Sunday, November 20, 2011

Uptown in the Boogie Down

The scene: The Bronx, Late 2007
The question: Just how comfortable can you get with strangers?

I was on my way to Washington Heights [for the first time] to hang with a college girlfriend when I met them. A young group of about a dozen or so Hispanic kids, all from the Bronx. I was standing near them, gripping the pole for balance listening to them joke around and cajole each other and a few times, I even laughed along. And even though I was a stranger, they accepted my cheeky two cents with fervor and invited me to the party they were on their way to.

Flattered as I was, I felt like it was far too soon to jet away to the Bronx with a pack of teenagers/young adults that I hardly knew, and responded with a genuine "Maybe next time!" The cute [albeit young] Puerto Rican kid I had my eyes on exchanged numbers with me and told me that he would no doubt, let me know about the next one.

That's how, less than a week later, I ended up on a journey to a Bronx house party where Marc [the Puerto Rican kid] and all his friends would be in attendance. I figured, why not? We were all young, smart, fun-loving, and Hispanic [and I'd never really had any Hispanic friends].

The night of, Marc's friend Danny met me in Chelsea [where I was living at the time] along with 2 or 3 other people whose names and faces I vaguely remember. We hopped off the train somewhere deep in the Bronx after what seemed like forever, and after a mysterious trek up [what seemed like] endless concrete steps, we reached the apartment.

It was small and dimly lit; and people were drinking, chit chatting and dancing already. There were clusters of guests tucked away in every corner, some even dipping out of the party to periodically hang out in the stairwell. This wasn't a trouble-making group of urban kids. There were drinks but no one was puking, brightly colored Nikes were on everyone’s feet, graphic tees and hoodies were also plentiful. There was talk of school and work, a few guys were doing the "superman" dance, and if there were drugs or even weed, I hadn't seen any. 

I was sipping on soda [I was still too cautious to drink alone], grooving to the music, and enjoying myself. I remember looking around and thinking to myself "Could I be a part of this? Is this the group of friends that I'd been missing?" I joined Marc and his friends in the stairwell for some jokes and silly talk and as I threw my head back in laughter for the 10th time, I marveled at how comfortable I felt. I was comfortable enough to gulp down half of a Hulk [Henessey and Hypnotiq], before dumping the rest in the kitchen sink.

The socializing seemed to go on for hours, and after some time I found myself feeling sleepy [the simultaneous effect of alcohol and a 50 hour work week on my poor soul]. I grabbed my coat and turned around to see Danny standing very closely behind me. He grabbed my hand and I followed, assuming that we were on our way out. I heard a door close behind me and as I regained focus, I realized we were in the bathroom... alone. He swiftly wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me in close, his body uncomfortably pressed against mine. "I noticed you since that first night on the train... I mean you're beautiful..." he panted. He said a few more words, and I, still in shock just stood there. He tried to kiss me, and I pulled away. "I have to go home," I said and tried to make a dash for the door. He pulled me back by the arm and whined "C'mon... why you being like that?" I panicked, and rushed out of the apartment as fast as I could.

One of the other guys [a more class clown, gentle type] accompanied me on the train ride home, and as we traveled further downtown, I tried to push the strange incident out of my mind. A few days later, I texted Marc mentioning what happened, and asking what was up. I received no sympathy from him and soon figured out that it all seemed to be a set up. I had my eye on Marc, and Danny had his eye on me... and Marc just helped puppeteer me right into Danny's arms.

I bumped into Danny a little while later, downtown near NYU where he went to school. There was no dodging him, so I merely smiled and kept walking, passing on the opportunity to say hello and make small talk. After all, I decided, you really shouldn't talk to strangers.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Learning & Growing

Oprah's LifeClass has been truly wonderful, and it was a great reminder that I'm on the right path. All of the lessons [and webcasts - which I strongly preferred] were enlightening and powerful, but one line stood out to me and it was during Lesson 19: Step out of the Box.

Tangela Embraces Her Body
After years of struggling with her weight, a viewer named Tangela finally decided to love herself at any size. Watch as she lets go of her body shame and struts through her neighborhood in a bikini!

My heart bursts for her! [Although I lol'd for real at her family and friends' reaction.] 

Anyway, the line was:

"If you want something you've never had, you gotta do something you've never done."

I was stunned when I heard that. I knew it was the truth but I'd never heard it said so clearly before. If you follow the path of your parents or your friends or even celebrities... you will find yourself living a carbon copy of someone else's life. 

You have to be a trailblazer. And although I have stepped out of the box a few times already [skipping college, moving to NYC, working for myself]... I now hesitate to go any further. And I think I know where the hesitation comes from. 

A huge part of it comes from not knowing what to do next: What kind of plan should I create? How can I gain knowledge and new experiences while avoiding an internship? How can I find an extraordinary mentor in my career path? What can I do to make my blog stand out and to attract the right readers? Should I spend some time volunteering? Should I go abroad? How much money do I need to save?

But a tinier and more resistant hesitation comes from present comfort. This is probably the first time in my life [since the Spring] that I have felt truly comfortable, stable and at peace emotionally. I have a lovely roof over my head, a fridge full of food, a closet full of magic, and a spirit that is at rest. I truly can say that besides my dreams of exotic vacations and silly desires for more material goods, I want for nothing. So upon the thought of taking a risk, my inner child is screaming "How dare you disrupt what we have going here?!" And then I'm tempted to question myself. 

I guess it would be helpful if I knew where to go on this journey. I've already begun, but now I need to take it to the next level. I'm such a planner and organized person that it's stressful and difficult for me to "just start anywhere". But maybe that's what I need to do... For now I'm taking baby steps, saving money, executing ideas for BlueShame, and looking forward to plans in 2012. Let's hope I figure this all out before then.

Things I need right now:

  • A graphic designer
  • A hairstylist 
  • A back up photographer and makeup artist in case my current ones fall through
  • A black, flat, knee high boot
  • A massage
  • A haircut
  • A new phone/MP3 player/headphones [an Iphone, basically]
  • A vacation
  • Some loving
  • A business license
  • A 2012 planner and calendar
  • A wise and talented mentor
  • A motorcycle operator's manual
  • A tailor
  • To begin attending dance class

And how many am I likely to get before the end of the year?

All of them.

I stay winning:
"I never compete because I never had to." - Lady Blue 
Scratch edit: Jan 2012

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Changing my mind I change clothes. What would a title like that be without the hit? 

Also, how good is the: "Coming in?"... "Love to."... "Nope!" in the beginning?!


I always have a million ideas running through my mind. And that seems like a great thing until suddenly, something I seemed so passionate about a week ago is now relegated to being a plan B. [Which did actually happen.] And for a second I felt guilty about flip flopping on what I want to do with my time until I remembered two things: I'm still young as ______, and when it comes to my life choices: I have no one to answer to!

What a feeling.

I also realized: It's okay to change your mind, especially because sometimes, no matter how meticulously you plan, some dreams just never come to fruition. Sometimes, something else takes its place instead.

So although a few blogs ago I expressed a strong desire to try my hand at back up dancing [a desire I still have, albeit not as strong], other wants have won out, specifically: Visiting Paris [and potentially London and Barcelona as well] in the Spring, saving up a neat[er] little nest egg, and getting my head above water career-wise. 

[Did I tell you I'm also trying to get on the radio? Oh yeah. Not only am I sharp, quick-witted and interesting, but I have the ultimate radio friendly voice. Needless to say, I think I'm a necessary asset to NY radio.]

Maybe I'm reverting back to my low-risk methods, maybe I spent all my dance class money on winter essentials [like cozy sweaters, swingy coats and suede boots], or maybe I'm just realizing that I don't want to run into LA headfirst like my impatience sometimes causes me to do. Perhaps it's not the right time for that big move, and I should wait a little bit longer.

But then again, when you really want something, any time is a good time. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oh snap

Took the words right out of my mouth! Really.


We invent new ways to indulge our hedonistic whims every single day, but we cannot seem to solve the problems that universally plague us: poverty, hunger, senseless crime, sickness...

I believe that government, just like religion, is opium for the masses. A way to keep order, to keep things civilized amongst the 7 billion people that inhabit planet earth. But do we really have civilized societies? I like to think of it as controlled chaos. So very tightly controlled that we are raised to merely work. Once we spend our youth being “educated” in school, we move on to college. An overpriced institution mandated by societal pressures. A prerequisite to finding a good, honest, job [ideally at a big business or corporation]. And so it ends up that most of us toil away our time lining the pockets of others, the same "others" who often make decisions for us on a national level. We work jobs we don't like that don't pay us enough [minimum wage in NY is a paltry $7.25], in order to shut up Sallie Mae and afford things like homes and cars, luxuries that often keep us indebted for most of our lives. In order to pay this debt, consume to our hearts desires and live out the fantasy of the "American Dream", we must continue to work. And because we all work roughly 40, 50, even 60 hours a week for our meager paychecks, we end up too tired to fight against the injustices of this system. We just wanna go home and enjoy ourselves with one of the mindless gadgets we've convinced ourselves we deserve. We want things to be simple. But unfortunately for all of us, they are not.

This is the life that the U.S. Government has created for all of us. And waking up to the reality of it [usually sometime after college graduation, and a few months working in the "real world"] isn't pretty.

Sometimes freedom feels like... a fallacy.

Church and state are supposed to be separate. But like so many other contradictory and hypocritical elements found in U.S. Gov's proceedings, we know that they are very intertwined, and dare I say, even feed each other. Although I am personally pro-life, the government should not have any say in how a woman handles her pregnancy. An institution that introduced the death penalty cannot have any opinions about whether abortion is murder or not. [Now if they were to legalize abortion, birth control should be free and handed out to any sexually active woman of child-bearing age. I am positive that move would assist in minimizing unwanted pregnancies, and that is ultimately the goal!] 

The government is also notorious for being incessantly greedy. I have not and will not ever smoke marijuana, but even I - an avid hater of the stuff - can agree that it is far less toxic on the human body than cigarettes. Why are cigarettes legal and marijuana not? Marijuana is difficult to regulate, seeing as though people can practically grow it in their backyards. The government doesn't like that. It wants eyes and ears and hands all over any and every possible dime they believe to be theirs. Logic says that if cigarettes and alcohol are legal, marijuana should be too. But greed speaks another language. Lets not forget all the other institutions that make the government millions of dollars: the prison system, the other prison system: education, and healthcare to name a few.

Healthcare [or lack thereof] in this country is ridiculous. Money is the reason why we see so very many drugs, and so few cures. It's much more lucrative to keep people drugged and coming back for more, than it is to cure them. The greed needs to stop. We have people working 3 jobs to stay afloat, we have people getting kicked out of their homes, we have people sick and dying and overwhelmed with medical bills, we have homeless and hungry children, we have hit veterans with nothing but slaps in the face. 

And where is the help for them? Listen to me when I say that you do not know struggle until you have tried to apply for government assistance. Not only is the process unnecessarily complicated and arduous but you are often dealing with rude, apathetic workers who are usually middle to lower class citizens themselves. They have probably seen all sorts of ignorance and tend to lump whomever walks in the door as one of "them" [ie: compassion fatigue]. When you already feel low, this process will make you feel even lower.

Occupy Wall Street [and all the other towns across America it has traveled to] is such an interesting movement. As with all things, I didn't make an assessment until I took a closer look. And although I agree with some of the detractors [wouldn't it be wiser to occupy Washington DC? And what exactly are they protesting?], I think the general sentiment is a good one. People are rising up and taking a stand. People are complaining about something real for once. People are letting their voice be heard. They are saying the things so many of us can't say. We have had far too many hardworking men and women struggling in silence. But not anymore. And in some ways I have to admit, I haven't been this proud of my fellow Americans since Barack Obama won the 2008 election [the man I voted for!]

I hope that a change comes of this. I hope there is a further shift in our perception of reality, government, our rights and our freedoms. I believe the government would sooner annihilate us all than give us a fair society [and then spin the blame into some story about "nuclear attacks" from a third world country], but I hope that I'm proved wrong. This is the one time in my life that I hope I'm completely wrong.