Ch-ch-ch-changes

A few months ago, I sent a text to my boyfriend that said, “I kind of feel like change is the theme to life this year. I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, I smell it in the air.” While tongue in cheek in my delivery, I meant the message sincerely: 2015 has presented me with a lot of new changes in life. Leaving school, starting a new job, moving, developing a new relationship: all of these events and actions have challenged me, motivated me, and changed my overall approach to life.

Screen shot of our text conversation with a poignant shot of Joseph Birdsong

Screen shot of our text conversation with a poignant shot of Joseph Birdsong

In May, I decided to leave graduate school after three years of work. In that time, I acquired a Master’s degree, but the process has begun to wear on me, and I needed time away, and time to evaluate my situation. The move was scary–I have never not been in school since I was a child–but necessary. So entrenched in school for so long, I developed a form of tunnel vision: a determined and exhaustive push in one central direction that prevented me from looking around and assessing my position and sense of of self. While I pursued one of my biggest intellectual passions, my mind and body grew weary and worn, and I knew that without some difference, some diversions in the road, I would lose the drive.

With a new path set, other changes became the new order. I left my apartment of two years, said a hearty “see you soon” to my roommate, and returned home. Since my life has only really developed within the space of 30 miles in diameter, the move was not far, but it was still significant. I moved further from central Austin and back to the north, the outskirts in the suburbs. I was excited to spend more time with my dogs and to see my mom and sister more regularly, though I knew a new plan and a new job was in order.

For most of the summer, I was unsuccessful in finding a new position somewhere, but by August, I landed a job at a major retailer. The job definitely presented a new pace to work and life: I was on my feet much more, talking to strangers regularly, stocking, and helping out in a variety of tasks. It took some time to feel comfortable and part of the group, but I was proud of myself for taking the initiative and getting to work. While the opportunity to use my written and creative skills was missing, my communication skills were put to good use as I talked to coworkers and customers. I felt an ease and charge in myself that I never quite utilized before.

I do miss my creative life. I’m still in a state of finding a great fit for myself, taking time to develop my voice and style, using my personal skills to craft a more “me” career. As my closest friends know, I enjoy change, but hate transitions: the initial stages in any new project, especially before they even begin, dominate my mind, etching out a large section to self-doubt, criticism, and uncertainty. I overthink things before I do them, essentially psyching myself out. But when things do begin to move, to start, I grow into the new scenarios and tasks, finding out the protocols and best strategies to work efficiently. Transitions are exhausting, but also a part of life, and working through them, I know that the change will offer something different, something new.

But the most momentous change has been my new relationship, which began at the tail end of March and the beginning of April. For most of Winter 2014 and Spring 2015, I had taken a long break from social media and online dating. In that time, I worked out regularly, wrote, read, and drew more, devoting those few months to personal development and work. It was another necessity, but by March, I knew I could return on the scene with new focus. And the rewards were unexpected.

I met my boyfriend online. We began chatting on and off for a week or two before making plans to meet one night at one of my favorite pizza places, Salvation Pizza. We sat on the porch in the not quite comforting sun and delved into our stories and our interests. We both love pop music and pop culture, artists like Warhol, history, movies, and talking ad nauseum about links and connections to all of these things and their ramifications and importance. Conversation flowed so smoothly that time was shorn away, the sun had thankfully faded, and the restaurant had closed well before we would stop. By midnight, still on the porch, the only two souls out in the night and street lights, we started to watch Joseph Birdsong videos for nearly an hour, a beautiful sign that things were going overwhelming well. We said goodbye around 1 AM, with plans to see each other again soon.

And for more than 5 months, we continue to make plans together, now as a pair more often than not. We see each other often during our working and non-working hours. He lets me drift from bookstore to bookstore regularly with no qualms. We share me meals, venture out to the same few locales that we call ours, and spend time with friends. We’ve shared so much of ourselves with each other, developing a mutual respect and trust for the other, and enjoying the splendors and mischiefs of fresh new compatriots. I have never had a relationship before, and that my first has gone so well, so wonderfully, so effortlessly, I would be hard pressed to desire anything more than more time and space for us together.

Above the struggles of transitioning and forging a new path, I feel happy with my life right now. I can only hope that more wonderful things continue to happen for me and the dude, and that we find our future together pursuing what we love to do and think. I can’t complain too much. And in less than a week, six months will have passed, and I think that I will look back with a sense of awe at where I’ve gone in such a short time without really going anywhere at all.

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I Shaved My Head

I shaved my head. By which I mean that I cut off most of my hair with a pair of scissors, and some assistance from a purple comb and a small made-for-trimming-beards-not-trimming-a-head-of-hair trimmer, in the early hours of the morning, when people slept and only small noises were heard. I did a poor job of it, of course, using my iPhone camera as my mirror, forcing me to go to a hair salon to even out the rough patches and look somewhat put together.

I’ve always had a bad habit of cutting my own hair at sporadic moments, overlooking the potential–and inevitable-consequences of clear disaster and haphazardness. I never have the proper tools nor know-how, but that doesn’t stop me from taking action and desecrating my favorite part about myself, physically.

I like my hair. It’s the closest I can come to admitting that I don’t mind my appearance, much. It’s a short, thick black, and when plentiful enough, has the convenient ability to sweep or be swept back in a nice, sleek wave. When it’s too long (I never let it grow more than 3 or 4 inches), it can become dome-like or bulbous, which is frustrating, but not too upsetting.

As much as I value my hair, though, it usually becomes the victim of my anxieties, anger, fears, self-deprecation, boredom, and/or depressive states. It’s a convenient way to volley some physical self-aggression without any permanent damage or self-harm. Better the hair than the wrists, as a friend put it.

And as convenient as it is, too, I also use it as some form of masking, or single tether of dignity toward myself. I have never felt completely comfortable in my skin, often literally. My face is scarred and pockmarked from adolescent and early adulthood pimple-popping and assaults. I’ve always been insecure about acne, as well as those lasting remnants gouged into my flesh. As well, I hate my stretch marks from losing and gaining weight so quickly in high school in my unhealthy conversion period from carnivore to herbivore. My stomach now is plump, my thighs thick and wobbly. Self-care is sometimes the last thing on my mind, so I’ve let myself go, as they say, and in the process, forged a skin-deep loathing for my outer appearances.

My hair, then, becomes a projected shield of sorts, from me attacking me. I run my hands through it, ruffle it, tug at it, and love it. It doesn’t always prevent my self-consciousness from taking over, but sometimes it’s all it takes to remind myself I’m not all bad.

So, why shave it? One, boredom. That’s usually how my spontaneous hair-cutting sessions begin, my scissors tantalizingly close by. I fill up the time sussing out how badly it looks and attempting to rectify bad cuts and trims.

Two, though, runs deeper in the reasoning box: depression. Since I was young, and becoming more aware of myself and my development, I’ve resigned myself to feeling less than: less than my family; less than friends; my peers; my mentors; my crushes; almost everyone. I never feel smart enough, cool enough, attractive enough, clever enough, funny enough, strong enough. In a means to sometimes win over as many people as possible, even those whom I dislike or hate, I try to give them the most acceptable version of myself, only to fall under my own weight of self-destruction and expectations. I want to be remembered, relied upon; I want to feel wanted and needed, whatever the circumstances. At a party, I want to wow you. At a conference, I want to leave you stunned with my insights. In class, I want to seem intellectually adept at all topics. At home, I want to feel whole, empowered, and courageous to impress myself.

So, when I fail to reach those heights and ideals, fail to live up to what I should be and doing, I fall hard. I fall constantly. I plummet into the void. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever left it, but discovered only momentary footholds and landings, moments of joy, contentment, relief, before once again rolling off and down into an abyss.

As I started clipping away at my hair, I imagined how far I had come and how much further I had to fall. In the last year, I have never felt so useless, unwanted, undesirable, unreliable, unloved, intellectually void. Even in remedial tasks like making food for myself, sleeping, waking up, I felt like I wasn’t doing anything right, as if I had the whole world waiting and watching in the wings, judging and evaluating my performance at every turn. Can you imagine waking up every morning, and your first thought is always, “You’ve already failed today”? I become disenchanted, even from what I love most. I’m not reading enough; I’m not creative enough; I’m not healthy enough. Everyone knows I’m undeserving of living.

As a person, or my personality, I do feel like I have potential. I feel jovial, zen-like. I pride myself on bringing some enjoyment to others, the occasional laugh or smile, the sometimes sparkle in the eye of “I’m so glad to see you.” But when I don’t have those moments, or they are too fleeting, those negative opinions and ideas dominate and I’m out again.

So, at the off, cutting off most of my hair seems to stem from severe depression. I don’t doubt it. I know it. And yet, as I think about the small crop on top of my head, acknowledge it’s prickliness and unusual shortness, I also think about a possibility, or maybe even several. With my shield eviscerated, with my defenses gone, with the tether broken, maybe I have also taken away the coverings from my perceived faults. I still have acne, scars, fat, and other frustrations and failings, but I can’t hide from them. I have to face them, and, if not embrace, tolerate them. I have to look at my self-inflicted war wounds and say, “these are part of me. These are me.”

I don’t know how effective this outlook is or will be, but it’s led me to confess these feelings and let me convey what’s always been there, often hidden underneath the skin. Maybe through self-recognition and expression I can begin to see myself as a candidate for potential, as striving rather than failing. Maybe I can begin self-healing and loving. Maybe I can state, just maybe, that I love myself. One day. Maybe soon.

Until then, I am a chia pet.

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“On My Bones”

“On My Bones”

When I lay in bed,
I think of the foundation
Under the covers
Under the layers
Of my skin, my fat, my muscle
To the bones underneath
That construct my foundation
That compose my form
That erect a corporeal being
To outlast me as me
My self, my brain, my being
To be me when I am gone
The building blocks
To a person
Once existing
Now long dead

I depend on
I rely on
I seek comfort in
My bones
And on they roam

Myself the disguise
My bones the truth

— November 2, 2013, Austin, TX, bedroom

A Birdsong for Joseph Birdsong: YouTuber, Comedian, Role Model, New Queen Bee

Last spring, I came across a video by Joseph Birdsong titled, “A Day in My Life.” I was aware of his videos, seeing them pop up in suggestion lists frequently, but I never clicked to watch. It takes me a while to start following a new YouTuber for whatever reason, but probably because I follow so many already. But I took a chance and that made all the difference.

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It’s always been hard for me to truly be me. I’m an introvert, seeking the solace of my bedroom to the outside world. I point to Nosferatu as one of my role models because of this proclivity to stay in the shadows, avoid sunlight, and stalk victims for their precious bodily fluids. Well, less so the latter…I think.

Anyway, I’m gay, but not completely out in terms of my larger family beyond my sister, who’s just great. I also have tattoos, read and watch things that go well-beyond some of my family’s political and social thinking, and surf the Internet far too much. I am a whole other person with my friends, colleagues, and professors, and having those two identities constantly in flux, it makes it extremely hard to fully embrace very basic things about myself.

I love being gay, Mexican-American, an introvert, an obsessive book buyer, reader, writer, thinker, pop fanatic, a socially awkward, graphic novel and Animal Crossing nerd. Those are my basic identities, the bulk of my existence, the strands and formations that make up my cultural DNA. I can’t deny them.

But I find it hard to enjoy them with the “expected” roles of being a professional, a son and relative, an awkward but casual and, hopefully, funny social actor, and whatever other identities I have to perform or put on in any given situation. I feel so divided constantly, self-conscious and over-analyzing, afraid to be me in any context.

That’s why Joseph Birdsong has become so important to me. Now, I know he’d feel uncomfortable to be called one of my role models, which he most certainly is by now. He’s not perfect, none of us are. But the way he holds himself–giggity–and the way he chooses to live his life and express it so openly and honestly online has made me rethink my own position as a multiple identity worrywart.

Joseph Birdsong is one of the funniest people I’ve ever seen and heard. I recommend any video of his and guarantee you will laugh (I recommend his “A Day in My Life” as a good starting point). Whether he’s talking to his daughter Brinty, a blue Furby with a sassy mouth, dressing up like Lara Croft, Professional Boobraider, discussing his crush on Louis Tomlinson from One Direction, analyzing the lyrics of “Fergalicious,” or dropping money on himself like rain in a bad rap video, I enjoy myself immensely, watching and rewatching (and rewatching) his videos and laughing along.

But more than that, he’s also able to give good advice on sexuality and gender issues, setting personal boundaries, being comfortable in your own skin, meeting new people, and genuinely loving what you love, be it a video game (or video game character like Bob from Animal Crossing in his case), manga, tv show, movie, actor or actress, and activities like bedazzling. One of the reasons I started online dating this summer, for example, was because of his advice on setting up a profile and putting yourself out there. As someone whose dating track record is nonexistent, I needed a push from a helping hand, and Joe has helped me in so many ways.

I’m still trying to be more open, but also acknowledge those basic things about me. There’s nothing wrong with me, a concept I still struggle with but try to remind myself of frequently. I love what I love, I love who I love, and I will continue to enjoy and watch what I watch, Mr. Birdsong’s videos included.

Thank you so much, Joe, if you read this. I’d love to meet you someday, and I’m sure a lot of my close friends and sister would, too (I turned them on to your work and you’ve become a central part of our everyday conversations). Stay fabulous, funny, and phenomenal. I wish you only the best!

P.S. I am obsessed with “New Queen Bee.” It’s my personal theme song, but also my Facebook cover photo, and the inspiration for my bedazzled profile picture. I also have a Joseph Birdsong iPhone case cover, but that doesn’t need to be stated. Wait…forget I wrote that….

Why I love Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories

Since the early 2000s, when Daft Punk released their third album, Discovery, I have been a huge fan of the electronic dance duo, immediately dipping into their past work and waiting for the new. It was several years since 2005’s Human After All when the group finally released their next album, Random Access Memories, this year. Like a lot of people, I was more than ready for more Daft Punk, and, again like a lot of people, I was surprised by their new production. RAM takes a turn, putting the duo’s respect and influence of 70s disco, funk, and pop front and center, orchestrating it with their natural flairs of electronic pulses and beats. It’s a departure from their old work, but it’s not wholly an an anomaly either. It’s not a sequel to Discovery, but obviously continues and heightens that album’s funk and disco samples and influences, fusing the old with the new in an album that clearly distinguishes itself from the contemporary musical landscape and expectations of what artists are supposed to do time and time again. It’s an evolution that pays tribute to the past while opening the door to something more, robotic heartbeats yearning for creative passions and connections.

“Give Life Back To Music,” Track 1, is the thesis statement to the entire album, which really is a fusion of two separate pieces that cannot be disconnected from each other (which I’ll discuss later). It’s a wonderful introduction to the familiar, but unexpected, nature of the album, a joyous disco jam with Niles Rogers providing his iconic instrumentation, while the robots sing about giving life back to the music scene, emphasizing the escapism, but necessity of music to enliven the soul and the rhythm on the dance floor.

Track 2, “The Game of Love,” is a resetting of sorts, a step back to address the early stages of the album’s quest to find that love again. It’s an almost melancholy piece, as are many of the pieces on the album, a lament for the past that seems to have been stripped away, forgotten. It’s a unique turn to take so early on, but it makes things that much clearer for what they’re setting up.

Track 3, “Giorgio By Moroder,” is a 9 minute tribute to Giovanni Giorgio, who supplies his vocals and story at the beginning and mid-point in the track. I love that they allowed Giorgio to simply tell his tales of his early work, sleeping in cars, playing his songs at clubs, and preparing sounds that brought people together to dance and hoping to spark emotions in the rhythms. It’s a song that affords multiple listens, with ups and downs, and a great drum section toward the end.

“Within” has a beautiful piano opening provided by Chilly Gonzalez, which he treats as a link and transition between the first few tracks into the next. This idea of transition and connection factors into the larger scope of the album. It took me a while to see how the sequencing of the album worked, but once I realized that it is really two sides of the same coin, a whole made of two parts, that everything began to click.

Study the album artwork and it’s clear what is being presented. There is a wonderful simplicity to the drawing of the two robot heads, bisected in half and then fused together. It’s an homage to old vinyl record covers, including the flowing, sharp silver font of the title, but it’s also pointing to the duality of the album itself. After the mellow hit, “Instant Crush” with Julian Casablancas from The Strokes and the slow, but undeniably addictive “Lose Yourself to Dance,” the first Pharrell Williams track, we take another turn with “Touch,” where I see the second half of the album begin. The song begins with a long, eerie whisper from Paul Williams, begging for “touch” and a need for “something more.” Williams vocals are vulnerable and pleading, imbibed with remembrance and a longing desire. This plea is met with an almost triumphal dance break mid-way through, before fading back into the cold, darkness with Williams, almost a melodic statement of memory that he is speaking to and for. The piece is key to the emotions, sadness and joy, loss and hope, that are the heart of the album.

Whether intentionally or not, the second P. Williams returns with “Get Lucky,” the song that’s been on constant repeat across radio stations everywhere, Niles Rogers signature guitar riffs roaming free once again. This was a great introduction to the new sound of Daft Punk, though it doesn’t acknowledge the melancholy. However, the entire track points to those desires of “touch,” giving life back to music,” and a need for “contact” and beyond as the end of the album addresses.

“Beyond” is a bit of foreshadowing to that last bit of music, “Contact,” on the album, alluding to motives beyond the quest for touch and a rekindling of the old emotions and notions of music. Before that, though, we have “Motherboard,” a song speaking to the mainframe of the musical landscape of electronic music. It’s an address to the nexus of Daft Punk’s artistry, quietly playing out to the larger operations and wiring that underlines their work.

My personal favorite is the joyous, infectious, and delightful Todd Edwards track, “Fragments of Time.” Edwards–who also sang on “Face To Face” from Discovery–provides such a great voice for the song, speaking to the fragmentary nature of memories, but also how they are accessed and assembled. It’s another desire for what made the past so wonderful and so full of hope.

“Doin’ It Right” featuring Panda Bear highlights what music is supposed to do if it’s done right. It’s supposed to drive and move you, inspire you to be active, to listen and “let it go all night.” It’s a reaffirmation of what Daft Punk wants this album to do for you and what they ultimately what they want to do themselves as artists.

“Contact” alludes to future developments, otherworldly pursuits after “touching” the hearts of people on the floor here on Earth. It crescendos into orbit and finally ends with the transmission cutting out, but not lost (the slight fuzz at the end).

This is how I’ve come to appreciate the album. I love it and continue to appreciate it more and more. I hope in my ramblings and fragmented, poorly written prose I’ve created a desire to give the album a chance or another. That’s all.

The Day I Met Hannah Hart

Yesterday was a special day for me. And no, it was not because I had to grade reading quizzes for class. It was because I met one of my Internet idols, the wonderful and illustrious Hannah Hart.

Hannah is the hilarious, silly, and endearing operator of My Drunk Kitchen, a delightful YouTube channel that I highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen it (here’s a link to the most recent kitchen video with author John Green, whom I also adore and admire immensely: http://youtu.be/fpRWBdx0tzY ). I’ve been following Hannah online for close to two years now and it’s been a delirious, often awkward, but never regrettable experience to see her grow and see her simple idea of cooking drunk in her kitchen and making puns turn into such a beautiful project and career.

I fell into the YouTube rabbit hole years ago after watching videos by Community Channel and Jenna Marbles, two other fantastic and hilarious women. And like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, I began to follow and subscribe to more and more YouTubers who make me laugh and smile (and who suck me into my iPhone screen for longer than I care to admit every day), and the community of YouTube became that much more united and that much more engaging.

Hannah has been particularly amazing, along with Grace Helbig (DailyGrace) and Mamrie Hart (You Deserve a Drink, Mametown), a trio of some of the funniest people I’ve had the privilege of watching online. They light up my screen like nobody else and it gets me overwhelmed. They know they’re beautiful. (One Direction references, how sad of me.)

Anyway, Hannah is currently on tour, roaming across the US and eventually around the world, shooting MDK episodes in particular cities and setting up meet-up and volunteer events, as well. One of the spots on tour was Austin, where I’m from and where I’ve lived for most of my life. Knowing that there was a possibility of getting Hannah here and having the chance to meet her, I immediately donated to her Indiegogo campaign months ago and waited impatiently to see if we’d make her list (the campaign was phenomenal as well, raising over $200,000!). When I saw Austin on the map, I knew I was in for a treat.

The day finally came yesterday and my sister and I were ready to meet the real, in-the-flesh Harto. We worked during the early afternoon and headed over to the Stephen F. Austin hotel on 7th street where the meet-up was scheduled to be held at 4PM. It was a beautiful building and the meeting room was already full of people also eagerly anticipating their chance to talk to Hannah.

When it was time, Hannah came out, greeted the crowd with her iconic, “Hello!” and talked to the audience about life on the road, her career online, her interesting backstory on learning Japanese (anything for a lady), and much more. She was funny, welcoming, and genuinely amazing.

After an hour, a group photo was taken and then came the meet and greet portion. I was fortunate to be one of the first in line and approached her with a copy of MDK season one on DVD in hand and a drawing of her and her road mates Pearl, Nick, and Sam, that I had made the day before. She gave me a big hug and she thanked me for the drawing, saying that the others would love it as well. I had her sign my DVD case and then we took a selfie together on my phone. Hannah is short, but so am I, so it was perfect that as we wrapped our arms about each other with a Christian side hug we matched each other fairly well. I thanked her and told her that I loved her, the show, and said she was just great. I could tell how much she wished she could continue to talk with me, and with everyone she’s met, having a better chance to hear everyone’s stories and befriend us all. As sad as the look in her beautiful blue eyes looked, there was also love and appreciation, an acknowledgement of how much she loves what she does and the people who watch her show. For that brief moment of parting, I knew that she was indeed a wonderful, caring, and incredible young woman. Ms. Hannah Hart, thank you and enjoy your wine. Love, David.

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It’s a little out of focus, and I look rundown, but I will cherish it forever. Boo boop!

Anchor

“Anchor”

Another hard one today
Trying to make sense of it all,
Trying to retain some form of understanding,
Trying to keep my feet on the ground

But I’m slipping, further and further down,
Drenched and drowning in the sea,
Made from the torrential rain of my own discontent
I’m face first in the deep end, currents pulling fast

My hand reaches to the surface, no air
And I descend, darkness all and around me

I can see the surface, celestial lights playing on the waves
So far away, I yearn to touch, figments and fragments of light
Into the deep, the immensity of the pressure, too much
Taken down, taken out, and taken to the bottom,

Anchor stops dead in the sand

–April 14, 2013, afternoon, Austin, TX, PCL

My Song at Twilight

“My Song at Twilight”

They play my song at twilight,
I dance to the rhythm chimes,
Eclipsing all around in soft light and colors,
A cascade of emotions with a perpetual twirl

Inhale the eternity, exhale the tumults,
Live to shine and move to feel,
Descend into cavernous works of techno shades and lighting,
Watch the sun fade and the son rise

Ecstasy

— April 13, 2013, outside, Austin, TX, Starbucks

Rat Race

“Rat Race”

Someone save me,
Not even I can be a friend to myself,
The days are long and the nights are eternity,
Nothing quite adds up and the equations make no sense

It’s a rat race this life I lead,
A box of endless turns, dead ends, and false promises,
A construct of something sinister and disenchanting,
Haunting, watching, the dark abyss and soulless eyes

Run, run, run, and find that the end is not as welcomed as expected,
Run, run, run, the wandering son is now unfound.

And here it goes, here it goes…

— April 13, late, Austin, TX, apartment, in bed

Young Ones

“Young Ones”

Two dead bodies on my front porch,
Life ended moments after it began,
Unknowable futures, uneaten meals,
Young ones fading fast and gone for good

I mourn the loss, I feel a guilt,
Out of my hands, but gestating in my heart,
Great sentiment for little lives cut short,
Broken on the pavement

I want to hold them, comfort them,
But corpses now, decaying, fading, and forgotten,
Mortality in lifeless barely formed limbs,
Rest in peace, and rest immortal

— April 12, 2013, midnight, Austin, TX, apartment, for the birds

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