Memories of the Old Stables on Pelham Parkway

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Growing up in the Bronx, the stables at the end of Pelham Parkway was a special place. The first time I went there, I was 4 years old, and it was a group trip for my pre-kindergarten group. It was my first time seeing horses and ponies up close. My favorite pony there was a brown mare with a jet black mane named Lucy. I loved feeding her carrots. Neither I nor my classmates wanted to leave those stables.

12 years later, my parents and I took my nephew to those same stables. Lucy was long gone, but their horses and ponies were as beautiful as ever. Seeing my nephew ride a pony for the first time reminded me of my first time all those years ago. It was an amazing thing to share.

The stables at the end of Pelham Parkway have been out of business for years now, and all that’s left of the place is a husk, along with the memories of what used to be. I miss the horses, and I miss seeing them trot up and down Pelham Parkway. The only solace I have is that I had a chance to experience these stables in their prime, filled with magnificent creatures.

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Valentine’s Day: At Peace With Being Single

I’ve been single for 3 years. The first two years, when Valentine’s Day would approach, I’d be a complete Grinch. I couldn’t stand all the imagery of happy couples being pushed into the faces of the masses, all in order to get them to fork over their money for chocolates, flowers, and even the shiniest jewelry money could buy. I hated the feelings of longing that these images would invoke, and I’d curse the existence of February 14. Suddenly, that time of year has come around again, and for the first time in a long time, it simply feels like another day.

My parents and relatives always like to bug me and point out that I’m single and not getting any younger, asking me who my next girlfriend will be, or when I’m getting married. Truth be told, I don’t care at this point if I’m destined to stay single or not. Between focusing on improving myself and pushing toward my personal goals, the supposed emptiness of being single has been replaced with a sense of solitude and peace. Being alone with my own thoughts has been a blessing in recent months, allowing me to rediscover myself. Sometimes, solitude can put things in perspective.

Don’t get me wrong. There are those rare days where I would like to wake up next to a wonderful woman. I sometimes miss those long, playful phone calls from my days with my last girlfriend. Still, looking at where I am now compared to three years ago, I don’t regret anything.

If you’re single, and you don’t have a special someone to be your Valentine, don’t worry about it. Focus on building yourself up. Don’t worry about finding somebody on that dating site, and don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t bumped into that special someone yet. Take time to do something for yourself. Hit up a bookstore and explore. Hit up a gym and get active. Take time to try something new that you haven’t done before. Be your own Valentine.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Why Did Tenacious D Win a Grammy in a Metal Category?

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Photo credit: theartdesk.com

Okay, we all have our issues with certain Grammy winners. Either half of us think Eminem should have gotten “Album of the Year” for The Marshall Mathers LP,  or we think that Kendrick Lamar should have gotten “Best Rap Album” instead of Macklemore. Lapses in Judgement happen. Still, that doesn’t explain WHY a non-metal band like Tenacious D won a Grammy for a metal performance, beating out established and more deserving acts like Anthrax and Mötorhead in the process.

For those who are unfamiliar with the musical duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass, I advise you to sample their work. They’re a fun and entertaining group. However, as much as they rock, they are NOT metal. Their genre is somewhere between hard rock and comedy, and even they know this. Their vibe is more “Weird Al” Yankovic than Iron Maiden. So, for a group like Tenacious D to dominate in a field dominated by bands like Metallica, Slayer, Pantera, and Megadeth, it shows the NARAS’ lack of understanding of a genre.

Let’s flash back to the 1989 Grammys. Metallica was the front runner for their critically acclaimed album, And Justice For All. Everyone had them pegged as a surefire win. Then the winner was announced: “And the winner is….JETHRO TULL.” Metallica, one of the most influential metal acts in the industry, lost to a band that wasn’t even classified as a metal band. This lapse in the committee’s judgment is so legendary, it was even referenced in Mike Judge’s The Beavis and Butt-head Ensucklopedia, with the duo claiming that Metallica’s Grammy snub was the reason the band “looks pissed off all the time”.

The fact that the Grammy committee is capable of making  the same lapse of judgment 26 years after the infamous Metallica snub says a lot about the committee. It says that not only are they unaware of the genres represented at the Grammys, but that they could care less about rectifying their errors. With this in mind, we should ask ourselves, “Is a Grammy really as important as the world tries to make it out to be?” There are so many musicians, vocalists, and musical artists of every type that have contributed so much to the world of music and the music industry that have never even been nominated for a Grammy. Does that make them any less influential? So let Jethro Tull and Tenacious D keep those little statues. A Grammy doesn’t make a band any more or less awesome than they are, and the fans are the ones who decide if they’re awesome, not a committee.

Snowfall on Astor Avenue

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One blizzard after another in New York. On the daily commute, it’s as hectic as can be. But on the backstreets of the quiet side of town, it’s as peaceful as can be. While the snow is pushed by the wind into the masses in the city, on the outskirts, the snow slowly falls like leaves in the fall. The picturesque comparison of nature’s yin and yang, mere miles apart from each other.

Heeding Malala’s Wisdom

“I truly believe, that the only way to peace, is through reading, knowledge, and education.”
–Malala Yousafzai
Nobel Prize laureate

In recent times, Malala Yousafzai’s voicing of the importance of education has become a global beacon for progress. When she survived an assasiation attempt on her life by the Taliban, not only did it strengthen her desire to learn more, but it made her voice on the matter stronger. Malala highlighted the importance of literacy and knowledge, striving to encourage young girls in her native Swat Valley in Pakistan to seek out education, as well as helping impoverished children around the world attain the privilege of being able to learn in a classroom setting. Something as simple as reading and learning, something that so many of us take for granted, people overseas are willing to die for. Are reading and education as powerful as tools as Malala makes them out to be? I would say yes.

Less than a year ago, as an act of curiosity, I began visiting the book section of a local thrift shop. Books that had been discarded were avaliable for less than a dollar each. I would buy a new book every Saturday. From that time I first started my thrift shop book trips, three particular purchases stand out in my memory: The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Gordon W. Allport’s The Nature of Prejudice, and an anthology of slave narratives, including The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and The Narrative of Olaudah Equiano aka Gustavus Vassa. Those books not only opened my eyes to my potental as a Black man, but gave me insight to the world around me, my own history, and the small ways I can better myself and contribute to the positive energy of this world. (I’ll expand on these ideas in future entries.)

Months after I had purchased those books, I purchased and started reading Russell Simmons’ Do You!, a book on self-improvement and self-empowerment. One wouldn’t expect a business mogul mostly known for contributions in hip-hop and fashion to offer intellectual and spiritual insight, but he did. Between speaking on incorporating meditation as part of a daily routine and speaking on taking initiative in your own life, Simmons’ book was a genuine eye-opener. His pearls of wisdom became embedded into my own life. I started incorporating his advice into my day-to-day with positive results. The more I read these books, among other influential books I would purchase, the more I started to transform my daily grind into a personal journey to better myself and share positivity with the people around me. I give God thanks for my spirit of perseverence. And it all started when I took a chance and began to read and learn, remembering Malala’s words that were quoted above.

Something as simple as reading the right book can open a person’s mind. It’s easy enough to blindly follow whatever is on the television, but to open up a book and process the words printed inside is to allow your mind to be awakened. So many of us who are literate take this gift for granted. We settle with just living our lives day in, day out, without taking a small opportunity to open a book and learn something new. And it isn’t necessarily an expensive thing to do. People find books in the bargain racks on a regular basis and gain a wealth of information. Reading the right book can help gain insight to the unfamiliar, helping you understand perspectives and viewpoints beyond your own. To read, learn, and educate ourselves as well as educating each other is the key to understanding each other.

My advice for you is to go to any place that sells books, find a book that can possibly open your mind, and start reading. It can be a biography, a book on world cultures, maybe a book exploring human nature. Read it and learn from it, and share that information with gratitude. Also, encourage others to read. Sharing productive knowledge and ideas is a great way to encourage each other as people, the key word being “productive”. For anyone who wants to help promote literacy, find ways you can volunteer your time and help. It’s as simple as googling “literacy volunteering”. And keep learning. Don’t limit it to inside a classroom. Education is a blessing.

To learn more about Malala Yousafzai and her activism, please visit:

http://www.malala.org