Five Things to be Grateful For

I can think of ten or more instances where people have come to me to complain about the horridness in their lives. They hate their jobs, their managers are assholes, they don’t have money to go to a concert, their date went sour, etc. To be honest with you, I also don’t think there’s been a moment that I can remember in the past couple eternities where the mainstream news didn’t have something negative and fear striking to shove down the throats of the average viewer. It’s quite sad, especially when we already have our own problems to handle. But get this. It doesn’t have to be this way. Why don’t we ever talk about the amazing artist one of us stumbled upon while perusing Spotify or the dog that came up to us in the middle of the street just to say hi? Or even on a larger scale, why not just talk about the beauty of seeing another day? Today, I’m happy to share with you guys the top five things we can all be grateful for right this second, and trust me, I promise it’ll make your day just a little bit better!


1) Your Physical Environment

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of working for a pizza shop in the middle of rural Colorado. Golden prairies and cumulus clouds spanning for miles, no obnoxious traffic jams, and the two dollar gas totally made it worthwhile, not gonna lie! But as I was driving to my next delivery, I stopped and thought about the smaller details that are simply overlooked by many of us. I want you guys to take a look at your immediate surroundings right now. Whether you’re in your childhood bedroom or kicking it on the Gold Coast, there’s always that one element—no matter how small—that can shift your gears into thinking more positively about the current space you inhabit. Trust me, I get it. You want to get out of mom and dad’s house or seeing the myriad of crazies roaming your city’s streets make you want to move cross country, but until that freedom day happens, just find that little park that’s out of the way and appreciate the beauty of it! Hey, who knows when you’ll ever have a chance to see it again?

2) The People Still in Your Life

In a globalized world, we are constantly being bombarded by the compulsory task of making connections, attending awkward company dinners, or hearing some squeaky nasally voice ask you the same age old question…”ARE YOU IN THE INDUSTRY?!” As vital as it is to expand your social network to get to where you want to be in life, it feels even more fulfilling when you can laugh about that nasally voice with your one or two go to buddies from college. Travelling through almost half the country has made me deeply appreciate and love those who will always be there with you to share your moments no matter where you are in this increasingly complex matrix. It may sound lame, but the next time you’re feeling alone, it’s definitely a grounding feeling to call mom and dad and reminisce about your childhood for a bit.

3) Your Memories

I think my previous point does a decent job leading into this one. No matter what point you’re at in life, we all have one or two instances where we laughed our fucking asses off, saw an inspiring artist, or had a conversation with a person who totally blew our mind. By no means am I saying to live in the past, but when the going gets tough, reminiscing can be the best antidote to remind you that life really has the potential to be a worthwhile journey. So next time you decide to bitch about that manager you can’t stand, just cancel it out with that funny memory with your best friend instead! Just make sure not to laugh in his or her face though…a smirk’ll do the trick. J

4) Your Future

I’m sure we’ve all had some wild dreams, and of course, the perception of what’s wild ranges with each of us! But come on, who here hasn’t wanted to have their own talk show, live in different countries, or who knows, even establish our generation’s next Apple or Microsoft! Guys, these dreams are what make us human. And part of being human is the ability to follow these “crazy” images! I understand it won’t take a day. Or a month. Or who knows, maybe not even a year! But hey, the pursuit of happiness is one of the central tenets of being alive, and following that hunch is what will make you thankful for having another day in this world.

5) Being Alive 

There have been points in my life where I felt that it wasn’t worth it anymore. I nourished my self-destructive delusion that I was stupid, unattractive, or a faulty product. I didn’t have enough money. I took longer than my peers to complete the university rat race. I was living in the back of my car. I’ve had romantic relationships that are comparable to cesspools. But by the same token, I’ve traveled and experienced a hearty portion of America and got to live in some of the most iconic cities. I’ve seen artists and shows that have literally put me to tears. I’ve met and interacted with all types of people. Most importantly, I’ve been able to live to tell my stories with the world. See, life will never be as pleasant and full of light as most neo-hippies want you to think. There will be low points. There will be times where you want to curse out the guy or girl in front of you for driving 10 miles below the speed limit or a person you’ll wake up next to in the morning without knowing why you slept with them in the first place. However, the high points will be worth everything. And that my friend, that right there is the point of being alive. Having yet another opportunity to see your path unfold is something we take for granted, myself included. Take advantage of it, for there are many of us who wish they had another day to curse out that driver or have that final laugh with their best friend—love every moment of it.



The “Numbing” of the American Heart

I just finished watching a great video regarding the “commodification” of relationships in the Western world and the higher levels of dissatisfaction and depression. Honestly, I don’t think I need a YouTube video to reconfirm this. Not trying to be a cynic, but I mean, just look at the handful of friends who’ve come to you with the myriad of Tindr dates gone to shit, or some douche dumping a huge load on you and walking out the door like nothing ever happened. Will there ever be a moment where enough is enough? Will there be an instance where you can look into a significant other’s eyes and not have to worry they’ll dump you for that guy with a better car and a six pack? Celibacy’s the only option at this point.

As a little background to understand where I’m coming from, yes, my parents are still together after almost 30 years. Sure, there are occasional fights and money problems, but still, those blotches are vital to the connection they have shared for more than half their lives. I feel blessed sharing this with you all, as I know it’s becoming more and more anomalous with each passing year. “How do you guys make it work?” I asked my parents on a random Sunday. “We were best friends before anything else, and when we made those vows, we promised to stay friends no matter what,” she happily replied as she looked into my father’s eyes. There was trust and laughter, fighting and bonding, love and lust; it was the ideal recipe for a sacred union.

Now, fast forward to the present world. A world where your orgasm holds priority to any potential bond you may have for the future. Think about the love it takes to grow a healthy garden, or the dedication it took to build the Empire State building—it surely wasn’t a sweaty one night affair behind the dumpster. The sweat on these individuals’ foreheads was accumulated throughout time, and none of that came without a healthy dose of sacrifice and risks involved. The gardener could have lost all of his or her crops in a bad season, and the workers could have easily been blown off the platform as the air pressure augmented with each floor they ascended. Pure love, or life for that matter, goes far beyond the eye can see. Sure, you can get a chemically induced burger and soggy fries from your favorite fast food chain, but tell me, how does your body react the moment it starts processing all that fake meat? Instead of fake meat, think about that drunk hook up you had last night and the emptiness you feel when you wake up and it’s like you never had that connection in the first place. It’s fleeting, slightly nauseating, and going through the seven stages of grief for the tenth time this month will not get any easier. And for the record, jumping into another one-week affair will certainly not numb that void. Stop lying to yourself.

The difficulty associated with the postmodern conundrum of relationships is undeniably another tool of escape, but what makes someone think that another person or multiple people will fill that unhappiness deep inside themselves? We continuously numb our souls by distraction, or instantly gratifying our wants with pleasures and highs that will last us all but a minute, a month, maybe two if were lucky. I am no different. I’m sitting here judging hook ups and open relationships, yet I go from city to city just for that momentary feeling of novelty and the rush of exploring uncharted territory. I don’t know, it just feels right to me. I guess you can make the same excuse for adulterers, polyamorists, players, etc. However, when matters of the heart and soul come into play, there’d be nothing more sacred and beautiful than to have that one person you can share all these moments with, egging each other on to become a higher being. You won’t find that fulfillment with three cocktails and one night, and having “main” and “side” bitches won’t make you any better, happier, or a beloved manifestation of light. There’s a reason why evolution favored union between two people, for better or for worse. Life’s an oceanic mosaic that can be a struggle to swim through, but standing hand in hand with a loving partner can make the deepest waters seem like warmest bubble bath you’ve ever taken. Never give up on finding that comfort, and when you do, never stop swimming deeper.



Goodbye, Basket Case

Here I am in this predicament for the eleven millionth time, and with every passing instance, the universe keeps on slapping me in the face that much harder. This time, she brought out her favorite hickory paddle and laid it on me like his psychotic episode about his father’s stint in the navy. Each holler was a bullet, every word was a bomb, the death stare a kamikaze. I loved him though, maybe I was too naïve to see his lack of self-love and awareness as a poison that was ready to contaminate a soul’s lake water. I didn’t care at the time though; I was too busy caught up in my own delusions to even fathom stepping out into the real world. It’s a pity considering that I was living in one of the country’s most iconic cities with a rent basically paid for. To me, he was the reason I was there, or I even considered staying there as long as I did anyway. I was willing to begrudgingly tolerate the bitter carcass mourning his lost love in the decaying living room. I was willing to silently daydream, silently see the cloudiness of alcohol and loss, and silently stare out at a scenic wasteland—all for just a dose of his affection.

The last day we were together highlighted our connection, our hatred, and ultimately, our love for each other. We decided to take a stroll along Ocean Beach, and if you know anything about that little mecca, never go looking for a parking spot on the weekend. After 25 minutes of patiently rolling down each street, I gave up, and as usual, his stubborn—or as he likes to call it—optimistic dogma began, “you give up too easily!” With practicality being my forte so to speak, I counteracted his response, “Why don’t we just go to Sunset Cliffs instead? It’s nicer anyway.” “No I want to go to the fair, I hate when you do this, Gus!” “Fine then, I guess I’ll leave.” After a few more phrases exchanged and a quick verbal brawl, he hurled the car door and walked out. Heh, idiot forgot his phone, but as he ran towards me, I decided to get my payback and I drove away with the reflection of him running in my rear view mirror. “That’s what he gets for being a dick,” I satisfyingly said to myself. But almost a millisecond later, my heart had a change of plans, and I waited for him at the next block. “Don’t ever do that to me again!’ he yelled as he plopped back into my miniature passenger seat. “I mean, you’re the one who left,” I clarified. “That’s true.” We continued to look together, until finally, we found a sole parking spot on one of the back streets.

The day, although cloudy, was a mere afterthought as we toured through the eclectic farmer’s market. He was back there talking to some guy about some stupid product as I got lost in the food samples and local art pieces. It’s beautiful how much raw talent and resources the community had to share with the world; I guess it’s what draws people there in the first place. As we left the festival, we bumped into two trash heaps that lived in our neighborhood. After some fake hugs and half empty goodbyes, he was insistent on swimming despite the subpar water conditions and 60 degree weather. “Have fun! If you want, go swim with the surfers!” I playfully yelled at him as he reluctantly went by himself to test the limits of how comfortable swimming in California beaches are. Two minutes later, he was sitting beside me.

By this time, the sun was setting, and we decided to take a walk towards the pier. I couldn’t help but to realize how much of a tourist trap this place was, especially with the dilapidated tenement facing me like a hospice patient after medicine time. The pier is beautiful at this time of day though, especially with the mix of tourists, meth heads, and happy families looking out into the dark blue vastness and crumb hungry seagulls. “You know it starts getting sketchy at this time of night, but I have a surprise for you first, remember?” I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of fun seeing him squirm like a child, especially since he’s been asking me about his surprise as soon as he found out about it, thinking about his goofy facial expressions still crack me up honestly. Earlier that week, I was on a delivery when I found the most scenic point in the area, and as I gave him that final gift, I couldn’t have been filled with more light, despite my efforts to contain my true feelings.

We were lying around in his room watching stupid videos at 3am when it all happened. That insane fantasy that I stirred up for months all panned out in a matter of three seconds, and for a minute, I thought I won. And maybe I did. All that tension that bottled up for so long, the intense fights about me living in my car for the third time in a year, the euphoric energy I felt when he was down the street. We kissed, we cuddled, our bare bodies melting with one another. “You shouldn’t go for selfish guys like me,” he said. I knew he was lying, I knew he was scared. Love’s that kind of feeling that you want to run away from as if it were Ebola. And for him, it wasn’t just love, it was the idea of acceptance. He loved another man, and there was nothing he could do to repress the doorway I just opened. Nonetheless, he thought masking tape was the solution, and burning our souls alive in a fire pit would douse his heart, but he missed one vital caveat—the soul is fire.

We took one last drive to that train station we walked out of together a couple months before when he blew up his jalopy on the freeway. “Don’t you want to stay for just 10 more minutes?” I pleaded. “Nope. You knew what was going to happen and I’m not going to apologize,” He ran off into the barren platform, and I drove off into the darkness giving him one last East Coast flick off. “He’s gone,” I thought. I sat in the empty parking lot outside the tenement we called home. I was listless. Too reluctant to go back into the place we just made love in and fall asleep knowing that he wasn’t coming back. By the morning, I knew I had to leave that ant lair, and better yet, I needed to continue onward despite the yearning pull to wait for him to come back. Fuck you, you piece of shit basket case. I loved love you.

I sometimes get so caught up in life striving for the next goal, the next journey, the next everything. But for a minute, he was there and everything seemed like the best acid trip you’ve ever had. I had no reason to fly. I was perfectly satisfied in my little world with him right there, but also, my complacency and love was my downfall. He made me conscious of that, and for that reason, he came into my life. What we felt wasn’t an illusion. The energy I gave and received was alive and organic no matter what the outcome was. But here is where I draw the line and drift on, baggage and all. Goodbye, you gorgeous soul, go find that happiness—I know I’ll find mine.


Finest City, Third World Living: San Diego’s Hidden Secret

I feel like I’m the luckiest man in the world. As the balmy breeze hits my face, I can spot a surfer family in the distance. Yes people, I live in one of the best small cities in the country. I’m going to take a gamble and say that I live in the most idyllic small city in the world. If you don’t believe me, just look at the millions of tourists and transients we get here every year. Ten years from now, I’ll look back at this very moment and say that San Diego was one of the most peaceful moments in my life. However, it’s sad to say that not everyone has the privilege of sharing the same thoughts. And no, they’re not complaining about the weather.

As I was perusing through Voice of San Diego, one of the city’s local online newspapers, I stumbled upon a photo article that completely took me by surprise. Catherine Green’s “Photos: Inside a Slumlord’s Empire,” delves into the subpar conditions that slumlord Bankim Shah kept his buildings in for years. I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want residents in our country’s finest city living in third world replicas, especially with having to pay some of the highest rents in the area. I couldn’t help but feel disgusted, but instead of condemning you, Mr. Shah and other complicit city officials, let me give you a few pieces of advice to how to address the ongoing issue. I’m going to let you in on a big hint—there’s more money involved if you listen.

Step One: Empathize with your Tenants

I honestly don’t know if Mr. Shah’s ever heard of the childish phrase “treat others that way you want to be treated.” According to Green, the apartments were “riddled with gas leaks, armies of roaches, mold and sewage backups.” Now sir, I understand that you have a smorgasbord to handle being an administrator. You can make the comparison from anything to writing multiple papers at once for graduating law school or deep cleaning a restaurant for impeccable safety standards, but see, the rewards are worthwhile. If I were you, I’d apply these same concepts to handling your tenants. Fixing the window in Ms. Godat’s apartment signifies that she can be satisfied with her living space, and consequently, you have one less problem on your dinner plate. I’m not saying install gold embroidered toilets; just do the basic minimum to respect your tenants’ humanity. Let me ask, if you put your family in one of these apartments, what would be of their personal well-being? Here’s the thing though. Mr. Shah is not the only one who conducts this short-term thinking process when it comes to maintaining their tenants’ homes. Last year alone, there’s been almost a population increase of 12,000, so the chances of someone landing in those living spaces you see on Hoarders is pretty high. This point leads me to my next step, a thousand dollars now can generate into one million in the future.

Step Two: Look at the Long Term

I guess we have our outdated business models to blame for this one. Although housing is a crucial element in this, old-fashioned business philosophies bring me back to a scene of some cheesy 1980s movie. Going for the short-term economic solution will not further fatten your wallet, Mr. Shah. I want you to think of the future, like the moment when Ms. Karina Villanueva decides to leave due to your negligence to fix the mold in her bathroom. You could continue to choose that route, but look at the terrible publicity you’ve made for yourself. With the myriad of Internet applications like Yelp and Glassdoor, I know that any businessperson knows the power of the keyboard. If I woke up to confusing a swarm of cockroaches for chocolate cheerios, I know exactly where I’d want to explicitly recount my experience living there. After many reviews, it’s a matter of time before prospective renters find out about what’s going on inside your buildings, and guess what? You just lost a whole market of prospective renters. So next time you choose to not spend $75 on a quick repair, you could potentially lose $750000 in a potential lawsuit, lack of prospective tenants, or city fines if that one person’s complaint goes viral.

Step Three: Don’t Stop Competing

I’m not going to deny that in San Diego, there’s a lot of money to be had. It’s one of the most desired locations to live in, and despite the expensive housing that doesn’t stop realtors and land owners from continuing to innovate their properties. I can still remember the quote I read the other day, “just when you grow comfortable, you become your most vulnerable.” Don’t let that be you, Mr. Shah. I recently stepped into a newly remodeled apartment in downtown San Diego. Bright colors and freshly painted hallways glimmered side by side with a Victorian style cage elevator reminiscent of the building’s rich history. This is the sign of a landlord who’s conscious about his tenants’ well being while also generating sizable revenue. Sadly, I won’t be able to share the same positive review about the visible hole in Ms. Sherry Godat’s bathroom ceiling; I didn’t know you were trying to aim for a more communal style of living. Now, to take you back a little further, think about the Yelp review. After that same prospective renter was repulsed by the complaints and gut churning photos, he or she went down the street to a building that was not only in their financial comfort zone, but were also extremely satisfied by the brand new floors, clean lobby, and modern amenities. Sure, it probably took a sizable amount to remodel the place, but that person down the street sees that something as small as a clean building put him ahead in the competition with the highest occupancy rates in years.


Having lived in five different cities in less than three years while barely scraping by in college has humbled me. With those experiences, let’s just say that I’ve had my fair share of interesting living situations. I had a homeless settlement colonize my backyard for a few months in Seattle, and currently, there’s no kitchen vent, central air, or cutting edge plumbing in the place I live in San Diego. However, Catherine Greene’s photo article and the atrocities shown make my place look like Oprah’s mansion in Los Angeles. I know you aren’t the only one with this type of mindset. This is an ongoing problem as innovation continues to evolve our urban centers and people are relocating more than ever before. Some slumlords decide to ditch the label and evolve to stay in the ever-changing housing race, while others like Mr. Shah decide to stay at the bottom of the ladder because of their reluctance to take pride in owning a building in this beautiful piece of heaven. Please Mr. Shah and all the other apathetic “slumlords,” I hope that this can serve as a wake up call that we’re more than profit margins; I want the finest city to have the finest housing as well—do your part and join the movement.


Green, Catherine. “Photos: Inside a Slumlord’s Empire.” Voice of San Diego, 20 Feb. 2015, Accessed 28 Apr. 2017.

Protect San Diego’s Beaches

Independent Project: Protect San Diego’s Beaches

Location: San Diego, CA

Digital Tools Utilized:

IMovie: for video production

YouTube: for publication
Google: for researching information/pictures

WordPress: For Further Publication


ABC 10:

San Diego Coastkeeper:


So I’m sure you’ve heard of the idyllic San Diego. Beautiful beaches, stellar weather, chilled out surfers, you name it. Having the privilege of living here for the past five months, I can definitely attest to that stereotype. Hands down, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. I literally feel like I’m stepping into a Hollywood film every time I fall asleep on the powdery white sand. But what if I told you that these beaches are becoming so filthy that one day, that once venerated paradise, could become too toxic to step foot in?

It’s real though. The “doomsday scenario” has become more than something out of a video game. According to the local news station, ABC 10, San Diego is one of the “most ozone polluted” cities in the United States with 28 unhealthy air days every year. Now, if you remember the cycle of how rain works, air and water go hand in hand. That pollution from the air condenses, becomes rain, and guess where it goes?! Yes, those beautiful beaches we see on Grandma’s postcard collection.

Constant tourism, though brilliant for the local economy, has posed problems for beaches. According to the San Diego Coastkeeper, a local nonprofit dedicated to cleaning up the city’s beaches, almost 82,000 pounds of debris have been removed since its inception in 2007. Let me ask you, would your community like 82,000 pounds of plastic and cigarettes in their backyards? I’m sure we all know the answer to that.

The next time you consider dumping your trash, please take into account that your negligence or apathy does not justify the history and richness our beaches give to us every single day. If our beaches go, so does our economy, our lifestyle, and honestly, the reason why many of us choose to move and visit this piece of heaven in the first place. Think about the already growing problem with environmental degradation of once pristine places in the world. As a resident and as a human being, the last thing I want to do is swim is filth. So yeah, that one plastic bottle does matter.


The Three Elements of Inspiration

As I transgress through a person’s blog or website, I always wonder what goes through their mind and/or soul as they post their content on the media. I mean, what inspires anyone? We see all types of aspiring and accomplished creative minds from all sides of the spectrum, and honestly, this diversity of thought is paramount in our perennial evolution. For any content creators—aspiring, professional, and amateur—that are searching for fuel to get your engines going, I’ve developed three elements that you can consider before you take the big leap into the virtual world—come on, you guys got this!

Step One: Authenticity

Nothing’s worse than a creative piece or webpage with zero personality, no matter what you write. I remember attending a class in NYC going over the elements of creative fiction, and in one occasion, I remember a student saying to not become emotionally attached to a particular idea—I couldn’t have disagreed more. This doesn’t only apply to writing though. If you’re going to create your own website for a business, a how to, etc., don’t be afraid to show who you are in the process! Think about it for a second, when you go out to eat somewhere, do you want to pay $50 for real dishes or frozen imitations? Obviously, it’s going to be different for everyone, but again, if your website resembles a Wikipedia page, I think it’s a good time to reconsider if you care enough about what you’re doing at all.

Step Two: Choose Your Words Wisely

Take the rambling drunk at your local bar only that it’s someone’s blog taking multiple pages to explain a tangent that’s completely irrelevant with the point they’re trying to get across. Don’t lie; all of us have been victims of that in one way or another, especially when we get too lost in our own thoughts. Whenever you find yourself doing that, bring yourself back to the central question—am I the only one who’s going to read this? The days of writing 100,000 word blogs, with exceptions, are becoming scarcer. People in our generation want the scoop of what you’re saying much quicker than any before, so if you want your writing/website to reach a wider audience, efficiency is key.

Step Three: Be Flexible

When creating something, I like to think about it as going down a street you’ve never been on. You never know what you’re going to find down that block if you don’t take a stroll. I mean hey, what do you have to lose? If you currently see yourself experiencing a blockage or you’re dissatisfied with your work, don’t be afraid to start fresh. I understand it’s frustrating leaving the comfort zone, but it’s vital in order to make your presence known. If you deem that old piece or website beyond reparation, there’s always something, no matter how small, that’s salvageable enough to use in whatever creative endeavor you see yourself in next, but if there’s really nothing, move on.

Final Thoughts

YOU have the power in your hands to create the best website, to be the best writer, to be an online business tycoon. I could go on forever about the countless disenchanted folks I’ve encountered that grow skeptical about their ability to succeed as creative geniuses. It’s heartbreaking, seriously. So whenever you descend into that headspace next time, keep your eye your vision—you’ll thank yourself when you do.


The Judge

We always have that tendency to look outside of ourselves in order to justify the mere iota of our existence. Friends, family, drifting aimlessly, landing our dream jobs, or anything else that can bring a level of comfort and rationalism. I live with a judge in my subconscious. The man’s stoicism pervades everything I do. Get into a fight, he’s there to slap some sense into me, “You’re back at this again?!” He’s always there to recite his code of law, piercing black pupils ruthlessly drilling my molting outer shell. Am I about to speed over the cliff just to pray to swim safely back to shore? I feel like I need to—I can’t stand to look at his face anymore. Yet, deep down, I know he’s right. I’ve alienated myself to the point that any unfortunate soul that crosses mine is met with Antarctica: barren, questioning, sub-freezing. Visceral sun shining outwardly over this uninhabitable paradise makes you forget that the perennial coldness can consume you and dry out the most ardent fires. I’m better than this. Love so potent that a cure for cancer wouldn’t match. A mind reminiscent of the city’s boom in the late 90’s: Brightness, bliss, and beautiful sights. But here I am, aimlessly sitting in a dark room, wishing to escape my self-dug black hole and prevent global warming from happening in my heart. It’s a continuous push pull and I try to convince myself it’s completely normal. I guess that’s my sin. That perceived escape route looks more and more like another trap the judge’s trying to steer me away from; why does my mind fall for it every time?

Now it hit me. I can still remember that one Friday ten years, three months, and six days ago like it happened last night. I was at the Broadway Mall, your suburban entertainment center for soccer moms and unruly teens alike. It was late fall in New York, and the ruthless snowfall was so close you can smell the frozen droplets in the crisp air. I was thirteen at the time, and I could only imagine what being a part of those cool kids must have felt like. That all changed when my prodigious reflection blankly stared back in the elevator mirror. I was a little over five feet and almost 200 pounds; my winter jacket literally made me look like a genetically modified blueberry. I mean, how could I not enjoy that extra slice of pizza when trying to beat the hardest mission on GTA Vice City? After a half hour of plodding around with my family (I didn’t really have any friends at the time), we decided to go to my favorite place in the world, the second floor food court. The once flashy yellow beams enticing haggard shoppers became secondary to the Sbarro past the rows of up and coming film posters. “What would you like to order?” The cashier politely asked. I could feel my hedonism come out, and once again, I let my urges win. “Large spaghetti, two chicken thighs, and a loaf of garlic bread please,” I happily responded. To me, that tower of savory heaven was the highlight of my week. But just as any other temporary high goes, mine was about plummet faster than King da Ka.

I waddled through the busy court, and thankfully, there was a fairly nice table for us to sit, but little did I know that I was about to be the Ripley’s Believe it or Not phenomena for the night. As I laid down the ketchup red tray, I felt an icicle puncture me from the corner of my eye. As I turn, I spot the young couple scrutinizing my tray, and of course, directing their gaze at the perpetrator. It was that moment that resonated with me, but also altered how I viewed my relationships with others. That heaven on a tray warped into a black hole, and inside it, the judge’s gaze. My appetite was lost and I was barely able to have a scrap, all the while the couple still whispering to themselves about their observations. My mother, being the cheerful person she is tried to convince me it was all in my head, “Don’t worry about it, they’re just shocked by your appetite! Stop being so paranoid—“ I knew what I saw, and I made it a point to avoid any mirror that would delineate the hard truth of what was going through that couple’s mind.

Suddenly, everything that I would normally appreciate turned into a necessary chore in order to finally leave that place. That Hershey’s store with the cotton candy ice cream became the source of further introspection. “Come on, have some ice cream,” my family members tried to convince me as they happily demolished their banana nut sundaes. The saddest part is that I would have been right there with them, but changes are inevitable. I was in disbelief when I realized how much my weight got in the way of everything. I was the fat kid in my school, the person people felt put off by, and the last resort in every team in gym class. I slowly felt my world change from childish innocence to awkward blandness and isolation. The next day, I decided to finally use that Planet Fitness membership card I placed in some random crevice by my bedside. I haven’t stopped since.

Within two years, I saw myself transform to a person I didn’t even know anymore. In my teenage mind, I saw that weight scale as the ticket to having a chance at being “normal.” Working out became my perpetual part time job and every meal was carefully portioned out, as fear of returning to my old skin would start to surface. Yet, despite losing weight, you realize the judge is multi faceted in the way he appears in your life. My weight melded into my sexual preference, which melded into my fashion sense, which melded into anything else that falls under what deems you as the other. “Hey what’s with that ringtone? Why are you wearing those shoes? Why don’t you have a girlfriend? WHY—” It never stopped.

I imagined it to be different by going to college away from it all, going across the country to a place no one knew my name, or better yet, driving aimlessly down the coast. There comes a point where you feel like those settlers on the Oregon Trail. Uncertainty becomes your best friend and every time you run into potential danger, you run. It feels liberating for a time, almost like gorging on that plate of pasta from Sbarro. Although it’s been over decade, that gaze was ingrained in my psyche long after my blueberry body shrunk and I was able to leave the confines of my hometown. I’d love to think that your past is your past and it certainly doesn’t impact future occurrences, and to a certain element, it’s true. Even with this knowledge, the human mind has its ways to reel its tentacles and steer you in one direction over the other. I still have trouble fully connecting with others or revealing who I am to this day. I fear that judge will surface at random points and remind me of my old shell, the freak show. Then I decide to look around. To my left, there’s a fighting couple that’s clearly on its last legs. Behind the less than stellar counter set up is a server breaking the rules by texting her best friend or partner while a disgruntled old woman attempts to get her attention. My friend called me the other day explaining his codependency and refuses to stop seeing this girl that’s cheating on him with his boss. I see all these people around me, and honestly, it gives me hope. We all carry that judge—we’re all guilty.




Traveling’s in my blood. I feel that there’s almost like a microchip activating in the id part of my brain every time the three-month honeymoon phase subsides. My dream’s always been San Diego, but is there something else out there? I start making plans, scribbling away at a new idea that I came up with for the next rush, and start saying my goodbyes. I sometimes think back to our ancestors, you know, the ones from Pangaea. Weren’t they nomads? Isn’t it against human nature to just sit there blissfully letting everything go by? If I had seen the world back then, I’d be everywhere.

I got a call from my friends yesterday, and it’s official; we’re on the road again. I was excited to Leah and Eric’s voice. We were catching up, when somehow, the topic came up, and I asked, “We still doing that trip we planned years ago?” “It’s that time. Time to make that Google doc and make this shit happen,” she responded. I couldn’t help but to smile at the thought that I’d see my friends again. Our lives are always in sync with one another. It’s a great feeling to be honest. After two solid hours of discussing our game plan, we got off the phone. Feeling upbeat and optimistic, I decided to call my parents and tell them the news; I always seem to forget that talking to them is stepping past the crossroad, a straight line of harsh reality.

The phone kept ringing—really wish it went to voicemail—when suddenly, my mother picked up. “Hi Gus, I called you yesterday, but you never seem to answer,” she said suspiciously. My mother’s what you would call a “model citizen,” which is something I’ve always admired her for. At 25, she got her American citizenship, and after 27 years and counting, she has not stopped to strive for her idea of perfection: pay the bills on time, be a model wife, a caring mom, scrutinize every nook and cranny of her already clean home, excel in her dream job, etc. However, when her son or anyone deviates from that much desired “line,” prepare to hear a Harvard lecture on what it is that you’re doing “wrong.” That right there is what always brings me back to reality—a line only goes in one direction. As I started mentioning my future journey and potential move to another state, I felt her glare for coloring outside of the lines, “Are you crazy? You have bills to pay. I was going to take a couple weeks off for your birthday, but at this point, there’s no way if you keep changing your mind! What about school? Every time you feel stable—“ You guys get the point, right? As much as I respect my parents, making the realization that our minds are like opposing magnets in a chemistry class was something I knew early on, but why I still feel frustrated about it is beyond me. And despite my friends’ support and my strong willed desire to say fuck it all, it gets to you sometimes. That’s life I guess.

Later that night, I lie on my bed and listlessly flip through my phone and watch hours of videos of what it’s like to live in Vegas. The chipper bald dude on the screen starts talking about his experience, and with each one of his statements, I’m already envisioning my life there. MCrossroadssy entire journey to California was for the pursuit of freedom, yet somehow I’m craving more. Maybe that was it. San Diego was only a pit stop in what I was about to embark, and seriously, I haven’t been this stoked in a while. I think back to my journey down the California coast. I was driving down the breathtaking Pacific Highway 1 at the speed of light, the crisp coastal breeze hitting my face, and the translucent waters gleaming for miles past the prehistoric cliffs. No Wi-Fi meant that I had to use the old fashioned radio to keep myself entertained and add to the otherwise placid scenery—classic rock it is. This moment and this moment alone was what reminded me of happiness, my definition of it at least.


My Journey to the West: The Departure

I can still remember the emptiness I felt on that bed. Lifeless. Tidbits of paper hovering over me with goals I deemed as unattainable because of whatever excuse came to mind, followed by a deafening silence that even the loudest of headphones couldn’t drown. I was depressed. Each day felt like a year, which evolved into a decade, and everything became like a rerun of those novellas my grandma would religiously watch every morning. Following a two and a half year journey that led me to soul mates, breakups, drug usage, and dropping out of school, I was caged and sealed in my hometown for the past year and a half, a time to reconnect with my parents who almost enjoyed the fact that their little boy was back under their watch. I mean, if captivity taught me one thing, it definitely was to write my heart out to the only person who seemed to understand me—that black leather notebook was my one true lover at the time. “I know that there’s more to life than this,” I’d say to myself.
It wasn’t until that Tuesday in late May that it finally hit me. I’m finally living out my dream of flying out West. On the night before the big trip, my mother would ask me, “How are you feeling? Aren’t you gonna miss home?” I knew she knew what the answer was. My friend Mike would tell me “You should stay with us, Gus. You know people here. Everyone’s going to get mad or miss—“ I stopped listening after that point. None of them have ever taken any action in their lives that required working for themselves. It wasn’t their fault though. Long Island was simply not the place it was when our parents moved there 20 or 30 years ago. Culturally, my town never changes. People are still reminiscing of the day Patricia Barnes tripped at the high school pep rally eight years ago or one of the countless weekends you got drunk at the local sump. Tony’s still at the Carvel, Jenna’s at the local bar. Financially though, our parents are still slaves to their homes, their cars, their competition with Mr. Jones down the street, etc. It was a dead end and those who are brave enough leave, but many will never find the maturity or courage to do so.
It was the morning of the 17th, and the pressure inside my stomach clutched every element of my body. I barely slept all night thinking about this moment that I’d long been waiting for, however, I was highly unaware of the unexpected adventure that the universe had in store for me before I got there. We arrived at the airport, a dull grey apparatus with the gleaming city skyline in the background. My father’s always been a man who perceives black and white as two distinct entities, no more no less. The thought of him going to an airport he was unfamiliar with was “una locura,” especially when the two terminals were indistinguishable. After countless turns around the freeway, we arrived almost half an hour behind schedule. Predictably, my father would start one of his typical humorous rants of an aging man, “Aaahhh, this airport’s such a pain in the ass! I don’t understand why they have to make this shit so complicated!” Hearing him made me laugh, but for the first time ever, it hit me. I wasn’t going to hear these rants for a while. Then it all came back. My mother’s little bickering with Grandma over eating a whole box of chocolates, my aunt passionately crunching away numbers during tax season, my weekend reunions with my friends of chugging Four Lokos and speeding down Ocean Parkway to see the sun rise. I was leaving. The hug that I gave my father was one of the longest we’ve ever exchanged; I knew there wouldn’t be another one for a while.
If there was one thing I learned that day, it was definitely the importance of “getting there two hours before your flight leaves.” Sleep’s always been precious to me, and I was not about to ruin that for any major move or life change no matter how big. However, the universe will teach you the meaning of hustling whether I liked it or not. I remember running through the barrage of travellers with a hopeless attempt at catching my flight, and at first, there was an illusion that I might have succeeded. Then customs happened. At that point, there was no choice but to accept that my six-hour flight had just turned into a 18 hour waiting game accompanied by overly salted airplane nuts and cheap soda. Heh, at least I can say I “traveled” across the country. From talking to the gracious flight attendant in Chicago to almost getting off the plane in breathtaking San Diego, life was teaching me the lesson of patience yet again.
18 gruesome hours later, I managed to make out the icon that made Seattle look like a miniature Tokyo. At least that’s what I read in a random article on Google. Haggard, hungry, and desperate for some rest, I stepped out of the terminal and into the railway to downtown. I smiled until the sides of my mouth went numb. Never have I felt so accomplished, so refreshed, and honestly, so free. The nostalgia quickly dissipated as I stepped into a high tech vortex that would be my home for the next six months.
It’s almost funny how much your mind can separate dreams or fantasies from actual reality. The miniature Tokyo ended up being the opposite of what I envisioned. The Space Needle—an obvious trap for the your wily visitor with their ever so stylish fanny packs—ended up being as cutting edge as Google proclaimed it to be. However, there was something that told me that this was not like any other city. I knew I had a purpose for why I came, but of course, life’s generous if you decide to wait long enough. During those first few months, I managed to find a small room not too far from downtown, landed a job at a local pizza joint, and on the surface, life was good. At least I convinced myself that. My internal dialogue of denial would repeat, “I wanted this. This is my dream. I’m living it!” But being alone in a place that doesn’t necessarily warms itself up to an outsider turned out to be the best mistake I could’ve made; the “Seattle Freeze” is real folks. The “outsider” status is not new to me, but I wanted to believe that it was going to be a lot easier, or that I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to make things happen. It’s part of something you learn, I guess. It forced me to reflect on my past a lot, and self analyze certain elements that have still followed me across the country. My life the past few years, my recent heartbreak, my own prejudices towards others, etc. Moving to another city was only the beginning. Dealing with life and all the beauty and ugliness it contains was another species.
As I’m sitting here writing away like a juggling acrobat, it’s almost crazy how fast my life’s progressed in only nine months. I’m in a completely different city, experiencing a lighter energy, and living a more satisfying life, but it wouldn’t have happened without those months of gloom, analysis, and friendships that remain with me to this day. I still talk with my mother on the phone and she’ll always mention to me whenever I tell her about my life that, “I was the one who decided to leave!” I don’t regret one day. But the time that I’ve spent have taught me lessons that no physical comfort could ever teach you—I’m finally living.

Journey to the West

40s and 54s

My two years in the pit were like I fell into a rabbit hole and pretty much never left since. I’m constantly ruminating about everything I lost. The good times, so to speak. I feel like almost nothing stops me from going into this endless lethargy. Something’s missing. I know that. My mind’s constantly escaping, almost as if dreams seem better than this dimension. Scared? The fuck I’d know.

So it’s freshman year 2012. I felt free for the first time. Free from all judgments, stares, limitations, you name it. I did well enough bullshitting my way through high school, but hey, I made it. Memories, coming back and forth, “I still can’t forget what they did. I needed them. I called out, but where was anyone? People who were supposed to be my blood think I’m wrong for pursuing my happiness; betrayal in its worst form.” It was something I held on to during my two and a half years in Ithaca, New York.

When you’re 18, you feel that you can consume the world. College was my playground where my social skills outweighed any sort of thought about my “future.” I mean I tried it, but it wasn’t really my priority when your goal’s to have a good time. I was working at a McDonalds two days a week just to pay for a 40 and smoke some 54s with my friend. I can still vividly remember kicking it at Ally’s place, all of us from different parts of the globe, yet still pulling through together no matter what was going on. After two years of being here, that rave night at some random frat house or party on the rooftop made me realize what truly mattered in life; it wasn’t a letter.

By August of 2014, two years passed, and that elongated festival became a distant memory. I was 20, and dropped out of college for the first time; anger and guilt became my way to cope. Everything I built, from relationships to friends, just vanished. Loneliness I haven’t felt since before I left home. I then dedicated my whole life working for some high end Italian place as a busser. I became a shell. I resigned from life with an idleness that I basked in until I moved west. Maybe it was the system, my friends, the energy, etc. Regardless, I still walked around every day through the quirky place I called my home for those years. That super friendly co-op at the edge of State, the little picturesque cityscape coming back from a long day in the mountains, the random trails that I’d go get to the nearest gorge and swim, etc. As my friends took me down to the bus out to the city, I faintly got a final whiff of menthol cigarette—it was a Marlboro 54.

40s and 54s