Tuesday, November 30, 2010

lesson learned.

The greatest lessons are the kinds that are taught to us once, but we continue to learn from for the rest of our lives. My Grandfather had so many lessons to teach- so many words of wisdom and insightful parables, humbling stories and mantras to live by. But it wasn’t while I was growing up, as he taught me all he had to teach, that I really took from his knowledge. The years he was alive, though some of the greatest of my own, were not the ones during which I really learned what it was he was always trying to teach me. It’s been the past three years, since he’s been gone, that everything he’s instilled in my mind has started to come to light. I always feel like he wrote the book on everything- the value of a dollar, the benefits of hard work, and the ability to determine what you want, what you need, and what you should be doing in life. Determination, courage, compassion, humility. The ability to make something- sometimes everything- out of nothing. To take a past so dark or discouraging, and use it to mold the best future you can possibly dream of for yourself. All the lessons he used to teach me I’m finally truly understanding.

If you’ve ever lost someone monumental in your life,you tend to ask yourself “Am I living up to their expectations?” “Would they be proud of who I am today?” “Is this the life they’d have wanted me to live?” I’m beginning to realize that I am, in fact, living the life my grandfather wanted me to live- my own. He wanted me to make mistakes, so long as I learned from them. He wanted me to fall into ruts every now and then, and know what it feels like to have nothing at all, only so I can practice pulling myself out and gunning for everything I want. He wanted me to find myself, and take as much time as I need, so as to be sure I find my right self and not rush into something I’m not. These are all lessons he was able to teach while he was alive, but nothing I was able to start learning until he was gone. When he used to teach me math he would go over a few problems again and again, showing me over and over how he got the answer, then he would walk away and make me finish the rest on my own. He knew I would never truly learn if he was there telling me what to do the entire time.

I think the people who touch your life the most are the ones that leave you. You can never really tell the impact someone has made on your life until they’re no longer in it. I’ve lost a couple great people, neither of which lived to see me become an adult. Yet, somehow, they make up most of who I am today. Nothing will ever erase the love and compassion I was shown while they were alive, but it’s the years I’ve spent, and am going to spend, without them that are the true testament to their magnitude.

Three years ago, today- almost exactly to the hour- my Lolo left this world. Though the day commemorates a moment of my life where my heart was at its heaviest, I can’t help but feel an odd sense of cheerfulness amidst the solemnity. Putting his lessons into practice as I grow into a man is like figuring out the clues to a treasure hunt. Everything that I’ve carried with me for so many years is finally starting to make sense, and I feel like I’m finally headed to where I want to be in life. I have a long way to go, but I’ve had the best of teachers, and because of him I’m confident that I’m smart enough, or becoming smart enough, to find the right paths. Even if I take the wrong ones from time to time, my Lolo always had a knack for making his own shortcuts.

I know you can't read this, Lolo, but I love you, I miss you, and I thank you. For everything.

Monday, October 25, 2010

monkey don't want, monkey won't do.


Yesterday, over lunch, some friends brought up smoking (cigarettes) and asked if I had quit. They were pretty shocked at my casual yet very confident “yes”. I don’t really blame them considering how I used to smoke like a chimney. They were curious of what I’m sure they imagined to be some torturous, grueling process. How long has it been? How did I do it? Was it hard? (That’s what she said, that’s what she said, that’s what she said). And like I tell everyone I have this conversation with, I said “no”. It wasn’t hard for me to quit at all. I won’t lie and say I haven’t had a single cigarette in the past five or six months, but those cigarettes- the number of which I can count on my fingers- came after copious amounts of alcohol and were followed by deep regret in the form of a sore throat the next day. Regardless, I consider myself a non-smoker, and like I said before, the process came with little to no challenge. My theory is that I came to a point where I realized that I truly, genuinely, without any doubt, did not want to smoke anymore. All the other factors didn't really matter. It wasn't the health warnings, or my parents, or anyone else around me. I just didn't want to do it. I didn’t like how it made me feel. It no longer brought relief, or satisfaction, or made me feel like James Dean. I just felt… Unhealthy. And totally over it. And it’s been since that definite proclamation that I’ve bought a pack of cigarettes (for myself). This led me to realize how the same theory can apply to a lot of different things. You have to quit wanting something before you can quit doing something.

Bad habits, bad relationships, bad choices- the world seems to be on a perpetual quest to quit things, and success always seems far from imminent. This is because you just can’t simply “quit” doing things you truly want to do, no matter how bad they may be for you, just how it’s hard to start something you need to do if you don’t want to do it. Our desire, or lack thereof, for some things almost always trumps our need for them. Kids need to eat their vegetables, but you can’t expect those who don’t like them to choose the baby carrots over the dunkaroos. You may have absolutely no need for that pair of shoes, but if you really, really, really want them, and you have the money, you’re gonna buy the damn shoes. It’s human nature. The reason people have trouble successfully quitting something is because they’re going about it all wrong. They try so hard to focus on why they don’t need something; why it's bad for them or all the reasons they should stop. But what they fail to focus on is that part of their mind still wants it. As long as you still want something, sometimes none of the other facts matter, no matter how much you try to instill them in your head. One's desire for something deems all the logistics invalid. Only when you learn to realize, or realize to learn, that you no longer want to do something will you be able to actually stop doing it.

Now I’m not here to play Dr. Drew. I have no foolproof method to self-betterment. I don’t really know how I came about no longer wanting to smoke. Sometimes I think it was gradual, and other times it seems like it was an epiphany. Maybe I grew to want something else, something better. Maybe I decided I wanted to feel healthy or save 6 bucks a week more than I wanted to smoke. Or maybe I was subconsciously questioning exactly what I was wanting by wanting to smoke- wanting to look cool? Wanting to relieve stress? Wanting to risk cancer which already runs in my gene-pool? And after asking myself all these questions I then decided I should want something better for myself. And when I no longer wanted I no longer did.

This theory definitely doesn’t apply to everything, but I think if some people keep it in mind it may help. Whatever demon you’re fighting, I always wish you the best of luck. Hopefully one day, when we start wanting better things we can start doing better things. And when we start doing better things we can start becoming better people.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

showers after happy hours

There’s something about a shower the day after a night out in the city. It’s as if you can feel the night literally washing off of your skin; the essence of the district dripping from your matted hair and circling down the drain. Moments like these make me realize how great it is growing up in the city. I’ve never experienced an alternative lifestyle but somehow I know there’s no better. I couldn’t imagine how young adulthood would be if I didn’t live footsteps from metropolis.

Eager, young souls filing into the trains; the familiar smell of cigarette smoke and sewer gunk wafting through the streets; rows and rows of architecture dormant during the day now filled to capacity with life; the luring hum of music and adrenaline racing down tight stairwells and pulsating out into the sidewalks. There’s no other venue more perfect to hoard so many levels of diversity that exist in such sync- the strips of doors, bars, floors, and windows all different in size and material; heels in every height and color dancing to music of every genre; spirits pouring into glasses, sloshing onto jackets and, ideally, flowing into bloodstreams. The combinations are infinite- like those paper dolls with interchangeable, self-designed clothes that you can paste into different sceneries doing different things- only it all happens in multitudes within this giant grid of concrete, asphalt, brick and mortar. This is the city on any given night. And after everyone’s gotten their fix of gin and attention, grabbed a bite to eat, and stumbled into a train or taxi, they all climb into their beds- whether alone or together- and eventually awaken; their groggy heads, angry stomachs, and clothes-strewn floors some of the first reminders of the night before.

Which leads me back to where I started: the morning-after-shower. The hot water shedding last night’s skin and sending it down the drain, giving me the perfect moment to recollect the last few hours of my life; recalling where I went, re-tasting what I drank, and trying to calculate how much the fuck I spent; remembering conversations with strangers and getting lost on 14th and mindlessly typing away at my phone having conversations which are now completely illegible. And as I wash the stars from my eyes and the smoke from my hair and the last bits of the night float away, I marvel at the thought of the thousands of people doing the same things at the same moment.

The city is a magical thing. It doesn’t just exist; it inhales and exhales and dances and makes love. I don’t know where I’ll be in five or ten years, but I know it will always be amongst numbered streets and state avenues. Here’s to next weekend and the rest of our lives.

Friday, October 22, 2010

semantics

There’s an epidemic that’s been sweeping the nation as of late. The misuse of words- titles, terminologies, expressions of social/mental/emotional status. Throughout the years large portions of English vocabulary have been abused, misused, and completely misconstrued in meaning. Today I will be showcasing one of the largest growing subcultures of vocabulary violators: the artist.

Everyone’s a fuckin artist these days- everyone. A man develops a single thought of slight substance and suddenly they’re the next Neruda. Congratulations! You’ve written a “poem” which you’ve so cleverly titled title ‘Autumn’ comparing the “love” of you and your current fuck buddy to that of the changing color of the falling “leafs” (which, by the way, would be “leaves”); YOU are poet! NOT.

And you, the self-proclaimed photographer: You have a nice, expensive camera and a lot of friends who look really good on film. Give me a couple paydays and some time at my nearest gentleman’s club and I’ll be a “photographer” with you! We can take well-focused pictures of pretty girls and grayscale them! Someone call the Smithsonian- how we do not already have a wing dedicated to our work is beyond me.

The world is a runway, but we are definitely NOT all models. Seriously. Please. It’s perfectly fine to be a metaphorical audience member in the fashion show of life. Your contortionist-like poses and hard stares are impressive (I’m lying) but that facebook album of black and white photos of you (taken by your photographer friend mentioned prior) does not qualify as your portfolio. And shopping at forever 21 and H&M do not make you some sort of fashion icon. You don’t know the difference between Burberry Prorsum and blueberry pie. And no, Donatella Versace is not one of the Ninja Turtles. Your plaid shirts, skinny jeans, ruffles, and oodles of chunky jewelry do not impress.

Don’t get me started on all the writers of the world. These have to be the most blatantly delusional breed of artist out there. I’m glad you’ve developed a skill for packaging as many large words into one technically coherent sentence as humanely possible, but you should honestly be banned from writing altogether. Maybe you should learn the difference between your and you're before you start on your next novel. HOW. NOW. BROWN. COW? Tell brown cow to take THEIR brown ass over THERE and figure out why THEY'RE so bad at writing. If only there was some sort of auditioning process for signing up for a blog. The internet’s level of bullshit would decrease by at least forty percent; if you could be banned from the usage of pens that would be nice too. Ideally you would all be forced to sign for the rest of your lives, but I’m sure you’d even find a way to make that annoying.

And to all those of you who claim “music is your life”- unless you pay your rent through means of music- music is not your life. It is your hobby. We all love Kings of Leon too, but none of those kings have signed your latest paycheck.


To all the many breeds of aspiring artists out there: we love you. There should be a flashy, tacky, try-hard monument erected in your names. But until then, please give something else a go; maybe something more technical, like law. Or something more physical, like an athlete.. or crabber. These are all noble paths. I mean, if everyone and their mama was a damn artist, then who the hell be there to marvel at their magnificent art?

I’m not here to judge, or take anything away from anyone. I encourage everyone to keep following their dreams up until the point that you realize you’ve been dreaming too damn long and finally accept the fact that you’re no good at this. Keep doing you. Just keep in mind that the current “you” isn’t really working out…

And that adjourns today’s lesson. Next blog will visit the world of the next vocabulary violator: the ~rebel~. Fill up your flasks- it’s gonna be BaDa$$!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

movie night

About five or six years ago, when xanga was the way of the world, I randomly stumbled upon the page of a 17ish year old guy from Missouri by the name of Andrew. I was slightly captivated by his particularly well-written accounts and cryptic, artsy snapshots of random happenings of his life. It was through Andrew’s xanga that I came across a group devoted to his close-knit group of friends; about 6 or 7 people of the same age- Andrew’s sexy, artsy, intellectual girlfriend, a few of his equally as interesting guy-friends and their almost-as-sexy girlfriends. The group was based on the traditional “movie night” they all gathered for every week or so. They each had their own, individual styles that all seemed to culminate seamlessly to form this group of cool ass people. They did nothing spectacular or really out of the ordinary- but to me they were just fucking cool; plain and simple. They were like that group of friends from one of those teenage drama series that all conveniently lived walking distance from one another and did average things which seemed much more fun than they probably actually were. The guys wore skinny jeans before you could really find skinny jeans for guys in every store. Some of the girls sported short pixie-cuts while Rihanna was still singing music of the sun and not being a good girl going bad. They drank occasionally, smoked casually, dressed smartly, and, apparently, hosted weekly movie nights. They did pretty much everything (and then some) everyone of that age does today, only they were doing it five or six years ago. And they weren’t obnoxious or blatant about anything. Everything they did seemed organic and effortless. In a way they were what we refer to now as hipsters, only back then hipster wasn’t synonymous with trying hard to be cool. And amidst their coolness- proclaimed by myself, of course- they were all actually very intelligent. They all possessed very natural, subtle writing skills, and their general opinions and views on life were delivered gracefully and not chock-full-o-shit.

I found myself tuning in to the lives of the movie night members pretty consistently through xanga. Some may say I was cyber-stalking them, and that was because I was, in fact, cyber-stalking them. But it was completely harmless. It’s not as if I was planning to load up my horse & buggy and venture out to the Midwest in hopes of being initiated into movie night. I guess I was living vicariously through their postings of after school antics and polaroids from house parties. Being 14ish years old at the time, this was how I hoped my years as a young-adult to play out. I wanted to fall into a group hip, stylish friends with whom I had ridiculously great chemistry. I wanted to host movie nights, smoke and drink casually, and have interesting yet not-so-interesting life experiences to talk about on my xanga. In retrospect, I did pretty much exactly that.

The point of this story is not to be an unauthorized biography of Andrew and friends. As a few years passed, and as I started to acquire an actual social life of my own, I began keeping fewer and fewer tabs on the movie night members until I eventually forgot about them completely. A few years after that, Andrew’s xanga name randomly popped into my head (it was “todaysrandomluckywinner” so it was a bit hard to forget) and I decided to take a peek and see how my old group of stranger-friends were doing. It was then I discovered that basically none of them were in touch anymore. All the guys went off to different colleges and Andrew and his sexy, artsy, pixie-haired girlfriend- whom I believe were the main basis of the group- broke up. Of course, it could have been that they had all just abandoned xanga- as did the rest of the world- and migrated to myspace, and then facebook. But what really led me to assume that movie night was no more was exactly that- the actual movie night group was gone. All of Andrew’s other xanga groups remained but that one. It brought a short but oddly intense moment of sadness, to see that such a well-woven group of friends eventually unraveled just as naturally and effortlessly as it was held together.

That’s when I realized that this is what happens- it happened to me to some extent, and I’m sure to millions of other movie night groups in the universe. I think life, and friendships, work in phases. If you’re lucky, you’ll have those few relationships that truly last forever. But, with everyone else, no matter how well your unique, individual styles blend together, the strands eventually unwind. Every strand needs to hang freely for moments at a time. Every person needs the time to cultivate their own selves before they find, or re-find people with whom they blend with well, or even better than before. Then they unravel, hang freely, and then reconnect again.

Right now I think I’m in the hanging-free stage. I’ve gradually lost touch with people I was in constant contact with just a year or so ago. Of course there are still great people in my life, but as of late I seem to keep mainly to myself. It’s all an unconscious cycle of sorts. So far it’s been the story of my life; story of movie group's life. Though I’m sure in due time I’ll have different stories to write.