Uptown Barbershop Trending Topic: Infidelity

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

Before we get into this, it is a must I provide a little context. My barbershop is the quintessential Dominican barbershop. Tons of people, music blaring, barbers dancing as they perform their duties. In short, a hive of activity; in many ways it is a place where a party is taking place and they just happen to cut hair. This is the kind of barbershop where you may find yourself being served little plastic cups of sweet espresso while you wait for your cut, as a whole host of street peddlers enter and exit the establishment to hawk bootleg DVD’s, clothes, sunglasses, watches. Maybe even furniture. Another thing that takes place at my barbershop and others like it is conversation. Straight up, loud, unfiltered, non-politically correct, sometimes anachronistic, man talk.

Photo Credit: Briana E. Heard

The topic on this particular outing was infidelity. For the most part, the general consensus among the barbers and the clientele was that women by nature will eventually cheat on their mates, so in order to mitigate the hurt from that inevitable occurrence, it was better to cheat before she does. In other words, pre-emptive cheating; cheat before getting cheated on. That way when the fateful day came, and everyone here was sure it would come; one could at least keep their head held high with the knowledge that they had their fair share of trysts, two-timing, affairs and adventures.

Continue reading

Hustle Hard…

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

I find it absolutely absurd and at the same time, cosmically comical, that my whole way of being, my philosophy, the very essence of what I am about, could be described or better yet distilled into a saying on the inside of a fortune cookie. Really? But there it was. God has a sense of humor. But it’s true, right now; that little bit of fortune cookie wisdom succinctly describes my modus operandi. One of my mottos is “never not working”, a concept which I heard through Kristoff via his indispensable, informative and insightful blog, Rebel Socialite. Even though it is not correct English, it is on the money. My life is my work.

At the end of the day, coming from where I’m from, I don’t see any other way. My mom came from the Dominican Republic in the early 70’s with nothing but determination, hard work and hustle and was able to make ends meets for her children as well as the extended family. Now that I am a father of 3 beautiful daughters, I see that my grind not only provides financially but also instills a work ethic to emulate.

The word hustle is at times viewed negatively because it is associated with drug dealing but hustle is not about an occupation or a trade. It is about working hard everyday to make your dreams come true, whether you work in a factory or you own the factory. My mom, who is an old-school Dominican woman that absolutely hates drugs, is a hustler. Latinos in general and Dominicans in particular have hustle hardwired in their DNA. Being that I am a Dominican New Yorker from Washington Heights, aka the hometown of hustle, my hustle is on some mutant ish. I will not be stopped. I can’t, I have too much riding on my success.

So there you have it! Get yours or get yours taken. Hustle hard!

I invite you to join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at ledblackNYC@gmail.com

Dominoes = Dominican Chess

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

If baseball is Dominican’s favorite sport then dominoes is our favorite pastime. In the DR everybody, from the youngest to the oldest, male and female alike, spends countless hours playing dominoes. I like to joke that kids here in the U.S. grow up with an X-Box and kids in DR have a box of dominoes. It is that ingrained in the culture, so it is only natural that the love of the game has continued on American shores. Some of my earliest memories are of my mom and dad playing dominoes with friends and family. Before I could even hold all the fichas (domino pieces) in my hand, I was joining along.

To even use the word “playing” might be considered by some die-hard aficionados as sacrilegious because to them dominoes is not a game – it is more like a science. Dominoes is Dominican Chess. That is how serious some folks take it. To watch a game of good players is to observe a highly sophisticated and synchronized contest of wills and intelligence. Never mind the animated banter, insults and biting humor, these people are really in deep concentration with a laser like focus on the game. The barbs and talk is more of a ruse than anything, another way to keep your opponent off-track. Great players think several plays ahead. They know what each player has in their hands without looking.

Continue reading

I Love Platanos!

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

This poem was conceived while I was at a resort in the Dominican Republic a few years ago, feverishly fiending for some Dominican food. It is only so much “international food” one can eat, especially when you are on Dominican soil.

It is a bit over the top with Shakespearian overtones but that is how I felt at the time.

I Love Platanos – An Ode to Platanos

Oh Platano, how we Dominicans love you
You are forever welcome at every Dominican table whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner, entrée or dessert
You delight in all your incarnations; maduros, tostones, asado, mangu or mofongo
Can’t forget the pastellon or the platano con azucar or any of your many variations
I even had a fresh off the boat cousin who made Platano juice,
Umm umm umm, Delicioso
Your versatility never ceases to amaze

Oh Platano, how we Dominicans love you
You are the constant companion, the faithful friend of all Dominicans
Without you, rice, beans & meat is just rice, beans & meat
Who would eat Salchichon without your accompaniment?
You are the muse of all Dominicans mothers

Oh Platano, how we Dominicans love you
Woe be to those who refer to you as green Bananas
That borders on being racist
Bananas are bananas and platanos are platanos
I’m also not too fond of the term Plantain
Words tend to lose meaning when they become anglicized

Long Live Platanos!!!

I Love Platanos is an excerpt from my upcoming book, DR Travelogue.

I invite you to join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at ledblackNYC@gmail.com

From Monte Cristi To The Major Leagues: Nelson Cruz’ Journey To Baseball Greatness

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

Even though I only watch baseball during the playoffs and being a New Yorker I am more of a Yankee fan, this recent article on Texas Ranger Nelson Cruz on the local Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas news channel WFAA really struck a chord. Reporter Rebecca Cruz and crew took a trip to the DR to Nelson’s hometown of Monte Cristi to speak with the family and learn more about his journey to the majors. In the accompanying video, Nelson parents, grandmother and siblings as well as Nelson himself, give you quite a touching look into his rise to baseball greatness. I couldn’t help but choke up when his father tells the reporter how proud he was of his son and is practically in tears. I totally empathize with Nelson when he states, “Everything I am is because of them. They teach me the right way to be, how to treat people, how to be a better person. Everything I am now is because of them.” Amen, hermano – stay excellent.

Click here for the article replete with a poignant video.

By the way, the Wall Street Journal has dubbed Nelson Cruz the new Mr. October for his record smashing six-homer performance for Texas in the American League Championship Series. “Only four other players—Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez, Chase Utley, and Reggie Jackson—have hit even five home runs in a postseason series.”

Click here for that article.

I invite you to join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at ledblackNYC@gmail.com

El Pale Part 1 – Los Sueños

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

If you don’t know what a Pale (pronounced pa le) is, chances are, that you are not Dominican. A Pale is any combination of 2 numbers that a person chooses as their pick for the Dominican lottery. Typically, depending on where you play your numbers, each Pale pays $1,100 for each dollar a person plays. So if your Pale were to hit and you bet 5 dollars you would win $5,500. The Dominican Lottery’s range of numbers is from 1 to a 100 as opposed to let’s say the Mega Millions, which is from 1 to 46. Back in the day in the 80’s, Dominicans in New York City only bet on the Dominican lottery on Sundays. Now a person can play their numbers, if they know where to go, any day of the week.

Another thing that has changed with the Dominican numbers game since I was growing up, is that is has pretty much been driven underground. Literally – one of the places that I have played my numbers was a basement that you had to go through a nasty urine smelling alley to get to. Not too long ago, one was able to play their numbers in anyone of the many bodegas that somehow exist in the Heights. Believe me, that’s a whole lot of bodegas. There are about 3 bodegas on each block in the hood. That is no longer the case; constant police harassment has sent the Dominican numbers game, better known as Los Numeros, in the Heights to less conspicuous places. Word of mouth is usually the way a person finds out where they can place their bet. It is usually in the back of a legitimate business, a bakery, a salon or a barbershop. In the corner of said business, there will be an older, sharply dressed Dominican man with a beret on his head (Dominicans called these hats boinas) and a toothpick in his mouth. That’s the numbers man.

Continue reading