Life Isn’t Long Enough For Regrets

For the next few days, I’m in New York for what I have determined will be the concert of a lifetime. My favorite hip-hop group, The Diplomats, is performing in the city that I’ve adopted as my second home. I’ve been rocking with them for over half of my life. I’ve purchased (not stolen but PURCHASED) every album they’ve dropped. I have their apparel. I’m a fan’s fan. But, sadly, every time they’ve been in NC during my adult life, I’ve been out of the country or state. Most recently, I was in Thailand while they did not one but TWO shows in NC. 🤦🏿‍♂️😫
Know what? Tomorrow is not promised and so, in this moment, I decided I would be in NYC this weekend to see them close out the Dipset Forever tour in their hometown. As much as they break up and get back together, who knows which tour will be their last? So here I am, living my best life. I ain’t goin’ back and forth with you… well, y’all know the rest.
Oh, and, while we’re on the subject of being a fan, I couldn’t come to the city without getting a cut at the best barbershop on this side of the ozone layer: The Standard Grooming Company. If you’re in Brooklyn, make sure you rock with them. While all three of the groomers in the spot are exceptional, I sit in the chair of the man who has been cutting my hair for over a decade now, co-owner Vince Jamael. Definitely a fan not only of the work of Vince, Autumn, and Troy, but also love the decor in their spot. Make sure you follow D Squared Visuals on Instagram to see some of the dope shots I’ll be capturing here (I’m writing at the shop as I await my cut) and from around the City.
Ok. Now I have to figure out exactly what I’m doing with my hair. I haven’t gotten a cut since May! Here’s to a great weekend!
Ballin
Make living without regrets a priority.
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As I Sit in Starbucks… 🤦🏿‍♂️

Let’s jump right in.

 

I love and hate the influence that the West, and specifically the United States, has on the world. I love it because I can go anywhere in the world and move around with relative ease. I hate it because I can go anywhere in the world and move around with relative ease. Essentially, it takes away from the experience of feeling truly foreign in a foreign land. I am not a native Swahili or even French speaker who has to lean on a limited understanding of English to communicate while in Japan. I don’t go to Thailand with a strong German accent and struggle to order my scotch on the rocks. I, as a native English speaker, have it easy. And not only about language.

 

Yesterday, Desirée and I went to Good Town Doughnuts in the Harajuku district of Tokyo. While I’m not a fan of American country music, if I were, this would be the place for me because, the entire time we were there, an American country radio station was playing. While all the customers (except the two of us) were Japanese, the decor was quintessential Americana, down to the two flags hanging on the wall (though one was pretty cool in that it had the Holtom peace symbol replacing the stars). Tonight, we sat down for dinner at a Japanese-made beer company’s restaurant and I heard Anita, Stevie, and Diana playing through our meal. And don’t get me started on hip-hop’s impact; I walked into a vintage clothing store on the day we arrived and saw that 90% of the cultural influence came from the 5 boroughs, with a few splashes of NOLA and the West Coast. From De La Soul’s album at the entrance to Dipset’s Supreme photoshoot on the wall, I felt at home.

 

The thing is, I don’t leave the United States to feel at home. And I don’t feel that way all the time but I also know that my discomfort is always temporary. Eventually, I will find someone who will meet me where I am in conversation, whether we’re discussing politics, music or American football (shoutout to Cam Newton, who is the sole reason my barista in Santorini knows where North Carolina is).

 

It is nice to move with ease but doesn’t that take away some of the fun everyone else from around the world gets to have? When everyone speaks English and knows your major notable figures, doesn’t it say something about your own society’s narcissism for knowing very little about their society? This may never change. The U.S. may be this influential until the world ends. But the least we can do is make an effort to meet them halfway, right? I mean, I’ll be honest, I can’t even ask someone where the restroom is in Japanese (and haven’t had to because there is always dual signage). Let’s stop allowing our self-centeredness be what defines us.

 

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Oh yeah… And I’m writing this while sitting in Starbucks because I knew I’d be able to hop on the WiFi with relative ease, which I wasn’t able to do the previous establishment (pictured above) where I needed a Japanese keyboard. See? I knew the comfort would come. Lucky me.

 

 

 

Make researching more than tourist sites before traveling abroad a priority.

Once In a Lifetime OPERAtunity

There are plenty of people I know who have not attended an opera. Even more have not been to New York Fashion Week (NYFW). On Saturday, September 9, I had the opportunity to see both at the same time. Opera Carolina, founded in 1948 by the Charlotte Music Club, is known across the nation and does a phenomenal job of maintaining the integrity of the art form.

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Opera Carolina’s presentation of “Opera Recycles” at the Crowne Plaza Time Square Manhattan hotel was not only artistic in nature, but designers Kristen Alyce, Emily Kramer, Sarah Danee McGee, Malou Cordery, Venie Tadeo, Lyndsee Hairston and Rocio Llusca brought a level of environmental awareness to the runway by creating couture fashion using its recycled printed materials. The fashion was not the only innovative component of this one-of-a-kind performance; Producer Jerome Jewetto created the runway music for Opera Recycles’ fashion show that incorporated hip hop and opera, including songs from “O Fortuna”, “Carmen”, and “The Marriage of Figaro.” Such fusion of opera, hip-hop, fashion, and recycled playbills embraces a cultural integration that, in recent history, would have been frowned upon by opera and fashion purists alike, but is now thought-provoking and impactful.

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The ability of trained opera singers to not only sing but to properly represent the artistic views of the designers was awe-inspiring. As one who has been intrigued by fashion since my early days of undergraduate studies, but who also is constantly gaining an understanding of the need for sustainability, this performance illuminated both the right and left sides of my brain. I was able to appreciate the beauty in the designs as well as the musical selections while realizing the need for more sustainable sources of fashion. Will I be wearing all of my used bill envelopes to work tomorrow morning? Probably not. But why not, going forward, start patching up a hole in a pair of pants as opposed to going out to buy a whole new pair? I already thrift but could I do it more? Certainly. Sustainability in fashion set to a soundtrack of classic melodies and unconventional rhythms made an indelible impact on me.

When fashion, sustainability, and music intersect, they etch a memory into one’s mind and that memory creates dreams of what is possible if we think outside the box. It is not every day that you hear something that changes the world but, on September 9, 2017, I did. Opera Carolina’s “Opera Recycles” presentation was not only one of artistic excellence; it was a call to environmental action. That is certainly a melody that I will dance to.

 

Make having experiences and sustainability priorities.

You’re Never Really Ready

This past weekend, I was given press credentials to photograph a runway and red carpet at New York Fashion Week and it was an exhilarating experience. But it was also nerve-racking.

About 11 months ago, I picked up my first DSLR camera ever. Sure, like most other Americans, I’d used disposables and point and shoot cameras but a DSLR is a different kind of machine. If you’re using it to shoot manually (as I do), you really have to know what you’re doing. I step into rooms now and attempt to read the lighting so that my test shots can be as close to what I need as possible.

But anyway, a few weeks ago, a good friend of mine presented me with an opportunity to receive a press pass for NYFW, one of the most coveted press passes for a photographer in all corners of the world. And I, a novice, was going to be there. At first I said, “I’m not good enough. I don’t deserve this. I’m going to fail.” Then I realized that no one is ever good enough. Jordan wasn’t born with a basketball in his hand. Du Bois didn’t come out of the womb speaking words of wisdom. Everyone just takes opportunities to do and that’s how you know if it will or won’t work out.

So I tried. I shot almost 1,400 frames in about an hour and they came out looking pretty good. In a room with photography veterans, I held my own. It boosted my confidence and now I know that I do belong in the space with the greats. Not necessarily because I am a “great” yet but because it is the only way I ever will be.

Make developing your confidence a priority.

The Corporate Sauce

Vince: What kind of cut do you want, bro?
Me: I’m your canvas. You know where I work. Make it dope, but make it professional.
Vince: Cool. I’m gonna give you that corporate sauce.

The Thursday before last, I flew up to NYC for a haircut… Ok, I lied. I’m not at that point in my life yet. But I did fly up to NY for my younger cousin’s high school graduation and I can’t go to the city without hitting Adrian Fanus Grooming (AFG) in Brooklyn.

Ten years ago next month, I met a young man who will likely be my go to barber whenever we’re in the same city and will certainly be one of my best friends for life. Vince Jamael is the most talented grooming professional I’ve ever worked with. That’s not to negate the skills of my two go-to barbers in NC. But, in the decade that I’ve known him, the exponential growth I’ve seen Vince exhibit has me excited to see where he will be a decade from now. He went from cutting in the bathrooms of Phillips-Hawkins Residence Hall for something like $5 to charging a respectable $xx, before my tip (and my cut was on the lower end of the price scale). But back to the cut. 

Old Vince

Circa 2008

Now, before I tell you to go visit the shop next time you’re in NYC, know that AFG believes you get what you pay for. Because their grooming experiences aren’t cheap, their grooming experiences aren’t cheap. Their experiences are by appointment only and these professionals are on time. They know what they need to do, what they have time to do, and, while they will not rush through your cut, they will make sure that you look like you had an artist with a very detailed eye just work on your appearance. You walk into the inconspicuous shop and the receptionist shows you to the waiting room. But, before leaving you, she presents you with their beverage options and returns with something refreshing to sip on during your brief wait. Within a short time, your grooming professional comes to bring you to his/her chair and the work begins.

FullSizeRenderNow, this being my second time in the AFG shop since Vince started working there, I’ve been asked what type of cut I want and my request was followed to a T. They make sure you get what you want. But, knowing that Vince is a visionary, this trip, I told him to do what he wanted. I had let me hair grow for about four weeks so that he would have a very rough canvas to work with. I only gave him two instructions: work his magic and don’t get me fired.

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The moment the clippers hit my head, my spirits were lifted. There are very few things that make a man feel better than a fresh cut, especially after going a few weeks without one. Thanks to Vince’s low cost cuts in college, I’d grown accustomed to a touch up every week and a cut every other week so I was beginning to feel like Pookie from New Jack City. After getting the length right, he took care of my hairline, which begins looking rough when it’s gone two weeks with no attention. Finally, he put a classic blade to my hairline and my facial hair, adding that literal razor sharp look to my cut. The cut concluded with a warm towel, a smile, and a handshake.

IMG_8063Now, sadly, I’m not flying back and forth to BK to get a cut every other week but I do have another close friend who lives in Brooklyn, works in Manhattan, and goes to AFG regularly. We’ve compared notes and he says that his experiences are as good as mine are. To me, that says that each of their grooming professionals pays the same attention to detail and treats clients with the same respect as one of my closest friends does for me. You can be the best dressed, most articulate person in the world, but without a great haircut and facial hair that looks intentional, you run the risk of not getting a job or even losing the one you have.

 

While you may not be able to make it to AFG, that is the type of service all young professionals should look for in a grooming professional, be it a barber or a beautician. You need someone who knows what you do for a living, what you’re looking to do in the future, who can make your hair look like it’s a part of your personality, and still make you look great for a night on the town. Your grooming professional should be your friend who you just happen to pay (and tip well) to make you look awesome. Someone who, if you’re looking for it, can hook you up with the corporate sauce.

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“Spread love. It’s the Brooklyn way.”

Make looking good a priority.

Business Travel 333

You may have read my post from February Business Travel 310. Today is the next course in the ciriculum. Today is about preparation.

We have all heard the term “Hope for the best, expect the worst.” That is most true in spirituality and secondly most true in business travel. Yesterday, I had to be at work in Manhattan by 2:00 PM. I caught a 7:40 AM flight because, though most of my morning flights aren’t delayed, I’ve had a couple and, being that this was my first trip representing the company, I’d rather play it close. Thankfully, I got there on time but now I’m sitting in the airport unable to get on my return flight until 3 hours after it was scheduled to take off. So, here are a few takeaways from this situation (luckily I already knew them going in):

  1. Always pack extra underwear. Gentlemen, that means socks, boxers AND an undershirt. Ladies, panties and a bra (if necessary; I don’t really know the rules on recycling bras). On this trip, I only brought one suit and two shirts. I will have to recycle the suit and one shirt. But I always have boxers because, situations like this where I have had to stay an extra night at a hotel made me wary of running out of boxers.
  2. Always budget to spend an extra two days on food. The first extra allows you to overspend a bit on the planned trip. The second extra lets you live on that day you may be stranded in the airport. And, in a city like NYC, you need to plan because one meal can easily cost you $40.
  3. Communicate with your team back at the office. Shoot them an e-mail or text and let them know your flight has been grossly delayed (if that’s the case) and that you may be in the office a bit late tomorrow. Being that I won’t touch down in NC until 1:00 AM and I’m on business, the owners of my firm have already suggested I begin work later tomorrow.
  4. Stay awake at the airport. When I was in Europe (not a business trip but still applicable), my flight back to the States was delayed and so I took a nap. Thankfully Desirée was awake to hear the gate change or we would have been stuck in Paris.

Unexpected things happen while traveling every time I travel, either on the trip there or back. I prepare mentally by knowing that very little is in my control when I’m out of town and, if I must spend more time, I do my best to enjoy it. So, I’m off to dinner… in the terminal.  Safe travels!
Make professional development a priority.

Give My Regards to Broadway

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I’m back, live from the G train. I’m going to see Motown on Broadway. As many times as I have been up to NYC, I had never been to a show. This time though, I was blessed with a pair of free tickets so how could I not go? But then I wondered “What should I wear? I want to be fashionable but not formal.” Finally, I settled on the cool casual outfit you see above. I’m well-dressed enough to go to a nicer restaurant but casual enough to hit bar this evening when I head back to Brooklyn. I hope you’re enjoying my vacation as much as I am. Cheers.

FYI – I will be taking the rest of this week off from posting.  I apologize for the inconvenience but I look forward to having you all back with me on Monday.  Enjoy your weekend.