Tag Archives: bob marley

“The Hotter the Battle, the Sweeter the Victory”

Dear Friends,

This morning, I went to a bread company in central Tokyo to assess the English levels of a few employees. The HR department of that company periodically gives their employees an opportunity to study English for a few months. In the assessments, routine questions are asked about hobbies, interests, family, etc. I spoke to ten people, and when asked about their interests, eight of the ten said bread. Perhaps, they were concerned that their responses would affect their chances to take English lessons, but it was my impression that these people had a real passion for bread. I was told about the bread-making process, the ingredients of bread, which bread is the most delicious, and how often they consume bread (Everyday for nine of the ten. The one standout guiltily told me that he prefers rice. This is Japan after all.)

One of the men told me that because they eat so much bread, the company has an initiative to keep them healthy and walking. Starting tomorrow, October 1, they’re taking a 10,000 steps a day challenge. He got me thinking– what are the challenges that I need to impose upon myself? A time for rediscovery of a passion? It’s not just me, passion’s missing from the lives of many people I know, so I raise the challenge to all my friends– a 30 day challenge to rediscover a passion for something– anything.

My brother M would play Bob Marley’s Babylon By Bus every morning (and most evenings). For all I know, he still does. I adore and look up to Bob as much as the next Jamaican, as much as the next music lover anywhere, but I didn’t understand then, as I do now, that my brother wasn’t just listening to some good or righteous reggae music, he was using these particular songs as a tool for survival. We’ve never spoken about it, but I feel that’s what he was doing, because that’s what I’m doing now:

If you get down and you quarrel everyday, you’re saying prayers to the devil I say. Why not help one another on the way, make it much easier? (Positive Vibration)

Everything is alright. Walk through creation. (Exodus)

In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty. (Rat Race)

As a man sew, shall he reap. And, I know that talk is cheap, but the hotter the battle, the much sweeter the victory. (Heathen)

It seems each day is a test; some days more challenging than others, but a test nonetheless. How will I live my life today? Since, it’s a conscious decision each day, life is a test that one can fail. When someone’s rude to me, or rejects me, or loves me without merit, or doesn’t call me back, or treats me poorly, or ignores me, or doesn’t even “see” me, or belittles me, or praises me thereby inflating my ego (unjustly), or chastises me, how will I handle it? Will I rise and overcome, or flail and fail? Will I “rise and take my stance again?” Yes, this is my challenge. However, it’s not that simple, is it? Thankfully, there’s a chance to do it again, and again, and again…. until the end, the inevitable end.

bread

Take care,

Val

Hope, an Energy Food

There’s no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. – Wayne Dyer

Dear Friends,

1) My friend and former housemate, Yi, from Borderless House, is moving to Africa in four days. In the past few months, there have been quite a few exits, but her imminent departure palpably reduces the energy in Tokyo. Yi‘s that friend who’s spontaneous and always up for getting up and out; who’s always thinking of others; who’s always smiling or diffusing an uncomfortable situation among others. I’ve wondered aloud how she can be so nice, but she laughs my question off. She’ll be as successful in Africa, as she was in France and here, away from her hometown, in Tokyo, but what about us? There isn’t another Yi in any group that I’m a part of. It’s crazy how we take people for granted, because we feel they’ll be around for as long as we want or need them to be, and then one day, out of the blue, they announce, “I’m moving to another continent.”

Last night we met at The Hub to celebrate her new job opportunity and had one last good time…. (well for some hours ast least, but that’s a whole other story).

2) No limit people understand the lesson in life, and therefore celebrate the lessons.Wayne Dyer

Today my student started telling me about how to live the best possible life. He stated that we have to be our own best gardeners, to treat ourselves as precious seeds. It sounded so simple when he was saying it, but how often do we take special care of ourselves? 1) Place yourself in the most nurturing surroundings 2) Sun yourself everyday 3) Sit in the shade for a time too 4) Nourish yourself with good food and plenty of water 5) Get rid of the weeds.

* S‘s diagram

His lesson couldn’t have come at a better time, because I felt that in the last few days “weeds” of doubt and impatience were infiltrating my mind garden. (Gardening tools have to be ever ready, don’t they?)

No weak heart
Shall prosper
And whosoever diggeth a pit
Shall fall in it – Bob Marley (Small Axe)

3) My friends and I tried to go to Hatos, in Naka-Meguro, with little success last week. It seems they’re no longer open for lunch, and when they are open, they’re busy, and it’s impossible to get a table. Granted, the place is tiny. A few nights ago, success was D‘s, as he’s been tasting imaginary ribs in his mouth for some time. The guys I was with devoured the ribs in less than five minutes. I kid you not when I say I had a rib and a half, and a spoonful of mac and cheese. Foolishly, I went to the restroom, and upon my return, the remaining mac and cheese on my plate was gone.

4) On Friday morning at 1:00am B sent me a message asking if I was up for some night-biking. (You all know I’m always up for night-biking). I had no idea what he had in store for me; we rode around Tokyo for three hours. We met at 1:40, and it was 5am when I got back home and into bed. The three hours we spent roaming the streets were uphill, breezy, behind-paining, wind in the face, moments full of discovery. (I now know where the KFC is in Akihabara, that Tokyo University is surrounded by a high wall, that hookers in Ueno wear church dresses on the street, and not fishnets, and where to get a snow cone at three in the morning). He sent me the route we took, check it out:

We all know that our personal happiness can only be found within, but it brings incredible joy to have friends and strangers alike to help find joy in the journey.

The road of life is rocky and you may stumble too,
So while you point your fingers someone else is judging you
Love your brotherman! – Bob Marley (Could You Be Loved)

Love,

Val

“If You Listen Carefully Now, You Will Hear”

This could be the first trumpet, might as well be the last. – Bob Marley (Natural Mystic)

It’s a Bob Marley kind of morning. The snow’s pelting. Blustery. Cold. I’m in a foreign land. Went to work for 7:45 am. Bob could relate. “No sun will shine in my day today, the high yellow moon won’t come out to play.” A completely different morning from today would also be a Bob Marley kind of morning. If the sun was high in the sky, there was a humming breeze, a hammock was nearby, or a daybed under a tree, the low droning of insects and the sounds of birds calling to each other in my ear, that would be a Bob morning too. A Sunday in bed on an eighty-five degree day or a Wednesday morning on a thirty-four degree day. A song for every mood, every day.

Things are not the way they used to be, won’t tell no lie. – Bob Marley (Natural Mystic)

I picked up my keys yesterday from the Sakura House offices. I can officially move into my new place in Suitengumae; it’s a shared house with seven private rooms, and it’s only fifteen minutes walking from my school (one stop on the Hanzomon line). However, the snow in Tokyo has halted my moving and my desire to do anything arduous. (Truth be told, I never have any desire to do anything that requires too much energy( ex., meet a friend in Shibuya for coffee when it’s snowing or raining).

As much as I’m anxious to be in my own living space, and won’t be far away, I’ll miss my housemates. They’ve shared so much non-materially, and since I’ve forgotten to replace things when I’ve run out, they’ve also shared quite a bit of goods: mainly, spaghetti, olive oil and toothpaste.

One and all got to face reality now. – Bob Marley (Natural Mystic)

Last week, I signed up to work mornings. One can teach from 7:45am -8:25am for bonus pay. It seems many Japanese businessmen wish to cram forty to eighty minutes of English in before a twelve to thirteen hour workday. How I admire these men (I haven’t seen many women in the morning). The hardest part is waking up, since I’m Superman and mornings are Lex Luthor. (Am I super late in realizing that Lex Luthor sounds like Lucifer?). The reality that I had to face is that I like to shop more than I ever thought I did, and I also want to travel, thus need to save. The lessons have been rewarding for me, if not for the students, because each person has a story to tell. Somehow, we always get off topic, and I’ve learned about the Edo era in Japan, shoguns, spas in Hakonae and Hokkaido, how to fix a broken nose oneself, various Japanese foods that I still haven’t tried, and the bubble era in the eighties and nineties where people were spending thousands on business lunches. At the end of every lesson, I thank my students for teaching me something, and they often tell me they enjoyed themself. It’s the experience as much as the learning, isn’t it?

My mother sent me a timely email this morning about saving. She told me to follow the example of one of my father’s brothers who “overbanked.” He saved every penny, and though I could never in life be as stingy or withholding as my uncle, I will save. She advised:

OVERBANK!  my beloved daughter and learn the stock market so that you will be financially independent.

Now, that’s advice I can easily swallow and appreciate… heaven knows, it’s needed.

This could be the first trumpet. – Bob Marley (Natural Mystic)

As everyone who knows me knows, I like to make public declarations. (Why do bloggers blog, even when no one cares? I’m not quite sure). In the beginning of the year, my friend A encouraged me to join her on a month-long cleanse (fruits, vegetables, natural juices, etc). I joined her in the detoxification quest for two days… or maybe three, told myself that life should be lived in moderation, then overindulged in many things. However, I’ve been having stomach pains, and since the internet has always been my closest ally, I diagnosed myself on Web MD. Sadly, the advice was to detox– no gluten (I honestly don’t even know what gluten is), little sugar (if any at all), and little alcohol. Friends, what will I do? March will be the month of detoxification…

Though I know it’s impossible to go living through the past, won’t tell no lie. – Bob Marley (Natural Mystic)

A Bob Marley kind of evening. I don’t smoke weed, but once in the hills of St. James I experienced a great high. I accompanied two friends to one of their cousins’ house far up in the hills. The air was crisp. There was a basic school on the corner. A small church down the street. Too many stars to count. We sat on the rastaman’s porch. You could hear the crickets calling each other. We wore t-shirts, and needed sweaters. The ras’ rolled one big spliff, and then another, and another. This wasn’t college, there was no sharing, no shared spit. Everyone got their own. All I needed was three or four clumsy, coughing puffs. Then, light. The night was brighter. Everything made sense. I wrote a book in my head that night, tried to write some of it down. Without the weed, that’s the clarity I yearn for.

If you listen carefully now, you will hear.

 

5 for ’12

Dear Friends,

Just one more day to a fabulous new year. (Can you believe it?). The other day I taught my holy hotness of a student, S, and our topic was “Setting Resolutions.”  He told me that he didn’t see the point in resolutions; “Why don’t we just do the things we should?” “Why do we need a list?” Good questions from S, but I strongly feel that setting goals/writing a list helps one stay on track. (Can I just tell you all that Holy Hotness ended the lesson commenting on my legs, so all in all it was a good night).

In numerology the number five symbolizes divine energy, new beginnings, and creativity, so here are my five for ’12:

1) Exercise This isn’t an original resolution, I know that. It’s probably topping most people’s lists and rightly, it should. 2012 is the year to get healthy inside and out (after New Year’s Eve and the first week of January of course). Tonight, it’s gonna go down like LD did it the other night:

After Jan 8th, goodbye pizza in bed, multiple cans of Red Bull a day, sake/whiskey combos, and lack of sleep. It’s gonna be yoga, detoxing with my friend A, fresh fruit-eating, at least six hours of sleep, and biking to work. My friend J‘s taking me to a bike shop in the next two weeks, and we’ll find a nice bike and helmet. He’s also promised to ride to work with me, not only to show me the way, but to prove how easy it is to navigate Tokyo’s traffic.

2) Paying Karmic Debts- In my last post, I noted Bob Marley’s encouragement for us to love one another (“What’s wrong with loving one another?”). Folks, I’ve placed my feet firmly in the Love Movement, and I’m so happy to see that so many are with me. The responses on FB and by email are really wonderful. The Love Movement isn’t about romantic love; it’s about kindness, creating positive energy, empathy, and trying to right past wrongs. The Love Movement isn’t a big, hippy orgy, it’s about being love; however, if you want to hug me at any time, feel free. Who could say it better? That’s right:

3) Resolving My Crush- Let’s speak about romantic love for a second though. Months ago, I had two crushes, now I have only one. I tried to squash it, but it’s not working and I’ve been encouraged to confess. Though I absolutely don’t want to say anything at all, because a) it’ll be awkward b) it could go horribly wrong and c) I’m nervous and feel ridiculous, I think I will soon. (Stop pressuring me!– you know who you are). Don’t ask me about it, because I may not do it

4) Keeping in Touch- I’ve already bought stationery and intend to make good use of it. A good friend just sent me a great letter, and it made me so happy to receive it. One hundred emails can’t take the place of a letter in the mailbox. Fifty emails can’t take the place of a card; so, it’s letter writing time for me. I also resolve to answer emails in a more timely fashion, call my nephews more, and let people know that I’m thinking of them. I told my friend Tlee the other day that I love her and she expressed shock. She said, “What? You never use that word– ever.” Well, I’m going to reach out more and let you all know that I love you.

5) Start Giving Back-  “For to whom much is given, of him shall much be required.” Luke 12:48

My friends, we’re blessed. Of course life’s crappy sometimes, but that’s a part of the journey. It’s repeatedly said that it’s the journey and not the destination that’s important. How true. We have much to do, much to be thankful for… so let’s start. Happy New Year!!

“What’s Wrong With Loving One Another?”

Ye are the sheep of my pasture, so verily, thou shall be very well. – Bob Marley (So Jah Seh)

Dear Friends,

All has been well. Life has been good… has been great… more than well. The days have been filled with good friends, food, drink, merriment and life’s unexpected gifts. Actually, everything just mentioned are the gifts. “Puss and dog can get together, what’s wrong with loving one another?” Love is a gift.

A gift: I signed up to work on all the holidays, because I figured if I were here in Tokyo anyway why not make some extra cash. (We get paid overtime rates for working on the holidays). The other night when I came home from a pretty long day, I was hungry, dragging and not at all in the mood to eat anything I had in the cupboard.

My housemate R gives me the gift of his spirit, his outlook on life and his enthusiasm; but that night, he gave me the gift of a home-cooked meal. He made me dinner… and it was good! (A nice spicy bowl of deliciousness).

A gift: A few days ago my co-worker B introduced my tastebuds to an orgasmic experience. You’re going to scoff and say that there’s no way a burger can be so divine, but the hamburgers at Brozers are heaven. B tells me that there are even better burgers in Tokyo (one that costs $20 somewhere in Omote-Sando), but I don’t believe it. He took me to Brozers in Ningyocho twice after work, and they were closed. For some insane reason, they close at 9pm. So, we decided to head there for lunch on a free day, and folks it was well worth the wait. We ordered two burgers and split them (a bacon cheese burger and an avocado burger), and I’m thinking we should’ve ordered three. The beef was medium, juicy, packed between freshly-baked brioche bread, and served with slightly seasoned fries and pickles. One word- yum.

* The burger was bigger than my head, and y’all know I have a big head.

* I dug into the fries before the picture was taken… did I mention that it was also lightly coated in bbq sauce and mayonnaise? My god, the memory.

A gift: On Christmas Eve, four of my housemates and I bumrushed R‘s room and watched Love Actually. My friend Viajera dislikes Love Actually and actually wrote that in one of her blog posts, but it’s my favorite Christmas movie. If you haven’t seen it, why the hell not? It pertains to different kinds of love (some situations realized, and others unrealized), friendship and lasting relationships (all to a fantastic soundtrack). Love is the message, the carrier’s are gorgeous and funny and sweet. Friends, let’s make the remainder of this year and next year and all of them after that about love. “We don’t need no more trouble, what we need is love” – Bob Marley (No More Trouble).

A gift: On Christmas Day, I came home at 7p.m., and the house was already packed with guests.  There were about thirty-five people here, all festive, happy and full of high spirits. Literally and figuratively. My housemates and I had asked our friends to bring an inexpensive gift (maximum 1000 yen) for a gift exchange.

There were gifts galore, some people had bought two. We played musical gifts (just like musical chairs), drank a fair amount of alcohol (considering most of us were working the next day), and thoroughly enjoyed our Borderless House vibe.

* Our Santas

 * This guy is amazing… he knew every lyric to MJ’s Thriller… even “Baby Be Mine” (my favorite).

* It’s not easy being Santa…

Gifts: Family/old friends/new friends/shelter/employment/food/health/moderate temperatures in winter/the internet/music/youtube/flowers/chocolate/the moon/countless blessings/my friend Armin’s surprise package/ my winter clothes arriving just in time/daily confrontations with beauty/love/love/love.

Love,

Val

“Yes mi fren,” an “All in one” Christmas

Dear Friends,

There isn’t  a medley created that could better encapsulate/capture/comprehend every mood/aspect/facet of my December like Bob Marley’s “All in One.” The All in One medley includes: Bend Down Low, Nice Time, One Love, Simmer Down, It Hurts to be Alone, Lonesome Feeling, Love and Affection, Put It On, and  Duppy Conqueror.

Bend Down Low- Bend down low, let me tell you what I know.

My last student tonight, Noriyuki, was such a wonderful, vibrant man, that I had to introduce the word “energetic” into his level 1 vocabulary. He practically jumped after every utterance, and even my two Red Bulls weren’t enough to keep up with the energy that belied his years. Not once did I look at my watch, or daydream, or fantasize about anything (shoes/men/french fries). Toward the end of class, he asked me where I was from and what I was doing for the holidays. I told him I was from New York, via Kingston, and then I drew him a map because he thought Jamaica was in South America. As a new arrivant to Tokyo, it didn’t make sense to me to go home for the holidays; the plane ticket, plus the airfare, and the requisite gifts would’ve been an expense that just didn’t seem logical. However next year, my Christmas season will be filled with warm beach days, rum-soaked fruit cake, crimson sorrel liberally laced with rum, all night movie marathons in bed with my mother, parties with friends, lazy afternoons, and ackee and saltfish breakfasts on my mother’s terrace.

Nice Time- Long time we no have no nice time, do you think about that?

It’s been almost three weeks since our last Borderless House party. The last party we had at the house had me so done in, and uncharacteristically embarrassed by my behavior, that no alcohol has passed my lips since. However, my housemates and I decided that it just wouldn’t do to let Christmas day slip by uncelebrated. Un-tequilaed, un-beered, un-saked.

My housemate Yuki has said to me that “Life is short, so just enjoy it and don’t think about small things.” She’s not only sweet, but so right. Let the past be in the past. Three sentences ago, I was embarrassed by my behavior three weeks ago; now, I am no longer.

One Love- One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright.

My Japanese housemates will be in the house as it’s New Year’s and not Christmas that’s a big deal in Tokyo, and my fellow American, Smith, is sticking around too. I’ve been informed that Christmas is huge for lovers (kinda like the Japanese Valentine’s Day), and it’s also a big shopping and “Sales” day. Though, I’d like to know, which day in Tokyo isn’t big for shopping? (The stores are always overcrowded and people use money like toilet paper). For Christmas, we’ve invited about fifteen to eighteen people and planned a potluck dinner/games/drinks/all-around debauchery and  a promise from me that I won’t molest anyone.

Simmer Down- Simmer down, you’re licking too hard.

I don’t have too much to say, but I was simmering and stewing over a situation that I can’t control and upon my deathbed in 100 years won’t be a big deal at all. Okay, I’ll tell you: That same damned attraction to a guy that I’m trying my hardest to not like/to avoid/to resist. Futile. To reiterate, “Zinsei wa mizikai”– “Life is short,” I’m just gonna live/love.

Love and Affection- This one’s called true love and affection.

Every day in Tokyo is a good day. Two days ago my friend Todd sent me an email asking me why I like Tokyo so much. I’m not even sure if I’ve answered him yet; and if I haven’t, I’ll copy and paste the reason that I’ll write here. I’ve visited and had passing fancies with quite a few cities, but Tokyo’s the total package. Some places have great food, some have great people, others have great tourist sites and cultural events; some have great parks, history and fabulous fashion, some have hot men and nice clubs, Tokyo has it all and more. It’s a city’s city. The only real problem that I have with Tokyo is that the trains stop running way too early.

Japanese cuisine has always been one of my favorites, but I never realized how limited my choices were/ how much I was missing out on. Looking back, I see how criminal it is that many Japanese restaurants in NY only offer sushi, sashimi and tempura. (C’mon!) Japanese customer service is  a whole new level of outstanding/polite; some of my expat compatriots get annoyed or frustrated by it. As a Jamaican and a New Yorker, it surprises and thrills me, and I can’t get enough of it. I’ve never been to a store, or a bank, or any customer-oriented place where I wasn’t immediately greeted upon entering. Every time. When one leaves any store, the employees thank you for frequenting their store, even if nothing’s purchased. I worked in retail for enough years to know that in NY, we’d not only actively avoid the customers, but roll our eyes if they entered too close to closing time, or break time, or almost anytime. The point is, I don’t care if the attitudes portrayed here are perceived as “fake” or not, I appreciate it…. love it. Let’s not even get into a discussion about the hotness in men/clothes/overall “style,” that’s for another day, but as I’ve told my mother I’m unsure of how any future city will compare, since no past city can compare. I understand why I’ve met so many people who’ve come here for a year or two and have been here for a decade or more (that’d be my entire workplace actually).

Duppy Conqueror- Yes mi friend, we deh a street again.

Friends, we’re here– less than five days to Christmas. With or without family nearby, we’re going to create that “family feeling.” We’re going to be kind to each other, like we should be all-year round; we’re going to show “love and affection;” we’re going to eat and drink ’til our “bellies full;” we’re going to remember those who aren’t with us, because they’re separated by distance and remember those whom we still love and are no longer with us. I’ll raise my glass to all of that.

And the sums from whence the parts came:

Cheers,

Valerie

A Post Mojito

Nothing lasts forever not even cold November rain. — Guns N’ Roses (November Rain)

Dear Friends,

Here’s an 11/11/11 cocktail:

The Mint:

My friend A‘s birthday was on Sunday, and as mine was on Wednesday, we decided to have a joint celebratory lunch today at It’s Vegetable. I’ve mentioned It’s Vegetable before (http://lettersfromval.com/2011/10/28/letter-from-tokyo-just-got-paid-its-friday-night/), and I stand behind previous statements, the vegan fare offered there is ridiculously delicious and fresh. A and I arrived at the restaurant five minutes after they closed, however the very kind owner allowed us to come in from the rain and fill our bellies with soy sweet and sour pork, stir-fry noodles, lightly breaded pumpkin in a tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, seasoned rice and kale in garlic sauce. Let me stress here that I don’t get veganism (yes, it’s something to get), and only for four days, in my early twenties, attempted a vegan diet. When the soy cheese refused to melt on my Boca black bean burger, I threw my hands in the air and ordered Buffalo wings from Pluck U (joking, but, I did run to Fine Fare to buy real cheese…hot wings embraced my taste buds years later, after I gave up vegetarianism. My taste buds and the first hot wings I consumed were like two lovers who hadn’t seen each other for years).

The White Rum:

We spent the rest of our rainy Friday afternoon in the 100 yen shop which is like the dollar store in the States. Though my money  is tighter than a girdle on a rotund lady, it’s nice to pick up one or two really cheap things for a treat. Treats are essential; between us we bought Water incense, an incense holder, a candle, spaghetti (a poor person’s essential food), olive oil and a small bottle of lemon juice. I’m not sure what the dollar stores are like in New York or Jersey, but in the 100 yen shops here, you can outfit yourself, decorate your home, fill your fridge and cupboards, fix yourself up, leave with bags of goodies and a smile on your face. 100 yen shops make me drunk with happiness, so I visit the Can Do shop at Kinschicho once a week.

* A drying her umbrella in the umbrella dryer (isn’t this country clever?).

* If you can figure out what this packet of incense means, I’ll mail you 100 yen: “The extra juicy fragrance surely brings you the time of its supreme bliss.” Huh?!

* Okay Brokies in Tokyo, if you’re hungry, get yourself to the supermarket for free food; there are samples on every other aisle. If one supermarket doesn’t fill you up, take yourself to another, until you’re satisfied.

The Lime Juice:

A came over to see my beautiful Borderless dwelling. We sat at the kitchen table, and drank two or three glasses of mixed orange and grapefruit juice, not to quench our thirst, but to keep ourselves healthy. It seems everyone in Tokyo is coming down with a cold and surgical masks are on every other face on the street, in the subway, in the stores. People have colds or are trying to protect themselves from getting a cold. Honestly, I can’t see myself putting one on… it just seems so “foreign,” and overboard. Over our juice, we discussed our future plans, past events, and the Myers-Briggs personality test: http://www.developandgrow.com/lifecoach/blog/free-on-line-myers-briggs-personality-tests/. The test couldn’t be more incorrect about my personality, so she and I went through all the personality profiles and I chose the two that I felt represented me best (a combo of Promoter and Performer in the Artisan group).

The Sparkling Water:

After A left, I walked down Oshiage’s newly washed streets, which made me want to listen to Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain,” which made me think of my brother M. My brother M‘s bedroom was beside mine when we were growing up and everyday he would blast heavy metal music. His favorite band was Bon Jovi; then, it was Guns N’ Roses; then, he adored Metallica. Sometimes, some days he would play all three for hours, but usually it was one artist on repeat at a time. I played my music loud, he played his louder. The walls shook. When I think of my brother M, I always think of him first as a slim sixteen year old, brushing waves into his hair and blasting heavy metal music.

I didn’t understand him then as a teenager, and I don’t understand him now as a husband and father of two. The other day I asked him in an email about his welfare and he responded, “The kids are fine.” I sent him another email: “Yes I know that, but how are you? Are you okay?” He answered, “If they’re okay, I’m okay.” M and I don’t have a heck of a lot in common, but he taught me some very important things: don’t be close-minded, show up if you say you will, take care of others (ok, I never learned that lesson well), and most importantly, play your music on high; if it’s not loud enough to make the walls tremble, play it louder. As his favorite artist sings, and he truly believes (as do I), it’s okay to disturb your neighbor when you’re “feeling so right” (must be the Jamaican in us).

* For my brother M:

The Sugar:

It’s November 11th today, and my friend E tells me that in England it’s Remembrance Day, commemorating soldiers of war (Veteran’s Day in the States; doesn’t Remembrance Day sound better?). Today’s been my remembrance day also; it started this morning when I heard the rain falling ever so respectfully. Rain in Tokyo is patient, it doesn’t pound, it doesn’t beat, it drops drops drops soft and sure.

I remembered that it’s an old friend’s birthday today, and thought that I should send a greeting; however, I was hesitant because we haven’t spoken in ages; we stopped speaking on a bad note and I wasn’t sure how my birthday wishes would be received. So, I listened to the rain, and I debated, and I decided that “nothing lasts forever not even cold November rain,” so our silence should end. It always makes sense to remember and celebrate those you care about. Life’s just too damn short for bad vibes; if you care about someone, tell them, “don’t refrain.”

Later,

Val

After Me, A Flood of Regrets?

In this life, we’re coming in from the coldWhy do you look so sad and forsaken? When one door is closed, don’t you know another is open? –Bob Marley (Coming in from the Cold)

Years ago, my friend TD and I would constantly discuss moving from New York to Europe. Anywhere in Europe. The dream was to bid adieu to NY where we both felt we had been for too long, say goodbye to NY’s over familiarity, NY’s staleness (the staleness that comes with being somewhere for too long), NY’s run of the mill-ness, and to allow another city, over time, to become home. We craved change.

New York can be cold, not in temperature, although that too, but in attitude. NY’s easy to adore, to worship, to love (I should note here that when I say NY, I mean NYC and Brooklyn only– the other boroughs, Upstate, and Long Island, don’t make the cut); it’s easy to love her grandiosity, energy, vibrancy, twenty-four hour subway system, the opportunity to have whatever whenever (funds allowing of course); but, NY doesn’t give as much as she receives. NY is selfish. She takes and takes until your energy is depleted, and you’re physically cold and angry on a hard subway seat. NY is abusive; you give her your love and she slaps you in the face with dirty winds.

I’ve been thinking alot about NY lately, because many of my students are businessmen who’re taking trips to the Big Apple. They want to know everything about NY, and what can I tell them? Eat a slice of pizza at Ray’s. Go to a jazz club in the West Village. Eat some Indian food in the East Village. See The Lion King on Broadway. NY is amazing. She is; but, I don’t tell them that New York forces you to work harder than you would anywhere else in the world, forces you to have more energy than you’d need anywhere else, forces you to give her every dollar to live in small places with bigger ideas; and soon, your ideas grow down.

First, TD left. He flew to Barcelona, then Berlin. One day, I looked around and all my close friends had fled to L.A, Frankfurt, London. It was just me and NY, but the sad part was that NY had kicked me out and the only resting place was in New Jersey (NY’s ugly stepsister). Let’s not even mention Jersey, as there’s nothing to say about that state (admittedly, I’ve heard there’re nice places in Jersey, but they eluded me the entire time I was there). Over Skype, TD would ask me, “Why’re you still there? Why don’t you leave?” At the time, I thought I had a reasonable answer, a good answer even. However, for the last few days, I’ve been thinking so much about why I stayed and why I didn’t leave. Now, I have no answers. Up until today, in reflection, I was filled with regret. My friends were bold, took chances, left the familiar, decided to start anew, and I stayed finishing another degree that I don’t use. I kept wondering how things might have been different if I’d left the States in 2009. Should I have moved to Europe then; should I have walked with the degree that I’d already earned; should I have cashed out my retirement funds then, and not two years later? Couldn’t and wouldn’t I have wound up exactly where I am now?

All I can say is thank heavens for Tlee who put things in perspective. To summarize, she told me that my regrets weren’t serving me, and it’s straight up futile to linger and obsess over, “What ifs?” She told me that time doesn’t come back, it’s “gone gone gone, bye bye, now now now,” and everything that has happened in the past has led to this moment, this conversation, these reflections. She couldn’t have been more right; why be filled with regrets about things that I thought were right at the time? That time’s gone gone gone, but it’s never too late to get it right… or better yet, keep trying to get it right.