Smoking Weed at 40

I was just editing a post about smoking weed at 40, as I was smoking weed at 40, and it led me into a dark place (one of many) that I went through in life. Because as it happens, smoking weed at 40 can cause one to reflect:

I had worked for a company where the population of employees were nearly 90% white, and as I write that number, I’m hesitant to keep it because I’m not entirely sure what the exact percentages were, I just know that when I had to go to work every day and walked down those aisles of open cubicles, and watched white face after white face, I felt alone.

Especially in marketing, where rarely did I see anyone of color, which wasn’t a surprise since the product that we were marketing was geared toward young, white males. I was lonely nonetheless. The only other peoples of color were in finance, IT, and business development.

Outside the company walls, my friends had called me the token hire, the affirmative action hire, and who knows, as I reflect now, maybe I was? All I know was that I was never really challenged; I was just doing my thing the way I wanted to do things, because what the fuck were they gonna do, fire me? Fire the only person of color on the team?

My driving force was 1. money and 2. I wanted to know if I can do it — to be rich — from the depths of a colonized mind, from Manila to Long Beach to corporate America.

I was always worried about my salary, though: Is it enough? Who below my rank or on my level was making more than me? Am I being low balled to the ground level because of the color of my skin, because everyone else was white, and typically, they don’t give money to the brown man.

Anxieties, paranoia, engulfed my every day, to be alone, to stand out, to stand up, to fight back, to refute all things model minority, that was my daily.

But through it all, I fucking did it, a brown man from the ‘hood got corporate enough to get a sip of managerial power in the corporate world, in the face of white antagonism, in the face of white corporate America. I shook things up, so I thought.

The immigrant in me worked. Besides other than having to deal with entitlement, ignorance, and bigotry, what kind of other challenges did I have to face? That I shouldn’t call in too many times? Meet my KPIs? Be a great teammate?

LMAO

My immigrant energy wasn’t the only one pushing me; my ‘hood energy was as strong. The ‘hood has never leave my being, no matter how far I got up and out, I could be in Mars with Elon Musk, and I’d still be on the come up mission.

The ‘hood energy never let me enjoy the situation as it was, despite the money, the little power, it was like, yo, this is just the stepping stone to bigger things, this is just a moment in life to prepare you for even bigger moments.

But the money was too easy.

I had lived in near poverty, seen destruction and violence at its most gruesome, witnessed the struggle and the hate, as an immigrant child watching his immigrant parents be immigrant parents, to work hard no matter what, no matter how far the drive, how grueling the experience, work hard.

And as I reflect now, smoking weed at 40, I’d like to thank my mom for always telling me that money doesn’t matter and never mattered. I heard but didn’t listen to her then — but the seed was planted and it just took a matter of time for it to grow.

I eventually left the company and moved on to another even whiter company, and there, I was close to executive level before I left. I finally realized that executives at corporations are just the top ditch diggers, the very top, the ones who can dig the ditch efficiently with smiles on their faces.

If you can do that, and I did do that, then go right for it.

What I also realized was that if I didn’t do something drastic, I would die a fucking executive digital marketing creative social something manager of whatever whatever the fuck.

And when I played that out, right there, at that moment, I wanted out. I’d rather die as someone who knew what he wanted to do, pursued it, chased it, willing to do anything to maintain the chase, be it a cashier, bartender, server, primary caretaker of two children, literal ditch digger, or whatever it may be, that I would rather die being that than that

In the end, I’d rather smoke weed at 40 when I’m living the life I want to live. And I no longer feel lonely.

A Conversation Under a Bridge

La Cienega Blvd. under the 10 freeway.

“I thought it, poetic .”

“Not really; more of a clichéd poetic.”

“Doesn’t it say something to you?”

“What does it say to you?”

“I marvel at the fact that one word, as simple as one word, can move someone, like the same way a poem moves when you read it, all just words. You look at a billboard, words. It gives you a message. You internalize it. Words move, even if those words don’t make sense. Out of context, and sometimes, with way too much context, and even just one word, one tag, that can move.”

“I wonder if the guy who owns all that shit is okay, and of course, I immediately think, of course, he’s not okay. But he was just there. Surviving. And you think, How long does he have left? I mean, if that’s rock bottom…”

“How do you know that that’s rock bottom?”

“If that’s not rock bottom, if that’s not the lowest one will go, one can go, then what does low look like?”

“It looks like death. That’s the lowest one can go.”

“I think we’re high when we’re dead. When we die, we’re not dead anymore. We’re elsewhere. I no longer matter to people, and people no longer matter to me. I, for one, couldn’t give a fuck about another stranger dying.”

“Would you give a fuck if that person who owned all that shit died?”

“Yes. Now, I do. I feel like I know him now.” 

What Happened to Western Avenue?

What happened to the good ol’ days? Well, they went away with the winter rains. The gutter took them from block to block and dumped down to the beach where the tourists play, down by the Santa Monica Pier.

What happened to Western Avenue? They took away its soul and replaced it with a ghoul. But it’s been so long that nobody noticed that the soul was gone. So the ghoul stays and says hello.

What happened to you and me? You and me are here. We read and we write and sometime we fight about what we read and write, and by some miraculous occurrence and by the end of the night, we find ourselves smoking weed by the dim street light.

Words Written

Her voice was thunderous, all things went mute, headed for the backgrounds, power audibles coming through.

“Natapos mo ba?”

“Opo,” I said with my head down, looking at my dirty toenails.

She held my hand and dragged me down the hallway. My slippers slip, slipping away. She led me to my table inside my bedroom and picked up the piece of paper with my words written. She examined it like Sister Agnes of Santo Tomas Ed., with her slappy-itchy swat hand ready for the swatting. Her eyes squinted, her lips pursed, a sigh followed. After a few seconds, she folded the paper — with my hour’s worth of work on it — into a tiny one-by-one square, tiny enough to fit behind her tragus and snuggly within her outer ear.

“Again!” she said. “Again!”

Things I Believe In…

As of today, the following are the things that I believe in. This list may change tomorrow. Shit, this shit might change in an hour.

All I know is that I believe in:

  1. Lonzo Ball — the pride of Chino Hills just dropped his first-ever triple double. The talking heads can keep talking. I believe in Lonzo Ball and his weird-ass jumpshot.
  2. Frank Ocean — I listen to Nostalgia, Ultra., like, once a week. The man can sing and just like the Geto Boys, Frank Ocean doesn’t give a damn about a Grammy.
  3. 35mm cameras — I still own my Canon Elan 7 that I bought from Samy’s Camera over 15 years ago. Whenever I get tired of digital, I grab for the film, and I shoot.

To be continued.

Lessons in Writing, No. 24

When life gets difficult — and especially when it gets difficult — write. Write every day. No matter what.

Get that flow.

Easier said than done, I’m learning. I’m fixated.

On the table, salt-and-pepper shakers served as towers of demarcation, posted in between his hugging hands and her reddening elbows, and I watched from the sidelines, my body floating above the demilitarized zone and listened to them talk about writing and its place inside anxious minds.

“The world is sick,” he said.

“But the world’s always been sick,”she replied, “People have always died. Wars always fought. Presidents in shame, hearts dimmed. But underneath those dark skies, writers wrote.”

So I left and I wrote.

Career Change

Santa Barbara Coast

I quit exacty a year ago. I said to myself, “This can’t be your life.” So I quit.

I told my wife “Let’s move back to L.A. I’ll take care of the kid, and in between,

I’ll follow what I’ve always wanted to follow – be a writer full time.”

So I quit.

“See you later, Baltimore. It’s back home I go.”

Now it’s been a year since. This time last year I was preparing for a cross-country trip, from the Mid-Atlantic to the West Coast.

And now I’m good.

My friends always ask:

“Hey, man, are you good?” I’m good. More good than ever.

I feel like I did my time in those cubicles, sitting in front of those computer screens, slouching low on those conference room chairs, e-mail after e-mail after e-mail.

I feel like I’m finally doing me – and so – I’m good.

My next step is to completely unplug from the unnecessary and focus on the necessary — to wean myself off of social media. I need a sabbatical. I just feel nasty when I engage nowadays. Posting photos, tweeting. It’s just too much out there. I no longer want to contribute. I want to get out of the conversation and find my voice again. There’s so much noise that I started to miss the silence.

I’m not ghosting. I’m simply on sabbatacial. No judgement served either. I can’t wait to get back into the mix.

These days, I prefer the comfort of my personal blog. This right here, a blog about me and my relationships with the world, especially with the citizens of L.A., my hometown, the freeways, the streets, the playgrounds, the sights, and the sounds. My kid, my wife, and my dogs.

I quit and now I’m good.

L.A. on Light

Cap back. Sunset on low.

Dippin’ down the block.

The kid enjoys his long drives around the neighborhood.

Got me pushing him around in his mini-me car, battling the uneven sidewalks, the rolling stops, dogs, territorial birds, overall non-gangsta shit in former gangsta lands. I’d rather stay in, take him — and his whip — out some other time, but I just can’t say no — so we drive on and on and on and on.

When the L.A. sun is out, that quiet whisper of a gleam, that light that lands so gently on the body, feels like it welcomes more than it brightens, all spirits heighten. In the land of fame and spotlight, the L.A. sun is prime resident. Everyone else abides.

“But ‘L.A. sun?'” she said. “There’s only one sun, fool. The SUN.”

“No, no. The L.A. sun is the L.A. sun.”

That late-afternoon light, that “cotton candy sky.”

(See: An article in The New Yorker about the glow of L.A. by Lawrence Weschler).