On Drifting/Moving On

I am currently buying an airplane ticket to go see old college friends next month. The following week after visiting these particular group, I will go to an annual gathering of geeks, nerds, and enthusiasts of varying ilk at my Alma Mater. I am looking forward to both excursions; however, it is difficult not to notice the changing nature of the relationships in both groups and locations, specifically my relationship and connection to them.

It is a cliché to say how people grow and change and evolve, but the overuse of the concept is because of its accuracy. I still talk to the friends that I hold dear and made in college, but it is not with the same frequency or involvement. They, just like myself, are dealing with developing lives and events like jobs, promotions, romantic relationships, and the inevitable stresses that go along with being a “productive member of society.”

We no longer have the simple frivolity of our original friendship nor the ability to drop everything at a moment’s notice to have a conversation on the intellectual and spiritual intricacies of Community over beers on someone’s porch. Good times, Honeycutt. Obviously, I know this had to happen. Relationships change. Some grow. Some wither. And some completely die off. It is the nature of things to change.

change is good

Still part of me worries about the future of certain friendships. We are all relatively young and not yet on set career paths and already we have trouble engaging with each other as much as we used to. What is going to happen down the line when we start having legitimate careers, families, and actual responsibilities? Is it selfish of me to be concerned about this? Would it be better for me not to care about future eventualities at all?

I want the best for my friends and hope that they achieve what they want and need. I also kind of hope they have similar worries to the ones I am having. If they are not, does that mean something? I genuinely have no clue what to think on the matter. So, random reader, what do you think? Should you try to hang on to certain relationships? Or just let nature take its course and see what happens?

Lessons From…Marco Polo

So I binged on the Netflix series Marco Polo last Saturday. It was actually rather good. And is probably the only American series I can name in which there are more non-white characters/actors than white ones. This obviously is not necessary for a show to be good, but it is a nice change of pace from the usual. I highly recommend watching the series particularly for the next few lessons to fully make sense. As always SPOILERS ahead.

It is getting harder to come up with captions for this thing.

It is getting harder to come up with captions for this thing.

Alright, so the first thing that I wish to discuss is one of the core themes of the series which also serves as the perfect first lesson: Fear and Respect a man with an unshakable vision. There is nothing more dangerous or worthy. Obviously, the man that immediately comes to mind, assuming, you are familiar with the story of Marco Polo, is Kublai Khan. It makes sense. The Khan is a man with a clear vision; he will rule the world. It is his destiny. He is so devoted to his vision that he inspires those around him. His loyal court, Polo included, are so mesmerized by the Khan’s aspirations that they are willing to devote their lives in service to that dream. The mark of a true leader and visionary is found in the quality of followers he brings along with him..Considering the actions of his servant, Yusuf, Khan was a great leader.

Yup, the man is full of wisdom and is pretty good with a sword.

Yup, the man is full of wisdom and is pretty good with a sword.

At some point in the series, Yusuf, one of Kublai Khan’s trusted advisers and council, sacrifices himself and his honor for the sake of the empire and Khan’s vision. He basically takes the blame for an act of treason in order to ensure that Marco (who is also innocent of the crime) can aid his chosen leader. Yusuf knows the consequences of his actions and still chooses the path of self-destruction for the glory of his Khan. Khan also was fully aware of Yusuf’s innocence and understood why Yusuf was acting in the manner he was. In a sense, both men committed ultimate sacrifices in service to a grander vision; Yusuf his life and Kublai one of the few men he could call friend. This brings us to the next lesson: All advances require sacrifice. Be mindful of that and willing to let go.

There is one final lesson to be derived from this stellar show: There is power in the creation of a legacy and legend. The world knows the names of Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. They will live for ages beyond their deaths and their adventures influenced the history of the world. Both these men had certain perspectives and ideas about themselves which drove them to the great heights of success, with a few depths of failures to add to it. They wanted to change the world and to make sure that they left a mark after their demise.

Such men and events lead one to question the possible existence of destiny and fate and begin to spout nonsense of similar sorts. This are simply the invention of the witnesses who cannot understand how any one man could do the extraordinary actions they saw. History has been written by those arrogant enough to think they can be its author and foolish enough to actually try.

Thus endeth today’s lesson. Also go watch Marco Polo. It’s all on Netflix.

El Ojo (The Eye)

I meant to publish this on Friday the 13th but for some reason posted a more romantic short story instead. Let’s just pretend I somehow magically swapped these two, okay?

Superstition was for the weak minded and gullible. I had always believed that. Belief in anything without the vaguest hint of testable proof was insulting. How could anyone consider faith without evidence? The very notion baffled me. It probably didn’t help that my own family fell heavily under that category.

My father was a deacon at his church. My mother could be found helping out along with him or alone five afternoons a week if not more. My sister was not as intense as them, but she was easily on her way to approaching their level of commitment to the invisible man in the sky. My abuelita is the oddest. She combines her zealous adherence to Christian faith with an unencumbered belief in practices and ideologies of her past. You would think any reasonable person would find a discord with this, but my grandmother would not be swayed.

She would still have a red string ready at any birth announcement she happened to hear. There was an egg in her hand within seconds to repel any evil that had come upon you. Her purse was filled with just the right item to aid in the prevention of harm after a prayer had been said over someone. My abuelita was nothing if not consistent in her inconsistency.

I disagreed with my family’s beliefs but never absconded them for having faith. I was just not the same as them. The world had a system and structure that though majestic and wondrous was still ordered and understandable if one was willing to look and learn. The mysteries of the universe are simply unanswered questions that demand attention.

While most of my family would roll their eyes when such topics of conversation came up over a meal, my abuelita would instead stare at me with intense worry and concern. She truly believed that my dismissive attitude would result in some catastrophic event or supernatural force wrecking havoc on my life. I loved her too much to not listen to her even if I wasn’t really paying attention. I knew that her silly old wives tales were nothing more than imagination. Even so, there were a few times when her unwavering belief made me question my own perception, not enough to change but still enough.

It was after such a conversation over a family dinner when I went out for drinks with a few old college friends. It was a pretty uneventful night. Todd got a bit too drunk and had to be carried by Kim and myself. Jamal would stand by and laugh at Todd’s misfortune even though he was a lightweight himself. The night’s level of sobriety got progressively worse as the night continued on, but thankfully there were no major issues or problems. We carried on until Todd got to stupid drunk levels and started harassing people in the bar. Needless to say, we were all strongly encouraged to vacate the premises. Todd, of course, would not be deterred from his mission of being an ass. He just shifted his focus from bar patrons to the random homeless vagrants scattered on the streets and alleys. I didn’t want to have to fill out police reports or worry about frivolous lawsuits, plus who knew if any of the people Todd was talking to had a weapon, so I desperately tried to calm him down and move away from the cluster of tattered clothes and people. The smell was quite unpleasant as well.

I thought I had successfully removed Todd without incident. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky. One individual was not too pleased with Todd’s behavior and had just enough bravery to attempt a response.

“Que esta haciendo ese muchacho?” Great, of course she would speak Spanish. I would have to play the intermediary.

“Esta bien. No mas esta un poco borracho. No queremos ningun problema.” I smiled as a last attempt to appease the ratty woman. She looked me up and down and extended an open palm. I could not believe that this woman had the gall to ask for a handout after interrogating us. My response held back none of the annoyance I felt.

“Puta loca. ¿Piensas que te voy a dar dinero? No manches.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the woman before me. My friends responded in kind. The homeless woman did not. She merely stared at me almost like she was looking at something inside of me. She brought her index finger to her eye and then pointed it at me. Afterward, she kissed her thumb and signed the cross. I had no clue what she was attempting to do. We stared at her in confusion. Once she was finished with her random ritual, she turned around and walked away. No one moved for a minute or so. It was sort of like seeing a deer in nature. You kind of had to take a minute to recompose yourself. Thankfully, Todd started laughing at the ridiculousness of our situation, and we all soon joined in.

It was mean, perhaps, but ultimately a harmless event. We forgot about it the very next day as our attempts at relieving the detrimental effects of our hangovers were unsuccessful. I parted ways with my drunken friends after filling our stomachs with a stream of biscuits, eggs, meats, and gravy. I could not have known that that would be the last time we would all be together.

***

As per usual on the weekend, I ended up visiting my abuelita on Sunday. I would no longer step into a church with my family, but post service meals were never going to be missed. My father and uncles argued over which country had the superior style of futbol. The Brazilian World Cup team of the 1990’s had the most votes though a few outliers held fast that Argentina was more deserving of the title. No one at the table over the age of 30 would ever argue for a European country.

The afternoon seemed to be going smoothly. Everyone was eating heartily and laughing and avoiding any controversial topics of discussion. The only odd thing was that my grandmother kept staring at me, intently. It was unnerving to say the least. She never dropped her gaze from me countenance. At times, I felt like I should just leave without a word, but I couldn’t bring myself to move. Finally, sensing my desperation, she came to speak to me.

“Mijo, se que no me crees ni me entiendes, pero alguien te puso el ojo. Es muy fuerte y no creo que vas a poder escapar. Te amo y voy a orar por ti para que estes bien cuando pases.” She clasped my hand tightly as she spoke. Tears were welling up in the corner of her eyes. I understood about every other word she said, but instantly recognized it as more superstitious nonsense. Still, we were having a nice moment, so I just smiled, patted her shoulder, and responded, “Si, abuelita. Gracias y te quiero mucho.” Her stern expression barely lifted but she seemed resolved to what I had said.

The next day is when I heard about Todd’s accident. His girlfriend, or at least the girl he was with, spread the news like wildfire through Facebook and Twitter. She swore her first account testimony was completely true if not a little weird. He had drowned in his bath tub. Todd had never been suicidal and had big plans for his future at his uncle’s law firm. Hell, he had even bought tickets for a trip in Belize to celebrate his upcoming job. Yet, I was seeing pictures and reports across my screens of his apparent suicide. Though, according to the police Todd’s death was odd since there did not seem to be any drugs in his system to render him unconscious and there appeared to be small hand impressions on his chest as though someone was keeping him underwater. Of course, there was no other evidence of foul play to be found.

I could not wrap my head around the loss of a friend. I tried to go about my day with some sense of normalcy, but that was soon upended when I received a phone call from Kim about Jamal. Jamal had gone missing since our hangout last week, and Kim was starting to get nervous. He wouldn’t respond to any phone calls, texts, emails, or tweets. Phone calls and texts were one thing, but Jamal lived for the validation of social media attention. Kim was right to be anxious as I would later come to learn that Jamal in a supposed drug induced state of hysteria had gone into the woods and succumbed to the ravages of nature. His death would be reported as the result of dehydration, hunger, and a vicious animal attack all within the span of 48 hours disregarding that there are no vicious or large animals in the area.

I began to freak out. Every rational bone in my body was telling me that these were all unfortunate, freak occurrences and not the work of non-existent supernatural forces. I knew this to be true, but it did not stop me from driving straight home, opening the dusty bible I kept on my bookshelf for appearances, and grasping at the prayer beads my grandmother had given me in one of her desperate attempts to save my soul. I sat down on the floor in the middle of my apartment, lit a few of the “holy” candles my extended family had gotten in the habit of gifting me, and began to silently pray to whoever would listen.

***

I have been in my apartment for the last 3 days. I have not heard from Kim since yesterday as he shouted into my phone that he thought someone was following me before cutting off. My family has not bothered to try to reach me for some reason and none of them are answering my calls or text. Not even my abuelita.

I am writing all this down so that someone can know that if I die it was not by my hand. I don’t know what’s going on or why this is happening, but I know something is coming for my death.

There is a strange smell in the air. Slightly putrid and overbearing.

I am trying to come up with any possible solutions to save myself, but it is getting harder and harder to breathe and think. It is like my brain is slowly suffocating in this small apartment. The lights no longer work properly. I need more light.

Maybe staring into the flame of a candle will help me focus. Kills two birds with one stone. Wonder what that smell is though…

On Consistency Vs. Extraordinary

In my “other” life, I make my living as an instructor/teacher, and I have had my classes do a simple comparison and contrast on two articles. Amazingly, they did not take to the assignment with the greatest of ease. I was basically talking to myself for most of the lecture. While they probably got nothing out of the lesson, I actually learned something. (Quick note: I don’t know if saying that I taught myself something is a new level of honesty or arrogance, but I am just going to go with it for the moment)

The premise of both articles my classes had to analyze was the ideal or better method of self, societal, and community improvement. One asserted that consistent, good acts was the only sure method of keeping a community. The other argued that the inspiration and aspirations of extraordinary individuals and events are what changes history and society.

Now, I am not currently concerned with the best methodology of changing the world; instead, I wondered if these two opposing theories could be applied to my creative interests. What is the better, more effective method of creating?

I know it may seem like a ridiculous question, but seriously which is the better option? Would you rather be able to write consistently at a 6 or 7 out of 10 scale quality or have more fluctuations but be able to write the occasional piece that is nothing short of incredible?

I honestly believe that I would prefer the whole “peaks and valleys” version if I knew that a few of the peaks would be the kind of creative output that stands the test of time. If just one out of every 1000 pieces I wrote had even the slightest hint of the power and effect of the authors who have made me think, cry, and feel every conceivable emotion, I would be completely okay with the other 999 stories, poems, etc. being utter pieces of shit.

I know most advice on writing says to write every day with the intent to get to the point of being able to write the great and memorable pieces. Obviously, you cannot skip over this necessary time of progress and work, but even after going through that I would still rather have a few moments of complete, amazing output than just a constant drudge of material. I don’t know if that is good or bad.

So what do you think? Is consistency or the occasional extraordinary a better method of being creative and producing?

Lessons From…Gilmore Girls

I found the Gilmore Girls series on Netflix and went down a binge spiral. The show holds a special place in my heart since I watched it when I was younger…nearly religiously. Because of this I was concerned that the nostalgia of the show would be more enjoyable than the actual program itself. After watching the entire first season, one major aspect (aka lesson) came to mind.  As always SPOILERS ahead.

I miss PAX...I really do.

I miss PAX…I really do.

First off, if you have not seen Gilmore Girls, go watch it now. It’s free on Netflix, so you have little to no excuse to see this wonderful program. Second, there is so much show to watch and so many applicable lessons that could be derived from this series that this will most likely not be the last post I write that deals with Gilmore Girls. You have been warned. If you feel the need to leave, I understand. (Not all of us can have good taste)

Thus the lesson takeaway I really want to discuss is the need and purpose of a self built community. The entire town of Stars Hollow, the fake home of the aforementioned Gilmore Girls, exists as a self made menagerie of friends, camarades, confidantes, and, essentially, family. These people get the main characters through many plot devices and problems and obstacles.

Yes they are actors, but they will always be the residents of Stars Hollow to me.

Yes they are actors, but they will always be the residents of Stars Hollow to me.

I am currently making plans to visit friends out of state and getting revitalized from interaction with my chosen “family.” As I have gotten older, I have realized how much more important my friends are than I originally would have thought. I will always have my family and, even with our vast differences and disagreements, I will always love them and have a relationship with them. However, I was not born with my friends and I choose them based on personal preference and a list of criteria (mostly kidding).

Perhaps, my sense of friendly connections was always a bit inherent and my love of Gilmore Girls was not so accidental. So, go find your chosen family, choose well, and revel in the experiences they will have you undertake.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

On Pain

Sorry, for the seemingly ranting nature of this post, but I appear to become more self reflective in my old age. I was simply watching television and listening to some random music and began to ponder on the nature of pain. On a evolutionary, biological level, I understand what purpose pain serves. I get why we still need to experience it. However, mental and emotional pain, I find confusing and interesting. I suppose that is why I wrote this particular post. This song in particular partially inspired this rant:

I hate needles. I don’t know why but I abhor the sensation of the metal penetrating my skin, but I kind of love the relief after it occurs or of when it is removed. Again, no idea why and that might make me a bit messed up but in the spectrum of weird, stupid shit about me to be concerned over…that one is like way below on the list. Frankly, physical injuries and pain do not really concern me.

Don’t get me wrong. I definitely do not want to break my arm or have a nail driven into my foot or anything tomorrow, but assuming I am not killed I believe I can overcome whatever physical pain occurs. For some reason, however, emotional injuries or the possibility of psychological damage and pain scares the ever living shit out of me.

Seriously, there was a point in my life where I can distinctly recall choosing to become more closed off, introverted, and just shrink into myself emotionally/psychologically/etc. There wasn’t a specific reason for this. I am not a product of a broken home, or the patriarchy, or feminism, or post-modernism, or any other bullshit over arching ideology/philosophy that people use to try to explain everything but ultimately fails any rigorous testing or analysis. I just came to a point of dealing with people and opinions and relationships and made a choice to have a line of clear demarcation.

Basically, like a lot of people, I put up walls around aspects of my life and personality because I learned that making close relationships and allowing those deep connections can cause pain, hurt, and rejection. When you scrape a knee or even break a bone, the pain subsides and you have at least an idea of when it will end and you can move one. Unfortunately, mental and psychological pain has no clear end and can, and will, come up randomly at awkward times throughout your life. (Just me? Okay then.)

At this point, anyone who is still reading this might advise me to speak to professionals about this insecurities/thoughts or even just a few close friends to talk with. First off, thanks for the advice, random internet stranger, and thank you for visiting and reading this humble site. Second, I know the effects this type of mentality and personality has on a life. I have gone through those consequences for most of my life, and, frankly, I am okay with that.

Has it meant that certain relationships did not work out? Of course. Or that some events and possibilities never came to fruition? Duh. But, again, those were my choices and in the grand scale of all, my life is pretty good. I have a select few friends who I care about. Some of them know me very well. Some don’t. Most still don’t know everything about me and never will. I can live with that.

Even with my closed off nature, I still experienced the emotional roller-coasters of friendships, relationships, rejection, etc. The difference was simply that those emotions (whether good or bad) never went beyond a certain level. With romantic interests, even with the one who got the closest, I knew where the line was and how much I could love them. With friends, I chose to get close only to a few people and even with them the most honest conversations always involved alcohol. There were still imposed limits of how much I was willing to divulge or discuss. In fact, with few exceptions, I was rarely the one leading conversations.

As with most posts, I don’t have any actual answers about pain, choice, or either’s purpose. For all I know, I might actually just be an emotionally stunted dumb ass, but it was my choice to be so. I suppose that will have to be enough to get me to the next point. And beyond.

Lessons From…Dear White People

Alright, immediately off the bat, I did not really like Dear White People. It might have been because I was waiting for this movie for some time, but honestly I genuinely believe it simply was not executed well. Before I get into too much details, watch this trailer:

Okay, so the film is contemporary considering the slew of “less than fully appropriate” themed parties on college campuses put on by fraternities and sororities. Seriously, just Google it and you’ll understand. On top of that, it has actors of merit and actual talent. More on top of that, it is taking a pretty easy view to defend and build off of for narrative impact without getting into “preachy” territory. It should have been such a simple sell; instead, we were treated to an uneven, seemingly unfinished, and unsatisfying experience. Even so, any film can be analyzed, so as always SPOILERS ahead.

Still liking this. Though I might change it if no one notices.

Still liking this. Though I might change it if no one notices.

If you watched the trailer, you have a basic comprehension of what the movie is about. Here in lies one of my biggest complaints with this film: it is attempting to discuss racism but never actually gets around to any legitimate discussion of racism. There are two moments before the epic racist “Ghetto” themed party near the film’s conclusion that sort of talk about racism but those conversation are extremely superficial while relying heavily on pop culture quips and substituting quick, pithy speech for intelligent or witty analysis. There is a constant stream of accusations of racism without any seemingly actual racism being present.

Now, someone could argue that this is intentional. Since most racism in the country is no longer transparent and open, the movie simply underlies the racism found in everyday encounters until the allowed released within the parameters of the party. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the film is intentionally this meta, here’s the first lesson: Being meta is not a substitute for good storytelling or a sign of intelligence. Most often it is self-indulgent bullshit. Any one who wants to ever create something, pay close attention to the previous statement. Meta is the first term you learn in any criticism course regardless of the field. It is also the laziest.

This scene occurs after a cinema employee accused of racism in Hollywood basically shrugs.

This scene occurs after a cinema employee accused of racism in Hollywood basically shrugs.

And if you do not believe there was any sense of self indulgence in this film, allow me to rectify that. One of the stories involves the female lead, Sam, trying to succeed in her film class. Her first film is basically a silent short about white people freaking out and causing chaos after Obama was elected and re-elected president. That is not hyperbole or a poor summary. That is literally the short film presented in her film class. Understandably, no one in the class is a fan. At the end of the film, she presents her latest work titled “Black Faces” in which she interviews a few people about their reactions to the party. What was shown was incomplete, unclear, and self-congratulatory. Again this was for a film, not journalism, class and this was received with applause and congratulations. Quick second lesson: If your creative work was unanimously liked or approved by a college class, you fucked up somewhere along the way; guaranteed.

So, to recap, the sole black film student in the movie made a film about black people that ultimately did not actually say anything that was universally enjoyed by her entire college film class. This movie was self-indulgent as hell!

Yeah, I said it and you know it's true, DWP.

Yeah, I said it and you know it’s true, DWP.

The most disappointing aspect is that there are some quality moments that deal with identity and race without being self-indulgent or idiotic. In fact, they could even be considered poignant and noteworthy, but they are far too few within the scope of the film. One of these scenes involves Sam once again.

At the very end of the film, she talks to her boyfriend about why she is the way she is and why her performance as “black” was so important to her as a biracial person. Sam relates the story of how her father would try to walk her to school, and she would notice several people (kids, teachers, parents, etc.) looking at them with something in their eyes that she did not see when she was with her mother. Her response to this new view was to essentially throw a fit and run from her father whenever this situation occurred.

Not the best response obviously, but understandable coming from a child. This early shame made Sam realize that she did not quite fit in to the preset boxes/parameters, not necessarily because of her own quirks, personality of identity but because of how others saw her. This desire to fully assimilate and be seen as “black” by her contemporaries and peers makes Sam reject or hide certain aspects of her personality, desires, and life because of the riff it would cause between her life and the perception of who she is. Which brings us to the next lesson: You cannot let past shame or guilt define you. Learn from these mistakes but always move on.

Had the film focused on these moments of identity and acceptance, it would have been a great film. Hell, had anything of substance or worth been said, seen, or discussed, it would have been a worthy film. Instead, we got a half-formed idea of a film that ended up not going through with its intended message and left a lackluster possibility for more. This brings us to the final lesson of the film: When you ask for the microphone/megaphone, you better have something to say.

Thus endeth today’s lessons.