Last month, I was in Paris for my annual trip to see the paternal side of my family. My dad, who’s currently docked in Thailand, and I try to make it a point to see each other once a year and have subsequently made Paris — his hometown — our meeting point so that I can also see my grandmother, aunt and cousins. It’s the one week out of the year I live my best French AF self to indulge in glasses of Côte du Rhone with dinner where any good bottle could be found at the local supermarket for €3 or less; endless slices of galette des rois, a bonus for visiting in January since it’s the only time out of the year bakeries make the almond paste pastry cake complete with a hidden fève, whereby finding it in your slice could crown you king or queen for a day; croissants, pains au chocolat, and baguette tradition galore; and of course, cheese. Tons and tons of delicious cheese. And butter. Tons of that, too. In fact, when I return to New York, I look forward to my gym wear being the only clothes that don’t need to be washed since they’ve been completely untouched the entire trip. This time, however, came with a few pleasant surprises: a rare snowfall in the City of Lights and a week-long rendezvous with one of my dearest friends Kat Tanita who happened to be in Paris at the exact same time.
We planned on a “his and hers” shoot complete with a gown and a tux on a Tuesday afternoon. It had just snowed and our photographer Audrey (Le Secret d’Audrey), a talented film (yes, film!) photographer who specializes in engagements and weddings, had warned us against shooting that day due to the dim natural light; but we took the risk to do so and needless to say we’re glad we did. I know what may be thinking: I’m a gay man and Kat’s in a relationship with her lovely boyfriend, let alone the fact that such a unique and rare artist like Audrey captured what appears to be a Parisian love story. But it’s as simple and beautiful as this: we’re friends — really, really good friends. On top of celebrating milestones in friendship with a trip, or dinner, or quality time on the phone, every so often we add an extra layer of celebration in a way we creatives know best: visual storytelling. So on this Valentine’s Day like I’ve done every Valentine’s Day in the past, rather than look at it as S.A.D. (“Singles Awareness Day”), I look at it as a day to gently remind myself of the love that fills my life. This story is a reflection of just that.
Kat and I met in Dallas just shy of six years ago at a conference. I was working in corporate retail representing a brand and Kat had just made the move to take her blog full-time. Several months later, she was the first person I told that I wanted to start a blog and she radiated with excitement at the idea. Since then, we’ve been dear friends. We’ve travelled the world discovering Rome, Florence, Playa del Carmen, Los Cabos, Provence, St. Barths and yes, even Paris once prior completely void of our luggage thanks to the commuter plane that lost them in transit from Italy. I think being without anything in a foreign city for several days is a true test of companionship and I’d say we passed with flying colors. She’s a powerful, self-made woman who started from the bottom and earned one of the tops spots in her league, all of which she did with pure kindness, determination and a beautiful smile on her face. I’ve learned a lot from her strengths and her struggles, and I continue to do so as she inspires me everyday. Above all, she’s a genuine sweetheart. I’ve been blessed with her friendship and that of several others in my life to whom I’d love to take this time and wish them a wonderful Valentine’s Day.