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

A kick in the head!

I will always be curious

and allergic to cats.

Ain’t that a kick in the head!

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

The ability to discover is a gift in itself and it’s that same gift of discovery that makes our individual perception unique.

Have you ever noticed that the thing you are most excited to share with another person, be it a new book, movie, podcast, idea, or what you think happens to be something to be considered “the greatest,” that their excitement never quite matches your own?

Of course you have. We’re all human.

And have you ever noticed that upon showcasing this thought or idea to another that when you do, their reaction never quite lives up to your expectation, which leaves you feeling either hurt or discouraged?

I will not take it upon myself to assume that you have though I will tell you this: I have.

And it’s a very tough thing to understand.

In the moment of realization that your appreciation for something you deem extraordinary hasn’t been deeply felt in the same way by another can often cause conflict, misunderstanding, and judgement—that is reactionary rather than honest.

Instead of expressing our pain for what seems a lack of appreciation in the moment, we often turn to criticism, which is in itself a form of false pride.

Rather than saying, “I’m confused as to why you don’t feel the way I do about what I’m showing you,” one says, “well, of course you don’t get it,” or more often than not, we say nothing, letting our emotions fester to distress and shame.

In the Alchemist, Paulo Coelho writes: “It’s not what enters men’s mouths that’s evil, it’s what comes out of their mouths that is.”

Well if that’s not the boldest yet truest statement to have ever been penned than I implore you to enlighten me as I’ve found myself in this predicament more times than I am willing to admit.

My point is, we can’t expect another’s reaction to mirror our own.

We shouldn’t expect them to for the simple fact that they are their own person, with their own background, beliefs, and experiences that before judgement deserve appreciation and due time to process and articulate what is being presented.

What took the time to find, understand, and appreciate should also be granted—the time—to another.

It’s like telling someone rather than suggesting someone read a book.

Your willingness to share does not determine one’s willingness to receive.

It’s like giving someone the answer without allowing them to solve the equation.

The ability to discover is a gift in itself and it’s that same gift of discovery that makes our individual perception unique.

So the next time you offer someone a gift, regardless of their reaction, remember who you’re sharing it with and why you chose them to share it with you all over again.

I think then you will find an even deeper appreciation for yourself and another.

Santa Monica. September 6, 2020

Surrender for this man is essential for future understanding.

As important as it is to be informed, it’s just as important, if not of further importance to distinguish between what information you allow in and what information you choose to put out.

Feeling pain is not an excuse to cause another pain.

Feeling slighted is not an excuse to slight another person.

The news and media are valuable resources to acquire current information but the information gained from the news and media is not an excuse to promote ignorance and intolerance—or for lack of a better metaphor: one side of the coin—without further, more definitive research.

I don’t claim to know everything and I have come to terms with the fact that I never will.

I’m no a saint.

There has and always has been social injustice and sorrow in the world and I can’t change that. All I can do is choose a righteous path towards consciousness.

Consider this.

The anteater will eat ants to survive as the hawk will hunt ground squirrels and field mice. The spider will spin a web to catch the fly. The fly will feast on feces to survive. The feces will decompose into the soil and a tree will grow.

Nature always finds a way.

Human nature is an entirely different phenomenon.

It’s a common theme between civilizations to find balance and order between extremes. Love and hate. Fear and faith. War and peace.

Each and every day this phenomenon is in question—human nature. The hawk does not see the field mouse as a hawk. The hawk sees the field mouse as prey. The field mouse does not see the insect as a field mouse. It sees it as prey.

Nature operates without question.

It is human nature to ask why. It is human nature to consider the consequences of our action. It is human nature to consider what is right, wrong, and just, then decide.

Either way, the tree will grow.

Either way, the prey will die.

I’m not asking for you or I to be a saint, I’m just asking you to consider another way, a way in which I’m sure you deal with like I, each and every single day.

What I suggest we all consider is this: walk gently, and spread love.

Love is a universal concept.

Hate is a creation of the mind as a defense mechanism.

Hate, is a creation of man.

With all the information that history, news, and media has so far presented us with, what’s stopping us from immediately choosing love as a means to an end of irrational hatred which like wild fire spreads without care or concern or reason?

Tonight I’ll lay my head down, as tomorrow I’ll rise and move forward with peace, love, and understanding.

And it will be easy because I’ve chosen to surrender.

Taken out of context, the idea of surrender is often considered as a form of defeat but not in this case.

The battle has already been won, so when we realize there was never a battle to be fought, surrender to this man is essential for future understanding.

My words

My words, they are carried

like a seagull clenches crab

Plucked from the water

red claws pinching mad

Then dropped from the sky

to a hot pier of gull

A days hungry flock

who will never be full

Talking by her car

Talking by her car — that night

our intuition brought us together —

I never wanted to leave.

Dancing in the distance

And when his memory faded

Dancing in the distance

Like a mirage, appeared

His destiny in heat

Arms uninhibited by the equinox

Norwegian wood aglow

Actually I am, as

Real as they come

I see us in Alaska

Enchanted we are one, so

Love me lovely star seed

My hand is yours to hold

Among the valleys

Northern lights

Norwegian wood aglow

Manhattan’s in the Village

You know what they say, don’t yuh?

Can’t live with em, can’t live without em

But don’t get me twisted, I’m not talking about women

though the skin beneath my tongue’s still sore

my heart’s still heavy and well

there’s nothing quite like seeing her smile come morning

but anyway like I was saying to this jug of doom

in the evening gloom where I choose not one but two

and then two more to boot because, well, hell

who am I kidding? Nobody but the moon this evening

cause it’s this bitter sweet feeling

the kind you feel deep down in the rumbling, stumbling night

where it all gets so far gone, where nothing meaningful is born

where it all makes some sort of convoluted sense

and alas, once again I am but the floorboards dull creak

where I am like the riverbed flowing calmly and discrete

where life is but a dream and I am dreaming once again

of you dear friend, rustling like the leaves at my front door.

Oh dear friend, how I long to walk the beach again.

How I long to hear your sick, silly, sweet voice again

like those long ago up all Friday nights of old

all those Brooklyn winter blue’s and yellow streetlights

guiding us home, or at least to Crown Fried Chicken where

like two youthful bums we’d scavenge our pockets for change

enough to buy a couple chicken wings, coke, and pint

enough to settle the bone, cold, sidewalk snow till home

where we’d fall arm and arm up stairs

to that old wood, smoke filled, railroad apartment you’d call Grove.

And though I don’t often pray, in my own little way

I do for you now as I did then, driving back to my Long Island apartment.

I pray this little song of self, this little song of you, this small token of my appreciation

for your boundless soul and effortless style and class.

I ate too much cheese, I’d shout while holding a kitchen knife to my throat!

Where in a Polaroid our youth is kept,

where so many nights while you slept I wept,

where you’d give me your bed for a smile,

where I’d talk with Forest about everything and nothing for a while,

long enough not to feel alone in that maddening, crazy New York glow.

So I write this little poem, not enough but enough to show you

I’m still listening through the terror behind the walls.

Dear friend,

How are you?

I can’t live with you, but hell, I can’t live without you.

Manhattan’s in the Village

God knows we never had the scratch, aligned

I feel inclined to take this time and offer you my best

impression not impressed?

CALL ME SPIDER! CALL ME SPIDER!

I just had to get these salami’s off my back.

I just had to sing this short praise of you Mac.