Why Ned Vizzini Will Always Have A Special Place In My Heart

When I was 19 I stumbled upon a curious looking novel at the Borders that used to be at The Shops at Columbus Circle. I had never heard of the title or author before but the description and art work really caught my eye. I bought the novel and instantly fell in love with ‘Its Kind of A Funny Story’ by Ned Vizzini.

The novel spoke to me on many different levels. From the spot on ‘teenage New Yorker’ rhetoric to the descriptions of the city, I was taken to a magical new place which in reality I had always called home. The most profound and apparent way that I related to the story was with the main character, 15 year old Craig Gilner. There are two main ways we related, starting with something that I have never stated on the internet:

Craig and I have both been to a psychiatric ward.

Craig and I were both depressed at age 15.

The story I was reading felt so much like my own. To this day, ‘Its Kind of a Funny Story’ is my absolute favorite book of all time ever in the history of words, not just for its funny anecdotes, unlikely romance and motley crew of characters, but because it helped me let go of so much anguish and guilt that I had kept from my experience.

I mustered up the courage in the summer of 2009 to e-mail Ned Vizzini, just to tell him I appreciated his work.

To my surprise, he responded. I was elated to find a genuine reply in my inbox a few days later from a successful author, what I aspire to be. I told myself I would have to meet him one day. After my study abroad trip in early 2010 I attended a Young Adult Fiction event at the New York Public Library on 6th Avenue and 12th Street. There were several authors there, but I went just for Ned.

I got there early and saw him walking around the room, just wandering like I was. I was talking to a fan of another author and she encouraged me to introduce myself. I walked up to the Average Joe-looking writer who wrote the book that changed my life and asked “Excuse me, are you Ned Vizzini?”

We started talking and I mentioned our email conversation from the previous summer. He remembered me and said he was glad to meet me. I felt on top of the world as I discussed literature, particularly my favorite book, with the author of the book! It was a dream come true. I asked if he could offer any advice about writing, and I’ll never forget what he said:

“Don’t focus right away on writing a book. If you do that it will never get done. Try writing longer and longer stories to build up. Also, read ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King.”

I bought ‘On Writing’ a few days later. I left the event with an autographed copy of his novel ‘Be More Chill’ with a dedication to me which read “Ruben, I’m sure you don’t need a squip!”

To top off the day, I got to take a picture with him. Here I am with Ned Vizzini, in all my overly eager fanboy glory:

Image

He posted it on his blog a few days after we met. Our acquiantanceship didn’t stop there. I came prepared that day and asked if he could critique a short story I had written about a night I had in Rome. A few months later I got a sloppy hand written envelope in the mail, bearing my name and address as well as his. He wrote a handwritten critique of my work. I challenge you to find any succesful author who would do all this for just one fan. The review came with my original copy of the story with his notes, which were very positive, along with his favorite quote highlighted via brackets written in with black ink.

I emailed him again earlier this year, asking him to read my article ‘The Millenial Latin American Identity Crisis Of The United States’. He read it, said he really enjoyed it and even shared it on his news feed on Facebook. I recall him telling me his favorite sentence from my article, which was “We are emigrating to, and reproducing in the United States like a giant herd of nomadic rabbits.”

Given all this, I was completely heartbroken to find out that Ned Vizzini committed suicide on December 19, 2013. His family lost a father and husband, the world lost a great author, and I feel like I lost a friend. My condolences go out to his family, friends and fans. I will always remember his warmth and kindness when he could have just brushed me off as just another kid who read his book. I will more so remember his best novel in my opinion, for changing my perspective of certain life events of mine from what I considered the worst times in my life to, well, kind of a funny story. Rest in peace Ned. -RSM

Solace.

A mind’s quiet place amongst the everyday hustle

of the gritty billboard ridden city,

I pity the ones who lack a fortress of solitude.

Be it ever so humble,

there is nothing like a long morning after a wild night,

listening to jazz and drinking raspberry tea

while admiring the sun and other random objects that shine over me.

It seems as if silence is a treasure

observed only by those who have heard the ambience

of their A to B commute for a bit too long

and strive to prolong the routinely inevitable.

Meditation of a sort, a sect of tranquility; a table for one.

-RSM

Mario Kart 64 Horoscope

We all have heard of the Age of Pisces and Aquarius, the Mayan calendar, the Chinese Zodiac, Ms. Cleo, etc. but let’s be real. If there’s any way to tell what kind of person one is and how one will fare in life, it’s this:

mario kart 64 home screen

That’s right, friends. No matter how the planets align or what your moon sign is, most personality traits can be deciphered by what character one chooses while playing one of the greatest video games of all time, Mario Kart 64.

mario kart 64 characters

Some are speed demons, some are middle of the road, and some just like to push others into molten lava – all in the name of a virtual trophy and living room bragging rights. But hey, I mean isn’t that what life is all about anyway?

1. Mario

mario

Moderation, balance, self-control is the name of your game. You powerslide along sharp turns like an stunt driver in Fast & The Furious : Tokyo Drift and keep things moving at a swift, yet manageable pace. You can handle the rough and tumble of playing with the big boys and although you’re not the fastest driver in town, you’ll probably be the only one who gets the girl in the end. Know yourself, and trust your judgement. Remember, you are everyone’s hero, but if you don’t trust yourself, no one else will either.

2. Luigi

Moderation and self-control is also your bag, baby, but for some reason you can never shake this feeling of being outdone or overshadowed.  You’re a middle of the road kind of driver and have great handling down the stretch. You can be a leader when needed, but are not used to the role due to a close friend or relative who is accustomed to holding the reigns.  Be patient, and run your own race. You may find yourself with a mansion of your own one day.

3. Peach

Some may consider you to be a bougie, spoiled diva, an archetype you continually reject. You move fast and don’t look back, regretting the days you waited for a significant other to rescue you from a time in your life that felt like you were trapped in a castle with a giant lizard as your oppressor.  You strive to assert your independence and are not afraid to bump fenders with the bigger riders. Even though the big boys might make you might spin out, the effort you make to be known as your own person is satisfaction enough to go for the gold time and time again.

4. Toad

You’re the happy go lucky type. You’re very agile on the pavement and get along with just about everyone. When life throws you a curve you powerslide into the storm, using your speed and nimble maneuvers to find the best way through any challenge. Don’t be intimidated by those who may want to push you around on the road of life. You may be small, but the wisdom gained through courage and conviction will be so great it may even seem that your head will eventually begin to resemble a mushroom.

5. Yoshi

You’re the fastest racer on the track without a doubt. Bigger and smaller racers alike make you laugh as you wiz past your competitors.  You’re just as bad at self-control, however as you are good at pushing the pedal of life to the metal. Don’t let the fast life get the best of you. Don’t be afraid to stop and smell the roses amidst all of the glitz and glamour of your epic journey.  Also, remember that moderation is key; it’s easy to gun it while your tank is full, but not so much when you’re running on fumes and and you’re lost without GPS. Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.

6.  Donkey Kong

The original Nintendo bad boy. You have a big name to live up to on the road of life and are not afraid to get your wheels dirty, nor your cart dented by bumping other riders off the track. Just remember that what goes around comes around (especially on a looped road)  and at the end of the day you’re not the biggest bulldozer plowing over fellow racers.  You like to push the enevlope, but have a big soft spot for your family.  You tend to be a loyal, gentle giant to your close friends and family. Everybody else can run into a coconut tree for all you care.

7. Wario

You’re the mischeivous one in any given situation. You pride yourself to be at the right place at the right time to wreak havoc on your unsuspecting competitors. Be careful; all work and no play may make Jack a dull boy, but all play and work doesn’t do much, except for polishing your skills in Mario Kart. Not exactly a skill to put on a resume. Play hard, be crazy, random and awesome, but always strive to work harder than to just cause mischief. Remember, life is not one big practical joke. P.S. Nice moustache, hipster.

8. Bowser

Big man on campus. No one tells you what to do, and you like to be in charge. When someone tries to be a hero, you remind everyone just how bad of a villain you can really be.  From NES to N64 and well beyond, you have left a legacy of domination and frustration over anyone who tried to go against you. Despite the fact that you enjoy your alpha-lizard ways, it may find you in a bind one day. You may not want to spit fire on everyone who comes your way. Who knows, you may find yourself in a relationship where your beautiful princess leaves you for some charming plummer. Be a little nicer, dull down your spikes a little bit and you’ll be amazed at how much better you will be received.

-RSM

Love Is But A Cheap Flint

Love Is But A Cheap Flint

by Ruben Muniz

Servants line the halls of the seemingly rich man

whose smile hasn’t shown since he was a penniless hopeful;

Now his lips know only a grimace

and have met many women,

but he would build up his deck of cards

into a miniature bungalow and trade it

for the one ace of spades

who he couldn’t win over

because of pre-existing conditions

and his own sins.

The only skeleton in his closet

dons a white dress.

The music man plays his tune with a smile

and gets a roar from the crowd of onlookers

and leaves the stage at the night’s conclusion

with an empty feeling,

because his biggest fan never showed up.

So he goes home alone

drum sticks in hand

as his mind plays a percussive onslaught

of indifference, depression, and longing

for that big break to come, someday.

A dancer shines his shoes

and has moves that would impress a Russian ballerina,

and takes home another gold medal

to hang on one of his dozens of trophies

on his mantle.

He rips off his bowtie after the show

and throws it into his fireplace

and cries to himself

about that one move he just can’t seem to make his own.

A writer who has penned quite a few stories

in his day fears he will not live to see

his own perfect ending.

Deceptive emotions reign,

a tyranny of torturous thoughts

bombard their minds with angst.

It seems as if they’re fighting a war

that they were drafted into against their will;

with weary feet these men trudge on

not knowing if I’ll ever come home.

The spark comes and goes as if

love is but a cheap flint,

but the embers of their memories serve as emissaries

to reignite the flame in their minds of what could be.

Top 10 Things To Do When Unemployed For The Hopeless & Frustrated.

In an effort to better practice many of the points I’m about to delve into, I’ve comprised a list of things to do when you’re unemployed and sick of it. I have recently been freelancing for different publications, but in terms of official employment, I would much rather do 8 hours a day to keep the broke doctor away, if you catch my drift.

With an economy recovering, at best, and underemployment for young professionals at record highs I have not been dealt the best hand in terms of a fruitful job market. However, when life gives you time off you find ways to make the most of it. That’s what I have been doing the past few months in order to make the time off more bearable and less boring, unproductive, and excruciating.

I’ve realized something about myself in the past few years: the only thing I do better than party my ass off is work my ass off. So after a couple of months without a day job it has gotten very frustrating to have no day job to dedicate my time to. Usually my schedule between good times on weekends and productive hours on weekdays would work itself out pretty nicely. For example, as with most people, working from Monday-Friday produces enough income for whatever you wanted to do on any given weekend, and with every paycheck cycle the sequence would repeat. When unemployed, money never seems to stretch far enough, even when festivities on weekends are scaled down a great deal. It sucks, I know. Not only have I been there, I’m there right now still, sort of. Here are a few tips of things to do from someone who is still technically unemployed:

10. Relax.

meditation-pose1

Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world. You can’t find a job? Got laid off, or even fired? Great! Now you can begin a new adventure. Think of it that way, it could turn your frown upside down. Try doing little things daily to take your mind off the angst and stress. Try meditating, even if you’re not into it at first. Watch your favorite show or childhood cartoon. Hang out with your friends. Get out of the house. I can’t stress that last one enough.

9. Exercise.

original

I’m a bit guilty here of not practicing what I preach, but nevertheless getting a daily dose of exercise can make all the difference between a boring day with time inching along and a wonderful use of extra time. I haven’t been exercising daily in the conventional sense, but whenever I get some exercise in the endorphins kick in and nothing matters but that runners high or the satisfaction of finishing up a set. Exercise as much as you can when you’re unemployed. Who knows, you may land your next job at a modeling agency!

8. Clean.

Cleaning supplies with bucket

Another one I need to work on myself. Keeping a clean home is just as rewarding as exercising daily. It’s a very productive hobby and will result in a beautiful and attractive living space, which will serve as a breath of fresh air if you’re frustrated with your job situation. If you have nowhere to go all day, you might as well keep the place clean.

7. Record a journal of some kind.

This is a great thing to do your whole life, not just when you’re unemployed. When you get home, just like you would clean for an hour or exercise, try writing for a little while. No matter your mood, try writing about it and how your day went. Express your jubilant thoughts – and dump your sad thoughts – into a journal or diary.  Write about absolutely anything you want, it will make hard times way more bearable and will eventually double as a nostalgic keepsake of a particular time in your life.

6. Spend time with family.

Family outings and hangouts can be a great way to take your mind off being unemployed. Above is a photo of me, my sister and several cousins at my uncle’s wedding this summer. Family members who are your age probably know exactly what you’re going through or have known at some point, and older famalams can offer insight and maybe even a connection to a new employment opportunity. You never know! Your crazy aunt from Minnesota may have a good surprise up her sleeve for a change!

5. Have fun!

at stj

This is a photo of my band and I performing last year. Aside from the shameless plug, I chose this photo because this is what I enjoy doing the most with my free time. Whether it’s rehearsing, recording or playing live my favorite thing to do is to play music with my band. What do you like to do most? Don’t tell me, do it! Do whatever makes you happy when you’re unemployed and have nothing to do, it will make such a big difference. Aside from playing music, I love writing, hence, I’m writing right now to kill time and add to my blog. See what I mean? I’m having an awesome time being unemployed, at least at this particular moment. Woo!

4. Work on acheiving other goals.

One goal I have in mind is obtaining a Master’s Degree in Spanish. In my time off I’ve visited colleges and asked about their programs as well as have started refreshing my knowledge of the language by working on a self-teaching advanced Spanish grammar workbook. You can do the same, whatever your goals are outside of getting a job, work on them in your time off. It will pay off greatly and may even help you land something better than you thought you could, job-wise.

3, Polish your skills.

infinidad writing

Right now, I’m working on my writing skills. I play guitar and sing at least for 20 minutes or so a day. I practice speaking, writing and reading Spanish almost every day and also practice French sometimes too. What things are you good at? What did you go to school for? What do you like to do that can you can use work on? Try doing at least one thing that fits into each of those questions.

2. Volunteer your time.

This is the next best thing you can do for yourself besides landing a new job.  Volunteer work looks amazing on a resume and can provide skills and experiences necessary to land the next job you’re hoping to do. Can’t find a job? Try helping out somewhere. Anywhere that needs help and has a setting that you can learn new skills from, or could just make a positive difference. I volunteer my time at Soka Gakkai International – USA’s Culture Center. I learn how to basically be a part of a security detail and building maintenance team, all while learning more about Nichiren Buddhism. I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity. Get out there and find a resume building, skill learning and awesome volunteer experience!

1. Apply to jobs!

If you’re complaining about being unemployed and haven’t applied to any jobs, punch yourself in the face. Right now. That was from me.

Now brainstorm: what kind of job am I looking for? What are my short term and long term goals? Do I need a job or have time for a job right now? How practical would it be to land job type A over job type B?

Make a list of at least 10 employers you would like to work for. Apply to all of them ASAP. Keep looking for opportunities that fit your needs and wants at all times and all places possible.  If you start feeling like there’s no hope and you want to bang your head against the wall, try suggestions 2-10 but eventually get back this one.

I hope this list helps in your crusade for employment. Even if it seems like there’s no hope, don’t despair. The more you apply, the better chances you have and doing things that are productive and also fun can help your chances of landing your dream job, or any job, tremendously. Hope you find something soon! -RSM

First Fall Out Of School Since 1993

Yup, for the first time  since I was 3 years old I am not enrolled in some form of an educational institution. 20 years of school from Pre-K to undergrad has led me a long way, and now I’m in a weird middle ground that many recent graduates are in in terms of a career and continuing my education and the options that lie in both routes.

My plan is to apply for graduate programs that begin in the Fall of 2014. I’m weighing my options in terms of studying either Spanish or Linguistics for my Masters. I also plan on continuing to play music with the band and writing for CrustNation, as well as finding a job during the day to kill time and make money on the side.

It’s interesting to not be in school while many of my friends still are, be it for their bachelor’s or master’s. If anything I would say it’s sort of like a vacation I don’t want or need, but have anyway. It’s not a bad thing, this time off from school has been a great way to clear my head and evaluate my life and career goals, as well as build experience to strengthen my resume. A creeping sentiment of negativity has been around, however, that time off is time wasted. I guess it depends on how one looks at the situation.

For the first time in my adult life I can enjoy the fall without any obligation to educational endeavors. As you can see I have mixed feelings about it, but ultimately it’s a blessing, as most things are in the end. The hiatus from education is a perfect way to regroup and come back with a vengeance hopefully come next fall. -RSM