Summer is Almost Gone
I'd be lying if I said the summer of 2020 has been one of my most memorable summers. Deeply missed were my multiple beach visits (only one to speak of so far), visits to NYC walking through the bustling city streets, road trips, concerts, and dining out, however, it wasn't all too bad. I managed to adjust to everything EXCEPT wearing a face covering (after all, who really wants to cover their face in 90+ degree heat?) and I picked up quite a few recipes along the way.
Naturally, like most, I was (and remain) saddened, angered, confused by the chaos involving law enforcement and people of color - specifically, Black men. Nothing makes sense to me. I don't think it ever will. As someone who enjoys putting his brain to use, once I find myself struggling to figure out a solution, I feel completely worthless, useless, almost defeated in a way. But there I sat, in front of my television like the rest of America, soaking in images of a tumultuous summer thinking about those closest to me and their safety/feelings as we bared witness to an ugliness that has plagued this country since its inception. A year which has seen almost EVERYTHING happen in succession, without an apparent end in sight, I quickly realized how unhealthy this was to the mind and soul. If you're a sufferer of anxiety or can't get a solid grip of your emotions, I'd advise you tap into yourself with some prayer/meditation and overall quiet time. No electronics (unless it calls for some soothing tunes - preferably an instrumental), no background noise, just complete silence in a closed room for no more than 10 minutes. Simply shut off your brain and take deep breaths. It'll do wonders.
Here on out, make certain to take control your life (and not allow the news to control IT) to the best of your ability. If you find yourself getting too caught up in the day to day affairs of the world, shut off your battery (brain) and get a nice recharge going. We have roughly three weeks of summer left - 2020 is winding down. Get out there, get some sun and stay safe!
RIP: Chadwick Boseman/John Thompson/Clifford Robinson
As someone who looks to keep the mood light; the vibes right, I'd be remiss not to discuss the significance of the subject title above. Today, 8-24 (the former jersey numbers of Bryant), has been declared 'Kobe Bryant Day' in Ocean County, California, to commemorate the NBA Icon who tragically passed away earlier this year following a horrific helicopter crash. Bryant would've turned 42 yesterday.
During our recent lockdown, where the majority of the country had nothing but time to spare, I did a little binge watching of Kobe highlights and interviews; still in awe of his greatness on the court, still in utter disbelief about his chilling death. Taking a moment to reflect, Bryant's passing hit me in a way I could've never imagined. Why, you ask? Well, for those interested in finding out about how my fandom began I ask that you click on the link below:
I've never been the starstruck type; celebrities are people just like you and I, but for tears to overflow for a man I never met a day in my life was something different. Just the year before, I was greatly bothered by Nipsey Hussle's murder, someone I'd finally warm up to musically after years of following his rise. The only other celebrities whose death triggered an emotional nerve - Michael Jackson and Prince - two staples of my childhood. I get it, people transition from the world everyday, but in the spirit of writing, I wanted to use this opportunity to pay homage to the 'Black Mamba.' Long live Kobe Bryant.
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 caving 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), my life soundtrack 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- considered the 'Golden Era' to most). 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 this time in music history. Admittedly, I wasn't too fond of that style of southern rap, but lord knows I'd do just about anything to hear a 'YEEEEAAAAAAA!' or 'OKAAAAYYY!' from Lil' Jon right about now. Southern music was in such high demand, I even considered moving to Atlanta (or somewhere along the Southeast) just to be apart of it. Yes! Seriously. Their artists sold me on the ambience of southern life, and this NYC boy thought he'd make the transition pretty easily.
Meanwhile, also fighting for my listening ear on this hot summer evening as well as during this time period 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).
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 two of Virginia's Finest. Why couldn't the Neptunes have a lifespan as long as the great duo of 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 you can allow me to be selfish for a moment - couldn't they add a couple of hits per year for the SAKE OF HUMANITY? I wouldn't care if they banged on a table for 3 mins long, I am 100% certain the song would be a bonafide hit.
Try to forget the unforgiving fashion of the early 2000s if you can. Gone are the oversized tees, throwback jerseys and jeans baggy enough to fit a couple of toddlers inside of a pant leg. But sadly, so are the tunes. As far as music was concerned, that era has to be included in the conversation of greatest musical eras. No debate. "Do your Googles" (as the kids say) 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 about as pitiful as the day is long. This is why I've declared every day of my existence as 'turn-back-the-clock' day. It includes movies, television and everything else from yesteryear. A time when music captivated my soul, sending me to my 'happy place.' I miss that feeling... I wanna go back.
I don't need to evolve with the times, neither do you. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
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 an "influential" voice stamps their approval of anything, whether in 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 receiving the green light from Netflix), quite possibly the lone reason they've gone unmentioned. However, they are now widely available to the viewing audience. The impact of these programs 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?
Me: Wait! (realizing I made a mistake with my order)
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 blogging (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 DAILY goals, but I am truly optimistic that 2020 will be a joyous ride. Here's to hoping that you experience the same 🥂
Microphone Check 1, 2..
If you're here because of the recent podcast episode, allow me to introduce myself - I'm the angry guy who went on a 30 minute rant about a music genre which helped raise me. Sorry, not sorry. Anyhow, nice to meet you and thanks for visiting! Get comfy, I promise not to take up too much of your time.
Have I really turned into that "old man" who hates hip-hop, screaming how 'music was better in his day?' Yes. Do I really hate today's current hip-POP? Gimme a 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin "hell yea!"
I'm obviously hurt and deeply bothered by hip-hop's blatant slap in the face to its long-time supporters. I get it, we're considered old and everything in life is about catering to a younger demographic. But before hip-hop decides to bury the over 35 crowd six-feet deep, can we simply have a discussion?
WHY has hip-hop's narrative changed?
You know the adage: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Hip-hop's old formula worked to perfection - hard beats with lyricism expressed poetically (whether it was on social issues, or crafty wordplay about senseless gun violence and drug dealing) resulted in superlative record sales, sold out concerts, and scores of new fans. The bedroom walls of teenagers country-wide were plastered with posters of hip-hop's biggest/brightest stars. Fans of the old hip-hop sound have lasting memories that will likely never be replaced by the "stars" of today. Whether you like it or not, hip-hop's best (from yesteryear, of course) are synonymous to some of the greatest musicians in the history of music. That's right - HISTORY. These are the cold, hard facts. So, what changed? Who decided to strip this wonderful art form - bare, to the core - rebuilding it to the travesty its become?
I completely understand how we should embrace change. Everything evolves in some capacity. But can we honestly call today's version of hip-hop an evolution? Is ANYONE capable of saying that with a straight face? The thought alone made me snicker.
Listen, I don't want to hear about record-breaking streaming downloads, sold-out concerts, and the millions of dollars sitting in the bank account of a half-assed rapper who cracked mainstream success in 2018. I am strictly concerned about the QUALITY of music. It isn't memorable anymore. In fact, NOTHING of the past 10+ years - be it musically or cinematically - has been. To this very day, I can remember where I was when I first heard some of the best tunes of the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. I can remember the mood the music put me in. I can remember the reactions of my friends. Fast forward to today? The only thing I care to remember is how desperate I am to find something from 1995 to listen to! Certainly not fair to the share of artists who actually try to make quality content, but hey, life isn't fair.
So, this is what its come to; I'm waving the white flag. Like Roberto Duran/'Sugar Ray' Leonard circa 1980 - no mas! I'm done. Finito! Put a fork in me. I'll simply be that guy who will forever be vilified a 'hater.' I guess you can't please them all... hip-hop has already proven that.
Will Robo Calls End?!
Its become an epidemic - robot calls. Enough is enough; you've forced my hand. I am willing to turn my cell phone off for the duration of the day just so that you all become acquainted to my automated voicemail greeting. Did you honestly think you could fool me (us) disguising your numbers with 'local area codes?' Do you think I was born yesterday?! Fools.
Maybe our Government will crack down on this, just like they've elected to crack down on (fill in the blank). Then again, maybe not. But you guys will continue to get rejected as long as I own a cellular device - which won't be long.
Good luck guys.
Speaking of 'good luck', it amazes me how valued you become when your credit ranking is through the roof. It's like I'm 18 again. Each day, I'm the recipient of a new offer from some major card company, showcasing awesome rewards points and everything in between. This, from the SAME companies who once upon a time didn't quite value my sound track record of consistent payments (before I'd experience a few financial set backs), as they scurried to tell Collections on me (where I was "punished" for many years). Umm, just an FYI: I'm the SAME effin guy! Don't give me a second chance now, I've done perfectly fine without you...
Credit cards are okay, but having leverage is better (perhaps, you can use that as a slogan). You're very welcome.