#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.

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#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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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Takes real courage to put yourself out there to the world. To really expose yourself. People say they don’t care, they don’t give a fuck. But we give so many fucks about how other people feel about us. Our want for approval is usually the main motivation for us doing anything and everything. Even that wild piece of clothing that you think tells the world that you’re daring had to go through an approval process before it got produced. They knew that you would think that wearing that T-shirt would make you think that you’re daring. I guess the way you decide to wear that shirt could say that you are not like the others. OK so maybe there’s that.

But also knowing that there are thousands of T-shirts just like the one that you’re wearing should put an end to your quest to be perceived as different from the world. I never know if we’re supposed to care or not care about what others think. It seems like we would live in a real wild world if no one cared and just did whatever they wanted. When I see Chinese people cutting their nails on the train, I think wow, they clearly don’t care what people think. Or is it that they’re inconsiderate? Because there’s that too, caring about others, and caring about how others feel. Like that guy who decides to eat fried chicken doused with hot sauce and ketchup on the train so when you enter the train your eyes and nose start burning. It’s the hot sauce from bulletproof Chinese spots so you know it’s pretty cheap stuff.

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A Little Change?

Seriously man like you you think you are who you are cause you’re supposed to be who you are? Or do you think we messed up somewhere and got sidetracked on our fateful journey? You really believe that everything happens for a reason? Maybe we’ll be who we’re supposed to be later on in life and instead we’re sitting here tying to figure out who we’re supposed to be right now. And talking about and talking about it instead of like living and shit. 

I’ve never really thought about it but I guess there’s that part that’s like what’s my stay in who I get to be? I imagine most people die in the same town, same state, same region, or same country where they were born. Is that meant to be? Is that what they wanted? Or did they have a choice, could they have left at anytime? Most people don’t really have a choice. It’s becoming a privilege just to travel. 

You think the person doing the shittiest job you can imagine thinks “Yes, this is my destiny. I am who I’m supposed to be?” Or do you think they just gave up at some point and said fuck my dream tho, I got bills. Not that what you do for a living dictates who you are completely. It’s a big part of you but not everything. Who you are is who you are. Strip away everything and you’re just left with you are. 

Just been thinking about change and whether real change is possible. Not just little things here and there. And not just individuals but also as a collective. Like real change. We all say we want it but are we willing to do what it takes to bring real change. I like to think that it’s possible. I hope that it is. But I don’t know if I’ve seen a lot of it. Even people you haven’t seen awhile you notice small changes then you spend more time with them and you see a lot of qualities that you remember of them. Which I guess is change too right? 

A lot of us focus on the physical change. A new outfit. A new hair cut. Hair color. Working out, getting fit. There’s some internal stuff happening there too. But is that real change? What if nobody notices? Did change happen? Oh and that whole change is good thing. Who came up with that? And why? Can’t some things stay the same? Is everything and everyone capable of change? And if we’re all wanting change does that mean that we’re all unhappy with how things are? Of how we are? Or who we are? 

Who Am You?


People think that you are something. Someone. Sometimes it fits with who you want them to think you are. Other times it becomes a pressure, a standard that you try to live up to. For some, that something is that thing that you will always be to them, no matter how much time passes by. They’ve made up their mind, that’s who you are, and you are not allowed to deviate from who they think you are, forever. You are frozen in that you.

When they realize that you are no longer that person who they want you to be, who they thought you were, they will likely be disappointed. They will say that you changed. They will never say that they had the wrong you in their mind. No. You changed. What happened to you? I like the other version. It doesn’t matter how well they knew you or how much time you spent together. They know that they know and they will tell you that you are wrong.

Then you will question who you were and who you are. You will wonder why these people thought of you in ways that you never thought of yourself. You will wonder if the you they have in their heads is the you that you wanted them to think you were back then.

Did I change? Did I never show people who I really was? Are they right? Are they wrong? Am I wrong? 

In the end, you will swear that you know who you are. You will say that you don’t care what others think because you’re in control, at all times. I know who I am. I know what I like. I know what I want.

And then someone will come along and you will try to present the best of you while questioning who you are the whole time.

Changing Lanes

Doing laps in the pool. Notice an older Asian woman entering my lane. Annoyed because she’ll slow me down. But she doesn’t swim. She does leg exercises at the shallow end. Annoyed because then she should be in the slow lane.

I keep doing my laps. She finally starts swimming. She’s faster than I anticipated. But she doesn’t swim to the end, only 3/4. Then she swims back doing a backstroke, holding herself along the side of the pool. We stay in our own lanes.

I finish my laps.

"I am so grateful to you because I am afraid to swim on that side," she says. "And you just stayed there. Thank you." She tells me she learned how to swim this year at the age of 75 after knee problems. She refuses medication and surgery. She ran and played tennis all her life. Doesn’t even take vitamins: "I find the sun and get vitamin D."

She’s Chinese from the Philippines who’s never been to China.

"You are very pleasant," she says, looking right into my eyes with the kindest and warmest eyes I’ve ever seen. "You are just wonderful. Stay that way."

Her name is Lolita.

And hopefully I’ll see her again.

Our exchange meant a lot.

Especially this week. 

Diversify Your Diversity


Diversity is a hot topic these days. The tech industry is the latest target. For a long time it was the advertising industry under the diversity gun. I’m not sure what’s been done about it. I know there are awards that are given to non-white people in advertising to celebrate the fact that there are non-white people in advertising.  It was an issue for a bit. Think Sharpton said something. Ivy League schools was an issue too recently, right? I don’t remember.

There’s a new issue every day. I can’t focus, I can’t keep up. I’m getting older. My attention span is precious. And the latest hashtag about something racist/sexist/classist/homophobic gets my head spinning. It does fascinate me. Our behavior in the hyper-connected world of social media. How fast things spread. With very little context. If you read something on Twitter, Tweet something. 

Oh of course I’ll follow it. It’s entertaining. But I also realize how limiting it is. it’s whatever is the opposite of “preaching to the choir” is. We choose who we follow, we choose what shows, movies, and docs to watch when we want, we choose the soundbites, articles, and quotes to share on social media which are then re-shared by those who choose to follow us. So it’s easy to think that “everybody” feels a certain way or that “everybody” said something.

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