Review and Revise

Oh, hello there. How you doing, how you been, what’s good, what’s new? Me? Pfft, same stuff different day with a few new characters and reprisals from the regular players. You know what it is. Oh you don’t? Trust me, these cryptic metaphors are just a method for me to get in a groove to write (which is something I need to do more of. Tell me if you’ve heard me say that before? You remember how it ended? Yeah, me neither.) Things are things, the weather outside is weather, an electron isn’t an electron isn’t an electron. I’ll unpack these words at a later post, but what I want to focus on today is the power of recommendations and the power of reviews.

To me, giving a recommendation is something I get great joy out of offering. It is a chance for me to open myself up, be vulnerable by sharing things I enjoy greatly and also open other’s minds to something new. I also get really excited and energetic when recommending something because it is something I’m willing stand behind staunchly. You know how awesome it is to recommend something to a friend, have them experience said something and come back saying, “ermahgerd, this was awesome and blew my mind and wow what?!?” It is incredibly gratifying. Oh course not every recommendation hits, and you just roll with the punches and keep it movin’. It’s at this point, reviews are important. It helps show where the mark was missed or has been missed. It allows for growth and change through self-reflection, re-commitment to looking over processes that may be causing inefficiencies and reaffirming the good that is happening. Today’s post is a combination of a recommendation I have been making for years, a recommendation many of my friends have said they enjoyed or enjoy and recommend to others as well, and reviewing whether or not that recommendation holds weight anymore. Wow, that sounds bleaker than it actually is… though I think if one experience is shared by multiple people, it is enough to question the validity of a recommendation.

Last night, to celebrate the last night of camaraderie and the end of a fantastic engagement party weekend, our group decided to go to The Alibi karaoke bar. Usually I talk this place up like it is the only place I will go in this city. I’ve gone on random Tuesdays with my Prost peeps, celebrated Independence Day with a mai-tai and had my 25th, 26th, and 28th birthdays there. So yeah, you could say The Alibi and I are going steady because of how often it has been there for my birthday. Yes, I said steady #happydaysvernacular. The Alibi has been under new management for the last year plus, and you can definitely notice the changes if you’ve been a regular. The carpet is new, they fixed a few of the booths, the KJ’s booth looks dope with the new regalia, they added a new TV that hangs in the front of the stage and they now have a patio (because Portland bars absolutely need patios to survive).

Now, The Alibi is a hopping place on the weekend, this is no lie, people know this, the staff knows this and management (I think or I hope) knows this. If you want a seat for public karaoke, it behooves you to get there by at least 8:30ish before they open the room for a prompt 9pm start. Saturday was no exception, but the only exception is that the service was not exceptional #gratuitoususeofthewordexception. So much so that I was pretty miffed and disappointed that I wrote a Yelp review. I have never written a Yelp review despite often saying I will or that, “I’m going to write this place a stern letter” and not doing it (much like saying I will write for this blog and… then… well, you know how that movie ends). This experience was one of my worst experience I have had in my 8 years going to this place (and I’ve blacked out in a booth there!). To compound the issue, I talked it up so heavily and worked to get the group to come out, that the way it ended was poetically sinister. I’d like to share that review with you in this piece.

The Alibi is a very important place to me in this city as my go-to karaoke spot, as a place that I extol its virtues to my friends, and a karaoke joint that is quite high on the list of karaoke joints in Portland. I’d rather go to The Alibi than Voicebox, Chopsticks, Cheerful Tortoise, Sweet Home Bar and Grill or “name-a-place” to sing my jams. This Saturday, August 26th, 2017, was my worst experience as a patron of The Alibi. It was also embarrassing for me to have recommended The Alibi and to have it end up being such an awful experience for my friends. I understand and know how busy and crowded The Alibi gets on the weekends. I have been going there for years and I understand the drill. 8/26/2017 was an absolute debacle in terms of service and ambiance. I was with a large group of friends who are in town from Louisiana for an engagement party. I was jazzed to show them this place that is very near and dear to me. My friends posted up in the table area to the right of the entrance and sat there waiting for service for over 20-25 minutes. They received no service and within the next 5 minutes decided that The Alibi was not the spot for them and they left. The entire party of ~15 people left to go to Mississippi Ave to experience another area of Portland nightlife.

I was extremely disappointed and disheartened at the lack of servers and bartenders to handle the Saturday crowd. To management: you know the product you have, you know the place you have, you know how busy you get, you know your popularity—it is inexcusable to be that ill-equipped and ill-prepared to serve, especially for a weekend night. I have noticed the changes since management has switched hands, I love the improvements, the aesthetic changes, etc. I personally want to continue coming to The Alibi and patronizing a bar that has been very good and is special to me… but the service needs to get better. I love Paul, grand master KJ extraordinaire; I love Chad, easily one of my favorite servers/hosts in the city; I love listening to Yanni (a regular) belt out “Drunk in Love” by Beyonce. It is hard to experience, enjoy and share these moments with my friends if we are unable to be served or get service.

(Lastly and unrelated to service, I am disappointed that The Alibi no longer does private reservations for karaoke. I also found this out yesterday, the 26th. Here where it gets interesting: the website says, “Sorry, we are not taking reservations at this time.” “At this time” is not a definitive statement, and my interpretation is that it could be decided at a later time to again accept reservations. I called to ask about private reservations and was told that The Alibi does not do them. I asked if it was a permanent decision or if it was an indefinite decision. I was told it is a permanent decision. Alibi, you have to take down that statement regarding private reservations or edit it to say “no reservations.”

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! As I was outside speaking with the bouncer about the experience we were all having, I brought up the fact there are no private reservation. This caused his eyebrow to raise and he expressed that I may have been told misinformation; we both talked with a bartender who couldn’t confirm or deny whether private reservations still occur at The Alibi. Private reservations at The Alibi were awesome, inexpensive and easy to split (the entire karaoke room to yourself with your group for $45/hr), and a great way to reserve and have seating before public karaoke starts at 9. It is a shame that it is no longer an option in North Portland, and I would argue that it is one of the qualities that made The Alibi what it is in the hearts and minds of Portlanders.)

I don’t know if I’ll be going back to The Alibi soon. It will be a moment to wash the bad taste out of my mouth. Until then, I think I’m just going to keep thinking of things to write about for y’all.

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My Silence is Louder Than My Voice

It’s kinda bittersweet, besides the shows and meet and greets y’all only see me on the street
And even then, that shit is rare—I just don’t go outside

I have been wanting to write for my blog for months. Months on months on months. They’ve peeled off the calendar like they were the Clementines so many of my Step Up students would eagerly eat throughout the school day. And through those times I have had so many things to write about: my work with helping high school students achieve their academic and personal goals, returning to school for a graduate certificate, what I learned as I took a year off from drinking alcohol, the overall racial tension in the country I live in, the racial double standards in professional sports, a trip to Baltimore, two trips to New York, how enamored with daily fantasy sports I am, sharing my graduate work… the list is about as long as the number of orange rinds Eric had peeled, which matched the length of time since my last post.

When I first started this blog over six years ago, I did it because a buddy of mine from high school was blogging. I felt it would be a good idea to have an outlet to express, emote, have a running journal, talk about things that interested me (regardless of how esoteric they sounded) after college… and plus, another friend told me, “[Y]ou have been writing notes on Facebook, why not expand man?” I also thought it would make me instantly cool because, well, who doesn’t love a writer? Except I had one issue: I had too much to write and say yet not enough discipline to keep it going consistently. At times I would be close to finishing a post and then micromanage my way out of the post. Those 10 drafts I mentioned back in January 2015 still sit wondering if I will ever return to them. I have said I will and they’ve been ever patient as I continue to fill my time with other endeavors or just ignore them. Too often do I not share what is on my mind with everyone and that is when I realized something about myself: the moment I don’t speak up, my silence speaks for me. Within the silence is the deafening sound of acquiescing and accepting something that does not truly align with my paradigm. In this moment, I discovered that my silence is more powerful than my voice.

Cause honestly I don’t fuck with this world, I’d rather hide

With the amount of turmoil, particularly racial turmoil, that is occurring in the United States… it is becoming increasingly difficult to read, sit and digest the heaps of literal garbage some people spew. It’s all too easy to hide, avoid, disconnect and acquiesce. To continue to sit by and say nothing is to allow paradigms that promote and increase ignorance to proliferate unfettered. For me, for you, for all of us, speaking up and speaking out is the quickest and most effective means to counter ignorant paradigms. If we can all model how to speak up, speak out and interrupt these dangerous pieces of rhetoric, the easier it becomes for all us to form effective counters to ignorance. Here is an example that I have to offer (Editor’s note: I also have an extensive piece on the racial double standards that I absolutely need to share as another example.)

Recently, Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem of a preseason football game. As a norm of the United States of America, we as citizens usually stand during the anthem and Kaepernick instead decided against joining in. Seemingly harmless, no? A person was exercising his autonomous right to do as he sees fit, he broke no laws or rules (NFL players are not required to stand during the anthem) and he explained that the reasoning behind his decision was because of the continued racial injustice to people of color in the United States. Everything checks out and is copacetic, yeah? Except for the fact that since he has decided to make that choice, to make that solemn decision, Kaepernick has been skewered for being spoiled, unpatriotic, and potentially called every curse word or pejorative term under the sun… all for not standing during a song that literally celebrates slavery? I finally caught up on some of this and came across this below tweet that was shared by someone I went to high school with:

I don’t know Cloyd. I don’t think this person I went to high school with knows Cloyd. One thing I do know about Cloyd and this particular person is that they share a common trait: ignorant-itis. The major issue I see in this situation is the conflation of Kaepernick acknowledging the reality of systemic oppression and how it affects a group of US citizens by declining to stand during the anthem and Kaepernick being unpatriotic because he decided not to stand. It made me sick to see this… so I scrolled down… until I remember this person also posted a video of someone burning a Kaepernick jersey. It was then I realized, “I cannot not say something… this is ludicrous.” Below is the post I made in response:

I of course do not want to engage in any type of Facebook conversation that will get as heated as one that involves race and patriotism… yet I can’t sit and read more of this junk. I have to disagree with this idea that Kaepernick’s decision is some form of massive disrespect to the country he lives in. There a multiple competing factors in this story and I think there is a bit too much shade being thrown his way. He is not wrong about anything he said regarding the oppressive nature of the USA flag toward persons of color. Using a lyric from the anthem that celebrates this country, “O’er the land of the free…” how many of us can truly say EVERY U.S. CITIZEN has been free? I’ll wait. There has been slavery, the Trail of Tears and Native American relocation, lynching, segregation, women’s suffrage, women still making less than men for the same amount of work, women not even having adequate maternity leave, redlining and racist real estate practices, and racially disproportionate use of excessive force and brutality by law enforcement. I mean, I could go on and on. It amazes me how convenient it is to forget how “unfree” many citizens have been, are and will be in this country because of systemic oppression. I’m not going to sit behind this keyboard and try to persuade you that I am right, despite knowing deep in my heart that what I am saying is true. What I am hoping is that I can open your mind to being more cognizant of the bigger societal impact of Kaepernick’s decision. I’ll leave you with this question: would you unequivocally respect something, someone or some place that didn’t respect you for who you were as a person? If the answer is yes, well bless your heart– you truly do not respect yourself or know your own worth. If the answer is no (which it ought to be), welcome to Colin Kaepernick’s world wandering the United States of America as a person of color, where his own country does not view him as free or worthy of living like his white counterparts.

Through that question, I imagine they both might finally understand the crux of why Colin Kaepernick is making a stand by sitting. I hope you join me in interrupting dangerous rhetoric and ignorant paradigms.

The Only Plan is the Plane Ticket

Every good idea starts with someone taking notice of an opportunity, having a vision and saying, “I think there is something brewing here. I can’t say what– I just have a gut feeling.” Not only does it take a single person to notice the aforementioned triumvirate, it takes a few like-minded individuals to join, buy in and embody the model envisioned. This isn’t some pyramid scheme or Amway pitch, nah, nah, nah… this is something better, something more interesting and something more invigorating. I guess I need to provide background because of how vague I’m being at the moment. I’ve been on the road, I’m a traveling man, gallivanting the east coast over the past six days from Baltimore, Maryland to New York, New York. I didn’t bring a personal camera which doesn’t matter a ton because I have an iPhen to capture my travels, the sites I’m taking in and the places I think are interesting to me. Whenever I travel, I rarely build myself a large list of places to do or things to see when I am in a new city. I do this for two reasons: 1). it makes the trip more daunting than it should be and less of a vacation because it can feel like one is trying to cram everything in to a short period; 2). I want to organically discover the city, through walking the streets, taking public transit and the spur-of-the-moment-happenstance-stumble-upons. From this “do whatever comes to mind or what I know of the city” came an interesting thought: how about sharing where I go on my Instagram account with the hashtag #noagenda(insert city)tour? And so began the walking, snapping, no-filtering and hashtagging of a Baltimore tour and (an ongoing) New York tour.

Continue reading The Only Plan is the Plane Ticket

The General Devolution of a Sports Argument Part I: Fallacies

I am about to blog about something that is near and dear to my heart, as well as a glimpse into how I operate as a person. This is meant to be part educational, part me admonishing myself, as well as part commentary on “internet + sports discussion + Facebook + unrelenting opinions = this exact situation where we both look like idiots.” Discussing sports is something that I absolutely enjoy doing amongst my friends. Even when I am not with friends, I can easily broach the topic with whoever wants to oblige me and we can spend minutes upon hours talking and waxing poetically about sport’s existential awesomeness. That’s what sports do: they bring people together in a social setting to engage in some form of social bonding regardless of your team affiliation. The only problem is that once you bring all these people in for a social bonding experience, you have to look out for strong egos and even stronger unrelenting opinions. To make matters even worse, more and more social interactions (especially regarding sports) are occurring on internet message boards, Twitter and Facebook– mediums that trade face to face interactions with IP addresses, monikers and a computer monitor. A discussion and commentary on technology’s role in retarding social interaction is a completely different post… but these forums lead to hilarious or frustrating exchanges (depending on your vantage point) between two people discussing sports. This is one of those stories.

Continue reading The General Devolution of a Sports Argument Part I: Fallacies

What to Expect When Expecting

When I think back to that fateful April day when the Trail Blazers were awarded the #1 pick, I can still feel the goosebumps on my skin. I still hear the voices, shouting in the post-pubescent chords, of myself and my friends Casey, Nick and Matt. I still remember the incredible sense of “we’re here, we’re back; everything is going to be fine!” Travel from that April afternoon into the future, well the present, and you find that those feelings of hope, elation, exuberance are as faded as denim and replaced with a sullen and downtrodden countenance unsure of where to look. The future looked so incredibly bright and full of promise, until cloud by cloud, just like a Portland winter, the light was choked by the cumulus cover. It’s actually sinisterly poetic how Portland’s dreariness is a metaphor for what has occurred with the Portland Trail Blazers the last five years: just when you think there will be a chance for sunshine, you get dumped on in an unrelenting fashion.

Continue reading What to Expect When Expecting

A Brooklyn Chapter: Red Eyes, Honduran Colombians and Directions

When I decided that I was going to make the expedition out to New York, not only was I looking for a cheapest and most direct flight. What kind of flight fits that description? You got it, a red eye! Off I was on JetBlue flying out of Portland Wednesday eve at 10 PM and arriving in New York Thursday morning around 6:10 AM. I hadn’t traveled on a red eye before and of course I wasn’t going to sleep on the plane: I was sitting on the aisle and any movement would brush up against my shoulder causing me to jostle awake. While sleep was a no-go, mashing on the free snacks was the move as I kept my energy level up as best I could with the healthiest selection of Fritos, cookies and these things called Popcorners (snag yourself some, they are delicious). When we finally got taxi’d and linked up with JFK’s terminal, I was running on about 6 hours sleep from the Tuesday to this point and I was getting hungrier by the step. Continue reading A Brooklyn Chapter: Red Eyes, Honduran Colombians and Directions