beychella – Homecoming

Finally watched Beyonce’s Homecoming Beychella film. I smiled so much and I cried too. She is hands down the King of the music industry. She will never, ever, ever be overrated. And that is not hyperbole.

She matches her work ethic and perseverance to her talent and beauty, and through this she inspires. Every day we have yet to live is our chance to GIVE IT ALL WE GOT. With my own laziness and self doubt, I wonder where I would be in life if I pushed myself to my limits every single day. I know I can always look to Beyonce as a beacon for motivation.

In her 2016 anthemic single Formation, one of my favorite lyrics is “I just might be a black Bill Gates in the making.” Beyonce is more than a musical superstar. She is a cultural tour de force with a global and multi-generational reach. She not only fully embodies Black Excellence, but she is an inspiration to everyone, regardless of identity, to reach and work for your best self. To be the best version you possible can be. Not everyone can be a Bill Gates in the making. Because ultimately, that is up to us. Only if we push ourselves towards excellence can we reach those stratospheric heights of accomplishment and influence.

My 11th grade History teacher once spoke about Elvis Presley and his global iconic status. He hailed Elvis as someone that united people, whether or not every person was a fan of his music. Because he was just that damn good. He asked us who we thought would be the next Elvis. At the time, I was thinking it was going to be Miley Cyrus. Miley had just started transitioning into her pop career and released “The Climb” for the Hannah Montana movie. It played on every radio station and was clearly an anthem for people of my generation. Fast forward 11 years later, and the only musical artist that has stood the test of time and has gained the respect and admiration from people of all ages, genders, racial backgrounds, religions, sexual orientations, musical tastes, and from musical legends and pop ingenues, is Queen Bey herself. Because she is simply that damn good.

Beychella forever and ever.

View the trailer here.

Thoughts on Weekend

I’ve been meaning to see the film Weekend for a few years now and I just finished watching it. It’s a 2011 British film about two men who meet at a bar on a Friday night and share a profound weekend that stays with them.

The most intriguing aspect of the whole film was its dedication to realism. It almost feels like a documentary. The blueprint for 2013’s Blue Is the Warmest ColourThere is zero romanticized melodrama. No Hollywood shimmer. No love-lorn filters, no soundtrack, or any music to tie it all together. It’s all in the organic performances, the direction, the editing. (I would say the writing, but the actor said most of it ended up being improvised.) It’s as if someone decided to record their entire life with a camera and just happened to capture this one beautiful weekend with a man they had just met. It feels like real life captured on film. Even Blue had low key radiant cinematic vibes.

It raised a lot of questions for me as a gay, hopeless romantic. I identified with both characters’ personality wise. I’m confident, crass, and open in the way Glen was, but I’m also shy, romantic, and I have self doubts like Russell. I keep my private life private mostly because I’ve always been single.

When they first made eye contact with each other at the bar, Glen dropped his gaze and went to the bathroom. Russell followed him there. When I saw that, I thought “That’s me. That’s exactly what I do.” But not quite. It becomes evident that Russell followed Glen to pursue a hook up. I don’t follow men to the bathroom. I don’t follow men in the club hoping to hookup. I follow men because I want to initiate conversation with them and get to know them. When I see someone who catches my eye, I ponder the possibilities of their curiosity for me. I like to follow and see what happens, hoping they see my value. Maybe one of us would be brave enough to start speaking with the other.

Seeing how swiftly their relationship manifested over the course of a single weekend made me wonder if I would ever experience anything similar in my adult life. I know it’s not something I can muster, rather something I would have to experience and stumble into. Like Russell, I want to be in love. I want to be in a relationship. I believe standing up and proclaiming my love for a man is a radical act of love and a “fuck you” to naysayers.

I’m 24 years old, wondering why love is so elusive. I don’t go on dates because I’m not asked on any. In my experience, it never works out when I initiate and ask a guy out. Typically, the guys who make me want to initiate, are the ones I feel are out of my league— guys I feel like I need to prove myself to. It’s a subtle chase and overspending of energy, rather than a balance of mutual interest. When I’m asked out, there’s a comfort in knowing they’re interested enough in me to make the first move and see what else there might be.

I’ve been trying to stay in my own lane, work on myself, and just let it happen when it’s supposed to. But I still struggle with letting go. I’m slowly learning the art of patience, which to me means no more swiping, no more texting, no more making the first move. Move along and let him come to me. Weekend is a stunning film that shows how unexpectedly powerful a connection can be, even for just one weekend. Thank you for the beauty.

Finding The Bright Side to My Four Hour Commute

Commuting to New York is the bane of my existence, as I imagine it would be for anyone who similarly suffers the mind-numbing isolation of sitting pretty on a train for hours at a time. My twice daily trek between the Jersey Shore & Manhattan is an arduous one; I spend nearly four hours getting to and from New York. When you add it all up, that’s 22.5 hours per week, 90 hours per month, and 1,080 hours per year. As much as I cherish my proximity to the sea, commuting from where I live is not a breeze.

My commute is an earthly hell that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Yet despite the cold resentment it’s brewed in me, it can be a slight meditative experience at times. At times, we pass through layers of leaves which rapidly blur into a woodland menagerie. Walls of green encapsulate us in a vision streaming forth. Trees and vines enshroud the shores that lead to the sea and alluring possibilities of escape. In some moments, phones are put down while curious eyes peer out to the horizon, longing for freedom from the stationary. In the morning, sunlight touches our skin and kisses our eyelids— a teasable return to consciousness. In the evening, dreamlike sunsets tell me I’ll be home soon.

The way we rush past scenery in nature whilst on a train mirrors the way our commute forces us to rush past the scenery in our natural lives. At home with family and friends. But beneath our grievances is a slightly soothing truth: I’m not the only one who sacrifices precious time and money to travel day in, day out. It’s calming to know that I share my commute with others.

Our collective nature to commiserate is in some ways a blessing. When I step onto the train early in the morning and see rough and familiar faces, my aching body exhales a sigh of relief that I’m not alone. It’s more than a gesture of coffee and pastries. Something in the morning air unites our consciousness, allowing sparkles of comfort to proliferate our daily travels.

Though no one speaks, I’ve grown somewhat attached to my company. I wonder what everyone does for a living, how long they’ve been commuting for, and if they ever think about me. When I notice someone is missing in the morning or heading home, I wonder what might have happened. Perhaps they missed their train, or were working late. Or maybe they quit their job or got a new one. Better yet, perhaps they saved enough money or received a promotion that allowed them to move closer to their work.

By the end of the day, it’s painful knowing we share more time with each other riding a train than we do with our loved ones. It’s unfathomable that some people have been doing this for years. But there’s still something delicate about sharing an experience that requires us to relinquish much control of our lives. For as long as I must bare NJ transit, I’m thankful for the people who make the trek just a bit more comfortable.

Featured image by Jörg Schubert.

Formation Conversation

It’s 2016. Why does the thought of diversity and the fact that people of color (like me) are fighting to achieve equality and representation, anger so many white people? If you live with a “color blind” perspective, then you will fail to see systemic discrimination and inequality as it stares at you in your own community. Unfortunately, people of color cannot yet afford to exist without consciousness of their color. I have harboured internalized contempt towards my own Filipino, queer identity because of the normalized perceptions of Asian people paraded by mainstream white society. When Kristen Stewart told entertainers of color to “Do something!” she failed to realize that we always are, but aren’t given the same amount of opportunities. Which is why we have resorted to our own means and I hope our success continues to grow. But generally speaking, we still need help. We need white people to realize that not everything plays out equally for everyone else, even from the start.

When discussing privilege, it seems that many white people only view it in a financial sense. But for people of color, it encompasses all boundaries in a socio-political cultural sphere. Even a friend of mine who is half white, half POC failed to acknowledge this. But that’s our reality. We all have internalized a false perception of where we belong in society. I’ve internalized that in a hierarchy of POC, blacks are at the bottom, Asians are at the top, and as long as I have my (still unfair) share, I’m cool with it. *Wrong.* This is still wrong. This is the systemic mental process that needs to go. I try to pull back from these seedlings of thought daily and I’m getting better.

To whomever is reading, please think deeper. Challenge your perceptions. Help us all get better and reach more equal footing in society.
*Final note, read The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.*
Now let’s get in formation.

Today is my birthday

1-25-2016. I’m another year older. Another year clueless. But, I have a more tangible insight as to where my life is going and how I’m getting there. 2015 was not glamorous by any means (besides my trips to the Philippines and to Baltimore with my girls). In fact it was probably one of the worst years of my life, if not the worst. Contrast that to the previous year, 2014, which was undoubtedly the best year of my life. The year of travel, freedom, soulful luxury and wholeness. I felt more sure of my identity than ever before. My end to 2014 and beginning to 2015 were magical. I was able to spend time with some of the people who mean the most to me. For my birthday last year, I got to see some of them in the same room interacting with one another, meeting each other. I love bringing brilliant people together. People I believe in, people who believe in me. After they left I thought about what 2015 would bring; I never felt more unsure in my life. Regardless, I was elated by them caring enough for me to come together and celebrate.

In 2015, I experienced an arduous job searching stupor (still kind of am) which featured very promising interviews and interactions, but outcomes that were only semi-fruitful and not enough. I often felt choked betwixt the layers of reality and fantasy. Doubtful about choosing the necessary evils that would ultimately help me reach my dreams. For the record, I still plan on pursuing an acting career. Where and exactly when I will actively begin my journey is unknown to me (currently leaning towards NYC, who’s with me?). However, I am super close to paying off my student loans and once that happens, I immediately plan on saving enough money to seek the life my soul aches for.

Other things happened last year that I don’t wish to disclose as I don’t wish to reflect on them any further. But I’m praying to God that 2016 is much better. Please God let it be. I now know though, that we’re all on a journey together. I’ve come to realize that I need to constantly work at being who I want to be. It’s not a dream anymore. I’m not a kid in school. It’s become my concrete reality and my youth is gliding on the ice. One of my resolutions for the new year is to say yes to things, invitations, people, I normally would say no to. My world has been too controlled by me thus far. I want to broaden it and my experiences, the depths of my senses and relationships. You never know who you’ll meet or what you’ll learn.

Studying in Jerusalem taught me the importance of being open to opportunities. When I went to my first ever strip club in Tel Aviv, I initially refused because it wasn’t how I imagined my first experience to unfold. I was with two friends and we had just come from swimming in a gym pool- my hair was dry and unkempt, I was wearing the most basic jeans and a pull over hoodie. This was not how I wanted to feel or look entering a strip club for the first time! But I was convined to stay by one of my friend’s friends. As he introduced himself to me, he looked me right in my eyes and shook my hand, he kept his eyes on me and didn’t let go of my hand. I complained to him how crappy I looked. “You’re hot. You should see how the other guys look,” he replied. My jaw dropped on the inside and all of a sudden I felt ready to go 🙂

I guess this birthday blog post is basically about me using lessons I learned in 2014 and 2015 to guide my 2016. Which actually means I should relinquish some control. This year I want to work harder and stay more focused, but it’s time to let things happen! Let happiness happen. Let simplicity happen. Let love happen. Let friendship happen. Let boredom happen. Let it all happen. But then deal with it. Analyze it. Move on. Start over. 12 months to go. I hope I’ll see you there. xo

Pussy Scream

Throw me in the whore house.
Collecting stds.
He looked at my grapefruits crusting over,
I said honey you don’t want these.

I see men by the hour.
Trying to dazzle me with false power.
One brought me a flower.
I left it wilting in the shower.
We were in the lonely hour,
Reminiscing upon time lost and silent regret.
He said “Baby I’m sorry, you can’t even get wet.”
But oh he was wrong, the tear flow was strong.
My face was soaked with the ghosts
I kept to myself.

He tried to put his cock in my mouth
But I wouldn’t allow it.
So we lit up a smoke and he told some bad jokes.
About a woman named Sally, a prude little queen.
To her suitors she was mean. They only wanted the green.
Their eyes gazed diamonds and her pussy pristine.
She made them fuck off saying “Bitch I am me!”
Sally went home that night to her pretty pink palace.
She fingered her cooch and screamed “Yea I’m da baddest.”

Happiness is real. I know one day I’ll fine it.
When I get out of here, I hope to God I won’t be blinded.
I’ll find a doctor and I won’t suck his dick.
If he pull it out and play with it, I won’t even lick.
I’ll get a new job brewing coffee for the joes.
I won’t even slap my own ass or think I’m a ho.
But you know what I’m ready for?
To treat my stds and make my own pussy scream.

 

Artwork: Hypnotic Circle by Lucas Lasnier (parbo art)- https://www.flickr.com/photos/parboart/

How to Survive Black Thanksgiving as a Non-Black Guest

this made me happy. will a black family please invite me?

Afroculinaria

How to Survive Black Thanksgiving: A Users Manual for Non-Black Guests/In-Laws and Black Folks that Don’t Have No Home Training, I.E. Culture

(HUMOR AND SATIRE TRIGGER WARNING)

1. DO NOT arrive empty handed to Black Thanksgiving. Store bought isn’t great, but if you aren’t sure how Black holiday food works, it’s better than getting the church lady look when you bring candied parsnips over. See rule 2.)

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2. The answer is ALWAYS sweet potatoes. Neauxp, no pumpkin, parsnips, rutabagas, butternut squash, nah-unh…sweet potatoes aka “yams.” (Not really yams)

3. As with our close cousin “Southern White Thanksgiving,” we don’t call cornbread “stuffing,” stuffing….we call it “dressing.” Calling it “stuffing,” is a dead giveaway you don’t know the quality of what you brought over. Throw that boxed stuff away.

4.  Bruce Almighty (wink wink) didn’t create “yams,” De Lawd did, so buy the ones that don’t come in a can when…

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Fantastical Girls

Leaves of Havana
Blessing skin in the morning
With the breeze and sunlight
Feeling free to touch.

Bells chime and signal
The turns of the sea
And the ending pages of summer.
God promised we were safe.
I believe.

Romantic failures subside. We get by;
There’s still more promise
In the fruits of the garden.
Bewildered, breath stolen,
In each other’s arms.
Lost in the streets in adoration
Of the magic that could transpire at night.
Moments that we least expect
Reflecting off of Rhinestones and Remedies.


You are the girls I’ve been waiting for.
Praying as if children,
As if drunken,
As if in love.
Romance radiating in our vibrating voices.
Collecting in pools,
Blue and grey.
Swirling throughout theories of misery.
Diamond eyes and sincere smiles
Never fade but the songs we listen to.
We forget the kind gestures of strangers at bars, who stare
Whimsically within what we present as our souls.
Be they enlivened and feverish from the nocturnal essence
We evoke. Hallucinatory yet not absinthe or leaves of grass.
But bitchy and Vogue, urban and glamorous.
We are free people,
But we choose the party and deny the cars.
Because only once in a while do we give real chances to people who don’t understand,
Nor could ever dance to our rhythms
Of who we are and what we want.

Mashrou’ Leila / “One Night Project”

Tonight I got to experience something I wrote on my bucket list ever since I returned home after studying abroad in Jerusalem, and that is, I saw Mashrou’ Leila in concert. Mashrou’ Leila are a one of a kind indie band from Lebanon whose musical themes explore sex, sexual identity, politics, and other issues often deemed “controversial” since being based in the Middle East.

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Their lyrics exist as reactions that create reactions within the generally conservative political framework of the Arab world and music scene. The lead singer, Hamed Sinno, is everyone’s dream husband, including mine.

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J
ust look at him honestly.

I discovered them through an Arab girl I met in Jerusalem, a friend of a friend. I asked her to share Arab music with me and they were the first band she played for us. They were the band she was most excited about and as I continued listening to them and discussed them with other Arab friends, I understood why. They sing for the dreams of the modern Arab youth and their music, message, and poetry reflect the modern mindset that seeks higher purpose and equality in the Arab world. They evoke musical complexities, painting multi-dimensional states of being that smash cardboard stereotypes of what it means to be an Arab according to Western perspectives. They are quite simply, my favorite band that hails from the Middle East and perhaps my favorite indie band to date because of what they represent. Their spirit clangs with the rebel inside me. Their beats, their coos, their rhythms stimulate a feeling of rebelliousness and adventure. Unfortunately, their violinist Haig, was not available to join them because of crappy visa issues. He will receive his visa in time to perform for the rest of the tour dates however.
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Tonight was their debut U.S. performance which took place in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism as part of a conference entitled Alternative Narratives of the Middle East. From the website:

“The premise of the conference is that the primary western narrative concerning the Middle East often casts those who live there as simply perpetrators or victims of violence. This immense oversimplification can have significant impact on both foreign policy and the treatment of diaspora communities.

The event will highlight best practices and offer guidance to journalists and journalism students on covering the people of the region in ways that move beyond the recurring conflict motifs to reveal the diversity and complexity of world views and lived experiences of those in the region.”

I RSVP’ed to the morning conference but ended up only going to the evening panel + concert instead. It was really grounding and motivational to hear the band speak with such grace and awareness about the effects of their music. Hamed may be the most intelligent lead singer I have ever seen or heard. He spoke with all the cues of an academic, social justice advocate mixed with nervousness and an unforgettably cute and dorky quality unique to him. At one point, the moderator of the evening panel, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, said “it must take balls to write and sing about sex the way you do, especially being in the Middle East” and Hamed responded “or a really kick ass pair of ovaries.” Snaps, claps, shouts around the room. He is also an awesome and honest feminist. The most endearing part of the show was when Hamed said “I want to play in Palestine.” My heart melted, because of course, my heart always melts for Palestine, since many of my friends are Palestinian. The band went on to say that they tried performing in Syria in 2011, but things started getting bad, and they tried performing at the border of Syria and Lebanon but they sadly lost contact with the person who was organizing it. They hope to eventually play places like Syria and Palestine and bridge their fans in the Arab world.

Now on to the concert. Unsurprisingly, many of the attendees were Arab, but there was a surprising amount of people that were not. I saw whites, asians, some blacks, most likely people who were aware of who they are and what they do. They played so many of their amazing songs including Lil Watan, which he dedicated to his close friends and family that were in the audience tonight as well as all the Lebanese in the house.

They played their newest single 3 Minutes, which reminds me of an Arabic Justin Timberlake record.

Their own version of Get Lucky.

And even an Arabic version of Toxic by Britney Spears. When they announced their last song, it really was their last song. We all called for an encore and shouted “Leila, Leila, Leila.” But when they returned to the stage, they said they really couldn’t play more songs because it would be a disaster since they were having technical difficulties. Hamed’s earphones were broken so he couldn’t hear himself or the music, and the left stage speaker was going in and out. So we all reluctantly left, but with smiles on our faces.

At the end of the show, I looked around at the audience to gauge whether some of them were trying to stay and see if they would come out and meet their fans– One of my friends who saw them in Italy told me to wait after the show because the band meets with their fans. However, it didn’t look like it was going to happen so we just left. My sister and I followed some girls through what we thought was an exit, but happened to be the backstage area where the band was staying and preparing, and obviously retreated to after the show. We were stopped by one of the employees who said we were only allowed back there if we had bracelets, which was news to me because I never read about special backstage bracelets on the website or event page on Facebook. When we turned around to go through the regular exits, I looked back and saw a girl with a painted t-shirt, sneak back into the backstage area. I hope she got through. We on the other hand, left the building and decided to eat pizza. Outside of the building, I asked a Columbia security guard about the nearest pizza place and he told me how to get to Coronet. Before heading there, we decided to walk around the Columbia campus and almost immediately after we passed through the gates, on our left was a man standing outside of what obviously had to be the Miller Theatre where Mashrou’ Leila just performed, still wearing his stage outfit and distinct red jacket. It was Hamed Sinno. He called out to us from across the grass pathway and asked if any of us had a lighter. I remember meekly saying “no” in response. Then Micah told me she had matches and I asked her if she thought we should go to him. He was standing with an older man by the door, a back entrance to the theatre, surrounded by absolutely no one. The opportunity was ripe, the answer was obviously yes. So we went around the long grass pathway and Micah got her matches out to hand to him. As we approached him, the older man who was with him went back inside and now two other girls were standing with him while I was thinking of what to say beyond hello. Micah extended her matches towards him and he thanked her and told us that his cousin was walking around with a lit cigarette and that he didn’t need her matches anymore. After we said hello, he reached out his hand and said “Hello, I’m Hamed.” I shook his hand and said my name, clearly in awe of his presence. I told him how amazing he was and how much I loved his music. I told him that I was wondering if he was going to come out and meet his fans after the show, because that’s what my friend told me who saw him in Italy, and he sort of laughed and said “That’s a thing?” I felt I was getting uglier every second that passed standing in front of him. I said that I loved his moves, that he can dance. I told him that he is the ultimate package: that he can sing, he can write, he’s intelligent, he can dance, he has style, but I was too shy to say he was beautiful as well. Then another larger group of 7 or so people came and chatted for a moment. A woman who was clearly the leader of the group led the conversation with Hamed and told him to stop smoking. When the group left, I asked for a picture with him. Micah took a couple, then I said to make sure the lighting was good. I asked him if he didn’t mind taking more just to make sure, and he didn’t. So we turned around and angled ourselves and I put my arm around him as he just stood there with his hands in his pockets– classic Hamed. “Wait, this is awkward because I’m touching you and you aren’t touching me,” I joked. Eventually he put his arm around me and we took more photos. Then I asked one of the girls to take a picture of me, Micah, and him. After all the photographs, I said “I’m sad you didn’t play Shim el Yasmine. It’s my favorite song.” He said that it was his favorite song too and that they will play it in the upcoming shows. He asked if we were coming to any more and I said I was going to the one on Halloween. Soon enough, he expressed he wanted to go back inside to spend time with his family. We thanked him for meeting us, for the pictures, and the beautiful night of music. Thank you so much Hamed and the rest of Mashrou’ Leila. You are so incredible, incredibly superior, lovely, phenomenal. ❤
Mashrou’ Leila might be a one night project, but Part II happens Oct. 31.

Check out my favorite song by them, Shim el Yasmine, or Smell the Jasmine.

Breathing room for all my stories.