My Heart: Happy Birthday Soraya!

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

Today, 6 years ago, I was once again blessed with another little girl. Her name is Soraya and as you might be aware from the picture above she is a complete ham. She can be sad, mad or damn near crying but if you take out a camera she goes into model mode, smiling (better yet cheesing) and posing for the camera.

Do not, however, let the precious smile fool you. She is dangerous. If one of her older sisters says something that doesn’t jibe with her, she will attack. When I say attack I mean an all-out assault on either of the two offending parties. She will bite, kick, scratch and punch or any combination thereof. This little girl is no joke. Soraya is in many ways a pint-sized version of her mother. Soraya has even tried to come at me a few times but that never seems to work in her favor.

At the end of the day, she is still daddy’s little girl. Even though she has no qualms about telling me she loves her mom way more than she loves me. In fact, I am a distant third after my mom who spoils the living daylights out of her.

Even still, I love her beyond belief. For today only, she gets a free pass to beat up anyone in the house except for me. I am secretly hoping that she goes after her mom but I think that is but wishful thinking. A guy can dream, can’t he?

Happy Birthday Soraya – I LOVE You!

Check out:

My Heart: Happy Birthday Imani!

My Heart: Happy Birthday Leila!

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

Nutcracker Inc. on Indiegogo

Ok folks, so I have teamed up with my friend Jon Ullman of the movie GWB to produce what will be the definitive documentary on the elusive and enigmatic elixir known as the Nutcracker. What I have dubbed “modern day moonshine” – Washington Heights style!

We will delve into the history of the infamous libation and chart its growth from an obscure but potent potion into a virtual cottage industry. Along the way we will look at the cast of characters who created the phenomenon and help to fan the flames of its rise and it’s popularity not just in Washington Heights but also in all of NYC and beyond.

This documentary will be an exhaustive and in-depth take on not only the history of the Nutcracker but also looks at Uptown barbershop culture as well as the epic and monumental tenacity, hustle and determination of Dominicans in particular and Latinos and immigrants in general.

Please help us make this movie and become a part of Nutcracker Inc. Thank you.

Led

Continue reading

I Am A Dominican York

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

I am a Dominican York. According to the Urban Dictionary, a Dominican York is either a Dominican immigrant living and working in New York City or an American-born person of Dominican descent who was raised in NYC.

Originally the term was used derisively to refer to the drug dealers and criminals that were deported back to the Dominican Republic after being incarcerated in the states. Dominican New Yorkers have been slowly adopting the term over the years, sans the negative connotations.

I am a Dominican York. That term succinctly defines my existence. I was born in the U.S., but was raised in the Dominican Republic from when I was three months old until the age of five. Inside my little apartment in Washington Heights, it was the Dominican Republic; Mami ruled, Merengue played and mangu eaten, but outside of it, New York City and its accoutrements; Hip-Hop, graffiti and pizza beckoned.

I am a Dominican York. My parents on the other hand, even though they have lived here since the early 70′s, are Dominican. My mom has only a few words in her English language repertoire and while my dad has a more extensive vocabulary, the words he knows are usually curses and only uttered when he is inebriated. I still recall with horror the one incident that encapsulated our different and divergent worldviews.

Continue reading

My Heart: Happy Birthday Imani!

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

6fb63de417b811e180c9123138016265_7On the first day of spring 15 years ago, my life was changed forever. On that fateful day, my first daughter, Imani was born. After an arduously long labor, she burst on the scene and imprinted herself on my heart. She has had me wrapped around her finger ever since and she knows it.

Imani is SO much like me that it is quite simply ridiculous. In Dominicanese, we would say that Imani and I are pin pun.

pin-pun (pronounced peen-poon): The same, equally. It is usually used to describe physical similarities between people, especially family members. Example: ¡Ese niña es pin-pun a su papá! That child looks exactly like her father!

Continue reading

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

Signs of Troubled Times – Pics From the End To End For The 99% March

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
Muhammad Ali

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

The Bust Down: Loosies

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

Loosie [pronounced Lu-See] - noun

A loosie is a single cigarette that can be purchased illegally in some of the bodegas and smoke shops of the neighborhood. But be warned, if the proprietor of the business doesn’t know you or you look like a D.T. (undercover cop), you will not be able to obtain said loosie.

For the most part, a loosie is synonymous with Newports but a few of the smoke shops also offer Marlboros. Back in the day, when I was a kid coming up, loosies were 10 cents. Now that a pack of cigarettes are like a hundred dollars, a loosie can be purchased for the ungodly sum of 75 cents. Some enterprising individuals are buying packs and selling loosies themselves, just to support their habit and make some money on the side.

Another term that is affiliated with a loosie is a bust down. The bust down is when you give someone else the remainder of your cigarette. The way it works is that as soon as someone you know sees you with a loosie, they will shout out – ” let me get a bust down”. But, now that a loosie costs 75 cents folks are much more reluctant to give bust downs. In fact, people are actually smoking their loosies all the way down to Brownsville, which is the very end of the loosie where the tobacco meets the filter.

Related Words: Loose, Stogie, Cancer Stick

Loosie in a Sentence:

A young man walks into a smoke shop after a long day of work and shouts at the Arab man behind the counter, “Yo Habib, let me get a loosie.”

The Led Black Book Club – When Tito Loved Clara

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

Even though I am a voracious reader, I don’t usually read fiction but when I found out that our beloved Inwood, New York City was one of the settings where Jon Michaud’s first novel When Tito Loved Clara takes place, my interest was piqued. Right from the first paragraph I was hooked. By the time I finished the first chapter I knew that I would not really rest until this fascinating and titillating novel was consumed whole. Warning: This book is crack-like addictive. Jon Michaud is a masterful storyteller who reels you in by dropping a bomb on you out of nowhere and then slowly and painstakingly filling in the details. I found myself not being able to put this book down, when I was wasn’t reading it, I was extolling its virtues to anyone that would listen.

Here is the breakdown: Clara Lugo is a Dominican woman who grew up in the hood but does not want to be held back by it. She is firm in her determination to escape her past and by the time we catch up with her; she has moved to New Jersey and is married to an American man, Thomas, who she has a son with and is struggling to conceive another child. By the way, Thomas has a few skeletons in his closet as well.

Continue reading

The Infamous Washington Heights Nutcracker

BY Led Black (@Led_Black)

If you know where to go uptown, you can get totally shit-faced for a mere $10. I’m not talking about happy hour at any of the many excellent bars, pubs and lounges of the neighborhood. No, I am talking about the elusive and enigmatic elixir known to the locals as the NUTCRACKER. This is the story of this storied concoction. Many fights have started, many babies have been made and plenty of people have gotten completely and utterly twisted – all because of this mysterious libation. This column will not only reveal the ingredients of the drink but also tell the tale of the person who first brought this potent potion to the streets of Washington Heights and beyond.

Photo: Briana E. Heard

The first time I tried a Nutcracker was back in the year 2000 when my barber, who will be referred to as Fatyul (pronounced fa tuile) to avoid any legal ramifications, offered me one as she cut my hair. Ever the entrepreneur, Fatyul decided to sell the mixed drinks on the side after noticing how well they sold at the Flor de Mayo restaurant on 83rd street and Amsterdam. After obtaining the recipe she began to sell them out of a cooler she kept next to her barber chair. For a paltry 10 bucks you received a heaping 32 ounces of alcohol laced goodness in a large plastic soup container. My haircut that day took longer than usual because almost every other minute someone was stopping in to buy more of her modern day moonshine. I couldn’t care less though as I was mid way through my Nutcracker and I was feeling euphoric. I ended up having 2 more Nutcrackers and needless to say I wound up whispering sweet nothings to the toilet bowl later on that night.

Continue reading