Editor’s Note

editors noteOn Fridays, I will share news stories, personal experiences, or other musings that stood out to me throughout the week.

  • Diplomats Reunion Concert for the ten year anniversary of Diplomatic Immunity (editor’s note: with various rappers doing ten year anniversary shows, I suddenly feel dated and I haven’t even hit thirty yet. However, it is impossible to not recognize the impact that the Diplomats had on NYC culture in the early 2000’s. Dip!). 
  • The end of Miami’s Heat twenty-seven win streak (editor’s note: as a basketball fan I wanted to see the Lakers vaunted record fall, especially with Lebron leading the charge. Oh well!)
  • Religion (editor’s note: walking home after completing a couple of errands, I witness a Catholic middle school’s reenactment of Jesus’ crucifixion journey, with Roman soliders whipping at the faux cross and a student wearing a Jesus mask. The procession was followed by roughly a hundred or more parents, walking through the neighborhood. And then I remembered a conversation with a friend, who confessed that they achieved a serious religious moment while on a drug-induced trip. Their recollection of the moment, in which they felt connected to every particle on earth,  made sense. Point being that religion and its meaning manifests itself different).
  • Death (editor’s note: My condolences to a close friend who lost a dear friend and another friend who lost their grandmother. Death is inevitable but still feels tremendously unfair and crude).
  • Harry Potter (editor’s note: I started to read the Harry Potter series and am in love. I am not sure why I missed this wave the first time, and am actually not sure how I decided to make it my wave currently. But, I am thankful that I did because it is a great, fun read).
  • Kwame Harris (editor’s note: a lightly covered story about a former NFL player who was outed a couple months ago because of an altercation with a former partner. Interestingly, in the four male professional sports, there are no openly gay athletes. The fact illuminates a disturbingly disheartening truth about our society’s acceptance and acknowledgement of sexuality).
  • Red Equal Sign parodies (editor’s note: while the Supreme Court discusses gay marriage rights, many have taken the powerful symbol, a red equal sign, and have made various parodies. Turning the symbol into a joke, once again, speaks to our societal immaturity to openly discuss difficult topics. Instead, folk are quick to turn the matter into a farce. Though these various parodies are intended to make people laugh, these parodies undoubtedly belittle and hurt many whose ability to marry their love depends on nine people’s whim interpretation).
  • Florida Gulf Coast University (editor’s note: Dunk City are the darlings of the NCAA tournament, having upset two higher ranked teams with relative easy and ferocious dunks, their coach is married to a former Supermodel, and their team consists of a bunch of players that other, more notable programs, did not recruit. America loves the underdog and I will be rooting for them to make it the Elite Eight).

What stood out to you during the week? Please share your “editor’s note” in the comments.

Partying in NYC

partyallnightNew York City is known, globally, as the city that never sleeps. With over 8.3 million residents, many with poor sleeping habits (*raises hand*), New York, at any given time of day or night feels active. Most people tend to wait until the weekend, Friday or Saturday night, to party. That’s the time that they can find a sitter for their children, or can sleep in late after a night of binge drinking, or can simply muster the energy required to go out with friends after a long work week. But, remember, the city never sleeps.

Here are some thoughts and observations that I made while I was out the other weeknight:

  • After noticing gorgeous dresses and fierce heels at this after-work event, I wonder where these women work and if they’re hiring. 
  • Dominican women have natural twitter and instagram names. “Oh, that’s a cool instagram name. What does it mean?…Oh, that’s your real name.”
  • Most events mirror middle dances with the men and women on opposite sides of the room (Editor’s note:Thought we would have outgrown this by now, but we haven’t). Men and women make these sexually homogenous protective circles, which makes interaction between the sexes difficult. The only safe spot away from these physically intimidating friend circles is the bar. Thus, the best place to hang out, if one is looking to mingle and meet new people, requires one to drink. Thanks, socially awkward patterns said alcoholism.
  • Some doormen at these pseudo-exclusive parties take their job way too serious, being extra nasty and elitist with potential patrons, especially guys who make the mistake of travelling without a female. One can avoid these particularly rude doormen by dropping a name at the door. For example, a male friend and I got to a hotel party and were initially denied access (mistake: no females with us, and the person we were supposed to meet had not arrived yet). However, we said we were with the DJ (though we weren’t) and just like that we were on the way to the penthouse venue. Takeaway: know the DJ or at least his/her name (Editor’s note: this exact scenario happened again, later that night/morning, except we actually knew one of the club promoters and his name alone saved me from paying the $30 entrance fee).
  • Invisible markers/stamps are the new wave in identifying whether someone has been inside the party. Sharpie markings on the hand and those annoyingly hard to break wristbands are counting their last days. Also, one doesn’t have to scrub away the mark the next day before one goes to work unless one’s job has ultraviolet lights present. Score!
  • While partying for eight to nine hours and sending hella texts, one’s phone will definitely inch closer to the automatic shut down. Watching your battery percentage fall below seven percent when you plan to be out longer is easily one of the scariest moments to any partier. However, there are these new charging stations, only for iphones (sorry everyone else), that are so clutch.
  • One never knows who one will meet while partying into the wee hours on a weekday. Example: forty year old woman, who looks like she’s in her late twenties, early thirties, until a random beam of light hits her face and one can see the emerging deep wrinkles that her concealer cannot hide, who is a former DJ and is unsatisfied with the current state of hip hop/rap, who randomly recites obscure Too Short lyrics, and who definitely partakes in nose candy, which explained her neurotic and odd energy. Yep, she really exists, and apparently likes to party on the weekdays.
  • Professional athletes look so bored in the club. True, it seems glamorous, with added help from the scantly clad bottle service waitress and those sparklers that illuminate the club for just enough time so that everyone can turn their heads and see who ordered a 300% marked up bottle of [insert name of liquor], as they order bottles on bottles for their large and inflated crew, but they look so tired of the experience, which happens in every city they play. Oh, and their bodyguards are HUGE.
  • Notable stars and athletes seen while out from 7pm-3am include: Brandy (she waved and smiled at me…or the person next to me…whatever, don’t kill my vibe), Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye, and Zach Randolph (all whom had terrible games the following night against the Knicks), Edgerrin James and at least two other football players that the DJ shouted out but I didn’t bother to remember.
  • Lastly, this song is the hottest in the club, though no one knows the lyrics or has ever woken up in or been inside of a new Bugatti. Turn up!

Success Is Born Out of Struggle

struggleOne of my co-opted life sayings is, “If we all put our problems in a public pile, I will gladly keep my pile.” I was reminded of that truth recently while at a friend’s boozy (unlimited mimosas), board game/UNO playing brunch in celebration of her birthday. I notice that when the opposite sexes of the single variety get together the conversation tends to stray towards sex and relationships, which makes sense given that our lives revolve around the two in some form and fashion. This conversation, however, was slightly different largely because all the participants did not know each other well. We were all associates, having all seen each other at different music industry events and being introduced previously, but not everyone were friends. Thus, we asked those seemingly standard, non invasive questions, in no particular order, like: what do you do for a living? so why are you single? any kids? where did you go for undergrad?

After my round of twenty questions, which I dislike because once people hear that I graduated from two Ivy league schools their view of me often changes. Some become intimated, especially when they learn that I teach English; they become much more self-conscious about speaking correctly, whatever that means. Some are surprised because I “don’t look the type,”confused because I have a six year old son out of wedlock, live in the Bronx, and have tattoos. Their vision of an Ivy League grad is not me. *Shrugs* I’m used to it by now. However, the same way I am slightly irritated by people’s projections and assumptions of who I am or who I’m supposed to be, does not mean that I am excluded from doing the same thing. And I have to remind myself of that fact.

Next, a friend (editor’s note: I use this term loosely because even though I consider him a friend, the following conversation made me question and think about what it means to be a friend) began his obligatory twenty questions. The barrage of questions, from the opposite sex, began with what he does for a living, and he quickly disarmed them with a curt response: “Whatever I want.” Taken aback by the ambiguous retort, they reloaded with a seemingly simpler question, “Why did you go to school?” Once again, he quickly responded, “I didn’t go to college.” Surprised once more, the firing squad asked the next logical question, why, which allowed for him to share a deeply moving personal recount of being homeless for roughly eighteen months after high school graduation. The questions increased as everyone’s interest was elevated. I had my own, but decided to be a silent observer.

The cheers of shots being given for losing Connect Four and the raucous laughter and conversation of a cacophonous sports bar during the Final Four were suddenly muted, and I only heard his voice. Not once did he falter when retelling his story because he knows it better than anyone else. He kept eye contact throughout the course of the questions, even smiling at times when the story took unexpected (Editor’s note: the whole story was unexpected) twists and turns, nothing short of divine intervention at one point. He even shared small things that I never considered, like knowing where to get water or where to use the bathroom without being hassled. As I sat to his left, watching his big brown eyes move around the table, fully engaged with everyone within earshot, I witnessed strength and resiliency firsthand. I wondered, while he shared his story, if I could have made it through those situations with the same high level of integrity. Could I be so open and honest about such a personal history with people that I see at various functions and parties? Could I…In the end, I had no response, but was grateful…not because I thought of my situation to be better or easier than his. But rather, I was grateful for the moment, an opportunity to share in something special. Needless to say, my admiration and respect for him grew a thousand fold.

After he stopped talking, the table was silent for a few moments, when one of the beautiful women said, “And look at y’all,” pointing towards my friend and I, “different paths but in the same place.” Her acute observation reminded me of how little assumptions should matter, and, more importantly, how much more valuable personal stories are.

Reflecting on the moment, I wonder why we don’t share our piles of issues more publicly, more often, probably out of shame or fear of judgment. Those few minutes, while our UNO game was suspended and our attention undivided, I felt so connected…to him and the others who listened. Understanding just this one part of his struggle, makes me cheer so much harder for his success.

The Single Years EP Vol. 1

andre3000

I always wanted to be a rapper. From the moment, I heard Snoop’s menacing, laid-back delivery blend effortlessly with the melodic Dr. Dre beat I knew I wanted to be a part of whatever I heard. I was scared by the graphic reality, but, more importantly, I was intrigued by it, largely because I connected with it deep in my pubescent gut. Their Californian urban squalor looked different from the working class community in which I resided, but the symptoms were the same: gangs, drugs, and this emerging sound known as Hip Hop. Like any 80’s baby who came of age in the 90’s, often cited as the “Golden Age,” I would write rhymes. But I failed at it because what I wrote was insincere. I rapped about what was popular at the time (and still is): easy money, easier women, necessary violence, and a flashy lifestyle. Yet, this seeming disconnect did not break my bond with the music and the message. In fact, I gravitated towards rappers (Biggie was my favorite at the time, replaced by DMX after his tragic death) that shared their personal stories, aside from the typical “I-got-money-hoes-and-clothes” lyrics.

Enter Andre 3000 and his song, “A Day in the Life of Benjamin Andre.” The song, along with the entire Love Below album, inspired me to want to write and produce an autobiographical cd. My rap career was back on track (pun intended). I even asked my producer friend to craft some tracks for me, but he did not pay much attention to my empty request.

Enter September 2012 (Editor’s note: The following is an unpublished post, now with edits):

With little fanfare, I unceremoniously commemorated my third year as a single Black male in New York City. I have spent roughly 1095 days without an “official” girlfriend. While my answer to the frequent question, “Why are you single?” has include answers that insinuate both choice and timing, I decided to create a tracklist of an R&B album (note: I cannot sing to save my life…so it will just be jam packed with lyrics) to best express my time spent single:

The Single Years EP Vol. 1 (Editor’s note: I have split the album, “The Single Years” into a three volumed EP, which I will release separately).

  1. Three Years of…(intro)-It would a beat, on which I would rhyme (had to sneak some rap in there), with no chorus or hook, straight for about 3-4 minutes. It would really serve as a brain dump of the last three years, describing but not limited to: failed relationships, introspection, sex, parties, and friendships.
  2. Last Words-This is easily the hardest song to write on this EP. It will serve as an analysis of my last words, “I do want to do this anymore,” which I uttered straightforwardly on the phone to my then girlfriend. It pains me to think about the lack of emotion that I expressed towards her that night, though I was filled with various feelings. Instead of engaging her about my qualms with our relationship, to which I had contributed, I decided to be cold and quickly build a castle, built of stone and mortar, around my heart, vaguely concerned with her feelings, which I just hurt. In the moment, I thought I was doing the best thing for me, protecting myself, but in reality it was the weakest thing that I could have done. It is a decision that I revisit occasionally and for which I have apologized, even though I struggle with forgiving myself.
  3. LES Dreams-This would be a fun, ironic party record. If one has ever partied in the Lower East Side, one knows that the nights only end when the sun rises. There are countless Friday nights during my singledom that were spent in the cluttered streets of the LES. I went through a phrase where I attempted to drink my sorrows away and hide them in clubs and lounges, populated with others doing the same. Very few people were actually happy in those locations. The second word, “Dreams,” explains how those sleepless nights felt like dreams, unreal. Yet, I kept dreaming…forcefully.
  4. Reluctant (skit)-This track would be a contrived, taped conversation between a woman and myself, in which I share with her that I do not want to be in a relationship with her, even though things are going well. Unfortunately, I have had to have this conversation a few times. The only way I can even begin to make sense of them is it demonstrates my reluctance to open up and share myself in the same way that I unconsciously and consciously asked women in my life to do.
  5. Cliche but It’s Me-The previous track flows into this song, in which I lament the fact the all my previous failed relationships contain one commonality, me. I have dated (not sure what the semantics of those relationships, but for the sake of this blog, we’ll just say dating) a few phenomenal women and yet none of those relationships worked…because of me. Though it is a cliche line, I truly believe that I am responsible for my part in those relationships not working.

Editor’s note: This post was difficult to write, yet feels necessary for my future.

Volume two…coming soon.

I’m Not Superman, But I’m Stronger

notsuperman

“You don’t understand. He’s smart, handsome, even decent. But he’s not brave. No, listen to me. Superman is indestructible, and you can’t be brave if you’re indestructible. It’s people like you and your mother. People who are different, and can be crushed and know it. Yet they keep on going out there every time.”–Grandpa, from the movie, Angus.

The above quote hypothesizes that Superman was not brave because he was indestructible. His ability to survive any situation denied him courage because he knew, before the crisis even began, that he would emerge unharmed and triumphant. Thus, he could not exhibit any bravery.

Thus, my declaration that “I’m not Superman” oddly strengthens me. It momentarily calms my often racing mind (maybe, I should say it more often). I am not Superman and that’s ok. Actually, it’s more than ok; it’s better that I’m not Superman (I can then be me, which is the best that I can be!). Sadly, it has taken almost thirty years of my life to come to this conclusion and more importantly accept it. And believe me, I have tried to be Superman, stretching myself thinner than a film strip to please and help others. Sometimes I have done so to the detriment of myself. I’m not Superman though.

The trails, tribulations, successes, and failures that I have endured, however, prove that I am stronger than the alien-man stronger than a locomotive. So, by transitive property, I am stronger than a speeding train (Editor’s note: shout out to my math teacher who taught me that…and extra shout out to the readers who understand that “Big Bang”-ish reference). Throughout my life, I have exhibited courage to challenge my obstacles, even when I did not have faith or knowledge that I would come out victorious. Regardless, I still fought and more importantly, I’m still here!

There’s power in understanding one’s vulnerability and even more power in facing it. With that newfound knowledge, I proudly proclaim, “I. Am. Not. Superman.”

Steubenville and the Dominant Rape Culture

saysomethingThis nationwide campaign has become the MTA’s security rallying cry to prevent and stop dangerous acts from occurring on trains and buses. The seemingly simple “if, then” command seems obvious and even easier to follow.

“If you see something, say something.”

Enter Steubenville, a small industrial town with under 19,000 residents.

Enter two male high school students (star football players), a raucous party (crazy amount of underage drinking), and a victim (a sixteen year old girl raped by the two students while many stood by and instagrammed and/or commented via facebook about her drunken helpless body throughout the night).

“If you see something, say something.”

Not so simple when surrounded by others who are also watching, disgustedly or interestedly. Not so simple when surrounded by others who are witnessing multiple crimes simultaneously, specially rape, sexual assault, and underage drinking. Not so simple when one is actively partaking in one or more crimes. Not so simple when one is concerned that saying something will result in becoming a social pariah.

Not. So. Simple.

I found out about the case while perusing Facebook, an activity that has increased in the last couple of days since I am on Spring Break and am enjoying a “staycation” in my living room. I read a couple of articles and most of them focused on the perpetrators and the lasting effect that the conviction would have on their lives. And I thought to myself, what about the victim? In mid-thought, I randomly remembered being in my tenth grade History class and hearing my teacher’s voice comment on a movie about rape. I could not remember the name of it, but remembered Jodie Foster starred in the film. Later that evening, by happenstance, the movie, The Accused, was playing on Hbo and I watched it, with Steubenville on my mind.

“How were you dressed?” Were you drunk?” “Did you go to the party alone?” and other demeaning questions imply that the victim somehow asked to be violated and raped. Somehow her attire invited others to use her body sexually without her consent. Somehow her intoxication level solicited and made it ok for others to watch her get raped, haplessly dragged from party to party, instagrammed, and ultimately left on a lawn.  Somehow being alone at a party permitted others to blame her for her victimization, fault her for “ruining” the lives of these young men, and betray her as someone who “asked” for this outcome.

“If you see something, say something.”

Well, I see something, so I’ll say something: Rape is never justifiable!America’s double standard surrounding women and violence and sex greatly disturbs me. The attention, love and care should be heaped only upon the victim, who must now struggle to live through this experience publicly. Those young men deserve everything that they will get (currently, each boy is sentenced to one year in a juvenile center, while one may receive an extra year for distributing images of the victim to his friends via text). They deserve to carry with them the mark of sexual criminals because that’s what they are (in a different alternative judicial system, they should have the ability to atone for their crimes, but that’s not the way we do it in America. Nope. We punish, which often makes the situation worse). They made that decision to rape that young lady that night, and must face the consequences of their actions. And to all the people who are claiming that the victim’s a whore because of her past sexual experience, be quiet! We all have sexual experiences in our closet. One cannot judge others, and I definitely won’t judge.

I saw something, and said something!

 

LeBron, DeAndre, and Mothers of the 80’s

“What have you done for my lately” dominates our mental capacities. As much as we romanticize the past and fantasize about the future, the present remains and tyrannizes (Editor’s note: I wanted to keep the -ize verbs going…you’re welcome) our thought. Thus, this week, all of the NBA talking heads (read: commentators) will focus their fleeting attention on two furiously thunderous dunks and argue which one is better because that’s what talking heads do; they talk, often to each other and to video cameras which blast their loquacious personalities throughout the world and interwebs.

The dunks are the following:

DeAndre

LeBron

Random sidenote: Both of the dunkers have multiple capital letters in their first name. Once again proving the English language to be a farce because every grammatical rule has, can, and will be broken. This moment in history may also be a shout out to the mothers of the mid 80’s who purposefully, for good or bad, decided to give their children more ethnic sounding names AND spell them phonetically AND added capital letters. As a child of the 80’s with a boring plain name like Dwight, I used to dream, not really, about the names that my mother could have given me instead (Editor’s note: I wanted to change my name to Rasheed just to have a more ethnic sounding name, but the feeling did not last long).

While both dunkers victimize the helpless, leaping defenders (i.e. Brandon Knight and Jason Terry) and ignite the respective crowds, the one that is most impressive is easily the DeAndre Jordan dunk. It looks nastier, even though he gives the best “Did I do just do that” a la Steve Urkel face while walking away from the scene of the crime. The mid-air contact and then burst of athleticism as DeAndre empathically slams the ball makes anyone shudder. At the same, one cannot discredit LeBron’s body knocking dunk. His dunk took place in a playoff intensity-like game between two teams that absolutely, without any equivocation, hate each other. That adds to the dunk. And how can one not discuss that look filled with utter disgust and unlimited braggadocio that LeBron gave as he paid his last respect to the body as it lay on the hardwood court.

Either way, both dunks were great, but neither should be called the “Greatest Dunk of all Time.” Give it some time and let’s revisit them when we are nostalgic and see if they can hold up next to these dunks.