Keep Living, Advice From My Father

“Keep Living!” That is the advice of my father. He gave us this reminder whenever something unexpected or tragic happened. For a time, I thought that he was expressing indifference. I thought that his way of saying fuck it was to just say “keep living”. It wasn’t until I grew older and he would follow up his catch phrase with, “that’s all you can do” that I began to understand. When a family member died, my brother and I heard him say it. Keep living. My father still says it today, his simple reminder, left for interpretation like an ancient koan, meant to clear the mind of conscious thought. My brother and I have embraced this mantra over the years and deciphered it as a reminder that we must move on, beyond the event that has the potential to shut down our world. We’re unable to put everything on hold and just stop, we must keep living. I hope that others can embrace this attitude as well. Keep living.

As time has moved forward, we have determined another meaning for Pop’s words of wisdom. In the event of the unexpected, we take inventory of our emotions, and then we’re reminded to keep living. As we keep living, we will be met with greater surprises. We will be surprised by joy, tragedy, new responsibilities, literal/figurative walls to climb, love and pain. If you think this is something, just keep living. You ain’t seen nothing, yet.

Being surprised is an unavoidable part of our lives. Because of this I’ve always battled with the phrase, “expect the unexpected” or the action movie quote, “be ready for anything.” Well, how am I supposed to do that? How do I prepare for a fight with the invisible man? Perhaps it’s part of the keep living mantra to be prepared for anything, within our scope of experience. My brother, a Marine, once reminded me to never leave the house without shoes because, “you never know when you have to run.” I thought he was paranoid. Those of you that have spent any time with me, have seen me spontaneously take off running for any of several reasons. I’m usually trying to be a good Samaritan and chase after someone that dropped something. Because of his advice, I am always ready to run, even in a three-piece suit. Keep living, you’ll learn to stay prepared.

It’s a common misconception that a healthy and fit lifestyle is a life riddled with diet and restriction, no fun and no chocolate. Quite the contrary, my life is not one of restriction. Further, most diets are ridiculous. Yes. I said it. You’ve been a host to this body long enough to know how it will respond to different types of food. Don’t eat/drink things that make you sleepy, suck your energy, or rot your teeth. Food is meant to make us feel good. Keep living and do it by eating well. You’ve heard me say it before, I am not a Registered Dietitian. I am a Fitness Coach. I’m not going to make a meal plan for you or tell you what to eat. I will remind you that common sense should guide your food choices. Is it deep-fried and made in a lab with a 2 year shelf life? Do you think it’s a good idea to eat that? Probably not. If you do eat it, should you feel stress and guilt over your choice? Nope. Keep living. You’ll eat a broad spectrum of things throughout your life. That deep fried Oreo with Nutella dipping sauce tasted really fucking good. Keep living. Don’t judge yourself and don’t assume that others judge you.

Whether you use it as a training mantra, a recovery mantra or a life mantra, keep living. When life, painfully, reminds us that all things end we must keep living, this too shall pass. When we are tired of the challenges that life presents and we want a break we must keep living, more challenges are ahead. When we’re sore and wondering why we signed up for *that* endurance event, keep training, keep living and keep moving forward. Giddyup!

Patience And Compassion (A Revelation)

Last week’s post has been on my mind every day since the ink began to set in my skin.

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I’ve found myself in a quagmire of anxiety with every asshole I’ve encountered. I keep asking the same question. Why does this person deserve compassion? Why does James Eagan Holmes* deserve my compassion? Does Andreas Lubitz* deserve my compassion? The answer isn’t important, I’ve been asking the wrong question. To question who is deserving (of anything-not to mention the compassion from some dude in Oakland) is arrogant folly. I learned this lesson when I almost lost my temper behind the wheel. Oakland/San Francisco must be in a two-way tie for jay walking capital of the U.S., if anyone were keeping track of that sort of thing. I’ve ranted about the subject before. One of the regular habits of these jackasses is to run out in the middle of the street and slow to a walk while still in front of your car. Good times, so fun! Well, a couple did this to me on Friday morning. While the young lady kept running, the dude behind her strolled the entire width of the busy street. Even as several cars screeched to a halt, he never picked up the pace even after I slammed on my brakes and lost a bit of rubber to keep from ending his life. As I called him all sorts of muthafuckas from behind the wheel, he just looked at me. He didn’t flip me off (that’s common for jaywalkers in the Bay Area), he didn’t say a word, and he didn’t raise an eyebrow. He just looked in my eyes as he kept his stroll going and it was clear that he gave not a fuck. That left me with two choices. 1.) Shift to 1st, cook some rubber, and mow him down in the middle of the street at 10:30 in the morning. (“All the years if I pull this trigger!”) 2. ) Breathe deeply, stay cool, recognize he wasn’t worth my anger, and just keep it moving. I chose door number 2. I kept thinking about that look on his face. He was truly indifferent about the fact that he was endangering his life and the lives of drivers that could have ended up colliding because of him. I took a lesson from that experience. While I’m sitting round wondering how to have patience and compassion for all, many people are not expecting nor craving my patience or compassion. The jaywalking, Mr. DGAF‘s look implied that he was unconcerned with my level of patience or compassion for him. He didn’t desire/need either from me. That’s the lesson I took from that experience.

It’s worth mentioning… I hate it when people tell a story about a look someone gave them that involves projection of their personal issues when the person could have just had a booger rubbing against their nostril. This isn’t that. I’m not leaping to an assumption of what Mr. DGAF thought based on his look. Based on his actions (did I mention that the actual crosswalk was about 100 feet away) and a look that said nothing, he didn’t give a fuck. That can be verified by anyone that saw the incident. I’m not just telling you how his look made me feel.

What does that mean for my pledge to have patience and compassion for all? The most memorable lesson that I learned from Sesame Street was to tackle one task at a time. My last few weekends have been good ones because I’ve been able to balance productivity (chores) with creativity (dance) and social networking (you know the real kind, in people’s faces). There was an episode wherein some furry creature (Elmo?) was frustrated by the enormous stack of homework in front of him. Some human (Gordon?) came along and pushed all of the books off screen and placed one of the books in front of the furry dude. The lesson was to focus on one element of a huge undertaking before allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the weight of the total endeavor. Well, with the help of Mr. DGAF’s lesson I’ve decided to focus on one element of my pledge before doing it all. It’s impossible to hug the entire world at once. I’ve decided to start with the people within arm’s length. There are plenty of people that have and will come to me in need of my patience and compassion. I will do my best to give it to them. Over time, I’ll be able to give patience and compassion to those that haven’t requested it, to the DGAFs of the world. But, that’s further on up the road on a very long journey.

*Feel free to perform your own searches on the people mentioned above. I won’t add to their notoriety by adding a link to this post.

The Pledge + I Am A Burlesque Performer

“I pledge allegiance to this journey that leads to a higher state of consciousness and to this life, for which it stands, with patience and compassion for all.”

Those were the words that I wrote/agreed to during a journal entry at the Naked Camp in March. They resonated with me so strongly that I asked Micah Riot to tattoo them on my chest, shoulder, and back. [Sorry, WordPress is giving me an error when I try to upload pictures this week.] I’ve always believed in challenging myself to be a better person and I don’t take words tattooed on my body flippantly. This has been my most challenging tattoo to date. When I read it aloud to a colleague, she immediately repeated the last two words to me, “for all“? She asked. Aware of her drift, I immediately conceded that some people are easier than others when it comes to having patience and compassion. It’s not headline news that some people are unkind (read: assholes). This pledge challenges me to answer the questions how and why, daily. How can I be patient for the person that walks down (not across) the middle of the street and flips me off when I choose not to change my speed? Why does the person that beats a child deserve patience or compassion? That muthafucka deserves a boot to the face, right? That would be the easy answer and it would certainly make me feel good. But, there’s an important rule that must be highlighted in our daily dealings with assholes.

The Asshole Rule The anus has one job. Because of that job, the anus smells like shit all day. Even if you spend 15 minutes detailing it in the shower, soon after it will go back to smelling like an anus. The unfortunate truth about an asshole personality is that they have one job. Because of that job, the asshole human does shitty things all day. Even if you spend 15 minutes beating the shit out of the asshole human, soon after they will go back to being an asshole. Think about that for a minute. I’m sure you’ve noticed that our society tends to overlook provocation. Someone can spit in your face and kick your dog. When you beat them and put them into the hospital, you’re the one facing charges. Weird! No wonder we always shouted, “THEY STARTED IT!”, when we were kids. No one considers the provocation. Assholes provoke in hopes of getting high off of their drug which is our response/reaction. I won’t feed their ego. I won’t be their pusher. Instead, I choose patience.

It’s worth mentioning… I’m not suggesting that anyone turn the other cheek. I don’t believe in that. I’m suggesting that the right balance of patience and compassion won’t place me in a situation for the first cheek to get slapped. You dig?

Anger is so much easier. It’s so easy to just flip out, be impatient, and start cussing people out. But, then I become the asshole. No one considers the provocation. Everyone just sees me cussing people out. No thanks, I’d like to be invited back to this house party. I’m not going to amp on that dude committing party fouls. I’m going to stay cool. The tattoo is still a work in progress. Micah will be adding some custom artwork over two more sessions and some of that work will cover my first tattoo. When I was 18, I walked into a shop in Atlanta, chose a Chinese symbol that translated into “cool”, and had the dude put it on my left shoulder. It was my first tattoo challenge. I was going through Anger Management at the time and I would reach up and touch the tattoo whenever I need to cool down. Over the years, I’ve reached for it less and less. People often compliment me on how calmly I handle certain situations. I hold those compliments in high regard. I no longer need the cool tattoo challenge and also, I don’t speak/read Chinese. A Chinese woman once confirmed (while laughing at me) that the translation was correct. “Ha ha ha, you think you’re cool! Ha ha ha!”

Why challenge myself in this way? If my pledge didn’t challenge me, what would be the point? As a young dude, I stared at the flag and said the pledge of allegiance but, I was never challenged to conduct myself as a patient and compassionate human being because of it. The pledge of allegiance was a rote morning routine in grade school that involved more lip moving than recitation. I don’t want to turn this into a political post, but out of curiosity… Does anyone else find it interesting that this indivisible one nation still has states in the South that celebrate the Civil War (e.g., confederate flags, confederate soldier monuments, and confederate parks) and their former desire to secede from the union? Anyone calling America one nation hasn’t lived in many parts of it.

It’s worth mentioning… Before any overly patriotic mouth breather begins typing a rebel yell of a reply, understand that everyone has had a very different experience in this country. If our demographics don’t match, keep your opinion in your back pocket.

Do I regret getting these words tattooed on my body? Not at all. I may never accomplish the goal/pledge of having compassion for all. But, as long as I’m challenging myself to be patient and compassionate as a first response, I see this as a righteous path. Will I ever write a new challenge and use that tattoo to cover this ink in 18 years? W(ho)TF knows? Ask me in 18 years.

Please note: I did not write this blog to suggest that any reader do anything remotely similar. Write your own pledges and create your own challenges. I am asking you to be a better person. But, how you define better and how you manage your societal interactions is entirely up to you. Enjoy your journey and honor the gift of life by living it.

I Am A Burlesque Performer

A Bay Area news group recently, did a piece on burlesque in the bay. Here’s the link to that story! You may recognize the picture of me from my Black Dynamite act. Sometimes I get the question, why, in regards to performing burlesque. Why have I chosen burlesque as a creative outlet? Much like any creative outlet, burlesque found me it wasn’t the other way round. While burlesque by definition is not a gender-specific word, some people make up words like “boylesque” or even worse “brolesque”. I am a burlesque performer. I concede that this is and always has been a female-dominant environment, so I understand the desire some may have to distinguish between crotches. But, I am a burlesque performer. I try my best to bring drama, absurdity, and tease to every strip I choreograph. My costumes have included handcuffs, suspenders, multiple bowties, monocles, wigs, nunchucks, and straight jackets. I’ve dressed up as Gumby, Venom, Black Dynamite, Steve Urkel, the American Flag, and a shadow of pain. I’ve danced to Chemical Brothers, Marilyn Manson, Goapele, Van Hunt, Prince, Deftones, Portishead, and many others. I’m sure that people classify me as neo-burlesque or some other such label. I am a burlesque performer. I’ve never identified with the label of “classic”. In the golden age of burlesque, there were no black male performers. If there were, I doubt they wore a mohawk or covered there body in pledge/reminder tattoos a la Memento. Why do I wear pasties when I perform? As I mentioned, burlesque is a female-dominant environment. In many venues (at least in California) it’s illegal for a woman to expose her nipples in an environment that serves alcohol. I believe it to be a stupid, sexist, and archaic law. So, as long as women have to legally wear pasties, I’ll wear them in solidarity. I’m a burlesque performer and I hope to continue bringing memorable performances to the stage until the day it feels like work.

Come see me perform a new number in our Post-Apocalyptic themed show!
Friday, August 14 – Hubba Hubba Revue @ DNA Lounge in San Francisco