Archived entries for Friends

Palm Springs

I’ve never had much desire to go to Palm Springs – until my friends Brian and Dean rented a house for a month and invited me to come visit last week! I fell in love with the place and can’t wait to go back.

Amazing little airport that I could happily never land at again (scary!):

Cute house and pool:

In-pool margaritas and serious conversation with Brian:

Less serious conversation over Palm Springs Iced Tea at Wang’s in the Desert:

Dean is not amused:

Andrew Embiricos 1985-2011

“With death comes honesty.” -Salman Rushdie

Today would have been the 26th birthday of the one and only Andrew Ali Aga Khan Embiricos (1985-2011), my unbelievably gregarious friend who died one week ago.

I don’t know exactly when he entered my life. It was maybe four or five years ago, on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea. He was bopping down the street, listening to music with gigantic headphones I thought looked ridiculous. But he had a look about him, something mysterious that intrigued me. Time passed, and I’d occasionally see him around, in restaurants and bars, and of course still bopping on Eighth Ave.

Then one day a couple years later, a friend said he wanted me to meet a guy he knew. The three of us showed up at a bar, and when I saw him, I was floored. “This is Andrew?” It was the same handsome guy I’d seen in passing for years, but had never met.

Our connection that night was instant (Planes. Paris. Various other “P” words perhaps not fit for publication.) It was if I’d reconnected with a long lost friend. Of course that’s how Andrew made everyone feel.

On a Sunday morning last April, around the time he started the job at Virgin Atlantic that he was so excited about, he suggested we wake up at the crack of dawn to do the JFK Runway Run. I picked him up to drive out to Queens (he brought Cascada CDs, of course) and I was confused when I saw him toting along a loaf of sliced bread. When I asked him what the hell that was for, he explained he’d gone on Google for racing tips, and found one about starch-loading before a race to improve performance. (I don’t think Wonder Bread was what they had in mind.)

That morning was so brisk, and Andrew so poorly dressed, he put on the free race participant t-shirt, which was only available in XL (or XXL?). With his trim figure, he looked so ridiculous, but laughed it off as we ran five kilometers under the path of jets landing from places like Dubai and Johannesburg. He was so excited be in the thick of the airport action. His energy was always contagious. I’m surprised we ever crossed the finish line because we spent so much time plane-gazing and laughing and joking along the course. He ended up beating me — the one of us actually on a running team! — by four seconds and I never forgave him.

One of us in Lululemon, one of us…not. 

Another time, we were on a Delta flight (who else would he fly?) when I had an allergic reaction that caused my lip to swell. We landed in Salt Lake City and in typical Andrew fashion, he expressed increasing and genuine concern at my new “plastic” look before laughing uncontrollably and suggesting I just tell everyone I’d been to Orange County. That night in Park City, it was my go-to line.

A true aviation geek, he once called me to debate — for 45 minutes — the merits of spending nearly $1,000 on a massive set of KLM delft houses on eBay. “This asshole keeps outbidding me!” he said. I eventually talked him out of it. With all his Delta “collectibles,” there was no room in his apartment for another village of airline crap. His agonizing over the purchase made for a good laugh, just like every interaction with him did.

“Death is a great revealer of what is in a man, and in its solemn shadow appear the naked lineaments of the soul.” -E.H. Chapin

This past Thursday, after days of dreading the prospect of it, his funeral came.

I tried to hold back the tears as hundreds of loved ones came together on the Upper East Side to celebrate his life. The tributes were all so touching. His friend Czarina read comments that had poured in from around the world on Facebook. “Andrew had 1,211 friends on Facebook,” she said, “and I think every single one of them has posted a remembrance this week.” They all described him the same way: smart, unselfish, and always full of laughter. One person announced that although Andrew didn’t know it, he was soon going to receive a promotion at Virgin Atlantic. (Back in April, when he started there, he texted me SO excited to say “I think I’ve found my industry!”)

His friend Aaron remarked that there was no shortage of people who considered Andrew their best friend, but there was never competition for the title because he was so generous with his love and friendship there was enough to go around for everyone.

I was doing OK until Andrew’s casket was carried out of the chapel. I finally broke down. It was finally real. He wasn’t coming back.

I decided to walk the 60 blocks home that day to clear my head. It was a beautiful day; all the way down Fifth Avenue, the sun was shining so bright and high in the sky. I stopped at a church (quite a feat for this agnostic), lit a candle, and sat and closed my eyes for a few minutes. Later, when I reached Andrew’s building — we lived steps away from each other — I stopped and looked up and just cried at the drawn curtains of his sixth-floor apartment.

That day, a friend remarked online that the streets of our city seemed oddly void of their usual energy. It does seem duller, less vibrant without Andrew’s smile and incredible energy.

Andrew’s death has left a hole in the heart of all who knew him well.

Boo, we’ll miss you, but like your mom said to me when she tried to comfort ME (how selfish of me!) as I wept at your funeral, we’ll always smile at the memories. (Except for those awful sneakers you know I hated. And your inability to ever decorate your apartment.)

La mort c’est jamais la fin d’une histoire.

Jon and Zack’s big gay wedding

All my friends are getting married, it seems. This week I went to my third same-sex wedding (and my second this year), between my old friend Jon and his now-husband Zack. At least my friends have great taste: they hosted their ceremony at Stonehurst, the estate of Robert Treat Paine just outside Boston. With its gorgeous landscaping and shingles as far the eye could see, the estate screamed Henry Hobson Richardson and Frederick Law Olmsted (and it turns out, they DID, in fact, design it).

It was a great ceremony, with lots of good friends turning out for Jon and Zack…definitely the kind of wedding everyone wants (well, if they want a wedding!). I love them both and am incredibly happy for them, but I have to admit, the highlight was meeting one of the other guests, who grew up in Vancouver — we compared notes and Sun Run times over red wine well into the night!

A few more pics here.

Chris and Brian’s wedding

I usually dread weddings, but not my first same-sex wedding! I was thrilled for my BFF Chris and his boyfriend Brian for officially (and legally) tying the knot yesterday in Connecticut before having a fantastic party with hundreds of friends back in New York. Chris was my first new friend when I moved to New York more than four years ago, and I love him to death — so glad to see him finally hitched!

With Andy:

With Kenneth in the 212:

With Andy and Chris:

With Yosbel and Drew:

PFLAG NYC

It’s been a week of gay events in New York! Last night I went to the annual NYC PFLAG Annual Dinner at Tribeca Rooftop — our table was, of course, quite good looking, as were the views from the roof. The highlight of the night was not the PFLAG mom who told the sad and predictable tale of her son’s spiral into crystal meth addiction and HIV (As my friend Andy observed afterward, “You know, I was so expecting her to go to the HIV place in that story that I found the meth revelation to be a nice palette cleanser.”), but Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal faith, and the subject of worldwide anguish by some (well, many) Church faithful…and a very impressive performance by Barbara Cook, who has been singing her heart out for decades, if not centuries.

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AIGA Design Legends Gala

Went to a very cool event in NYC last night — the AIGA Design Legends Gala — what a blast. It wasn’t called Design Legends without good reason: Pablo Ferro was there to receive the night’s top honor — he is like a god in that crowd. I can’t imagine another audience so rapt (though Jim Jones springs to mind!).

With Mitch:

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And with Jenny and Fiona…trying to look happy:

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Au Petit Extra

If this is not the worst picture of me ever taken, then, well…there’s no disputing this is the worst photo ever taken of me, so let’s not even go there. But my BFF Konrad looks great. Shot last night at dinner at the fabulous Au Petit Extra in Montreal, where, admittedly the French wines were flowing freely…great restaurant recommendation KY!

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Seen around Montreal

Cheap rents (and fine photo ops) abound in places like this one in Montreal near McGill University:

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Chess at Place Émilie-Gamelin (Berri Square):

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Place des festivals, a new public square just opened in the emerging Quartier des Spectacles:

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A random market:

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I didn’t even know there was a club/restaurant (737) atop Place Ville-Marie, the soaring crucifix-shaped tower design by Henry Cobb (that’s I.M. Pei’s partner for those of you interested), but my friends and I sure had a good time there on Friday night!

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While Place Ville-Marie (designed by friendly North Haven neighbor Harry Cobb) has lost some of its luster over the years — Air Canada long ago moved its headquarters out of the building, and its claim to fame as the tallest building in the Commonwealth didn’t last long — it still has some neat touches like 737, and this fountain in the central plaza.

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Along Sherbrooke Street, a great example of Montreal’s distinctive greystone architecture:

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Below is “The Illuminated Crowd” on McGill College Avenue. The plaque on the sculpture reads: “A crowd has gathered, facing a light, an illumination brought about by a fire, an event, an ideology – or an ideal. The strong light casts shadows, and as the light moves toward the back and diminishes, the mood degenerates; rowdiness, disorder and violence occur, showing the fragile nature of man. Illumination, hope, involvement, hilarity, irritation, fear, illness, violence, murder and death – the flow of man’s emotion through space.”

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I always thought it was a nice touch that Montreal renamed one of its main drags after René Lévesque, the famous Quebec politican (and firebrand if there ever was one) who struck and killed a homeless man while driving drunk.

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Bye, bye, Brett

Last night we said goodbye to our friend Brett (“my girlfriend” as our mutual friend Donny has nicknamed him), who is abandoning our posse for warmer climes. Despite choosing Seattle and not Vancouver as his new Pacific Northwest home, we forgive Brett and wish him nothing but the best in his new life.

Brett and I been travel buddies for years — having ventured across the Atlantic more times than I can count. He was the first friend to ever suggest a spontaneous trip to Europe — we up and went to Munich — and he forever changed my way of thinking about travel. I’ll miss having him around for the spontaneous trips, because he travels so well: I can’t imagine another friend who’d let me drag him through dark alleys of Istanbul for hours looking for a gay bar, or who’d agree to put aside his own wish list in Paris for my own — every night. I’ll miss you, Bretty!

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The Look

What can I say? I have damn good looking friends. Ran into Donny and Sam this morning at JFK before jetting down to Bogotá. I would like to point out that I’ve since dumped those shoes into my hotel dumpster here in Colombia. Tomorrow I’ll find new ones.

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BFFs

As usual, this year’s New York Pride parade was longer than anyone could possibly stand — easily 5-6 hours of parading through Manhattan, though my BFF Brian and I quit early and signed up for margarita drinking instead. Hard to believe that Brian and I have been friends almost an entire decade (scary thoughts). Even though we both live in New York and don’t get to see each other much, every time we do, I always look forward to our time together — it’s easy and always like we saw each other 10 minutes earlier. We don’t miss a beat.

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Signs of the season

There are few things as rejuvenating as a summer weekend in New York. It’s hard to imagining living anywhere else on lazy days like these.

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With Drew at our usual summer perch, the 7th Avenue sidewalk at The Duplex.

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Paris

I may endlessly praise the merits of Vancouver, but truth be told, Paris is probably my favorite place on earth. Vancouver wins on setting, but Paris wins on romance. Not only do I get to practice my French here, but I also get to eat my favorite food group — starch (croissants and baguettes) — to no end. Twelve years of French lessons have paid off! A highlight of this jaunt to the City of Light was a great lunch today at Georges, the restaurant on top of the wild Centre Pompidou, the French National Museum of Modern Art. Running into a friend from Washington in the galleries afterward (how random) was just as fun…

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Lufthansa JFK-FRA

My friend Eric and I flew across the pond last night on Lufthansa. The craziest thing was arriving at Frankfurt Airport around 11 p.m. ET, just as Colgan Air crashed in Buffalo. We watched the coverage on Eric’s BlackBerry, hooked up to his Slingbox in Manhattan!

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Around Dublin

My friend Chris and I really loved the place; we spent a few lazy days wandering the drab streets, taking in the great weather (50 degrees, I think!), drinking plenty local beer (Guinness, of course) and eating some terrific cuisine (not Irish, thank you very much). Dublin: I’ll be back!

Crazy-green grass at Trinity College:

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Retail institution Brown Thomas on Grafton Street:

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A delish pint at the Gravity Bar (with amazing views of Dublin) at the Guinness Storehouse:

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Crossing the Atlantic on Aer Lingus

It’s said that Dublin enchants everyone who visits — or at least gets them tipsy — so my friend Chris and I had to check it out! I’ve long wanted to visit the Emerald Isle, so we shuffled off on Thursday night. In the old days, the great masses packed dingy vessels and endured awful journeys to travel between our shores. These days, not much has changed. But with Aer Lingus the trip is indeed shorter. You’re touching down in a mere 5 hours and 25 minutes!

Pre-departure Ambien (really not recommended for this 5-hour flight):

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Pre-departure champagne (really not recommended on top of the Ambien):

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The not-so-bad meal on Aer Lingus (roasted chicken medallions topped with fresh sauteed mushrooms, accompanied by sugar snap peas, carrots, and roasted potatoes, served with a Marsala sauce):

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Deplaning in Dublin:

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Aer Lingus flight attendants are sometimes the butt of jokes — “Green Grannies” they’re called, on account of their, well, green uniforms — but I have to tell you, our crew was superb. Staying hydrated in the air is essential. When I commented to one of them that I’d never tried Irish whiskey, she brought out a big sampler pack for us. She also helped us out with local travel tips, offering up her own and then soliciting tips from the rest of the crew. Great experience all around.

A weekend in Istanbul

While most people were celebrating turkey day, I opted to travel to Turkey instead. I just got back from a few days in the city that Wikipedia claims is the world’s third largest (city proper, that is) with an unbelievable 11 million people or so (18 million in the metro area). I didn’t know what to expect from such a huge metropolis but came away from it having had an incredible time! I’m ready to go back.

After a great flight 5,000-mile flight across the Atlantic on Turk Hava Yollari (that’s Turkish Airlines for you English speakers), my friend Brett and I headed for the Hotel Ibrahim Pasha, a super cute hotel in the Sultanahmet (tres old) section of Istanbul. It was a fabulous location to explore the city’s best historic attractions, steps away from the soaring Blue Mosque, the famed Hagia Sophia, the unexpectedly cool Basilica Cistern, and of course the Grand Bazaar, where I spent an entire afternoon haggling for some pretty fabulous Christmas gifts for friends and family.

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The Bazaar Quarter was a warren of narrow back alleys filled chock-a-block with shops and merchants selling everything under the sun. Everything, it seemed, was for sale in Istanbul. Everything has a price. Jam packed with shoppers and sellers shouting their offers (not good for anyone with a touch of enochlophobia), this was the side of Istanbul one thinks of when picturing the old cities of the Muslim world like Baghdad and Kabul.

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On a dreary morning we hopped on a ferry and popped over to the Asian side of Istanbul — this is, of course, famously the only big city to straddle two continents — and took in impressive views of the city.

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Here you can see the Dolmabahçe Palace, the nerve center of the Ottoman Empire until its collapse in 1923, and the super-modern Levent district behind:

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In every direction the minarets of Istanbul’s 3,000 mosques could be seen poking through to the heavens. Gorgeous mosques abound!

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By the ferry terminal on the city’s European side on lazy (and wet) Saturday morning, men and boys lined the shore fishing away the day:

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Afterward, we wandered the stalls of the Egyptian Bazaar, also known as the spice market, and took in a feast for the senses. Though it’s a tourist trap to an extent, it was also a very colorful place. Take a look at these delights:

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On the last day of our trip, we went through no fewer than seven security checks at Ataturk International Airport. It was like a Tel Aviv airport experience! Our eventual departure was well worth the hassles since the takeoff provided the best views of the entire trip. Here in the distance you can see the sprawl of Istanbul and its unrivaled setting.

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Istanbul is not all “old,” however. I just didn’t take a photos of the new parts of town, because I was too busy taking in its amazing restaurants (and local beer). We enjoyed some excellent meals at Cezayir (“new Turkish cuisine”) and Asian-fusion Lokal (I was desperate for a taste of the Far East) and happily sat and people watched over locally brewed Efes on the unbelievably crowded Nevizade Sokak.

Flying JFK – Istanbul

My friend Brett and I flew Turkish Airlines from JFK on their painless 10 hour nonstop flight…

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The service in the incredibly PINK cabin was impeccable and the Turkish cuisine the first hints at what I’d experience in Istanbul. A little exciting and a little scary.

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Like most European countries, we zipped through customs without so much as a word or a question by the officer. A very spirited stamp in our passport and that was it!

MORE ON TURKEY TRIP

So long, summer

It is so hard to believe — and accept — that summer has passed us by! Yesterday I spent a lazy last day ramming around the city with friends visiting from San Francisco. On the planks of the Christopher Street I snapped this shot of our reflections!

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Dispelling the rumors

Today it came to my attention that avid blog readers believe I have a thing against dogs. I can assure everyone that I have no personal vendetta against any pooch. That said, I am not a huge fan of the average dog owner (more likely the average city dog owner). I’ve been witness to too much bad behavior in Boston, New York, Vancouver, and elsewhere. So today, in my friend David’s studio in Maine, I took this photo opp with the sweetest little dog ever for photo evidence. Jade, an Upper East Side dog if there ever was one, settled into my lap and immediately fell asleep, purring like a kitten. I let her sit with me until it was time to go, and I didn’t even flinch. See, I do have a heart!

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