Archive for NYC

Not in the Spirit This Year.

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12/21/2014 by Angel D. Vargas

Alright. So it’s been a long time. Christmas is upon us in less than four days.  To be honest, I’m having a little trouble getting into the Christmas spirit this year. However, it seems I’m not the only Grinch. I’ve been seeing a lot of people in 2014 who just want to throw up their hands and say “bah humbug.”

Why might this be the case for so many of us? If you’re like me, you’ve been watching the racial tension in America build thanks to senseless violence, and the mistakes being made by people who seek the wrong kind of justice. You’ve witnessed the President of the United States reduce our unemployment rate to less than ten percent, kill off a bunch of terrorists, and actually rescue people from Somali Pirates. Yet Obama STILL comes under fire for “not doing enough” or “not bridging the bi partisan gap.” What nonsense is this? The man inherited a hot mess of almost Biblical proportions. That mess is now being compounded by ever increasing racial tension, abominable threats to US safety made by dictators who can’t take a fucking joke, and the ever ready conservatives who would sooner try to pass a 1600 page bill filled with ridiculous pork projects and hidden agendas than to enact any real change.  It would take President Obama a second term just to make some headway repairing the damage. That takes more stamina and courage than most people in this nation possess.

I wouldn’t do it. Would you? Would most of us?

Then there’s the question of money.

According to some sources, the average American adult is planning to spend an estimated 781.00 this year for the Christmas season. This is up from the 749.00 per adult that was spent just two years ago, and the 701.00 total from last year.  According to a recently released gallup survey, this could mean that Americans might spend up to 600 billion dollars this Christmas season.

I have two questions. Who is the average adult in this country, and can I come over to their house this Christmas? I don’t know these people. Most of the adults I know in my age range are working for a temporary staffing agency, living from paycheck to paycheck. The one gift I could afford this year for the love of my life is still sitting, unwrapped, in our clothing closet just above a pair of pants with a hole in the crotch, and a shirt with holes in the armpits. My God, I can just picture the Clark Griswold rant from National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation playing over and over again in my head. I recently took a silly online quiz to see how much of that rant I could actually remember from all those years ago. I scored an 80 percent. I would have gotten a hundred, but I haven’t watched my favorite holiday movies this year. Not one.

Halleluyah! Holy Shit…. Where’s the tylenol?

So what’s the solution to the “Bah Humbug” spirit that seems to be in the air this year? Thanksgiving was harsh enough. I thought people in my neighborhood grocery stores were going to murder one another over frozen turkeys and Stove Top Stuffing. I’ve seen Santa Clause visit my place of employment to give toys out to sick children in the pediatrics ward. Santa handed me a candy cane. I had to smile, though deep down, I would have traded that candy cane for a pay raise.

In my opinion, every one of us (myself included) may want to wake up and start counting our blessings. That’s easier said than done. In a nation where more people would rather vote for American Idol than the average political race, where innocent people are being hurt and killed on either side of a potential race war, and where it’s ok for the “average American” to spend almost a thousand dollars on Christmas, one has to wonder what our priorities actually are, and how we define joy. I myself don’t have the money to even pretend that money buys happiness. I can’t even define what holiday traditions exist in my family. That was somehow lost in my adulthood, and that makes me sad. Perhaps what’s missing for me is the creation of a new tradition with my new loved ones. I live with a woman and a cat somewhere in New York City. If I can’t create a unique and exciting new Christmas tradition here, I probably won’t do it anywhere else.

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Okay Universe. We Need to Talk.

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 10/01/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

Fair warning to you all, I’ve not written a blog entry in a long time. This is a rant. It’s long, it’s full of vitriol, swearing, and colorful political commentary. Kids should not read this.

Depressed people shouldn’t either.

The rest of you voyeurs, thrill seekers, indignant crusaders and general rabble-rousing types should read on. You know who you are.

 

Okay. So here it is. I’ve tried faxing and emailing every iteration of a resume and a cover letter you can think of, essentially kissing invisible people’s asses. I’ve tried working with employment agencies with names that sound like the names of gay porn movies aka “Manpower” and “Steadfast.” I’ve tried mental health counseling, talking with friends and loved ones, and I’ve even tried to use a little something called family connections. I’ve done all this not just to land a job, but to land enjoyable employment that can become a gainful, secure career.

I’ve gotten almost no bites whatsoever. In the nearly three and a half years I’ve been living in New York City, the closest thing I’ve got to a job is a minimum wage senior bookseller position, where I have yet to even see a pay raise though I essentially do the better parts of a former department manager’s job. I’ve had promising interviews, even to the point where I was told I would be offered training and an eventual position, only to be shunted aside and left to wait until training was nothing but a pipe dream. Nepetism, among other things, has kept me from utilizing yet another family connection to a potential rockstar dream job as a company proposal writer.

Then, there’s the Individual training grant I’ve been trying to get my hands on for work as a Certified Nursing assistant.

Get this. In the system to which I pay taxes, it’s essential for those with intelligence and a penchant for being able to pay rent AND eat a decent meal each day to use their brains in order to land more solid employment. Better still, it is supposedly easy to land a job when the requirements are more or less commensurate with one’s employment experience.

But there’s more. If one desires  a change in career, but doesn’t yet have the financial means to pay for yet another two years of schooling, one might wish to find something known as an individual training grant. Such things exist in New York City, and certain work programs offer a means to attempt to attain them. The training grant offers you access to training courses that can earn you the education and skill set to land a much more fulfilling and financially sound employment opportunity.

Sounds good, right? There’s a catch, of course. The instant one tries to apply for these grants, even for training in jobs where there don’t appear to be enough qualified individuals to fill the positions out there, one is hit with someone’s fubar interpretation of a “skills assessment.” The idea is to determine what level a participant has achieved in several key skills pertaining to the desired occupation. There are not supposed to be right or wrong answers on this multiple choice test because it is assumed that when one doesn’t know something, it’s because they need the training to learn it. This logic would be the reason one might be hauling one’s tired, overworked, underpaid ass to an institution filled with men who use toothpaste as underarm deodorant, right?

I failed my one and only assessment. Then I was told I could take the test again. After breathing a small sigh of relief and recovering from my rather spectacular humiliation (I’ve never before failed any sort of multiple choice test) I was told I needed to wait a month in order to let my name be flushed from the computer data banks like a piece of crap down the pipes of a toilet and into the Hudson River.

Well, slap me silly and call me Tza Tza, I almost pissed myself when I heard that thoroughly encouraging news.

But I waited patiently, hoping against hope that this bass ackward system might actually be made to work in my favor. I spent a month looking up information on CNA skills, trying to find cliff notes for this “assessment,” but to no true avail, for I could not remember the random-assed questions that were hurled at me by a computerized proctor without an ounce of humor.

The month passed in a haze of unavoidable financial crises, moving my girlfriend into her first apartment, more unlucky financial disasters, the decline of my current employment situation, and my own desperate search for a means to get the fuck out of my parents’ small midtown apartment.

I found no answers. But I waited, for I was handed a business card by the person at a company with whom I had a somewhat lukewarm conversation regarding my original skills assessment.

“A business card?” you ask .. or at least you should if you haven’t cracked the hell up or shot yourself in the head yet. “But wait a minute, sir. That means you have someone’s name, an address, a phone number, a fax number, and an email address. What seems to be amiss? Just connect with that person and get the ball rolling!”

This person is about as easy to reach as the top of Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s head, and that’s if my feet are glued to the floor and I am Verne fucking Troyer! The organization for which she works runs like an underfunded homeless shelter without the carnival atmosphere, and it’s just as fucking organized.

This is the point where I stand in a quiet, rural field underneath the stars of the Milky Way and have frank (and somewhat drunken) conversation with the universe .. or at least I would if I could afford to travel to such a field, lay a tent down for the night, and wander barefoot through the wet, fall grass in my favorite old Aikido uniform pants and a sleeveless red tee shirt. I might be carrying a djembe in my hands if these hands didn’t feel cracked and broken, and if I felt a spark of desire to even play. You see, my rhythm feels off, oh great mystery that is life. I can’t even enjoy that part of my existence anymore.

I might have to sell that drum to pay my next credit card bill.

I can afford six pack of smirnoff. The cherry lime flavor. Sweet.

But let’s not forget two things. One, I have an awesome girlfriend, I mean AWESOME!

Two, I can write. Of course, I’m still working on my first novel.

Dear Universe,

What the fuck do you want from me? My first born manchild? The blood of seventeen Vestal Virgins covered in olive oil? A bloody Mary and a pack of cigarettes? How ’bout a bloody cigarette and a pack of Hungry Maries? I read Hunger Games, it fucking sucks! Tell that slacker to get a real job! Fifty Shades of Grey? Try Fifty Shades of the color of Shit. I can write better than that clown!

Okay. I’m over that. Really. It’s okay that I get passed over for all the hotel doormen and concierge jobs to which hundreds of invisible applicants (all of whom MUST be better looking than a young Harrison Ford and smarter than motherfucking Einstein) MUST be applying because our economy “just isn’t what it was.” It’s just dandy that nearly every head hunter and temp agency I’ve talked to in the last three years has told me that because of my “unique” background as a mental health worker in Minnesota where licensing WASN’T required at the time I got my extensive experience, that they can’t help me land a job as more than a minimum wage factory worker. It’s grand that the most memorable comment I’ve had in all the job interviews I’ve had in the last three years was this:

“Sorry, sir, but the economy is just in the crapper.”

I’ve said that to myself in all sorts of accents. Try it. These are the apparent benefits of a classical (and insanely expensive) education 🙂

And it’s fan-fucking-tastic that each job I’ve held since college has paid me less and less per hour, but has expected more and more miracles to come flying out of my rectum. If I’d been trained to walk on water, you think I’d be wasting my time making cardboard boxes and mopping Hobo Joe’s crap off the floor of my bookstore?

It’s ok. really. Like I said. I’m over it all. These are just the thoughts that run through my brain when I feel like my time and money are no longer even remotely connected.

 

 

 

Working Class Heroes, Their Boomsticks and Their Dreams

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/12/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

What happens when you try to fly solo?

I start my blog entries like that these days.  The above question looks very straight forward. I want to know what happens to the person who decides that they’re going to make a go of life on their own. I want to understand how an individual functions when they try to pull themselves out of mediocrity and live their dreams.

We live in a curious time in American History. Western culture demands that the average individual seeks guidance as a youth. A person is supposed to depend upon their parents for warmth, shelter, wisdom and love. Moms and dads nurture their children by providing the basics as well as opportunities for their education.

But children grow up. Expectations change. Life becomes high school (or is it the other way around?) Children are taught to believe that they are supposed to broaden their minds with books and technology. Yet they are also supposed to round out their learning experiences with intense athletic pursuits or “extra curricular activities.”  Meanwhile, if adolescents succumb to the bombardment of commercials, internet ads, or peer-pressure situations in which they find themselves, they learn that silence is no longer golden. To survive, one has to be a social butterfly, not just in real life, but on the internet. Social Media websites commit younger and younger people to creating a secondary persona that either modulates or inhibits their popularity in school or in other social situations.

A self-reflecting adult might scratch their head at the contradictory messages they received  about life. I was raised as a child of the eighties. Adults of our generation were taught that education was the key to financial success. I used a have an enormous, light-up  picture on my wall with three fancy sports cars in a three car garage by the beach. The motto that was emblazoned at the top of the picture screamed “Justification for a Higher Education.”  Enough Said.

Except not everyone who gets a higher education automatically get those sorts of things. Even going to a top tier college in the country guarantees nothing if you don’t get to know the right people and you don’t focus on the things you love. Anybody who tells you that time is money hasn’t had to look for a job for the last five years in this country.

“The economy is in the crapper.” Those were the words of someone who interviewed me for a sales position years ago. They still pretty much hold true.

Somehow despite all the contradictory forces screaming for our attention, we’re supposed live our dreams. We’re told that we’re better off pulling ourselves out of mediocrity by our bootstraps. We’re also reminded by oversimplified hallmark moments on television shows and food advertisements that we somehow can’t do it alone.

We have to do it by ourselves, but we can’t do it alone.

That includes living our dreams, doesn’t it?

I’ve been sick for the last week and a half. This is the cold that never ends.

Major illness tends to sharpen one’s focus when they begin to recover from it. I, for one, will make it through a major cold like this one and begin to take stock of how well I’m doing living my dreams and meeting my personal goals. Since my largest one by far is writing, I have to remind myself that I can and will write every day.

But like the rest of this story, I’ve come to learn that I can’t really make my dream a reality all on my own. While I try to get my name out there by submitting more and more of my work to various publishers for consideration, I’m getting to the point where I spend a lot of my time with my nose to the grindstone. I push so hard to get more and more writing done, it feels like I’m only picking my head up to notice that everyone else walked off to some social gathering. I’m perfecting the swing of my samurai sword, and everyone else walked to the river to drink beer and sake.

From a professional standpoint, my current solo method seems like a piss poor way to garner real opportunity. From a personal standpoint, I feel more and more like a lone warrior. What happens to warriors who stay alone for too long?

They go nuts and start saying things like “This is my BOOMSTICK!”

Now that I more or less know where I am from a professional and a social standpoint, the question I have to ask myself is “What now?” It’s one thing to understand how much one misses social connection when they’ve been ill for more than a week. It’s quite another thing to realize that this uniquely Western notion of “independence” is not quite all that it’s cracked up to be.

Nobody ever really meets their goals without help, even on a minute level. I’d love to sit here and tell you that I got my first short story published because I woke up one day and inspiration struck me like a bolt of lightning. But that isn’t even close to the truth. I got that story accepted by a publication only after my first attempt with them flopped. I never even asked the editors why I was rejected. I got really annoyed and decided to up the ante. I thought I was a warrior recovering from wounded pride.

But this isn’t about revenge, proper action or silt. I would not have even bothered to finish the story had it not been for my friends, writers or otherwise, who were there to encourage me from day one. My friends are still around, though it’s been a while since I’ve been willing or able to talk with them.

It’s also been a while since I’ve felt like I was a part of a real writing community. I don’t know if I need that feeling again so that my writing can reach the next level, or if I want to be a part of a community so that my social skills don’t fade while I write my next manuscript.

At any rate, here I am world. I’m not quite recovered my from my eternal snot fest. And yes, I know that that description of my illness will make everyone want to stay around me. I’m going to start small and post this blog entry. I’m reentering my former social media sites. I’ll keep on writing, of course. Maybe I just won’t use all of my words to add to the chapters of unseen stories and manuscripts.

Living in the Surreal ..

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/14/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

Life is surreal.

“Surreal” isn’t a term I really like. When I use it, I feel like I’m dumbing down a process through which some major epiphany has granted me the power to move on with my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad life with a fresh, “up with people” perspective.

But if you had been in the neighborhood of 125th and Lenox in upper Manhattan at about a quarter to six this morning, life would have seemed pretty surreal to you too.

I was sleeping next to my girlfriend. She awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Everything seemed normal. She crawled back into bed next to me and we remembered that it was Sunday and that we really like snuggling together and talking under the covers during a lazy weekend. It helps us remember what matters, even if it’s just a moment in time.

Not five minutes after she came back to bed, a horrible sound of crunching metal and plastic erupted just outside the apartment. It seemed to rattle the bedroom window.  I didn’t know what the sound was. I wasn’t awake enough to make sense of it until a horrible screeching noise followed. Rubber scraped against asphalt, and the squeal seemed to echo into eternity.

“Jesus Christ!”

I think I might have said that twice. I said it once before we both sprang from the bed and ran to the bedroom window to see what had happened. Even now, the fucked up visual doesn’t make any sense without context. I said it again after I told my girlfriend that I had to go take a major piss.

Why I decided to go relieve myself at that moment is still a bit beyond me. All I remember is that I was nauseated, and I still didn’t understand what had happened.

I also recall my knees shaking like the leaves of a quaking aspen in the wind. I sat down on that toilet seat and put my head between my sweating hands. I might have stayed like that for minutes or hours. I didn’t really know or care.

Eventually, I stood up and washed my hands. Like some character out of the show Supernatural, I thought I smelled a Reaper in the air.

I was sure that death lingered close by, waiting to claim the lost soul of the victim of a freak accident.

“Jesus H. Christ!”

I got back to the bedroom and stood next to my girlfriend. She seemed more than willing to give me a blow by blow of what was going on out there.

“Nobody’s gotten out of either car yet.”

“Motherfucker.”

In all honesty, I don’t recall saying that last word. I don’t remember much of what was said after that. But as the haze and the shock of the accident seemed to lift from around us both, things started to fall into place. Out the window, on our side of the street, we only saw two cars. The first one was a silver Charger with its back turned to us like a wounded dog hiding its face.  The second car was sort of sitting to the right of the first. It was a green SUV that didn’t appear to have been even been scratched, at least not from our vantage point. The only thing that seemed to have happened, in fact, was that the SUV was nudged a few feet out of its parking spot.

It made no sense. Such a horrible crash followed by a rubber screech that lasted for at least three seconds just didn’t do … what we saw.

But time ticked by. Some of the neighbors from across the street turned on their bedroom lights and peeked outside like we were doing. Thanks to them, I felt a little better about being some sort of voyeur. The cops were on the scene immediately. The fire department came minutes later. EMT’s never showed. That struck us as odd until we came to the most important conclusion.

Nobody died.

I thought for sure someone was going to buy it. For about a nanosecond I was disappointed. I can’t lie. I’m a horror writer.

Then the stomach ache began.

About an hour later, all sorts of things had happened. The driver of the silver Charger, wearing a black shirt with green writing on it, angrily shouted into his cell phone that the car for which he was responsible was a “fucking wreck.”

“What de’ hell I’m ‘a do wid ‘dis shit?”

His friend, a shorter man with a grey tee shirt on, seemed to be the voice of reason.

“Look, dude, least you’re alive.”

And that was what mattered. When other details fell into place, we learned that nobody, in fact, was dead. A third car was apparently involved in the accident. That unknown driver may or may not have been at fault for the entire catastrophe. We never really got to figure that much out.  A tow truck driver couldn’t even tow the silver wreck out of the way in one try. His truck’s hook lost its grip on the wreckage twice.

I grinned. And call me sadistic, but I was thankful I wasn’t going to have to figure out how to pay for THAT repair bill. The driver and his friend drank two cups of coffee purchased at the deli just below our window.

My girlfriend and I  went back to bed. We didn’t fall asleep right away, of course. We talked about the accident. We talked about how our weekend was going before the crash, and how it might go afterwards. Things like money and job woes don’t matter as much when you’re thankful just to be in one piece. That lesson sinks in deeper when you’re with loved ones.  The problems might not go away, but their importance in the grand scheme of the universe dwindles.

I just got through sending out something like 6 job aps. I took a break to watch a show. I thought about my latest submission of a short story to a magazine for consideration. My girlfriend’s out teaching a dance class. We still have lives to live and things to do to survive in this city. She still has to talk to her dad about her insurance costs, and I still want to start writing the latest chapter for my online serial. At least I know she’ll come home in one piece, and we’ll have an easier time figuring out how to scrounge up enough money for dinner together tonight.

There’s a cat purring in my lap too.

Surreal or serene? Take your pick.

New Pictures from January, 2013

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , on 01/24/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

 

 

Hello all! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted the picture’s I’ve been taking. I want to say that I took these near the end of December and the beginning of January, but in the whirlwind of daily activities, I’ve forgotten. At any rate, I’ve been experimenting more with light and shadow at certain times of day. Enjoy! 🙂

 

In the Rain

Posted in Drum Roll, The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12/09/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I’m used to writing. It’s odd to me when I open my blog page and I don’t want to write something. When they say a picture is worth a thousand words, first of all, I wonder who THEY are. Then I accept the statement as true.

These are some lucky shots I took in the city just before or during a rain. I suppose I should consider this a new hobby, but I’ve only been at it for about two weeks. Enjoy!

More Pictures.

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 12/06/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

I have gone picture crazy.

When I had some time on Tuesday (God that feels like it was so long ago), I ended up taking even more pictures. I might also have just run out of words this week. Two thousand words for my latest chapter in my online serial seems to have sucked sentences out of my brain.

Do yourself a favor. Play this Satriani song while you look. Just trust me on this.

I’m done now. Look … pretty 🙂

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