The 1990’s stamped a love for Hip-Hop and R&B in me that will never fade. From Nas’ It Was Written, the harmonizing Boyz II Men, 2Pac and DeathRow’s dominance in the West Coast, along with the 112’s and Blackstreet’s of the era. The lists and arguments are endless as to who(m) were the kings and queens of fill-in-the-blank genres. That’s not something I’ll delve into. However, artists of today are faced with an more interesting factor: the power of the “interwebs.” There are monstrous advantages and disadvantages that the internet can bring musicians and artists of today. Homemade Youtube videos skyrocket careers while sites like World Star provide a not-so-pretty side to music cultures. While I understand this is not a groundbreaking topic and something that most of you probably already realize, let’s take a look at an artist who has benefitted from an age of the Internet Gods.

11:00 pm rolled around on a weeknight and I was scrolling through RefinedHype, the Hip-Hop/RnB/debate-inducing-article-featuring blog. This is one of the few I take the time to pay attention to since they…you know, refine the hype. Anyways, a few scrolls down and my eyes stopped at “The Return of Real R&B…” I clicked immediately. The article featured a unique sounding track “Winter Mind” by an even more uniquely named artist (in R&B standards), Sid Sriram. My dude Nathan S. absolutely nailed the concise piece about the artist and I was sold. Not only are Sid’s vocals incredible but he manages to…brace yourselves…write and produce his own music. Ok, don’t everyone go crazy at once. But in an era when auto-tuned, pitch-adjusted, richly layered vocals dominate the R&B radio waves  it almost makes artists like Mr. Sriram seem obsolete. Obviously he’s not the first to write/produce/perform his own work. However, Sid’s ability to effortlessly scale notes, weave emotion, and incorporate his Carnatic influence are nothing short of impressive. Yep, you heard me. Traditional South Indian vocals float seamlessly into Sid’s renditions of Frank Ocean’s “We All Try,”

Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,”

…and a ridiculously smooth mash-up of Donny Hathaway’s “A Song For You” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About Me.”

Tracks like these are not only jaw-dropping but the talent on display completely hypnotizes listeners. The accompaniment of some dope piano shredding in “We All Try,” goes somewhat unnoticed until the second or third listen. Sid’s own creativity on the project West Coast Nightfall Part 1: Before Dusk demonstrates his ability to cohesively throw a small project together while he gears up for a full length audio/visual album. Check his website out for news and material, not to mention a pretty genius marketing plan.

I do ask myself  (and you if you’re still reading), what if Youtube wasn’t around? What if the Internet Gods never created a platform for people to showcase their talent who may have otherwise been unable to break into those top 40 radio waves or star-searching record companies?  Who cares. But do me a favor: if you love your music, take the extra time to find those quality artists and show some support. Somethin’ like the 2000 & beyond crate-digging, right? Go find your Sid.

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Light Up.

Funny how an entire year and some months can go by so quickly. Felt like refreshing my typing skills and updating my life, and well, here I am. As a matter of fact it was just about a year and a half ago when I circled my new career on yellow notepad. You know, that “vintage” stuff called paper your Dad or Grandpa probably keeps dusty bundles of in his garage for construction measurements. I’m already rambling off topic, let me try this again.

Just about this time last year I was anxiously awaiting the career fairy to visit, leave a note with a job offer, and a check for a couple hundred thousand dollars under my pillow. I’m sure you understand what I mean when I use the words “anxiety” and “career” in the same sentence. Well you know that prehistoric yellow notepad I referred to above? That paper accompanied by a mental nudge from Elizabeth helped ease all this restlessness. About two and half years had passed since I graduated and I felt more in the dark than before I started freshmen year. The time had come. The time to create a list. Lists were not my thing. But this list was MY thing, my next doorway. Was it writing, teaching, coaching, a Master’s, Fire, music, or underwater basket-weaving? I know, too cliche with the basket-weaving. Either way we brainstormed and wrote them all down. And guess what we did next? Yep, started eliminated. One by one the list narrowed with each nervous slash. Some decisions were accompanied by lack of experience. Others by lack of passion. For some reason I knew the career I was going to pick. The one I have all the life experience for but knew absolutely nothing about. One by one we crossed the others off until “Firefighter” was the only one left. I felt my eyes light up. How could something so obvious seem so abstract? Hoses, nozzles, ladders, and sirens? Such unfamiliar territory. Although, contrary to my confusion I slowly started to realize that THIS was the career. The years of coaches and drills in basketball, the dedication to the public through Psychology and Education, and love for the community. Very suitable.

So the journey began with basic classes, an EMT certification, station visits, and what seemed like insurmountable history lessons about the Fire service itself. Piece by piece I’ve slowly chipped away to sculpt one of the most desired public service careers worldwide. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not exactly where I need to be. However, with the help of my new fiancee (you like how I threw that in there, huh?), a best friend, supporting family, and network of classmates I have started to mold myself into a marketable candidate for the Fire service.

The work will continue with only one philosophy in mind: never give up. Never give up on the assignments. Never give up on the assessments. Never give up on those ladder drills. Never give up on the ultimate opportunity to change one person’s life in the most incredible and selfless way I can possibly imagine. If you know me, this is not about the limelight. Please. This is about recognizing your abilities and your enjoyment in life, taking them off the sidelines, and putting them into play. Forget the maintainable-make-enough-money-to-pay-your-bills-and-maybe-a-vacation-in-a-year-or-so-mundane-desk-chair-to-stare- at-MS Word-documents-all-day job (unless you’re into that or is the only option right now to support your family. I get it.). Whatever your path just take the time to realize what you’d like to dedicate your career to and do it. Simple.

For Clay Cutter and many others who dedicate their lives to lay the foundation for those who are in the pursuit. Thank you.

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Half Dome.

The exploring continued. Paco, Mike, and I planned a trip to Yosemite National Park just about a month ago, but the trip was cancelled due to Pac’s services needed as a firefighter. That’s admirable. So we rescheduled the trip for September 7, 2010. Neither of the two had stepped foot on the park’s soil so my eagerness to organize the trip almost reached an obsession. What was the ultimate goal you ask? Half Dome. Of course. Millions of people visit the park each year, many of whom hike around in the Wilderness. Only a small percentage actually climb to the top of Half Dome. Sure you can find several other trails that wrap around the park’s beautiful landscape. In fact you can drive to the top of Glacier Point (7,214 ft. above sea level) and safely witness some the greatest views of the park, including a crystal clear view of Half Dome. Not the point. The hike to the top of Half Dome is to conquer the park’s most difficult day hike.

We left the Bay Area at approximately 2:00 PM on Tuesday. After a two hour drive we checked into Riverside Inn, about an hour from the start of the trail. Anxious to enter the park and scope out the trail’s beginning we left the inn and headed through the park’s gates. We circled the main roads and pinpointed our exact parking location, walked to the trailhead’s starting point, and gained confidence and comfort about our timeframe for the next morning. Afterwards we fueled up at Curry Village’s dinner buffet and headed back to the inn to catch a few hours of rest.

Cell phone alarms blared out loud and distorted snippets of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize” and The Cool Kids’ “Knocked Down” at 2:45 AM. As a morning person I immediately propped out of bed and rapped along. An hour of preparation and packing and an hour’s drive into the park ticked away slowly, but we hit the dirt at 4:47 AM. If you’re ever up at this time you know it’s pitch black outside. That’s obvious. While we had three lights to guide us, the blackness added to the mystery of “where the hell are we going?” element. Oh yeah, we forgot our trail map. Oops. Luckily Yosemite generously provided the trails with signs, what a concept. Now there are two trails that lead to Half Dome. The John Muir (lenghty and full of cutbacks) and the Mist (short, straight up, and full of incredible scenery). The choice of the Mist Trail was a no-brainer. What wasn’t so evident were the hundreds of steps we were forced to climb in complete darkness. Fortunately at that time of the morning your brain doesn’t have a chance to realize what your body is doing and we zipped through the steps. We reached the top of what was apparently Vernal Falls, and continued on through the trail. Wait? What? This trail turns into branches. Not the right direction. Confused and irritated, we retraced our steps to the right path and continued on. What the hell? Again? Alright sunlight, hurry up and shine through here already. After 25 minutes wasted on a giant loop we found a couple snapping photos of nearby falls who pointed us in the right direction. Ok, I’ll skip through the detailed play-by-play with this synopsis: we hiked, stopped at an outdoor restroom where I caught glimpse of a bear, hiked, ate lunch, and hiked until we reached the base of the granite. More Mist Trail-esque steps, great. We started to wonder, where the hell are the cables? And where is Half Dome? As true rookies in our element we slowly reached the top steps. I will always hold the next memory in my head of Paco, who’s approximately 100 ft. ahead of Mike and me, yell out, “Hooollllyyy shh***ttt! You thought these steps were bad! OMG I see the cables and what the $%#& did we get ourselves into!?” The memory is hilarious now, but at the time, those words helped kick in some anxiety. The pictures of the cables give absolutely no justice to the real-life view. That seems to be a running theme of mine with photos in my posts, but all the more true. Picture a wall in your home slightly angled away from you, with two steel cables running upwards, and a 2×4 every ten feet as your steps. Oh yeah, and your wall is a slippery rock. And it’s 50 degrees. With a 15-20 mph wind, 8000 ft. above sea level. At this point there was no turning back. Absolutely no possible way. So after a ten minute break, a snack, and some water we threw on the gloves provided at the bottom of the cables and headed up. A few thoughts in my head from those moments: “Here we go! WTF were we thinking? This is awesome! Damn I’m freezing I wish I wasn’t sick! I’m tired, hold up. Take a picture! Alright let’s go!” Those ten excruciating minutes lead us to the most extraordinary 45 minutes I have ever experienced after such physical torture. I have nothing more to say about the experience at the top, except the words you might utter after looking at the photos we snapped. Here they go, from start to whiskey.

The journey back to the bottom was just as incredible. Traveling in the dark doesn’t allow you to see much, heh…but the Mist Trail was beautiful in daylight. Take a look.

That just about wraps it up. Another trip is scheduled for late Spring/early Summer of 2011. If you’d like to join or need information on trails, gear, or anything else please feel free to hit me up. Hope you enjoyed.

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Never Stop Exploring.

Says it right on the box of my North Face Hedgehog GTX’s. Never Stop Exploring. And since July, that is exactly what has happened.

Let’s start with Mt. Diablo. It was hard for me to swallow the idea I had never been up to the top. So I went. Twice. The first with Paco and Mike. The second time alone. The weather was pretty brutal each time, but the views make you forget the heat. The ability to see essentially the entire Bay Area is humbling (although during the summer it isn’t as clear, thank you smog). I could see my hometown, and my current home. The windmills propped up on the Altamont, the water stretching across the land, the traffic, the East Bay. Humbling. If you have a chance, head up there. Gives you a few moments to clear your head, a moment to develop pride of your immediate surroundings.

The exploration continued. While our trip to Half Dome has been pushed back to September I was privileged enough to visit my parents in Southeast Idaho. During my stay I saw parts of the country I never imagined. Anyone who knows “Big Sky” country knows how it earned that title. The clouds continue for an eternity. The mountains, endless. You’ll feel a slight singe on your skin when the sun decides to stick around for a minute, which could be followed by lightning thunderstorms the next, only to bring sunshine back in the rotation moments later. I flew from Oakland to Salk Lake City, Utah and proceeded to Rigby, Idaho via the Salt Lake Express. After a day of rest the 48-hour family voyage began with Yellowstone National Park. As the first national park in U.S. history it paved the way for regions across the world to remained preserved by the countries who love and appreciate them. I won’t go into too much explanation with these posts. I have plenty to photos to do that for me. I only ask you one favor, please visit this piece of heaven on Earth before your number is called.

Bear World and Jackson Hole, Wyoming were destinations on our second day. Bear World, which is about ten minutes from my parent’s home, features an elevated and armored vehicle tour through the park’s 100-acre natural landscape loaded with turkeys, goats, deer, pigs, a moose, elk, wolves, bison, bears, and bear cubs. To be honest, when we entered the park’s gates it struck an eerie resemblance to Jurassic Park. Warnings signs that preceded the animal area indicated the dangers you may encounter, including the possibility of bears jumping on or destroying your vehicle. Fun. However you quickly learn that the bears and other animals are comfortable with humans in automobiles creeping through their turf. Oh yeah, you get to feed them. That’s right. The bears flock to the facility provided, tour guided truck like kids chasing down an ice cream man. While we didn’t exactly toss ice cream out to them we were given trays of white bread, donuts, cinnamon bread, and potatoes. Some put on a show. Some of the breeding males punked the younglets. Some propped themselves up and gaped their mouths open like puppies. One even managed to use the truck’s tire as a scratching post. Comedy. Plenty of pictures for this too.

Immediately following Bear World we headed into Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I didn’t have much faith after the sights and views in Yellowstone that anything in Jackson Hole or along the way would stimulate my eyes. Damn was I wrong. Driving up to and through the Idaho/Wyoming border struck an intuitive feeling the Native American must have felt. Ok, I know it’s a stretch. But seriously, the coordination of the sky, mountains, water, and land undoubtedly created several reasons why the natives worshipped the Earth. Absolutely incredible. After following the Snake River (which is hundreds of miles long) we eventually ended up in Jackson Hole, WY. With plenty of gift shops, restaurants, bars, and other tourist traps the town strongly resembled South Lake Tahoe. The backdrop  consisted of beautiful mountains sides striped with patches of green between the trees, which I assume make excellent ski/snowboard runs. Again, plenty more pictures.

The entire trip was nothing short of amazing. The pictures follow in chronological order. There were several others I could have thrown in there, but it would have gotten out of hand. Hope you enjoy.

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Hiked Mt. Diablo again, this time took some pictures. Just waiting on those to get back to me. In the meantime please enjoy this video from ILLZ. This is the beauty and progression of Hip-Hop.

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Seven, Seven.

The time in the bottom corner of my screen reads 9:18 at the start of this post, approximately three hours away from officially becoming July 7, 2010. No, the title is not a reference to the ever-so-popular Seven & Seven beverage we all know and enjoy. To many of you, or few of you depending on how many readers I actually have, this date may not hold any significance. I’d like to take some time to inform you about why this date holds importance to me.

I can remember Rascal Flatts at the Concord Pavilion. Countless attempts at thoughtfulness given through books, numerous Friends DVD seasons, dinners (out on the town, or made by yours truly), cards filled with humor and/or sap depending on the point of our lives.  Surprise visits via CA 99-north. Disneyland, Buck Meadows, Burbank, Livermore, Fresno, Sacramento, and San Francisco were among the locations many memories were cemented. Several other memories come to mind, much too many to list. There’s one person who serves as the link between all of these thoughts as the time reaches just about 10:00 PM. While her ability to recall other memories exceeds mine as she reads along, she’s realized who she is at this point. Probably a bit embarrassed but possibly a bit warm-hearted.

Unfortunately some recent scuffles, mistakes, and disputes have created some blurriness in our lives. However, I’ve always felt that even in the darkest tunnel I never lost focus on the foundation that brought us our relationship as it stands today. I don’t mean romantic relationship for those of you who were eager to spread rumor wildfires across the downtown Livermore bars, Facebook chats, and Twitter if you’re lame (I know, we’re not that popular). I’m writing specifically about the relationship between two people who have consistently held each other in the lights of our lives. At least I can speak for myself when I write that regardless of the circumstances, I will always hold her close to me throughout the rest of my life. That’s a bold statement. Maybe a bit intimidating to our pursuers or others we may pursue. That’s also a difficult concept to grasp considering the fine line of friendship and relationship we’ve traveled across. Throughout the ten years we’ve been accquainted, it is certainly not difficult to reflect on and appreciate. That comes easily. That comes with the willingness to keep your arms open despite the most bitter tastes some moments can leave. The willingness to accept one another unconditionally, the willingness to forgive, to lend a hand in the deepest of holes, the sort of optimism you’d hope for in someone you genuinely trust. I firmly believe those are difficult attributes to find in any individual, let alone between a man and woman who’ve been in several stages of each others lives. Typically I’m not the sappy, verbose, overly-contemplative type. Although more recently (especially according to my other posts) I’ve managed to slow down time in my life to express my appreciation in written form. Maybe it comes with age? Who knows. What I do know is the remarkable luck I possess to have her close to me. Call it astrological strength between the Pisces and Cancer, provided you believe so. A possible explanation can be given by Aristotle’s argument for Fatalism (look it up if you didn’t catch that, preferably not on Wikipedia). How about a stroke of God’s grace? (I know, if you’ve paid attention I’ve used that before). I like to refer to the numbers used as her date of birth. Seven, seven. Seven’s lucky, right?

Without helping but sound a bit Buzz-Lightyear-esque, here’s to July, 7 2010 and beyond. Happy Birthday, Elizabeth. I hope you truly understand my appreciation for you, and I know we can continue to mold memories as our lives continue. I searched through the thousands of pictures on my prehistoric-aged laptop and posted a few to share. A couple were taken on previous birthdays, a couple others just for fun. Maybe I’ll post some others. Hope you enjoy.

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Nothing to Lose.

As I mentioned when I posted this link on Facebook, this will be the first entry for my “WordPress Wednesday’s.” Just as that sounds, every Wednesday I’ll post a new entry not just for your attention, but to exercise my brain a bit. Maybe yours too. We’ll see how long it lasts. (And I do realize it’s techincally Thursday, but give me some credit I started writing at 11:04 PM)

Let’s talk basketball. Not about Lebron James’s future, what city he’ll end up in, who he meets with to discuss his free agency, or if I think Kobe will win another ring. ESPN does that everyday. I bet that I have your brain swirling though. This is a bit more personal, more about the relationship between basketball and me. That’s right, relationship. Since I stepped foot on to the blacktop at Westwood Elementary in Concord, CA, grabbed a slippery, orange, spherically-shaped piece of rubber, and tossed it into the net only to hear the infamous “swoosh,” it was over. Over as in there was no turning back. The love shifted from standing around in baseball fields waiting for little kids to possibly hit the ball my direction, to the constant movement and shuffling inside that 94-foot rectangle. Let’s go on a journey.

I moved to Livermore before fourth-grade where, after playing with some local kids at May Nissen Park down the street, I had a nearby neighbor hunting down my house to recruit me for his CYO team. Let’s not get the wrong idea, I’m not saying I was worth the trouble. However, it was nice to know I was recognized and requested to be included on a team full of strangers who would later become friends and classmates of mine (thank you, Andre Peoples). From there came the tournaments across the Bay Area, Junction Avenue Middle School, East Avenue Middle School, more CYO in between, Livermore High School, even an AAU traveling team. Basketball, basketball, basketball. It’s all I ever ate, slept, and dreamt about.  The politics and business of the game grew stronger with age but my love grew exponentially with those things. Though my physical stature wasn’t ideal for the eyes of recruiters there wasn’t anyone who could tell me basketball was not an option. Not to mention our horrific win-less (yes, win-LESS) streak during league play throughout high school. I’m not afraid to admit that. That’s old news. But when high school finished and a small sense of reality slapped me in the face the dreams started to fade.

Fresno, California was the next destination for me, and basketball. With a lack of options from major budget cuts across universities in California I apprehensively enrolled in Fresno State in August of 2004. It was rumored that the school held a strong Psychology program, which brought me at ease about the decision. But you know I had one thing in the back of my mind, basketball. Despite the few years before my enrollment that involved shootings, drugs, and poor grades, Fresno State was a legitimate contender in the NCAA tournament in late 1990’s and year 2000. The university had released some players into the NBA you might be familiar with such as And 1 Playground legend Rafer Alston, Courtney Alexander, Melvin Ely, Rod Higgins (the first), Dominic McGuire, and the 10th overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft Paul George. Might not be the most impressive line-up but if you’re familiar with the NBA you get the picture. Let’s turn the page.

It was my sophomore year of college, 2006. I was still a gym rat, still a suburban white kid with a chip on his shoulder on the court like I had something to prove. With an entirely new coaching staff entering the 06-07 season rumors swirled around campus that walk-on tryouts were to be held in the Fall semester. The thought crossed my mind of course, but eventually passed. The confidence in my abilities on the court lingered, but I truly felt there was no possible way I would come close. No way. A Division I college basketball team, really? No chance. Fortunately I was in decent shape and had the voice of my buddy Mike tell me, “C’mon man you’ll never know if you don’t show up.” That’s all it took. That semester we showed up at 6 AM in the North Gym along with at least 70 others who hoped to fulfill the same dream.

On day one we broke into teams and scrimmaged. Luckily the were players I was familiar with, players we hooped with every night in the Rec center. We were grouped into four teams and rotated to play each team at least once. Our team won every game. I didn’t score much, but I didn’t need to. It wasn’t about scoring, it was about all of the fine details learned from every coach who yelled in my ear coming into sync on that morning. The whistles blew after the final game and the assistant coaches approached a few players to take down some information. My heart pounded when I saw one them approach me. “Where you from? Bay Area?” Coach Slade asked as he glanced at the Chabot College logo on my cutoff. “Yeah, Livermore actually,” I said a bit embarrassed. He thought I went to Chabot, but clarified otherwise. He congratulated my efforts, and it was enough to get my name on the list for day two of the try-outs. You serious?

The second morning was similar to the first but with fewer players. We broke into a few lay-up lines to warm up and then it was time to run. With a solid team, we ended up winning each game again. Winning wasn’t something usual to me, but it was easy to accept. I felt like I played well, especially with a transfer recruit who guarded me throughout the morning.  Nothing exceptional, just efficient. I combed through every fundamental detail in my brain and let the game come to me. I knocked down shots, created a turnover, threw a few assists, and stayed as vocal as possible without getting too involved with every play. It seemed like an eternity before the run was over. Little did I know, former BYU Men’s Basketball Coach Steve Cleveland watched the entire session. He called everyone into the circle at halfcourt and announced that his coaches were looking for one slot, maybe two, to be filled and we would be notified within a couple days. And I thought the try-out felt like an eternity…

Two days later I was preparing to leave for an afternoon class. I was in the middle of grabbing some books and throwing on some shoes when my Sidekick started to buzz. The caller ID read a local but unfamiliar number. Normally I didn’t answer but in a time like this, how couldn’t I? I answered, only to find out it was Coach Moon, one of the assistants who attended the try-outs. There went my heart, pounding away. He started small conversation, asked me how my day was and whatnot. After a few minutes my mind was racing only to realize what he had actually asked me. He offered me a spot on the team. “Are you serious?” I asked repeatedly. He mentioned something about his staff’s original desire to keep only one player, but they decided to pick up two of us. “Us,” as in me. I accepted, of course I accepted. Then I proceeded to run around the house like a maniac 5-year old child who had eaten too much ice cream. I called my Mom, I called Elizabeth, I called Chase, I called anyone else I could think of at the moment to share the news. Unbelieveable news.

I attended grueling morning workouts, afternoon practices, study group sessions, team meetings, optional shoot-arounds, a physical, even open gyms I wasn’t supposed to. Anything to prove I was committed to the opportunity. I had people celebrate with me, people who hated repeatedly. “YOU!? What!???” they asked. Plenty of laughs. Reactions ranged from professors who praised my efforts to so-called friends who eagerly expressed their bitterness. Regardless it was a proud moment. A moment that was defined by huddling in a circle after an afternoon practice and, while the coach was talking, I stared down at my practice jersey the entire time. I read the phrase over and over and over. “Fresno State Basketball,” I mouthed without audible sound leaving my throat. I carefully etched each screenprinted letter and number with my eyes to test the genuity of that moment. I made it. I shared the company of players who had been flown across the world from Europe, recruited at the powerhouse Fairfax HS in LA, transferred from Cal, and an all-time scoring leader in the Central Valley amongst others. That was my moment. A time in my life I wouldn’t trade for the world. I even autographed a basketball after practice that would be donated to a local elementary school. I wonder where that ball is…

Unfortunately it came to an end. I turned my back on basketball. Now let me reiterate, I’m not sharing this story for any limelight. The story should inspire you if anything, or maybe help you understand a piece of my history. A relationship with something you love should never diminish simply because you felt you reached your potential. There are certain things, and people, that will stick with you throughout the rest of your life whether you realize it or not. My opportunity on the team came to an end at my own decision. I wasn’t kicked-off, I wasn’t cut, none of that. It was one of the most difficult and strenuous decisions I have made in my entire life. More unfortunately, the game that I loved put other things in my life in jeopardy. My classes, my financial stability, my personal relationships, my body. The amount of time consumed by the sport I thought I loved started to ruin my real future. Let’s face it, the NBA wasn’t calling my name (although I am a firm believer in following dreams). But my relationship with basketball grew to an enormity that a 19-year old, unrecruited, 5-foot 10-inch, suburban white kid couldn’t handle. With much to my regret, I had to let the opportunity go.

With the negative thoughts, the “what-if’s,” and the nonbelievers to the side let’s take a look at the real benefits of this. Trust me my stomach churned for nights on end about the possibilities that would have presented themselves had I hung on a bit longer. Let’s not dig too deep into that. I’m a man who seeks the positives in life and realized at the point in time, those were my circumstances. I took a chance and succeeded. I had nothing to lose. You want statistics? I became part of the less than 2% of high school basketball players to make it to the next level. The Division I level. I gave Livermore, a city known for cows and wine let alone basketball, a piece of myself and a handful of people something to be proud of. I did that for my grandfather, my parents, friends, and my unborn children (okay, maybe that’s pushin’ it, but think about it). Of course I didn’t run around immediately telling everyone my story. I was too embarrassed mainly because by the time anyone found out I had already let the opportunity go. But those who knew showed their appreciation. And that was enough. It took time to sink in, the constant questioning never ceased. This was about the bigger picture, not about me. This was my relationship with basketball, something I knew would never disappear.

I still played every chance I had after that experience. Won a couple intramural tournaments, made some incredible memories and friends. I play sparingly when I have a day off. That love for the game, although will never grow as intense, will always remain. Sometimes you have to understand your boundaries with the things you love, even with the people you love. There’s a level of functionality that can be reached, just be sure you keep those things and people close to you. The journey can continue.

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On Our Doorstep.

This is somewhat of a scramble of feelings regarding yesterday (Father’s Day), and its meaning to me personally. Bare with me. As a child, I grew up in fear of my biological father (which probably isn’t too far off from some other’s feelings). My older brother, who was innocent, quiet, and genius in my eyes, received the brunt of my “Dad’s” frustrations. You get the picture, right? 

Before I dig any deeper into my childhood I’ll take a step backward and give you a glimpse into my father’s. Alcoholism and drug use. They ended my grandmother’s life, my grandfather’s life, and ultimately the marriage between my parents. He continued the cycle, and isolated himself from the world. Back to my childhood.

Somehow I managed to make it through those few years without the cycle attached to me. No, not drugs or alcohol, but the frustration, anger, and rage attached with those things. I give all of that credit to my mother who left him before the spiral continued. I do realize that people have grown up/are growing up with much worse conditions. I studied and worked with those kids, trust me. In the midst of the my mother’s single, full-time job, mother of two sons, and caretaker of her ill mother life, appeared Terrance James Hurley. Those of you who do not know this man, he is my step-father. Call it God’s grace, an alignment of the stars, or a stroke of luck, but he appeared on our doorstep a few days after they met and from there it was seamless. He was given the green light to marry my mother and completely changed the course of our lives. Let’s bring this full circle to what Terry and Father’s Day mean to me.

Why it took me 10 years to realize this is beyond me, but let me illustrate the type of man my step-father is. First of all, I never called him Dad no matter what. It was personal preference and some people might think it’s appropriate he replace the title of my biological father. The more I think about it though, the difficulities you have to overcome as a man entering an already established family are beyond me. Honestly, I think there is a sense of pride that comes with the title of a step-father. So Terry was, and is, his name. He relentlessly gave himself to our family. Countless hours behind the wheel of his literally back-breaking job as a truck driver, threw pitches and took pictures with me and my brother during little league, and set the example as a man who truly loves a woman. He did it all. He still does it all. No spotlight necessary, only behind the curtains. Never through anger, always through modesty. While Father’s Day may be a specific holiday to glorify father’s or those who replaced them, I don’t feel I have truly expressed the appreciation I have for him. What better way to do it through a blog, a day late. How appropriate, right? Maybe I’ll deem the Monday after Father’s Day, “Step Father’s Day.” A little ridiculous. It’s hard enough that my parents live in another state, so I do what I can to tell them I love them. But I work with what I have, and give thanks each and every day.

Lately I feel like I’ve fallen into the cycle of the father who reproduced for me. You know, the first one I described? I graduated from college and had big dreams, and still haven’t followed through. Had a relationship with girlfriend of seven years that I let fall apart in front of my own eyes. Wasted too many nights for cheap thrills, too much time on jobs that don’t matter, and didn’t spend enough time on my true passions in life. Yeah, I’m gettin’ real personal on this one. With things a bit fuzzy lately and a little retrospect, some progress is in order. So I’ll start simple with a testament to my foundation. A man who has set the example since day one and never looked back, I only want to continue this cycle, his cycle. Happy Father’s Day again, a day late, and everyday after.

Sidenote: I snapped a shot of my car after I washed it earlier today. Not only was this one of the many gifts from Terry (and my Mom of course), but his ability to appreciate and maintain valuables was passed on as well. This is my first car, two parts replaced and 175,000 miles later.

Thank you.


Filed under Inspiration, Memories

Bucket List

I know, how “original” to make a bucket list. Blah. 

If I never write this stuff down, it’s easy for me to become distracted from what life is really worth living for. Here are a few things I’d like to do, places I’d like to go, and things I’d like to learn before my name’s called (not in any particular order):

Travel to at least one country in each continent (preferably two, but one in each is more realistic). Complete a mixtape/album. Complete grad school. Learn the guitar, piano, and harmonica. See ‘The Roots’ live.  Get tickets to an NCAA Final Four game. Work for the Giants or Warriors (insert laughter from haters here ____). Skydive. Vacation in Hawaii. Skydive in Hawaii. Hike Half Dome in Yosemite. Learn Spanish fluently. Learn Mandarin. Learn Arabic. Attend a World Cup match. See Lebron live (how this hasn’t happened yet, don’t ask). Free Palestine (just had to see if you were actually paying attention). Get married. Reproduce. Ink in two more tattoos (at least). Learn digital photography. Hike something equal to or greater than Half Dome.

That was shorter than I thought would be. I’m sure I’ll think of and add more. Feel free to do the same in the comments right below.


Filed under Information

Freshly Pressed Ink.

On April 28, 2008, William Malcolm Bennett, my grandfather, passed away. He was diagnosed a few years before his death with prostate cancer. Somehow he managed to fight that off, but was diagnosed again a few years later with terminal bone cancer. I can still hear him calling me “Spider,” through the phone (a nickname he dubbed for me because I crawled throughout his two-story townhome playing with G.I. Joe’s), him sternly calling for his wife, “Beverrllyyy!” and him sitting at his dinner table late at night during our visits recalling countless stories during World War II and his college basketball career. Or how about the time he lived through a couple of guys who decided to rob the grocery store he managed, and tried to shoot him while he was ducked under a cash register (he still had lead in his body from the bullets that hit him by ricochet until the day of his passing). Or (last one I promise) his relentless efforts to help “colored-folks” in his grocery store despite numerous death threats he received in the middle of the night during the Civil Rights era. I could go on and on…We didn’t visit him as often as I would like to in Gresham, Oregon. However, I think it helped me truly cherish the man he was without becoming desensitized by his presence. Aside from my step-father, who is one of the most amazing people my Mom could have ever met and married, my grandfather was the  real “father figure” in my life. I credit my love for sports to this man, and that’s a love that has lasted for about 20 years and running. Unfortunately after his passing several disturbing and frustrating events over his belongings created issues between the family. I’ll leave out the details. Just know (if you haven’t learned already) that when someone passes, greed and a few other disgusting traits can overcome people who you think are family, and cause havoc.

For about a year and half I had planned on getting some ink done in honor of him. This was a particular desire because I had nothing to remember him by other than memories (which I’m not discounting). I started nagging my Mom about photos of him. She handled that pretty well and sent me a variety to look through. Then I found it. Next was the artist. To be honest I have no recollection of how I stumbled across the artist I chose, but I could care less. All I know is that Matt Howse, a product of Spider Murphy’s Tattoo parlor in San Rafael, CA was the man for the job. So, on April 28, 2010 two years to the day after the passing of my grandfather, I present the freshly pressed ink.

Here are the updated photos I was generously given by Matt (top) shortly after he finished his work, and the other by Natalie (bottom). Good lookin out! Gives you a better idea of the placement, the attention to detail, and Matt’s ability to capture the expression on my grandfather’s face. Ridiculous. The original photo was taken (we believe) when he was on leave during the war. I felt the picture was appropriate because of its original quality as well as the meaning within the image. He had seen parts of the world, but still had more to explore. His basketball career came to unfortunate end, but life had other things in store for him. I felt I could relate my life now with his at that point. And there wasn’t a better way I could imagine to honor him.

Without trying to sound corny and sappy, the portait is a constant reminder to put life in perspective. Take time to appreciate your parents, close family, and true friends. You never know what life brings. On behalf of my grandfather, Shelly McKim, Jeff Riele, and Brant Daniels I would like to reiterate that while their presence is missed here on Earth, I feel blessed to have each of them as angels above us.


Filed under Inspiration, Memories, Motivation