ODE TO TELAIA

I was told that magic wasn’t real. In a world of technology and stoicism, magic is brushed under the rug. It is considered too warm, too bright for today’s eyes. It doesn’t happen instantly and it doesn’t stay true.
But I believe otherwise.
Magic is real. It is here. It presents itself to us daily. Only few of the brave choose to see it. Only few of the brave choose to live it. The brave knows that magic is powerful and connecting.
Walk through our favorite city, New York. Magic seeps from the subway grates, the hipster coffee shops. From the late night parties and fire escapes. From cramped bedrooms to poetry clubs. Sparkling in the both sunlight and night. The city calls and begs for a return.
The magic is brash yet sweet. Bites of honey. Bites of pepper. Surrounding my broken heart with love and truth. It’s the magic that picks me up when I fall. Hopeful and filled with strength, it never leaves me.
My heart is full. Seen with booze and cat tails but knows that the magic is much deeper. The magic isn’t in the makeup but its everywhere. It has taught me to be unapologetically myself. To dream bigger. That all will be okay in the morning.
You are real. You are brave. And you are magic. Magical and so special to me.
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ODE TO TOM

The Stones. The Fucking Stones.
Late night with wheelchairs. Walking over and above the streets, desperate for tacos. Desperate for connection.
We meet and fall as friends. Good friends. Close friends. Drinking buddies. Running partners. Shoulders to cry on.
We find love in others but we remember the adoration we have for each other. Mutual respect. Mutual fondness for walking. For the tango. For romantic hope.
Tom. Incredible Tom.
Late nights with red faces of embarrassment. Talking about quick hook ups, despearte for love. Desperate for connection.
We know we will find it. Question mark when. But there is the love we have for each other. Thousands of miles apart. Friendship. Four subway stops away. Always. We are here for each other. Here is anywhere. Here is everywhere.
The Stones. Tom. The Motherfucking Stones and Motherfucking Tom.

ODE TO GRACE

Zip, zip around the track. Refinement of movement. Beating heart, beating records.
Life is callous. We both know that. It throws punch after punch. I bleed. You bruise. We tweeze the gravel from our wounds and pick ourselves up. Return home to softness, to sweetness, to fluff.
Sing, sing until your throat is sore. Disposition of kindness. Hearts are full, full of love.
Life is demanding. We both know that. People do not deserve compassion. Yet, you give it anyway. Adoration. I’m present. We’re friends.
Think, think with encephalon. Beauty of form. A gift of wit and inspiration.
Life is gray. We both know that. No coffee black. No milky white. Binary. I sob. You listen. You hug. You advise. You check in. You care. You love.
Women are multifaceted. You have showed me that.
We are tough. We are beautifully emotional. We are silly. We work hard. We firmly hold hope. We better everyday.
You lace up and fly.

From My Upcoming Book

We talked about our passions and things were we were obsessed with. Brad loved books (of course, him being an English teacher). EE Cummings. Hemingway. The playwright Neil LaBute. He spoke about each with such vigor and knowledge. I was impressed and treasured seeing his eyes sparkle with appreciation. None of these others came close to his love of J.D. Salinger. Brad insisted that he was Holden and explained his frustration with his students when they read the book and thought that Caulfield was a “whiny bitch.” He was even more disappointed in me when I told him that I never read it, reading books like “the Giver” and my favorite novella, “Night” in high school.

The next Saturday, we were sitting eating breakfast at the corner coffee shop when Brad nonchalantly told me that he had a present for me. I was excited yet nervous. No guy has ever bought me a present before. After my feeble attempt to not rush through my oatmeal and fruit cup, we walked back to Brad’s car where he presented me with a beautifully wrapped rectangle. I opened the paper, holding “Catcher in the Rye.” I wanted to cry. It was a thoughtful gift and I was touched. I wrapped my arms around Brad’s neck in thanks.

Reading “Catcher in the Rye” took some work, though. Brad’s students were right. He was whiny (even though I recognized many of his thoughts as my own. Yup, I’m that crabby bitch, too). Reading about his adventure while listening to my roommate fight with her fiancée via Skype was too much to handle. I retreated to the down into my personal bat cave, where the shroud of darkness would help me focus: the subway. I finished “Catcher” in one night, riding the G train back and forth, from Long Island City, Queens to Kensington, Brooklyn for four hours. It was magical and I fell in love with the book…

the Ladies of RUMP

Go to any RUMP event and expect to be pulled into the freak train. The last freak train wrapped around the Biggest Little City Club as people yanked their friends into line and bumped against them to the DJ’s pulsations. Sweat flew, alcohol gulped and smiles and song were all abound.

Women make up the half of the music industry- we all know that. From the revealing clothing and suggestive posing that we see these women wear on MTV to the behavior we read about in gossip magazines, one should wonder if these women make up the general consensus of the ladies in the music business, let alone if they’re the kind of role models for upcoming generations. Reno may not be known for breaking stereotypical barriers but three women are attempting to do so: DJ Heidalicious (Heidi Adkins ), MoMatik (Mo Oetjen) and  Jenes Carter. These ladies created RUMP, a monthly concert where they encourage female artists of all genres and ages to perform for open-minded audiences and get them to dance.

Heidi Adkins performs under the moniker DJ Heidalicious. She wears her dark hair short and her jeans ripped as she spins hypnotic beats and slow jams for fans and others present in the room. Originally from Sacramento and living in the Reno area for the past ten years, Adkins never thought too much about becoming a disc jockey. “I saw Ana Sia at Tonic one night and was inspired by her.” DJ Neshawn gave Adkins her first lesson and she was thrilled that she learned a new skill and owned a new hobby.

Adkins loves spinning but as she got deeper into her craft, she found some challenges with DJing. “Female DJs usually get boxed in, especially to play a certain genre. If you’re not playing Lady Gaga, people are, like ‘WHAT?’ You have to learn how to adapt and adjust to people’s attitudes.”

Oetjen understands the plague of being thrown into a certain category. “Girls are set in a different box.” She tucks her long hair behind one ear as she explains how she is compared to popular female rappers. Oetjen respects those artists but she considers herself a different kind of breed.

Mo Oetjen raps as MoMatik, vocalizing real life issues and problems over sampled beats. A Reno native, she started writing poetry as an outlet. While a student at Reno High School, Oetjen rapped with the guys in her class and made tapes of her rhymes on an old karaoke machine.

Oetjen’s first show was in 2006 and she has been going non-stop since. Rapping isn’t all what it seems to be, though. “People are surprised when you have skills,” Oetjen explains. She is thrilled with the shock but hates the backhand compliments she usually receives afterwards. “I hate it when people say, ‘you’re pretty good for a girl.’” She tries to brush off such compliments and weeds outs the hate and criticism. She speaks about the positivity her music is about and how it truly does captures the hearts and minds of her fans. “If someone, one person, comes up to me and says that my song has impacted them, that’s the best response I could get. That’s what it is all about for me.”

Jenes Carter makes up for the third point of the RUMP trifecta, singing solo and as back-up. She grew up in Reno, attending Sarah Winnemucca Elementary and McQueen High School and singing in both schools’ choirs. Her father introduced to artists such as Prince and the Police. “He (Carter’s father) broke down the different instruments and would have me pick out the instruments,” Carter explained. “He helped develop my love of music.” When he and Carter were away from each other, Carter’s dad would play music for her over the telephone and he would comment on the different tracks playing on the receiving line.

Carter began signing in a cover band at the age of 14. Highway Jones performed in the neighborhood’s Cue & Cushion and evolved into singing solo shows at Club Sandwich. In 2007, she met Metaphysical and Dove. Later, they became Black Rock City All Stars, a group Cater sings for. In 2007, she met rappers Metaphysical and Dove. Later, they became Black Rock City All Stars. Most recently Carter has become part of Mojo Green, expanding her music family. Although she has love for the men she shares the stage with while performing with Black Rock City, she values her time with the ladies of RUMP. “Once you bring us all together, it’s magic.”

Whether you agree or not, the Reno music scene is changing. One of the goals of RUMP is to bring a musical revolution to the northern Nevada area. “It will take the musicians to bring change, not business owners,” Carters says about local clubs and bars that sway to a certain style of music.

Spinning Top 40 hits is the way to go if one wants to make money as a DJ but Adkins finds more satisfaction with the subterranean music she plays. “I’m not cheating myself then.” She feels like the Reno music scene has promise especially with Reno’s Burning Man community. “There isn’t too much competition with each and each DJ brings something a little different to the melodic melting pot. There is a greater respect.”

Adkins has hope for the scene as she also performs with Reno Sound Collective. They recently had a house party with “about 40 people,” Adkins says. “200 others were listening to the streaming online. We just kept them dancing.”

Perhaps such house parties are the inventive way to go. All three women agree that Reno is lacking in musical creativity, suggesting that the Biggest Little City gets fads- what’s hot in music, clothing and entertainment- last. “We’re in a catch-up phase,” Carter said. “And sometimes, we’re just not open to creativity. We’re trying to know what’s hot now instead of trying to create what’s hot.” Adkins agrees. “I wish Reno was more educated about music, world and underground. There are a lot DJs all over the world doing amazing and creative things that no one knows about.”

They want to change that attitude and show that Reno has a great diversity, both cultural and musical, and are doing so with RUMP. With RUMP, all three women are hoping to build up Reno’s creativity and acceptance, especially within its female population and the growing local music community. They want to give something back and hope to inspire those who watch them perform. “We just want to do something different. Get people off their couches and bring them out. RUMP is about creating a different thing,” says Adkins.

“I want to inspire women with the raw, real truth,” Oetjen says. “It’s important for others to see your heart and purposes, where you’re coming from. Music is such an expression and all three of us have a message to share.”

And that message is strong. Both Adkins and Carter have young daughters. They view the Top 40 mainstream as being a little too sexual and they explain to their girls about the use of language in songs and behavior on television. “I teach my daughter about stuff behind music, beats and stuff,” said Adkins. “I try to find female singers that write more meaningful lyrics other than sex. Lyrics that are on a deeper level.”

As RUMP’s trios’ popularity grows, they hope to extend their acts into bigger venues with different and more diverse talent. Both Oetjen and Carter performed at last year’s Speak Your Mind festival at Wingfield Park. Adkins spun at the Bassnector after party at the Grand Sierra Resort in October. At the RUMP parties, the three women speak with new talent about joining the act and encourage them to perform. Adkins urges newcomers to stay focused. “Work hard and kick ass. Don’t get boxed in. Make sure to have an open mind, especially when it comes to the music that you play.”

“It’s great to feel what you do,” Oetjen says. “Girls are trying to do better and we are trying to support each other through everything.”

“Being ourselves inspires people to be themselves,” Carter adds. “And we don’t want to wait for things to happen as a female.”

Please check out www.facebook.com/rumpreno for more information about the next schedule RUMP event,   MoMatik, DJ Heidalicious and Jenes Carter.

I’m an Oreo.

Oreos.

Those delicious, chocolate flavored cookies you coveted during elementary school. You’d scream and kick at your mother’s shins as she pushed the shopping cart that confined you past their blue and white packing in the corner market; you demanding to her to purchase them or else. Or you as discovered during your all-men-deserve-to-die-and-I-want-to-rip-out-my-uterus collegiate years that peanut butter and Oreos taste bomb together and they soon become the staple of your diet. Twisting away one side of the treat, you devoured their creamy goodness, leaving a sticky mess on your fingertips. Yum.

Black on the outside but white in the middle.Oreos didn’t always signify pleasure to my taste buds. There was a time in my life where I hated oreos. Even hearing the word caused my face to flush and tears to fall down my cheeks. I remember the first time someone directed the word to me as I walked to my locker to put away my math book. Donning all my noir outfit (complete with a black sweatshirt, shoes and skinny jeans before they become trendy), a kid from the basketball team muttered the word under his breath and directed his gaze to me. I shrugged my shoulders as if I didn’t care. I was called names before; ‘geek‘ and ‘loser‘ were a daily given, ‘doll face’ for the crazy amount of eyeliner and red lipstick I wore. Before the water works emerged from my eye sockets, I ran to the bathroom and cried.

Dark skin but acts Caucasian.

I wasn’t even sure how to ‘act white.’ How do you act a color? Okay, I was one of the dark-skinned kids in my honors classes. I could swim (so well, in fact, that my nickname growing up was ’mermaid’). Being the vocabulary freak that I still am, I refused to mispronounce words, enunciating and articulating them with vigor, and spelled things out completely. I spent hours straightening my unruly curls, hair that black women told me they would kill to have. I didn’t listen to rap or any kind of R&B (unless you counted the Madonna albums me and my mom privately jammed out to). Winter is my favorite season. I refused to go out on Friday nights to drink 40s with cronies from class (I didn’t drink until university, in fact). I didn’t own an gold bling or K-Swiss sneakers. My behind is, in fact, on the smaller side  And I, for sure, never watched B.E.T. It didn’t matter that I was a mixed kid with my father being Jamaican and my mother, as green-eyed Puerto Rican. I was a black girl who was simply confused, so I needed to be treated like I was a character in a Tyler Perry movie.

Ethic slang was thrown around in school and I found it fascinating that we were all labeled after food: Crackers, twinkies, beaners. High school is a tough time for everyone. Between figuring out college plans to the race of hormones flying through one’s body, those prime teenage years were exhausting. In some small way or another, we all were lost and confused. I couldn’t identify with the kids around me who were so influenced by hip-hop culture. Despite going to a school with an equal race population, I didn’t have any black friends. Their baggy clothes and boisterous voices were a turn off. Shy little me didn’t want to be friends with that loudmouth in the back of classroom who had a comment about everything. I was the nerd who spent her lunch in the journalism lab, correcting the monthly school paper. What did I have in common with the popular track star in the short skirt?

So, maybe I thought I was white with insanely tan skin.

It took many years to embrace this personality quirk of mine and I try my best not to let this label define me Even now, ten years later after high school, I still find myself labeled as that cookie. I’m the only person of color at my favorite band’s concert. I get weird looks when I hold the hand of a white guy as I walk down the block. I still can’t find a pair of skinny jeans to squeeze my heavy thighs in. Yet instead of finding a dark corner of my soul to hide and weep in, I learned to love this trait and embrace it. When I tell my story, the listeners are surprised to hear that the kids that taunted me were black. It took sometime to forgive those who teased me. Once my brain finally realized that these people were just perhaps jealous or having their own issues at home, my heart softened and opened up to the possibility of having people of multiple ethnicities enter it. One of my best friends is Mexican. I live with a Pilipino girl. I date any man, as long as he breathes. Despite my shock that today’s society is still pretty racist, I don’t let the race card play a major role in my life. Everyone is treated equal in my eyes and I hope that I am considered the same to them. My hope is that one day, no one will be called such names, especially during fragile times like high school. Those people should more concerned finding a date to the senior prom.

Yeah, I’m an Oreo. I guess that means I’m pretty tasty.

Valentine’s Day

It was Valentine’s Day. I sometimes forget how beautiful Midtown is. Among the heighten concrete slabs, signs of life peek out from the bottom. Cute parks where a mother watches her toddler play during her lunch break. Tree lined streets which await the presence of spring greens.  Small cafes that serve plate loads of organic cheese and seasonal fruits to couple sitting there, swapping bites and catching kisses.

It was a fig that I munched on as I waited for my nanny interview to show. It was the umpteenth interview I went on in the last few weeks, I applied for position I know I wasn’t qualified for but I used those meeting to observe other’s apartment décor and practice with coming up with saying positive things about myself. It was during these there I met some of the strangest yet most gorgeous women- Christine, who’s honesty scared me and I thanked her for wasting my time. There was Michaela, the Italian and the most beautiful woman I ever met in my life. She was the mother of a Korean infant; we spoke for hours about out our parents’ divorces and finding true love in New York City (I was surprised how honestly I was with her about the intimate details in my life). There was Molly, who I wondered why God gave her a uterus at all. Moms with high tech toys and sparkling wedding rings. Marriages. Relationships. Falling in love.

Valentine’s Day. The day where lovers worshiped each other. Usually today would make me sick with envy, staring at the red and pink things all around and in the air. But right at this moment, I felt a certain sense of calm and respect for myself. One have might have called this feeling love. I felt alright at this moment. I decided this day isn’t meant for lovers of lovers. It is meant for lovers of things. And I was a lover of life. Of the adventures I had. Of all the times I got lost. Of all the times I put a new song on my iPod. Of all the times I cried until the salt crystals fell from my eyes. Of all the times I laughed until I wanted to vomit. Of the people I met, friends and crazy souls. Of a deepened appreciation for my own heart and bravery. It was a day of great loves.

I put my pen down when I heard my name called and took a deep breath in.

AmeriCorps Essay

When I was thirteen, my stepmother took me to church. I thought it was strange waiting for mass to start, particularly on a Thursday evening and especially since that day wasn’t a special holiday. We waited silently until someone motioned to us to enter a back room where we could feed the homeless. I went to work, handing out dinner rolls and margarine to the people sitting at long tables, packed together that cold night looking for warmth to fill their bellies and souls. That night, I passed out food to people who responded with smiles and kindness in their eyes. An older woman lightly touched my wrist and thanked me in a small voice. I was touched and thankful that I could help. Twice a month after that, my family and I plated food and served drinks to the less fortunate.

I have a particular fondness for the homeless community. Maybe it’s based on what my stepmother instilled in me that first day volunteering all those years ago. Maybe it’s because of their heartbreaking, yet relatable stories. Maybe it’s because I was homeless myself. I found myself homeless in the fall of 2009. I was without a home, had no form of shelter or food and money. If it wasn’t for the support I received during those four months from some key individuals, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.

I believe it is important to pay it forward. In college, I became deeply involved in student politics and volunteer groups. Through my service in these organizations, I discovered that I had a knack and passion for talking to people and helping them out in different situations. It was in these clubs that I found myself I evolved into being a leader instead of a follower and discovered that I want to help people discover their lives the way I discovered mine. By paying it forward, I discovered what I truly wanted to do with my life and made plenty of great friends and memories along the way.

I hope one day to become a clinical social worker. With a position in AmeriCorps, I hope to earn the knowledge and experience of working intensely with the homeless population. I did some research online and came to the conclusion that this would be the perfect venture for me. It would satisfy my passion for volunteer work and paying it forward. One of my greatest dream is to have someone come back to see me and tell them that I changed their life. I see AmeriCorps helping this dream of mine become a reality and being the perfect teacher for greater self-discovery.

From My Upcoming Book

…Ask anyone about job-hunting in New York City and I’m hope they reply with a groan or by running away in the opposite direction. In a metropolis of eight million, it seems like everyone was applying for some kind of work. I wish that my university offered “How to Find a Job 101.” Maybe it my fault for moving to New York without a plan of attack or a least knowing a way to make some cash in order to feed myself. I figured that it would be easy to find work waitressing at a hipster café or at the market, scanning cans and food stamps. Eleven job interviews and two employment agencies later, I found work at a call center, phoning folks across the country about what brand of light bulb they use and if they could ever afford first-class air travel. The hours and pay were terrible but at the end of my shift, I could run to McDonald’s next door and treat myself to a hot fudge sundae before catching the subway home.

This is how my summer went: Wake up. Explore bits of my ‘hood. Eat crappy yet cheap food- breakfast/lunch/dinner all at once (eating once a day was what I could afford to do). Go to work at 2pm. Work until 9pm. Meet up with a friend or walk home back from Midtown across the Manhattan Bridge back home (the subway’s expensive when you’re making minimum wage). Go to bed. Boring, right? I began to question my move to the Big Apple during those long treks back home. I saw myself becoming that one person I never wanted to be: DULL. I worked at a terrible job. I wasn’t meeting people. My talent laid in writing and I wasn’t doing so. I moved to New York City for a reason. I just needed to figure out what that reason was….

The First Paragraphs of my New Book

I never wrote a book before so this a new (and scary!)  journey for me- especially since I’m writing about something so private and meaningful. I’ll be posting its paragraphs as I write along and attempt to complete it by the new year- ENJOY!
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I moved to New York City two months after my 25th birthday. It was always a dream of mine to live in Manhattan even before the future twenty-somethings of new America fell in love with the women from “Sex and the City” and flocked to the East Coast in mass herds to write cheesy fashion blogs and feed their YSL pump obsessions. Since my youth, I somehow knew that this city would be my salvation, my homecoming. Here, I knew I could be my true self- a bright but introvert, a shy but pretty Andrea and I was determined to make the most of things. It was my chance to reinvent myself into the muse-sex kitten-brilliant woman that cute men in sweater vests were always falling in love with in indie films. The darling maniac pixie dream girl. Yes, that was going to be me. I would get the dream job (writing for whatever publication that would hire me), find the perfect apartment and bed Mr. Right who hopefully looked like Ryan Gosling in “Crazy, Stupid Love.”

A year and a half prior to my big move, I was committed into a rehab facility for self-mutilation, multiple suicide attempts and an eating disorder. It was time of utter disbelief and self-discovery. It was there I finally learned how to be my real self. After leaving the hospital unscathed and outpatient treatment with the confidence I should have gained years before, I got on this “Live Your Life to the Fullest” kick. I was always that person who sat the in the back of the classroom, refusing to raise her hand even if she had the correct answer. I hated the way I looked, the thoughts I thought and was convinced that the world was indeed better off without me. After my stint in rehab, I finally started believing in my dreams and myself. I discovered that was a knockout, complete with mind-blowing curves and a pretty face. (I will never forget the woman who asked me if I modeled while I shopped with a friend. I stopped picking at my face that day.) I finally started listening to all the people who told me I was smart and creative and I believed it. I knew that I was better than nine-to-five office work, living in a rural western town with a head full of wishes. In my heart, I knew I was destined for bigger and better things, bigger and better places. It was time to pack up my things and move across East…