17 December 2003

My friend Charles’ birthday by Mayouko [麻悠子], Wednesday, 17 December

After my first day of work at my new job, I went to Mayouko’s apartment. She’s wonderful. This is the second time I’ve been to her apartment when she cooked a big dinner for someone’s birthday. She said she’d been preparing all day for it, and the food was great.

There were far more vegetables than I’m used to as either American or Jew. The Japanese food had an interesting meat/non-meat relationship. In the West, meat is generally the center of attention and supplemented with non-meat (e. g., seasonings, sauces, garnish). Mayouko served big slices of daikon [大根] radishes covered with a chicken sauce reminiscent of egg drop soup. She also served an appetizer of vegetables wrapped in slices of beef. Then she cooked for us right at the table. I loved eating her cooking, but I adored listening to her laughter. (You should hear it.)

11 December 2003

Co-op City Jewish Community Council Hanukkah Gala at Young Isra’el of Co-op City

Co-op City Jewish Community Council Hanukkah [חנכה] Gala at Young Isra’el of Co-op City, Bronx, Thursday, 11 December

A neighbor telephoned and tried to “Shanghai” [上海] (his word) me into volunteering at a local Hanukkah party for Jewish pensioners at an Orthodox temple here in Baychester. I had a time!

There was a lot of work to be done, but there were fifteen or more volunteers for fewer than a hundred attendees, and we tried to have a take-charge attitude. I helped to set up. During the affair, a group of Jewish high school students from Riverdale did most of the serving, so I helped fill the platters, although I did later run around serving coffee, hot water for tea, and pensioners’ miscellaneous requests. And of course afterward, I helped clean up, clearing tables, then collapsing them and rolling them on edge and lifting them to the top of the growing table stack.

Well, my experience was quite different from, say, the last Desilicious party (see below). There was a great feeling of camaraderie amongst the volunteers. I was on quite friendly and humorous terms with them, including one (Ronnie from Rye) with whom I danced to the delight of the assembled pensioners and ourselves. A handful of attendees complimented my clothing and dancing, others were pleased I could communicate in rudimentary Yiddish [ייִדיש], and others were just thrilled to receive free food or drink from me. I even enjoyed the şnorers [‎שנאָרערס] who couldn’t wait and complained because they weren’t served at precisely the same time as the first table. One lady, after finishing her meal, came up and asked for seconds by asking, item by item, for another complete meal. When she finished her second meal, she came back up and got a third for the following day, telling me she’d think of me when she eats it. It was a mexaye [מחיה] watching the seniors dancing. I got a free top-notch meal and free mediocre entertainment. And to top it all off, I met two sexy male volunteers, one of whom gave me his telephone number. Hu-ha! [הו־האַ!‏]

Afterward, Lynn Levine the volunteer organizer said she’d never had a better group of volunteers (although she probably says that to all of them).

07 December 2003

Opening night of Desilicious at the Pyramid Club, Manhattan, Saturday, 6–Sunday, 7 December

I braved the snowstorm to have a sort of contradictory time mixing euphoria and depression. The music was fabulous, and there were lots of cute guys there, but they all found it extremely easy to ignore me. I had gone to two prior Desilicious parties at which I fairly easily made friends and dance partners. Saturday, however, was more like the last time I attended a Habibi [حبيبي] party. I don’t understand how someone dressed so noticeably was so thoroughly ignored, but nobody wanted to dance with me for more than a few minutes nor introduce me to any of his friends to integrate me into the socializing. Sadly, I suspect I’m just not good-looking enough for people to even be polite to me or take notice of me when they have the sexy boys on their minds.

I saw someone introducing one of his friends to another, but nobody was willing to do that for me. After a few minutes, all my dance partners found excuses to walk away (or walked or danced away without even making excuses) and leave me alone and friendless on the dance floor.

Case in point: I met a cute man who had moved here from India only a month ago. I actually knew more people there than he, we made conversation easily, and we were both friendless, so I thought we should stick together and help one another out. We danced together near the wall. I suggested we move into the crowd, but he didn’t wish to do so. Soon he was facing away from me and towards a good-looking white guy near the wall. Later, I again asked him if he wanted to dance, but he said he didn’t like the song; soon afterward, a sexy South Asian guy asked him to dance, and he accepted. Because he was cute, he made numerous friends while I spent most of my time by the wall neither talking to nor dancing with anybody. While I was dancing with someone else, he did actually come up and join us, but very soon both of my partners were dancing one-on-one with others, and I found myself alone again (naturally) to retreat to the wall. Despite seeing me alone at the wall, he was later dancing one-on-one with a black man and couldn’t introduce me to him. (I mention the people’s ethnicities primarily to emphasize the diversity of his new friends, to show he didn’t ignore me because I wasn’t of an ethnic group he hadn’t intended to meet. You know, some South Asians will attend looking for other South Asians, while others specifically look for non–South Asians.) When not dancing, he sat or stood around chatting with those he’d met, or alone watching the dancers, but he never came to chat with me again unless I made the first move, nor did he introduce me to even one person he’d met. At the end of the night, he left without saying good-bye to me.

A Gujurati guy I had met at Habibi danced with me for a few minutes, then left me with the excuse he wanted to throw away his bottle of water. Soon after, I saw him sitting on the other side of the room with his water bottle. He had done a similar thing at Habibi, telling me he enjoyed dancing with me and that he wanted to return to his friends. It either didn’t occur to him it might be nice to introduce me to them, or he thought they’d be horrified by my company.

I don’t want to give the impression there weren’t any first-rate people there. For example, a queen named Mohammed [‪محمد] invited me onto the dance floor and danced with me and others. I had fun dancing with a guy named Steve (the above-mentioned black man to whom I had to introduce myself) imitating Bollywood moves. I “re-met” comedian Vidur Kapur whom I’d met at Laffalicious (15 November) and Debanuj Das Gupta of APICHA whom I’d met at the Queer Asian & Pacific Islander Film Series (23 November). And disc jockey Ashu Rai is always friendly to me. I plan to attend again tomorrow; we’ll see if I can get more into the swing of socializing. Wish me luck. (And sorry for the long rant.)

27 November 2003

Thanksgiving by KayLynn, Manhattan, Thursday, 27 November

After my Thanksgiving plans fell apart at the last minute, KayLynn graciously reopened her invitation to eat and şmues by her. Each guest had a different topic written inside his folded placecard, so we sat around the table telling stories. I got to tell the story of my grandmother’s kugl [קוגל]. (Stop me if you’ve heard it before.) K. L. is a marvelous cook who presented her juicy breast to the assembled guests. Her potatoes and gravy were top-drawer. The only things that could compare to the fabulous meal were the fabulous desserts (pecan/bourbon and pumpkin/ginger pies). More chitchat and belching followed. Finally, we strolled and swung in Carl Schurz Park. A lovelier time could not have been had. Thank you very much, KayLynn.

23 November 2003

Queer Asian & Pacific Islander Film Series at Cinema Classics, Manhattan, 23 November

I had a great time watching seven different shorts on queer South Asian and Near Eastern themes, meeting the moviemakers and bumping into people I’d met before. I even unexpectedly saw an old friend in one of the movies (Lisa Winters in Magnetic Attractions, by Hima B.). Plus there were bananas, cake rusk and other snacks. And it was all free for nothing! I hear more are scheduled for next month, and I plan to be there. The event was co-organized by the Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Project of APICHA (Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS) and Sholay Productions (who also organize the soon-weekly Desilicious events). Were you there?

Afterward, I ate with Miss Kelly Webb and Frank at Panna II Indian Restaurant.

Then after that, I met with my friends the playwright, cast and crew of FTM at the Pyramid Club.

05 May 2003

Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) reading of Motion and Location, Greenwich Street Theater, Manhattan, Monday, 5 May

Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU)
The 5th Annual TRU Play Reading Series
Motion and Location, by Lorna Littleway: “A coming of age comedy about a teenage African American girl obsessed with baseball, her aunt who gets it and her mother who doesn’t.”
Cast: CeCe Antionette [sic, Cecelia Antoinette], Kaci [M.] Fannin, Audra Polk, uncredited narrator

19 February 2003

Concert of Indian music and classical dance, Bronx House, Bronx, Wednesday, 19 February

Kali and Krishna: The Power of Shakti in Indian Dance, Odissi and Kathak Classical Dance Styles [‎کالی اور کرشنا: اوڑیسی كتھک اور کلاسیکل رقص…‏]

Upon my arrival at the Bronx House Jewish Community Center [برانکس ہاؤس کمیونٹی سینٹر according to the flyer], the woman at the front desk thought I was a performer. I was wearing my dark green shirt with the dark green, almost fatigue-looking trousers and bright green long necklace. When I arrived downstairs in the gymnasium with its outlandish echo, I met Diana Vayserfirova [װײַסערפֿיראָװאַ] who instructed me to go into some room to meet so-and-so. When I indicated I didn’t know who that was, she indicated she too thought I was part of the talent. I took a seat in the audience, but I of course attracted attention. Diana asked me how I heard of the event, and I showed her the Bronx newspaper page I had brought with me. She asked me why I hadn’t therefore attended the other Bronx House events “advertised” on the same page. I hadn’t even noticed them, but later realized they were religious events that were probably attended by too many children. In fact, a black child entered the room, ran in front of everyone, and ran in a circle stomping his feet very loudly and creating a deafening echo. Then he left the room. No one else seemed to have been annoyed by this, but I guess I just hate children. A handful or two of other audience members arrived, almost exclusively senior citizens. There were two videocameras, both operated by what appeared to be one Bronx House personnel member. Diana’s friend there, also on Bronx House staff, took still photographs. Only one of the four performers (Bani Ray [بانی راۓ on the flyer]) was actually Indian. Can you believe it? This is not to say they weren’t all fine performers. Osundara Mayuri [‎اوسندارا مایوری on the flyer] was a black woman dressed up in Indian costume. Explaining a Hindu myth she’d be reenacting, she tried to get us to relate to the story by comparing it to what might happen in church. She didn’t seem to understand she was in a Jewish cultural group and the audience was primarily Jewish. The instrumental performer just didn’t look Desi to me but East Asian. When he was introduced as “Prasant Kumar” or some such name, I thought I must have been mistaken. However, the accent he revealed to us during his verbal introduction convinced me he was pinoy. Plus, he uttered a Hindi [हिन्दी] or Sanskrit [संस्कृत] word, but didn’t use that typical Indo-Aryan v/w pronunciation. I really enjoyed the two dancers, particularly Bani. All the narration and introduction was done in English, and by Diana also in Russian. While leaving the gym, I noticed a flyer for the event in Urdu [اردو]! Believe it or not, I actually caught at least one error in it. Diana had actually seemed disappointed that not one Desi person was in the audience. However, it seems the only outreach to the local South Asian community was the one Urdu flyer. It was wise in the sense that the local community is almost exclusively Muslim, but doomed to failure because the event was so decidedly Hindu. Perhaps if the flyers had been in Hindi, Gujurati [ગુજરાતી] or Bengali, some few Hindus might have found out about the event and possibly attended. But since the entire outreach for such a Hindu event had been done exclusively to Muslimun [‎مسلمون], I’m not surprised.

I missed the bus just as I approached the stop, so I had to sit while it was snowing on me waiting for the next bus. I think any other events at Bronx House, particularly during the daytime, would probably have far, far too many children present.