#17 // Dizzy Gillespie “Live at the Vanguard”
I used to write these posts just for fun. It was a suggested my teacher in my meditative writing class. Just start your day. Take 30 minutes. Write whatever you want. Just let it flow. Let it flow. So I did. And it was fun. Things just came out. Went all over the place. I started writing with no real agenda. I posted on here, shared the link on Twitter and Facebook. Got some comments and feedback. It was fun. Then I missed a day or two and people noticed. Someone pointed out that they didn’t like the way I wrote about women in a specific post. Then something strange happened. This writing exercise that was supposed to tap into my subconscious became very conscious. I became aware of my audience. There were voices in my head. I started worrying about what I was writing. The fact that someone noticed that I didn’t write one day made me feel like I let them down.
I’m big on telling others not to care about what others think and just doing what they feel driven to do. Just follow your heart. You know deep inside what you want to do. That thing that you’re scared to do? That’s the thing that you really want to do. That’s what Jake told us in class. You’re scared for a reason. But once I recognized that there was an audience for my posts, I became self-conscious. And let’s be real, it’s a very small audience. It’s not like there are 100s of people who are reading these. But I know them. And they know me. Some know me real well. Some don’t know much at all. I’ve written about things that those closest to me don’t know about. Especially things about my childhood. And I should continue to share, write, and express myself fearlessly. There’s still a post about the whole year I was bullied in high school that I can’t get myself to write about. An incident that my sister reminded me of when I wrote about the time I bullied a kid. I’d tucked that memory away. Of course once she triggered it, I remembered.
#16 // Dexter Gordon “Sophisticated Giant”
I love reminiscing about things I never experienced. Get nostalgic about times before my time. I get sad when old school New York establishments that I never patronized close. It’s very convenient for me to romanticize about the idea of things. Because I wasn’t there I can just pick and pluck elements from certain eras and other people’s memories that appeal to me. Living in New York, especially downtown New York, especially in like the last few years means having to witness massive buildings creating massive changes to the culture and attitude of the area. When iconic cultural institutions like CBG’S, Mars Bar, and Max Fish (which is now back) closed, I was sad. I was sad at the idea of them disappearing from the cultural fabric of New York. I wanted to believe that shiny Whole Foods could co-exist with a bar that was proud of having the nastiest bathroom in the city.
But all those places, as well as music stores like Kim’s and countless family restaurants that got bumped out due to increased rent? I never went to them. I just liked passing them on my commutes. I liked pointing them out to my friends who were visiting here. I was like one of those guides on the double decker buses. I pointed but never got off my ride, never went inside, and most importantly, I never gave them my money. And neither did most of us. We love the idea of an old school, family run, small business that’s been in the neighborhood longer that we’ve been alive. But we also like shiny new things. Oh did you hear about that new spot down the block that looks like it’s from the 1800’s? It’s awesome. We should totally go. So we can tell people that we’ve been to that spot. It’s cool. It’s aiight. I don’t need to go there again. Man, where should we go tonight? Can’t decide.
#15 // Milt Jackson & John Coltrane “Bags & Trane”
I don’t know why I did it. We were all waiting for the school bus in the morning. All the kids who lived in the apartment complexes came to the same spot to be picked up. I don’t remember the name of the building but half of it was the apartment complex’s administrative offices and the other half was a laundromat. I used to hang out at the laundromat with my friends. We’d try to figure out how to jimmy ice cream sandwiches out of the vending machine.
He was a new kid to the neighborhood. Nicholas I think was his name. Or maybe it was with a K. He may have been Russian. Thing is, I don’t remember much about him. Except that he was a new kid, had red wavy hair, and he had a younger brother. And for whatever reason we, the kids, decided we didn’t like him. Kids turn cruel quickly. Maybe it was the way he dressed. Maybe it was because we thought he was Russian. Hey, it was during the Reagan-era. Go watch Rocky IV so you can understand. We’d made fun of him. We didn’t make it easy on him. I really don’t know why we turned on him.
#14 // Pharoah Sanders “Village of the Pharoahs”
We were already late. Underestimated the traffic coming back from Jersey. You should never underestimate the traffic coming back from Jersey. Not super late. Only 30 minutes. But we were going to my friend’s place and his boyfriend who was visiting from LA was going to let us in. That added to the pressure of being on time. The parking lot right below their building was full. We turned the corner and found another lot. When we pulled up to the attendant area, there was a line. The people look annoyed. We were underground, I had no cell signal. I couldn’t reach the other half of my crew who was on their way and I couldn’t reach my friend’s boyfriend to let him that we’d be delayed even more.
There was about seven of us. All waiting patiently. You could tell it was a tense situation. Couldn’t tell if they were waiting to retrieve their cars or drop off their cars. There was an attendant with a customer. The customer told all of us that they’d crash his car. Comforting. We turned around and saw his tail light cracked and his back bumper caved in. Another attendant was running around looking for someone’s car. It was a mess. I just needed to drop off my ticket and then go on my way. A few of the guys looked like construction guys, union guys, they had that accent, and look. They dressed like how NY rappers dressed in the ‘90s with their baggy jeans, construction vests, and Timbs. I think a few of them knew each other. The guy with the crashed car seemed to know a few. He seemed awfully calm for a guy who had his car crashed by parking lot attendants. He said it so casually too, “They crashed my car.”
#13 // Miles Davis “Someday My Prince Will Come”
After you reach a certain point in your life, a certain age, no one tells you how you’re supposed to grow. They don’t tell you how you’re supposed to be, how you’re supposed to think, what you’re supposed to do. Well, maybe they do. Maybe the whole world does from the very beginning. There are experts at every stage of your life to explain how you’re feeling and why you’re thinking and what you’re thinking. You reach milestones in your life, in your age, and you think well I’m supposed to be this now, I’m not supposed to be like that now. Where that comes from? No idea. Sometimes I think our whole sense of identity comes from pop culture and media. But there’s gotta be people who have no clue what’s going on in pop culture and media right? Where did they get it from? Are they the ones walking around the city looking completely odd ball all the time making people uncomfortable with their socially unacceptable socializing ways?
What’s normal? And do we want to be it? When I was in junior high school I befriended Chuck who lived in our apartment building. He was a DJ attending Cornell at the time. When I got to high school I was hanging out with Chuck’s younger crew who continued to DJ. I had my older set crew who put me onto game and music I’d never heard before. Looking back I’m sure I tried to act older than I was. I probably acted like I knew more than I knew. I didn’t want them to think of me as a corny little kid. I hung around, soaked in their knowledge. Besides, I didn’t want to hang around people my age. I was more advanced than them. At least that’s what I thought. Naw, the kids at my high school don’t get me. I was a loner who knew everybody but never rolled with anybody at my school. It’s not as if I didn’t participate in high school activities. I was on the tennis team. I was in concert band (alto sax). I read the school announcements. I wrote for the school paper and school magazine. I started the first Asian American club. I did have little cliques here and there but for the most part I liked to roam. I enjoyed the freedom it gave me. I could swim through the self segregated lunch room and feel OK. I was cool with at least one person in every clique. Writing it makes me seem like an undercover. 21 Jump Street.
#12 // Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers “Moanin’”
I was taking a shower when I heard the news. I was listening to Hot 97 and it was the Star and Buc show, the controversial duo who would later get the boot for offending I don’t remember who or what group. So I knew that when Star sounded real serious and solemn that something real serious and solemn just went down. He said that there was a report that a plane had crashed into the Twin Towers. It didn’t really register to me that what that really meant. I kept listening, finished my shower, continued to get ready for work. I was living in Fort Greene, Brooklyn at the time. I had a master bedroom with my own full bathroom and a walk-in closet the size of small bedrooms in Manhattan. It was a three bedroom on the third floor of a classic Brooklyn brownstone. Aaron and Felix were my roommates. We lived right across from Fort Greene Park.
I came outside to the living room. “Hey, did you guys hear about some plane crash?” Aaron and Felix were watching the news. We watched in silence. Actually I don’t know if we watched in silence. The details about that day are blurry. That’s why I want to write it down. And I know it’s the day before the anniversary. And tomorrow you will be flooded by memorials and pieces about that day. I know I’ll likely remember it the way that I want to remember it. I’m sure I’ll take editorial liberties and create unnecessary drama so that it reads well or that it tells well. Aaron and Felix, I expect you to comment on this and add your memories too. What I remember is that we watched some of it happening on the news. I think we saw the second plane crash into WTC. Maybe we didn’t. How can you remember things like that clearly when you’ve seen images of things over and over throughout the years?
#11 // The Cannonball Adderley Quintet “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! Live at the Club”
Where does our courage go? Where does it come from? Why are some kids willing to jump off things while others won’t even climb the thing to jump off from? It’s a word we use casually when we tell others how to go about things. Be brave. Be courageous. But what does it mean? It sounds good. Yes, absolutely, be those things. Live life with no fear. Or take on your fears head on. That’s a good one too. Is it courageous to tell someone else to live courageously? What are we doing that’s so courageous? How do you measure it? Do you look back at moments in your life and think wow I can’t believe I did that, I could never do that now, that was so courageous. And at those moments did we do them because we didn’t think about them or because we chose to be. Is it innate or a conscious decision? Be courageous.
And what makes something courageous? Doing something that everyone tells you to do even though you have doubts about it? Or is it doing something that everyone tells you not to do but doing it because you believe that it’s the right thing to do? Oh you pursued your dreams? Is that courageous? Oh you worked a job you hated for 11 years because you had people to take care of? Is that courageous? Who decides? In my screenwriting class our teacher Jake told us whatever decision makes us scared is the one we should decide because that’s the one we really want. Yesterday I watched my friend Adepero’s first written and directed short film and after she told everyone in the room, “If you have a vision and a story you want to tell, you have to tell it, reach out to your support and make it happen.” Or something to that effect. Such a simple thing to say. Such a difficult thing to do.
#10 // Mal Waldron with Eric Dolphy and Booker Ervin “The Quest”
Lately I’ve been wondering what it means to be a resident. A resident, a citizen. What does it mean to live in a country, to live in a city, to live in a borough, to live in a neighborhood. What does it mean to move to one, what does it mean to have lived in one. Seems like in cities all over the country, at least the large ones, there’s something in the news about old residents getting pushed out by the new residents. Gentrification. Both sides claiming to be right.
The first summer I lived in New York was in 1996. I lived with my boy Alex’s family in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx. Think it was 144th St between Willis and Brook. At the time I had no idea it had one of the worst crime rates in all of NYC. A Puerto Rican girl at Jimmy Jazz asked me if I was Chinese because she wanted to get her name in Chinese tattooed. I told her I was Korean. She asked me to write it in Korean anyway. I hope she never got that tattoo. Korean shop owners asked me in Korean what I was doing up there. Black shoppers always thought I worked at the clothing shops on 3rd Ave, “Yo my man, let me get a size 10.5 in these.” The next summer I lived in the basement of a home in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. It was a two-fare zone during the token era. No free transfers from the bus to the train. The dollar cabs sometimes refused to take me as far as I needed to go. Yup the Asian man couldn’t catch a cab in a black neighborhood.
#9 // Rahsaan Roland Kirk “Prepare Thyself To Deal With a Miracle”
I never really used to smile in photos. I don’t know if it’s because I’m Asian. You should see my parent’s wedding photos, there’s not even a hint of a smile. I don’t know if that’s a cultural thing. I look back at my photos from when I was a kid and I don’t see a lot of smiles. I don’t think it means that I wasn’t a fun kid. I was all kinds of rambunctious, I broke three bones in like three years because I was always jumping off stuff. I have a lot of great memories of having fun. Of course there are photos of me smiling when I was younger younger but then I get to a certain age and the smile isn’t there as much. The smile would sneak in on the more candid moments where you can tell it’s a genuine happy moment. But the photos where I had to pose and smile, I have this hard look on my face. Maybe I was insecure about my super underbite. And then later the braces I wore to fix my underbite. And then I just got used to hiding my teeth.
I used to try to practice my smile in front of a mirror. Everyone did right? But we didn’t have cell phone cams back then so you kids are lucky. We didn’t know anything about angles and lighting. So I’d just go to the bathroom and practice a smile that wouldn’t come off too creepy. I didn’t want to smile too hard and have my eyes disappear and end up looking like a racist cartoon. I was so conscious about my smile. And the way that I would look. Later on it developed into this smirk that made me look like an arrogant prick who looked like he knew something that nobody else in the picture knew. Then there was the super creep look with my eyes and slight chin up that just made my already cheeky face look chubbier. Then I went through a slight slight duck lip hard rock look that guys do. Yo I didn’t know how to smile in photos. Guys are funny too. You’ll see a bunch of us laughing and someone says, that’s great, let’s take a picture, and then we all stop smiling.
Why so serious?
#8 // John Coltrane “Giant Steps”
What’s your type? Oh she’s totally your type. I don’t like to think that I’m that predictable. That I’m that easy to figure out. We’d all like to think that we are so open minded to new experiences and to new opportunities. Having a type, especially when it comes to who you’re attracted to has such a negative connotation. People think you have a fetish. People think you’re shallow. People think there’s something wrong with you. A lot depends on what your type is and what type you are and what type the person judging you is. It’s something we are fascinated with, especially in this country and in this city of plenty. Not sure if places around the world are hung up on it as much as we are.
I came to this country when I was 7 years old. My first American crush was a Brazilian girl named Lorena Mercado. And yes I’ve tried to find her on Facebook. Like you guys haven’t done that with your first crushes. Maybe it started there. Maybe it was feeling like an other growing up in a small town that was pretty much black and white. So yeah as much as I like to downplay and deny that I have a type, if you were to take a look at a photo slideshow of the women I’ve dated you’d say I had one.
#7 // Ron Carter “Piccolo” Record 2
I never really had a crew growing up. There were moments when I did. There was that summer that my parents sent my sister and I to Korea and I came back to Ithaca swelling with Asian pride. Junior year is when I got on my Malcolm X shit. No really. I wrote a paper for my English class with Mr. Spence about “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and even though I didn’t really do the assignment, he gave me an A-, the minus because I didn’t follow the directions, and he asked if he could enter it into a writing contest. A few months later I got a letter that said I got first place. I won $500 or maybe it was $300 and it felt like $500 at the time.
We always need somebody to push us, to believe in us, to give us a chance. That’s why I don’t believe in people who say they’re self-made. You can’t do anything on your own. Even this little entry I’m writing as I sip my French press coffee and eat my plain oatmeal with a little honey is being written with the help of others. When people tell me they read my stuff, it helps me to keep writing. When they thank me, it helps. The meditative writing course I took a few weeks ago helped especially the teacher who encouraged me to write for 30 minutes every morning before I did any other type of work. I told her I hadn’t been writing because I didn’t have the time. Then I thought to those days when I watched 2-3 shows on Netflix back-to-back. I’m writing this on a MacBook Air that my girlfriend (at the time) bought for me with the help of my friends. I’m listening to record 2 of Ron Carter’s “Piccolo” that someone salvaged and sold at their shop in St. Petersburg, Florida. And it’s putting me in a creative mood. I’ve been writing to jazz records everyday. When it’s time to flip the record I know my writing time is half over. I wonder if I’m setting myself up so that I’ll never be able to write to anything but jazz.
#6 // Ron Carter “Piccolo” Record 1
I used to really love music. At one point it was the number one thing in my life. Probably around junior high school it started. And then it exploded in high school. My friend George and I would watch Rap City every day after school at his parent’s restaurant. I used to sit and wait for my favorite videos to come on Yo! MTV Raps and I’d record them on the VCR and rewatch them later. I’d study the fashions and the dances. I couldn’t buy all the music I wanted so I would steal tapes and CDs from the local music store. The one in the mall had alarms so I couldn’t do that there.
I’d study the liner notes and remember all the names and places mentioned. Growing up in Ithaca, away from the major city during the pre-Internet-era, music was the only thing that took me places I’d never visited. New York, Brooklyn, Harlem, The South Bronx, Compton were places that existed to me via words and beats. I made mixtapes. I stayed up over night to listen to the local college radio shows that only played “Black music” (yes kids that’s what it was called before urban) on the weekends. Later I was an on-air personality for one of those stations. Friday Flavas. Or was it Friday Night Flavas. Most of the time it was me and Aisha. I think a few nights it was just me. From midnight to 6AM. Just me and the music. I stole a lot of great records from there. The statute of limitations has passed right? They can’t come after me now?
I didn’t get to write yesterday. I’m supposed to write every morning for 30 minutes before I start my day. Lately it’s been a glass of room temperature water with a squeeze of lemon, a piece of fruit, grind coffee beans, boil water, french press, black coffee, put on a jazz record (right now it’s Bud Powell “At the Blue Note Cafe, Paris 1961), and I sit by the desk by the window and just write and write. Yesterday? Well, I had to get something done early and send it out before I left the house. I knew I had to do that which meant that I had to get up earlier. And I did get up earlier. Saw the time and just stayed in bed. We all do it. I was just beat. Tired. The week was a little rough. I don’t have a 9-5. I don’t go to an office everyday. I used to for most of my life. But probably for the past five years I haven’t. It sounds great. Make your own hours. But you need to be super motivated and focused. There’s a lot of moving around and commuting. We’ve been shooting a ton so there’s a lot of getting to a location, being at the location, standing at the location, and leaving the location. Then having to do more once you leave. Being in this space means that you get texts around midnight about stuff that needs to happen the next morning from clients. I don’t mind so much if it’s from the team but the client thing makes me feel a little like a butler. As if I’m it’s my turn on RA duty every night.
They might see this. They might not. I write these for myself and I’m still surprised that anyone reads them. They’re not very long but I just assume that everyone is so busy with all these things they have to do, see, eat, watch, and listen. It’s Labor Day Weekend. That’s another thing, you sort of forget about holidays when you work like me. I also don’t remember celebrating holidays being a big thing when I was growing up. The big stuff yeah like 4th of July and Christmas and stuff but Labor Day and Memorial Day, I don’t remember anything. So when people ask me what are you doing this weekend? I just always think, uh regular weekend stuff. Then I’m reminded that it’s a national holiday and people are going away and they got invited to attend things and I think oh I didn’t get invited. I didn’t get much invited to stuff when I was in high school either. I always knew a lot of people and a lot of people knew me but I spent a lot of time on my own in my room. Think my parents were worried about me. Speaking of which they’ve been reading these writings and mom wanted to correct a few things I mentioned. She said she never packed me kimchi. Let’s say that she’s right, why would I remember that? Did I make it up? Memory fails us right? Did I read it in a book? See it in a movie? Maybe it was another kid who had it and I was like get away from me, I don’t want people to mistake me for you?
I remember dad always rooting for the underdog. As a kid I never understood. The winning team was always more fun. Everybody rooted for them. Nobody wanted to see the other team win. Later on it was, nobody wants to see those teams play in the championship. They have no stars. They’re boring to watch. If the super team won, that would be good for the league, that would make everyone happy. That’s what I always thought. Dad always thought, it’s time for someone else, give someone else a chance. It would be nice to see another city get to rejoice. They deserve it. I never understood it as a kid.
I don’t watch sports as much as I used to. I barely watch SportsCenter. I’m sure my manhood will be questioned by some now. Had to cut down the clutter of noise. Felt like the people on that show were always yelling at me, playing a role, trying to be extra hip, making up controversies, talking reckless, and even contributing to the already violent culture of ripping apart public figures. I still watch Real Sports on HBO. More investigative. More based on something, not just stirring up small things and then spending all day having people talking about it then the next day talking about how people took it overboard. I don’t read much about sports either. Man, I look back on the amount of time I used to spend consuming sports. I remember studying box scores, in the newspaper, when I was a kid.
Now I’ll catch a game when I can. I don’t care about the outcome as much as I used to. When I was younger I thought I could influence the game. My positive thoughts. Turn the volume down. All those silly rituals that we thought could help our team of millionaires win. I keep thinking of Sonny telling C, “Mickey Mantle don’t care about you so why should you care about him?” Harsh. But true. Getting upset about a trade, cut, benching, or a play being called? We have no influence. We have no input. Sports makes us think that we’re the experts. Everyone has an opinion on what a team should do. What the quarterback should’ve done. What other job besides the POTUS has that much scrutiny?
What a strange dream to have to live a life where you tell other people to live their dream lives. Or teach them how they can achieve their dream life and how to live their dream life. As if we ever know what people really want. People tell you about their dreams but they edit them. They hold back. They leave key parts out. We’re so afraid of being judged aren’t we? We think we sound crazy. We say it out loud and think we sound crazy even though we really want it. How could we ever tell somebody else something that we think sounds crazy to us? They’ll probably never talk to us again.
But if you think about those who history praises for their audacity must have sounded crazy when they told their friends what they wanted to pursue. Can you imagine explaining the concept of a telephone to somebody? So now we express things that are simple and small. Attainable. Set attainable goals for yourself. Others set goals that are so big that it’s probably never reachable but it will keep them going. Do people who never achieve their goals ever become satisfied?