Posts in Blogging
Coffee & TV

This version of me smokes cigarettes with the depth of a film noir diva. This person drinks coffee as if it was a rare elixir, a fountain of youth. This version of me is a beautiful and perfectly calculated woman. She is sultry and her sex is a lethal weapon. She is Gigi from Casino, Cookie from Empire, Gloria from Gloria, Lauren Bacall and Jennifer Lawrence all rolled into one.

The truth is that this woman has been emulated over the years through my actions, my decision making, my diatribes and my behavior towards work, life and particularly sex. The power that she has is almighty but her heart is shattered. She maintains an approachable aura that in fact prevents her from being touched by anyone. Inside she's frail, she is alone. The struggle between self-sufficiency and loneliness is ever present.

This woman is who I wish I was or could become. She is what I wish I had as a role model. I will never forget the first time I saw Sharon Stone on the screen, a bewitching being unlike any other I had seen before. In person, Stone is even more fascinating. She is loud, tall, has an arresting smile, and a contagious laughter. Her body is like a statue, even at the height of her fifties, she is still one of the most gorgeous women I have ever met.

As a kid I wanted to be Sharon Stone, or what I believed Sharon Stone was like. In Basic Instinct she had more power than any of the other characters - she dominated them with a look. When the doors to the world shut down and she found herself alone, she had the same effect on herself, drowning in her own seduction.

I always worshiped women. Women to me are untouchable. Growing up I listened to female singers pretty much 95% of the time, my friends were all girls, I spent most of my family time with my aunts, and my TV idols were also all women. I always envisioned myself as one of them, sashaying across a stage, dancing and trading energy with the crowd. I could see what the cover art of my CD would look like. I could hear the sound of my music. None of those things ever happened, perhaps because I am not a woman, or anything like the woman I believed I should be like. What could have prevented me from pursuing my goals? Could it have been fear of having to deal with the results of whatever endeavor I'd throw myself into? Could it have been fear of unraveling, like many of my idols have when they accomplished their dreams?

Inherently I feel that I am my happiest as a man, I love my body and the life I have created for myself. My life inspires me too. Still, when I close my eyes and daydream, my constant lady reappears, her who takes no shit from anyone and is adored by most. My hope for this girl however, is that she realizes she doesn't need anyone else to feel less alone, no walls to protect her, she has herself and her dreams, that is the poetry she is meant to be living.

The idea is to accept this woman as another part of myself. Having this other side protected within me is important because that is also what protects me. I will keep Cookie, Ginger, Gloria, and Lauren tucked away. I will continue to bring them out, as sometimes I do, for opportune appearances in my day to day life. I will incorporate Cookie when I need to serve a cold dish of revenge, or Gloria when I need to protect my people. Nothing defeats me, nobody messes with me, not even myself.

C Train

9 am on the C train
Holding on, squeezing in

trying to fit in
Grab the bag, hold the pole, take control
Holding on to what's left
Holding on to the dream

Living the delusion
Feelings and confusion
It's never what it once was
It's never what it will be

Found a place for myself
In your arms no one else
How have I done wrong
How was I so wrong

Alone in my head
The chill in my bed
And my heart feeling sad
Breaking
Once again

Broken

Your shoes in the rack
Nothing but a token
Words unspoken
Left me with a wound open
Bleeding

Trying to face my feelings
Facing the ultimate rest
Uneasy
Facing the test

It's all about you and none of the rest
It's all for you for my life to relax
To keep actions in check
To stop words from causing distress

The Race

mind racing

too many faces and places

where I’ve been and where I don't belong

the mind churning, the year's turning

Life doesn't play on like a song

 

mind scattered

thoughts shattered

memories lost

paths that have been crossed

Never to go back again

 

drugs to calm the pain

to alleviate the brain

time for restraint is time for complaints

time for complaints no time to feel vain

there is no measure

the extent of damage

far beyond the pleasure

held as a treasure

 

the drug is the drug is the drug

the weapon of choice is louder than my voice

The weapon  of our time is stronger than our minds

 

Will power

Maybe only to take a shower

Won’t cower

Not even when my life goes sour

 

Wasted 20 lbs of lazy

On a hazy daisy

Winning at being lazy

 

Try to fight

Make things right

But shit is stronger than my might

 

Racing but not facing

This is gonna be your last game.

Silent All These Years

In the careful decision to peacefully sit in his living room with no music, no phone, no books or television, he hoped for the sweet comfort of silence. He listened to the white sounds in the background, like the hum from the neighbor’s air conditioners, the airplanes flying in and out of JFK, or the cars driving down Flatbush Avenue, at a safe distance. He carefully examined the brown sounds of the blue jays, hawks, canaries and a myriad of other birds he couldn’t name, but wish he did. He did not hear any pigeons and found that to be rather amusing. There were occasional dogs barking, a giggle from a child, or a door to a patio opening up. How lucky must these people be, to live in New York and be able to afford the outdoor space?

In this mix of delight and anxiety produced by the sounds of early morning he hoped to find clarity and direction. He hoped these moments of stillness would bring him closer to a solution to the many dilemmas that haunted him. He felt elated by the ability to be still and alone without wanting to rush to the left or the right. Sometimes he wondered if his life would've been easier had he been born an idiot, a complete clunk. He thought of those people who only own one sheet and one shoe and yet cherish them like gold, without desiring for anything other than what they have. Who are these people? Do they understand the world they live in? Have they always been this way or did life condition them into passiveness?

These are thoughts that go through his head. Certain times these thoughts can be perversive, and their simple occurrence frightens him. Would he really be able to act on any of them? Do other people also carry darkness within their bright spectrum?

In the silence he sat, trying to block out the white noises until he accepted them for lack of choice. He really did believe he was listening to the silence, but the silence was listening to him all along. Like a sponge, the muggy air of the late summer soaked in the thoughts that seeped through his soul, the air was drenched. Perhaps all that humidity he was feeling was in fact a product of his own thoughts?

The silence is quiet and pensive, it pushes you to arrive at your own conclusions. That's how he felt then, as if he was making progress in his interval for sanity. The truth is that the silence fed the thoughts back to him, filtered, unscrambled, clear of pollution. He suddenly had the answers he needed. Only the ones he needed, not the ones he wanted.

Faces and gestures remained in the membrane that separates the body from the soul. He was pulled towards these faces of people he had known and not spoken to for more than ten years. At college, some of these people seemed as if they would last for an eternity, but they vanished faster than a sunset.

He thought of his friend who lived alone in an island and wondered about her well-being. He decided it was time to check in. He felt guilty but warm too, for having her in his thoughts was like having his old pal sitting next to him talking trivial talks, like the maintenance of a swimming pool or the life of a circus freak. He missed those talks and wondered how was it possible that they had now gone over three months without even exchanging a single text message. He pondered whether he had done her wrong in any way but decided none of that had anything to do with anything anyway.

He pushed the thought away to return to the silence but her face kept coming back as if it was magnetized and being pulled by his aura. Finally, a new thought came and the moment became a new minuscule obsession about interest rates on credit cards. He made an immediate financial decision and then realized he still hadn't changed the mailing address for the cable bill. In the busying of his head he was still in silence.

This occupied silence spoke to him in intense waves. He shed a tear first, then two more, for no particular reason. His chest felt swollen and the only solution was an unconscious physical reaction. He took a deep breath and shed a laugh instead. He now felt blissful, in ecstasy. He felt ignorant. He felt irrelevant. How beautiful it is to be irrelevant, a human among humans, without titles or borders. He cursed on technology and then apologized for it. He realized how lucky he was. He realized how real he was. He felt valued, not by others, but himself. This was a novel thought, perhaps even an epiphany. The silence was talking to him, the silence was telling him things he never knew, things no friend, mentor or therapist had ever said. The silence told him to push through and be strong. The silence told him to come back, every day, and more would be revealed. It was now up to him, only up to him.

Reaper

“My mom said that I can't sing and I was like: I can't sing good, but I can sing mom, anyone can sing!” concluded the girl behind the counter at Starbucks.

For the first time that perspective had crossed my mind: anyone can do anything. How often do I hear singers who can barely carry a tune and somehow have huge careers? I don't suppose it's always only about the quality of the singing voice, it is also about having the balls to face the music.

I sat at Starbucks sipping my overpriced coffee and thinking about this girl, working hard behind the counter and still with great sense of humor and an interesting outlook on things. I was led down a path of wonderment: how many people prevent themselves from living their dreams for fear of not being accepted or talented? Furthermore, how many people with very little talent but huge balls and charisma follow through with their passion and to a fault, succeed? Could this woman have been a singer or a pop star had she had the proper encouragement and means to do so? Probably.

For me it happened like that, I had a dream and I pushed through against all odds. My parents didn't seem to believe it was possible, in fact those all around me were skeptical. I dealt with rejection and disappointment but the more I struggled the harder I worked for my goals and dreams. I succeeded. I don't know whether I am the talented one or the fraud who got away with murder, but I'm doing things today that I had dreamed about in childhood and never thought were possible.

There seems to be an ordinance in place that tells us that to do certain things in life we need to take pre-determined steps, as if we inhabited a board game. Got a raise? Advance five steps and buy a house. Bought a house? Advance three steps and get married. Got married? advance two steps and have a baby. Had twins? Go back two steps and borrow money from the bank for student loans.

But life is not “The Game of Life”. Life is fluid and full of surprises and new ways. I have always been a believer in the philosophy that everything works out if you put your mind to it and pair it with hard work and dedication. You wanna have a baby? Go for it! Who cares if your house doesn't have enough rooms? There will be a solution and if this is what will bring happiness to your life, why not just do it? Now, do I think that some people who are having babies should actually have babies? No, absolutely not, but that's none of my business; at least they're not telling lies to themselves but instead simply living life.

I suppose the central factor here is the question of destiny. Can we be reapers of life, ceasing control of things that aren't ours to begin with and make them our own? Can we bend destiny?

My experience tells me so. My experience tells me that even though the heavy weight pressuring my chest and generating anxiety is hard to overcome; it is not impossible. We put on our big boy shoes and go to the mattresses.

I've had my awards acceptance speech ready to go since I was about ten years old. I carry that speech in my wallet and update it from time to time. I keep it as a reminder to never stop pursuing my dreams and to work hard with focus and patience. Soon enough the day to actually use it might come.

 

I Am Not Writing Today

I didn't write today. Not a word on the paper, not a tap for the keyboard. I woke up early as I always do, I reached for the phone and that was the kiss of death. The sexual drive of the early morning took over my mind and I scrolled through a few inappropriate pages on tumblr. I thought of a cute guy who poked me on Facebook and went on to check out his page. On Facebook the notifications overwhelmed me, so I took care of those first, so I forgot to look at that page. 

I moved on to Instagram: Jordan had a birthday party and didn't invite me. Bianca got married and her dress was horrible. The other agency got the model that I thought I was getting. The picture of a vegan quiche makes my mouth water, I take a screenshot of the recipe but I know I'm never going to cook it. 

I remember I have to do groceries so I send myself an email as a reminder. I quickly look through my inbox and see there's an update for snapchat so I do that. I am now officially sucked into the universe of newly released filters. My neck hurts, my back hurts; shouldn't I feel refreshed after a full night of sleep? I stare at the phone screen for solid five minutes without moving a finger, in what can only be described as a near-catatonic state. An hour has passed and I haven't even gotten to Twitter yet. My life is so sad right now. 

I finally get up, feed my (very) patient cat, prepare my super strange green shake and start getting organized for the day ahead. The time that was allocated for writing and meditation is gone. Maybe I'll do 10 minutes of writing on my lunch break. I'll meditate tomorrow (next month).

The morning goes by and suddenly it's 2pm. There was no time for a lunch break, I'm moody, starving and pissed off at myself for not taking care of the things that truly matter to me. The phone rings again and I'm sucked back into the mess that my life has become. I lose my temper, I scream at people I should not be screaming at and I get lost in my self-pity all over again.

The day is done and I still have a full schedule ahead, so I cancel the coffee, the dinner and the drinks; I decide that my evening will be better spent writing and catching up on my finances. I visualize myself as the top executive in that movie from the 70's, walking out the door carrying his briefcase, shouting at his secretary:

“clear my schedule for the rest of the day!”

"but..."

I'm gone before she can utter another word. She is left with my mess to take care of. That  thought makes me smile. 

On my way home I run a list of all the things I still need to do. I stop by CVS, Pet Central, the laundromat, the deli, and the grocery store. I spent way more money than I should've and I haven't even been to the Vitamin Shop yet. 

At home I unpack, organize, feed the cat, play with the cat, look through the mail, remember that I forgot to pay the credit card bill, notice I need to take out the trash, and so I do it because it stinks. Another hour has gone by and I haven't written a word. My brain is fried and I have to catch up on Game of Thrones, so I decide I'm too tired to produce anything relevant. I make up my mind: I'm not writing today.

 

500 Answers - Purpose in Life

What do you believe is your purpose in life?

When I turned 15 my stepmom’s gift was an astrological birth map. There were beautifully drawn charts filled with codes and symbols I could not understand. The package included two cassette tapes. We sat together on her bed and put the tapes on, carefully listening to the soothing voice of the astrologer, who along with my stepmom explained every piece of that delicate puzzle. This recording revealed, bit by bit, my entire life’s plan and journey according to the stars. I was impressed.

A lot of it rang true and sounded like I was on my way to making my dreams come true. There was one thing however that sounded odd. The astrologer told me I would have a successful career taking care of people and/or managing businesses.

    This makes no sense, I would never do something like that, I wanna make movies

Well, making movies might have been what I wanted, but it wasn’t my path. At age 17 I was approached by a modeling agency to join their staff and hired on the spot. Lo and behold, I ended up managing careers, making them into businesses and looking after people for a living.

Truth be told, I had been doing that all my life, I just didn’t know it. I looked out for my friends in school and helped out anyone who needed assistance. That is still true for me today. Whether I am at work or not, I’m always looking out for my people. To me, there is no greater pleasure than lending someone a hand. Friends and strangers benefit from this quality - to different degrees, but they all do.

I will never forget when Michelle Alves, one of the first models I ever worked with, sent me a note right before Christmas. She thanked me for what I had done for her, and that was it. All I had done was to send her flight details via fax and pick her up at a fashion show. I was a young assistant then and this was the first time any model had ever thanked me for my work. That day I felt for the first time that I had a purpose; I felt for the first time that I could make a difference in someone else’s life.

 

 

Coffee Shop Ghosts

Who are these lonely crusaders of the keyboard? Who are these people who venture out into the unknown epicenter of words and numbers, in the middle of the afternoon, at quirky cafes or massive chains? Where did these beings come from and where do they belong? Do they not feel perturbed by the clinks and clanks of espresso machines and registers? Are they not phased by the screech of the milk frothers and the baby sitters shoving their strollers in whatever way they please?

Perhaps Benjamin woke up angry at his wife. He decided he needed to go write a letter to his high school sweetheart, the only person who ever really understood him, even in the silence. Gloria’s internet connection, on the other hand, was disrupted by the latest UFO to fly into town for the alien convention and she really could not wait another minute to wrap up her thesis on cloud anomalies. Actual clouds, not digital clouds. Could it be that Daniel has no place to call an office now that he is unemployed (staying at home creates an aura of depression and purposelessness)?

These people are magical beings, they populate areas which would likely go unused. These are creatures resented by some of the coffee enthusiasts, who would like to think they would go coffee tasting, if they had the space and the peace of mind to do so. What about the lovers who would like to sit at a table for a date and cannot, because there are ten computer rats crowding the environment? More intriguing are those who sit at the coffee shops and restaurants to watch movies or play video games. Is there really no better place to do it at than a crowded coffee shop? What is it about a busy restaurant that inspires someone to tune out the world and jump into the universe of Zelda?

I remember when I waited tables at a little cafe in Soho, a few moons ago, there was a girl who would always come in, order a regular coffee (which cost no more than two dollars) and sit there, on her laptop, working for hours. At the time I depended on tips and she never left any. She also took the space away from the good tippers, I thought. I couldn’t stand her, but at the same time I envied her. That woman had a purpose, she had things she needed done. For whatever reason, the non-tipper felt that our little cafe was welcoming enough that she could sit there for hours, entire afternoons! The owners of the cafe didn’t seem to mind, they probably felt she was good advertising, making the place look busy. The entire time I worked there I never saw her order anything other than her regular coffee. Not even a cookie! I bet that if I were to ask her, she would probably say she didn’t even like our coffee. I also bet she has a big career in astrophysics today, or something important like that. That girl had places to get to in life, she was tireless.

Cafes provide, perhaps, a sheltering environment away from loneliness but protected from interruptions. People most likely feel less inclined to talking to someone who’s on their computer, working. Nothing upsets me more than the person who feels comfortable enough to chit-chat with a perfect stranger. Call it social awkwardness but it’s at that moment when I really wish I’d have a computer to protect me.

A conclusion to this matter is still miles away but the endless amount of possibilities hidden behind each and everyone of these people is a thrill. The stories that run through my head during each trip to the local cafe are fabulous. The simple fact that they’re there, focused, makes me feel like they’re ten steps ahead of me. They’re the brave ones, facing the crowds, unafraid to explore their creative and professional needs, from full caf to decaf.

------------------------

Originally published on MEDIUM.

Saudade

Saudade is a word without translation, not without meaning. Nothing prepares you for it. It sweeps you off your feet and lands you flat on the ground. It's a theory and a paradox, it hurts so much, but oh, it feels so good! It washes you like a tall wave, it tackles you to only then lift you up again, out to fresh air where your lungs feel free and your heart relief. 

Saudade misses homes and pets, fast friends and long term partners. Saudade takes care of all, above and below. This is a feeling that reminds you of who you wanted to be when you grew up and who you were, just a week ago. Saudade craves food and green pastures, it craves smells and flowers. It inhabits your childhood bedroom, your baseball cards, your knick knacks and mementos.

Saudade feels like the first kiss - stolen. Saudade hums tunes in your ears, recites lines from old movies, and plays long forgotten. This feeling longs for attention, this feeling longs for your heart. Saudade makes you tight and then it expands you all over again. A sensation which awakens you to your truths, it's not dark nor is it light, it just is - magic.

Love that remains, happiness that stays, long after it's gone. Saudade. 

Temporary Rooms

I observe with the human lens. I watch them from the dimly lit corner of a room. They parade around with importance, tidying it all up for the honorable guests. They believe this is important. They believe this matters. I observe as the mechanical lenses line up at the edge of the room, always ecstatic and a bit hectic. They take position, a square each. A square, denoted by the neon tape that feels nothing, that says nothing, that breathes nothing. This tape somehow, the unliving tape, holds more power than some of the living things.

I observe in silence, as the lights briefly dim up bringing to center stage an army of long-limbed tall exquisite creatures. They walk in poetic march, built to inspire, built to promote, built for desire. 

I track the movement of guests as the doors bust open. I track them as they observe their ticket, longing for better seating. I observe as the better-seated glance at other better-seated, in awe and admiration, in anger and envy. I glance as they smile and hug and laugh and throw their hair back. They never stop. This is the cafeteria of high school and everyone has their place. Except for me, I am displaced.

I look, I point my humanity, I shoot. Heavenly creatures reappear on the suddenly bright room. I record moments, I share them with the world, I document it, in the way I'm told. Told by my lenses, the human lenses, creating unique perspectives, developing plots, but never deciding on an end. This story has no end, but the room does.

This room has an end, the room has a time. The room will live in glory, every once in a while. The room will be light and dark, the room will be structure and de-structure. The room will come, the room will go, but I'll stay. I'll stay. I'll stay.

Hat Hair

The waiter will not leave us alone, it’s like he wants us to keep ordering shit. I mean, really? What more could we order - appetizers, main courses beverages and desserts have all been pushed down our throats (basically). Does he expect us to start from the beginning again? And why would we do that? It’s not like things aren’t already bad enough. What is the deal with this silence? The staring… oy! What else can I do? He is good in the eyes, but not a lot of content behind them. 

Conversations remain in the air, floating in space, like those three bouncing balls in the text-message field when someone is allegedly typing an answer…except the answer never comes. By the way, why is that? What happened to my answer? Did it mistakenly end up in someone else’s phone and now they’re really confused wondering if they had dinner plans at 8pm that they completely forgot about? Let’s hope they didn’t, because they’re NOT in for a treat. Anyway. Back to this thing… where to go from here? 

This is that turning point, where I basically know what’s gonna happen, and there are only two options, with one outcome. Option A is that I will go home with the boy, screw his eyeballs out and then never see him again, or option B; in which he plays the prude, goes home and I never see him again. Either way, the ultimate outcome is: I never see him again. That’s totally fine, after all, can you imagine raising kids with a non-talking being? That would be complicated. “Honey, did you feed the baby?”. Text-message bouncing balls. The horror! 

He is good to look at though. Those eyes just won’t stop staring, they’re big and translucent and bright, and I really wish they could talk to me. Those eyes actually feel very much alive, they feel as if they have so much to say. They could fill two slots of the David Letterman show. Not just one of those tiny in-between interviews he does with boring physicists who are releasing some boring book about saving the planet. No one cares about saving the planet, Al Gore knows all about that. Ask him! I mean, I care about saving the planet, but I just try not to be too scandalous about it. 

Oh my God, I just realized I think I left the stove on this morning! Shit I hope the cat didn’t burn to death! Oh my God, what does that mean in terms of killing the planet? Wait… gas doesn’t kill the planet… does it? Oh I should bail on this botched date and go turn the stove off, can you imagine the electric bill? I mean gas bill. Oh, who cares it’s al the same, it comes in a bundle and no one looks at that damn thing, it’s all in auto-pay. “oh, put it in auto-pay and we will give you a discount.”. Bullshit! I don’t think anyone has ever gotten anything from putting anything in auto-pay. I certainly didn’t. I haven’t checked either, but I am sure I haven’t. 

This is one of those cases, like when I go to the supermarket and I buy plums that look really pretty and purple and shiny and big. I imagine they’ll taste like a little piece of heaven, and I don’t check the price because, well, they’re plums! How expensive can fruit be, right? And then I get to the register and the lady rings up the plums and my six purple pieces of heaven add up to somewhere north of 40 dollars. For plums! I go crazy on her, it’s absurd! “Are these plums made of Gold?” I say - she just stares at me and says “I don’t know, you’re the one who put the plums in a bag and then in your shopping cart” all while raising those big fat eyebrows in a uniform motion with the shrug. Oh these people! And who reads signs anyways? Also, you should be able to just throw shit in a bag, scan everything with your phone and walk away, check out lines are the worst!

Oh my Godddd - he’s staring at me again. And the waiter is waiting. For WHAT? Oh, thank God, it’s the check, he is waiting for my signature! Somehow the check had magically been filled out with tip and everything, God bless. He went with option B, I can’t blame him, I had a bad case of hat hair tonight anyway, that’s what happens in the winter, you get hat hair and your dates are ruined by it. No one gets lucky in the winter, because of hat hair.

try

6:15
wake up and it feels strange
on the wrong side of the bed
coffee spill denotes nothing will change

time to try something different
wear clothes inside out

9:15
underestimated
undervalued
unapreciated
work sucks

time to try something different
put a smile on that frown

12:15
lunch is cold
scream for silence
turn the table 
make a fuss

time to try something different
burn the past
open the door to the future

time to try something different
forget insecurity

2:15
the clown is pursuing drama
that train left the station

time to try something different
time to make it new

4:15
fire the boss
yell at a deaf man
just to make sure

time to try something different
pack the bags with air
go on a mission

7:15
cat's out the window
let him go

time to try something different
wake up
shake up the world

According to Law & Order

All I knew about Brooklyn when I moved to New York from Brazil six years ago was that Brooklyn was, according to "Law & Order", a dangerous part of town with shootings and bodies dumped in the river. I also knew that Miranda (yes, from Sex and the City) once had to make the painful decision to move there in order to afford a better lifestyle for her child. Apparently, real estate was booming, she could buy an entire house for the price of a Manhattan shoe box and the neighborhood was really blossoming. That was what I knew, the little information that television had fed me.

That was certainly not what I found when I actually crossed the river for the first time. Let's face it, Brooklyn could be a scary place if you don't know your way around. "Could" being the operative word. What many people fail to realize is that Brooklyn is not a neighborhood, it's a borough, and it's an enormous one. Williamsburg alone is the most densely populated neighborhood in New York city, with over 135 thousand people. And that is only a small part of Brooklyn. This borough didn't used to be a part of New York City, Brooklyn was its own entity up until a century or so ago. If Brooklyn was still an independent city, it would most likely be one of the largest in the United States. 

The most gentrified portions of this borough look like Anywhere-Else, Manhattan; if you ask me, except with a very, very young and artsy crowd. This is not to set anyone apart, it's just a fact. After SoHo and the East Village kicked out their young artists due to rising real estate prices (lofts turned into luxurious apartments, among other things), this is where they came to rest. So yes, Brooklyn, or at least parts of it, became a refuge for New York newcomers, young families and artists of all different cultural walks of life.

And so it is, Williamsburg, being the closest neighborhood, right off the first stop of the L train, becomes expensive and gentrified and people once again flee further. Dumbo, Bed-Stuy, Park Slope, Greenpoint, Carroll Gardens are all other names that have become as regular as SoHo and Chelsea in day to day conversations. It's the nature of the beast, the never ending evolution of the city that never sleeps. All along Bedford Avenue, Havemeyer, Metropolitan and Roebling you see the signs of change. From one month to the next, the store front that was empty gives place to a 16 Handles, a Walgreens or a bespoke tailor shop. The thing about Brooklyn though, is that somehow years later, it still retains some of it's original character. Whether it’s the old cobble stone streets in which Truman Capote used to take walks on, in Brooklyn Heights or the ever changing skyline of Manhattan, once depicted so brilliantly in “Moonstruck”; it’s all still there.

The place in which Barbra Streisand was born now may be the home for Winona Ryder, Mary Louise Parker or Maggie Gylenhall. The same streets in which Woody Allen have walked on have evolved and are now home to fancy restaurants which attract Manhattanites who would normally never be caught in another borough unless it was to go to the airport. The latest in a string of many, is the Italian nuveau cousine Antica Pesa, which has been known to attract Madonna and Harvey Weinstein. Roebling Tea Room is however, still one of the gems of the area; great food, proper portions, fair price and all of it in a very chilled out setting. But don't be fooled, there are many other restaurants to explore. 

If your taste is for farm to table, organic, gluten free (very specific) pizza, then Wild is your spot, and it does not disappoint. If all you need is a sandwich to kick starvation, then run to the newly opened The Sandwich Shop; there, the Tokyo Breakfast Sandwich or The Mexican are quite popular. At Reynard, the fabulous food is hosted in a great room that includes an indoor/outdoor garden with an option for a communal table. If you thought this proposition could not be cooler, think again. Reynard is a part of the super hip Whythe Hotel, with rooms that have some of the most beautiful views of New York City and a rooftop bar that really lights up at dusk.

The lively local scene is not only on swanky hotel rooftops. Not too far from the edge of the neighborhood is Brooklyn Brewery; Brooklyn's own beer brand, and a very popular too. Easy to find in almost any tap all across New York. If you're feeling adventurous, why not take a tour of their facilities and drink a pint with your friends at the end? From there, a great way to continue the night exploration is to head to one of the local music venues. Williamsburg Music Hall, Union Hall and The Rock Shop are some of the main venues in Brooklyn that have launched many bands into stardom, including Grizzly Bear, Tanlines and Sleigh Bells.

The Nitehawk Cinema is the place I look for when I am craving a midnight session of classics like Scarface or Trainspotting on the big screen. All that movie action takes place while chomping down some food and drinks, served by a friendly wait staff. That's cool, and you can only find it in Brooklyn. What's also cool is going to Brooklyn Bowl, to bowl and drink and listen to quality live music, which depending on the day, could be salsa, or classical; you take your pick.

Another local specialty gem is the Mast Brothers Chocolate factory. This local staple makes delicious dark chocolate unlike anything you've tasted before. Exported to hundreds of Manhattan retailers who crave their beautifully wrapped delicacies, some of the most popular flavors include Sea Salt Chocolate and Spicy Chocolate.

It was also in Brooklyn that I rediscovered one of my favorite daytime activities: the flea market. That's one thing I "knew" before I moved here; I knew Brooklyn had great flea markets. But where to find them? Well, my favorite outdoor choices are the Fort Greene Flea, or once the spring hits, I like to head over to the Williamsburg Waterfront to enjoy the Williamsburg Flea Market on Sundays. At that same spot however, you can enjoy the taste-bud tantalizing “open air restaurant” concept of the Smorgasburg on Saturdays, which honestly, is a top weekend choice.

My idea of Brooklyn thankfully has evolved. Since I moved here I have come to see Brooklyn as it really is. Here is a place filled with diversity and options for entertainment. And if the Central Park is the lung of Manhattan, then here you will find the breathtaking lusciousness of Prospect Park. The island of Manhattan exists gigantic in its microcosmos, while Brooklyn vibrates in constant and unexpected evolution. My vision of Brooklyn is no longer that limited idea created by television. My source of information today comes from my own experiences, in which every corner, every week, equals the opportunity to encounter a world of new possibilities.

------------------------------

Article appeared in Onne Magazine, October 2014

8 Teenage Films Inspired by Literature Classics

If you’re a film buff like me and an enthusiast of your teenage decade (like most people are), what do you do on a rainy weekend? Do you pull out a Shakespeare classic for a light read or do you dust off that old DVD from your collection for an afternoon on the couch with some snacks? If you went with the latter, you’re probably part of the 85% (totally made this percentage up, but seems about right) who would do the same. Here’s your perfect excuse (if you needed one) for some guilty-pleasure teen movie watching: films inspired by literature classics. This is a great way to get the best of both worlds. I took the liberty to expand a bit and included not only films from the 90’s - my decade - but some other gems that spilled out into the early 2000’s. Enjoy!

 

1. “Cruel Intentions” (Roger Kumble, 1999)

Inspired by: Dangerous Liaisons, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

 

By far, my favorite film in this list. Sarah Michelle Gellar – a.k.a. “Buffy” (to me, at least), stars in this adaptation of the French classic alongside Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillippe (swoon) and Selma Blair. The plot of the movie revolves around two stepsiblings who get a kick out of manipulating people and toying with their feelings. In the original piece, it’s a couple of ex-lovers who heat up the French aristocracy. If you want to take a step further, also watch the 1988 film “Dangerous Liaisons” which remains one of my favorite films of all time.

 

Side note: The soundtrack of “Cruel Intentions” also remains a staple in my music library, definitely worth a trip to iTunes in case you never listened to it. In my opinion, it’s a landmark of that time.

 

2. “She’s All That” (Robert Iscove, 1999)

Inspired by: Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw

 

There was a time in which the definitive teen heartthrob was Freddie Prinze Jr. Girls wanted to date him and boys wanted to copycat him (to get the girls). The plot here is simple: Zack, your average jock, places a bet with his friends that he can turn Loney – the school nerd – into a hot dateable chick. Of course he ends up falling victim to his own tricks, much like Henry Higgins, in ‘Pygmalion’. This play was also the inspiration for the movie “My Fair Lady”, starring Audrey Hepburn

 

3. “Easy A” (Will Gluck, 2010)

Inspired by: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Not only is this awesome movie inspired by The Scarlet Letter, but it also makes use of it in the plot: the book is part of the school’s syllabus. In the movie, as in the book, our lead character is humiliated and accused of being too… open minded.

 

4. “10 Things I Hate About You” (Gil Junger, 1999)

Inspired by: The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare

 

This movie single handedly elevated Heath Ledger to superstardom. Here, Ledger brings life to Patrick, the rebellious school kid who’s every girl’s crush. In this loose interpretation of “The Taming of the Shrew” the heart of the story remains the same. Bianca is in love and wants to start dating, but is not allowed until her temperamental older sister kicks her love life into gear. A fun film to watch on any lazy day, and it never gets old.

 

5. “Clueless” (Amy Heckerling, 1995)

Inspired by: Emma, Jane Austen

 

I bet you didn’t see this one coming. Believe it or not, “Clueless” came straight from the pages of a Jane Austen book into the streets of Beverly Hills. There were some serious adaptations to make the story fit the 90’s, but the basic plot remains the same: a rich spoiled girl who loves to get involved in match making. Many names of the original Jane Austen book were used in this classic 90’s movie.

 

6. “She’s The Man” (Andy Fickman, 2006)

Inspired by: Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare

 

When Sebastian goes to London, his twin sister Viola takes the opportunity to dress like her brother and replace him in their new school, all of that in order to fulfill her dream of playing soccer with the boys. In Shakespeare’s original story, Viola loses her brother when their ship sinks and pretends to be a man in order to get help. The Duke asks for her (his) assistance to confess his love to Olivia, but it all goes wrong. Olivia falls in love with Viola (dressed as a man, obviously), and Viola falls in love with the Duke. Sounds like something I’d get myself into.

 

7. “Romeo + Juliet” (Baz Luhrmann, 1996)

Inspired by: Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare

 

This is the most literal adaptation in this list. The only difference is that even though the film retains the original dialogs and a lot of the poetic language, here the story is given a much more vibrant setting, in the streets of the 90’s; ridden with gangs, guns, drugs and wild parties. The chemistry between Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes is effervescent and remarkable and made us all dream of having a love affair as intense theirs was.

 

8. “Get Over It” (Tommy O’Haver, 2001)

Inspired by: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare

 

In the classic Shakespeare play, four teenagers get wrapped up in a love ‘square’, thanks to the magical works of faeries and elves. Here the magical beings are set aside and the film focuses on one of the parallel plots from the original play. The reference becomes more evident when all four leads, including Kirsten Dunst’s character, take part in their school’s play, which is, roll drums… “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

 

Unusual Names and Number One Hits

Madonna and Lady Gaga occupy colossal space in the cultural spectrum.  One is named after a saint, the other after a Queens song.  Few would question the impact these artists have had on pop music and, frankly, like Prince and others before them, their high-octane names can’t hurt their evolutionary power.  So, why can’t these women get along?   

lady-gaga-madonna.jpg

Both of them have been the topic of a much discussed feud.  The first one, a staple in pop culture for over 30 years.  The second one, a more ambiguous but equally explosive presence in the pop scene.  But let’s fact it: Madonna is a tough act to follow.  While Madge is the reigning Queen of Pop, there seems to be a general consensus that Lady Gaga is after her throne.  Whether a dethroning is underway or not is not the point. Their unique and explosive impact on our lives makes them kindred artistic spirits. 

Madonna is a tough act to follow because she ignited conversations many moons ago, and has continued to do so year after year. Raising awareness to hot topics like women’s rights, gay rights, political and religious freedom, and among many other things, above all, freedom to express yourself, in any way you’d like; Madonna pushed buttons.  From the start, Madonna climbed to the top of pop culture’s Pantheon and there was no argument, she was a phenomenon, she was the Queen of Pop.

Decades later, when Lady Gaga came on the scene, she was too admittedly greatly influenced by the works of the pop diva.  But there hadn’t been anything as fresh and groundbreaking as Madonna in all that time. There hadn’t been anyone willing to expose their creative insanity in order to ignite controversy, bust open taboos, and once again challenge tired social mores. 

And even though Madonna’s fan base is huge, there are new kids on the block (no pun intended) who have no concept of what the material girl has done for them, kids who don’t understand the difficult fights she was instigating.  Somehow, she made it unscathed.  But she was the first one, and perhaps that is why she was able to push the envelope every time and still come out a winner on the other side.  She was selling records and concerts, but she was also changing lives along the way.

Like Madonna, Lady Gaga aims to reach a wider audience, even though it doesn’t seem like her work translates as well.  Her approach at times too far out and on the verge of desperation, she seems to be stuck within her “monsters”, the majority of them members of the LGBT community, like me.  But she is, unquestionably, breaking new ground, blowing apart boundaries and educating an entirely new generation.  Let’s hope her monster base expands along with her message.  

Elton John greatly criticized Madonna, instigating brawls in the media.  But why?  What is the goal of this man, who did too, revolutionized thoughts and invited discussions.  Shouldn’t he know better and just let artists do what they do best, and let them continue to create thought provoking work in whatever way they please?  And I will go even further now.  If there is a feud between Madonna and Lady Gaga, shouldn’t the two of them also know better?  It’s not about who came first or who is the Queen of Pop, but it’s about their work and the message they are trying to convey.

Even though many will argue that we should not have to deal with a “message” and just be able to enjoy the music and have fun, there is still a message. The goal of these women is in great part to affect change, to make people think in a broader spectrum and to open their minds to different possibilities; each of these women in essence have proclaimed these same goals.  They talk about inclusion and acceptance of others, so why aren’t they more accepting of each other, since they are both working towards the same objectives?

Madonna will not lose her throne. Lady Gaga will eventually have to refresh and find new ways, because the regurgitation of ideas passed will get tired. Madonna has remained a staple in the cultural consciousness because she so cleverly reinvented herself and addressed topics from different perspectives.  She has kept it fresh.  Along the way, she made it possible for me and many other people I know to be who we are and to be proud and vocal about it, with no fear of consequences.  Lady Gaga’s staying power remains to be seen.  Each generation needs its muse and it is in this spirit of cultural evolution that I sincerely hope Lady Gaga has the same lasting impact on the new kids that Madonna has had on me.

There is still a long way to go in this world, but it’s greatly because of people like Madonna and Lady Gaga that we are able to evolve openly and accept each other as beautiful and flawed human beings that we are.

 

Master Class

It is pure delight to listen to someone very accomplished share their life experiences. That is why an old episode of Oprah’s Master Class really interests me. The other night I was struck by something that was said on that show. It was not a novel idea or something that I didn’t already know, but something I hadn’t really heard so clearly said by someone so successful, like Goldie Hawn. The main point was that we should always pay it forward, no matter how much or how little we have in life. We each have our blessings, in different shapes and forms. That was it. Simple concept, right?

 

What went on to be discussed, and what I pondered extensively, was that most people in the world today are obsessed with their own lives. It’s all about “will I get a promotion? Where can I park my car? How can I cross the street faster? How can I make more money?” So on, and so forth. People spend a great deal of time obsessing about how to get ahead, rather then actually doing something that’s good for the person standing next to them or to the world as a whole.

Pay_it_forward_ver1.jpg

In the movie Pay It Forward (Warner Bros. 2000), a young boy comes up with a concept that for every generous act done to him, he must pay forward with three generous acts to three different people, and tell each one of them, to do the same for three others. A simple concept that could make peoples lives that much better and as a ripple effect create a psychic change in entire communities and then possibly in the world. Somehow that concept did not catch on.

 

Most people make lame excuses instead of paying forward. “I don’t make enough money to make donations, why should I give money to this cause when it’s the government’s job to take care of this issue?” And it goes on, one after the next. But the point here is not how much money can you give back, or how much time you have to dedicate to doing volunteer work; it’s how do you behave in society, in your daily life? How do your daily actions affect the world that surrounds you? And then maybe, depending on who you are, what job you have and how much money you make, what type of bigger contributions can you make to the betterment of the world?

 

I have worked with many successful models and artists in the entertainment industry. Over the years I have come across many generous souls who have contributed to a plethora of causes. I have also met many who simply go through life as if it was a party, with no consequences and no interest in doing anything for anyone else. One of my most inspiring muses is one of my most loyal clients, a successful model who has always worked extremely hard for obtaining success. Proportionally at the same time, this girl has always taken a portion of her time (and her earnings) to apply towards charity, volunteer work and political lobbying to change the roots of the problems. Her goal, from the very start, when nobody knew her name, was to achieve fame so that she could leverage change. She had made a conscious decision that if she was going to give up university to a life of globetrotting under the spotlight, then it better be worth it. She has, to some extent, accomplished all that.

 

The story illustrates that we must always give back. We must always pay it forward, in any scale that we can. It’s from those little acts, of holding the elevator to the person who is running a little behind to making a five dollar donation to a homeless shelter (or whatever else interests you) or giving a lecture on what you’re an expert on to those who wish to learn. A little help goes a long way in our world today. 

 

People who give something back and share their fortunes with the world, generally live a much happier and fuller life. What I didn’t know when I was younger and I know now, is that by giving myself to others I find real fortune. Happiness lives in honest altruism. The idea that I could go through life not giving anything in return for all the good that came to me is daunting. 

 

My dreams truly blossomed and concretized after I started giving myself away to others and also discovered I could learn and let my life be enriched by each and every one of these encounters. There is so much we can learn from day to day life, but it takes an open mind to see it and an open heart to understand it.

 

The real master class is not on Oprah Winfrey’s network, it is all around us.