Lessons In Love: Relationships Over Money And A View From The River Dock Cafe, NY

Anyone seeing the interaction between Matthew and Myself this past Sunday (19th March 2017) would never have believed we hadn’t seen each other in 22 years. The last time we saw each other, we were teenagers. This time, two grown men met in New York City for lunch at the River Dock Cafe, within the Staten Island Ferry terminal. A momentous occasion to say the least. What I loved most was how, having not seen each other since 1994, we were able to chat and laugh like we might have seen each other regularly in our friendship that goes back to family friendships created before I was even born in 1980!
A physical demonstration of what real friendships should be.

It’s been around a year now that I’ve really looked into what Love is and how it works and, slowly but surely, I’ve been making changes and addressing things within myself to bring myself into line, operating from a foundation of Love. It’s not as easy as it may sound and, if I’ve come to realize nothing else, I’ve definitely found that Love simply isn’t that warm, fuzzy feeling we get inside when things go our way. I’ve had to take a stark look at certain areas of my life, air some dirty laundry and make some changes that have, at times, been really difficult and have taken some real levels of sacrifice. It’s brought about smiles at times, it’s brought about tears at times but this journey that I’ve been venturing on is bringing me to a new level in life. It may have taken 36 years to initiate the process but I dare say I’m on my way to becoming a much better person!

The day out in New York was a great one and anyone that knows me knows I love road trips.
I recently had major servicing done on my car so the opportunity to open her up on the NJ Turnpike was fabulous, thanks to Morrissey’s Auto Repair. Buick LeSabres have this way of cruising on a highway that you don’t get in a lot of other cars. I turned the music off and soaked in the scenery as my 2001 model glided along the asphalt with the comfort and ease of day spa. Bliss!

Considering I got to the City not long after the NYC Half Marathon, there was relatively little hustle and bustle. Although, I still get irrate with the constant tooting of horns, that just seem so unnecessary. In fact, I began to wonder if New York drivers purchase their vehicles with a warranty that allows for free horn replacement, they get on them that regularly. It’s almost like drivers feel they have a reputation to fall in line with. *sighs* I’m looking forward to leaving the tri-state rat race.

Coming down 10th Avenue, I spotted Matthew outside on the sidewalk. I was amazed that, 20+ years later, I was able to spot my old friend, just from his shape and size, amid the multiple bodies around him and, as I stopped at the light, it was good to bring that institutional British mode of conversation into play. The headlight flash!
Have you ever asked yourself how some of our local methods of communication work? It was an almost ecstatic feeling, knowing that he would be looking for flashing headlights. Usually, on America’s roads, I’ll flash my headlights and become frustrated because the recipient of my communication just cannot fathom the situation but here we were. Separated by about 100m, me in traffic, him swarmed by bodies but we knew exactly what was going on. I almost felt like I was back home, in London!
A swift, seamless transition took place as Matt jogged to the car, threw his bag in the back seat and got in the passenger seat, seemingly unrushed, in time for us to pull away with the ensuing green light. Manchester City were playing Liverpool so there was a quick decision made to watch it at the River Dock Cafe on Staten Island. The terminal was 4 miles away and it took us 29 New York minutes (Where the 29 stays at 29 for, what seems like, the next 29 minutes!) to reach the car park.

Reaching the car park, I was quickly confronted with the hustlers, who swore they could give us the best deal for much cheaper. It’s pretty impressive how these guys go from posing as your best friend to really not giving two flying monkey’s uncles about you or your life when you’re not needing their service or choose not to hand over that dollar. It’s something that I’ve seen doesn’t really exist away from the tri-state area. This need to obtain what you want by getting someone else to do it for you, with a willingness to discard any personal interaction or relationship when the situation isn’t right for you. It’s pretty sad really. Since when did we become a society that is so driven by the making of money that we are quite happy to lie and cheat others out of their own money to their face, with a damn smile?! Maybe for another blog but I’m fast learning that the American ‘Dream’ seems to cost a lot of money and seems to lack in a lot of Love. I’m going to go ahead and leave that dream to one side while I seek to Love those that I come across. Decorative paper in my wallet and digits on my screen, when I open my bank app, have become significant to me but not important enough for me to obtain at the loss of Love for someone else. There seems to be a massive difference in the levels of happiness achievable and experienced when one values relationships, while keeping costs down. As opposed to those achieved and experienced for the sole expansion of that ‘dream’ and that dollar. The riddance of care for relationships in the process leaves one to experience their financial achievements in relative loneliness, I find. There is only so much happiness found in relationships based on the money and success you have.

We may have seamlessly reconnected after our extended hiatus from each other’s presence but, 22 years of physical separation brings with it much conversation. There was a distinct blur of catching up in the period of time we spent driving to the terminal and then boarding the ferry. Topics and their assigned words spilled out in excitement as “How’s the family?” became “How’s life?” became “How’s this mutual friend we both haven’t seen in ages?” became football became Arsenal’s woes on the field and a myriad of other lines of conversation. There was a constant smile and the one or two moments of silence lacked the awkwardness one may have expected could happen. As we discussed Matt’s travel plans for the future, we boarded the ferry, cracked open a beer and took a quick selfie!

I’ve not taken the Staten Island Ferry during the day before. I’ve only taken it later in the day so it was good to have the new experience. There was a distinct quietness in the atmosphere and the water was still. The hum of the engines beneath us provided a mechanical form of background noise that fit in with the view we had of the docks across the water. Between us and the docks stood Lady Liberty, her torch held high, seeming to attempt to make a statement that was drowned out by the skyline of New York City behind her. Maybe her message was whispered. Carried by her messenger, the quiet breeze, that flowed along the cold water surface, punctuated with seagull octaves, before being warmed and smoothed by the spring sun above, allowing it to serenade the ear. One couldn’t help but smile.

When we entered the River Dock Cafe, there was a shift away from the echoing bustle outside, to a quiet smile from the barmaid, who quickly took our order for food and drinks. There was a strange collection of customers, quietly speaking to each other, as the TVs above the bar were split between an March Madness basketball game and the game we came to see, Manchester City vs. Liverpool. Somewhat of a Chelsea fan, the score I wanted to see would be a tie. Preferably 0-0. As an avid Arsenal fan, Liverpool losing would have been a gentle respite and glimpse of hope, towards a glimpse of hope, for Matt! The game ended up finishing 1-1.
As Matt delved into his burger, letting me know how unhealthily he had eaten all week, I attempted to carve into my Alaskan salmon with a little class, as any hungry man would do! The salmon was cooked to perfection and the noodles were al dente, just as they should be. Washed down with a Blue Moon, the meal was definitely worth the cost and, without doubt, I’ll be visiting again.
After chatting on the veranda, sharing sight of the New York skyline, Matt’s visit, and our reuniting came to a close with the ferry crossing back to the City and an easy drive to JFK Airport.

I could have taken the Sunday to work, driving for UberEATS, but I’ve learned from my current relationship that making money should be a distant second importance to the cultivating of relationships. You know, we often talk about places that we consider ‘poor’ and ‘uncivilized’ without ever considering how happy these people actually are. Have you ever noticed how there is a distinct increase in unity where there is a lack of money? Even when someone is in financial need. Financial need, of someone in the ‘first world’, is a place you will find a hunger for interpersonal relationships. But we are civilized, right? Hmmmmmm…

The bible reads, in Mark 8:36, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

‘Soul’, in this scripture, refers to the life source of a man, as opposed to merely the noun that a soul could be. Soul, in this scripture could also be ‘passion’ or ‘love’. What does it profit anyone to gain the world if they lose their love, passion, desire in the process. Slaves to money live empty lives and, in this journey to Love, it’s a lifestyle I’ve been moving from, after a virtual lifetime of being a hustler for that extra money.
I still remember, from the youngest age, giving up playtime to steal porn magazines for the older guys on the estate for money to go buy sweets and comic books. Further along, I’d give up playtime to wash cars for members of my local council and I’ve nearly always had more than one job. Even if I hadn’t needed it. A working class trait, a Jamaican trait. It definitely runs deep in my veins but Love doesn’t allow us to work ourselves to the bone. Why? Because, on top of loving others, we should also love ourselves.

The more I look at Love, the more I can see how important relationships are. Whether it be with family, friends, employers, random strangers holding open doors, or offering a service from behind a cash register or food counter. Being mindful and expressing Love in these moments, continuously, enables us to live our lives happier than any amount of riches around us or sitting in a bank account.

This journey to Love is showing me that, operating from this platform, to start with, is forcing change and seeming sacrifice. In the long run, however, I’m seeing that I’m headed towards, not just being a better man, but towards being stable and, ultimately, a very happy man, with so much to offer others. Especially those close to me.

 

Letter To #hurtbae

The truth is, Ms. Jorge, you are one of many. One of many to have swallowed the bitter pill, given during one of Love’s real lessons. You may not be chosen.

Kourtney Jorge, let me first take a minute to apologize on behalf of the society I am a part of. The society that reduced your hurt to a hashtag and blame game. As I watched your video on YouTube, my Time Line played in the back of my mind and I felt that I saw your hurt, forgiveness and hope through parents in a room, arguing over their child, to the point they didn’t realize that anyone could have picked you up, given you a hug and told you that everything is going to be OK. But the society I’m a part of lacks Love. Every situation is about us, and reality TV has told us that no situation has value unless we have commented on it, hit the Like button or expressed a reaction where the powerful feelings we have inside are displayed as emojis, as we scroll on with our lives. We’re glad that we can spend time to find blame for your hurt because, that way, we avoid the blank stare that would ensue the questioning from behind weeping eyes, because our pride has brought us to a point that we have lost the ability to provide loving solutions to hurtful problems.

As the clamour of gossip and disagreement echoed in the back of my mind, from people so in need of being heard themselves, your situation becoming theirs and then becoming them, I sipped a French Vanilla coffee, silenced my mind so I could listen to understand and not respond. Then I watched you reach out, laying everything on the fine line produced by the glint of hope that flickered dimly and longingly. I heard your heart crack as you conveyed your soul to the response of “I think we are at the first stage of moving on”. Love dictated that you should open your palms, to reveal the butterfly that could have been your relationship, and allow yourself to be chosen. But the butterfly flew away.
Society has this horrible way of telling us that we are ugly because perceived beauty turned its back on us. Many around us have believed that lie and police this new status quo, fostering a species of emotionally weak and immature people.

The truth is, Ms. Jorge, you are one of many. One of many to have swallowed the bitter pill, given during one of Love’s real lessons. You may not be chosen.

There is a ready solution to your hurt, as there is for the many of us that have sat in Love’s often-harsh classroom. Some receiving the lesson. Some, sadly, as I have in the past, demonstrating an apt ability to teach the lesson. We must be pipelines of Love.

To be a pipeline is to not be the receptacle or the source but, rather, to be the deliverer of Love from a standard that isn’t our own. To be a pipeline is to have a constant renewing and refreshing of Love, diluting the bitter taste of lessons handed to us from pride, ego and malice.

Amid your hurt, you must retain your forgiveness and, at all costs, KEEP. ON. LOVING.

Signed… Love;

Food Chronicles. Rant Alert!

A Facebook entry from earlier today. Loud eating really grips me! Side note, however. This is totally lighthearted and, as much as it bothers me, the referred to in this is a good guy!

Captain’s Log. Star Date: Doesn’t matter because this guy is chewing again!
You know, sometimes, I look up and, behold! The veil between heaven and earth is drawn back and the Lord looks down on me, to remind me that the end of the world is not yet nigh!
The chewing is so juicy, I start to panic. I could swear, for that one brief moment in time, that I am scuba diving, hunting for the Red October. Then there is the crunching of nuts and carrots. I honestly believe I have developed the empathy needed for those facing a firing squad. BANG! BANG! BANG! I shouldn’t leave the workplace with PTSD, as a result of extreme mastication in the office, people. This is tragic…

Addiction: Crying Into My Heineken

Healing will last as long as the driving force behind the intent to be healed.

I’ve come a long way. Very few know how far I’ve come and very few will know how far I go. What is important, though, is a standard of integrity when I get to wherever it is that my purpose lies. In this era of ‘Big Data’ and ‘Leakage’ of personal lives via the media, mass and social, it is so important to reach your purpose in life with a clear conscience and with the humility required to show an acceptance of responsibility for your past.
For months I have wrestled with the spiritual urge to post some of the extremely personal blogs that I’ll put out there during my journey. They’re ugly. They’re uncomfortable. VERY uncomfortable. But, as I’ve fought to develop my relationship with Christ, I’ve been exposed to Love in a way I never knew existed. It’s a driving force that, at times, has a mind of its own, as it IS a standard of its own.

James 5:16 reads, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Briefly, I want to explain the usage of the terms ‘faults’ and ‘healed’.
‘Faults’, in this verse, according to the Greek Lexicon refers to ‘sin’. Sin, contrary to popular thought, is not simply doing wrong. It is more so the ‘missing of the mark’. As in Romans 3:23, where we are told that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.
In order to miss the mark, you must aim for the mark. Addicts of any kind are not outcasts. Addicts, for the most part, did not wake up one day and decide that they were going to be enslaved to the will of something that wasn’t them. They’re ‘normal’ people, just like you and just like me. Sometimes, they’re not as obvious as you might think. For the period of time I went through my several addictions, though, I can tell you something we all shared in common. Our addictions allow us temporary escapism from our falling short of the mark we aimed for. It’s not limited to the homeless man asking you for change, food and water at the Philadelphia traffic lights. It’s not limited to the unwashed man, making his walk from the welfare check collection to the alcohol store. It’s not limited to the broken woman asking you “What you want, baby?” in Camden, New Jersey and Kensington, Philadelphia. It goes further than that.
When your boss is cut-throat but has a stash of Jack Daniels in their draw, it’s because s/he doesn’t really like how they are in the work place. When your close friend has to ‘chill’ with alcohol daily, it’s because something they feel they cannot deal with, daily, goes away as those short-term memory neurons dissipate, washed away with the quiet, rising tide of vodka, wine. For me, it was Heineken.

‘Healed’, according to the Greek Lexicon, more specifically speaks of a supernatural involvement. Something beyond the physical. Ladies and gentleman, addiction doesn’t disappear with gossip and doesn’t disappear with judgement. Addictions are beyond what is clear and present.
I remember listening to an interview of our recent President Obama, by comedian Trevor Noah, and hearing his response to a question regarding the Ku Klux Klan. Our last President responded, explaining that his job wasn’t to judge the KKK for being a racist organization bur, rather, to find out why they are how they are and deal with the problem at the root. The same goes for addiction (I guess we could say that racism is a form of addiction then?!).
I find Americans to be some of the most legalistic people I’ve ever come across. Labelling, blame. A necessity for someone to be wrong, so someone else can be right, is so rooted into the culture that surrounds me. One only needs to consider the debates of previous Presidents with their rivals. “Policy doesn’t matter, as long as I look better than you!” I listen to talk of ‘illegal immigrants’ from people who have never come across one and think, “This is why there is so much suffering.” I’ve come to realize that, with suffering must come blame. Empathy and sympathy are lost in this rat race to stand out in the oblivion of statistics that our social systems and constructs have created, while we preach from a prideful standpoint of love. A love that never seems to bring resolve or togetherness. Only separation. Divide and conquer, maybe?
In order for an addict to be healed, there must be a presence of something beyond the physical. Healing will last as long as the driving force behind the intent to be healed. Think on that…

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t know of my pain. Just like many other addicts out there.
Life wasn’t going the way I wanted it to go, and it was that way for a damn long time. I had no family around, no money, my parenting could have been found on Family Guy and there were days where I found comfort in staring at the 4 walls I could just about afford to exist within. I made decisions between an extra day’s food and washing my clothes. I made decisions between which bills would and wouldn’t be paid, depending on who was more swift and threatening to take me to court.
Phone calls from home often helped but then I got news of the loss of several close friends. Then I lost my nan. That’s just recent. If you want to hear the truth, my Joker Face¬†has been worn for years. Lots and lots of years. But there was always Heineken.

Heineken understood. Listening to the silent tears of self-loathing, as they rolled into the glass and then bubbled to the top. I’d cry inside, hard, as my dreams burst at the top of the ‘amber nectar’ but filtered photographs, for the Book and the Gram, along with that refreshing fizz made everything feel alright, until the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that.
I came to realize that Heineken would heighten whatever mood I was in at the time. If I was feeling down, I’d drink and feel sorry for myself. If I was angry, I’d drink and then go for a run. I’d run fast and it would hurt. But that was cool because it was my fault anyway. In a nutshell, Heineken would let me feel however I wanted to feel and there was no one to tell me any different. I just wish there was… Someone, that is. Anyone that cared, really. Self-love has taken me years to learn and grasp.

There’s a difference to addiction and bingeing, I discovered. To a degree. There is a difference between WANTING to drink, even to excess and feeling like you NEED to drink. When I say ‘need’, I mean actually feeling an internal pulling to the bar or liquor store. Thinking back, I can see the thoughts that were in my head at the time and the situations that triggered them. Overwhelming situations. The numerous phone calls to pay bills EVERY day when I simply can’t afford to pay because I was in a situation I didn’t create intentionally. Receiving disrespectful messages from children I love so much, wishing I could tell them the full story but needed to be the example of what was right. Losing friends and family. Being unable to embrace relationships and remaining scared to enter them. That mess hurts, man. You have no idea.

Those were dark days. There are words out there, I’m sure, that can describe waking up with a distinct feeling of dread inside. A want to not have to get up and face another day of¬†problems. Sometimes, a want to not wake up at all.

When I look back, I’m scared at how hidden my problems were. But then I ask myself how hidden they would have been in the presence of real friends. Not social media buddies but real friends. The ones that call you and chat to you about things that are familiar to you both. The ones that knock on your door from time to time. The ones that actually reach out and check on you, as opposed to hitting the ‘Like’ button on a daily basis to let you know they’re there. I don’t think words will ever encapsulate how I silently overcome with the support from friends and family who, to this day, have no clue what they did and how much they mean to me. I’m ever indebted that’s for sure.

There is no hard-hitting way to close out of this blog. There are more to come and, if they are anything like this one, there is a horrible taste to be left in the mouth.
Having put this out there, I am now aware of feeling like I’ve let go of a stress. I feel light and tired. Til the next time…

God bless…