Pepper

These days, death doesn’t seem to impact me the way that it used to. I don’t view it so conclusively anymore - like the finishing of a book that one can never re-open. I don’t see it as that finalized. Instead, I see it as an exchange - not unlike that of a conversation. A give and take. A trading of energy between the dead, and those who it has touched - a conversation lasting an entire life time - long after the passing of a beloved. A silent dialogue that belongs only between you, and them. A murmur of the most private level - that no other ear can ever pick up on. 

You learn as much from them leaving, as you do when they are just being. 

I think people wonder how I managed to stay so calm after the passing of my father. It’s both rude, and strange of me to admit - but I’m so happy that he is dead. In place of distance, I in fact feel closer to him than ever before. As though he sacrificed himself on purpose, so as to give me strength. And for that, I am grateful - in a way that’s simply impossible for me to state in words. At least not in a way that can be transmitted orally - in a way for others to comprehend. 

A couple hours ago, we put my dog of 14 years to sleep. His name was Pepper. Once something has been in your life for that long, it easy to forget about the span of time they’ve stuck by your side for. I think about how far I’ve come between the ages of 15, to 29. And he was there for nearly all of it.

I made sure to cancel all of my weekend plans to go up to Connecticut to pay him a visit one last time. I’m very happy that I was able to feed him one final ice-cream bar right before he was injected with the anesthesia. I was there every step of the way - at least as many as I could reasonably take with him to the other side.

Yeah it’s a sad day, but I’m not crying profusely. I’m not screaming “Why? Why?” I’m so grateful to have known a dog like him for so long that it would almost be ungrateful to mourn his loss. This occasion calls for celebration - so that’s what I’d rather do. Cheers to you Pepper. You’ve lived a full life, and I got to know you in mine. What more can I ask for?

In a strange way, I can’t wait - to one day be a witness of the place where all of my loved ones are going. I look forward to that day with honest curiosity as opposed to panic, or apprehension. Perhaps it’s because I’ve come to realize that this life is all an illusion - an intangible dream. Something that doesn’t warrant the seriousness we often project onto it. The fact that we were born and made it this far is just as much of a miracle as it is a joke. A confounding joke of the most impossible probability. Yet, it happened. We’re here. And we’re all still in touch -beyond and after.

So let’s laugh with the dead, and gaze our eyes into the light - in appreciation of the darkness.  

(Originally Published 7/4/18)

the awesome shore

I feel hungover - still drunk and disheveled from the night before. All of my superpowers, everything that makes me the amazing, has been robbed in plain sight.

It’s essential that we never lose sight, of our own magnificence. Even as we are temporarily debilitated by a break-up, bad day, or a hang-over.

In this funk - everything may seem everlasting. As if you’ll never be good again. You believe in this with such conviction - it’s frightening.

In this moment, I feel I won’t ever be funny again. My head’s not working - I feel sluggish - the extra pint of beer has forever robbed me of my talents. I’m no good. I ought to dig myself in a hole, and call it a day.

But not everything we feel - is reflective of how things actually are. In a few hours, my hangover will ameliorate and I will return to my usual, semi-funny self.

I’m grateful this is only half a day’s inconvenience. My hangover could be much longer - and I’m grateful that it’s not. But in the few hours my boat is lost in the sea, I have to remind myself that I will eventually reach shore - to the awesome shore.   

(Originally published 7/2/18)

Buffet of heartbreak

I’ll never forget finding out about the infidelity. We were sitting in the couch of my living room at 1am in the morning, when a steady stream of messages started coming through her phone. I recall her bubbly giggle - the way she promptly responded back to every single text. There was no shame or guilt in her demeanor - even as our bodies were held together like glue - in a familiar embrace. I may not always have the best judgement, but my intuition that evening - didn’t let me down. 

When I confronted her the next day - my world shattered. Confessions about the steamy naked yoga sessions and the horny Midtown client who I encouraged for her to stay friends with… I was shocked. I had 10 minutes to process everything before taking off to work at Lavagna.

I’ll never forget that shift. The longest 8 hours of my life. Not just the world, but the entire galaxy weighed down on me. I morphed into a color darker than anything feasible by the human mind. By the time I took the final order of the night, I could no longer fight back the tears. The second I stepped into the apartment, I was an inconsolable baby. Crying hysterically. Screaming in agony, as my body began convulsing - begging me to vomit. I felt disgusted, betrayed, stupid, naive, worthless, dumb. But amidst the animalistic shrieking, I started to notice other factors slowly surfacing - from my subconsciousness. Factors that had nothing to do with my ex-girlfriend. I began thinking about my mother, and father. I suddenly realized the fragility of time. I began crying for them - fearing that they were getting old, and would no longer be with me one day. They didn’t even look like how I remembered from my childhood. How did everything go so fast? How did I end up here? When did my hair go gray? How could I have allowed for myself to reach this low? Where will I be, when I don’t have my parents to rely on one day?

Suddenly, this wasn’t just about the girl. I was having a full blown life crisis. A crisis that would follow me for the next year or so - but I had no idea of at the time. 

When my father died last week. I processed the information rather quickly. I heard the news, digested it, and felt immediate relief. I felt prepared - despite how sudden it was. 

Tthe infidelity now feels like a preparation for everything that was to come my way. I’m not sure to feel gratitude or bitterness. A year of my life went down the drain because of how morbidly depressed I was.

My biggest fear was becoming jaded and losing my innocence. That was the recurring line in my head “I hope to God that I don’t lose my innocence”. To have a chip on my shoulder and lose my appreciation for the silly things in life. Ironically, as a result of all that I endured, I not only become more silly, but also more loving. And with the death of my father, everything has come full circle. I feel him closer in me than ever before. I can laugh and smile instead of giving into the darkness. Just as he would have wanted from me.

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger is about the most disgusting thing you can say to someone who is struggling. I hate it. But if I had to reframe it, I would say “What doesn’t kill you, will rob you of your lust for life, and turn you into a cripple. I’m sorry, I’m not going to beat around the bush. But during that period of disability, you will reflect. You will reflect on all that you want to keep, and all that you want to dispose. The notion of moving forward does not yet exist, because in your head, there is no future. It will be slow. And it will be awkward. There is no easy way around it. I’m very sorry. There is no guarantee on how long or short it will take. But once you do resurface, and believe me, there will be plenty of other setbacks on the road to recovery - you will be magnificent. You will be all that you had ever wanted to be in life, and then some. If youth is what you wanted to be more of, you will become more youthful despite the passing of time. If funny is what you wanted to be more of, you will become even funnier - despite the heartbreak and pain you harbored for so long.

What doesn’t kill you, will fuck you up. But it will also transport you to a new dimension. A dimension where all inspiration, love, humor, youth, and kindness comes from. Eat it up like a buffet.

(Originally Published 6/18/18)

STFU

Everything about me has been changing lately. Even the way I tell stories. Anytime I have to recount a tale from the past - I fall prey to the same monotonous rhythm that I’ve told the story in a million times before. 

I hate it. 

Gracelessly, the words stumble through my lips. I see the person who is listening, and she is completely out of touch. I know that the story itself is interesting. I know it is - I’ve lived through it. I’ve lived a rich and colorful life. But I can’t seem to go astray -  to leave behind the script. The same script I’ve been carrying with me for over a decade - or whenever this story occurred. The difference is, I’m no longer 19. I need to update the rhythm, to better reflect who I am today. But in the midst of blabbering through my lines, I can’t ever seem to jolt myself out of the painful monolog. Like my friend Nader says, sometimes I just need to “Shut the Fuck up.” Even if it means to stop dead on my tracks and say “Ah, fuck it. Whatever. Let’s talk about something else”. 

I’m at that juncture in my life where I’m no longer a young man, and I’m not yet old. I look at the ways in which people of all age ranges interact with one and other. I see young people and the misleading innocence of their eyes. The way they openly splatter words around like as though they’re creating a Jackson Pollock painting. Then I see the so-called adults, in their reticent and jaded haze. Unwilling to speak as much as their younger counterparts - keeping everything only to themselves or their very, very close ones. Why? Because they’ve been broken so many times, that they’ve finally learned to not take as many risks. They’ve learned to shut the fuck up. 

It makes me wonder. Is it a natural change in our brain chemistry that alters our means of communication, or are we simply mimicking how our peers interact? Do adults feel the pressure to be less verbose because it’s their natural tendency, or are we still all emotional teenagers who want blabber on and spit garbage - but refrain from doing so because it’s frowned upon.

I don’t really quite know the proper means of action. Do I talk, or do I shut the fuck up? But if there is one thing I’ve learned - and it’s something that I’ve also incorporated into my mürmurs - if it’s not brought up, don’t fucking mention it. If you’re not asked about it, don’t even begin. Ironically, by not jumping into the focal point of your thoughts, believe me, there will eventually come a natural lull - but here is the trick - you have to be comfortable with sitting in that silence for a moment. And if you manage to not fill in the void with non-sense, you will be prompted. And when you do, boy, your words will be like an arrow flying through a straight path directly into the heart of the dart board. 

Today’s advice. Shut the fuck up. Wait. And then talk. 

(Originally publishes 6/14/18)

Decibel Sake Bar

We’re easily detonated by the trivial - while conversely - maneuvering with grace the true hardships that require strength and fortitude. A tragedy that should buckle the knees becomes an unexpectedly straight-forward affair. While something as dumb as being stuck in traffic, invokes enough anger to destroy anyone in sight. Oddly, the traffic light scenario is the one to ignite greater emotion. The little moments in which every land mine inside of our souls is triggered.

I was walking around the East Village with a bucket of wheat paste and stack of mürmur flyers - looking for the perfect spot for my mürmur mural. I came across an empty wall - next to Decibel, a sake bar that I used to frequent. Using my bare hands, I began slathering the wall with glue.  

Just as I laid in the final piece, I felt a figure hovering over me - an employee of Decibel.

“You can’t do that”.

“Why? This wall has nothing to do with you”.

“Doesn’t mater who the wall belongs to. What you’re doing is a crime. If you don’t remove it right now, I’m going to call the cops”.

I sensed my nerves slowly rise. “How dare he defy my passion? How dare he prevent my poster from welcoming new friends to my home - friends who need a shoulder to cry on, strangers who need their voices to be heard.” I wanted nothing more in the world than to stumble upon a poster like this myself - to reinstate faith in humanity - so why was he trying to demolish it?

Despite my explanation, he was blind to the purity of the message. All he saw was a criminal at work - a deviant desecrating a wall.

“Will you really call the cops if I walk away form here?”

“Yes.”

I looked at the poster for a good minute - a good gaze. I thought about what was written on it. Namely the part about mürmur being a vanguard for non-judgment, respect, and authenticity. The emphasis to make an effort to understand others, instead of quickly shunning them. At the end of the day, this was a man who was upset. I did something to upset him. Though I didn’t agree with his reaction - this was an opportunity to turn things around - to reach a compromise. One that would allow us to go separate paths without ill will.

I began peeling the paper from the wall very slowly. At first, it was like removing my own skin - but quickly, I sensed the beauty in the moment. Though just a few feet away, he was intently watching me with his arms crossed, I felt strangely the one in power. The mural I had built with my own hands, was now being taken down by my own hands. I suddenly felt very in control

When he went back to his bar, I hope he was in a better mood and made better conversation with the customers and made better tips in return. My father had talked to me about the ‘The Butterfly Effect’ on one of our very final telephone conversations - so I’m glad that I was able to honor him by putting his teaching to use. 

I’m happy a land mine was triggered today.  

(Originally published 6/10/18)

*Orhan Ülgen*

A week ago, I had a dream. It was reminiscent of a distant childhood memory - I was in the bedroom of the apartment where I grew up in Turkey when suddenly, my parents appeared hand-in-hand. Except, these were not the aging, mature version of themselves that I know of today. In this dream, they were the same age as me. Two twenty something young bloods, in love, under the same roof as the child they produced with one and other. Hopes are fresh, and dreams are still young - with only the future to look forward to - for all of us. I look at them, and they look back at me. And for the first time in my life, I see them as peers and not as parents. Like comrades bonded together by a special form of union, that’s beyond blood, or family - or anything I can relay in words. In that moment, I was them. And they were me. The same way you, the listener, are me, and I am you. This is our time. Our time to live. Our time to aspire and taste life to it’s fullest. While our hearts are still beating loud. While our flesh still glistens. 

Even our parents, were once us.

I found out yesterday that my father passed away. I wish I could have gotten the chance to relay this dream to him before he departed. In this moment, it’s still uncertain as to what happened. The moment my cousin called me up on the telephone, I knew in my heart-of-hearts that it was suicide. Even the local newspapers from his little town in Turkey made it out as such. “Doctor dies surrounded by pills - alone in his house”. 

But now, the current toxicology report indicates to a sudden heart-attack, or a brain aneurysm. So, I’m not even sure what’s going on anymore. All I know is that, I’m so lucky to have known a person like him in my life. What an honor. How grateful I am for having known him for 29 years. That’s an opportunity most people don’t get. Some people don’t even know who their true father is. I not only had the best one the world can give, but also, one who I got to know for nearly 3 decades. From infancy, all the way up to adulthood.

My father was a giant in my eyes. My king. A mountain I could never climb. My reverence, love, and devotion for him as a young boy was almost suffocating. I loved him more than myself. I’ll never forget all of the memories I spent sitting on his lap as we played computer games - namely, the first Warcraft. Those memories have been such an integral part of who I later ended up in life. All those Ingmar Bergman films we used to sit through from dusk til dawn - and have discussions about afterwards. All the sushi we ate in Fenerbahce. 

In all honesty. I could go on, and on about memories. But I’ll refrain.

Strangely, I haven’t cried much. Had this happened two months ago, I am unsure whether I would have been able to handle it. Somehow, in a very bizarre way, the steady stream of heart ache that I’ve endured in this past year, now - feel like a preparation for what was to come my way today. Had this happened any time earlier. I wouldn’t have been ready. But today, I just smile. I feel more closer to my dad now, than I was a week ago when we last talked.  

“Mission Accomplished”. That’s the line that keeps going through my head. Just like in the computer games we used to play after beating a hard level. Good on you dad. You’ve lived a life that bore the way to a son who will now go on to change the world - on your behalf. Every breathe I take, is in your honor - for the love you’ve given me, has enabled me to become the person I love today. I love myself, because you were my dad. 

Mission accomplished. Wherever you are. And because you now reside within me - I am not mourning your loss. I’m celebrating it - just as you would have wanted me to.

For you are now me, just the same way I am you. Just like in the dream. 

I love you. You are my favorite person in the world. Babacim.

(Originally Published June 7th, 2018)

Nublu

Do you have a salvation?

These days, dancing is my sole lifeline. It doesn’t matter where I am. A coffee shop, on the pavement, the dance floor, or as I’m taking orders from my boss. Whether he likes it or not - I’m going to move. Whether you like it or not - I’m gonna keep moving. I will no longer silence that impulse. The impulse to move. To push, contort, and extend my body in ways that it has never experienced before. With every new stretch, a new wave of emotions come over - cleansing me - bit by bit - of the impurities that have accumulated inside of me throughout the course of the last year.

On this dance floor - at Nublu on Avenue C - I am the king. And my soul is healing. 

(I remember last week) I step out of the club to smoke a cigarette in hopes of a momentary isolation, only to be met with a streak of high-fives by strangers who only wish, that they had 1/10th of the freedom, and liberation that I radiate in that club. I’m free like a dove. Flailing as smoothly as a piece of leaf carried out by an autumn breeze. That’s how I dance. Or rather, move. Dancing sounds too much like child’s play in comparison to the what my body actually manages to achieve.

It’s extremely ironic. The guy who once dismissed this form of expression as an inexplicable recreational activity - suddenly becomes the one immersed in it. I guess I was holding back something that I didn’t even realize I was holding back - all these years. For so long.

The very thing that I never, ever thought that I could do. I’m not only doing - but also, achieving truer results - and more impactful expressions than anyone else around me.

When I wake up the next day, despite how many Lagunitas IPAs I had to drink - I don’t feel so bad. Yeah, there are still some days when I get sad. And those are always the days when I think about her. But for the most part, I feel ok. Because no matter how things are in this moment, there will come a time - later on this day - when the sun goes down again, and the music lits through the PA system of that cavernous club on Avenue C. And, there you will find me. The forlorn stranger. Sweating his tears through every part of the body except his own eyes. Achieving a strange form of nirvana through the most basic, and common outlet of expression - one’s own body. My new secret. 

As long as I have that to look forward to. Everything else seems trivial and insignificant in comparison. Although I must admit, had I discovered this new dimension of myself 5 years ago, I don’t know what would have been the thing to save me now. If not dancing, maybe something else. Or maybe nothing at all. Perhaps, some lifelines are best saved for later.

(Originally Published May 27th, 2018)

Train Station

At every age, there is a juncture we must face before advancing onto the next phase. Just like the metro, it’s never quite evident when the next train will arrive. Sometimes there is construction, other time the train is too full. So here we are - stranded, and in limbo. We wait - because we don’t know any better. We place greater emphasis on how to advance from our situation instead of mining what it has to offer now.  

During these moments, it’s exceptionally important that we don’t remain idle. That we value the off-time offered to us by the tardy train schedule. I get it man. You want nothing more than to leave this station and move on. But how many train stations do you move through, before your life comes to a close. Also, isn’t it important what mind frame we hop on the train - That is, when it does arrive at last? To acknowledge the faces on through the journey, instead of sloppily scampering and gathering our shit together for when we have to get off?

While we wait, it feels as though there is nothing happening. And you’re absolutely right. There is nothing happening. At least that’s the case when you examine with the naked eye. But just as a plant grows, we can’t detect the monumental changes occurring from moment to moment, hour to hour - until some time has passed. Just as it is in the plant domain, the same applies to us during these astonishingly long, and seemingly pointless intervals. The period of emptiness, is actually a precursor to where you will end up next. That’s when the plant inside of you grows, and when you least expect it, you suddenly have a forest right in your own backyard.

But there is a trick to this process. Water. You have to keep watering. Keep doing what you’re doing. Just do. Just keep on pushing. Even if it feels business as usual. Even if you’re not stumbling upon any gold nuggets or valuable wisdom, just do. 

And if you really have nothing left to do, then look around. Take a second to look at the metro station you’ve found yourself stranded in. Find something productive to do in this moment that you wouldn’t remember to do any other time. And when you do start doing it - it’s usually then, that the train finally strolls through your station. 

(Originally Published May 25, 2018)

Play-Doh

There are two worlds that we continually mediate between. The internal world, and  the external. It’s a symbiotic relationship - they both influence each other. You can’t be the same person forever because the world is constantly changing. The world won’t remain the same, because you’re changing in accord to it’s influence.

So what happens when you disavow the shifting of influences in your surroundings, due to the certainty that nothing can perturb you. That no matter what happens on the outside, nothing can penetrate your sense of inner-self. You’ve gone through enough heartache, pain, experience, and suffering already. It’s impossible for the world to to break you down again. Right? So you stop believing in the symbiotic relationship. The relationship between the internal, and the external. Maybe you start putting too much trust in the inner world, and ignore the fact that the outer world, is moving. Moving on without you.

Don’t be fooled into believing that you can stay the same forever. You have to catch-up, and then adapt. And then catch-up again. It’s a game that never ends.

I’d like to use the analogy of clay. When something terribly tragic happens in our lives, something to put into question our entire view of life, we become malleable - like, dough. Soft and tender. Sometimes, too tender. You don’t realize it at the time but it’s simply your body’s effort to adapt to the new world. To your new surroundings. It’s a painful process. Eventually, the soft dough will once again turn hard when the desired form to fit the current times is established. 

But here is where it gets tricky.

When clay turns hard, it seem impervious to damage - but it’s not. When it slips through your fingers, and cracks into a million pieces - then you see, that the stubbornness of the material was not as tenacious as you thought. If anything, the callousness of the material, was it’s greatest flaw.

While clay is still malleable though, it has inner flexibility to change and adapt, and maybe just enough surface strength to keep it from complete destruction. When it’s dropped, it simply blobs down on the ground with a minor puncture - it can be reformed almost as quickly as the fall occurred. 

Soft clay, semi-hard clay, hard-clay…There is no right or wrong. It’s just a matter of how you decide to process. Would you rather experience an extended period of stability before everything suddenly comes crashing down - because you’ve long due for an adaptation, or would you rather do a little bit of work - on a daily basis - to keep yourself in touch with what’s happening inside, and outside. 

The choice is yours. But sometimes, I understand that we don’t always get to choose what color playdoh to play with.  

(Originally Published May 23, 2018)

Conflict

For the longest time, I’ve avoided conflict. During heated moments, my tongue would become paralyzed - as my chest, knotted in fear. Fear of hurting someone who could potentially be my friend. In these moments, I lose the ability to speak - or think. The anticipation of emotions reach such a threshold that I’m simply unable to remain composed. My words flail, and my voice falters. I can’t seem to find a balance between self-expression, and ensuring that the other side doesn’t get hurt. Ultimately, I end up sounding more like the criminal, than someone who is proclaiming his own innocence.

Something has changed though. Perhaps due to my recent bout of depression, my empathy for those around me has increased. Conversely, I’ve also become less perturbed, or bothered by the unexpected curveballs that people throw my way - curve balls thrown by individuals  who I thought were allies, but turns out to be something else instead. 

In a way, I am both more sensitive, and less caring at the same time. A beautiful place to be in. I genuinely care about others, but I’m no longer in a place to allow their non-sense to bring me down. Or, I’m at least better at it.

The other day, right as I was about to let in a mürmur guest, I noticed that my roommate hadn’t yet left the apartment. I knocked on his door and let him know of the impending guest. Unexpectedly, he started to make a fuss about how he had to leave the apartment every time I conduct one of my conversations - Perfectly understandable, but that had had been our agreement from the very start. 

The tension in the air was palpable. He was getting worked up. I could also feel myself getting anxious. Where the hell is this coming from? Why am I hearing about this right now - just seconds before my mürmur? I thought I knew you better man...

After he left, I went through my mürmur knowing that in one hour, we would be having a sit-down to clear the air. Although I anticipated it with a trace of anxiety, I was also sure of myself. Because you know why? I care about him. I care about my roommate. I care about him because he lives in my house, and I want nothing more than his own happiness. Even if he is wrong, even if he is being unreasonable - at the end of the day, his happiness, is contingent on my happiness.

So often, in situations such as these, people have a tendency to make it only about themselves. But, by placing the focus on the other side, you get results that actually better benefit you. People just want to be acknowledged for their frustrations - that’s all.

By the time we sat down, I felt composed. My chest felt giddy, but I wasn’t tongue-tied. I’ve cultivated a method of explanation that not only soothed him, but also, directly conveyed my message. Pure, unadulterated, and direct. Without hurt - only with love, and care. 

Although we resolved the problem amicably, in all honesty, something tells me this won’t be our last quibble. But instead of watching him with a cautious eye, I’ll continue operating business as usual. I can’t allow myself to become a prisoner to the caprice of those around me. I have to live my life without suspicion. I have to breathe without worry. I won’t allow for anyone to jeopardize that. And if some bullshit should arise again, I will once again, operate on love. As long as that’s my main form of ammunition, my finger will always feel comfortable on the trigger. I won’t sweat, and I won’t be petrified. Instead of hesitation, I will fire away knowing it’s all for the best. Because these bullets don’t hurt, but only soothe. 

(Originally Published May 22, 2018)

Gin Martini

These days when I ride my bike, I look straight out into the horizon. I dart my eyes on what’s ahead rather than those who I pass by. It’s an ironic change in attitude given that I’m always scouting for people’s faces on the street. I love the thrill that comes with recognizing an old friend or a celebrity while exploring in the New York wilderness. But something has changed. Now, I keep my eyes straight ahead. Or, at least try to. I’d rather focus out into the distance than risk noticing her again from the periphery of my vision.

It might seem improper to allow for a person to have enough power over you to change your modus operandi - or rather, your way of being - but sometimes old habits need to be laid to rest. At least temporarily - until you can regain composure.

The mind and the universe work interchangeably. What we obsess, ruminate, and transfix on is eventually brought to reality. Both good and bad, we come face-to-face with everything our minds conjure. The stronger the thought, the more likely that the universe will pick up on it, and deliver to reality. 

I remember on the day I ran into her, I was thinking about her very heavily. Reminiscing on the intimacy spent. I still wake up thinking about her every morning, although I’m getting a little better at not doing it as much. So when I did see her in Tompkins Square Park later that day, it was almost as if I was asking for it. Volunteering to be a witness of a scenery that my heart still has trouble carrying. 

I remember when I used to suffer from panic disorder. Even though there was no imminent harm or danger in the present moment, the more I became fixated on the panic and fear, the quicker the panic actually came on. I was finding fault where there was none to be found, and now doing the same exact thing, except with a person. 

Distractions may be the best form of solution. I recently started bartending. Honestly, I didn’t think I had it in me to get into the restaurant industry again, especially after the way she treated me for being a waiter. In hindsight, I think I really let that affect my self-confidence. 

But there is something about working at a restaurant that puts the entire focus on the current moment. You have no choice but to surrender yourself to the needs and requests of others. It’s an immediate pursuit. If you fuck up an order, you’ll see the results right away. Either on the face of your guests, or your manager. The moment becomes about others, and not yourself - a freeing triumph for someone like myself who gets stuck in his own mind a lot. 

At least for 7 hours, she is no longer in my thoughts. I’m just looking out deep into the horizon, and making a stiff Gin Martini.

(Originally Published May 11th, 2018)

Ben Foster

The power of a coincidence should not be down played. It’s easy to attribute happenstance to dumb luck - that’s to say, if we even bother reflecting upon the occurrence afterwards. Never do we realize that the procession of these phenomenal events that we take for granted, are actually signs - that we’re on the right track. Next time you have one happen to you, understand that you’re exactly where you need to be. You are on the right track. The universe just winked at you. Take it, and let it comfort you. Don’t get tangled up.

I was given this advice by one of my recent mürmur guests. It’s a wonderful feeling when the right words find their way into your ear just when you needed to hear them the most. I am grateful to be in a place where I can notice these positive frequencies as they occur. What good is wisdom after all - if you’re not receptive?

Same goes with coincidences. What good is a coincidence - if you can’t take a moment to appreciate it. To let it ensure yourself that you are being propelled in the correct life direction. Even if the occurrence is bittersweet. You still know it happened to reminder you that the show is running the exact way that it should. 

Last summer during the time of my eviction, I did something unusual. I reached out to a well known individual to get him to be the final guest on my podcast. One of my favorite movies from last year was “Hell or High Water”, a film starring the brilliant actor Ben Foster who happened to live in the same neighborhood as me.

I decided to do something slightly quirky and write him a hand written note. It was an extremely genuine letter that I expressed from the deepest place of my heart. I didn’t know how it would be perceived. It was kind of a risk given how private of a person he is. But I took the chance, and left an envelope with the title “Mr. Foster” written, and taped in front of his building.

I never heard back.

Yesterday as I was riding my bike near Bowery, when I saw Ben like I always do. This time, something came over me and I yelled “Hey Ben!”. When he lifted his head, I gave him a friendly wave which he reciprocated. He tried to gauge who I was, but I turned away before I could see the resolve of familiarity in his face.  A friendly moment that passed by as quickly as it occurred.

About an hour later, while riding my bike back to the mürmur studio, I lift up my head and notice the familiar face. Once again, it’s Ben. As I rode past him, I felt the gentle tapping of his finger on my shoulder to beckon me to come back.

I recall how calm I was. Had this happened a year ago, how nervous I would have been. In that moment, I strangely felt an equal to Ben. It felt like the most normal thing that he was calling me over.

He said, are you the guy who does the radio show? I said Yes. He said, you left a very sweet note at my apartment a year ago. I looked you up. I think you’re very brave for what you’re doing. I’m a fan of your work.

At this point I just wanted someone to pinch me. Is this really happening right now? It felt so surreal and normal at the same time. 

But he says. I’m a highly private person. And you leaving a note in front of my building with my name on it is … He gave me a look that finished his sentence for him

I closed my eyes and took it all in and said “I should have been more considerate.”

We said a few other pleasantries, and after the air was cleared, shook hands and parted ways on a positive note.

I lifted up my head and felt that I was on the right track. 

(Originally Published May 9, 2018)

Tompkins Square Park

I wonder the purpose to which certain individuals cross my path. What is it that the universe trying to prove? Why is it that at my most fragile state, I’m subjected to witnessing my ex-girlfriend with another man? Why here, at Tompkins Square Park, a couple blocks away from my home - of all places?

I thought I’d forgotten about her. I thought I suffered enough in these past 6 months. Hasn’t my body had enough time to process everything? Every waking morning, I would hear the echo of her girly giggle coming through my ears. I couldn’t get her out of my mind. So I was especially grateful that she was starting to slowly recede into the background. That I could live my life in the moment once again, without getting sentimental about her silly idiosyncrasies, that bugged me so much at the time, but now, I recall with a wistful smile.

I stopped dead on my tracks on the southwest corner of Tomkins Square Park when I noticed those ever so familiar yoga pants from a distance. My body froze and became stricken with every emotion that I thought I had buried - suddenly resurrected. The heaviest black cloud started to emerge. “Really? Now? Why are you doing this to me. I’m not ready for this.” I think I was talking to God, or who ever had planned this heart-wrenching scenery.

Could this be my closure? My final pang of sadness before entering back into the real world? 

She lifted up her head as she giggled at a joke made by her new beau. I looked dead on and she noticed. I can’t tell if she was surprised. But all she said was “hi”. 

I hopped back on my bike, and made my way home.

I cried only a few tears when I remembered that this life, is way too short to spend ruminating on loss and sadness. 

Later that night, I went out with a few friends to a club called Nublu. And I danced. I danced like I never danced. I moved my body in directions that it had never stretched and contorted before. I became like water, I became the very essence of life and the pure exemplification of freedom and liberation. I made new friends, I laughed, I showed genuine love not only for myself but those around me with complete confidence - bereft of the insecurities that had been looming over my shoulders these past 6 months. I felt a strange turning point.

No roller coaster ride comes to an end immediately after the final drop. There is usually a few more smaller drops before the ride slows down and brings you back to the ground. 

Right now, I’d be lying if I said I feel just as free and liberated as I did on that dance floor a couple days ago, but I have no choice but to accept that what I witnessed, was the true catalyst to my recovery. That for every disaster, there is a purpose, and an opportunity for rebirth. 

(Originally published April 29th, 2018)

Renda Writer

Life never goes according to plan. As long as you make peace with this sentiment, disappointments become much easier to swallow.

It’s the unexpected that keeps us on our toes and in anticipation for what’s to come. But it’s tricky. Get a streak of bad events to occur back-to-back, and you’re down in the dumps. Often though, it’s the unique combination of disappointing events that usher the way to something monumental. An occurrence that has so much cosmic profundity, that despite your fragile state, you can’t help but be astonished.

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a trip that I never should have taken in the first place. I knew in my gut that it was wrong. The fact that the destination was Florida should have been enough of an indication. I followed through anyways.

Everything felt wrong from the moment of being picked up from the airport. My prospective fling was politely distant - a contrast to the phone conversations and letters we’d been sending to one and other for the last couple months. She dropped the bombshell on me 20 minutes into the car ride that she had recently picked up a new boyfriend. On the day that I had bought my plane ticket, they had apparently gone on their first date together. Perfect timing. I was not informed until my arrival. 

After 3 painful days of attempting a platonic approach to our rapport, it became obvious to both of us what a terrible idea this was. A 6 day vacation was suddenly truncated short when I decided to spend the rest of the day on my own, a decision that made my friend upset enough to tell me not to come back.

I took a cab and retreated to a bohemian cafe on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach. While searching for the next flight out of town, I remembered what had happened the day before. An RV, about 10 feet away from where I had been sitting at the time, plowed through 3 cars with reckless force, and plummeted straight into a tree. The driver apparently had a heart attack. There was a big pandemonium as the crowd hovered around, and I sat down wondering “Can anything in my life go right?”

I should have been grateful that I was alive. That I wasn’t involved in the accident. Had I crossed that street 10 minutes later, I could have easily been a causality.

But I couldn’t appreciate anything at the moment. 

Suddenly, I lifted up my head and saw a familiar face. It was Renda Writer, a mürmur guest from 3 years ago. I couldn’t believe my eyes. We both observed each other with curiosity before embracing one and other with a hug. Neither of us knew that we were in town. A grossly exuberant coincidence that I couldn’t help but chalk up to a higher force. Next thing I know, I’m getting a ride from him to the airport.

I’ll never forget that car ride. There was so much about Renda that I wanted to emulate. His lust for life, his independence, the way he lived off of his van and sold art for living without a single care for what anyone thought of him. Age didn’t matter for him either - he was a free spirit in the truest form and lived life as he pleased without guilt or shame.

I started to wander, how did I end up deviating so much? Why is it that the past year has suffocated me with challenge after challenge. When am I going to reap the benefits of all this hardship and attain a similar spirit as Renda? 

When I got dropped off at the airport, I felt a gratitude that I hadn’t felt in a long time. A rekindling of faith that I had been so thirsty for so long.

As I looked out through the window, it became obvious what the true purpose of my trip was. It wasn’t the girl. It wasn’t anything that I wanted or expected it to be. It was something else. Something that I’m not sure whether I can even articulate in words right now. A strange form of kismet and serendipity that will stay with me forever.

God bless you Renda. And Thank you to mürmur for blessing me with the opportunity of meeting such amazing people. You’re the reason why I am standing, and growing today. 

(Originally published April 28th, 2018)

Celexa

The most significant turning points are always based on the tiniest of decisions. We tinker away, attempting to decode the complicated equations of our lives - all with the hopes of achieving the ultimate answer. Often, the inclination is to uproot the entire formula and plug in a new one. But it’s usually the most minute variation in the method that sets the bar straight, and in my case, that tiny decision comes in the form of taking a small pill called Celexa. 

For the first time in 10 months, I feel the fog has finally lifted. 

I’m not sure why it took so long. You would think after almost an entire year of insecurity, self-doubt, and severe mistrust of humanity, that I would open up to the idea of seeking help. Anti-depressants after all had been a godsend during my panic disorders in high school, and insomnia later in college - so why the resistance now?

When we’re hurting, our pain not only numbs our sense of self, but also distorts our perception of the entire world. We don’t have a sense of how far we’ve dug ourselves in, until we’re finally pulled out into broad day light again.

I’m currently sitting at a coffee shop in the East Village wondering how every little thing that was picking away at me a week prior have suddenly become a distant relic of the past. I no longer feel like a slave to the monkey on my back. I can breathe with ease and approach every new experience with the best foot forward. 

For some, pharmaceuticals are kind of an oxymoron. The very medication that’s intended to solve a problem, is said to fabricate other problems. That there are more natural alternatives to what the doctors will prescribe away to their patients. I admit, It’s hard not to be a little deterred when this type of propaganda looms in the back of one’s mind.  But even for those of us who the medication actually does wonders for, a trace amount of guilt seeps in for not prescribing to more new-age friendly options.

If I have to use an analogy, it feels a bit like eating a snickers bar to curb your sweet tooth when an orange or an apple would be a more obvious option. But man, at the same time, there is nothing like a snickers bar. Maybe it’s not best to compare candies and fruits together.

But for those of you who are going through a difficult time and feeling as though you don’t need to be medicated. Let me just remind you that this isn’t permanent. I think many of us are discouraged to start taking pills because we erroneously believe that they will define who we are. That couldn’t be more further from the truth. It’s better to view these supplements as a temporary form of relief until an equilibrium is reclaimed. After that happens, it’s up to you, depending on how you feel of course, whether you want to continue or not.  

In a way, it does feel a bit like cheating. Like entering in a secret code to a video game where you’re invincible for 30 seconds. Why can’t I beat the level on my own? But at the same time, life is far too short to waste it away struggling to beat the same level over and over again. If the magic mushroom presents itself, take it without hesitation. Maybe the mushroom is necessary for to beat this level, so you can be on your own for the next one. 

(Originally published April 27th, 2018)

The Chain Of Commands

Once a week, I make juice. The thought of eating solid greens is enough to turn my mouth to a dry Oasis - so I opt to drink and refreshen instead. I never add any fruits or anything sweet - just a handful of cucumbers, a couple carrots, and a single lemon for light tart. The moment that smooth liquid hits my palette, I feel like superman. All of the sins I’d committed on my body the night before, are suddenly absolved with a single slurp.

I stopped to think the other day how much preparation is involved when undertaking an activity. We never just eat, swim, read, or smoke - there are a set of actions that lead up, and follow, immediately after the cessation of these undertakings. I had to earn money to buy vegetables, I put the vegetables in a basket, a clerk rang me up, I rode my bike back home and put the vegetables through a blender. And after producing the main objective of my intention - the juice - I dismantled the blender, cleaned it, got rid of excess fruit composte, and refrigerated the leftover juice. 

The same way one has to mesh the two sides of an accordion together to produce sound, the same concept applies to life. Bringing past and the future to a meeting point for a specific achievement. But why is it that the juice is considered the main objective. If i’m putting together a blender, when my roommate asks me for what I’m doing, I respond “making juice”, when in truth, I’m doing something completely different.

What if we changed the point of focus all together? 

 What if instead of declaring that I will make juice today, I started from the first step necessary to get the ball into motion - “I will earn money”. Suddenly, I find myself thinking more about how I can make more money than I am now. After I’ve come up with a plan to make more money, I can say “I will go to the grocery store”. I’m impelled to open google maps and search for the store with the most reasonably priced, and quality products. Next, “I have to ride my bike back home” If it’s a nice day, I will take the scenic route and get a little more exercise than inteneded so I can enjoy my creation when I get home even more. After I’m done with my juice, instead of using leftover plastic containers, I will perhaps, invest in a large glass bottle to contain it pesticide and toxin free.

Do you get what I’m saying?

It’s not about the center point, it’s about the events that lead up and precede the point of objective. Suddenly, you stop treating everything as a means to an end. Each step is performed with greater thought and effectiveness. Not only that, the very thing you wanted so badly, becomes a lesser desire in the grand scope of things. If done correctly, the end result will be much purer and higher in quality than if you were to simply go head strong without understanding the chain of commands.

I hope you’re taking notes. 

 (Originally Published April 19, 2018)

Empathy + Timing

I used to observe subway commuters with great veneration. Despite the struggle that strained everyone’s face, I felt as though we were all connected.

No matter how tough of a day I had at work, putting my head up to see those sullen, miserable faces, made me feel like I wasn’t the only one. That I was part of something - that we were all on the same team. 

I would sometimes catch the eye of a complete stranger and nod in acknowledgment, as if to say “Yeah, man. I know”.  

How beautiful is it that we could all connect on our hardships without making race, creed, or background be the focal point of conversation. 

While I still think it’s great for such a hodgepodge mixture of humans to co-exist, today, I feel differently.

I still see the same row of unhappy faces lined up side by side, but this time, without camaraderie. Without the ties that bind us. We’re no longer part of the same team. Or perhaps, I’m no longer part of their team. 

A year ago, I lost a very dear friend for reasons that were entirely mine to blame. She always felt inclined to open up to me, and share her heart ache. Which I was quite dismissive of. “Life is too short. Why don’t we connect on the good times spent rather than the grief of the past” I thought.

After all, trauma bonding only works if it’s mutually reciprocated. 

But in hindsight, I also realize how improper it was of me to silence her pain. I was one of the only people in her life she felt she could open to, and I denied her every opportunity. The same way that the subway riders are denying me now.

Maybe I had it wrong to begin with. The camaraderie I once felt in the metro was just a figment of my imagination - an overreaching attempt to connect to others. But even if that was true, there is always another person, just know it, just like me, at the very end of that subway cart, feeling the same exact way as you do. 

Sometimes empathy is all about timing - depending on how big, or small you stand in the current moment. But no matter how big you are, never close yourself to those who feel small. There is no telling when you might switch roles. 

(Originally published April 17, 2018)

Adaptation

Like hills and valleys, we all rise and fall depending on where we stand. The paths of our lives, while identical, curve at different junctures with varying degrees. When I’m high, you’re kind of low. When you’re really high, I’m very, very low. We are never truly in accord with each other, and there is no such a thing as permanent synchronicity. 

Hence the reason why it’s so difficult to maintain a true life partner. To expect another individual to follow the same emotional narrative as yourself is impossible. Therefore, the determining factor to a successful relationship weighs down on adaptation. Adapting to the idiosyncrasies of your loved one, and for them to do the same back to you. 

When talking to a friend about a troubled relationship from a year ago, I mentioned how I’d grown “accustomed” to the person who I was living together with. It was a strange remark that has since stuck with me. For a lone wolf like myself, developing an acceptance for someone so different than my own - was new and unexpected. How I had become so co-dependent when just a few months prior, I didn’t care - is still a bit of a mystery to me. Or is it? 

Adaptation becomes second nature the more time two people spend in each other. Otherwise, why put up with someone you don’t like if you’ve only known them for a week? You’re willing to sacrifice ONLY because you’re invested. But maybe, that’s where my problem lied. 

After a breakup, we focus on details that pertain to the tail end of a relationship, without a second to spare for how it developed in the first place. The genesis, the beginning. 

I’ll ask a tough question,

Did you even like the person to begin with? 

Let that sink in for a minute.

Adaptation only works if it’s foundation is based on love and love only. Build it on any other material, and you can easily predict the results. 

So when you’re high, don’t go reaching for what’s low just for the sake of finding equilibrium. Reach for something at your own wavelength, and when you do, remember that moment. And if you can’t recall, then you’re building a castle on the wrong terrain. 

(Originally published April 17, 2018)


Old Fashion

Today, I did something unusual and put my hands together for a prayer. I’ve never been a religious person, but felt a sudden need to express my gratitude. As I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror, a voice came through me and took over. “This is all an illusion. Life in this city is not reflective of the entire world. People are here to get work done. This is what you’re here for. Work. Not gratification. That will come in due time. Do what you’re here to do, and then go wherever you please”. 

It felt profound to hear these words come through me - words that I would not have been able to conjure on my own had I not vocalized them. It felt as though a hidden crevice, unseeable by the naked eye, had suddenly exposed itself to me.

My experience could be categorized as transcendental or, just very fucking neurotic. It’s evident that my subconscious is grappling with certain complications, and for that reason, it’s essential for me to be proactive about staying in the best shape possible.

My morning routine as of late consists of a few things. I wake up, and swish around a spoonful of coconut oil. It seems like a small gesture, but it’s impact is vast. Oil pulling as they say, operates as natural mouth wash. Truthfully, I’m not sure if it actually works, but it’s the little things we do to displays the honor we have for our lives and bodies, that delights the spirit. That enable us to push on, and sustain momentum.

I proceed to put on a beat and start free styling with a rap. Then I take a copy of the New Yorker, and read excerpts out loud for a few minutes. Then I do a minute long exercise where I stretch my cheeks so wide that I have no choice but to smile through my sorrows. 

Neurotic? Yeah, maybe.

We pray, or exercise, or play music, or master-bate without taking into consideration all the other things we do in conjunction with these soul tranquilizers. Many times, it’s not the thematic substance that does the trick, it’s the little things we do in addition that creates the magic combo. It’s the difference between drinking whiskey straight, and having an old fashioned. The bitters, muddled sugar, and orange may seem like an after though until you try it in harmony. Suddenly, the confluence of the ingredients become greater than the sum of their part.

So do everything you must. If one idea doesn’t work, don’t give up on it entirely. Pick something else up and find a way to merge them into your routine. Pretty soon, you’ll be onto something both unique, and powerful. In my case, it’s talking to myself in front of the mirror and pretending to be touched by God. 

(Originally published April 5th, 2018)


Even the worst, or the best of us

A few months ago, I had developed an intrinsic hatred towards mankind. Anytime I saw a human on the street, my mind directly assumed the worst. Anger prevented me from seeing any good in those around me - only their potential for hurt and wrong doing. 

During this particularly difficult juncture in my life, I was begging and praying everyday for a random act of human kindness to encourage me to erase my negativity, and start anew. The irony is, there were plenty of instances of this kindness to be found — but I just couldn’t bring myself to appreciate them.

These days, I see something much different when I look into faces of those around me. I no longer feel scorn, anger, or bitterness - I feel pity. Pity in the most tender way possible. I feel shame for every one of us whose youth will one day be dimmed by the sands of time. The inevitability that awaits us all. How we will all shrivel up and vanish from this earth alone and onto infinity. How the denial of these harsh realities lead us astray from the actual things that matter the most. How our ingratitude for life is exercised on a daily basis with the tapping and scrolling of our pocket gadgets. 

On the surface, all of this sounds awfully nihilistic and contemptuous - but my intention is the opposite. It’s the empathy for this blindness - for the fragility and fleeting of time - that enables me to lighten up and smile to everyone around me these days. Because once everything is said and done, we’re all just bags of skin containing meat, bones, and a brain. What a joke. But somehow, despite the slow decaying of our pathetic bodies, we all have one thing in common - a desire to be happy. Even the worst, or the best of us.

(Originally published March 16th, 2018)