umbrellas (sombrillas) had dropped their “leaves.” I took photos of the bare “branches” and went back today to get some shots of the leaf piles. Winter is fast approaching. (Click any image to feel the chill.)

THE SNOW-COVERED VILLAGE ON THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA.
SOMBRILLA “LEAVES” READY FOR BAGGING.
IMAGINE THE SIZE OF THE RAKE USED TO PILE THOSE LEAVES.
ANOTHER STYLE OF RAKING.
SOMBRILLA FRAMES. HEADED FOR WINTER STORAGE.
DON’T YOU LOVE THE FALL COLORS?

This song from my childhood with my sister Dale always makes me think of her. (Well, any song from our childhoods makes me think of her.)

Brooklyn Diner Dining And Doggy Bags

Having a meal out with The Dowager Duchess usually results in carrying home a doggy bag for a non-existent dog. The Duchess is a light eater and eating light is an impossibility at just about any Brooklyn diner (not to be confused with the brand-named “Brooklyn Diner” in Manhattan). A Brooklyn diner meal for one could easily serve three.

Our favorite nearby Brooklyn diner is the Parkview Diner on Cropsey Avenue. That’s where last week’s photo of the three of us was taken (click here). The Parkview Diner is also where you’ll find photos on the menu of the Coney Island Parachute Jump along with the sailors my mother and her friend Harriet “picked up” in 1946. (Click here for that shocking story from The Duchess’s past.)

IMAGES OF THE PARKVIEW DINER ON ONE OF OUR DREARY NEW YORK DAYS.
(CLICK THE DINER PHOTOS TO ENLARGE.)
THE TAKE-OUT MENU. AN ABBREVIATED VERSION OF THE OVER-SIZED MENU.
(THE PARACHUTE JUMP AND THE DOWAGER DUCHESS’S SAILORS, BOTTOM RIGHT PANEL.)

My mother usually gets at least one meal at home out of what she can’t finish at a diner. But, she’s now in the habit of taking home things for Chucky (the Kid Brother), as well.

FREE STUFF… AND FREE REFILLS.
(AND, MY SPANISH FRIENDS, FREE REFILLS ON DRINKS, TOO!)
MORE FREE STUFF… ALSO BOTTOMLESS.
(EL GRECO DINER, IN NEARBY SHEEPSHEAD BAY, HAS PEPPERONI/CHEESE BREAD!)

The Dowager Duchess doesn’t go anywhere without precision-folded plastic bags in her purse. If she notices there are crackers, bread sticks, or bread remaining in the bread basket, she says, “Give me that for Chucky.” Left-over French fries? “I’ll take those for Chucky.” Extra dinner napkins (the paper ones), “Chucky likes those. Pass them to me.” I asked The Duchess if Chucky would like the silverware. Her quick response, “He doesn’t need silverware.” (Then I got “the look.”)

I ATE LIGHT ONE DAY… A FOUR-EGG OMELET AND HASH BROWNS (FOR TWO).
(THAT’S A 13-INCH PLATTE.R)
JUMBO BLACK & WHITE COOKIES WERE A FAVORITE OF MY SISTER DALE AND ME.
(I RESTRAINED MYSELF. BESIDES, I LIKED THEM BETTER WITH HARD ICING.)

Since San Geraldo never witnessed this kind of behavior during his childhood in South Dakota (it’s the norm in New York), he usually looks a bit embarrassed. The Duchess tries to ease his embarrassment by saying, “Well, it’s already on the table. They’re just going to throw it out anyway.”

On our flight to Dublin, we had lots of packaged items. I grabbed them all and said, “Save these for Chucky” (which would again have gotten me “the look” from the Dowager Duchess). Then, I ate them all. As they used to say on the Star-Kist Tuna commercials, “Sorry Charlie!”

SORRY CHARLIE!

Hot Dog!

The Kid Brother and I made our regular pilgrimage to Nathan’s (the original Nathan’s in Coney Island) for hot dogs and fries. The Dowager Duchess had coupons.

TWO DOWN. TWO TO GO.

The Dowager Duchess always has coupons. Sometimes, she actually even has coupons still within their “use-by” dates. Nathan’s hot dogs are now $2.99 a piece. But, with the coupons, we were able to purchase four hot dogs at 99 cents each. It’s good we don’t eat the way we used to. The limit was two per person and, in the past, we would both have eaten three … or four. One time, I had six. We’ve got lots of time to get in shape for Nathan’s annual hot dog eating contest. But I think we’ll pass.

ONLY 234 DAYS UNTIL THE NEXT HOT DOG EATING CONTEST.

In this year’s contest, the winner was Joey Chestnut (I’m not making that up); he downed 69 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes without a “Roman method incident” or “reversal of fortune” — otherwise known as “vomiting,” which is against the rules. Joey has the very apt nickname of “Jaws.”

JOEY CHESTNUT WITH ONE MORE TO GO.
THE MUCH MORE “COUTH” KID BROTHER.
HE SAID, “LET ME SWALLOW FIRST!” 

Nathan’s didn’t have any indoor dining. I don’t know if they’ll set up tables inside for winter or not. They did last year. It was chilly and windy outside. We ate quickly. After lunch, the Kid Brother bought a really nice Coney Island, Brooklyn sweatshirt. More precisely, the Kid Brother said, “I need a sweatshirt.” He picked out a beauty that looked great on him. As we headed up to the counter, I didn’t see him reaching for his wallet. I asked, from experience, “Do you have any money?” He replied very matter-of-factly, “No.” I said, “Why don’t we just call it a gift,” and then added, “You little shit…” 
I’ll never learn.

ON OUR WAY BACK TO THE DUCHESS’S, WE PASSED THE CYCLONE AND I NOTICED
THAT IT OPENED THE DAY BEFORE THE DUCHESS WAS BORN.
THE DUCHESS HAS HELD UP A LOT BETTER THAN THE CYCLONE.

SOME OF THE DUCHESS’S OTHER COUPONS…
EXPIRATION YEAR: 1991

Answering to a Higher Power

My blogger buddie, Dianne from Yonks thought it would be fun to include me in a game of Blogger tag. She provided 10 questions for me to answer… (honestly, I think). This is an awful lot of pressure. The questions include some best/worst/favorite considerations and my mind is so changeable that I never know for sure what is my best/worst/favorite. Anyway, here goes:

PUTTING ON MY THINKING CAP.

1. What is your favorite holiday destination?
It used to be Palm Springs, California… until we moved there, opened a hotel in 2001, and lost our shirts. Since moving in July to Sevilla, I feel like I’m at a permanent holiday destination. Then again, my fantasy escape has always been an uncrowded beach, with nothing other than the crashing waves and the birds for background music.

LA ALAMEDA DE HERCULES, SEVILLA. PERMANENT VACATION.

2. If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?
I don’t eat when I’m stressed.

3. If you could invite anyone for dinner, living or dead, who would it be?
My big sister. I idolized her (and she me… we were a strange pair). She died 31 years ago just before I met San Geraldo. I would love to tell her all that’s happened since then. (She would love San Geraldo.)

4. If you had a time machine, where would you go?
I would turn my back and walk away from it. I don’t want to know the future. And I wouldn’t want to risk changing anything in the past — having no idea what impact that would have on the present or the future.

Or… to tomorrow to find out the winning lottery numbers and then come right back to today to buy the tickets. (When we lived in San Diego and San Geraldo traveled to China on business — putting him 18 hours ahead of me — I asked him to check the paper for the winning lottery numbers so I could buy that ticket. He wouldn’t do it. I’m not quite sure if he thought it would be dishonest or that it was simply idiotic… Well, I really am quite sure.)

5.  What is your earliest memory?
My memory works in strange ways.  I can hear a commercial jingle once and remember it the rest of my life. I can tell you what I was wearing the day I met San Geraldo in 1981 (Fiorucci jeans and a green ribbed T-shirt). But, I can’t remember where I put the toolbox.

Earliest memories are all from before the age of 1-1/2. The very rickety, old, dark-wood porch on the back of my parents’ apartment in Brooklyn and how it creaked and squeaked when anyone stepped onto it. Taking a bath with my sister (when I was under 1-1/2 and she was under 4), and my mother’s hand-mirror got knocked into the tub and cracked. Holding my mother’s hand while standing on a new street on Long Island seeing the foundation being poured for our new house.

BEING DANGLED OVER THE RICKETY PORCH… VERY CONCERNED.

6. Your favorite perfume or cologne?
It used to be Royal Copenhagen Musk. Now it’s Versace Pour Homme.

7. Your best birthday gift?
When Jerry’s mother and his two sisters flew to San Diego and surprised me at the 40th birthday party Jerry was throwing (even though Jerry didn’t think to invite them from so far away). If the Dowager Duchess (my mother) had known, she would have done the same thing (so that was sad). Also, that same birthday when our friend Jim wrote a very funny and touching poem in my honor. (He wrote a very funny and racy poem, too. But, I’m keeping that one to myself.)

© JRW, 1994

8. Your worst birthday gift?
I have no idea.

9. Your favorite flowers?
Daffodils. Before my sister got married and she was still living with my parents, when the first spring daffodils were being sold at the flower stalls outside the subway stations, she would pick up a bunch for my mother on her way home. They always make me think of her.

10. Your first kiss — who/where?

I think I was about 14 when I had my first real kiss. She was my girlfriend in 8th or 9th grade and then again in part of 10th grade. She and I hadn’t spoken since high school and reestablished contact about three years ago. She reads my blog. I have no idea where we were when we kissed. I know I wasn’t very good at it — thinking the harder I pressed my lips against hers, the better the kiss. First kiss with a man? Boston, when I was 26. I knew a little more by then. And I’m not telling either of their names. That’s all you get.

LONG BEFORE THE FIRST KISS.
ALREADY IRRESISTIBLE.

Drawing on Memories

FEELING LOST AND LONELY IN AN ELEGANT APARTMENT.
SELF-PORTRAIT, AVENZA, CARRARA, ITALY, 1977.

I just pulled out an old sketchbook and discovered some drawings that brought back memories.  The memories that come back when I look at my old drawings are often more vivid than those that are awakened by looking at old photographs.  I think it’s the fact that I was completely engaged in the action at the time and spent more than a moment snapping a photo or awkwardly posing for posterity.

10 SEPT BECAME 11 SEPT 1980 WHILE I WAITED IN MY ’78 MAZDA GLC TO GIVE
A “FRIEND” A LIFT BACK TO BOSTON AFTER A BUSINESS RECEPTION IN CAMBRIDGE.
HIS NAME WAS STEVEN AND HE WAS MORE THAN AN HOUR LATE.

When I was 25, I landed a job in Medical Illustration at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.  I drew kidneys and muscle tissue.  I traced cross-sections of cadavers that had been cast in polyurethane.  I created art and typography for slides that were used by the medical school.  It was fun work and was what began my career in publications and communications.  At the time, I never went anywhere without a sketch book.  I would sketch unselfconsciously, and had been doing so for years. I doodled my way around Italy in the ’70s and gave away almost all the sketches as “thank you” gifts for the hospitality I received there.  I wish I had had a scanner!

BANANAS, MAY 1980, TOP FLOOR, 15 CHARLES STREET, BOSTON.

SEDUCTIVE BANANAS.

While working at Downstate, I drove up to Boston, just 4-1/2 hours away for a weekend visit with an old college friend, Mary.  I fell in love with Boston and immediately decided I had to move there.  I left  Downstate four months later after only 1-1/2 years for a job as a typesetter and graphic artist in a small, quirky (aka, cripplingly dysfunctional) studio in Cambridge, ironically named “Together Graphics.” The job in Cambridge paid a lot better, but was not as interesting nor did it offer the same opportunities for professional development and personal growth as the job in Brooklyn.  But it did get me to Boston, which is where I met Jerry a little over a year later.

SNACKING AS I SKETCHED, ENABLING NEW POSES.

HOURS OF SKETCHING.  I CONSUMED MY RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE OF POTASSIUM.

For my first month in Boston, while I looked for my own place, I stayed in a basement apartment on Gray Street in the South End with Brian, a friend I met through Mary.  He was to become my best friend over the years and was my first good gay friend.  I was still living the life of a straight person, thinking I could ignore who I really was and wanted to be.  As a good friend (and someone with “gaydar”), Brian clearly knew the truth, but he never let on and he let me come to terms at my own pace. I spent a month on his couch and many afternoons hanging out at Mary’s apartment with my sketchbook, sketching the room, the house plants, and, as shown here, bananas that happened to be left on the coffee table. Jerry and I had already moved twice by the time Brian and Mary decided to move together to Maui.  I lost touch with Mary, who met someone in Maui, married, and was living in Missouri the last I heard.  After a few years, Brian (who was a serial monogamist) had also met someone.  They moved to San Diego and stayed together about a year.  Brian remained in San Diego.  So, I was elated when Jerry and I had the opportunity in late 1992 to move to San Diego, as well.  But, just before we left Connecticut for San Diego, Brian went back to his parents’ home in Massachusetts, where he died at the age of 37 of complications from AIDS.

DARTMOUTH “T” STATION, 1981.  BACK FROM ENGLAND TWO WEEKS AFTER MY SISTER DIED.
ON MY WAY TO A PARTY WITH STEVEN AFTER DISCOVERING MY CAR HAD BEEN STOLEN.

I think it’s time to start sketching again.  It’s very therapeutic and I like the depth of the memories.