Today, 8 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?
11 years ago on this very day, God once again blessed me with the ultimate gift, a beautiful little girl that we named Leila. Leila is the sweetest and most loving of my girls and just like her older sister Imani and her younger sibling Soraya, Leila has me completely and irrevocably wrapped around her finger.
Leila is the only one of my kids that was planned. The other 2 were super awesome accidents. My wife, LOOOONG time girlfriend at the time, Eileen gave me an ultimatum: either we get married or we weren’t having any more kids. So with that said, we tied the knot and Leila was conceived shortly thereafter.
Leila is artistic, funny and if you engage her she will talk your ear off and steal your heart in the process. Whether it’s the cashier lady at the supermarket, the waitress at Cheesecake Factory or the cable guy that stops by the crib to fix an issue, Leila will initiate a conversation with them and keep it going for far longer than I would like but that’s Leila.
Ok, before I even retell my tale of how I survived my first ever juice cleanse for 3-very-LONG-grueling-days.
Understand this, I am the mirror opposite of my wife, Eileen Z. Fuentes aka “The SPEACH gal”.
In fact, in my humble estimation, my wife is what I lovingly like to call a nutrition Nazi, my very own health Hitler. My wife has, at various times, experimented with vegetarianism, veganism, even a raw foods diet. She is into ayurvedic medicine, acupuncture, qigong and Reiki. If you don’t even know what any of these things are, don’t worry that means that you are a normal person. The reason I know this is because I married a crazy woman, who prefers room temperature water (cold water shocks the body – wtf?) and eschews Q-Tips saying mineral oil drops is a more holistic approach to ear canal upkeep.
I first heard of pink slime, the unctuous meat stuff that is found in spades in beef patties, during one of my wife’s early morning food sermons during breakfast. Great – thanks honey, I didn’t really want to finish my breakfast anyway.
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.
On the first day of spring 16 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!
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.