“Occupy HOPE” by Shepard Fairey.
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.
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.
I always knew that I would one day meet Heavy D and let him know how much his music meant to me. Well, really one song in particular. While I have been a fan of the man since I first heard The Overweight Lover’s Is In The House, I have been particularly fond of his Reggae infused songs. The tunes with Super Cat in the early 90’s are some of my favorites of Heavy’s long and storied catalog. That is why when I heard in early 2009 that Heavy D had a Reggae album, Vibes, I immediately copped it.
The song that did it for me on that album is Queen Majesty. It is a beautifully worded ode to a woman that Heavy finds way out of his league. On top one of this lush, classic Reggae break, which by the way is called the Queen Majesty riddim, Heavy waxes poetic on his love and admiration for this woman, this queen majesty. The song is actually a remake of an earlier version by the crown prince of Reggae, Dennis Brown.
At the time, my wife and mother of my 3 young daughters was in the throes of chemotherapy after being diagnosed in September of 2008 with triple negative breast cancer. She had just completed the first round of chemo and she was, in my eyes, wasting away. On top of being bald, she was emaciated, skinnier than I had ever seen her and wasn’t eating or sleeping much for that matter. In December of 2008, while she was undergoing her treatment, my wife’s dad, who she had a contentious and complicated relationship with, passed. Even though they weren’t close it was an extra burden that just added to the overall impact of what we were facing.
Then in January 16th of 2009, the other shoe dropped. On that fateful Friday, one of her many doctors informed us that they had found a blood clot in her heart. Due to the location and size of the clot, she wouldn’t be able to take pills to reduce the size of the clot but would have to have twice daily injections to her abdomen. The doctor insinuated that she was in grave danger of losing her life.
“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
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!
My life-long addiction to sneakers began innocently enough with Kangaroos. You remember Roos; those were the sneakers that had a pocket with a zipper on the side. My friends and I would all keep a dollar in there just in case you had to buy a slice or some lemonheads or something. But the first sneaker that really made an impression on me was the Adidas Shelltoe. My older brother, who is ten years my senior, had a pair with the blue stripes. Those sneakers were about 50 bucks, which at the time was a whole lot of loot. They were so beautiful, a work of art in footwear form. My brother hardly wore his new expensive kicks with the fat shoelaces. I remember one day my mother was in my brother’s room watching her novelas (Spanish language soap-operas) when I decided to make my move. While my mom was engrossed with her show, I took the opportunity to deface my brother sneakers with a magic marker. I still don’t know why I did it. Was it jealously because I couldn’t have those beautiful sneakers or revenge because my brother was a big bully? Well anyway, when the shit hit the fan I blamed my cousins instead of owning up to it. Let me tell you, my cousins got the beating of a lifetime. They still, to this day, remind me of the beat down they received at the hands of my uncle.
Once I hit Junior High, P.S. 143 in Washington Heights, I was a full-fledged sneaker addict. My mom knew how important sneakers were to me, so even though she couldn’t buy me new clothes all the time, she kept my sneaker game tight. Every few months my mom would buy me a new pair of kicks. I started to get recognition for my kicks and I was hooked. I remember, I was the first kid in school who had the blue Air Revolutions as well as the blue and orange Patrick Ewing kicks. The Ewing’s eventually got stolen from my locker at the High Bridge Public pool – so I in turn, stole some other poor unfortunate soul’s sneakers so I wouldn’t have to walk home barefoot. The one sneaker from that era I wish I could get my hands on again is the special edition Run-DMC snakeskin Adidas shoe. They were so next level; I was the only cat in the whole hood to have those.
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.”