An Ode to ‘Your Hand In Mine’ by Explosions in the Sky

An old song that’s fairly recent plays via random algorithm sequence

dictated by 1’s and 0’s as far as we know, although this frequency prompts

insightful inquiries into the former me; one in the same

but another day comes and I am born yet again.

 

I always play this song when something’s on my mind

but not in the literal sense, hence if such were the case

I’d put it on loop and play it all the time.

Thoughts always pacing, walking, sometimes racing

within the confines of the infinite lines of the figure 8 track

of the super highway that is consciousness;

 

I promise this: whenever I look back and listen to this melody

the weight will fall off my shoulders and give way to serenity.

The vibes strive to make me feel alive as I feel the kind and all too familiar syncopation

adjust my mood to its sonic stipulations.

 

In a world where war comes in many forms

any moment of peaceful trancsendence is to be remembered and cherished;

it could be laying in the grass on a sunny day,

a hot dog in the city with mustard and relish,

a walk down the street or through memory lane,

a random street fair you find around the corner,

a cold glass of water on a summer afternoon,

a nap on a plane or a car or a train,

a clear night sky with a shining moon,

or anything that takes you to another plain.

 

Ironically enough I find the most peace with a song

from a band called ‘Explosions in the Sky’.

The name is the same as my favorite thing to do

with a lover. It’s called “Your Hand In Mine.” -RSM

 

Great Romances of the 21st Century

A rock and a hard place is where I most often find myself.

Such is the case at least in terms of the window I’m looking out of,

Do I stay, go, is this even a thing?

Currently located in a dreamy place in life where I can be all and everything I’ve always wanted.

Yet I still look for happiness outside of myself.

I’ve been called a ‘social butterfly’ so I guess it makes sense

but I have a habit of stabbing the air and grabbing where there’s nowhere and no one

to find nothing in hope of unearthing the one thing I’ve always wanted and sometimes thought I’ve had.

 

She’s nice. Really sweet. Never bitter, not to me at least.

It’s cool to see her when I do, but sometimes climbing up the walls she puts up is an insurmountable task.

This is foreign territory although the battle repeats itself.

A weird little romance that is kind of there but kind of non-existent

In my mind’s eye I see what could be

but past memories of my strikeouts, failures and foul balls off sidewinders

remind me not to jump the gun; have patience.

 

She’s amazing in a few dozen different ways.

I would go into detail but it would give it away,

for I don’t want my sappy-go-lucky,

angst ridden ballad to become the cause of my own hopes, foiled.

 

Her smile is as natural as the soil that grows a beautiful garden that is her life;

Birds and bees tend to her flowers

and the showers from rainclouds and heavy storms past

provide a canopy of shade where her head rests at dusk.

Bright and early the sun rises and the moon leaves,

taking her along with it.

 

What a shame.

I would love to love her,

but I can’t with this heart scarring nimbus hanging silently above her.

I know more of the story is untold and whatever unfolds is whatever unfolds

but I can’t help but feel like a Crystal Baller without a clue.

perhaps love really is a battlefield; if so, may the God of War

look favorably upon me, a heart-bruised Athenian

who just wants that goddess that he’s cool with to let him in.

 

 

-RSM

The Effects Of ‘Bandwagon Negativity’ On Celebrities

Bandwagon negativity’ is a phrase I use to describe when a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ attitude arises when anyone is being treated unfairly. For example, a kid in school gets picked on and the rest of his or her classmates follow suit. There are different words to describe people who do this, be it ‘critics’, ‘naysayers’, ‘bullies’, ‘haters’, etc. No one is perfect and at points in my life I have been guilty of this myself, as probably you have too. In a world where open mindedness and universal acceptance is on the rise in popular culture, there should be no place for bandwagon negativity anymore. Unfortunately this is not the case at all, especially when it comes to celebrities.

For generations over we have seen this happen in many avenues of life. Despite the world making great strides from the mid-Twentieth century to the present day in terms of inclusiveness there are still no scruples when it comes to berating public figures. Granted, there are celebrities out there that are not angels and end up doing things that make them unfavorable to the public. No matter how reckless or outrageous a celebrity gets, I feel like it is not my place as an individual to throw shame on anyone, especially someone who I have never even seen outside of the internet, TV and movies.

It goes without saying that not everyone shares this sentiment. One of the main quotes I live by is “To each their own,” because I know with the way I live my life if I ever happen to become a known public figure the same criticisms and judgments would be thrown my way as well.

It is for this reason I feel that celebrities who are constantly in the public eye often wish they were not. Some public figures become so popular that it has negative effects on their lives to the point of terrible tragedy.

princess diana
Princess Diana was no stranger to paparazzi, sadly even in her last moments.

Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in Paris in a car crash in 1997 trying to flee a paparazzi crew after constant media scrutiny during her marriage to Prince Charles and even more so after their divorce.

Michael Jackson was in the public eye since early childhood until his untimely death.
Michael Jackson was in the public eye since early childhood until his untimely death.

Michael Jackson died of a heart attack via a prescription drug overdose in 2009. He spent his entire life in the public eye as both one of the world’s most influential musicians as well as one of the most constantly and heavily harrassed celebrities of all time.

john lennon yoko ono
John Lennon and Yoko Ono were advocates for peace until Lennon’s death in 1980.

John Lennon was killed outside of his home in New York City by a deranged gunman in 1980. After making his mark on the world with The Beatles and with his solo career he was criticized heavily for marrying Yoko Ono, who the media openly referred to as ‘an ugly woman’. He and Yoko Ono faced numerous threats of deportation from the United States while speaking out against the Vietnam War with songs like ‘Imagine’ and ‘Give Peace A Chance’.

These are a few 20th century examples that the world should have learned from, but didn’t.

britney spears
Britney Spears fell on hard times in 2007. The media had a field day with it.

Britney Spears spontaneously walked into a hair salon in 2007 and shaved her head while having an emotional breakdown, which of course was caught on camera. This gave way to a tabloid media explosion. Since then she has been under a conservatorship.

amanda-bynes-normal
Amanda Bynes was hospitalized after a series of provocative tweets documenting wild parties as well as brushes with the law.

Former Nickelodeon child star Amanda Bynes was on a Twitter-amplified drug binge which involved several brushes with the law and resulted in an involuntary admittance into a psychiatric hospital.

justin-bieber-2
Justin Bieber is the one of the world’s youngest megastars, which comes with as much negativity as it does fandom.

Justin Bieber has been loved and hated throughout the world since his music career started as a teenager. His video of the song ‘Baby’ featuring Ludacris is one of the most viewed YouTube videos of all time. It is also #1 all time in dislikes. He has been criticized for his ‘boy next door’ image as a young teen as well as his androgynous looks, and is now criticized even more for recent arrests, tattoos, his past relationship with Selena Gomez, and also for growing up in the suburbs of Canada with the vernacular of a hip hop artist. Let the kid breathe.

This trend is not a new thing and probably will continue throughout human history, which kinda sucks if you think about it. Success comes in many different forms as do setbacks and as a result it is no one’s place to judge anyone else, period. Why should anyone point fingers and try to tell someone else how to live? Raising children is a different story, with the intention of course to lead children to make good decisions for themselves. When it comes to celebrities, however, especially in terms of Hollywood gossip, tabloid newspapers, paparazzi crews and the like,  there is no place for that in a supportive and open minded world. I have my own favorite celebrities just like anyone else, but they are not on some kind of holier-than-thou pedestal in my mind and should not be held to a higher standard than anyone else.

Suum cuique pulchrum est. I would rather see this Latin phrase Googled more than Katy Perry’s most recent ‘provocative’ outfit, but that’s just my opinion. – RSM

Racial Ambiguity: Caught in the Middle of Gentrification in New York City

The changing demographics of neighborhoods in New York City is nothing new. The Bronx, my home borough, was originally home to Native Americans, then the Dutch, the British, Irish, Italian, and Jewish diasporas long before it is as today, with Latinos as the slight majority. Oddly enough, there are times when I’m on my home street and I can’t help but feel like an outsider. Allow me to explain:

I live in Wakefield, a primarily African American and West Indian neighborhood. I have lived here since I was 3, with the exception of my years in college. Looking back on my life, my friends, neighbors, and family as well have always been very diverse. I went to elementary school a few neighborhoods over in the Bedford Park area of The Bronx, a neighborhood far more diverse than my own. I grew up unassuming, open minded, and figuratively colorblind.

In retrospect, I feel like it took me a while to grasp the idea of ‘race’ and different ‘races’ of humans. I just didn’t see it that way. Seeing that my friends’ ancestries vary tremendously and some people in my family are of mixed races, I just didn’t take much heed as a child. I still don’t take that much heed at all nowadays….

 

My best friends and family on my birthday.
My best friends and family on my 24th birthday.

….EXCEPT when the topic of gentrification arises. I feel like I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. When I walk through Williamsburg, Bushwick, or Downtown Brooklyn it’s almost as if there’s not humidity, but tension in the air. I can feel it lingering around every train station, bike rack, street corner, and every other public place where Native Brooklynites now co-exist and share public space with out of state, 20-something transplants, or ‘Hipsters,’ if you will. I feel that same tension pressing on my lightly tanned skin, dyed blonde hair, and casual/rocker style of dress as I walk through certain neighborhoods.

I’m a Latino who can pass as Caucasian, or even Pacific Islander depending on who’s guessing. It’s great to look racially ambiguous when you’re talking to a pretty young lady at a bar in WIlliamsburg, but once you leave that bar you become a hipster to the natives of the neighborhood, and a questionable figure to cops, wondering why they see some surfer-looking whiteboy strolling through the ghetto.

About 2 months ago I was headed down White Plains Road, the main avenue of my neighborhood and also the closest shopping district to my apartment. It makes sense that I would go down this street for an innocent afternoon of commerce, right?

Well, it didn’t make sense to the cops who saw me chatting with a tattoo artist outside of his shop.

They parked their patrol car, approached me and asked me “What are you doing around here?”

Kinda like they didn’t think I belonged in the neighborhood I have always lived in.

I told the 1st police officer that I had always lived around here while the 2nd proceeded to stop and frisk me.

He felt up my bookbag, which contained nothing but my netbook, a book I was reading and a few ‘Living Buddhism’ magazines.

“Whoa, you got a heavy bag,” said one of them, “You got a gun in here or something?”

So there I was, not even half a mile from my house, being questioned for being in my own neighborhood. I didn’t know whether to be confused or enraged. I was a mix of both, but I held my tongue. I knew better than to make the cops feel as stupid and racist as they were actually being, and I knew if I had said anything back to them things could have gone much worse.

After a few more patdowns and another “What are you doing around here?” they realized that I wasn’t exactly Tony Montana, and let me go.

This was a rude awakening to me. I never did mind growing up my whole life as a Latino in a mainly black neighborhood. I actually liked it very much, as well as the Bronx and New York City in general. I do find it alarming, however, that upon first glance nowadays I may be viewed as a neighborhood invader to my own block and as a result being on the NYPD’s radar. I usually get along with everyone I see; my friendliness and the reciprocation of such from most people I meet have allowed me to keep my inner-child’s eyes figuratively colorblind. As a child and adolescent I had always felt that I fit in everywhere. With gentrification on the rise in many minority neighborhoods in New York City, coming from a neighborhood that I’m the minority as a Latino has never mattered to me until recent years, and especially since the cops breathe down my neck as a result. Sometimes I feel like my notion that I fit in everywhere is a naive illusion; when I see an organic grocery store next to a bodega, I still feel like I could fit in at either place. There are times, however, when I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere, especially when I see a police cruiser around. -RSM

I was inspired to write this article by When Gentrification Brings Racism to the ‘Hood by Irvin Weathersby, via ebony.com.

Why I’m Proud Of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

When I was a junior in college, I attended a Greek Life workshop with a few fraternity brothers of mine as well as representatives from every other Greek lettered organization on campus. It was an interesting workshop; there were large photos of famous, groundbreaking leaders from many different but equally important walks of life. The workshop facilitator, a middle aged, upbeat motivational speaker kind of guy, asked all undergrads in the room (about 50 of us, at least) to go around the room and write down comments about each of these leaders of their professions. After about 15 minutes, the workshop host then asked students to volunteer to pick a leader, say what they knew about this leader, read off the comments anonymously written by people in the room, and say whether you agreed or disagreed with said comments.

During the first phase of the workshop I immediately spotted Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. I wrote a few positive comments on the posterboard next to her photo, and went on to Bill Gates’ posterboard, that of Oprah Winfrey, etc. During the second phase, I gravitated back to Justice Sotomayor’s photo and read the comments attributed to her. There were some positive comments, including my own, but they were outnumbered by many negative comments about her. She had recently been appointed to her position as Supreme Court Justice and her name and image had been circulating in the news, mostly via smear campaigns in order to sabotage her appointment as a Supreme Court Justice. Sadly, many students believed what they had heard on the news about her, and as a result posted comments like “Underqualified” and “Too Liberal” on her comment section. Most, if not all of these comments were short, vague, and ultimately baseless and void of any fact. She is one of my personal heroines, so I was not happy about this.

I volunteered to read off the comments and tell everyone what I knew about her. I let off some fumes as professionally as I could. Most of my classmates in the workshop were surprised to learn that not only did she go to my high school decades ago, but I had actually shook her hand myself at a career day event a few years back. More importantly, I took my time happily dismantling every negative comment that was attributed to her, tearing down every falsehood and half-truth with facts supported by evidence. My favorite part of my informative rant was when I took apart the ‘underqualified’ comment, refuting it with details about her education and how she had served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for quite some time before being nominated as a Supreme Court Justice, notably ruling on the 1994 Major League Baserball strike case. Ending my onslaught of corrections and highlights of Sotomayor’s career, I put the nail in the coffin with a personal challenge and said: “And if anyone who wrote these false comments or anyone who disagrees with me would like to prove me wrong at all, I invite you to try.” No one took me up on it.

 

Official Portrait of Justice Sonia Sotomayor

 

Justice Sotomayor has been in the news recently for expressing her dissent on the ruling regarding Michigan’s affirmative action policy. The ruling upheld that affirmative action, currently banned in Michigan, could be successfully defended and remain banned by decision of a popular vote. The logic is a bit wishy washy, considering that affirmative action is designed to try and level the playing field for underpriveleged college hopefuls who are mostly minorities. Now, does it really make sense to leave this decision in the hands of a popular vote when the decision would be based on the majority vote, when those who would be most directly and negatively affected are minorities? This decision will potentially threaten affirmative action policies of other states, which is sure to have been a factor in determining the future of many lesser fortunate and/or minority students who would otherwise not be able to afford or even be given a chance at higher education due to economic or other social or circumstantial issues. If all goes horribly, affirmative action may be repealed in more homogenous, conservative states (where it is actually needed most) and will shut the door of a quality higher education experience on the next generation of high school grads. When you factor in the rate of arrests and imprisonment for petty crimes amongst black and brown teenagers, the perpetually dilapitated condition of inner city schools, and how both of these factors tie into the prison-industrial complex, the odds for more impoverished teens of getting into college are grim, specifically those in inner-city neighborhoods across the U.S.

This is especially disheartening to know as it stands, even with affirmative action in place. To eliminate affirmative action in college admissions offices would kind of be like running a basketball shot game at a carnival, giving the one kid with the worst shot an extra ball, and then taking it away just because you changed your mind. Picture that, but with the educational aspirations of kids who have been through some shit, and want a better life.

All in all I commend Justice Sotomayor for expressing her dissent. Given the fact that she is a minority from an impoverished area and had excellent grades as an adolescent and young adult, affirmative action may very well have played a factor in her education, as it probably did for my education, and many of my friends and family members. Quite contrary to conservative responses on her dissent, I feel that if she didn’t express her dissent for this decision she would be doing all potential college students a disservice. In a world where college tuition and debt is through the roof, the only worse fate than having a degree with no guarantee of finding the means to repay student loans and finding a job is the fate of not even having a fighting chance of getting into a good school after high school. Let’s face it, Generation Y is damned either way, but at least let us have an equal chance to be damned with an education under our belts than without. -RSM

Straphanging. Part 1

The following is a collection of stories that have recently taken place on or around the trains, platforms, and buses of the Greater New York City Area. They are all true. And awesome:

Kung Fu Car Transfer

So I walked aboard the F train headed to Queens at Lexington Avenue – 59th Street Station. In my train car it was just empty enough that there were a few seats available here and there. I went for one of my favorite spots when I’m feeling tired, the good ol’ corner seat, all the way at the end of the train. I like this seat for a few reasons: being right across from either a map or a window as well as being right next to two exit doors, and if you needed to transfer cars, you could do that too (although it’s illegal, no one really cares).

A few stops in, I was lounging as comfortably as I could along the steel rails and plastic seats and began to doze off as the train went further into Queens. I was just about to fall asleep, eyes closed and all, when I heard a loud and sudden “HYAAAA!” that practically catapulted me to my feet. I woke up, startled and confused, to see a black man wearing a silver and black North Face coat in his 30s right in front of me with his leg in the air, from what was apparently a roundhouse kick straight into the car transfer doors. This guy legit roundhouse kicked the door open, with Bruce Lee sound effects and all. It blew my mind.

This of course sparked much laughter from the rest of the train, most of which coming from my own mouth. One Latino dad-looking kind of man and I could not stop laughing. It was quite the wake up call; after that I didn’t even feel like sleeping.

The Ridiculously Bad Saxophone Player

Last summer I got on the train really late, around 2 or 3 am. I was on the 5 train, headed downtown. At 125th Street a man with a black square suitcase and multicolored cornrows got on the train. At that point I should have known he would pull some off-the-wall-type shit. He was a middle aged African American with neon red, light blue, neon green and yellow cornrow braids, about 5’6, a shorter guy, wearing a white tank top and acid wash jeans.

He was talking to younger man as they both got on the train, saying things like “Yeah man, check me out on SoundCloud,” and “Look out for my documentary.” The young man bade him farewell as he sat down with a smile, but then looked at me, looked at the multi-colored cornrow man, back at me, and just shook his head. I didn’t know what to expect. Neon Cornrow Man (that would be a great superhero name) began opening his suitcase. He started introducing himself as he revealed a saxophone from its case. After a rather long shpiel about his social media presence and upcoming documentary, he began to play the sax.

His saxophone skills were out of control in the very worst of ways. It looked like a 5 year old playing Mortal Kombat for the first time as he mindlessly mashed all the buttons along the instrument, and sounded something like a mutated ambulance siren. He had strong lungs, I’ll give him that much credit, especially since his sax was blaring at a surprisingly loud volume for almost 10 minutes. He did not really know how to play. He just blew all the air he possibly could into that saxophone and randomly pressed on the valves, occasionally holding an excruciatingly high note for several seconds.

Me and the man across from me had our sides splitting. It was hysterical. Many of the other passengers were rudely awakened by this mysterious, and possibly intoxicated multi-colored cornrow man. After what seemed like an eternity of the most belligerent saxophone solo I had ever heard, Multi-Colored Cornrow Man finally transferred to the car next to us. My train car breathed a collective sigh of relief as he took his ‘talents’ next door.

He began playing his out of tune tirade of a performance in the next car, but there were several gangsters on the next car that were just not having it. After about 30 seconds a few young men in snapback caps and bandanas approached Multi-Colored Cornrow Man and angrily asked him to stop playing. After a few words exchanged between the young men and Multi-Colored Cornrow Man he packed up his trusty saxophone and left. The young thugs did passengers a favor that night, surprisingly; their aggressive act of kicking Multi-Colored Cornrow Man off the train literally helped everyone else sleep that night. I’ll never forget though, aside from laughing harder than I had all year, the look on Multi-Colored Cornrow Man’s face as the gangsters kicked him off the 5 train that fateful night: disappointment, sadness, and frustration written all over it.

Streetlights – A Sonnet

You can’t see too many stars in the city sky,

the stratosphere shrouded by clouds and pollution.

I looked down at the black tar ridden Earth, and sighed

at the grid that graphs life like some mathematical solution.

As my disappointment grew across my industrial surroundings

I had an epiphany, about the streetlights below.

They were just like the stars, their bright light now browning

into soft, dark amber that only city dwellers know.

They dot the black tar like stars do the universe

and are spackled across the urban horizon

the way loose change scatters across a purse

or the way the studs shine on the belt of Orion.

Streetlights are like stars on the surface of our world,

on a planet forever spinning in a galaxy that twirls.