Holiday Stroll 2016: Part 3

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Sunday began in slightly less brilliant form than its predecessor. There was a light covering of clouds high in the sky, lending the day a muddled gray tinge. The sharpness of our sunny Saturday was muted, as if the universe was joining us in mourning the end of a weekend. We weren’t quite through, though, and a brunch at Boston Chops was the perfect start to the last leg of our holiday stroll.

We did some window shopping in the South End, but when you get to a window as pretty and sweet and colorful as the one below, you go in.

Filled with candy and confections and the catty guy from the Eagle, it was a surreal experience. A collection of temptations tinged with the innocent exuberance of childhood surrounded us, all of it intertwined with a slight danger like that which pervades the Nutcracker. Dark magic lurks on the cusp of holiday dreams, and sugar plum fairies can sometimes turn out to be meddlesome tricksters.

We tread across to one of our favorite holiday sights: a field of Christmas trees and wreaths whose scent signaled the happy arrival of the season. I paused to breath in the fresh pine, and all those Christmas eve memories came rushing back. This was what our holiday stroll was all about: memories old and new colliding in wondrous unison.

We crossed back to Boston Proper, where we edged along Arlington. Unaccustomed to the magic squirrels of the Boston Public Garden, Kira freaked out when she turned around to see one staring her in the face. I crouched down and took a few photos of this little guy, who seemed quite ready for his close up and almost ended up in my lap.

We stayed to the edge of the Garden, and made our way to Beacon Hill, and the stretch of charming shops that carry the magic of another era. Antique shops filled with sparkling jewelry, stationary stores bursting with holiday cards and wrapping paper, and bustling cafes overflowing with other shoppers looking for respite lined the street. We loitered a bit too long, and as we made our way back to the condo realized that Kira would have to take a later train. That boded well for making one last stop at the Copley Fairmont and its fanciful Oak Room.

Our holiday stroll had come to an end, but the season had only just begun.

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Holiday Stroll 2016: Part 2

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Saturday marked our official stroll day, and we began where we ended last year: Cambridge. A sunny start to the day was fortuitous for the crowds at Harvard Square. Apparently Harvard was playing Yale in a football game, but we were headed in the right direction (away from Harvard and out along Massachusetts Ave. toward Porter, where several shops (and a pho lunch) awaited our wallets.

We began, as everyone should, with a gift or two for ourselves. I explained it to Kira like I was a flight attendant: you have to secure your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else. That gorgeous silk scarf I found at a Tibetan store was my means of securing my mask before I could help anyone else. Kira found two scarves, and then we were ready to consider aiding the children in our lives.

At Nomad, colorful and unique sundry dazzled our senses, as Kira found a gift for her daughter and I found something for a co-worker. The walk to Porter had been a long one (there was a T issue and Harvard was the last stop that morning) so even though it was early in our expedition, we were already famished and ready for lunch. Nothing beats pho for that.

After filling ourselves with that glorious bowl of goodness, we were back for serious retail action, backtracking to Harvard (and several more Tibetan stores) before traipsing all the way to Central Square. Hands filled with shopping bags, hearts filled with Christmas spirit, and shoes filled with tired and sore feet, we hopped on the Red line back to Boston, where both of us needed a quick break before dinner.

The sun was just starting to descend, the last rays of it draining from the bedroom as the streetlamps flickered to life outside. We changed for a fancy belated-birthday dinner, and took in the moment. These were the in-between times that I cherished most, the moments everyone seems to forget, but that form the bulk of living when you think about it. We would have our fancy dinner and cocktails, and we would toast to our holiday stroll and long-past birthdays, but the real happiness was everything that led up to that.

There was one more morning left, and Sunday is always a wild card when it comes to the holiday stroll…

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Holiday Stroll 2016: Part 1

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You know what they say about the best-laid plans.

For this year’s holiday stroll Kira and defied (or perhaps embraced) that adage, turning it into a set of no-laid plans. Unsure of whether we could get together again before Christmas, we decided to play it safe and make our annual Holiday Stroll a couple of weeks ago. We just happened to make the decision the night it all began, which meant no itinerary and no set plan, not even a loose one. That wasn’t a bad thing though, and it was sort of how we started doing these strolls in the first place.

I arrived in Boston on Friday afternoon, and it was a gloriously sun-filled day. After cleaning a disgusting toilet and going crazy trying to find a bunch of missing towels, I realized my brother had been there last, and once again I was cleaning up after him. Not one to let such common disappointments mar an otherwise-hopeful holiday stroll, I set my mood aright by setting up the limited holiday decorations I started collecting last year. Once the lights were on, and a glass of wine was poured, I felt the holiday spirit. Kira arrived long after it was dark, and we headed into Chinatown for a bowl of hot soup.

In many respects, it’s the night before any holiday stroll that feels the most special. There was a brisk breeze, tempered by the steaming bowls of soup before us, and, later, a whiskey cocktail at the Mandarin Oriental.

Better than any other time of the year, the shop windows were decked out in their holiday displays – whimsical, enchanting, imaginative scenes – the sort of thing that would tickle my childhood fancy more than any real gifts beneath the tree could ever capture. We paused and looked into the pretty portals, and the innocence of the season, no matter how much jaded commercialism had crept in through the years, touched me once more.

Then it was time to go back to the condo, and a viewing of ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’. I had neglected to bring our standard holiday fare ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’ so this would have to do. Our holiday stroll had unwittingly begun, and we were both asleep before they even reached the Halloween scene.

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Hunk of the Day: Mariano Ontañon

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There is no such thing as a ‘standard’ Hunk of the Day. Even a male model like Mariano Ontañon is nothing like any other male model we have featured here. The poses make be similar, the garb may be equally-skimpy, but everyone here brings their own individual flare and uniqueness to the party. Born in Argentina (what’s new, Buenos Aires?) Mr. Ontañon has been doing the modeling thing for several years now. This is his first appearance as Hunk of the Day. Congrats!

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A Blanket that Demands Nudity

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Some blankets are so soft that they simply demand to be coddled with no clothing on. Who are we to deny such a sumptuous experience? When mortals defy the invitation to this sort of luxurious comfort, they go against their very natures. I’ve never denied those experiences, and there’s nothing more lovely than slipping out of our starchy day garb and into nothing but a cozy blanket.

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A Disturbing Peek

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This year’s holiday photo card takes a questionable turn, as it’s one of the more disturbing images I’ve featured of late. It’s time, as we’ve had a stretch of semi-innocent cards for the past couple of years and every now and then you should do something that wakes you up and pisses people off. To that end, I think this one will be a doozy. I’m offering no other advance word or hype on the subject, other than a few possible lead-ups with Christmas cards past, and this will be the only sneak-peek anyone gets until the big reveal.

The theme was a “Mary Christmas” and I’ll leave it at that. (No, I’m not in a wig or a manger, which is good since a friend once graciously pointed out that I make a damn ugly woman.) Get ready to gird your loins, because Jesus is coming…

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Hunk of the Day: Brandon from Kilted Bros.

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 Having made a big splash in his sexy modeling work for Kilted Bros. (excerpts of which can happily be seen down below) this is Hunk of the Day Brandon, who takes a bow in his first Hunk crowning. Easily winning over fans with a gregarious smile and mischievous glint in his eyes, Brandon has quickly become one of the most popular models for the pants-free environment of the Kilted Bros.

{This is a timely post for the holiday shopping season, as tomorrow the Kilted Bros. will be taking part in ‘Shop the 5th’ in Cleveland, OH. If you’re in the area, check them out.}

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If You Love Me, Really Love Me…

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Let this Christmas Wish List happen! Despite what the photos indicate, I’m far from a Tiffany’s gal, and the only breakfast I’m having is the traditional croissant on the street outside the store. However, there are more reasonable requests in the aforementioned link, so if you’re feeling especially generous, or just want to peruse my wildest desires, click away.

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All These Decembers

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If November gets sent out in a flurry of former links, let’s greet December in the same honorable way. This is the month when holiday madness can either make or break you. Eventually, you have to give in or fail at fighting it. I’ve been preparing things for a few weeks now, so most things are under control, but there are always those stressful moments of unexpected obligations that show up out of nowhere that cause the most trouble. Each year I decide I’m just going to go with the flow and have a good time, and each year I get a little better at making that happen.

December 2010

December 2011

December 2012

December 2013

December 2014

December 2015

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Ben Cohen: Prime Beefcake

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The Ben Cohen calendar is now available for ordering online, just in time for your holiday gift giving. Mr. Cohen returns to the calendar front in fine form, so hopefully we’ll be seeing more photo shoots like this one, by the great Leo Holden. No matter how many calendars Ben does, he always brings something new and exciting to every one, and 2017 already looks to be better than what’s come before.

 

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Hunk of the Day: Milo Ventimiglia

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How has it come to pass that Milo Ventimiglia has never been named a Hunk of the Day until now? The only other mention I can find of him is this naked Milo Ventimiglia post from a while way back. Since then, he’s been nude on the new television smash ‘This Is Us’ (which also features double Hunk of the Day Justin Hartley). Mr. Ventimiglia may be hot on Hartley’s tail after this post…

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When November Ends

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Even with the last-ditch stomach-filling experience of Thanksgiving, November is largely a dismal month. The days do nothing but get shorter, daylight wants only to disappear, and the weather turns like a caged monkey. It’s unpredictable and volatile, but the general trajectory always ends in the death of fall. Heading down that path is tricky at best, and for some reason November tends to depress me more than any other month.

To combat those doldrums, a look back at some cozy, or at least superficially entertaining, November posts.

Back in 2010, before this blog had its last major revamping, the only posts that survive are a few Madonna Timelines and some shirtless Hunks. Oh wait… those are the only posts that I do. Never mind.

November 2011 was slightly more eclectic, with some Gregory Maguire, a reunion with Kira, and ever more Madonna.

In 2012, the holiday spirit took over this blog, with some Holiday Card exposition, some nude dudes, and a major Revelation.

The tail-end of November 2013 found posts on the holiday stroll, Hunks of the Day, a poem, and Auntie Mame.

Two years ago we returned to traditional form with some family fun, a little Madonna, an orchid, and a multitude of hunky men.

And last year, we had Peanuts, risotto, red wings, and my ass in a bear suit.

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Hunk of the Day: Manny MUA

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What makes a Hunk a Hunk? The majority of hunks here are built and brawny, but there’s room for everyone, and I’m always in awe of those who defy the expected. There’s also an element of traditionally-feminine traits and a prettiness that attends many of our hunks, something that goes unheralded and unannounced when such mainstream and long-held ideas of masculinity are continually re-enforced. I’ve played into that in my own way, I’m sure, so when a Hunk of the Day comes along like Manny MUA (real name Manny Gutierrez) it’s a welcome reminder to broaden our conception of what makes a Hunk a Hunk. In Mr. Gutierrez’s case, it’s the beauty of a man who is confident and secure enough to be himself. That involves the skill and talent of being a make-up artist, and being a man brave enough to wear make-up himself.

He paints with powders and creams, brushing on beauty and blending everything in to achieve the flawless. He shades with skill, seducing with sparkle and glitter or the most basic of sheens, and the end result is a work of art. Using his own face as a canvass, he shows off his prowess of transformation, inspiring and delighting anyone looking for a little bit of fabulousness in their lives. As our Hunk of the Day, Manny is an inspiration, and a boundary-pushing brave-heart redefining our conceptions of what real beauty is. (Check out his YouTube channel for further fabulousness.)

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The Unlikely Appearance of Grace On Twitter – Part 2

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…{Continued from here}…

I immediately followed him back and sent a few quick messages: “Hey… Sorry if I’m a bit sensitive about certain comments. I’ve been trolled and attacked and I’m decent at dealing with them, usually in an offensive manner… That said, I’m sorry for your circumstances, and I wish you good health no matter what.”

He replied: “No worries. I’m a jerk. I was just speaking to and apologizing to someone today for making social media comments without regard for the fact the people on the other end are actually real. I don’t know why that’s such a struggle for people to realize but it is. Especially probably with more well known people such as yourself. People say really rude things but don’t actually see there’s a real person on the receiving end, so I’m sorry.”

I was touched by the response, and replied as much: “That’s a very cool thing to say, and it has been taken to heart. I’ve been trying to be less defensive as well, because you’re right, I put myself out there on other public pages, and the whole point of social media is to engage and interact. I’m trying to be better, and sometimes the most unlikely people bring that out…Anyway, thanks for engaging and helping to turn this around… My name is Alan. I’m pleased to meet you. Have a good night.”

His response: “I’m really sorry man. I’m Kenny. I’m really glad we turned this around. Proud actually. Thanks and nice to meet you Alan.”

That’s what this world needs, and that’s what we each need to work on: being patient with each other, learning to listen, being careful not to lash out, and being willing to disagree but not take it all so personally. There is still grace to be found here, there are still people whose commonality supersedes their differences. Most of us, in fact.

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The Unlikely Appearance of Grace On Twitter – Part 1

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It started in the way that so many troll-attacks have started on my Twitter-feed of late: a comment that my profile picture was “ridiculous”. Being that the commenter’s profile pic was a doleful-looking canine, my knee-jerk response was: “Said the dog.”

What followed was the usual sussing-out of whether this attacker was one of the usual Trump-trolls, just having a bad day, or making a joke that I was taking way too seriously. We bantered a bit, sparring over why he had come to my Twitter feed to make a disparaging comment when I hadn’t even been aware of his, and seemed to be on the verge of blocking each other or engaging in full-out war.

My pet-peeve is when someone sees a post I made on someone else’s FaceBook or Twitter feed, then proceeds to criticize or insult me. That’s what raises my ire, because I have not tagged them or gone on their respective page to do such a thing. I’m trying to be more understanding about that, as more often than not it’s just done to get a rise out of me or gain some notice that their limited number of followers could never provide.

This time around, the gentleman in question was responding in an occasionally-challenging but generally respectful manner, and I held my typical tendency to go on the offensive more or less in check. I’d been called worse than ‘ridiculous’ in the past, so when he said it seemed to have struck a chord with me, I realized he was right. For some reason it had. Maybe it was because he wasn’t just another hateful troll who was only out to hurt someone to make his own life feel less miserable. Those are easy to dismiss. This was someone who seemed to have a head on his shoulders, and based on a quick perusal of his photography, an appreciation for beauty, or at the very least a desire to capture something honest and truthful in this world. He was also battling some health issues, and seemed to be having a tough time because of that. We each have our demons, and even when being called names, I always remember this. A favorite line from ‘The Great Gatsby’ came suddenly to mind: “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone… just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

We paused in our exchange. Somehow, and maybe by a little miracle, we each seemed to have a moment of grace, timed fortuitously and at the perfect junction where we both let our guards down a bit. That rarely happens on social media, where arch-enemies are conjured as quickly and ferociously as friends, and none of it translates into the real world. Here was a time fraught with the possibility of breaking through that bullshit. I wanted to write a little apology to him for taking it so personally, but he wasn’t following me so I couldn’t direct message him, and I didn’t want to make it all so public.

Just then a notification popped up. He had just followed me.

{To be continued…}

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