I bring this to you because this little black-and-tan dachshund bitch is getting old, and I always fear, most times anticipate, her going away, and I want to capture this bitch during her finer moments.
I hadn’t a clue who Kacey Musgraves was — but without her unabashed sense of adventure and her huge celebrity-sized following, she wouldn’t have had the chance to spread the word about Tom’s One Hour Photo, which is:
My kind of photo lab
My kind of photographer
My kind of photo
I have fond memories of taking similar photos back in high school during the ’90s, as I flexed for the mall photographer with my group of friends around me. The photos were then printed out, wallet sized, and flipped over to be written on, whether it be a signature, a small caption of the moment, or even a love note.
I remember keeping some photos in my wallet and took them out to stare at while sitting in the bus or alone in my room, probably admiring how hard I looked in the photo, playing up to my gangbanger sensibilities.
Once a classmate handed me her portrait with a note in the back saying, “I think you’re fine. Take it as you will.”
I was flattered like a motherfucker; it was probably the first time up until that point that anyone outside of my mom complimented me. I was too shy and embarrassed to respond accordingly but it was a fond memory that keeps me delighted til this day about my time in high school.
The one thing I regret, though, as I stare at my mug today in soft portrait lighting and my brown skin contrasted against some ’90s abstract background and style, is that I didn’t keep any of those photos I took from high school.
So kudos to Kacey Musgraves (I’m sure your music is awesome) for taking a chance with Tom’s One Hour Photo and reminding us all to support local business and to express ourselves no matter what.
All you need to know about Tom’s One Hour Photo can be found in their Instagram page, where you can sort through the dozen backgrounds that are available to use in your photo, Tom’s photography process, prices, and location.
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 once 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?
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-class 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.
“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?”
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.
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.
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.”