Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tasting Another Slice of the Miami Orange


I stumble upon a cool group of cyclists while buying some freshly smoked "street meat" in Wynwood during this year's Art Basel in front of the new Panther Coffee shop on NW 2nd Avenue. They chat me up and offer a bike tour of the Wynwood outdoor art murals. I say "hell yeah" and sign up for tomorrow's ride.

Wynwood is in a world of it's own, this year's Art Basel reinforced the assertion that this is definitely NOT South Beach. It is on the edge, literally. It lies sandwiched between the posh Design District and hipster-central, Midtown Miami neighborhoods but is totally another raw, unrefined flavor to Miami's spicy melting pot. It was once a fashion and industrial district with a large Puerto Rican population but is now fast becoming the next place to find inspiration and respite from conformism.

The bike tour guides from Emerge Miami offered me a chance to learn more about the artists that created the murals littered all over the area. I thought this would be the perfect way to see another layer to this whole Art Basel phenomenon that few get to learn about. I've snapped shots at these murals for months now while driving through my neighborhood of Midtown and have been noticing a recent explosion of fresh and innovative artwork, transforming this blighted neighborhood in the middle of nowhere.

This nowhere has become somewhere overnight thanks to it's visionary artists and developers like David Lombardi of Wynwood lofts, Cafeina, Panther Coffee house and of course the man with the Midas touch, Tony Goldman, proprietor of Joey's Cafe' and the sexy, new Wynwood Kitchen. I remember Tony when he first laid eyes on South Beach back in 1988 and I had just rented a studio apartment in his building on 8th and Ocean drive overlooking the beach for only $350-. Tony was finishing his first remodel of an art deco hotel on South Beach. It was the Park Central and it stood out like a diamond surrounded by charcoal. It was one of the first hotels to be painted with the colorful pastel palette. In those days, the buildings were all depressing, earthy browns and beiges with all of the art deco lines lost from lack of maintenance and color to highlight their beauty. His friend he brought down from New York to manage my the apartment building where I lived was Mark Soyka who was planning to manage a little cafe' named News Cafe'. The rest, as you know is history and Tony's vision was the seed that germinated into the hedonistic, global mecca that is South Beach today.

Flash forward to 2010, Tony's golden fingers are spreading their fairy dust over Wynwood and it is a wonderful transformation to see a nuclear holocaust, concrete jungle burst into colors and bloom galleries on every corner. He commissioned top name artists for the Wynwood Walls project. Kenny Scharf, Shepard Fairy who did the Obama campaign poster and Jeff Soto to name a few, all came together to transform bare concrete walls into individual dimensional doorways into each of their minds. A virtual Alice in Wonderland for art lovers. This project has inspired other wall commissions all over Wynwood from companies like Levi's, Primary Flight, and Sharpie and the list keeps growing. Wynwood's murals are currently one of the largest mural installations in the world featuring over 250 artists from around the globe. Primary flight is the main promoter of "legal street art" in Miami and has helped to bring other corporate sponsors.

I awake to another perfectly blue, crystal clear winter day in Miami and I gear up on my beach cruiser with my 10 year old nephew and ride over to Cafeina to meet the bikers for our tour. My nephew is amp'ed to see all the artists on scissor lifts painting murals live in Cafeina lounge's side parking lot. It was like walking into an open air museum, the way art should be enjoyed in the fresh air, spotlighted by the sun.

We see so many bad ass works of art that I piss off my biker brothers for falling too far behind to take pictures. We turn the corner into what looks like an abandoned warehouse complex that is a shell of a building littered with hundreds of graffitti artists and their girlfriends and baby future graffitti artists. There were guys hanging from steel roof beams on ladders painting over every square inch of bare concrete. It was a massive beehive with each worker bee, working their magic in a peaceful synchronicity. No gang violence or cops here just pure street art. A lot of the business owners are more than happy to have their walls painted so the stigma of illegal tagging of walls isn't an issue here.

Our tour guide goes on to explain a lot of the art and tells us of my favorite artist Retna who uses his own form of hieroglyphics in his murals which only he can decipher. Another story tells of a legendary pioneering graffitti artist named Ynot that passed away but is not forgotten. Artists in the area tag walls with his logo all over Wynwood to keep his memory alive.

The sad but poetic truth is that these murals are just as mortal as the humans that paint them. They will either be painted over quickly or be destroyed by the elements over time. Like a sand castle competition, the only way to capture this fleeting beauty is to take a picture before it's gone. One of the murals I photographed was already painted over by a buzzkill landlord 2 days later.

All in all, this was one of the most refreshing and inspirational things I did during this culture bomb they call Art Basel this year and hope I get to do it again in 2011. It adds to the list of the "wonderful things" that make My-Ami, the real Miami; home for me. Let's just hope and pray that neither Pottery Barn nor Romero Britto set their sights on Wynwood and it remains the edgy and inspirational place it is today.

Learn more about the Miami graffitti movement here.

*Hot Miami tip- Check out La Guarderia produce market on 34th street and NW 2nd avenue and grab oodles of fresh produce and fruit for a fraction of what it would cost at your local Publix. It's totally worth the trek.

A great short film on the origins of Miami's Art Basel and it's arts community, highlighting some of it's most prominent pioneers and shapers of our magic city, recently premiered at Wynwood's only independent film house, O Cinema.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Quest to Give Thanks In Today's Demanding World

I wanted to share a very personal message written to my family on Thanksgiving day in hopes that you too can find something to be thankful for in this ever increasingly polarized and embattled country and maybe get closer to be a little more united.

We are living in a time where so many wrongs are highlighted and communicated every day, incessantly. So many networks of people communicating the issues that make them afraid or upset. We also have so many new ways of sharing hope and the progress towards making this a more connected and harmonious world. The family and friends that are gathered here today have all gone through so many struggles and have come from all parts of this still great country to break bread together and give thanks for all that we have. I was tossing and turning the other night until 5:00 am and was reviewing all the events of the last several years and couldn’t believe all the changes and trials we have survived. We have lost fathers, mothers, cherished grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, lifelong friends, loving pets. We have survived 2 wars, terrorist attacks and a recession that was a hair away from a great depression. I thought to myself after all that, what would the spirits of our lost family members tell me to be thankful for? Call me crazy, but they all responded in unison, so loudly that I had to get up and write this all down to share with you. What they said was “you all have right now”. Tomorrow, next year, next month is all uncertain but you have this moment, right now to come together and enjoy each other’s presence, to enjoy a memorable moment with our beautiful family. Nothing would make them… and mom more happy than to see us smile at each other and renew an unspoken promise that no matter what tragedies may come, that we stay together. When differences arise, change the subject and talk about a more unifying topic like gardening or vacations or what dreams you dare to envision…or even funny videos on YouTube; whatever it takes to find common ground and share a smile.

We have what our passed family members don’t…time to smile and be with each other. Let’s not waste this opportunity and celebrate that we are alive, healthy and full of so many chances for greatness. We have a unique and very strong minded family, that sometimes doesn’t always see eye to eye. The unifying force is we do share a love for each other and we are all amazing souls that I give thanks every day to be a part of.

Cheers to a better world!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Tragedy of Becoming a "Manny"

I entered willingly into this 7 day experiment stuck inside a parental incubator\pressure cooker, converting me into a Man-nanny or "manny" for short. I am a nightowl that never wakes up before 9:30 and had to instantly transform myself from a nocturnal to diurnal creature (learned that word from the kids' science homework). The luxury of time deleted from my life, every minute strategized and tightly orchestrated to be able to fit in the obligations of each day to keep this brood of Von Trapp children alive and happy.

Crazed, sleep deprived visions of breeding colonies sprang to my mind where children are raised in segregated golden pastures in the countryside, inside greenhouses like cabbage patch dolls each with their dedicated nurses to dote on them 24-7. This was the most perfect scenario in my mind.

This parental dance requires you to immediately forget your previous identity and transform into someone that solely thinks of the wellbeing of their little ducklings. So much so, that I'd forget to shave, shower or even brush my teeth. Don't even think about blogging, the gym, facials, night creams, long showers or vegging in front of the telly. My life was no longer mine. I felt myself transforming into a shoeless, Yugoslavian mountain woman with a faint smell of sweaty goat and sprigs of hay in my matted hair. I was no longer a footloose and fancy-free bachelor, I was now married to this family. It was a tragic feeling to mourn the loss of my previous life and imagined a lifetime of this. Thank God it was only temporary. I gained a newfound respect for the mothers and fathers of the world. The amount of dedication and responsibility required is dumbfounding to the brain. Thank God the ever-giving-tree of a grandmother was there to take care of the 2 year old and grace us with her scrumptiously-Spanish cooking every night. If it weren't for her, I think I wouldve completely lost my marbles. It was a completely foreign and unusual experience to eat together every night with the 6 of us cracking jokes and sharing stories of the day. My "family meal" back in my Miami condo consisted of eating a sandwich standing over my sink or grabbing a quick bite with a friend on my way home from the gym. The rhythm of this life is as different as hip hop is to Beethoven.

Humans are incredibly adaptable to any changes life brings us and I could probably adapt as well, if I had to, but I would never choose this life. My children are my stories, I am dedicated to them and they fill me completely when they go out into the world and interact with others. Being an uncle is a comfortable niche, the best of both worlds, you get to hang with them part time then return to sender while retaining title of the "cool uncle". The potential for fun is endless.

So many moments collected in my seven days in idyllic and oh-so civilized Dedham, Boston; the delirious, early morning impromptu dances forcing me to laugh when I could barely move my arms enough to sip my coffee, the sharing of senseless dreams from the night before, hand-fart sound competitions, swapping ghost stories and playlist jam sessions on our respective Iphones while frantically rushing them to school, innumerable cranky meltdowns and hugs, grocery trips, picking one of the girls up from school late making her miss another appointment and shortly after buying her a tank top to make up for it, not knowing the drop off or pickup "system" of each school, helping with that blasted homework, watching epidodes of The Event on Hulu before putting them to bed, running to drop the oldest to his way-too-frequent haircut, watching the older siblings coddle and play with their newest 2 year old brother assuring the newest generation of this planet will grow up happy, healthy and free of trauma.

Passing apple farms on my way back from dropping the kids off at school, I realize like farms, families are somewhat invisible sources of life for a society. The "non-farmers" of the world don't realize what it takes to nurture this produce to maturity for the rest of the world to enjoy unless they become a farmer or breeder. The family is the epicenter of humanity from where every thing else comes. If we were all raised surrounded by this much love and support tempered with discipline and a good education, we would probably see a lot less violence or lack as much as we do. We would care for each other as if we were one big human family-the way we should always have but have yet to "get". The love and hate for the rest of the world is born at home. We have seen the effects of that hate recently in this country with the epidemic proportions that gay suicides have risen to. We will eventually get it, and not breed hate at home. As long as we keep refining and perfecting the raising of our children, this healthy produce will be harvested for generations thereafter in the form of a healthier society.

As I dropped the kids off one last time before my sister and brother in law returned from their trip, I stopped the car to notice a street full of fall leaves, trash and recycle bins all perfectly lined up. We don't get this "cold, fall leaves thing" in Miami much. The safety and calm of the moment overwhelmed me. The suburbs were no longer confining or held dread for me. I felt a sudden sweet tide of melancholy rush over and outside the fall was turning into winter. Inside my heated car I too found myself changing. I wondered what the heck I was getting all teary eyed like a chick on the rag, about? I soon realized that I missed "this", a life I had once known. A familial closeness that felt like a bunch of bears nuzzled in a cave ready to hibernate. For this week, this was my clan of the cave bear and the tragedy of becoming a "manny", ironically wasn't a tragedy at all. The warmth of living inside this temporary cocoon allowed me to experience a life full of love and after all the griping and moaning, left me finally really knowing what it meant when all my married and mothered-up girlfriends always chanted, "It's a lot of work but it's so rewarding..." I used to think they were just saying that to psych themselves out from a life they had lost but there is something there, a "fullness" I hadn't felt in a very long time. This may not be my path or destiny but it was a rewarding and enriching experiment. Shapeshifting into a manny was as tough as bootcamp on a summer Miami day yet, if asked again I would gladly oblige. The bonding experience and laughter shared lifted my spirit more than any movie or book I've ever read. This autumnal moment was life in it's purest form, no illusions, no lies and it fed me so much more than it cost me in energy or loss of sleep.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Addicted to Filling the Gap

If Dr. Laura was black and ranted on about the "big N" word it would've been acceptable but since she wasn't, her rant wasn't either. Well here goes my rant and remember I am one of you and being within my rank, I can criticize from within.

I refuse to become so addicted to Grindr that I can't have a meaningful conversation with a friend without looking at my phone every 5 minutes to see who's sending me a nude pic of themselves. I refuse to fall into the gap of online hookups in order to fill this gap within me. I refuse to feel like i'm a freak because I don't succumb to the status quo of my community. I refuse to create an alter porn-ego of myself and post pictures of my throbbing, hard penis to thousands of unknowns just to bait them in to love me. I refuse to feel like i'm not good enough because I don't get laid 2-3 times per week with 2-3 different strangers per week. I am not less-cool or attractive for it. I am more than just a slab of grade A man-meat and I want more than just man-meat. I want a real and whole man that isn't looking to find what's the next better catch every night on the online hook-up slot machine. Are we so jaded that what I am saying is so off the charts? Yet, if I dare say these things out loud to my friends or strangers, they would roll their eyes and look at me pitifully as if I was an idealistic Charlotte from Sex and the City. Are we so hungry for intimacy that we are willing to deny we have any feelings at all just to get it? Like a meth addict that loses his teeth to keep getting "fixed", have we given up a part of ourselves just to get our "fix"? We all need love, everyone knew this even before the Beatles sang about it. So why is it in the gay community we act like we don't really need it and that's it's enough to just "hook up"? Are we just taking the bare minimum because we don't feel we can get any more? Have we lost faith that there is anyone more out there? Is being pretty or hot all there is? Have we reduced ourselves to body measurements as if we were ancient Roman slave traders?

I post a pic of my latest tattoo on my facebook page and a girlfriend quickly comments on my Wall -"you're addicted!" I pause and soon realize it rings true. I am a little addicted.

I started out with one tattoo to mark the moment my first book was published. Then a 2nd when I turned 35. Then a 3rd humongous ancient Tibetan symbol in the center of my back to commemorate the peace Buddhism has brought to my life. Finally my 4th tat on my writing hand to constantly remind myself to be true to myself and to never whimp out on any opportunities life throws my way. Each and every time I would get addicted to the fear of the pain beforehand, the pain of the needle piercing my skin and then the sweet pain of my skin's cells responding to that pain and feeling my body heal. I would savor how that stinging pain would send goosebumps up my spine like a masochistic pleasure that shakes your insides so that you feel the sliver of space between your body and spirit. Each and every time I would feel satisfied after doing it because each one meant something, earning me an emotional badge by surviving my self-inflicted trial by fire.

Like Journey sings in Don't Stop Believing- "working hard to get my fill-everybody wants a thrill". Addictions come in endless shapes, sizes and flavors. They can be booty calls, midnight snickers, shopping, sport cars or funnel cakes-it doesn't matter. What matters is that there's an itch that needs a' scratchin'. A need that calls to be satisfied-a "gap" that needs a' fillin'. This "filling the gap" may sound pornographic and to some it is -literally. Ask any porn star what they love the most about their trade. They'll confess it's the constant flow of good sex with hot partners and they can never seem to get enough of it. The "gap" I'm talking about is one inside each and every one of us. The key is to find out what the hell it really is and eventually find that Snickers moment and finally feel sat-is-fied. We all have a desire to escape the misery of needing something. Buddhism teaches detachment is the only way to avoid suffering but we are human and we will always need a million things. The trick is to force yourself to stop needing ANY-thing and have the faith that whatever we do need will come to us naturally. When we finally do get there we realize that the one "thing" we need isn't a thing at all but a feeling.

Like Chinese food or a one night stand; these addictions leave you hungry for more moments later. They are brief respites; never enough to fill the gap inside long enough to last a lifetime. They are momentary stop-gap measures that like the temporary gulf oil cap, will eventually start to leak out all the dark pus we carry inside until we find the honest guts and self-realization to go in there and really clean house to find the true reasons behind each addiction or lack of self-love. The reasons are inside each and every one of us, secreted away so deeply that sometimes they are taken to the grave and never shared with even the closest of loved ones.

With so many opportunities for addiction, anyone can agree that moderation is the golden rule of life that we should all strive for, the foundation for happiness. For if we tip the scales to any one side, we eventually fall like the fatter end of a see saw. Just as the pendulum that swings too far to the left or the right, when it finally swings back to the middle, all is in equilibrium and all is at peace and the ying-yang tug of war of life is quelled for the moment. It is this coolness, this alive feeling that I yearn for. The hardest part is to find the least damaging way to fulfill it.

What are you addicted to? Where will you find your god; on Grindr, in the Mac store, in his abs, or within yourself?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's A Mad World - Maddening Us Gays

Reading through the paper, passing the countless updates on legal battles going on presently in this country regarding gay rights; "Lingle compares gay marriage to incest", "Gay groups sue governor Lingle of hawaii to overturn her veto to gay marriage ammendment", "Washington DC court upholds gay marriage bill, preventing a majority to ever vote to strip a minority's rights in that state", "Proposition 8 Overturned! Opponents Vow to take Appeal To US Supreme Court", "Montana Tea Party Advocates Hanging of "Fruits"" etc, etc. I get a little down and Google, "cheer me up" and find an article that rates the 10 happiest cities to live in the United States. My mind begins to wander and think happy thoughts...What if we (us gays) could build our own utopian island on par with the man made islands off the coast of Dubai- a modern day mythical Atlantis reborn by and designed by legions of the top minds from our LGBT communities across America. Our ardent opponents fantasy's of shipping us all off to an island would finally be realized. Sure, we already have our gay sanctuary-cities like LA, New York and Miami but like Sergio Arau's "A Day Without a Mexican", America would finally see what a day or several years without a gay is like and what will happen to our society with the complete removal of it's "gays". I know it would totally suck but just stick with me here.

We are no different from the Kurds in Iraq or Muslims in Bosnia-just another minority that would better off be eliminated or altogether made to disappear so that the majority won't have to tolerate or understand us. The idea of a gay Atlantis-utopia would call them on their bluff and while others would call it cowardly, I muse it would be a passive-aggressive, checkmate move. It wouldn't take long for the same factions that opposed us to create a new demonized segment of society and create a new holy war against divorces, illegal immigrants, tangas or mini-skirts. Like removing the US embargo off of Cuba, robbing Fidel of his excuse for his country's miseries. These Ameri-bans would finally be exposed for the fear-mongering fanatics that they are and the masses would finally "get it"-then maybe then we could return from our safe-haven-utopia and finally be left alone to live our lives without having to fight every damn day to defend ourselves and gain equal rights.

Staring at this map of happiness I remember my first day of school where I kicked, screamed and scratched to not go into that classroom. A place where no one knew me and where I felt I was too different-not because I was gay-I didn't have an inkling of that yet but because I was a strange young boy that never spoke- Too focused on figuring out this strange world to speak or relate to anyone...So many questions I obsessed about; Why money had value? Why did my parents run around, working so much and not spend more time with my siblings and I? Why there were killings, rapes and wars? Why were kids at school so competitive and mean to each other? Why did I feel like a lepper?

High school gifted me with an angelic being and my first gal-pal of many that would provide solace and sanctuary for me. It was only fitting that she looked like a younger version of my tender, loving idol; Marilyn Monroe. We were brief lovers and in her arms I found a shoulder to drown my sorrows and finally confess my "gayness". She soon after, released me to take the gay, road-less-traveled. 23 years later, the world is still cruel and cold but a little more tolerant and our people are no longer the free, gay and happy people that created the epitome of good times from the 70's and 80's. Our world renowned wit, dampened and drowned out by our cries for equality, finally getting fed up enough to quit partying and start demanding respect.

We are in wartime, no time for being light and caddy, we are a weary, beleaguered masses yearning to breathe free. A shadow has been cast by our tireless political opponents obsessed with lying about our love, cheating and manipulating laws to have their religious war won, eroding the fabric of America's Constitution along the way. The shadow is cast over almost every gay community worldwide by a religious cloak from almost every religion hiding the hatred and homophobia behind their regurgitated and selectively manipulated doctrine. We, as a people have lost a part of ourselves along the way, lost in our own rainbow. Our cause is just and as important as the recession everyone is stuck wallowing in. This battle affects millions of lives of good and Gay American citizens. We are a large portion of society fighting and counting the days until we can feel free, light and good again- to finally feel fully equal and accepted. It's a mad world- maddening to one of the last portions of society to be included in one of humanity's final exams, truly testing the tolerance of it's inherent differences. Our rights were supposed to have already been afforded to us by the Constitution with a clear separation of church and state. We shouldn't have to fight this battle but nonetheless, here we are mired in it. Although it took us a while to get pissed off enough to get organized, we are now witnessing one of the biggest battles of our times, where hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on either side of the political battlefield.

I imagine a day when we are finally done with this mess and all those millions can be redirected towards helping to change the really damning problems of our world like lack of water, overpopulation, incurable diseases, etc. I imagine a time where I could reunite with my brothers and sisters on a dance floor, where the music is uplifting and good again. Where I don't leave feeling depressed from a gay club, sensing the sadness oozing off these reality escapees of a harsh world -dancing to forget. I await on a metaphorical cliff looking out to a new horizon where this civil rights war is behind us and we can finally regain our joyful outlook and wit that we were so famous for. I can't wait for my younger gay brethren to feel as loved and accepted as they were on their birthday as every child should feel. For LGBT suicides, gay bashings and death penalties for gays to be relegated to the dark pages of our history books for good....to serve as a reminder that this time that mentality should never be repeated. I await and dream of the day we win this battle for equality and justice. To be able to sing happy birthday to "us" and this mad world will become a bit more of a glad one.

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!" — Jack Kerouac (On the Road)

One day we will be able to look in the mirror and feel beautifully whole and comfortable in our own skins with a contented smile instead of expressionless, poker faces and smiling will be cool again. I pray that after we do that the hatred doesn't shift to illegal immigrants in this country as it already seems to be happening.

This whole gay thing isnt about gay or straight -it's about loving each other-for real this time- no matter what- to end this hatred amongst ourselves and knock the cycle of hatred, division and intolerance out of this Earth grid for good. Or at least until a new challenge like acceptance of beings from other planets comes inevitably along our evolutionary path. That moment of contact will never happen until we can get over our differences here at home. Would you want to visit such unfriendly territory if you were light years ahead of Earth?

"There is a template of pain and suffering on this planet that the earth is tired of and we need to move through it to progress. Love light and happiness begins with you. " Guru Ganesha

Gay director John Waters muses on the current state of the gay community. Click here

Russian billionaire calls for the extermination of all gays and lesbians on Moscow public radio.

*Photos above by Jeff Kilmer from his recent book "23%".

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kundalini What? Kripalu Where? Yoga How?

I want my enlightenment damnit!- I yell from the back seat, anxious to get to our weekend retreat with my overworked sister and overachieving family friend to force ourselves to find some solace and moments of quiet bliss.

Arriving at Kripalu, you find yourself in a magical setting amidst a countryside that looks a lot like a Harry Potter movie set complete with lush, green mountains, castle-like mansions from America's golden industrial age and no visible cities within miles. Down the street from Kripalu is it's sterilized, heartless competition; Canyon Ranch. Kripalu doesn't even attempt tocompetewith luxe, Canyon Ranch, they are two completely separate entities attracting completelydifferent crowds. As you pass through the mist-bathed entrance gate at Kripalu, you get the feeling you are entering into another dimension, it's location, far removed from Boston's city energy, making it the perfect setting to get one's "mojo" back and recharge. I breathe in and notice the air tastes as pure as freshly fallen snow. Let's get en-light-ened girls! As we bust open the doors to the main lobby to register we see groups of young and graceful Yogaholics wielding yoga mats instead of Blackberries or Iphones (cellphone use is "requested"to be used away from common areas like smoking) and sporting flip flops, sweats and tanks instead of Jedi Light sabers and Obi-Wan robes.

These guiding lights to the rest of humanity that opt to medicate not with pharmaceuticals and antidepressants but instead with a healthy obsession for the ancient practice of Yoga.

Like Jedi knights gathering to sharpen their skills against the dark forces of this world, these yogic warriors of light are ready to deal with life's challenges as long as they have space to lay down their mats and time to practice and meditate. I was quickly disappointed by the lack of representation of gay men among these Yogaholic minions. I asked myself, "where are my gays?". There were plenty of lesbians representin' but about 2 gay guys (including myself) in attendance on this weekend retreat. Yoga seems to attract those that are in the process of leaving their ego's behind or at least trying to. It's a practice that causes the false ego or "id" to be left behind as you reconnect with your true inner self.

Have we been too busy "chasing papi" or proving our value to the rest of the world in showing off our fashion sense, intellectual prowess, cultural contributions, etc. that we forgot to work on our "insides"? I dare say that gay men in this country are fundamentally lacking in the area of spiritual growth and are generations behind the heteros. I dont blame them, for every organized religion on the planet (except for Buddhism) has not only rejected but spewed hatred against us, spawning generations of minions to attack, arrest, bully and flat out prevent us from gaining acceptance, every step of the way. Problem is, spirituality is such a sore subject for us gays that we forgot to replace religion with a good old simple connection to the divine or the "Big Queen"upstairs. We used to be the shaman-the spiritual leaders of our tribes. That all changed after organized religions took over. Guru Ganesha from Miami explains that Kundalini as well as Kabbalistic knowledge comes from a time "pre-religion", a time on this planet before any of our world religions were herding us into our nationalistic corrals. It was passed down even before Yoga was created, from high priests of Egypt and even as far back as Atlantis. Whether you believe in it's mysterious origins or not, it's power to awaken and release energy in you is undeniably felt after even the first session. I once took my 14 year old nephew to his first Kundalini Yoga session and he was left dumbfounded and confessed that he felt as if he had left his body at the end of the class. A pretty impressive thumbs-up coming from a hormonal teen, addicted to YouTube, chatting and World of Warcraft. Kundalini comes with a psychological warning label, called "kundalini syndrome" where if you are a person that has either repressed psychological trauma or some level of mental illness it will quickly be released and cause problems if not properly led by an experienced teacher. Kundalini is basically the fastest way to awaken our internal fire and universal power. It was never meant to be revealed to the masses until one real maverick-y Guru; Yogi Bhajan decided to channel his inner Madonna, break all the rules and share it with the masses beginning in 1969. It was a sacred knowledge reserved for the spiritual elite, warriors and leaders.

I came to this oasis on mother Earth to recharge and release all the icky negative vibes of being yet another victim of corporate downsizing after 14 years of uber dedicated corporate soldier-ness. I came to regain my own natural and vibrant "flow". This weekend was being hosted by one of the sweetest voices I've ever heard this side of Mars, my personal idol, Snatam Kaur. I've heard her music played many times at the Standard on my regular Kundalini Yoga friday nights, one of the best ways to end the week in Miami.

My songstress finally arrives to the meditation room and my heart skips a beat. I quickly realized I was in the presence of an enlightened and pure being with no agenda except for sharing her exquisite light. This petite human Yoda is the most unassuming woman and mother with a voice so sweet that it literally changes the vibration of your cells and frees your heart, if you let it.
Snatam Kaur and her band of spiritual gangsters (Guru Ganesh on guitar and Ramesh on drums) lead us to perform several simple Kundalini "asanas" or exercises to open us up emotionally, spiritually and physically. I came to reboot my health and got more than I bargained for, I felt as if my insides were being restructured on a cellular level giving me a whole new sense of calm. I realized that I needed to befriend my soul again and that I was being untrue to myself for too long-selling myself out just for the peace and security of a steady paycheck, 401K, dental, health and life insurance. I am now learning to fly and thrive without all those perks and forge my own new path....no longer a rat in a gilded cage.

Snatam soon taught us that chanting is just as important as Yoga in that it rises the "prana" or life force in our bodies. The chanting combined with the repetitive movements and breathwork of Kundalini eventually caused reality to melt away and my vision to become filled with hundreds of golden bees in a hive rubbing our wings to the same beat...I became a bee in this hive nestled in the Berkshire mountains west of Boston and our Queen Bee was Snatam Kaur.

She was a queen without claiming to be, she was really just a cool chick that just happened to have a mission in life to enlighten and help others ascend while in physical form. She played the violin, harmonium and used her sweet voice to unify and raise our vibrations to a liberating pitch.

The last night at the concert there was a free flow, jam with people singing, moving and not giving a damn if they looked cool or not. It was simply a room full of people separated from their ego's and free flowing with the music. Even Harvard chaplain Lama Myngmar got into the fray and said "Buddhists should do this more often." as he joyfully let himself go and threw out some new quirky dance moves. I called the event, the "Kundalini hoe-down".

The last day we all sang her most popular song together and she sent us along with her blessing...."May the long time sun shine upon you all surround you and the pure light within you guide your way home."

Fast forward, weeks later to the frenetic modern day city of Miami and I am sitting with electrical sensors glued to my head for a brain training session using biofeedback to improve my cognitive ability and help with my constant migraines stemming from my a previous auto accident that caused a concussion.
I quickly have another "a-ha" moment on my first session and realize that the sounds they are force feeding my brain through the headphones are eerily reminiscent to the chant patterns and sounds from my weekend at Kripalu. Could science finally have caught up to what the yogis have known for thousands of years and created a fast track to enlightenment or higher thinking? I asked the technician and he laughs and says "funny you say that.". It turns out the scientist that developed the technology went to India to monasteries to test the brains of monks to use as a baseline of a well balanced brain to train others to attain that level of brain proficiency. Science has actually recently and finally proven that the brains of people that do meditate frequently have less thinning of brain tissue related to cognitive thinking and have more active areas that are related to concentration. Another study even proved that long term meditation can actually heal areas of the brain affected by traumas.

"You follow desire, and you are not satisfied. Again you follow desire, and again you are not satisfied. Again you try, and again you are not satisfied."-- Lama Zopa Rinpoche,
"Transforming Problems Into Happiness"

You can have sex with the most beautiful men or women on the planet and collect so many notches on your bedpost that you'll need a new bed. Still, like chinese food, you'll soon feel unsatisfied and empty inside. You can travel thousands of miles and spend thousands of dollars to learn from Buddhist monks nestled in their mountain hideaways to find out that all what they know is for you to find your answers and your highest truth-all you have to do is quiet your mind and listen-its all there inside each and every one of us if we can only shut out the millions of thoughts and needs and concerns and just sit and "be" for a moment, all the answers we need will come to us. Some of us have forests of "weeds" to clear through but eventually you do get there and once you do you can only do one thing-be true to yourself and finally befriend yourself and true to your life's purpose.

Like Guru Ganesh joked at Kripalu; there are 51 flavors and paths to spiritual awakening. For me, the path has been a combo platter of yoga, chanting, massage therapy, good health, avoiding drugs or negative people, brain training with a healthy dose of optimism drizzled over the top. For you, it might be planting violets or raising Emu's -whichever flavor you choose the goal is the same; to feel really satisfied with a deliciously flavored life and finally feel fulfilled. I don't claim to be an expert but I am a product of this generation's quest to improve ourselves and eradicate the mistakes of generations past. I have vowed to not die young or suffer from 8 strokes or diabetes like my father before me-I choose to make him proud by pushing further than he ever got the chance to.

The benefits of yoga aren't just about getting rock-hard Madonna arms or relieving stress-its a practice that takes a lifetime to perfect and refines your body and life force as you go along-its a hell of a lot better than a hangover from a night of partying and sometimes can be better than sex-okay, well almost as good as sex.

"Liberate your joy and enjoy the bliss, be true to yourself and befriend your soul.
Growth stops, evolution stops when you stop trying to improve your heart." The Dalai Lama

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How Do You Mend a Gay Broken Heart

Damn, Damn, Damn it, I did it again! Check me into Heartbreak Hotel. Another failed love, another risk, gain, then horribly tragic loss. When will I learn? Learn what though? To not love at all? I can't stop loving but I can be wiser in how I love the next time and how I maintain that love. Forgive the autobiographical rant but I am in desperate need of blog-therapy and have discovered that there are absolutely no books out there on how to heal a gay broken heart (I Google'd and Amazon'ed) and there is no pill to take away the pain of the knife wedged in my heart. All I do have is time to process what caused the collapse and in the words of a friend, "take it not day by day but hour by hour".

This love lost was the grandest, most beautiful and real love I ever had in my life, challenging me to the best version of me possible. It renewed my faith that a true and mutual love is possible in the Gay world of today with real morals and real fidelity. It even got me believing in the "M word" (marriage) for the first time. He was my rock, my confidant, my protector, my burning love, my privilege to have and to hold every night.

A guru once said the most difficult people in your life teach you the biggest lessons. In love, one can find the biggest teacher and the highest lessons we can learn in this life. If you can hack it. There are never any guarantees or insurance policies to protect you from a broken heart, no matter whom you choose to love.

I have friends that for over 15 years have been single and its not for lack of being virile, valuable or attractive. They'd rather not risk the pain (at least that's my theory). They are content in their safe, self-reliant bubbles, with no one to let you down except yourself. It takes a huge amount of trust to put your heart in the care of another. Yet, I still believe it is worth the ride and to at least have gathered some beautiful memories that to have none at all. To be content in knowing true love at all. Some never have that luxury in their entire lifetimes. Some are lucky if they can get fresh water for the day or keep their bodies nourished and under shelter. Love is indeed the most expensive, highest and rarest luxury on our blue bubble we call home.

The beautiful spell I was under for almost 2 years has been broken and turned into a beautiful lie overnight. Where's my brokeback cowboy that doesn't know how to quit me? Where is the loyalty that lasts a lifetime? I ran into an elderly couple that have been married for 60 years and they revealed the secret to their marriage was rather simple, back then people would work 13-14 hours a day and by the time the husband came home he'd be too tired to gripe or argue. Ah, ain't love grand?

Am I an outdated dinosaur? Is this kind of love a thing of the past in our throwaway and unsustainable society? Or is it something people will strive towards in our next evolutionary step? Food, energy, transportation, love that lasts; less disposability. An Obama-style overhaul is needed because if that oil spill gushing right now into the Gulf of Mexico has taught us anything is that our old ways are "messy and wasteful" to say the least. Maybe love will be more everlasting as we tire of the newer and newer versions of any given product and learn to stick with what we got and simply improve on how we use it. I may not be an Iphone but I can release improved versions of me as quickly as Apple does.

Here are some self-help steps towards healing a broken heart:


Whether you catch your loved one cheating or they move out on a moment's notice to be in the arms of their new cheap replacement, is insignificant. What is important is to not do anything you will regret later or get arrested for, no matter how badly they deserve it. Like the gay man in South Beach who found his lover in bed with another and shot his lover then himself in the head, it just isn't worth going to jail for them. The sharp pain of the "crash" must be dealt with immediately and in the healthiest way possible which means to get yourself as far away from the one that hurt you as possible and stay away as best you can. Go to your mother's, your best friend's couch, wherever. Plan your strategy on how to deal with this new challenge life has brought you. The lessons from it won't come until about a month or more after the initial crash. After the first week, you instinctively lean on your tried and true loved ones and friends. Daily doses of Xanax or Prozac isn't a bad idea right about now. Let it all out, cry and cry as much as you can. Stay in bed until you can't any longer. Like singer Robyn wails, it will hurt with every heartbeat. After about the 7th day of holding back tears and punching your shower wall you will begin to desperately yearn to move on and stop looking back. It's now time to go to the next step towards recovery.


Talk to your friends until you don't want to talk about it anymore. You'll be surprised how many people will open up and share their heartbreaks that are so horrible it'll make your's feel like a cake walk. Work past the emotional phase of blaming yourself. It isn't about you, it's about what they needed. No matter how hard you tried, you could have never filled that void. The two of you were not "meant to be" at least any longer than right now.


Get your "J" on and touch yourself for as long as you can. Like milk, it's good for you. Learn how to love that man in the mirror you see everyday. Hit the gym again, hardcore especially on the most depressing day of them all for single people-SUNDAY (roll your eyes annoyed like). The day of the week that everyone snuggles up in bed with their loved one to catch up on Z's and watch movies, eating like a flunky from the Biggest Loser. While the love birds go at it, you will be getting ripped, gifting you an admiration for your new found muscle tone. Fall back in love with your IPod and make a "Breakup-Forget the Butthole playlist" because these are the times that silence is anything but golden. Being home in the sudden silence is literally deafening. Being out of the house as much as possible is the best medicine right about now. Suck up that good ol' Miami sun and get nature's "happy hormones" in the form of Vitamin D. The flip side of depression is that you get to lose some of that stubborn fat. I call it the "Depression Diet" others like to call it the "Divorce Diet". Either way, make sure you at least get some protein in the form of a smoothie. Getting hospitalized will not bring the deserter back.
Carefully select your new mantra-songs to uplift, forget and empower. Stay away from the tear jerkers. No Whitney, Celine or Barbara Streisand (The Way We Were). Listen to these "Eye of the Tiger" songs over and over until their lessons are fully ingrained in your psyche and like Stella you slowly regain your "groove". During this phase, you must write down and list all the things the EX didn't or couldn't do to make you happy (You know what they are). It's essential to go through this step so you can identify the right candidate the next time one comes a'knocking. The true test to see if you are beginning to get over the worm is if you can come up with more things that didnt make you happy than did. There IS a reason for this break, you just didn't want to see it as fast as they did. Your reward is that you will be well on your way to officially be over the he\she\it that hurt you in the first place. After the dust has settled, you will identify all the things you forgave that weren't making you happy and quickly realize they really did you a favor.

Relationships are stepping stones until you climb up to your highest love. There are a few rare unicorns out there that are lucky enough to find it on their first try but for the majority of us, it's a lifelong process.

Suicide prevention tip #1
 Never, ever, ever think the person you are currently in love with is the only and last person you can ever be with no matter how much you love them because if for any reason they leave your life, you won't be able to live without them. There are billions of other people on this planet to fall in love with....or at least millions out of those billions...okay, at least a few hundred thousand.

Here's my break-up playlist (feel free to steal away):

Love is Gone by David Guetta

Dont trust the ho- by 3OH!3

Alone by Maya (lyrics begin at 2:25)
Bulletproof by LaRoux
I've Got Soul by The Killers
According to You by Orianthi
With Every Heartbeat by Robyn
Keep on rising by Ian Carey
Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger
If I Were a Boy (remix only) by Beyonce'

Leave, get out by Jojo
Only When I Lose Myself by Depeche Mode

Suicide prevention tip #2
Do not under any circumstance listen to Sarah McLachlan or Enya and you are absolutely forbidden from downloading The Crying Game by Boy George.


If you are still feeling sorry for yourself and can't seem to shake the pain out of your heart and mind, a little telenovela-esque, dramatic ceremony to forget is called for. Gather all flammable items the offender has ever given you (stuffed animals, concert or movie ticket stubs, anniversary or Valentine's day cards, etc) and torch them in a bonfire inside a metallic container. Gather the ashes and take them to the nearest ocean, river or toilet if you live in the sticks. Before you dump the ashes, ritually take in as many deep breaths as the months or years you were together. Visualize all the illusions, broken promises, beautiful words and future plans you may still be carrying get washed away and released along with the ashes as they hit the water. You can keep the fond memories as long as they don't hurt to recall them.


If you are still being haunted by your heartbreak consider getting out of dodge and attend a holistic retreat for self empowerment via the age old practices of Yoga, Meditation or Buddhism. For those less spiritually inclined, an island getaway for some R&R could be just the trick. Also, it couldn't hurt to volunteer to help the impoverished or those less fortunate. It's a great way to put things into perspective when you see others a lot less fortunate than yourself.


If any of the above fail then it's time to schedule yourself to see a licensed therapist and some good antidepressants for a short term to finally knock it out of the park. There might be some deeper issues lingering in your psyche that a good therapist might help uncover. Be open to hypno-regression because the problem might just be stemming from a previous lifetime.

Whatever the case, you HAVE to pick up the pieces and put humpty dumpty back together again and believe that the next guy will be better because if he isn't, you'll see it coming...hopefully.

A friend sent me this quote, "When God takes something from your grasp, He's not punishing you, but merely opening your hands to receive something better". Buddhism teaches you that pain is essential to finding the way to a happy life as it helps us like a mouse in a maze to find our cheese, avoiding the traps or pitfalls along the way. The love once had is gone now and it is what it was. You must trudge forth and regain your faith slowly, bit by bit, on your own. Refuse to give up on the belief that love can transform and push you to do remarkable things. A love so pure that ego isn't a player at all. As Depeche Mode sings, "It's only when I lose myself in someone else that I find myself.". Your heart will prevail. You will prevail. Instead of saying "Poor me-forget about love alltogether!" chant "Om Mani Padme Hum" repeatedly until your heart's pain eventually ebbs.

**These tips above can be applied to a heterosexual broken heart as well. Looks like we're not as different as we thought we were.