How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel? For this average white guy, countless.

If I could go back, all those years, and stand next to twelve year old me, would I have the courage and strength to tell that nervous boy watching all the other children, swimming, laughing, and running—playing shirts v.s. skins—to quit worrying and join in, that it doesn’t matter how chubby you feel, or how different you look, that as long as you love and accept yourself, no words from another can harm you, or would I just sit back and watch, still the observer unable to join the party?

It’s funny how something so simple as taking your shirt off to swim can be so detrimental to a young child’s self esteem and yet as adults we often forget what that was like or rather what external forces beyond our control led us to believe ourselves unworthy of such a simple, yet harrowing task.

As in childhood, so as in adulthood, what we allow to harm us will.

Commercials show us long, slender, sleek models who seem to effortlessly fit in to their surroundings while being rewarded with warm smiles and admiration for seeming perfect.

Television shows and movies give us well manicured, quintessential versions of ourselves that often seem more like science fiction than what actually is.

Billboard ads and magazines are placed conveniently to fill all our psyche with blemish-less detail to promote this false sense of unattainable beauty that even when met, there’s ultimately an even whiter teeth formula, or wax to whisk away our imperfection.

It’s a cycle that even before the mind has time to develop, stunts it’s growth and like a cavity begins to decay all sense of self worth.

How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel?

For this average white guy, countless.

But it’s taken all those countless times to figure out that it doesn’t matter in the slightest, especially as a child who’s developing.

So would I tell that twelve year old me to take his shirt off and go swimming with the rest of the lot?

I don’t think there is a clear answer other than that instead of telling him what he should or shouldn’t do like all the rest of the world, I’d allow him the opportunity to listen to my story and decide for himself.

But I would say this. Chances are that boy or girl over there thinks there nose is too big or there ears are too small. Chances are that kid who cringes to put on his glasses everyday feels just like you do now, wondering what others will think of what makes him human.

Perhaps I’d reassure him that everybody has stretch marks, even the biggest, strongest athletes. Even his mother, and what could be more beautiful than sacrificing your physical form to grant another life?

But we all figure it out in our own time.

I know he did.

Clearwater Beach Florida

So it seems here, now, in the mornings clean light, where all that I can do is observe—in nature that surrounds—human nature take its course.

I spent a good portion of last night, mooring with the tide, tied to emotions, most of which surely weren’t mine to suffer, though, like a good little buoy I did all I could to stay afloat.

But what causes a man to harbor such feelings of faithless dread.

Sympathy? Empathy? Selfless, selfishness?

Isn’t it funny how even when no one asks us to suffer, we often choose to suffer.

Could it stem from guilt? Plausible, though I think not. Depression? No, because I could still move. Trauma? Not in this case, as it had nothing to personally do with me.

Perhaps than maybe deeper, beyond the physical self, far from age or reason, like roots grown deep within the soil, always there yet invisible to the naked eye.

So then what?

Let’s take the current state of society in which the mind is placed.

We are and always have been reactionary beings, jumping to conclusions without fully taking the time and energy to understand or explore where these irrational compulsions come from.

So the year is 2020 and we are still at one another’s throats.

Not a day goes by that I don’t get a phone call whether or not I am willing to vote. Not a day goes by that I don’t see one side of the argument ready and willing to cut the other’s throat. Not a day goes by where I don’t get the impression that peace is just dependent on war, like an inside joke I just don’t get the humor.

So it’s within this grey area that I swim where both sides of the equation continue to expel these deep seeded emotions from within.

Had it not been for the open minded, tirelessly educated guidance and good nature of a mother, I may have gone another way years ago, though still I stay afloat while the undertow continues its torment.

So it seems here, now, in the mornings clean light, where all that I can do is observe—in nature that surrounds—human nature take its course.

I know who I am. And I know my intentions are good. Sometimes our actions speak louder than words but for most of us, words just don’t seem to be heard.

But that’s no reason to destroy what you can’t control.

So for those who cannot express or explain this current state of extremes we face both alone and together, I suggest this: be a beacon of hope.

Because what we know today, with or without our help, will surely change tomorrow.

So even in my darkest hours, I know, hope will never falter, light will find a way, and tides will turn, if not now, then surely another day.

Alone and writing.

Portrait of my own Unique Beauty

If what you see in the mirror is ugly, then consider this: chances are you’re comparing your own unique beauty to what, for your entire life, you’ve been programmed to believe is beautiful.

And what is beauty anyways?

Margaret Wolfe Hungerford said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

And isn’t that true? Yes or no, in more instances than not beauty is subjective. In fact, I’d go even further to say that beauty manifests itself in infinite ways other than what the eye can see.

As a photographer with a fond admiration for women and men alike I can honestly say that I have taken countless photographs and manipulated them to appeal to the mass collective of what is to be considered quote on quote “beautiful.”

Hypocrite. No, I think not. I never claimed they were beautiful but simply did my job in a way that my superior agreed was aesthetically pleasing.

A wrinkle here, a crows foot there, deleted.

Nobody has ever died from a portrayal of beauty, right?

Wrong. Though I’m not an extremist so there are many factors to consider, all of which yes, I agree, may seem like a bit of a cop out or excuse not to hold oneself accountable for taking what is and transforming it into something less natural.

But this isn’t about my career choice or eye in which I behold.

This is about you and that “ugly” reflection in the mirror.

You are not ugly, you simply aren’t. You are you, and you are beautiful.

Those who claim to seek perfection, well, they’re only trying to fill a void. And it’s a bottomless pit because like beauty, perfection is ultimately subjective.

While I sit here and delve deeper into thought, I watch a mother and daughter walk by my window. The mother is flapping her arms as graceful as she can. The child looks to her mother and understands she is trying her best.

In the end all that we can do is try our best to love ourselves enough to fully accept the unique beauty of another.

Any other judgement is of which we have been programmed to believe.

It’s taken a very long while to believe in myself and I willingly admit that each day is a slow progression to further acceptance of my own unique beauty.

If someone tells you you’re not beautiful, that’s their loss.

And I hope the next mirror that you face looks back in your direction as the child looks with grace and marvels at the perfection of her mother’s love.

Portrait of my own Unique Beauty, September 8, 2020

(This was me, 2:25pm, August 31, 2020—happy, and holy, and released)

It’s become abundantly clear through time and misfortune, not to be confused with the physical form such as money or objects, but rather with the exploration of self, the embodiment of peace, and the idea that expression can or should be limited or contained due of a value system built out of fear and intolerance.

Most of our lives we are given what can be thought of as a safety net of ideals—paths to follow, standards to meet—to make life “easier” or conducive to the perception of others.

Rather than present ourselves the way we deem fit, the general standard is to be as the chameleon—to do whatever it takes to fit in—who blends into its surroundings for survival.

Well, for myself, I’ve learned to accept and reject that pattern as it does not allow for growth.

I’ve grown everywhere from upside down to sideways and still have come to the conclusion that no matter how hard you try, there will always be a group, a banner, many men and signs who will make it their duty to mock one’s freedom of self.

I accept myself.

Further more, I applaud myself.

I look in the mirror and examine an ever changing life force composed of trial and error, love and appreciation, a life force who has exhausted himself to live his truth, that is…well…hell if I know!

I’m still figuring that out, one moment, one step, and one portrait at a time.

Thankfully enough, I’ve been blessed by an equal partner, a beautiful guiding spirit of light and love to help nurture my venture to freedom of self—Ariel Rachel—who does not judge but embraces my eccentricities as I honor and trust full heartedly in hers.

I highly recommend letting go of inhibition, being open and honest with yourself, others, and showcasing who you are, each and every day.

Be well my friends. I look forward to seeing you for everything that you are, today, tomorrow, and in future discoveries.

(This was me, 2:25pm, August 31, 2020—happy, and holy, and released)

2:25pm, August 31, 2020—happy, and holy, and released

The man in me knows something gold can stay

It’s an early morning wake up(wake up)

Adjust your hair put on your makeup(makeup)

It’s just a temporary state but(state but)

Either way you’ve got to make up(make up)

For all the time that you pissed away

For every second mistake you made

For every little indiscretion

For all the time you failed to mention

I love you so much my stomach burns

I love you so much that I’m lost for words

I love you so much see my eyes are pure

So stick around and we can make this work

You formed this feeling in Long Island(I land)

On my back and watch the world spin(world spin)

Back and forth in all direction(directions)

They only form a brief connection(except when)

The one’s you love turn from gold to grey

Tell Johnny Frost said nothing gold can stay

I do my best to find another way

The way I work is slow but baby hey

I love you so much I get dizzy spells

I love you so much you’re my wishing well

I love you so much now I’m overwhelmed

I love you so much you’re my homeward bound

Your eyes are healing now I’m lost for words

So stick around let’s watch the season’s turn

I’m slow with change but baby I’ve got faith

This fire burns you are my great escape

The man you met knows there’s a better way

The man in me knows something gold can stay

Heaven here on earth.

How curious it is that I

no longer beg or question why

but rather like the naked eye

accepts the sky is blue—

with honesty and strength that I’ve

been granted through these tales of time

woven as one as you are I

accepts the ancient truth,

for like the moon and sun decide

to shed or shield eternal light

with arms spread thin wide opened eye

keep mine closed now to see,

what beauty lies beyond the pine

is neither up to you nor I

it’s always been like time gone by

regardless of the proof—

in truth it’s curious that I

could feel so pure estranged from life

whose meadow in the golden light

is heaven here on earth.

Cupid’s always looking in

This life’s a beautiful disaster penned one summer long ago

I mean who was I kidding just a kid on the East Coast

So I took my car and drove off found myself out on the road

I was so sure I was different but so scared of letting go

Had this girl her name was pure like it was written in the stars

I first met her in the backseat of my good friends mother’s car

And I don’t quite know how it happened tangled alone in the dark

But she showed me true compassion for a badly broken heart

And if you ever saw the way her fingers danced upon my hand

Love’s an infinite reminder I just couldn’t understand

She was beautiful regardless of the way things had to end

I’m just happy to have seen her grown and happy as a friend

Somewhere before and after I had lost my innocence

Was a child when I said come on let’s go what’s happening

Like a judge biting my tongue so long held on to my defense

Till one day it all poured out like a volcano from my head

You talk too much don’t talk enough try this paper and pen

I think that it’ll help to write it down is what she said

And of course guess what it happened but this time in a kitchen

We were kindred drunk and carefree at first sight I do admit

I wasn’t looking for a lover in retrospect needed a friend

But that’s the way it happens Cupid’s always looking in

When she took me without question I knew something had to give

Had more talent in her pinky than I swear I ever did

And she tried hard to convince me I was good at fitting in

Still my anger got the best of me and then the fear to live

See it took 6 months of depression just to make one decision

I would have should have could have now son that’s no way to live

I thought if I just disappear perhaps I’d be no one’s burden

But learned life is a disaster that you somehow have to live

So I packed my bags one day and gave myself unto the wind

Hell I’ve been kicking rocks forever so I’m hella used to it

See there’s no way of ever knowing how tomorrow’s gonna end

You just get up brush your hair and then go do it again

Still love’s an infinite reminder I’ve tried so hard to understand

It always makes more sense when you’re left with empty hands

Like a psychic I am reading all the lines riddles and man

I can see it all so clearly first accept yourself and then

Maybe you get lucky one day in Central Park

Or perhaps while spilling coffee on a stranger after dark

There’s a reason for each season as one ends one’s soon to start

It only takes a moment kiddo ready on your mark

a loneliness grave.

I spared him a quarter

alone where he stood

next to the Madonna

as if she’d do him good.

He gave me a blessing

gentle and aware

the wind it was violent

messing both our hair.

While Girl Scouts are selling

cookies for the troop

a week ago maybe

someone died on that stoop.

But don’t tell their mothers

as if they would care

no you don’t get the badge unless

you’ve sold your soul there.

My eyes they grow weary

still I can’t look away

at the hummingbird dancing

a loneliness grave,

still I’ve got this feeling

that there’s no escape

am I ok to drive? I guess or else just look away.

Am I ok to drive? I guess, if not well either way.

At the cafe I buy coffee

either iced or cold brew

the barista he tells me

nothing’s ever new.

But still I ask questions

like how do you do

and she recalls my name

it’s the least she could do.

I don’t mean to sound faithless

I’ve just seen enough kicks

see the old man he died, well

some things never make sense.

It’s slight of the hand, it’s

a scam with three cups

you follow the ball then

it’s gone where it was.

My eyes they burn red with

the heat of the day

it’s winter in Burbank

what more can I say,

still I’ve got this feeling

that there’s no escape

am I ok to drive? I guess or else just look away.

Am I ok to drive? I guess, if not well either way.

Now I take to the bar, where

Happy Hour’s till 6

Scott the tender he knows me

pours my whiskey then gin.

What’s the good word? Pal, tell me

do you think that you could

spare me knowledge like change would

do me some type of good.

I don’t stay past the hour

happiness never lasts

after shame there comes flowers

then of course there’s the past.

You’re a good guy he tells me

see the pain never lasts

I assure you it does, Scott

he just nods then he laughs.

See there’s beauty in living

it’s just hidden by stars

who illuminate sidewalks

like two subtle hearts,

still I’ve got this feeling

that there’s no escape

it’s an obvious cycle, one I’ll never break.(?)

Am I ok to drive? I guess or else just look away.

Am I ok to drive? I guess, if not well either way.

Yet still I turn to the East in longing.

I was nothing more than excuses,

a great big ball of disappointment

which she tried desperately to employ.

At the bottom of it, I was fragile and weak.

In the pits of despair I looked to love,

but could not fully know love without

loving myself, which by terms of engagement

were cut like beautiful red ribbons from her hair.

Give me death, I’d beg.

Give me peace, I’d scream,

unaware that there was any difference between.

Still she’d try, day in and day out, pushing forward

like an endless train car of hopeful desire.

We’d even escape together too

with nothing but the wind to guide our path

and the rise and fall of the sun to persuade us forward.

Knee deep in the escape of journey we’d prevail,

until of course the final push where and when

like a wrecking ball of fate our souls would wither

in the crest of the sun upon the blind horizon.

Even now, I still turn my sights inward

reminded of her beauty and strength,

channeling it outward where I can walk

head turned high among the many shapeless eyes

who know nothing of my past, care nothing of my future

who’d rather see me not than to judge.

Yet still I turn to the East in longing.

And like all those many times before I know

even if we were to change(our minds) we couldn’t.

Though my count of crows is high

I know that one day it will be but one.

Until then I’ll keep this in my breast pocket

along with my sunglasses, where I reach for them sometimes

when my heart is heavy

where I can’t bear to look away

where I gaze into the distant clearing

and watch grasshopper spring

from golden stalk to golden stalk

blissful in the quiet light.

I am an illusion

It took losing

everything,

to come to the conclusion

that I am an illusion

and we’ve always had

— from the beginning —

everything

to gain.