Exiling Tribesmen Who Possess No Moral Compass

I moved to New York on a whim. The individual who invited me to live with her I had known for approximately 13 years. I was young, in my early 20s and needed an escape from my current life. And, out of the blue, like a beacon of hope, she said the exact words, “Move here next week. I will not let you fall. I will not let you fail”.  Those are the words I needed to hear. Those are the words I clearly remember.  I, again, felt like I had hope. When you feel as if you are in pure desperation, you remember exact words. They are tattooed to you for life, especially if people go against their word.

But upon arriving in nyc (pre-cell phone days), I felt word was bond. When she said she would be home at 2pm, the time I told her I would arrive, I expected that to be true. Instead I was greeted with 6 hours of driving around, using pay phones to call her and going back to her apartment and ringing the buzzer. It was just me and all the belongings in my car, driving around for 6 hours, trying to contact her after my 9-hour drive.

But she said, “I will not let you fall. I will not let you fail”! But she lied. I was let down.

She soon answered the phone and invited me in and I discovered she had a drug-fueled night and just woke up. She broke her promise already. There were no apologies, just odd looks and side comments as to why I shouldn’t be upset.

I didn’t know that her house was a drug den. I didn’t know that she’d have around-the-clock individuals delivering drugs to her home. I didn’t realize that she was fucking not just her fiance, but her roommate, her boss, her boss’ wife, her landlord, and who knows who else. She told me this. Her roommates told me this. It wasn’t a secret. Also, I didn’t know that she was going on vacation the next day and I was left there without knowing how to even use the subway or where things were. I was left alone, in that apartment with roommates I didn’t know.

She was letting me fall. She was letting me fail. From Day 1.

Before she returned from her week-long vacation, I moved from that house and found my own place about 25 minutes from hers. Still with no job and no potential leads for one, she told me many times that it was a bad decision and then said it was too far and she needed her friends in a particular radius or she wouldn’t make an effort to see them. I recall saying to her that I didn’t want to see her and that she wasn’t invited over. With my bluntness, she probably assumed I was joking. But she was dismissed. She was kicked out of my tribe. She wasn’t the same person I knew growing up and I felt she had no moral compass.

This is what life is about–finding people with the same moral compass. This is why individuals find and go to churches. For the most part, you have the same values. This is why people join group organizations and events and clubs–you have the same interests. And, sometimes, for whatever reasons, our interests can change, our morals can change based on life’s experiences. And, that’s okay. But the important item is to understand where exactly you stand on issues and circle yourself with those individuals who will help promote your mental and spiritual well being, not try to damage it.

I’ve been in situations where adults with professional jobs have zero qualms with participating in illegal substances. When I seriously mention, “If shit goes down, I’d be the first one the cops would look at”, they laugh and tell me to quit joking. But it’s true. If someone were to smell marijuana down an apartment complex hallway, and you see a room of white Americans and a few black Americans–more often than not, the black american would be the one to blame for this. I’ve seen it. I’ve heard stories. I’m a tad more in tune with racial strife and discrimination than others. But again, in situations like this–I felt that these individuals did not respect my opinion or value my career where (I mentioned before) I would probably be drug-tested by my clients. They assumed I was joking or they truly didn’t care. When one does not have the same values or respect yours, you must ask yourself if you are damaging your own career, life, and/or image by associating with them.

Post-Hurricane Maria, I checked in on a few people I had exiled. People who, I once was close to and then was betrayed. You truly know your stance in others lives when you give people confidential information about you and they, the moment upset with you, use it as leverage. But still yet I was genuinely concerned about them. I walked to their homes, called their names, knocked on doors and exchanged hellos. I gave them supplies and asked if they needed anything else. But that was it. I didn’t want my sense of humanity to be misconstrued as welcoming back into my life. That wasn’t the case. Once I knew they were okay, I went back to my to my world, to my private life, and continued to worry about my own needs.

I’ve a long history of exiling people from my tribe. It’s a way of self preservation. It allows me to give them a moment of reflection, and if they don’t understand their ways and change, then they can’t be invited back into my tribe; if they have no moral compass though, they wouldn’t be able to find their ways back into my tribe anyway.

My tribe is small and exclusive. I pride myself in that. I have morals based on my 40-plus years of experience. My experiences are unique, just as everyone else’s. I know what I will stand for and what I deem inappropriate and, again, have no qualms speaking against it and standing up for it.


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Identifying Poverty From Backwoods to Palm Trees

I’ve seen poverty. Poverty is indiscriminate.

Growing up in West Virginia I identified poverty as only a White issue, despite the stories I had heard from my neighbors and images on TV. The only Black families I knew were my own and we didn’t live in poverty. We weren’t rich either, but I knew poor and I knew poverty–neither was my family.

I had peers in high school who didn’t have money for food. Our school lunch program was almost unusually nonexistent. Many classmates begged for leftovers in the lunchroom with a sense of humility. Specifically, I recall classmates asking, “Are you going to eat that?” as they nodded their heads toward leftover pizza crust laying on a sheet of grease-stained wax paper. Even still, I never perceived them as living in poverty or even poor. I was naive and just assumed that many of these individuals’ parents just forgot to give them money for lunch or pack them something to eat.  I was blinded by the truth and lived in my own reality. Also, it took me years to see people who looked like me, Black, without food, without proper housing, and without things that I had. Moving to NYC opened my eyes up to that. That was when I realized that poverty was indiscriminate.

I’ve never experienced true hunger, true poverty, true thirst. I’ve never been homeless, despite the notion that I was on the verge of being without housing due to a job loss, perhaps. But, I’ve always had options if I fell into an unfortunate circumstance.

Hurricane Maria came to Puerto Rico, gang-raping it of all resources and dignity. People who had nothing, now had less than nothing; and I was left with guilt.

The only things I lost were clients to work. I was without work simply because I could not produce with no electricity. Even considering that my street was flooded with mid-chest deep water, my apartment and my car were completely flooded–I lost nothing. My car recovered and my apartment (after 17 hours) was cleaned. I only lost clients, my opportunity to work. I felt guilty to complain.

People lost their homes, families, food, clothing, and employment. People lost their medications, their opportunity to have dialysis, the opportunity to have clean water. And many, the opportunities to live.

I only lost my clients.

Puerto Rico nourishes my soul. Puerto Rico came to me in one of my darkest moments and soothed me like no other person or place. Puerto Rico welcomed me in every aspect despite a language barrier, despite a culture that was not mine, despite any socioeconomic issues the island and her people were enduring. I moved on feeling. There was nothing logical about moving to Puerto Rico. And, to many, it was a spur of the moment idea, though I strategically planned it three years in advance.

Puerto Rico became home. It was home. It is home. I knew I was safe here. I felt safe. I felt secure. I felt calm.

With my eagerness to learn the island so much, I was able to visit places that even the locals had never visited. This brought me happiness. My goal was to help others fall in love with the island again, like I did. Despite its size of 100×35 miles, I found so many new things on the island to explore. It was amazing to know that I could drive a few hours south and be in the dry forest with a forest of cacti or simply drive east of San Juan and be under a canopy of trees in El Yunque rainforest. And again, Despite the island’s size, the terrain and ecosystem changed quickly. I enjoyed sharing this.

Then Hurricane Irma and Maria came, destroying a haven and disconnecting us from the entire world as electricity left, taking resources, and exposing the island’s poverty even more than I imagined. I saw helplessness, I saw hopelessness. I saw despair. I saw thirst. I saw hunger. I felt guilty I had resources to leave the island for a month, in an attempt to regain a client and an attempt to regain sanity. I felt guilty. Guilt led to depression. I had resources to leave; many of the other gringos did too. Many of them never returned. I chose to.

After a month away from the island, I was without clients and could not work. I had time on my hands. More time than I needed. Time that I knew would be well spent on helping the island I called home.

I saw things indescribable. I saw homes without roofs. I saw people who just wanted to stay in their homes in tents, though every time it rained, their belongings would get wet. I met people who just wanted a broom to clean for a sense of normalcy. I saw resiliance and individuals who were simply tired of crying and lost all emotion. I saw and realized this will be the new life.  This will be the new normal.

During this moment I realized something critical, something special. This new home for me, Puerto Rico, reminded me of home in West Virginia. Beyond the lush palm trees and beaches there was indeed, the real Puerto Rico nestled beyond the beachfront homes; hidden by caves with Taino Indian carvings; blanketed in the real countryside not tainted by Starbucks. In the real Puerto Rico, I felt at-home.

Folks stateside never want to see poverty if its in their own backyard. We’re conditioned to feel it never exists though we walk past it on a daily basis. Poverty isn’t a US situation. It’s a THEM problem–this is how we’re conditioned to think. When traveling abroad, many American citizens point out the struggles of the locals, but claim to have never experienced it stateside. We are blinded. Again, I know poverty. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it in many US States. When people travel to NYC, to Times Square–they will experience poverty just like I saw it in West Virginia. Poverty comes in many forms, many race, classes and genders, but we tend to shun it if it’s in our own home. We tend to pretend everything is okay simply as a defense mechanism. If you pretend things are okay and we aren’t living in poverty, no one will judge you, we tend to think; and, why complain about your struggle when no one wants to hear it, we think.

So when natural disasters happen like hurricanes, the last thing someone wants to hear is that it’s a problem that the locals could have avoided it. The last thing someone enduring these circumstances wants to do is truly complain–because their situation isn’t unique. Their neighbors are enduring the same thing.

One of the things I could have done, growing up, in West Virginia in my high school during lunch was, perhaps, purchase someone lunch who needed it. I was blinded. As a child, I wasn’t thinking ‘poverty’ was the issue, though it was. As an adult I can see it from afar. I needed to correct this. I needed to help those who needed help, but too modest to really ask for assistance. Sometimes, it’s hard to determine when someone is struggling except for a look in their eyes when they tell you, “I’m okay”.


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Puerto Rico Relief Fund: Wish List

I returned stateside approximately 30 days ago from Puerto Rico. At that point, I endured both Hurricane Irma and Maria. During the month of September, I had electricity for approximately 4 days between both hurricanes. It was enough time to regain my senses, wash clothes, and prepare again for the next hurricane.

In My Hurricane Malady, a brief writeup about my experiences, I discuss my mental state at that point and my experiences during and after the hurricane.

I’m fortunate I was able to leave the island for 30 days. However, as Nov 1 approaches, I know that I will be returning to a home with no electricity and limited supplies. A strategic plan of mine simply to save money, I must return to the island and figure out my next steps.

For now though, I am happy that I was able to assist the island remotely. I raised $1600 via a GoFundMe Campaign and another $400 in donated items (food, meds, etc).

I’ve received messages from many people wanting to still donate directly to me and my team as we continue to do direct outreach to those in need. As a result, I’ve created this Amazon Wish List. Here, you will see items I know are important at the moment. As the days and weeks progress, there may be items taken off or added.


Puerto Rico Relief Fund AMAZON WISH LIST

Regardless, your generosity helps. I appreciate it. I am not sure if these items will arrive with your name on them as the sender. So please, if you have the option to add your name/note on the package before “check-out”, please do so, so that I know who to thank and how to email you.  Also, when you view the Wish List, please check purchased + unpurchased. Duplicate items are appropriate.


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Se Levante

Life flutters to stillness,
echoing a captured coqui
lifting up a noiseless voice.
In dimness, dreams form.

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My Hurricane Malady (or “What I’ve Learned About Myself When Silence and Darkness Overwhelm”)

As the hurricane approached, I thought to myself, “Should I have left?” My heart raced, my thoughts and actions were quick, and my speech and texts to friends and family were random and somewhat incoherent.

It was the first moment I was second-guessing myself about my decision to stay on the island or not go to what may be deemed a more secure area on the island. But as the storm continued, I realized the anxiety was based from the social media frenzy, the constant texts from stateside individuals, and many of the gringos who moved to the island acting only in panic and unpreparedness.

This is an island in the Caribbean. We must always be prepared for the unknown; and the unknown is the worst that comes.

No–I wasn’t born on the island or ever experienced a hurricane. But I was confident in friends who were born and raised in Puerto Rico. However, I am a country boy at heart and I learned human behavior. Therefore, I was confident in their judgment. I was confident that if I simply do as the locals did, I would be okay. I did that. But I was not calm.


Pre-storm, I set my alarm on my phone for 3 hours, I took a sleeping pill to calm myself and zone out, and fell fast asleep as the electricity went out.

I woke to a puddle of sweat and my two dogs were still asleep. The storm continued to rage, sounding like a high-end blender. I looked outside the window and there was no sign of flooding on my street. I was safe, I felt.

For the weeks approaching the hurricane, I searched for duct tape and other things I felt I needed as supplies. But to no avail, there was none. I searched for sand bags–again, none. I was concerned that my apartment would get flooded due to it being on the first floor and needed to protect myself and my belongings.  I thought outside the box–I ended up using bubble wrap and packing tape and sealed all the crevices and locked myself indoors. I strategically folded bubble wrap into every crevice around the door and then shut it. Then I taped the crevices. Would it work? I don’t know. But it should because all the crevices were visibly sealed. I was locked inside–me, my dogs, 10 gallons of water, and a supply of food.

After the storm, electricity remained out. Days turned into weeks. Time became lost. Time coupled with excess heat and solitude played games, cruel games, with my mind. I battled demons. I resisted. I mourned. I battled life.

I confronted myself, my life, my goals, my inspirations and downfalls. In my head, I confronted relatives who came to me in odd visions and asked them why they had to die or why certain incidents happened. Answers came to me in the darkness, laying on the floor on a sweaty sheet where the room seemed cooler.

Anxiety came first. I was forced to walk away from people during this natural disaster and preparing for it. Walking away from the people or things that make you anxious, sometimes temporarily, solves the excess worry. As hurtful as it may sound, sometimes it’s so much easily to walk away, deal with the current issues on your path and when the time is right for you confront the said problem. I’ve had to let individuals know that their anxiety was feeding mine and it just wasn’t working out during the hurricane preparedness and aftermath. As two unhealed spirits do not make a conducive relation. You must worry about your own spirit first; your own safety and mental and physical health. Let it heal so that you can inspire and help others later.

Much of the anxiety held during the hurricane and post-hurricane was from individuals who lacked preparedness, which could have been easily resolved. If we live on an island, and we have what is known as “hurricane season”, there’s no reason not to be prepared. Again, I was prepared. I had no reason to be anxious. I had to keep re-affirming myself

Later, Creativity set it. Sometimes there’s no words to describe feelings and the only way to emote is through art. Many people will never understand that. That’s okay. Emote any way you feel necessary. I’m recalling a friend who painted his entire apartment in a twisted mixed-media installation as a response to what he, too, saw on 9/11. And that, too, was the moment when I started painting for the first time in 10 years. I didn’t realize these two hurricanes I would experience would coincide with the 9/11 anniversary for me. The timing was perfectly odd. But I created. I emoted. I wrote by hand; I sketched. I filled a notebook with odd drawings, incoherent poetry, and beginnings of stories. Nothing was complete, but still yet, this was how I could emote.

In the midst of the darkness, Loneliness came knocking on my door, unexpectedly, taunting me like an 8th grade bully.  The hurricane became my malady and I did not think I could find a cure after loneliness came. Simply because you are alone doesn’t mean you are lonely or vice versa. I’ve lived somewhat a single life and have been somewhat happy about this as well. I always say I’ve designed my selfish life so that I can remain single. But loneliness is different. Loneliness is personal. Loneliness is a part of being an outsider. And, that’s fine too. Most artists are outsiders and feel they are alone, despite all the love they may have surrounding them. And I was left, after the hurricane, with loneliness slowing devouring me like a plague.

My cousin asked me, “What made you into the person you are today?” and instantly I responded, “After 9/11, I felt like I was alone. Not knowing many people in NYC, and stuck at home for a few weeks post-9/11 my mind got the best of me (like with the hurricane). Feeling as if I were alone and no one cared whether I lived or died that day woke me up. I stopped living to please others.” With this hurricane, things were different. I had support from friends and family. I genuinely felt it. But the loneliness got the best of me one night and I cracked under pressure. I truly didn’t know if I were sweating or if I were crying. But eventually I fell asleep.

I woke at 5am, walked my two dogs toward the beach. I rarely walk my dogs on the beach due to the sand and sandfleas. But this day, I had to. I was impulsed to do so. And I sat there on a beach, with my legs half covered with sand and my dogs wanting to play and I waited. I waited for the sun to rise. As she rose from the East, peeking her nose from the mountains afar, I smiled for the first time. I walked East along the beach. The sun continued to rise and beckoned individuals from their homes and hotels. The beach became crowded, and we all walked toward the sun as if we could reach it, yet knowing we could not. At that moment, I knew I would be okay. No one took out their cameras to take photos, no one talked. And for that sheer moment my heart and the ocean became still. I learned that day, that specific moment that I was okay. I’ve always been okay.



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3 Unrelated Poems Written During Hurricane Maria

Three Unrelated Poems Written During Hurricane Maria


The wind raped
my Basquiat-covered walls,
leaving them white and trite—
a hometown cheerleader
(with bobby socks and green and white hairbow)
overdosed on lack of goals
and horse tranquilizers—
a brushstroke without paint
inside my orifice
broke down my Indigo,
bashing obedience within.
Like Black Pearl,
but Maria raged more.

I slept beside the half-open window.
Calm came late.


You don’t decide how it ends,
You simply know it will–
En Vogue, the Spice Girls,
Destiny’s Child, The Supremes,
Your life.
Black ballerina limbs break
with soft blows
like Sonny Bono.
After abuse,
will you ever bear fruit again, El Yunque?
I thought bulimia was the bitch,
but Mother Nature is a well-hung
Puerto Rican drag queen
in for the hard, long, and raw rides.

The flashlight is alone.
She moves along walls
guiding me through my home,
Cueva Ventana,
or caves unnamed
reading Taino petroglyphs
I decipher like
Baptist tongues
on gay babies.
I count drunk mosquitoes
silhouetted by my light,
comparing the welts on my skin to us–
We could never connect.

Find a way out of your mind.
Loneliness looks for fillings.
She is a cavity.


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10 Lessons I’ve Learned During My 40 Years


  1. Only invite an exclusive group into your home/life. Not everyone needs to know what you have. We work so hard that unless we built a substantial relationship years ago, it’s difficult to find friends of substance now. And that’s okay–It’s about quality instead of quantity. Not every person who treats you kind is a friend. As such, not everyone should be invited into your home. Didn’t we learn anything from the old horror films? The devil and other bad energies will not enter your home, unless you invite them. Make your circle of friends small and keep your home as your safe space.
  2. The only thing, sometimes, you have control over is the way you react to people. As we get older, and probably more medicated, we have to be strategic on how we react to each other. There’s no need to get in exasperating arguments to support your already-established beliefs and morals. There’s no reason to use excess brain power or storage on individuals. I’ve learned what works best for me is to state the problem, cause, and a solution to the individual and simply walk away. In turn, there’s less grief for all parties.
  3. Speaking with authority doesn’t mean you are aggressive or disrespectful– It means you will not be taken advantage of and know what you stand for. Importantly, if you have nothing to stand for, you will always fall for everything by giving the perception you are accepting everything. Differences are okay in our lives–that’s how we grow and learn from one another. However, speaking with confidence and authority with simple phrases such as, “This is what I stand for. . .” or “This is not acceptable in my life because. . . ” gives firm responses and gives you a footing that should never be debated.
  4. Trust no one until they are proven to be trustworthy. It’s interesting how people toss around the word “friend” so readily that it has lost its value. Just recently I had to eliminate 3/4 of the people I was associating with. Just like a new employee at a job, someone with the title of ‘friend’ that you would eventually trust with your assets must prove themselves to deserve that title, or they just aren’t qualified for the position. Regarding trust, never give information out to individuals that don’t have that true title. Real friends do not use your private information or your weak moments to exploit you. Think of it like this–would you trust just any random person to house-sit for you. How would you know they aren’t snooping or stealing? I don’t understand individuals who have bachelor or bachelorette parties with 40+ people. In my eyes, and in my world, the title of friend and those you trust is a small circle of people.
  5. Pets are easier than children. I like to vacation. The downfall is that I have two dogs. Every time I go on vacation for a week, I dish out about $500 for boarding. Many of my pet-less friends shake their heads that I dish out so much money for my pets, but still yet it’s cheaper and easier than having and raising children. After all, just like pets children are not welcome in all functions either. And, just like pets, not everyone likes or wants to be around children. I tend to joke with my friends and say that I’m “allergic” to children. When I invite my friends over, I feel that I’m inviting them over for full adult one-on-one attention not for a constant child disturbance. Though I tend to keep my dogs out and about when I have guests, if they get unruly, it’s so much easier (and acceptable) to cage them in another room to ensure the adults can have solid time together.
  6. Patience is important. Everything happens when it happens. We can’t rush things. With the constant use of social media, we see how ‘great’ things are going for people. But what you don’t see are the struggles behind the scenes. After all, most people don’t want you to see their struggles, so we tend to post only the good things online. I, for one, do. I don’t want to see a fitness guru with a 6 pack without seeing the transition of them struggling. I don’t want to see a home renovation project unless I see the Before photos. We have to understand that things happen in time and with patience and perseverance. If others claim their success happened over night, they are probably exaggerating the truth and don’t want to share their story. That’s fine. Have patience. Create your own story as you learn patience and watch things unfold.
  7. Being kind does not mean I’m naive. Understanding this will allow all of us to keep our guard up. Remember there are definitely some genuinely kind people out there who want to do everything to help others (ie, donate all old clothes to a family in need, offer the same family money for the children’s lunches, possibly paying for one of their cell phones for a month, etc). But then there are times when the ‘needy’ will take advantage of all the generosity. As the ‘thank you’s’ begin to fade, and the money and offerings are still expected, a strong disdain grows at times. In short, be kind to each other. But don’t be naive of others long-term bad intentions. Give what you can without suffering mentally or financially. Help someone who is also willing to help themselves if, and when, they could.
  8. Reciprocate with those who dedicate themselves to you and your beliefs. Your circle of friends create your personalized church. They nourish you in so many different ways. If someone feeds your soul, feed theirs. If there is no reciprocity, then you must reconsider the type of relationship you two have.
  9. Struggles are recycled, not unique. Sometimes we feel alone and fall into a deep depression. This is human nature. This is also okay and normal. As we fall deep into our slump we tend to feel as if we are alone and no one has experienced what we have. I’ve realized that once I have a day or so of sitting in my slump and separating myself from others, I can analyze which of my friends have probably been through the same problems. It is that moment I realize my problems are not unique, I am not as isolated as I felt, and there are others who can help with whatever struggle I’m trying to hurdle.
  10. Don’t allow people to question or destroy your belief system. My experiences are my experiences. Understanding that 40 years of experiences are what molded my views on race, class, gender and religion makes me stronger. You have a firm foundation. However, though you don’t need to justify to others any of your feelings and decisions, you should always justify them to yourself and understand the roots of your beliefs.
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