Here I Blog: It’s the Blog of the Year as We Know It (And I Feel Fine) 2016

Prologue

I’ve been wanting to be more creative as of late and was hoping to use this week to do some more of the things I like to do (writing, reading, playing music, etc). Unfortunately, I’ve been working a lot so I haven’t had time. Long story short, I wanted to at least post an end-of-year blog. This may or may not be similar to my end-of-year blog from last year. We’ll see. I usually write on the fly, so the blog may change course as I’m writing it. Anyway, this is my farewell blog to the year 2016.


So I guess, first and foremost, what I want to do is give a quick update on things that have happened in my life over the last 365 days. Last year, my whole blog was dedicated to breaking down my life in 2015. I’m not going to do that this year; I’m just going to quickly mention things that have happened. For starters, for the first time since 2012, I’m going into the new year single. It sucks, and tonight is going to suck something fierce, but it is what it is. Secondly, as of September, I began student teaching at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, which meant I had to leave my job of two years at the William O’ Connor Midwood School and started working at Outside the Box Shipping. Something that I was worried about turned out to be the perfect situation for me as I absolutely love student-teaching at FDR and the schedule, work, and environment at Outside the Box has been perfect for what I need. Academically, I’m only a year away from my Master’s Degree from CUNY Brooklyn College.

Okay now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s talk. Whoever you are, reading this, let’s talk, just you and me. Good? Okay. Let’s start.

For me 2015 was a year of serious growth for me. I learned a lot about myself – who I was, who I am, and who I want to be moving forward. 2016, especially the latter half of the year, was about taking those lessons I learned about myself and implanting them to the best of my abilities. The main goal, which has become my main goal in my life as of the last year or two, is to make sure that I’m happy and mentally/emotionally healthy (I really have to start working on the physical part again too).

I have a lot going on in my life right now, probably more so than ever before in my life. In the last four months, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t been able to really do any of the things I really enjoy doing. I haven’t written any music, haven’t done any creative writing, haven’t spent time with family, haven’t read (novels, plays, or comics) unless it was assigned in one of my grad school courses, haven’t spent time with friends, and haven’t played any sports. Anyone knows me, knows that not having a creative outlet can really fuck with me emotionally and mentally. I’m a very creatively motivated person and not being able to flex my creative muscles renders me feeling tense and teetering on depression. Luckily for me, my cooperating teacher has completely handed over one of his classes to me, having me create and teach every lesson every day. Being able to create those lessons and come up with creative lessons (like when I made a 4-minute music video compilation to teach simile to my students) has been enough to quench my creative thirst, at least enough so that I can continue to function. Okay, I went off on a bit of a tangent. Sorry.

This past year, I have made decisions, sometimes hard decisions, to make sure that at the end of the day, I’m happy. I have a slight history with depression and anyone who knows about depression knows that once you’ve suffered from depression, you’re open season for it to return whenever the opportunity strikes. Because of that, I try to make sure that my true happiness is never in danger. Sometimes, this leads to short-term pain and hurting somebody else.

As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I’m single right now. I was in a relationship where I was very happy at the beginning, but after six months, it began to take a turn to a place where I was unhappy. I was constantly stressed, felt restricted, confined, and just tense. This was exactly how I felt by the end of my previously relationship, albeit for different reasons. That’s not who I am. I’m outgoing, and weird, and silly, and goofy, and just weird. Out of respect for the person I was dating, I won’t go into detail about the events of our relationship, but I had to end the relationship, which sucked, especially because of how I much the breakup hurt her. However, I did what I felt I needed to do for myself, for my mental health. I’m still not where I need to be in terms of my happiness but it’s a work in progress. I’m lucky to have a someone in my life, who despite being 1,000 miles away, I know I can lean on when I really need it (for the most part).

Speaking of friends, this year has been kind of a weird one for me in that department (don’t worry, I’ll tie it in). I haven’t really had much of a change in the people I call my friends in years. Maybe some of have been added, some people make brief cameo appearances, some have completely left. In fact, now when I come to think of it, whenever I take a stand for myself in terms of how I am treated in those friendships, those people exit my life. Case in point, two people who at one point or another were considered my best friend are no longer in my life because I said I didn’t like the way I was being treated. Those relationships eventually were dissolved. Like with everything else in my life lately, I’ve really been trying to focus on making sure that I am happy. That means taking a look at how I feel when I’m in certain environments and with certain people. That look has often lead to me being and feeling very alone.

But you know what, I’d rather be alone right now and not feel like I have to compromise who I am, what I stand for, and what makes me happy. I guess that’s my point here. I feel like we, as human beings, care so much about having friends and being in relationships and being liked, that we compromise who we are. We sit in silence when a friend says something offensive that you don’t like. We change our personality to accommodate our significant other’s baggage. We say nothing when a family member makes a comment that you strongly disagree with. All of this, just to avoid the potential of losing that person. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, but it’s definitely been the case for me. Most of that comes from me hating confrontation, but when it comes to your own happiness, fear of confrontation cannot be a good enough to reason to not speak up or stand up or even walk away.

Now that I’ve sufficiently rambled on, let me just end this blog and 2016 with this: Don’t compromise who you are, what you stand for, what you need, and/or what makes you happy for anything or anyone. Your happiness needs to come first. Understand and respect that. Surround yourself with people who understand and respect that. Love yourself. Surround yourself with people who truly love you (not who they think you are or who they want you to be). Don’t be afraid to walk away if you need to. Be more afraid not to.

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Here I Blog: Virtual Blogsanity

Prologue

With classes starting up again next week, I wanted to get in one more blog post before I inevitably don’t have time to post again until May or June. With that said, I wanted to write about something serious and pretty important to me. I hope and expect anyone who reads this to be respectful as they read this. I thank you in advanced.


Since 1949, the month of May has hosted Mental Health Awareness Month. Didn’t know that? Yeah, I didn’t either. I didn’t even know that there was a Mental Health Awareness Month until the last few years when I saw posts about it on Facebook. It became extremely prominent after the Isla Vista killings in 2014 where the perpetrator was said to be taking medication to treat schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, along with allegedly having Asperger syndrome, despite never being formally diagnosed. Mental Health can cover a number of disorders, illnesses, and conditions including, but not limited to, PTSD, ADD, ADHD, schizophrenia, bi-polar syndrome, anxiety disorder, and OCD. The one that resonates the most with me is OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder.

To be entirely honest with anyone reading this, this is kind of hard for me to write so from here on in, this might get a little unfocused or disjointed or just poorly-written. You’ve been warned.

Where do I even begin? Maybe a little bit more information about OCD? OCD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, comes in three basic flavors: obsessions, compulsions, and both. Someone who lives on the obsession side of OCD will often obsess over particular thoughts that invade their brains at any given time. These thoughts are often extreme and revolve around death, pain, horror, or sex. For instance, let’s say a girl, let’s call her Jackie, has this form of OCD. Jackie can regularly have intrusive thoughts/visions of her mom getting seriously hurt or dying. The thought/feel will not go away, no matter how hard she tries to avoid it or ignore it. The only thing that can quell that feeling is for Jackie to either a call her mom to make sure she’s okay or to engage some sort of compulsive act (we’ll get to that later).

Someone on the compulsive side of OCD will often be compelled to do something physical (or a ritual), sometimes repeatedly until they feel comfortable. Being prohibited from performing a ritual will usually result in some sort of mental or emotional breakdown. For example, a guy, let’s call him Nick has OCD. He periodically feels the need to cough twice and then scratch his head. This happens every hour or so. However, if after scratching his head, the need is still there, he’ll repeat the whole process. This will continue until he feels internally satisfied. This can go on for hours. If say someone were to try and hold Nick’s hand to stop him from scratching his head after the two coughs, Nick might begin to feel anxiety that will only rise with every second his hand is being held. The second his hand is released, he’ll most assuredly scratch his head. More likely than not, it will also result in him repeating the ritual several times as that attempt was clearly not going to be satisfactory.

Now there are people who are both obsessive and compulsive. For example, some people can become to obsessed with something that they are compelled to do something to an extreme level. Allow me to introduce you to Lucy. Lucy suffers from OCD. Lucy is obsessed with right angles. Therefore, everything in her apartment is either a square or rectangle or arranged to have a vortex at a right angle. If she physically can, she will try to arrange anything and everything to be in right angles. If she is at work and someone has a two toothpicks on their desk randomly placed at an acute angle, Lucy will immediately want to “fix” it. She goes to re-arrange the toothpicks, but a co-worker stops her to talk. She won’t be able to focus on anything until she can move those toothpicks and the second that co-worker stops talking, you better believe that those toothpicks are being moved around. Remember Jackie? Remember how I said the only thing that can calm her intrusive thoughts of her mother is to call or do something? If Jackie can’t get a hold of her mother, she might become increasingly anxious unless she can knock on a wall in a certain rhythmic pattern (her ritual).

However, what many people don’t realize is that these are the higher levels of OCD. Like most mental disorders, illness, and conditions, there is a spectrum of sorts. Some people are effected more heavily than others. Some people suffer from all of the same symptoms but do not feel as obsessed or compulsive or have rituals as extreme or as frequent. Not everyone is a Jackie or a Nick or a Lucy. Some people are a William.

Throughout my adolescence and into my adult life, I’ve often found myself very drawn to patterns and habits. But that’s all I ever called them. They were always just habits. I would jokingly call them OCD or say that I had OCD but I always said it in a way that demonstrated that I was not serious about that in any way. I never truly fully said that I had OCD. The main reasons for that was that I was in denial/was unsure if I truly did and because I felt that declaring something like that put me in the same class as Jackie or Nick or Lucy and I felt it would be an insult to them, to people who truly suffered from OCD, while it was mostly a livable inconvenience for me. I keep wanting to approach this from like four different angles and I can’t decide so I guess I’ll just give you a quick summary of my history with my OCD.

As a young kid, my family and I used to go to BJs in New Jersey every Thursday to do our grocery shopping. On the way back, we’d swing by a Burger King. My dad had a really ugly but incredibly spacious white Mitsubishi minivan. In the middle of the third row of seats, a small table with two cup-holders pulled down from the backrest of the middle. My sister and I would take our food and lay it out on that table and eat. Seeing as how we were in a car and the table was small, it was easiest to eat the fries first, and then the burger, so that’s what we always did.

When I was in high school, one day, while at lunch, I removed the label off of my water bottle. One of my friends grabbed the label and wrote my name on it. The next day, I sat down with my water and removed the label again. Again, my friend took it and wrote my name it. This became an everyday occurrence. Then one day, her and I stopped being friends and she wasn’t there to write my name, but I still removed the label. Despite her not being part of the equation anymore, I still proceeded to remove the label off the bottle every day.

Those two things, eating my fries first and removing the wrapper off of a bottle, are things I still do to this day. For years, I used to just say they were little weird things that I just did. There were even small signs that it was more than just that that I ignored. For example, one night, years ago, my family and I were having dinner at a diner and without paying attention, I took a bite of my burger before finishing all of my fries. I couldn’t touch my food for at least 30 minutes. I don’t think anyone else noticed but I felt uncomfortable after I realized what I had done. I had to pretend my food wasn’t there before I could continue eating. Then there was a time when I was at my previous job and we were having lunch in the backroom. Someone had told me to try and not remove the label off the bottle. I tried. I felt so uncomfortable and would glance over at the bottle the whole time I eating and didn’t even want to take a sip from the bottle. Even then I had just called them weird little things or quirks or jokingly called them my OCD tendencies. I didn’t start to see what it truly was until I was in my last relationship.

When I began dating my ex-girlfriend, I told her about my “tendencies.” She felt concerned about them and wanted to “help me get over them.” One day, we picked up Subway on the way to my house. While on the bus, I wanted to eat because I was hungry. I took out my cookies (my Subway equivalent to french fries) to start eating. My ex told me not to and told me to put them back in the bag and that when we got to my house to eat the sandwich first. To clear, she didn’t really force me to do anything but she was concerned and pushed for the idea. I reluctantly agreed because I was starting to feel tired of my “tendencies,” especially if they were going to create a concern for my girlfriend. Now, I’m not someone who is typically anxious or suffers from anxiety. However, within minutes, I felt incredibly anxious. I remember even starting to shake a little bit with a feeling of wanting to cry beginning to creep up a little bit. Once she saw all of that, she told me to forget the whole thing and to eat the cookies. I did but felt so ashamed of myself and I felt so pathetic. I felt like a weak little child. It was then that started to take my “tendencies” a little bit more seriously. I knew what it was but still refused to call it what it was. Until now.

A few months ago, I started dating my now-current-girlfriend. I remember being so worried about not letting her see my “tendencies.” The first time we hung out (the night before our technical first date), I ate a meal that came with fries and hoped that she hadn’t noticed me eating my friend before touching my sandwich. Soon thereafter I told her about my “tendencies.” She noticed. She also assured me that she didn’t care. I, of course, didn’t believe her. By our third date, she had scene all of my “tendencies,” (the fries thing, the wrapper thing, my need to straighten out straw wrappers and paper bags and line them up neatly side-by-side, etc). Then, one day, while we were sitting in a Dunkin’ Donuts, she straightened out the straw wrappers and lined them for me. She said she did for me. I had never met anyone so supportive and loving about my “tendencies.” She asks me about it, about what it means for me, how it works for me, how she can help, and does it.

Mental health is something serious that we need to be aware of acknowledge. One of my best friends suffers from anxiety, as well as at least one other person I went to high school with, someone I still keep in contact with today. People deal with this shit every day and most of the time, no one else knows about it. I had never considered myself to fit under that umbrella. I still feel uncomfortable because I don’t want to insult or disrespect those who truly suffer from it in major wats. However, thanks to my girlfriend, in talking to her and being with her and feeling her love and support it allowed to me to see things for what they truly are. My name is William Ponciano and I have OCD and that is the first time I’ve ever said those words.

Here I Blog: It’s the Blog of the Year as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Prologue

I was hoping to do this earlier but I just haven’t had the time. The last time I posted something, it was July. A lot has changed in my life in those last 6 months. In fact, all of 2015 has been entirely life-changing. That’s what this post is basically going to be about.  A recap of 2015 in William A.P.’s life.


 

2015. Holy hell. So much has happened in the last 365 days. Where do I even begin? It might easier to break this down into life categories.

Career

Since May of 2014, I’ve been working at the NYL William O’Connor Midwood School, which is a special needs preschool. When 2015 rolled in, I was working as a 1:1 paraprofessional in a bilingual classroom. I wasn’t always happy in that classroom as I always felt like I was working beyond my job description and. In June, I was given the opportunity to move up and become a teaching assistant in a different bilingual classroom. I took the opportunity. The promotion meant having a salary for the first time in my life. It meant stability for myself and my mother. Of course, the money isn’t great but at least I no longer have to worry about where money is coming from when the school is closed like on holidays and the spring/summer breaks.

Education

Okay, so this was one of the bigger ones. In 2015, I started graduate school. Back in July, I was accepted to both Hunter College and Brooklyn College. I decided to go with Brooklyn and thus am now studying Secondary Education in English (aka grades 7-12 English teacher). It has been absolutely insane. I’m not sure why I thought it would be a good idea to take 4 classes while working full-time but that’s what I did in my first semester in grad school and boy did it kick my ass. I’m still waiting for my grades to find out if I kicked back hard enough but I’ve  at least taken the first steps in becoming an English teacher, which will be completely life altering.

Love

If anyone knows me, they know that I am a huge romantic and a sap. I’m all about romantic love. It’s probably what I prioritize most in life as I honestly believe love to be one of the most important things in life and one of the most amazing/beautiful things in life. As such, my initial thought was to put this section first but I thought better of it. Quite a bit has happened in the last 365 days in my love life. At the beginning of 2015, I was in the middle of a 2.5+ year long relationship. Truth be told, I thought that I was going to marry her. We had even talked about getting engaged and looked and engagement rings. I was wrong. After 2 years and 8 months of constant fighting and compromising and crying and trying to force something to work that just wasn’t going to work, her and I decided to call it quits. Technically she broke up with me but we had talked about it before. We both knew it wasn’t working and we still tried to make it work even after we broke up, but it just wasn’t right. So after all of the time and energy we both spent on the relationship, it was over. We split up amicably and I have no ill feelings towards her. She’s a great person and I wish her absolutely nothing but the best. We just weren’t right for each other.

After that relationship ended, I was starting to feel hopeless. I tried to get back out in the dating world and found little to no success and way out of place with how most people my age engage in dating. With my lack of success prior to my ex and my lack of success in the current dating pool, I was convinced that my new ex was my last chance of finding love and happiness and marriage and a family and all that other shit that I’ve been chasing since I was a little kid bribing girls to kiss me for a gummy bear. I was beginning to feel hopeless. I thought I had missed me shot. I was wrong.

In late October, I met and began talking to a co-worker. At first I didn’t think anything of it but it was definitely something. For the first time, it all just makes sense. I’ve never felt so sure of anything. Everything that I’ve  learned and experienced from my past relationships and/or any other time I’ve been involved with a woman has lead me to this, to her. I’m in a new relationship and I couldn’t be happier. Just when I thought all hope was lost, she restored my hope.

Friends

When I was in my last relationship, I was not always the best friend. I dedicated so much time and effort into the relationship that I alienated my friends and just didn’t make enough time for them. Fortunately, my friends are awesome anyway. When my ex and I broke up, and I was a mess, my friends were there for me. Whether it was taking me to a bar in the city, just talking, or guiding me through every girl I mistaken for a potential future. In that time, I really saw who my real friends are. For the first time ever, I felt good about my friends, who they were, where I fit in, and my relationship with them each. For the first time, I had my “boys,” (and one female friend – I didn’t forget you, Adele) and they mean a lot to me. I’m sure they’re all gonna rip on me for this later on today, but they all mean a lot to me and I love em all, even when some of them piss me off. Now that I’m in a new relationship, they’ve been great about it and I know that I have to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes I made in my previous relationship.

Conclusion

While a lot of people tend to have negative feelings towards 2015, I can’t really complain. 2015 was a huge year for me. I learned a lot about myself. There was heartache, loss, love, hope, acceptance, promotion, revelations, rebirth, death, and a Mets World Series run. It was definitely a year I won’t soon forget. I can’t wait for 2016 to start tomorrow.

Here I Blog: Blog Me Laugh / Fun For a Day Challenge

Prologue

Well boys and girls and folks in between, I’m back again. As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been blogging a little more frequently than in the past. This boils down to me just having more to say and wanting to express myself more lately. I’ve always been very open and expressive but as of late, I’ve felt more compelled to do so than usual. Maybe it’s because I’m reading more, or because I enjoy writing this blog, or I don’t know but either way, I have a feeling that these blogs will follow the same pattern of a new entry every few weeks as opposed to the every month or six (haha). Anyway, enough with the jibberjabber; on with the blog!


 

As those who know me personally know, I’m a teaching assistant at a special needs preschool. During the summer, starting in the first week of July and ending in the middle of August, my school has a 6-week summer session. During those six weeks, on Fridays, the school has “Friday Fun Days” that are themed and usually include activities. This past Friday was Superhero Day. Staff and students were encouraged to where superhero themed clothes, costumes, and accessories.

Now, to put things into perspective a little but before I continue, I love laughing. I prefer comedies to any other genre of film and television. In fact, one of the issues I had in my last relationship was that I felt like there wasn’t enough fun in it. I wasn’t laughing enough. I have gone through different stages of depression on two separate occasions in my life. Because of that, I value laughter and fun so much. I need laughter and fun in my life, even if I have to create it myself.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a total goof and I have absolutely no problem making a joke out of myself for the sake of other people’s laughter. I’m a clown/jester. I also love my job and I find what I do to be very important. I do whatever I can for the kids, whether it’s being my school’s tech person so that I can ensure that the kids always have working technology or bouncing a ball as hard as I can because they lose their minds at how high it can go or letting the kids chase me for 20 minutes straight during recess, etc, etc. You name it, I do it or would do it. With that said, as soon as I heard it was Superhero Day, I knew what I had to do. I called my brother (the biggest comic book fan I know) and asked if he had any superhero costumes, which of course he did. One of my coworkers also jokingly told me she’d bring her son’s cape and her daughter’s tiara for me to wear to which I told her I would be more than happy to. All week, she reminded me of it, as though it was a threat instead of something I was actually excited to do for the kids.

On Friday morning, my brother brought his Captain America costume to me and my coworker brought the cape and tiara. I went to the bathroom and gladly donned a silly looking outfit comprised of a full-body one-piece Captain America costume, a child’s Batman cape, and a plastic toy tiara. I walked out of that bathroom happy and excited, expecting my coworkers to embrace and appreciate my dedication to our school and the kids we work every day for. Some did. Most didn’t, and herein lies the point of this entry.

While there were definitely a bunch of my coworkers that got excited at my costume and took pictures and complimented me, the majority of them gave me judgmental looks, told me they couldn’t take me seriously, wouldn’t look at me, and some didn’t even want to be next to me while I was dressed up. Why? To stay in the theme and to quote Heath Ledger’s Joker, “why so serious?”

This is an example of something that I’ve seen way too often in my life and see almost daily. For some reason, as a society, we tend to take ourselves way too seriously. There have been so many times where I’ll mention doing something silly, like wearing a ridiculous costume, or even singing karaoke, and people reject the idea and act as though I’m crazy for even suggesting it. Why? Out of fear of embarrassment? Fear of what other people might think of us? Why do we care so much? Why are we so concerned with what other people might say about us? What effect will it have on our lives or our physical health? Odds are, none. In fact, people will probably begin to look at you as a fun person with an admiration for your courage and carefree attitude.

In my life, I’ve often teetered back-and-forth with the idea of caring about what other people thought in terms of feeling embarrassed if I did something that I thought was silly. I get it. Who wants to be ridiculed and made fun of? As humans, we have this innate biological desire to fit in and be accepted. Doing something viewed as ridiculous makes you stand out and no longer like everyone else. The idea of being silly when no one else wants to be lends itself to being singled out.

I’ve always enjoyed being goofy and a clown and making people laugh, regardless of the expense to me, personally. When I was younger and an opportunity presented itself to doing something outrageous that could be funny, I would sometimes worry about feeling embarrassed or people laughing at me rather than with me, but usually my desire to laugh would take over and I’d just do it anyway. It didn’t always go well but fuck it, I gave it a shot. As I mentioned in my first entry to ‘Here I Blog,’ I had a conversation one day with my sister that really cleared my brain of worry for what other people think (feel free to go back to that entry here https://williamap.wordpress.com/2014/10/03/here-i-blog-the-return-of-the-blog-fuel/ for that conversation).

I don’t get it. There is so much fun that could be had if we all just let go. We all take ourselves so damn seriously that we lose out on chances to really enjoy the hell out of life out of fear of what, embarrassment? Come on, people. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for taking your passions seriously and really giving a damn about your career/livelihood/passions but we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously. How about this – I literally have no idea how many people, if any, read this blog or will read this entry in particular, but I have a challenge for anyone who is reading this. Here it is: Let go. For one day, let go and do something completely silly or ridiculous or goofy or outrageous. Wear a costume or sing karaoke or have a lip-sync battle or wear your hair in a wild style – something! Let’s call it the “Fun for a Day Challenge.” Take a picture or video of yourself and post it in the comments as proof. And don’t forget to pass the challenge on to a friend! Unfortunately, I don’t really have any money to offer as some sort of incentive (I’m open to suggestions), but I’m confident that if you do it, you’ll have an awesome day, you’ll feel great, and it could start a fun, new chapter in your life.

Here I Blog: Blog Your Illusion II

Prologue

Hello all five people who read this (lol). Welcome back to another lovely edition of Here I Blog. As some of the people in my personal life may know, I’m currently on a 13-day vacation from work (one of the perks of working at a preschool). I’ve decided to give myself a little challenge and make sure that I do something productive creatively every day for the 13 days. Today is Day 2, so as part of that I’m posting a new blog today. I wouldn’t be too surprised if I posted another entry before the 13 days are over. So, “what’s today’s topic going to be?” Well, last week, I talked about sexism/homophobia and how I’ve been on the wrong side of the battle for most of my life. Today, to follow in that same theme, I want to talk about racism. So, here’s Part 2 of “Blog Your Illusion.”


I am racist. Wow. How’s that for an opening sentence? You see, racism can manifest itself in any number of ways. Of course, there’s the obvious ways, like someone who outwardly uses hateful language (“nigger,” “cotton-picker,” “porchmonkey,” etc.), or someone who is openly against mixed-race relationships, or people who specifically follow Blacks and/or Latinos in stores because they assume they’re going to steal something. Those assholes are easy to spot. Those are the people that are going to be on the cover of Jackass Racist Asswipe Magazine.

Then, there are people are either don’t know they are racist or don’t consider themselves racist. I’m sure you all know these one of these people. You know, the person who hears an African-American speak eloquently and feels the need to compliment you on how “articulate” or “eloquent” they are, even though they never felt the need to pay the same “compliment” to a white person with the same vernacular. No? How about the person who asks you a million questions about what it’s like being with someone of color when they first see or meet your non-white significant other? Oh, and one of my favorites is when they hear that you have a college education and they ask if you’re the first of your family to go to college. That’s always a fun one. These folks will only get a small feature in the Subtle Racists for All blog or something like that.

There is one last group of people who can and should consider themselves racist. The people in this group do not appear to be racist at all, are against racism, and will sometimes even stand up against racism. On the surface they seem like good-hearted, open-minded, really nice people. They might date minorities, have kids with them, be friends with them, marry them, hang with them, etc. They may also find themselves calling a neighborhood “bad” or “dangerous” solely based on the demographic, without having any actual statistics or experiences to back it up. These people will see a group of men dressed in a certain way, and feel uneasy or unsafe, despite the fact that they probably have friends and/or family who look basically exactly the same. You see, that’s where I fall under. I’m one of these guys, and I am not proud.

Growing up in Gravesend, between the Marlboro Projects and Ave U, I’ve heard probably heard every racial slur slung both ways between black/Latinos and white people. I mean I’ve probably heard and seen it all. From “get off of our avenue you fuckin’ dirty nigga” to “yo, you lost, white boy?” to “yo mow my lawn, Pablo.” I’ve been chased out of the projects (that’s what happens when you’re a chubby light-skinned kid in a baseball uniform), called a “dumb fuckin’ spic” by white kids from the avenue, and almost got my knees taken out with a 2×4 by a Latino in the middle of a White vs. “Mexican” altercation where I was perceived to be white because, again, light skin (and I hung out with a lot of white kids in junior high).

I also happen to live in a country tainted with awful racism in its history that is still pumped through our mainstream media. I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a day of my life where I did not see or hear some sort of racist portrayal of people of color. Whether it’s racist characterizations in TV and film or skewed news delivery or political bullshit, you can’t really escape racism and stereotyping. This becomes a major problem when these stereotypes are fed to us on a constant basis, which leads many people to accept these stereotypes as fact. During the recent racial tensions brought on by the Ferguson case and all of the protests and riots, a lot of people exposed themselves as being under this category in their opinions and their justifications. They didn’t realize just how racist having a lack of apathy can be, especially when racial stereotypes and clichés are used to back their arguments.

While I knew all of the racist stereotypes and bullshit was just that, I fell victim to it sometimes. Again, I am not some hateful asshole, I dated a Black woman for almost three years, and whatever else you all need to hear to understand the point I’m trying to make. However, I’d be lying if I said that there haven’t been times where I’ve walked by a group of three or more guys who were either black or Latino, and if they were dressed in a certain way, I’d feel a little worried about getting into some sort of altercation. I find myself feeling uncomfortable going into neighborhoods that are predominantly serve as homes to minorities, without having anything to base it on. Am I scarred by past experiences? Have I been brainwashed by my environment/media? No matter the reason, it’s no excuse. It’s terrible to ever try to assume anything, especially the worst, about someone based merely on their skin color or physical appearance.

It took me a while to realize that just because I dated a Black woman and had Black friends and listened to “Black” music and used slang in my vernacular, it doesn’t I still don’t have a bit of racism embedded in me. Fortunately, I saw it, noticed it, acknowledged it, and am willing to fight against it. This world has enough hate and poison in it. I live every day to try and bring more acceptance and love to this world, or at least I try to. It starts with myself, just like it starts with all of us.

Here I Blog: Blog Your Illusion I

Prologue

Wow. So I haven’t done this in a while. It’s been over six months since my last blog post in which I reviewed my trip to our nation’s capital. Unfortunately, my life got a little chaotic and I just never finished the rest of my review. Seeing as how that was way back in January, I think I’m just going to cut my losses and move on to something else. Nevertheless, my absence has been a long one so I apologize to anyone who actually gave a crap (I’m looking at you, Adele). In the last six months, my relationship of two years and eight months ended, I got accepted into graduate school at CUNY Brooklyn College, completed my third Poetry Month 30/30 in four years and have started recording with my bandmate, Dylan. Since January, there has been a lot that I’ve wanted to talk about: race issues, the riots in Baltimore, friendships, romantic relationships, Caitlyn Jenner, etc. While I’m sure I’ll write about one of those eventually, today, I’m gonna go in a different direction: sexism/homophobia.


As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I’m a Latino from Gravesend, Brooklyn, New York who mostly grew up in the ‘90s and ‘00s. As such, I was raised in a very macho/hyper-masculine environment where the tougher you were, the stronger you were, the more women you had sex with, the more you were an authoritarian, the cooler you were or you were more of a man. Because of that, for most of my life, I’ve heard and used two ordinary and completely normal things as major insults: homosexuality and being a woman/girl.

I sincerely can’t remember a time when I hadn’t heard words like “homo,” “faggot,” “queer,” “marica” (Spanish for “faggot”), “lady,” “little girl,” “bitch,” weren’t used as jabs at friends or enemies. I’ve done it, I’ve had it done to me, and I’ve even heard females do it. I have regularly heard women tell guys to “stop acting like such a little girl” or something along those lines. However, I don’t recall ever hearing a gay/bi person tell someone to “stop being such a faggot,” other than in a playful way to another gay/bi person.

If you look at the history of many countries and cultures around the world and how they treat women and those who are not heterosexual, it’s no surprise as to why they were used as insults. Here in the great ol’ U.S. of A., women were given the right to vote until 1919/1920 (passed in 1919, ratified in 1920), women get paid less to do the same job as men, and gay marriage is still illegal in over 10 of our states with most states only making same-sex marriage permissible within the last decade. These are two groups of people who have been treated as being inferior (I don’t wanna imagine how challenging it might be to be a gay black woman of any faith other than Christian).

Okay, so we know how women and non-heterosexual people have been treated in the past. It’s 2015 and we should be over this nonsense, right? Well, luckily, we’ve made great strides over the last few years and more women are being treated as equals and more individuals are viewing women as equals and acknowledging the discrimination and double standards that society has imposed on women. Things that were once deemed completely normal and accepted (such as harassing a woman on the street, pressuring women to wear makeup or adhere to a certain image, demeaning women who explore their sexuality as freely as men have been allowed to do) are now being ostracized by the greater majority.

Now, if you ask me, I very adamantly believe that using womanhood and sexuality as insults is a massive demonstration of insecurity by those who use them (particularly when used by straight men). I think people who use being a woman or being gay as a shot at somebody, are afraid of ever being called one of those groups or being thought of or being identified as one those groups. For a long time, I fell into that group.

Once, not too long ago, someone called me a girl or something like that and I got offended and insulted them in return. My girlfriend-at-the-time asked me “why do you care?” to which I responded with “because I’m not a girl.” She asked me what was wrong with being a girl. I told her nothing. She asked me why it bothered me then. At the time, I said “because I’m not a girl. There’s nothing wrong with being a girl, but I’m not one, and I don’t like being called something that I’m not.”

On some level, I think I meant that. However, when I think about it now, I ask myself, why did I get bothered? I know some of you might be thinking that I was offended because I secretly view women or gay people to be inferior to straight men, but you’d be wrong. I stand firm that I don’t and never have thought there was anything wrong with being a woman of being anything other than heterosexual. Shit, there have been times where I’ve envied women and questioned my sexuality. I’m secure enough in my sexuality and masculinity that I can say that without giving a flying fuck. Yet, I used to be offended. Why? The answer is so simple, so simple it’s dumb.

I was offended because I accepted those words as insults.

“Huh? What are you talking about?”

Words only mean what we want them to mean and they only have whatever effect we let them. While I didn’t and don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a woman or being gay or bi or transgender or whatever else, I accepted that those are insults and viewed those words in that context as such, allowing myself to be offended by something that I don’t actually find offensive at all. Even this past week, whenever I’ve been called a “lady” or a “faggot,” I would respond with just saying “whatever” or “fuck off” or something like that as to not defend something that need not be defended. But even that is the wrong approach. So, from now on, when someone calls me a “little girl” or “queer,” I’m just going to say “umm, okay?” or better yet, “okay, and you’re a shoe. What do I mean? I don’t know, I thought we were just calling each other random things.”

Whether you’re gay or bi or trans or asexual or however else you wanna identity yourself, you’re a person, not an insult. And women are awesome (when they’re not driving me insane or breaking my heart) because if nothing else, they give birth to us. That’s like an automatic trump card. “You’re a woman! You’re weak! I make more money than you!” “I GIVE LIFE! GOML!” Pft. Game. Just sayin.

Here I Blog: Washington, D.C., Part 1 – The Food

Prologue

On Saturday, January 17, my girlfriend and I got on a Greyhound bus and went down to Washington, D.C. for the weekend, returning last night. It was my first time in my nation’s capital. When you’re in a new city, there are a few areas that we all look at and focus when breaking down how the trip was: the food, the sites, the people, the transportation, and overall experience. After a surprising, refreshing, exciting, and exhausting three days, I’m here to give you my thoughts on each of those. As I write this, I’m realizing that I have a lot to say and this going to be really long. As a result, I’m going to break this up into separate posts for each section.  (DISCLAIMER: I was mainly only in the downtown area so that’s all I can attest to.) Without further ado, here is Part 1 of my full review of Washington, D.C.


The Food

Okay, let’s start with the first experience I had in DC, food. Anyone who knows me knows that I love food. My love for food is exactly how I spent most of my life obese and got to be as heavy as 325 pounds. As a food lover, I am always looking to enjoy my food and have the best food possible. After doing hours of research on good places to eat that were affordable and in the areas of which we would be staying/seeing, we ended up eating at/from We, The Pizza, Momiji Japanese Restaurant, Lincoln’s Waffle Shop, Plan B Burger Bar, Tortilla Café, and Good Stuff Eatery (excluding the pretzel I had from the stand in front of The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and the free breakfast from the Comfort Inn we stayed in).

We, The Pizza – After a 5 hour bus ride, we were hungry. First stop was We, The Pizza. As a proud New Yorker, I am quite critical of pizza wherever I eat it, especially if it’s outside of New York City. Before you even walk in, I could tell that this pizzeria takes itself seriously. In the window, were multiple workers making pizzas. Inside, the display counter displays their various pizzas, all unique in their own way with some of the biggest looking ingredients I’ve ever seen on a pizza (not huge, but bigger than I’m used to seeing). Behind the display counter, there was a pretty larger area where the aforementioned workers were making their pizzas. The space is so large and open that is screams “we have nothing to hide. We’re good at what we do, and we’re not afraid to show you.” After much deliberation, I landed on a sausage & peppers slice and a pepperoni slice. After I ordered and paid, they handed one of those buzzers they give out in restaurants. I’ve never seen that from a pizzeria. As I walked to the bathroom, I passed a wall covered in newspaper clippings that praised We, The Pizza. Expectations were officially high. I was not disappointed. Both slices had the freshest and most tasteful toppings I’ve ever had on pizza. I could taste the onions, peppers, sausage, and pepperoni so clearly. Most of the time in pizza, you can taste the toppings but as strongly. Damn that pizza was good. I wasn’t perfect, however. The crust was some of the most tasteless pizza crusts I’ve ever had. The crust literally served no purpose on the pizza other than its practically purposes. It was a real downer. Despite the crust, I had some of the best pizza I’ve ever had at We, The Pizza. Trust me, I did not want to say that. Ever. FINAL RATING 4.5/5

Momiji Japanese Restaurant – For dinner, I thought we might do Japanese, DC style. We went to what I believe is referred to as Chinatown and went to Momiji Japanese Restaurant. At first, I was a little concerned when I saw that the restaurant was below street level. “Basement” restaurants give me an impression that the place isn’t the cleanest. When I walked in, saw the restaurant was packed will no tables available on a second floor level, I started to think that maybe we’d be okay. We decided to have all of our usual dishes of shumai, California rolls, and chicken teriyaki. I usually also get a chicken tempura roll but they didn’t have that so I had a shrimp tempura roll instead. We both wanted to try something new so I ordered a spider roll and she ordered the steak teriyaki instead of her usual salmon. Every once in a while, when we have Japanese food, we try sake. We always hate it. So, of course we got sake. This was easily the best sake I’ve ever had. I actually enjoyed it. I proceeded to down three shots of it. For better or worse, the rest of the food was pretty average. Wasn’t bad, wasn’t exceptional. It was okay. I thought the steak teriyaki was dry and disappointing but she disagrees. Either way, Momiji was okay. It’s a safe choice that I would go to again but it wasn’t anything special. FINAL RATING 3/5

Lincoln’s Waffle Shop – Now, I love breakfast. Love it. Always have. Having breakfast alone makes me happy. Breakfast itself has a sentimental feeling of happiness implanted in it for me. No pressure. We went to Lincoln’s Waffle Shop. Like Momiji, the exterior of the Lincoln’s made me a little skeptical. It looks kind of ratty and ugly. This place was packed. We had to squeeze into a corner at the window bar. I was disappointed to see that their options were limited. As a breakfast lover, I want choices. We both had waffles, home fries, and bacon. I also got sausage and eggs. The eggs were kind of watery, which was kind of gross. The home fries and sausage were okay, nothing special, but good. The bacon, while not great looking, was quite flavorful. Like the toppings at We, The Pizza, the bacon had a strong taste of bacon. Who doesn’t like that? Now, when the waffles came out, I was really skeptical. You get one thin waffle on your plate. What the waffle lacks in size, it makes up for in taste. I have no idea how to explain the taste or what makes it so good but the waffle just tasted good. It’s like butter was infused into the waffles. Quite good. The cashier was completely indiscernible but other than that, I don’t really have any major complaints about Lincoln’s Waffle Shop. It’s okay. FINAL RATING 3/5

Plan B Burger Bar – Next up was lunch at Plan B Burger Bar. Right off the bat, Plan B has a huge notch against it. After being seated, we waited about 15 minutes before our waitress finally came over to us for the first time. They seemed to only have one waitress on staff and she was serving about 8 tables spread out through the whole restaurant. I don’t blame her for her slow service but it was ridiculous. I can blame her for poor service. I ordered pulled pork sliders for an appetizer and asked for the coleslaw on the side instead of in the sandwich (I don’t like coleslaw).  When the sliders were brought, 20 minutes later, there was coleslaw on them. On the plus side, Plan B has a bunch of really interesting fries and burgers. Their fries selections include the parmesan fries (fries covered with parmesan cheese) and “disco fries” (fries covered in gravy and cheese sauce). The parmesan fries were okay but the disco fries were really good. As for my burger, I ended up going with “The Squeker” which has a patty that consists of both pork and beef. The taste was very interesting. I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it but the “bacon cheese” burger was pretty friggin good. They have an interesting beer menu but the two beers we tried sucked. My biggest gripe with the restaurant was the service. We went to Plan B for lunch in between museums, 20 minutes ahead of schedule, and ended up leaving so late, we didn’t get a chance to go to a second museum. Somebody was not happy about this. FINAL RATING 2.5/5

 Tortilla Café – When we heard that there was a place in Washington, D.C. that was known for its pupusas and appeared on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” we had to check it out. Truth be told, we had been waiting for this moment the second we found out there was a restaurant in the area that sold pupusas. We bought the pupusas, got on the train, went back to the hotel, and dove in head-first. Guy Fieri and Food Network know nothing. Were they terrible? No. We’re they better than El Cerrito right here in Brooklyn? Hell no! They don’t include beans in their pupusas, and their curtido (pickled cabbage relish) sucked. It was diced instead of shredded, tasteless, and spicy. It was a major letdown. Again, they weren’t bad by any means but I promise you there are better places to get pupusas right here in Brooklyn. Pft. FINAL RATING 3.5/5

Good Stuff Eatery – Last, but not least, our last meal before leaving DC was at a restaurant right next to the first one we went to in DC, Good Stuff Eatery. This burger joint, literally right next to We, The Pizza,  has a bunch of insanely delicious looking and sounding burgers. I got the “Good Stuff Melt” (Melted Cheddar & Muenster, Caramelized Onions & Mushrooms with ‘Good Stuff Sauce’). We also got fries and cookies & cream shakes. The restaurant also has a handful of unique sauces to choose from including sriracha and some other one’s whose names I can’t remember. The fries were good, but I thought they could have used more salt. The sauces were all hit-or-miss for me. Surprisingly enough, my favorite turned out to be the sriracha. That’s a shock because I can’t handle spicy foods. Luckily, I had my shake to get me through the punishment I was making myself endure. Speaking of the shake, what?! Scoops of ice cream, whole oreo cookies, all around goodness, it was the best cookies and cream shake I’ve ever had. That’s for damn sure. Now, the burger. The burger was sloppy, messy, saucy, and cheesy. In other words, all kinds of goodness. Much like We, The Pizza, the toppings have a prominent taste. Usually, I can barely taste mushrooms whenever I order them on a burger. Not this time, I could completely taste the mushroom through the cheese and sauce. It was so incredibly tasteful. My beautiful travel partner was damn-near losing her mind over it. I, personally, thought the burgers were a little small but neither of us was disappointed with our lunch and final DC meal. However, it wasn’t perfect. In my honest opinion, the food was a little over-priced with no “meal” options. Everything is bought and paid for separately. I definitely would have preferred a cheaper price, especially with such a small burger, but damn was that burger good. FINAL RATING 4/5

 

Unfortunately, there are only so many places you can eat in three days but from what I could taste, DC has some pretty solid eats. I’ve already heard of other places I’ve missed so the next time I go to Washington, D.C., whenever that is, I’m definitely going to continue eating my way through my nation’s capital.


Epilogue

Tune in later this week for Part 2 of my review of Washington, D.C. where I talk about the sites and attractions.

Here I Blog: Of Blog and Man

Prologue

First and foremost, I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Secondly, this week’s blog is going to be going back in the direction of my first post. This is about my personal life experiences and what they mean to me.


If you asked 50 different people what being a “man” means, you’ll probably get 50 different answers. The idea of what it is to be a man has been contested, debated, scrutinized, analyzed, dissected, and contradicted for as long as I’ve been alive, and probably longer than that.

If you look up the definition of the word “man” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word is defined as “an adult male human being.” Okay. That’s a little vague, right? What defines an “adult?” Well, according to Merriam-Webster, an adult is defined as “fully grown and developed” and “mature and sensible.” So that means that a “man” is a fully grown, developed, mature, and sensible male human being. Are you still with me here? Now what I’m having trouble understanding is when, how, or why did being a man require particular interests, attitudes, sexuality, and tastes?

My entire life, I’ve lived in Gravesend, Brooklyn, New York. Not many people know where or what Gravesend is but it’s an area in south-central Brooklyn, near more popular Brooklyn neighborhoods like Coney Island and Bensonhurst. Gravesend, particularly where I live, is a predominately Italian neighborhood. I also happen to live right across the street from the Marlboro Projects, which is the home to mostly Latinos and African-Americans (man I hate that technically incorrect label). I myself am Latino (Dominican mother, Guatemalan father). Every one of those aspects of my up-bringing has their own idea of what being a “man” is. They all seem to have a common theme: macho. They all go about it differently but whether you ask an Italian, a Latino, or an African-American, most of them will describe a man as being forceful, abrasive, arrogant, insensitive, and over-sexed.

My whole life, I’ve constantly had my “manliness” and “manhood” questioned. Between friends, classmates, and even family members, I’ve had my identity challenged because of certain aspects of my personality.

My personality and interests are kind of all over the place. I’ve actually spent the majority of my life, hiding some of my interests out of fear of being ridiculed or being insulted. I have some interests and passions that are “man-approved,” like hockey and heavy music. I am a huge hockey fan and have made music (mostly heavy music) my life. No one is going to call me a “faggot” or a “pansy” for liking hockey or heavy metal music. They are two things that are characterized as being “manly” and have a predominately male participation and fanbase.

But there’s more to me than just hockey and metal. I love poetry. I always have. I’ve always been drawn to the emotion and rhythmic beauty that lies within each word of every line in a poem. I took every poetry class the College of Staten Island had to offer on my way to my English degree. I’ve studied and breathed through the works of historical “page poetry” icons such as William Shakespeare, William Butler Yeats, Edgar Allan Poe, and Allen Ginsberg, along with more contemporary “spoken-word poets” like Patricia Smith (best college professor of all time), Michael Cirelli, Jon Sands, and Jeanann Verlee. I have written poetry since I first learned how to. I’ve participated in three Poetry Month’s 30/30s (30 poems in 30 days for the month of April). I’ve also had had a few poems published in my college’s literary magazine, performed at a slam at my school, and have gone to a bunch of poetry events. What response have I gotten for my interest in poetry? “Faggot. Queer. Lady. Pussy.” That’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

While I’ve never hid from my love for poetry, there is one interest that only a few people know about: dance. Yes, that’s right. I like dance. I’m not talking about grinding, booty-shaking, dance-floor-fucking. I’m talking about the artistic expression through movement. I’m talking about disco, contemporary, hip-hop, tap, etc. When I was in elementary school, I danced, and was relatively good at it. I was proud of it and loved it. I was one of the main male dancers in my school play, third in the depth chart behind only two upperclassmen. I was in a routine that competed in a district competition. I was often the only male lead and was one of the teacher’s go-to performers.

Unfortunately, when I went to junior high school, I stopped. I was so afraid of being called gay or being made fun of or not being “cool” that I never danced choreography in public again. Growing up, my sister was a huge ‘NSYNC fan so I would pick up the choreography from watching them and teach my sister and do it with her. I enjoyed it. I really did. In 2005, Fox began airing So You Think You Can Dance, and I have watched every episode since. The only people who I knew I ever watched it were my two sisters and my current girlfriend. I had always been too afraid and ashamed to let anyone else know that I know what having “nice lines” means or that I can tell a choreographer’s work just by watching a routine.

Why have I always been ashamed? Why have I always been scared?

My entire 24 years on this Earth, I’ve been fed this idea of what being a man is, that contradicts the core of it’s very definition. I’ve been told that a man is violent, aggressive, domineering, sexualizes women, is insensitive, doesn’t care about women’s rights or feelings, watches sports, likes guns, hates poetry, belittles art, is physically strong, has short hair, a large penis, controls his significant other aka “wears the pants” (which is a sexist saying in itself), is messy, loud, closed-off, closed-minded, and brutish. That’s not what being a man really is.

A man is a fully grown, developed, mature, and sensible male human being. Males are normally thought to be fully grown and physically developed around the age of 21. So once that is done, what’s left to be a “man” is to be mature and sensible? That’s it? So once, I am emotionally mature, like once I have financially responsibilities that I take care of, listen to people with open ears and open minds, and taking things a little more seriously, I’ll be one step closer to being a man? Wait, and then, if I am sensible, like using logic and show good sense/judgment, I’m a man? So the fact that I’m 24-years-old, graduated from college, have a full-time job, pay all the bills for my mother (who I still live with because I’m smart enough to know that it wouldn’t be financially wise or responsible to move out right now) and I, working towards a more secure future, have decided to take care of my body in every aspect, learned to look at the world for what it is and what it will take to change it, am learning to engage in real two-way open conversations rather than one-sided arguments, have learned that there is nothing wrong with personal growth, and am learning to love myself, who enjoys hockey, heavy music, and sex as well as poetry, dance, cute animals, and romance makes me what?

Oh, yeah, a FUCKING MAN.

Here I Blog: Blogging the Music Back

Prologue

This blog post won’t be as heavy as my last entry but it’s still pretty important to me. As those of you know me already know, music is a huge part of my life. I’m almost always listening to music, I write music, play multiple instruments, and have been in a few bands. Music is a huge passion of mine. With that said, this edition of Here I Blog will focus on – you guessed it – music. It might be best to watch this before reading this blog entry http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDZcz-V29_M


Earlier today, as I was looking for a different documentary, I came across a documentary on YouTube titled The Distortion of Sound, directed by Jacob Rosenberg. I had heard about it before and saw a preview of it which featured Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and Fort Minor, Slash of Guns N’ Roses fame, and Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion or whatever he calls himself nowadays. I was instantly intrigued. Unfortunately, I completely forgot about the documentary until I saw it on YouTube today. After watching the 22-minute film, I immediately shared it on Facebook. As I went to write something to accompany the video, I realized that have so much to say on the subject, too much for a Facebook post.

The film basically focuses on the quality of the music that we’re listening to on our mp3 players and computers. By “quality of the music” I don’t mean whether or not the song is good or the artist is talented. What I mean is the quality of the sound of the music. What most people don’t realize is that mp3s and other digital formats are compressed files that are designed to be small in size so you can fit it onto your computer or mp3 player. The problem with that is that it’s not just compressing the size of the file, its compressing the sound of the song.

“What do I mean?” you ask? Well, what compressing music does is identify sounds that are deemed inaudible and remove them. Now if anyone has ever played an instrument, you would know that there are a lot of subtle sounds that one might not pick up right away, but excite the crap out of you. It could be the reverberation of a drum cymbal, the slight scrapping sound of a guitar string from your hand or pick, or even some ambiance effects produced by an effect pedal or keys. That stuff sound be compressed and removed from the song.

“Big deal. So you I won’t hear something irrelevant like reverb on a cymbal. Pft. Who cares?” right? WRONG! You should care. You see, when a song is recorded and mixed, all of the tracked are mixed and mastered together. So when something like a cymbal’s reverb is eliminated, it can actually end up flattening out the sound of that cymbal, along with the reverb coming from a snare that’s happening at the same time. All of a sudden, the drums sound like crap, and you have no idea that they ever sounded great.

I’ve experienced this first hand. When I was in my first band, we bought some studio time and recorded a few songs for a demo that we intended to ship out to try and get a record deal. Because of certain circumstances, we came out of those recording sessions with only one mixed track. When we listened to the song in the studio, it sounded awesome and we were really happy and excited about it. The song was put on a CD and we each took a copy home. When we got back to our drummer’s house, we put it on in his basement entertainment system and everything sounded so professional and full and amazing. Once we ripped the track onto our computers and put the mp3 on our mp3 players, something happened. When we played it for our friends and family, we realized that the awesome, full sound was gone. The drums and bass now sounded thin, the guitars sounded bland, and the vocals didn’t have the same kick. We didn’t understand why or what was going on but it got to a point where we would not listen to it unless it was on the CD. It just sounded better on CD.

I completely understand how someone who has never recorded music in a studio might not hear or see that difference. How could you? But, there is something you can do. Take a CD you own, whatever CD that might be, just make sure it’s a professional CD from a signed recording artist. Put it in a CD player or DVD player of gaming console. Take one song off that album and listen to it a few times. Really listen to it. Turn everything else off, sit down, and do nothing else other than just listen to that one song. Listen to every note, every melody, every lyrics, and feel the music flow through you. Did you do it? Got it? Felt it? Lived it? Great. Now, take that same exact song and download it or search for it on YouTube. Do the same thing. Listen to it. Turn everything else off, sit down, and do nothing else other than just listen to that one song. Listen to every note, every melody, every lyrics, and feel the music flow through you. How did it sound? How did it feel? Odds are, it wasn’t as good as it was on that CD. There’s a reason for that. Compression!

Again, I’m a musician and music fanatic, so this stuff matters to me. But sound quality shouldn’t only matter to musicians and music fanatics. Would you rather watch TV in 480p standard definition or in 1080p high definition? Why not demand the same from your music? Why listen to compressed and distorted mp3 when you can listen to clean and full CD?

There’s a convenience to mp3. I understand that. That’s why I have an mp3 player with over 2,000 songs on it. There has to be a way from technology to bridge the convenience of mp3 with the quality of physical music. Until then, I try my hardest to buy physical CDs or vinyls when and where I can. It’s why I own eight vinyl records and seven CDs (soon to be eight CDs when Machine Head’s new album, Bloodstone and Diamonds, drops in November).

If you’re reading this, please take the time to watch the documentary and really think about how you enjoy the art of music.

Here I Blog: The Return of the Blog – Fuel

Prologue

There are some people who might know my old blog on MySpace (Mr. Fattz’ Blog of the Week). When I was doing that, it was a combination of my random thought and what my past week had consisted of. This blog is going to be a little different. For starters, I won’t be doing one every week. I’m not in high school or a freshman in college anymore. I definitely do not have time to make sure I write a blog every week on the same day. I was barely able to do it then. I will, however, try to blog relatively often. I’ll be blogging whenever want to or feel like I need to. Much like my blog of yesteryear, this blog will consist of my thoughts or feelings on just about any and every subject matter. I’ll be writing about life, love, pain, music, religion, politics, poetry, philosophy, movies, and whatever else I want to share with the world. I am open, I am honest, and not am afraid to be so. These blogs will be the same. If any of you know me personally and have me as a friend on Facebook, I’ll be posting links and statuses to let you know whenever a new blog is up. If not, just follow me and look for it! There were some people I know who wanted me to continue blogging and have asked me about blogging more than once since I last posted an entry to my old blog. Well, after many years and many maybe-maybe-not’s, I’m back. Without further ado, I welcome you to Here I Blog: The Return of the Blog – Fuel…


For the majority of my life, I’ve hated myself. Whether it was because of my looks, my weight, my personality, my lack of luck with women, my hair, my lack of natural talent – you name it, I probably used it as an excuse to hate myself. I know that, unfortunately, I am not the only person who has felt this way. There are probably thousands of people, men and women, who do or have felt exactly the same way. In the world that we live in, with everything at our fingertips on our phones and tablets, we can look up anything and anyone and compare ourselves. You can feel indifferent about yourself on Monday and after seeing how people respond to someone else who has something that you don’t, you can hate yourself by Tuesday. That’s all it takes sometimes. “Everyone’s complimenting his hair. No one is complimenting my hair. Why not? What’s wrong with my hair? It’s clearly not as good as his. His hair is better than mine. He’s better than I am.” I know this sort of thing happens because I’ve done it, because other people I know have done it. We use other people to devalue ourselves. We can spend the rest of our lives trying to be better than the next person based on nothing else than other people’s personal opinions. Something that we tend to forget about opinions are that they are not facts. They aren’t definitely true. They are subjective. But we’re human and we’re emotional so we turn it into our fact. It’s poison and can lead to something as severe as self-harm and suicide.

This is a fight I’ve been fighting for close to 24 years. Over the last two years, I’ve been fighting back harder than ever. I would be lying if I said dating a woman who I think is far more attractive than me who regularly compliments me doesn’t help a little bit. But that can only help so much. The real weapon has to come from within. There are two women who have really helped to provide me with that weapon in such a significant way: my sister and my girlfriend.

As I mentioned before, I think my girlfriend is far more attractive than I am. I know for a fact that many people happen to agree with me. Despite that, she’s always reassured me that I’m not as bad as I think I am. She regularly challenges me to talk about things I do like about myself and never lets me really complain about something I don’t.

While I know that not everyone can have someone as helpful and supportive in their life like I have had with my girlfriend but what my sister provided me with is something I can provide to anyone who reads this. She provided me with some advice that had a profound effect on me and approach to life. One night, on a drive to Brooklyn from Long Island, we talked about a lot of stuff and being ourselves came up. It had been 10 years since she won her battle with cancer (thyroid). She said to me that when that happened, she realized that there were more important things in life than what other people think of you. That realization, that what someone thinks of me is nothing compared to dealing with something like cancer, has essentially changed my life.

Why the hell did I care so much?

Because I was afraid to not be liked. Her response: “Why do you care? What does it matter?”

She was right. I have no reason. It doesn’t matter.

Since that conversation, whenever something minor upsets me, I just think “there are more important things in life” and, for the most part, I find myself centered again. Clearly, this doesn’t work for anything, because some things are important. But there are so many things that we let take over our lives that really have no reason to.

Since that conversation, I look inward at what I don’t like about myself and why. If I don’t like it, I work to fix it. End of story. I was morbidly obese. I weighed 325 pounds. Fuck it. I fixed it. I hit the gym and changed my lifestyle. It’s been a year and now I’m fitting into sizes I haven’t fit into since I was in my early teens. I’m not done yet but it’s because I’ve decided that I’m not done. Today, I was running home from the gym to get extra cardio in and my knees were starting to stiffen up. I was running out of gas. Fuck that. I said “come on, fat boy. Push it you fat fuck!” let out a yell and sprinted until I couldn’t run anymore. My point?

I no longer let people’s opinions or my failure fuel my self-hatred. I let my former self-hatred fuel my success.


Epilogue

I haven’t been able to come up with a name for my blog that I’m happy with so I’m definitely open to suggestions.