April 22, 2014

I Lost Flat Stanley, So I'm Sending This Letter In His Place

A few months ago, my nephew sent me a Flat Stanley to take with me on my travels

Unfortunately, he was lost somewhere between Los Angeles, California and Dublin, Ireland

Since I'm a firm believer that everything does not happen for a reason, I've decided to teach his classmates a lesson on history, travel, love and relocation.

Dear Students,

I had an amazing time traveling throughout the world!

The majority of my time was spent in New York City, where I stayed with Jeffrey, who is the uncle of Trevor. Jeffrey is now 25-years-old and was a student at the same elementary school around twenty years ago.

Over the past few months, I was able to spend time & travel to the following locations:

New York City: The largest city in the United States! Did you know that Buffalo is the second largest city in New York?
Los Angeles, California: I saw many celebrities! I went to Santa Monica Beach, took photos in front of the Hollywood Sign and did a little shopping on Rodeo Drive.
Boston, Massachusetts: I learned about the founding of our nation!
Nashville, Tennessee: Live country music & southern hospitality! A pretty cool place, but I really prefer the Northeast and West coast.
Dublin, Ireland: The largest city in Ireland! I’ve included a photo of me doing some sightseeing.
Galway, Ireland: A cool college town with great food and great people!

One of my happiest times is when I went to Ireland. I spent a week – mostly in Dublin and a few days in Galway on the western coast of the country – and I met many interesting people. They spoke a little different than those in America; their accents quick and direct, and oftentimes, I was left hanging on their words, asking them to repeat what they said. I can’t wait to go back!

The Northeast United States has the highest concentration of Irish decedents in America, so it’s possible that you may have Irish roots, too.

Prior to Ireland, I was in Los Angeles … a place where I fell in love with a woman named Flat Stacey. She is from Detroit, another rust belt city, and after much consideration, I decided to move to California to be with her. We are very happy.

I really enjoyed Lancaster, but the world is too large to stay in one place your whole life! Get good grades, stay involved and find out what your interests are early in school! Be nice to each other and don’t bully – it’s not cool at all.

I’ve sent along a few photos! I hope the other Flat Stanley’s had fun, too.

Sending my regards from Los Angeles,

Flat Stanley

April 18, 2014

I Don't Have Jungle Fever Because I'm Dating A Black Man

Thankfully, I’m not easily offended. Well, I suppose I should say that I’ve learned to build a thick skin over the years. Isn’t it weird how things slowly change?

Towards the end of my high school career, I wouldn’t have even whispered, “I’m gay.” Now I write about my sexuality and the LGBT rights movement weekly. Hell, I even discussed it in a national magazine.

Around six months ago, I met – and eventually, feel in love with – my boyfriend, Brian. Growing up in Lancaster, New York, my hometown was around 99% Caucasian.

Luckily, I was able to travel throughout my youth to expose me to the diversity of the United States.

Unfortunately, I grew up with a handful of upper-middle class white kids whose classification of diversity involved a variety of BMW colors. They also assumed that the few black people in our community were all related and the Catholicism was the only religion in America. Let’s hear it for the Northeast suburbs!

After Brian and I officially started dating, I’d received a few Facebook messages or texts after we posted a photo, or checked-in at a bar or restaurant online. They were usually nice, but some had an underlying message.

“I’m happy for you! I didn’t know that you had jungle fever, though. Not your typical type!”

What the fuck? I was dating a guy that happened to be black. It wasn’t like I was bitten by a mosquito and wanted to have sex with every gay black man that was in New York City (and the nicer parts of New Jersey).

But, full disclosure: I did get drunk in Harlem once and that almost happened. That’s beside the point.

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed the daily struggles of the black community through the eyes of my boyfriend, and from being one half of an interracial couple – even in New York City. It makes me sad that someone is looked upon in a different light, and treated in an unequal way, just because they are not white.

As a preppy white dude with light hair and thick glasses, I would never attempt to speak on behalf of another race, but being with Brian, I am a little more cognizant while on the subway, shopping or at a restaurant.

Funny enough, a lot of the judgment (in our experience) comes from black people. Brian is often told that he’s “not black enough” or “doesn’t act black,” and the very few times that we’ve been called “fags” or other derogatory terms, they’ve always been from black males.

Now, am I supposed to hold that against black men? No. Against black people? Of course not. But when a human is faced with similar situations over and over, I can see why certain ideas are formed and stereotypes cemented. It’s sad and I wish it didn’t happen.

A few weeks ago, we passed a group of older black men on our way to dinner on the Upper East Side. We were holding hands, and I took a deep breathe as we approached; I had a long day, and I really wasn’t in the mood or an argument or ignorant comment.

“Oh yeah! Now, that’s what I’m talking about … the way it should be! White, black, whatever. Good for you,” one of the older men said as we walked past them.

We laughed and said thanks as we turned the corner.

Even though I consider myself open-minded and liberal, it’s always great to have my optimistic beliefs reinforced – especially when I’m expecting something other than respect.

April 11, 2014

Short Story: The New Era Cap

The uptown subway slowed to the stop as it approached the Union Square station. I felt uneasy. 

I glanced around the cluttered train and I stepped away from the door.

As they closed for departure, I spotted him from a distance. I gasped and braced myself against a metal pole. Things began to get blurry, and I almost cried out for help.

“There is no way this can be true,” I said to myself. “Is that a real New Era cap? Is that the sticker?”

I tried to maintain my composure in the minutes after – slowly snaking my way through the commuters and tourists – and thought about the various stories that I was told throughout my youth.

“There will come a day in your life, probably when you least expect it, when you will see an authentic New Era hat. You will be speechless and even feel weak in the knees. It’s a pretty shocking to see a real one. When a man or woman chooses to leave a sticker on their hat, they are also making a personal statement,” my grandfather once told me.

“And what’s that?”

“First, they are letting you know that they had around thirty dollars to buy a hat, or that they were important enough to receive a gift on Christmas. Second, this person wants you to know that originality still exists."

As a child, I listened intensely. I actually tried to take notes, even though I didn't know yet how to spell; the education system in the United States was just as fucked up in the 1990's.

"And the third statement, which I believe to be the most important, is that they obviously want you to know that the hat is legit," he finished.

As the memories bounced throughout my mind, the subway once again came to a stop and the young man wearing the hat made his way to the door. They opened and he made his way onto the busy platform. 

He walked up the stairs and I contemplated screaming out to get his attention, but decided against it. 

I was leaving another encounter up to fate. 

I was leaving it up to my guardian angels.

I don’t know why, but I know that one day, someday in the future, I will once again cross paths with someone wearing a real New Era cap. It's something to live for and something to strive for.

Until then, I must walk the busy – yet lonely – streets of New York City and be confronted with the thought that always stalks my mind on a daily basis: “Is that New Era cap real?”

April 6, 2014

Boston to New York

There's something about the Northeast,
And the eery beauty during the warmer months.

It always inspires me to craft a story about the inhabitants.

I pass through the towns,
When the moon is replacing the sun,
And no cars are in sight.

I try to catch the final rays,
As they reflect off the older buildings.

I always imagine that I'm transported back.

Sometimes a few years,
Sometimes a few decades.

It's sad to know that I won't be around forever,
Or that I'm part of a small percentage,
That believes humans don't live for eternity.

But, I guess that makes me appreciate it all even more.

Photo taken at Old City Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. Read more of my poetry here.

April 2, 2014

Buffalo-Niagara Population On The Rise

By 1900, Buffalo, New York, was the 8th largest city in the United States with over 350,000 residents. 

Over the next few decades, the population increased -- hitting it's high in the 1950's with just under 600,000 people in the city proper. However, over the past 60 years, it seemed that Buffalo was hemorrhaging people left and right.

As the steel mills and other heavy industry were relocated overseas, and shipping was rerouted away from Western New York due to the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, those seeking opportunity were not too welcome in the Queen City.

I left Buffalo and moved to Los Angeles in 2011 after graduating from Canisius College. Ironically enough, the first person I dated in California was born and raised in Buffalo. We met eating chicken wings at a boutique in West Hollywood. But I digress.

The 2010 census put the city at 261,310 residents.

Good news: The population is on the rise for the Buffalo-Niagara metro area, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The two-county Buffalo area was listed 48th place on top-50 list of the most populated metropolitan areas in the United States.

"We lost nearly 20,000 indiciduals over a 25 year span, that's stopped. Instead of losing anywhere from 8 to 10-thousand people every year we're actually gaining population, which I think for most people is shocking, but it's happened three years in a row," said Erie County Executive, Mark Poloncarz.

Since 2012, the area has seen a boost of 348 people. I know, I know. It's not life shattering news, but given the history of the city, I think it's amazing that an increase is actually noted.

113 years later, people are finally over the assassination of William McKinley and feel safe in the city.

"The population of this area is growing, the economic base is growing, and the unemployment rate is going down. It says a lot about the work that many of us have been doing to turn around the community," said Poloncarz.

In 2010, Forbes ranked Buffalo the 10th best place to raise a family in America.


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