Today, I took a picture of a dachshund

This little black-and-tan dachshund bitch is just over 10 years old. She loves soft things like new blankets and thick rugs; sunbathing; and playing with her squeaky rollie ball.

Today, I caught her basking under the sun atop our new Virgil Abloh rug, set inside our son’s room.

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.

And today, on that rug, it was a fine moment.

Today, I went to Tom’s One Hour Photo

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.

Smoking Weed at 40: A Brown Man in America

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?

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-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.

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).

L.A. Corner On The Cob

Also known as elote.

Classified as goddamned street food.

Found with a strong sense of exploration and don’t-give-a-fuck-ness.

Eaten under the L.A. sun.

Made of hard work, resilience, and flair — with a dash of L.A. smog.

The recipe according to Chef Roy Choi:

  • Corn (shucked)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Butter (softened)
  • Salt
  • Mayonnaise
  • Cotjia cheese
  • Cayenne
  • Lime

See: L.A. Son by Roy Choi