I had a moment recently.
Don't be alarmed, I haven't gone lockdown crazy just yet (although there has been an occasional day or two where the walls felt like they were closing in and I was all but ready to flee the country to some land far, far away). This was something different. I lit a cigar - fresh out of the humidor - poured a little wine and headed towards the backyard to catch the long-awaited sunset and a hopeful summer breeze - as mosquitoes and other insect (serving no purpose to the world) treated my legs like their last supper.
In my hand - my cellphone, on my screen - YouTube. I was feeling nostalgic and decided to take a trip down memory lane. Brainstorming, if you may. All the way to the early 2000s - somewhere around 2000-2003 to be exact. For those who don't know, I am usually STRICTLY 80s and 90s and will vouch for those decades any day of the week - doesn't matter the genre (well, everything except Country. It simply wasn't a preference of mine). My 'Life Soundtrack,' so to speak, revolves around Soft Rock, 80s New Wave/Pop/Rock/R&B, 90s Alternative Rock/Pop/R&B/Hip Hop. Personally, I don't know where I'd be without 90s Hip-Hop (preferably the 'Golden Era' of the mid 90s. Oh, how I miss it!). Nonetheless, I scrolled through a few videos from the early 2000s and that's when it dawned on me:
This is one of the most underappreciated eras in music history!
I nodded my head to a few songs featuring Lil' Jon, because if you didn't know, Crunk Music was all the rage at one point. I wasn't too fond of the genre at the time of its existence, but lord knows I'd do just about anything to hear a 'YEEEEAAAAAAA!' or 'OKAAAAYYY!' from Lil' Jon right now. Southern music was in such high demand, I even considered moving to Atlanta (or somewhere along the Southeast) to be apart of it. It was THAT real. Their artists did a magnificent job with capturing my imagination on southern life and I was sold that this NYC boy could make the transition.
Meanwhile, also fighting for my listening ear on this hot summer evening were Virginia's own, the Neptunes.
Sidenote: If you can find a bigger Neptunes' fan than me, point him/her out immediately.
WHERE TF ARE THE NEPTUNES?! HAS ANYBODY SEEN THEM?!
Pharrell Williams/Chad Hugo & the rest of the crew have left me high & dry. I understand they had a masterful decade plus run (and I contributed greatly to the bank accounts of most of the artists they worked with), but what gives on their current disappearing act? I am truly bothered by this.
I took a few pulls from my cigar while Babyface 'There She Goes' blared in my ear (even the GREAT Babyface reached out to the Neptunes - Babyface doesn't have to reach out to ANYONE. That certainly speaks volumes). Next up: 'Please Don't Mind' by a group then known as Philly's Most Wanted (another BIG tune and great album that I can still play in 2020). Before you know it, I was on a roll:
Ray J Ft. Lil' Kim - 'Wait a Minute'
T.I. Ft. Beenie Man - 'I'm Serious'
Beenie Man Ft. Janet Jackson - 'Feel It Boy'
Usher - 'U Don't Have to Call'
Clipse - 'Grindin'
Jay-Z - 'Excuse Me Miss'
NSYNC Ft. Nelly - 'Girlfriend' (Remix)
LL Cool J - 'Luv U Better'
Snoop Dogg - 'Beautiful'
Such epic songs, ALL produced by the Neptunes.
I looked around the backyard to make certain I wasn't making a fool out of myself while attempting a poor Star Trek Vulcan hand gesture - something Pharrell and others did so effortlessly to show their allegiance to Star Trak (their former record label). Admittedly, almost 20 years later and I STILL can't make my fingers configure that way smh...
I understand music is ever-changing and I am fully aware of the short shelf-life of most artists. But we're talking about the Neptunes here. One of the best production duos in the history of music. If you don't believe me, ask Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Mystikal, Noreaga (N.O.R.E.), Gwen Stefani and a gang of others who shared chart topping success courtesy of Virginia's Finest (neck and neck with Timbaland and Teddy Riley, some would argue). Why couldn't the Neptunes have a lifespan as long as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis? If Pharrell and Chad gracefully bowed out of their illustrious music careers to pursue other life-long goals, kudos to them. But if I can be selfish for a moment - couldn't they add a couple of hits per year for the sake of humanity? (or, perhaps just me). I wouldn't care if they banged on a table for 3 mins long, rest assure the song would be a bonafide hit!
Try to forget the fashion of the early 2000s (if you can); the oversized tees, throwback jerseys, and jeans baggy enough to fit a few toddlers into a single pant leg. As far as music goes, that time period has to be included in the conversation of greatest musical eras. No debate. Do a quick Google search if your memory gets the best of you and see for yourself. Nothing but classics generating from that timeline.
The world is a much different place now. 2020 has been nothing short of dreadful for many and with the exception of a few artists, the music has been just about as pitiful as the day is long. Typically, everyday is 'turn-back-the-clock' day for yours truly. Whether it's due to watching an old movie or reflecting on life, I can promise you it stems from a time when music captivated my soul. It's what I call my 'happy place' - a method used to escape the madness of today. Just leave me there with my music of old. I promise you I'll be okay.
Thank you, Pharrell & Chad, for all that you've done.
Once Upon a Time
Around this time last year, I wanted to challenge myself by trying my hand in the blue-collar field. Fresh off a year-long break where I cheerfully worked from home to focus on my first book and the perils of self-publishing (running away from a career in corporate at the speed of light), I thought of the brilliant idea of applying to Amazon and becoming a part-time delivery driver. What did I have to lose? I'd become my own boss for over a year, mentally unprepared to relinquish that title, so this job was about as close to it as I could get. As per Amazon drivers I've encountered over the years:
"With this job, there isn't anyone standing over you. You kinda just drive and do your own thing."
Say no more!
I gave it the 'ol college try and actually enjoyed it - EXCEPT for:
Those days where temperatures soared to the upper 90s and I was sweating like Patrick Ewing at the free throw line; or when routes took me into the woods, apartment buildings without elevators or downtown districts where parking was limited (if I took too long making my way around the building I'd usually be greeted with a traffic ticket from an unforgiving cop - deducted from your paycheck, might I add); or better yet, those glorious days being assigned to deliver in sketchy neighborhoods, (holding my urine) where the only time I felt safe was inside of my truck pulling off 🤦🏾♂️
Oh, the memories...
Keep in mind, I'm a NYC guy - born and raised - having lived through the grittiness of the 80s and early 90s. I'd like to think I've seen and dealt with EVERYTHING. But life as an Amazon delivery driver is a different animal. Imagine dropping off packages in the 'hood, with onlookers commonly advising that you not leave items at the doorstep of a customer who wasn't home? Ummm, isn't that what DELIVERING is all about?
"YO! I wouldn't do that if I were you. It ain't gonna be there when they get back!"
All in a day's work, but in the end, I didn't have the mental capacity to deal with the chaos, nor was my body cut out for the day to day grind no matter how much of a gym rat I'd become over the years. I'd arrive home, drenched, drained, battered and bruised... like boxing against the '88 version of Mike Tyson. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved the freedom of a driver, frequently visiting the exquisite homes of some handsomely-paid individuals, but after a couple of months, I waved the white flag. No mas!
The moral of the story is, I had the ability to leave on my own and was very fortunate not to skip a beat concerning household expenses. Unfortunately, there are many people currently working frontline jobs who can't afford to get out of the line of fire so easily. This is how they survive and feed their families. Besides, finding a new job probably isn't the easiest of things right now. The eye-popping issues I'd encounter during my trial-run as a driver is considered child's play compared to those who deal with this five, sometimes six days a week - on top of working through the current Covid-19 pandemic. We can't forget about them.
I am here to tell you first hand, delivery driving isn't some walk-in-the-park job. It isn't as simple as driving at your own leisure, delivering packages while whistling The Andy Griffith Show theme song. Sorry. You're dealing with all types of people, scenarios, visiting all types of environments - 365 days of the year. The job never ends - pandemic and all. The next time we think about throwing a fit because our packages weren't "delivered on time," let's take some time by putting things in its proper perspective. Probably NOW more than ever.
ANYTHING But 'Tiger King!'
While many of us are stuck in quarantine looking for an escape, sadly, it appears the world (or maybe just celebs and regular folk in general) have gone Tiger King crazy in the process. Why? What's the appeal and how can we make it stop?
As you can detect, Can I Be Ernest? is not a fan; admittedly, I haven't watched a single episode. Am I being judgemental? Guilty as charged! What do I have against Tiger King? Quite frankly, I haven't figured it out. If I had to take a guess, it probably stems from how quickly society has gravitated towards the series, while other explosive programs on the popular streaming service have gone unnoticed. In other words, this is all of YOUR fault!
What's the fascination for idiots who collect, abuse and exploit wild animals (the apparent premise of Tiger King) when there are other shows on Netflix highlighting the abuse and exploitation of HUMAN life (remember us?). Am I missing something? It further proves that our current climate is a 'monkey see, monkey do' one. Probably now more than ever. Once there's an "influential" voice stamping their approval of anything, whether it's fashion, lifestyle, or something unexpected... like NETFLIX SHOWS, we tend to bite the bait and lose all site of subjectivity. Seemingly, 34.3 million people watched Tiger King on its opening week. Everyone except for me, of course.
With hopes of grabbing your attention to a few of Netflix's other featured choices, this is where I direct you to my list. Unbeknownst to me, many of these docu-series/documentaries were released a few years ago (before being added to Netflix), quite possibly the lone reason they've gone unmentioned. However, they are now widely available to the viewing audience and the impact can be felt today, tomorrow, forever...
3) Wild Wild Country- A powerful documentary about a controversial Indian guru, his cult-like following and their vigorous influence over a community in Wasco Country, OREGON (bet you didn't see that one coming). It's a 6-part series sure to keep you glued to the screen.
2) One of Us- As someone who grew up in NYC where there's a strong Hasidic Jewish presence, I've always been mildly intrigued by their community and mystified by their lifestyle. This film covers that, documenting three former members of the Brooklyn Hasidic community and their struggles after opting out of the group. Each story reveals explosive details, uncovering some hidden truths that are sure to blow you away.
1) LA 92- If you're a fan of Los Angeles inner-city culture, palm trees and Jheri curls, I'd suggest you watch this documentary. The film dissects the infamous Watts Riots of 1965, the election of a particular state official, the shooting of Latasha Harlins and of course, the Rodney King beating (by members of the LAPD captured on film) catapulting the violence and rioting thereafter. Personally, the images of this film were powerful enough to win every cinematic award there is. In fact, I plan on re-watching it over the weekend. You can feel the emotions through the screen, leaving you at times incensed yet saddened; hopeless yet consciously aware. Not only does the acquittal of the officers still amaze me (although it probably shouldn't), but the fact this incident happened nearly 30 years ago! feeling like it was only yesterday). Where has the time gone?
LA 92 is a sad reminder of the blatant social injustice many people of color encounter here in America, but it is certainly a must-see for those of you who weren't alive at the time or perhaps living under a rock.
Take THAT, Tiger King!
Let's just say 2020 has gotten off to a pretty good start! Minus recent dental work (my 2nd root canal in less than a year - lucky me), I've had quite a few things to smile about. A renewed interest in blogging is one, followed by the possibilities of finally setting up a home office in the very near future (more on that in a later blog). But absolutely NOTHING has made me happier than spotting the return of Arby's fish sandwiches!
As I was driving home the other day, something took over me while passing an Arby's restaurant. Plastered in big, bold lettering across their drive-thru menu was a fish ad. Was I seeing things? Could it be?! YES!
Seemingly losing all control, like a madman in need of a fix, I promptly busted a U-Turn, tires screeching, entering the drive-thru...
Drive-thru voice: *Singing an Arby's Fish Sandwich Jingle*
Welcome to Arby's, can I take your order?
Me: Good Evening, can I please have two crispy fish sandwiches?
Drive-thru voice: I'm sorry, Sir, can you repeat that?
Me: Yes, two crispy fish sandwiches, that's all...
Drive-thru voice: *Inaudible sound*
Me: *Losing patience*
Drive-thru voice: I'm sorry, Sir, can you repeat that once more?
Me: *Sigh*... TWO CRISPY CHICKEN SANDWICHES, MAN!
Drive-thru voice: Two crispy chickens? Is that all?
Let's just say that exchange didn't go all too well, but I didn't allow my lack of patience to get the best of me. I left Arby's in total bliss - two crispy FISH sandwiches in tow and they were ALL MINE!
I would love an explanation as to why certain fast food chains only provide their most favorable sandwiches seasonally (cut that shit out!). I mean, is there some type of "fish shortage" from spring to December preventing Arby's from possibly depleting my bank account? Is there some type of "beef shortage" putting a stop to Mc Donald's selling their infamous McRib sandwich year round? (the McRib sounds gross, but plenty of people vouch for it). Can you imagine if Burger King experienced a "burger shortage?" Popeye's/KFC dealing with a "chicken shortage?" The whole world would go mad! But when Arby's fish sandwiches go M.I.A., not a single word. Somebody get Ving Rhames on the phone!
Okay, I'm done here.
Giving 2019 a Swift Kick in the A**
My apologies for leaving you all high & dry. I'll try to do better.
On a personal note, 2019 goes down as one of THE WORST years to date. There was the passing of my grandmother - which I don't think I'll ever truly get over - coupled with a few life changing events, but in hindsight, there were PLENTY of life lessons which I fully intend to carry forth into 2020 and beyond. Because as we all know, everything happens for a reason.
I am back in my happy place, meaning more content (check out my new YouTube page), more blogs (even if the current population HATES to read), and in due time, my 2nd book. I am not much of a 'Resolutions' guy; admittedly, I set goals DAILY, but I am truly optimistic that 2020 will be a joyous ride. Here's hoping you experience the same 🥂
Architecture Gone Wrong
WHAT IS THIS?! Better yet, WHY would anyone spend over $2000 a month to live in this excuse of a apartment building (strangely resembling a penitentiary) found on the Upper West Side of Manhattan?
NYC has done it again, overpricing tenants with this semi-new high-rise (built only a couple of years ago), selling them on yet another luxury apartment. One that offers close proximity to famous landmarks, spectacular views and the feeling of exclusivity.
Nevermind the nearby fire station with fire trucks regularly blaring sirens in the wee hours of the morning, the lack of a washer/dryer in each unit, a decent neighboring pizza shop, a friggin' supermarket or the limitations on street parking. No. That's unimportant to today's pool of young tenants whose only objective is to experience NYC and all its luxury. P.S.199, my old elementary school, is a few blocks away from this eye sore - still hanging on by a thread - surrounded by towering buildings (some newly built) since my carefree days of crushing homeruns in the school yard. I can remember a time when crafty-imaginative adults and senior citizens roamed and I proudly called this neighborhood home. More important? Everything was within reach. In fact, there were TWO pizza shops found within the same radius! How about that? Now, it's flooded with more out-of-towners, ugly buildings, cranes, scaffolding and a massive Apple store that is seemingly out of place. Perhaps it's me who doesn't belong - and that's why I said hello to Suburbia almost 15 years ago 🖕🏾🖕🏾
Ella Fitzgerald Would Be Proud... I Think
'Blue Skies,' was a feel good tune performed by Ella Fitzgerald (click on her name to listen), but I DON'T think she had this in mind. The proximity of the planes caught me off guard, so I snapped away. Minutes later, there were more trails in the sky (all gathered around the sun) and before long, an overcast.
I took some more pics, but didn't find them as blatant as the one above. In the words of Elmer Fudd- "There's something awfully screwy going on around here..."
Probably The Most Eventfully Boring Month On The Calendar
It all started with Black History Month, the Superbowl and Groundhog's Day (ugh!), followed by my birthday where I experienced a nagging toothache (lasting through the month) and finally, pitchers & catchers reporting to Spring Training. But here comes the caveat. There's the incredibly lame Grammy Awards (sadly, the Oscars are in a few days), the joke of a day called Valentine's Day, the dreadful NBA All-Star Game, and the Jussie Smollett fiasco (what an absolute mess that case has turned into). To top it off, February is the month I found out they're re-making a childhood favorite movie: Child's Play. For the love of God, NO! That was the straw that broke the camel's back; I'm absolutely DONE with Hollywood!
Can you imagine if February had 31 days?! The world would go mad!
I'm baaaack! Back to writing about the things many of you THINK about, yet carefully store in a safe place. Not me. I promise to be more active on this blog... as soon as Bryce Harper signs with an effin' team. My predictions so far have been on the money just a tad bit. Machado did in fact sign with a National League team (as I predicted), signing with the San Diego Padres for 10 years/300 Million (so I guess my dreams of seeing Harper in a Padres uniform are out of the question, unless, the Padres are willing to sign TWO players for 300 mil... not inconceivable, just plain 'ol dumb). My Spidey senses continue to tell me he'll sign with an out-of-the-blue team. All signs continue to point to the Philadelphia Phillies, but I say no. I'm going out on a limb with this, but Harper signs with the... *drumroll*
Anyway, enough baseball talk for now - they'll be plenty of time for that (yes, I am gearing up for yet another fantasy baseball season *rubbing hands*). Stay tuned for more nonsense. I'll be posting an Academy Awards themed blog shortly. March couldn't get here any sooner.