19 Hilariously Cute and Deep Thoughts From My Fourth Grade Journal

A couple of days ago while clearing out old boxes in our apartment my mother found a journal I had kept as part of my daily class assignments in the 4th grade. Every entry is dated between Sepetember 1999 and June 2000.

It was humbling as well as mind blowing to see what was on my mind when I was 9 – 10 years old. I realized that despite a 14+ year difference from then to now I have a very similar outlook on life as I did while in elementary school. A few words are misspelled and some entries are unfinished, but a lot of what I re-read from the journal made me think really deeply about my own perspective and how it has evolved with age. It was also a laugh riot much of the time. I read through the whole thing a few days ago and have several interesting quotes to share from my pre-pubescent, unwaveringly optimistic self:

 1. My prediction of what life would be like at age 20:

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September 15, 1999:

“At the age of 20, I’ll probably look for a job. I want to be either a lawyer, a cop or an architect.”

I was way off there.

 

2. A more accurate prediction about ‘The Simpsons’: 

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September 21, 1999:

“My favorite TV show is The Simpsons because its so funny. I watch it every day. I think that show should never come off air. It’s the best show.”

The Simpsons have not gone off the air since their first season in 1989. Called it, bruh.

 

3. My theory of how space travel would solve the eventual problem of overpopulation:

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September 23, 1999:

“If I went to space, I’d try to find planetary systems. I’d build a glass dome on every planet I find so people can live on other places than Earth. I’d make spaceships go much, much faster. That way we can reach new planets faster, that way Earth won’t get crowded.”

Not a bad idea I guess, although technology isn’t there just yet.

 

4. An eerie anecdote about a recurring dream:

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September 30, 1999:

“My dream last night was a [dream I had] dreamt before. It’s when I’m on a swing over train tracks. I almost got hit and then, I wake up.”

This one was really interesting to me, especially considering in recent years I’ve done much research on lucid dreaming and have tried successfully several times to make myself lucid. I even remembered what this dream looked like when I read this! It was something that hadn’t crossed my mind in over a decade and I didn’t even remember that I had recurring dreams at 9 years old. Triptastic.

 

5. A visit from the leaders of the Ursuline sisters to my school.

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Ocotber 8, 1999:

“I thought yesterday was great! Yesterday Sister Letizia and Sister Maria Dolorosa [De La Rosa*] came over to my school. I think they had a great time. I know I did!”

This was a very special day. The leaders of the Ursuline sisters, an international organization of nuns who founded my elementary/middle school St. Philip Neri came to visit the school. My 4th grade teacher was Sister Jeannie, an Ursuline nun who will always have a special place in my heart. She invited me and my classmate/best friend in life Bianca to come have lunch with the Ursuline sisters, one from Indonesia and one from Italy if I remember correctly. Me and Bianca were selected because we had the best grades in Sr. Jeannie’s class. It was a great time and there was even an article in the Roman Catholic local newspaper Catholic New York where Bianca and I were interviewed about the reconstruction of St. Philip Neri Church. I did a lot of internet digging but couldn’t find the article =(.

 

6. My undying love for The New York Yankees and my rivalry with my dad, a life long Mets fan:

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October 13, 1999:

“The Yankees are the best team ever! They’ve won 24 championships and this year ther might win their 25th! My dad says the Mets are better though. But that’s not true. Because the Yankees rule!”

The Subway Series rivalry has been a recurring topic between me and my dad throughout my life. The Yankees went on to win the World Series that year and made it a 3-peat in 2000. They won the whole thing again in 2009. I really hope Derek Jeter can retire on a championship this year.

 

7. My thoughts on the imagination:

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October 18, 1999:

“I use my imagination to do anything or go anywhere. My imagination makes me anything. I can be swimming with the fish or flying with the birds.”

I like this one a lot. By coincidence in recent years I used a similar line as the last sentence in a song I wrote.

 

8. Where I thought I would be at age 28:

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October 27, 1999:

“When I’m 28 I hope to have a nice life. I’d like to have a wife. I think I’ll have a child, too. I’ll have a decent job to support my family; I think being 28 will give me responsibility. I’m sure I’ll be mature enough to handle it . . .”

A surprisingly level-headed and humbling statement to re-read from my 9 year old self.

Who knows? I’ll be 28 in 4 years and usually don’t make plans past a week into the future. In 2018 this might be a reality, but we’ll have to wait and see.

 

9. My plans when I thought about running for President in 2000:

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November 5, 1999:

“If I were President I would make the U.S. the most enjoyable country in the world! I’ll make school fun! For lunch they’ll be McDonald’s food (which will be required by law). Every time someone has to take their child to their job, the kid automatically gets transported to the nearest D.Z. (D.Z. is short for Discovery Zone. This is also required by law.) D.Z. will include laser tag, arcade games and climbing tubes (this is all required by law).”

Dude. Lmfao.

My 9 year old fantasy of being POTUS involves a lot of ridiculously short-sighted executive orders mainly revolving around the happiness of children, which is great; in hindsight however I’m not too sure an exclusive contract between McDonald’s and every school cafeteria in the U.S. is such a great idea. It is a true shame though that Discovery Zone isn’t really around anymore. I was the epitome of a 90’s kid.

 

10. Another really cool one about dreaming:

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November 10, 1999:

“When I sleep, I dream about fantasy worlds, mystical journeys and mythical adventures. I can do anything in my dreams. That means I can do anything, anywhere, anytime, anyplace! But when I wake up it’s all over. But there’s always tomorrow…”

Totally love this entry! It reminds me that as a youngster I was just as much a free spirit as I am now, and wondered about life, dreaming and consciousness even back then. Sankofa in full effect.

 

11. Perfectionism and anxiety over my grades.

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November 17, 1999:

“I hope my report card is wonderful. I usually get good grades, but this is a new teacher I’m dealing with. I’m curious about my report card, but I’m afraid too.”

Another recurring theme in my life: grade anxiety. I love the drawing. Such symbolism. I had nothing to worry about; throughout elementary I school I got straight A’s for the most part. This may have been the trimester where I got first honors in my class. I’ll always remember that not so much for the academic achievement as much for the fact that when I got first honors in the 4th grade it was the only time I outdid my life long friend Bianca in that respect. She usually took first honors and I always got second honors. *Dusts off shoulder*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Drops Mic*

 

 

 

 

12.  A great entry to display on the 4th of July:

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November 19, 1999:

“Life in the colonial times was hard and diffcult. Well, that’s just my opinion. In the colonial times America had just started and they were still under the control of Great Britain. They had a Revolutionary War and to Britain’s surprise, the thirteen colonies won. If the thirteen colonies hadn’t won, we’d be slaves of Great Britain!!”

I made a scared face with the dots on the exlcamation points. I didn’t want to be Great Britain’s slave. Happy Independence Day. LOL

 

13. A weird little piece of flash fiction:

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November 30, 1999:

“One day, Dan Latchmen, the detective, was trying to solve a mystery.

‘There isn’t any clues to this murder,’ he said.

But when he asked a nearby neighbor, he received some information.

‘I saw strange shadows,’ said the neighbor. ‘It looked as if one person threw a bunch of knives at the other person.’

‘Well, do you know who the murderer is or who he is?’ said Dan.

‘Mommy says I shouldn’t talk to strangers,’ said the neighbor.

???The?End???”

I laughed really hard just now while typing this out. Detective Latchmen was on to something there.

 

14/15: My ‘best dream’ and an unusual pet.

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January 4, 2000 (I wrote ‘1999’ out of habit):

“My best dream is when I’m flying with the birds over New York City. I can see everything! A plane passes by. A person inside waves to me. Then I hang on as tight as possible and hitch a ride to Hong Kong!!”

I totally love this. I completely forgot that back then I had dreams of flying on the backs of birds. I’ve had lucid dreams in recent years where I fly like Superman and it is the most amazing feeling. It’s really cool to see that this dream in particular was what I considered to be my ‘best dream’ over 14 years ago. A certain friend of mine would appreciate the reference to Hong Kong ;).

January 5, 2000:

“An unusual pet is an invisible dog.”

I’m not sure if I just didn’t feel like writing much at the moment or if I was just being a smart ass here. Probably a mix of both.

 

16. “I, Ruben Muniz, have a dream . . .”

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January 19, 2000:

“I, Ruben Muniz, have a dream that there will be no more violence on Earth at all. Every gun, rifle or bazooka will be thrown away. Anyone who tries to harm anyone else will be put in jail for 2 years or will pay a fine of $5,000.”

We did a writing exercise around the time of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in which we wrote our own versions of ‘I Have A Dream’. Mine started off with a great topic sentence, but my details on how to achieve world peace may have been a bit off. I don’t know if 2 year prison terms and $5,000 fines would stop violence worldwide, but those damn bazookas have got to go!

 

17. Me definitely being a smart ass:

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February 4, 2000:

“I think we have rules to break them! Just kidding. I really think we have rules because we wouldn’t be sybalized [civilized*]. If there’d be no rules life would be wild and dangerous.”

In the fourth grade I was a top student in terms of academic grades but had one of the worst sets of conduct grades. This was probably around the time I got my report card with A’s down the line in every academic subject with a bunch of C’s and D’s right next to them in the conduct grade chart. I was venting, but I think had just gotten grounded for bad behavior grades even though I had a 90something average.

Could you really blame me?

 

18. ‘Crazy things’ on Valentine’s Day:

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February 14, 2000:

“It’s Valentine’s Day, and crazy things are happening. A kindergardener gave me a valentine, my friend brought his crush a rose, and two other boys are betting who can get a girl first!! Doesn’t love make ya do some stupid things? I think so!”

Lmao. Wise words about love.

 

19. “What did you learn in the fourth grade?”

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June 14, 2000:

“Some things I’ve learned is that you must believe in yourself. You have to give it your all every time and if you fail, try until you succeed.”

This was part of my last and favorite entry in my 4th grade journal. This one left me speechless for all the right reasons. I would say ‘I couldn’t have said it better myself,’ but, yeah.

It was such a humbling experience coming across writings of mine from such a long time ago. Reading through the whole thing and writing this article really reassured me that throughout all my life’s changes, I’m still the same kid at heart. – RSM

 

 

September 11, 2001 Revisited via The 9/11 Memorial Museum

A few weeks ago I went with my father to the 9/11 Memorial Museum at the base of the ‘Freedom Tower,’ the nickname given to the new colossal building at 1 World Trade Center.

It was a more bitter than sweet experience, which of course comes with the territory and history of that tragic day. Everyone who was in New York City on September 11, 2001 has a story to tell, whether they had lost a family member or friend or not. Most stories involve unexpected tragedy at a very unfortunate level. Luckily for me and my family, no one was hurt. I will forever be grateful for that. As for my friends at the time, we were mostly 6th graders in the same school, so it goes without saying we were safe. My uncle had a close call, but a personality trait of his ironically turned what could have been the end of his life into just enough time to get outta Dodge. Here are the details:

My uncle was working nearby the Twin Towers in 2001. He was running late for work that day. I wasn’t surprised to hear this considering he runs late to family gatherings and it has become a running joke that he’s never on time. On 9/11 my uncle walked out of the subway and to his surprise there were hundreds of people, everyone from Wall Street suit looking types to delivery boys running full speed uptown. My uncle was born and raised in the South Bronx and told me he knew from his childhood to run with a big crowd and not against it, because it usually means they’re running from a dangerous situation. He took off with the herd of New Yorkers fleeing lower Manhattan before he even saw or knew what had happened to the towers. He ran for dozens of blocks, and turned on the jets when he saw the flaming North and South towers at a distance. His street smarts and tardiness may have made the difference between life and death on Septmeber 11, 2001.

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The North and South Tower’s last moments standing.

My experience was far less life-threatening than that of my uncle, but of course was not void of shock and awe. Around 9 in the morning my school’s principal announced that there had been a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center via hijacked planes being used as missiles to strike the dual skyscrapers. I remember in my 11 short years thus far I had always called those buildings ‘The Twin Towers,’ and didn’t know they were officially referred to as ‘The World Trade Center’ until that moment. The principal ended his emergency address and after 15-20 minutes of teachers going in and out of the hallways to sort out logistics, another announcement came. The principal then announced that one tower had collapsed, and the other was in flames and on the verge of collapsing. He also announced that the entire student body would be sent home shortly.

I could only imagine how many calls the secretary had to make in the main office, but within half an hour most students had been picked up by a parent or guardian. My mother is a teacher and couldn’t pick us up since her school was following the same protocol with their own students, and my father was on his way to Ground Zero, another new term I learned that day, to aid in sorting through the wreckage as an emergency responder with Con Edison. Since they were busy at work my best friend’s mother picked him and I up as well as his older sister who was in the 8th grade, and stopped by my sister’s high school to pick her up as well. From there, we had a chilled out afternoon at my friend David’s house. The boys played football, the girls watched soap operas and eventually all of us, along with the city and the world were glued to their TVs waiting to see what would unfold un the aftermath of this unprecedented event.

The "Tribute in Light" memorial in the years following 2001.
The “Tribute in Light” memorial in the years following 2001.

Last month the 9/11 Memorial Museum opened up exclusively to first responders. Falling into this category was my dad, who spent weeks as a Con Edison emergency responder at Ground Zero in the Fall of 2001. He invited me to come as his guest.

The mood was very somber within the walls of the new museum. Contained in the sleek walls and shiny new facilities were heavy hearts and teary eyes. One of the things that resonated with me was a pillar with quotations projected onto it that were accompained with voices narrating each one as they were displayed. A barrage of  reactions on the day were brought to life, some as simple as “Oh my God!” to news briefs describing the day.

Another interesting piece I saw was a charred and twisted cylinder of metal, about 15 feet long with a 12 foot diameter more or less. I looked at the sign accompanying the display and was taken aback to learn that this hunk of steel was  small part of the antaenna from one of the fallen towers.

They had a charred ambulance on display as well as about 3/4 of what was left of a firetruck pulled from the wreckage. I honestly did not meditate too long on these two emergency vehicles, because quite frankly, it was way too heartbreaking.

My 2nd favorite part of the day at museum was a room lined with a smiling portrait of every single victim of the attacks. This was room was more sweet than bitter for me. I’m sure if I had directly known one of the 2,900+ faces smiling at me I would not have been able to look around the room with such a positive attitude, but I felt it was a nice touch to show each and every lost life in their Sunday best, smiling.

So many people die of tragedies on a daily basis around the world. It’s nothing new. I did think to myself though that in recent times of emergency in New York City that I have lived through, be it 9/11, The 2003 Blackout, or Hurricane Sandy in 2012, New Yorkers have a talent for coming together in times of need, regardless of any other issue. We have a reputation that precedes us to be fast-talking, tough as nails and often rude city slickers, but when our own streets and neighbors need a hand, New Yorkers are there for each other. With solidarity and reverence in mind it truly warmed my heart to see all the faces of these bright young professionals, building maintenance workers, and especially New York’s Finest and Bravest honored in such a way. I’m not one to usually give compliments to the NYPD, but I will say that every single illuminated face I saw in that room will forever be heroes in my mind.

I thought to myself that of all the tragic events in human history, this one was the most recent one that had affected not so much my life as an individual, but most definitely affected the great megacity where I have always lived and where my heart will always reside. It was nice to see the tradition of New Yorkers coming together and honoring and remembering their fallen sons, daughters, fathers and mothers. I only wish that whatever tragedy may occur anywhere in the future, somewhere there are photos of whoever’s lives were cut short and that they are shown, being happy.

My favorite thing I saw that day was not really a thing, it was a person. My dad, duh! He invited me to the museum with the thought in mind that I would write this article. Although my uncle was the one who had to run for his life, and I am eternally grateful that he came out unscathed, my dad thought of inviting me to the 9/11 Memorial Museum to do what he always has done: to inspire me to write. With this in mind, I only have one picture to display from my trip there. It’s this one:

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As my born and bred Bronxite fingers tap the ending remarks of this article, I find myself wiping tears off my cheeks and ultimately, being grateful.

My dad could have gotten really sick like many others in the years following his work at Ground Zero, but’s he’s as healthy as a suave-looking 56 year old man can be.

My uncle put his son, my cousin and basically my twin, Jason through high school and college, the same high school and college that I attended. My cousin and I graduated together in 2008 and 2012, and are now advancing in our respective careers. My uncle also got married since then and now has a 2nd child, a beautiful little girl, my cousin Layla. None of this may have happened if he had been on time to work that day.

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All in all, I like the name ‘Freedom Tower’ for different reasons than most. If you take a close look at it, the new building at 1 World Trade Center kind of looks like a phoenix-esque combination of the Twin Towers into a brand new, 21st century reincarnation of it’s fallen predecessors.

The way I see it, whenever I look towards lower Manhattan I don’t just see the tallest building in the United States, nor do I see just another Manhattan skyscraper. I see everyone who I saw smiling in the museum who had passed on in the attacks of September 11, 2001. I see New York City reflected in all its posh splendor, it’s dreamy mystique, it’s gritty, hardworking everyday people and everything in between, from Staten Island to my home borough, The Bronx. I see everyone I have ever known or walked by in my life throughout the streets and avenues who survived and now live to tell about their experience that day. New Yorkers, just like me.

When I see the Freedom Tower, I see my family. I see my uncle, who had the biggest brush with danger, and my dad, who brought back his Con Edison helmet to my mom a few days after 9/11 with Bill Clinton’s autograph, as part of a running joke they had about my mom having a crush on the former president. Most of all when I see the Freedom Tower I think about myself, my own life. I think about all the ups and downs, thicks and thins I have been through and how grateful I am that my family and friends made it safely through the events of September 11, 2001. When I look at the Freedom Tower and think of all this, I feel free. I feel free, to worry about my everyday life, my career in music and writing, my family and friends, and I feel free to not worry about someone I had lost that day anymore than the occasional ‘What if?’ Most of all, I feel free to live. Not many people feel this unique freedom I feel when they look at the same building.

In all its infamously tragic events and all that followed as a result, September 11, 2001 will forever live in my mind as the ultimate day of grattiude for all the things I have in my life. I think of all that I have and how close things had come that day to having many of them taken away. When I’m feeling down, all I have to do is look up; it puts me back in a place where I always love to be: a New York state of mind. – 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.