Hustling – From the Streets to the Boardroom

if-you-know-the-way-broadly-you-will-see-it-in-all-things-127088

“Read this and maybe you will be someone one day”

Those were the words my dad spoke as he handed me a book on the Mafia.  I was 12 years old and very impressionable.  I would stay with my dad during the weekends.  He would rent gangster movies for me to watch while he was away at work.  He was obsessed with the lifestyle.

During my childhood my dad was involved in criminal activities that ranged  from selling drugs to running numbers.  He tried to hide it from me, but I knew.  He hung around with low level, wannabe mafia types.  They sat in diners all night long drinking coffee, breaking each others balls about women and how “rich” the next guy was.   The fact of the matter was none of them were rich.

They told stories about the past while laughing obnoxiously loud in public places, creating a scene.  The majority of what came out of their mouths were either lies or half-truths.  It was like watching a bad episode of the Sopranos 20 years before it was a show.

As a kid I loved it.  I couldn’t wait to be around his friends.  I thought they were the greatest.  I idolized them.  They had nice cars, which my father never had.  Some wore gaudy jewelry and always carried big wads of cash.

They were always excited to see me and treated me like royalty.  Unlike my father who usually put me down and made me feel less than.  When I grew up I wanted to be like them.  I had become obsessed with that lifestyle.

At 13 I started selling weed to my friends.  At first, I stole it from my brother and my friend’s dad until I found my own source to buy it.  I bagged it up in little dime bags and sold it to friends for $10 a piece.

Even back then I remember wanting to make sure I always gave people a great deal.  I packed the bags I sold nice and full, removing the stems from the buds.  When I bought weed from other people it was mainly stems and seeds.  I hated that and wanted to be different, even it meant I made less money.

As I got a littler older and progressed from selling weed to coke, my mentality on making a profit changed.  I cut my product, but tried to maintain a certain quality standard.  I found that if I added seven grams of cut to an ounce of quality coke and mixed it well people rarely complained.  To stretch my profits further I would make half grams weigh .4 instead of .5 and my grams weigh .8 instead of 1.  These two tricks net me an additional $500 in profit if I didn’t use too much of it myself. (more…)

11 Things I Want to Say to My Ex

goodbye

I wrote this for myself a few months back.  I never planned on publishing it.  This post was originally titled “10 things I want to say to my ex.”  But I ended up with 11.  It’s kind of ironic because her and I used to play a game with the time, 11:11.  If one of us saw it on a clock we would text it to each other or yell it out before the other one could.

We haven’t spoken in several months.   It was always such bad timing for us.  Every time we were happy something came along and changed our relationship.

She reminds me of myself in so many ways when I was younger.  If we were able to speak there are a few things I would like to say to her.

  1. I’m sorry – I’m sorry about how I handled all the change in my life.  I’m sorry you had to see me at such a low point.  I’m sorry I didn’t get help for my depression when you begged me to.  I’m sorry I hurt you and your son.  I was a judgmental asshole who projected all his own baggage and inner bullshit I carry around onto you.  I forced you to become a person you were not.
  2. You’re a whore – As much as I don’t want to admit it there is still a part of me that is angry, resentful and hurt
  3. Stop blaming other people for your problems – You’re better than that.  You constantly blamed issues in your life on what has occurred in the past.  You’ve become a volunteer victim.  Breaking this cycle is incredibly hard.  Its taken me 35 years to start doing it.  You are a strong person underneath all the pain.  You are a survivor.  Take responsibility for your life and your actions.  It will allow you to have a better life ten fold.
  4. I hate who you have become – The last few months I was around you it was like spending time with a stranger.  There were occasions I saw the woman I fell in love with, but they were few and far between.  I look at pictures of you from this summer compared to when I last saw you and you’re not the same person.  This summer you looked fresh faced and full of life.  You had this light in your eyes.  Now that light has gone dark.
  5. I hope you find yourself – You told me every that with every guy you have dated you took on their personality and made their interests yours.  You get lost in whatever some else likes because you don’t have a sense of self.  I think that may be one of the reasons you and I found each other at the time.  I have such a dominant and overpowering personality that you clung onto me.  Even though you weren’t into my lifestyle you still gave it your all.  You need to find out what you love and what makes you truly happy.  I hope you spend some time by yourself and figure out who you are.  Jumping from one guy to the next, like you have, will never allow for that.  I did that with women and it set me back many years.
  6. Not everyone new is better –  You become infatuated with anyone who is new in your life.  All the new people who come into your life get all your mental and physical attention.  You talk about them constantly and put them on a pedestal.  It’s almost as if you wish you could have their lives just because they are different than yours.  You take some aspect of their life and you romanticize it to the point that these people can do no wrong.  The people in your life that have always been there for you, that have given you so much, you treat with little regard.  You seem to only care about them when they are useful to you.  Otherwise you treat them as a burden.
  7. Relationships, like life, take hard work – I think this is a concept we both struggled with. Hard work, in most aspects of my life, has been something I have shied away from.  I remember you telling me you thought relationships should just work.  I’m not saying they should be as difficult as ours, but they require a lot of effort to be great.  This same rule applies for most things in life.
  8. Be the amazing mother you once were – That’s one of the reasons I fell in love with you.  You were such an amazing mother.  Being a single parent has to be one of the hardest jobs in the world.  You have faced adversity and still gave so much love to your son.  The last couple months I was around you you were always hungover or too concerned with your phone and work while he was starving for your love and attention.
  9. You’re beautiful – You don’t need to do the things you do for attention.  You are a beautiful person.  If you are confident in that and respect yourself the right people will come into your life.
  10. Thank you – Thank you for the time we spent together; good and bad.  Thank you for allowing me to be in your sons life.  He taught me so much about myself and what I want in my life.  Thank you for hurting me as bad as you did when you ended things this summer.  If it had not hurt so much I may have never seen how unmanageable my life had become.  I may have have never stopped using pills.  I may have never got to this place in my life.  I am finally becoming happy and comfortable with who I am.
  11. I love you – I’m not in love with you.  I don’t want to be with you.  I don’t even really want to see you again.  But, I love you.  I have compassion and love in my heart for you and your son. I keep the two of you in my prayers and  wish you a beautiful life.

The Evil in Indifference

“There is another kind of evil we must fear most, the indifference of good men.”

man-praying-on-one-kneeEvery night before bed I pray.  I ask God to replace my fear with faith.  I ask that he puts me in situations where I can be courageous and face things I fear.  This doesn’t necessarily mean I have to be put in a fight or flight situation; but put in situations where I am forced outside my comfort zone.

Today I was presented with an opportunity to be courageous for someone else and fear kept me from acting.  I was rushing on my way to get my haircut.  I stopped at a red light when I saw a older man about 50 feet away from me walking his dog.  The man was probably in his 60’s.  He was clearly intoxicated and was yelling at his poor, defenseless dog.  The dog was terrified.  The man even went as far to kick at the dog when it wouldn’t listen.

I love animals, especially dogs.  I was enraged by the mans actions.  I started screaming out of my window at the man to leave the dog alone.  The dog was trying its hardest to run away from the man and almost ran out into traffic.  A police officer was stopped at the same light perpendicular to me and watched the same events I saw.  The police officer sat in his car and did nothing.

The red light stayed red for what seemed like an eternity as I watched this drunken, abusive man yell at his dog.  I so desperately wanted to jump out of my car and harm the old man for treating a scared, defenseless animal in this manner.

My blood was boiling as I screamed at the old man from my car.  But I did nothing to help this animals plight.  I let my fear stop me from doing what I felt was the right thing.

I feared that if I got out of the car I would have immediately act in a violent manner.  I was not in the frame of mind to handle the situation delicately and kindly.  A police officer was sitting there watching and I feared getting a citation or possibly arrested.  I feared hurting the old man and getting sued and what that would cost me.

I was confused as to what I would do if I did step in and was able to take the dog from the man.  Would I keep the dog?  Would I be arrested for stealing his animal?  What happened if I did not take the dog from him?  Would this drunken man abuse the dog further for my actions?

Then I realized the fear I am most embarrassed to admit.  I feared being caught up in this altercation and missing my haircut appointment.   I feared how that would effect my day and all of my other plans because I am leaving for Las Vegas tomorrow for vacation.

My selfishness and indifference played instrumental roles in my lack of action.  I call myself an animal lover; yet I see an injustice and I am more concerned with how this may impact my day instead of doing what I feel is right.  That realization made me ashamed and disgusted in myself.  I turned this into “someone else’s problem.”  That is the greatest evil in my opinion.

I’m not sure what the correct action was at that exact moment, but inaction certainly was not it.  I feel that is one of the greatest problems facing communities and societies today.  People are afraid to stand up and defend those who cannot defend themselves.  This is one of the main cuas why neighborhoods and cities are destroyed and overrun by  those who wish to do harm.

People are afraid to stand up and do that right things because they fear the outcome.  Quite often there is a good reason to be fearful.  You could get arrested, sued, injured, shot, outcast in the neighborhood, be targeted for violence later.  The list goes on and on.

If we want real change to occur in our world for the better, we as a society must start taking these risks.  We have to develop a plan to take our streets and neighborhoods back.  We have to make a difference in the lives of those who are young and defenseless in order to instill in them the confidence and courage to take the correct actions.  Even if it’s an unpopular decision.

Parents, teachers, leaders need to evolve in our communities and invoke the sense of pride that people once had where they would not stand for people acting out and destroying where they lived.  Without citizens taking ownership in what occurs around them their environments will continue to decay.

I know their are good and courageous people out their every day who take action to make the world a better place.  They understand how turning a blind eye to what may seem like an insignificant problem leads to ignoring much larger issues later.  Like the people in Baltimore who stood outside of local businesses defending them from looters.  To all these men and women I respect and salute you for your efforts.

Plato poignantly and concisely said it better than I ever could:

“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

 

 

About A Boy

Without even recognizing it, uncomfortable emotions have crept up on me again this year.  My Ex and I have been off and on for the past three years.  This time has been the longest of our break ups.  Each time we have split up we started talking on Mother’s Day and end up back together around Memorial Day.

We rush back into our relationship blindly without looking at the past wreckage we both have caused.  Ultimately the results are always the same.  It doesn’t work out because we have never resolved our past issues.  We take what we feel is a serendipitous reconnection and impulsively jump back into our relationship.

This year I am able to step back and assess my past relationship with her with a more discerning eye.  Too much has occurred between us for me to want to be with her again at this point.  I can’t allow myself to be hurt, or to hurt her, again knowing full well what has happened in the past.  At least that’s what I am telling myself.

The most regrettable part of this story is that she has a son who had to go through all this.   He deserves better than what her and I created.  I haven’t seen him in a little over four months now.  He’s the greatest little guy I have ever met.  I love him like he is my own.  I miss spending time with him playing , building Legos, and the bond we shared.

If I am being truthful, the reason I reached out to her on Mothers day is because I miss him.  I want to be a part of his life again.  When her and I broke up the last time we made an agreement I would stay in his life for as long as he wanted to see me.  I stuck to this agreement and saw him every other weekend for the next nine months.  However, I got to a point that I could no longer be around her.  It was unhealthy for everyone.

Unfortunately that meant I couldn’t see him anymore either.  I never wanted to stop being a part of his life, but I could no long be a part of her’s.

When I spoke with her yesterday I asked if I could see him again.  She told me she didn’t think that could happen.  She said he has struggled to adapt to no longer seeing me and she doesn’t want to confuse him further.  She went on to tell me how he talks about me and my dog often and wants to see us so bad.  Hearing her tell me that broke my heart.

She also mentioned that she wanted to protect herself from getting confused and backtracking in her life.  I can appreciate and respect what she said because the last thing I want to do is hurt either of them again.  I made it clear I don’t want to be with her or interfere with her current relationship.

She expressed that I was supposed to in his life as a step father.  She felt if I was to see him again he would be confused and want the three of us to do things together again and eventually he would want me to stay.  Her and I both know those things can’t happen anytime soon.  Or more realistically ever.

As we continued our conversation she brought up the past several.  She made comments about “us” and resentments she still harbors towards me.  I wasn’t the best boyfriend.  I understand where she is coming from as I harbored resentments towards her until recently.  I just know that I can’t allow myself to be resentful.  It brings me down and leads me back into a world that is unhealthy for me.  But I realize I can’t expect her to be on the same page as I am.

Im at a crossroads where I’m unsure If I am being selfish in wanting to be a part of his life.  I don’t know if it would be detrimental to him in the long run.  I have already been in and out of his life twice because his mother and I have not been able to keep our relationship together.  The last thing I want to do is hurt him more.

As an adult we have to make brutally painful decisions about what is best for other people.  In this case I’m not sure I’m able to do that.  I so deeply want to be a part of his life again that I’m afraid I’m unable to see what the right thing to do is.

Too often in my past when I thought I was being selfless I was being selfish.  I have difficulty seeing the difference while I am immersed in the situation.   I truly love this little boy.  Proving I love him may mean that I have to stay out of his life forever.  That’s the sad truth I don’t want to face.

My Heart Bleeds For Baltimore

There is no good or bad, only perception

A view of rowhomes on Patterson Park Avenue with downtown in the background, taken from an upper level of the Patterson Park Pagoda.  (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore was my home for five years during my early twenties.  The city gave me countless irreplaceable memories.  When I think about my time living there I become incredibly nostalgic.

Playing football at Patterson Park and dodgeball at Du Burns Arena.  Going out drinking every weekend in Canton or Federal Hill.  Getting sushi and buckets of beer at Cross Street Market.  Orioles games at Camden Yards.  Looking back on those times I am incredibly grateful for those experiences.   A part of me will always love Baltimore.

I have continued to spend time in Charm City for the last 10 years.  Seeing riots break out in Baltimore struck a chord with me.  I felt anguish and anger as I watched areas I frequented being looted and destroyed.  It forced me to reevaluate and change my perspective on civil unrest.

I felt like the riots in Ferguson earlier this year were happening in another country.  I was rather indifferent to them.  My view of the riots was that a bunch of animals were destroying their homes.  People were responding in a violent manner over the police shooting of a criminal.  The cries of police abusing power were heard in my ears, but I didn’t take them to heart.  Having been the subject of police brutality myself, one would think I would be more sympathetic.

When the riots first started in Baltimore I kept the same narrow minded view as I had on Ferguson.  The police abused their power and took the life of another criminal.  Now opportunists were using this tragedy as the impetus to loot and riot for their own personal gain.

The way much of the media depicted this situation perpetuated the same parochial view to the rest of the public.  The news doesn’t normally show the peaceful protesters who are fed up, but are going about their way in a nonviolent manner.  In my opinion they tend to show volatile events in an irresponsible and dangerous manner in the name of ratings.

When I would look at social media, the majority of my feed was made up of clips pushing the media’s agenda.  Showing the riots instead of the nonviolent protests.  There is a certain rush from the injustice we feel when we see people acting barbaric, attacking innocent bystanders and burning down their own neighborhoods.

It’s easy to join in with that gang mentality and push what the media outlets show us. They dictate how we should perceive and feel about what was occurring .  In the past I would have joined in and shared the videos.  I would have made insensitive statements without thinking twice.  Hate and ignorance begets hate and ignorance.

image1Somewhere after the first day of the riots my mindset started to change.  My thoughts shifted to the people I love in Baltimore.  I became scared knowing they could possibly be victims of violence.   I feared for a little boy, who’s only 5, that has to grow up in the face of this type of unrest in this country.  The spill over and rage of people who feel that they have not been heard or seen for too long can no longer be silenced.

Out of every disaster and hardship comes opportunity if you look for it.  Deep down I truly believe that somewhere in these tumultuous events lies hope for a better future with more understanding.  This is possibly IF (and that is a gigantic if) we get the right people to look at and assess the situation.  Not the same people who continue to get us into these devastating catastrophes.

The unfortunate fact is that so many of us, myself included, have a set belief system that interferes with us seeing opportunity in tragedy.  It’s easy for me to drive on my default setting of what I have always thought was right and wrong.  Life’s simple that way.  I don’t have to make hard choices and think for myself.  I just stick to what I have always believed and stay ignorant.

However, there are people with the ability to see the bigger picture.  They have learned to expand their minds and remove the blinders that keep others from seeing the grey area where the opportunities live.  They have the capability to take something like these riots and turn it into something exceptional.

The biggest problem with finding opportunity in these occurrences is that the truly gifted people with that ability want nothing to do with politics.  We tend to have the most inept people, who are unwilling to perceive things differently, in power. That’s on both sides of the political spectrum. Until that changes, not much else will change.

When the right people examine a problem anything is possible.  Our country can no longer tolerate the pain and suffering of individuals without trying to empower them.  Archaic methods of making people dependent on a system that is broken and does not serve their best interests can no longer be allowed to exist.  We need to create new ways to stimulate growth and development throughout our country and improve relations across the racial divide.

Life is Brutal but Beautiful

In May of last year one of my closest friends took his own life.  Mark was only 42.   A mutual friend of ours called me and told me the news.  When I saw his name come up on my phone I had an eerie feeling something had happened to Mark.  I was devastated as I fell to the ground clutching my phone.

Mark was like a brother to me.  We had been through a lot together during our friendship.  We met at the gym and he became my lifting partner for years when I lived in Baltimore.  We both had a passion for fitness.  We always joked that no one else would train with either of us because of how much we sweat during our workouts.

725He was a talented athlete.  A former wrestler at the collegiate and professional level.  He even spent a little time wrestling in the WWF (now known as WWE).  He was tough nails but had the biggest heart.

Mark was a guy who gave all he had to anyone he could.  He was a very gifted personal trainer that had an uncanny ability to help others rehab through injuries and illnesses.  One woman came to Mark with a claw hand that she had not been able to use for years.   Through trigger point massage and several other techniques he was able to give her full dexterity back in that hand.  She had seen doctors for years and no one could help her the way Mark was able to.

The two of us had the same sick sense of humor.  We would say things to each other that most people would find incredibly stupid and immature, but we found it hilarious.  Most of the time we were just picking on each other about dumb shit we had done.  He had the most amazing and infectious laugh I’ve ever heard.

Mark was one of the few people in my life that I could be myself around.  I never worried about what I said or how I acted.  Every time we saw each other I would tell him I loved him before I left.

Mark had talked to me about suicide in the past.  I had talked him down from the ledge many times before.  But this time he was set on doing it and he never reached out.  I guess he felt he didn’t have the strength to come back from what he was going through.  It makes me so sad to think he didn’t realize how many people loved him and would had done anything to help him.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to say a few words about Mark at his funeral.  I was so filled with emotion when I spoke that the only part I vividly remember saying was  “Life is brutal but beautiful.”  Those five words summed up my feelings and the dichotomy of the life.

The brutality of this situation was very easy to see.  The tremendous amount of pain it caused everyone who cared for him was plastered on their faces in tears and sadness.  A man who was far too young decided to make a permanent decision for a temporary problem.  His pain had become so great that he couldn’t see that his life could possibly get better in the future.  The fact that Mark felt so alone that he couldn’t reach out for help.

The beauty of that day was in all the people that came together to show their love and appreciation for Mark.  To pay our respects and celebrate his life.  Sharing stories of how he had affected our lives and made us richer for having known him.  The serenity of knowing that Mark was no longer in pain and was in a better place.

I miss my friend daily.  His picture hangs on my refrigerator and I talk to him often.  I know hes somewhere smiling down on everyone he loves and probably laughing at all of my mistakes.  If only Mark could have seen the beauty we all saw in him he may still be alive today.

Life is hard.  We all know that.  But, it’s important to smile, take time for yourself and love people with all you have.  Find joy in your life everyday and look for ways to give back to others.  Life’s about the journey more so than the destination.  If you don’t take time to enjoy it daily you miss out on so much of what is amazing in this world.  There is adversity and brutality all around us everywhere we look. But life is also the most rewarding and beautiful experience we will ever have.