3am

funny that this album would be titled, it doesn’t have to make sense, hahaha… maybe what you think of me won’t change. but i’ll hold on, just as i’ve been trying to so many things at this point, to the old days. God, I just hope you’ll show me what this all means, some day…

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Empire State of Mind

My soul was on fire. Photos with Laura and Corey. A conversation with her high school theatre teacher. A friend to live it all through, someone for the ages.

We walked out of the Jacobs all ready to leave. Still in awe, the crisp New York air filled my lungs as I stepped out. We walked side by side, just thankful to even be here amidst the towering buildings, a coordinate within the city’s grid system. Opposite, Dear Evan Hansen and Great Comet; down the street, Waitress and along 7th, Times.

Mesmerized by the on-stage love of Julia and Danny, I walked… just thankful.

The security laid out the metal barricades and across the street I could hear shouts of “Josh! Josh!!” and “Ben!”. Who knew I’d meet Ben just days later? A reminder for patience, I would failed to heed over and over again. E noticed fans gathering at the barricades and we both just knew what we had to do. Fans I may have known from a Tumblr click or two, just metres away from me. And then there they were.

We wandered the streets, a million directions it seemed like we could head toward, blocks and blocks we could walk. Pizza for a dollar, Auntie Anne’s banter. NBA Conference Finals only a coast away, yet the east was all that seemed to matter. Didn’t seem to feel like I was there for a wedding, and that was the first time I wished I wasn’t. The feeling of want for time was back following me

The CityPasses we had were due to expire and there seemed like there was no better a night to go visit the Empire. And indeed there wasn’t. Around us, night crept deeper but the cacophony seemed to never settle: sounds, lights, people.

As we rode up the escalator to the top, my heart nagged at me, wondering why this moment couldn’t last. Looking down at the city later, washed in a glow of enigma that would fascinate me till this day, matched only by a cousin up North, I knew that there was something missing but I wasn’t simply going to find it just like there. I had to keep searching but also had to learn to be happy just being.

Things would change quick soon after I took that United 1 flight back but something clicked: the life I wanted to see could take root back home. And I owe it to the people here to make that a reality. I’d like to think I’m an Arrow of sorts, doing something for his city; but this city deserves better, everyone in this city deserves so much more.

I would forget this again until, by the grace of God, I would find myself in Logan. I live and breathe this now, and won’t stop till I get there.

But back to that night at the observation deck, as the magic filled our lungs, I just smiled. Not everything was about the bright lights and big city, but boy how good it feels when everything aligns right.

Boy how good it feels when you feel so big even when you’re so small.

Boy how good it feels when that rush of fire takes over.

Boy how good it feels when you just let it be.

this might make no sense but it is what it is – a stream of consciousness. << i’ve made mistakes but i’m coming home and i hope to make you proud. >>

“And the Academy Award for Best Picture goes to…”

I stare down at the sea of people in front of me and am at a loss for words. Many years ago, this was all just a pipe dream. I took a distant shot at it, knowing that if I did fail, at least I had the courage to try. By the grace of God, the film got made and the rest was, as they say, history.

Winning an Oscar was always a joke, a dream that made for a good sleep but was never the intention in any way. The goal was to make a film that people could see parts of themselves in, an authentic and genuine story about life – something that acknowledges the struggle and the fight. Something that would make them feel hope.

I look out and see Amy Adams and I smile. She smiles back. Suddenly, I know where to begin.

“Amy, ever since I first saw you in The Fighter, I knew I just had to work with you and I’m deeply grateful for the chance to. Thank you for giving a script from a first timer a shot and pouring your soul into this. To the rest of the ensemble led by Amy, you guys are the heart of this film – without all of you, none of this would be possible. To the cast and crew who poured in time and sweat into making my sprawling dream a reality, for keeping me in check and inspiring me to dream a little bigger still, thank you.”

“To my parents, who taught me to dream and the importance of being grounded and having a strong foundation, thank you. When I was young we would always have debates on dreams vs pragmatism… these long interminable debates at times…. But over the course of my life, I’ve come to learn that for all of us, it’s a little bit of both. To my sister who can’t be here because she’s opening her last show on Broadway tomorrow, (all the best girl!) thank you for giving me the courage to give this a chance.”

“Damien, it’s been about 25 years since I watched you step on to this very stage for La La Land but what you said that night echoes deeply till today. At its core, this too is a film about love. I haven’t been lucky enough to find that but life has, and continues to show, that love manifests in a myriad of ways. To the lady that inspired this me, thank you for having been a part of my life.”

“And above all, to my son and daughter here tonight who look like they’re most interested in the food than me (I’ve had my place stolen by food countless time, this is nothing new), thank you for being my guiding light every single day. You are why I do what I do and I hope I have, and continue to make you proud.”

“Thank you very much.”

Staris

He stared up at the dynamic display, in awe, not at all fazed by the basic Calibri fonts, lack of alignment in graphics and by the occasional informational overload on the screen. Novena, Newton, Somerset. If all critics were kids, maybe the world would be a kinder place. If all critics were kids, maybe we would never make progress at all.

“Look dad, look at that, its changing!!!” The glint in his eye as bright as the display.

“Orh orh ya that’s nice”, he says, barely glancing at the display, or at his son.

How could he for his eyes were transfixed downward on his phone, one earphone out for good measure. I mean, at least the Staris display was a 2x 10″ display, why would you look at your phone?

The boy persists for a couple of moments, giving up on trying to get his dad’s attention eventually. He quietens.

He looks up at the screen still amazed, or maybe just feigning wonder to hide his hurt. Kids learn to use tablets as fast as they grow up.

How dreams take flight, or die.

Blacklane

For these guys I’d run down from the other end of the country, literally, if they ever needed me. These were the only guys I ever knew (and maybe who I’d ever know) who would put everything on the line for the people they gave a damn about and even those who they never knew.

I sat across K at the KFC located as always in the basement of shopping centers here. We were intrigued by the froyo that would eventually become a relative mainstay on KFC’s menus but decided against giving it a shot. The F stood for fried not froyo after all. The things corporations would do to stay relevant. Maybe it did taste good after all, on hindsight.

“That’s a lot of money for one night.”

“Not every night is going to be tonight though.”

“That’s true.”

Ever the smarter one, K knew when I didn’t. But above that, he was a dedicated friend, and his sense of brotherhood knew no bounds even when it fell outside the sense of logic.

He trusted me to pay him back the money. I did have the cash on hand, with whatever meager sum that I was earning while serving. When you have shelter, food and water, there is a tendency to splurge on anything else that you could afford with the limited freedom you had. I just didn’t have the card, which he did.

It was only one night but I was going to make it count. She would be gone in the morning of the new month and I hoped to make the evening a memorable one for her. I was naive, and didn’t know better and couldn’t see the signs that the wheels on this friendship was coming off. It was my fault but when you’re blindsided by a reckless hope, these things lose their significance.

“Okay I selected the limo type ah but they don’t let me see which model it’ll be. I hope it turns out alright.”

“Should be okay ba! Let me key in the card number for you.”

An Uber today would have cost me half of what he paid and what I signed off on, but we were in technological primacy, by today’s standards. One thing that hasn’t changed though is how easy it is for someone to take your money away – a few clicks of a button, an OTP and voila.

But it was going to be money well spent. I was sure of it.

Oh how the wheels fell that night even before that black SUV strolled into that foyer. For a moment I thought Samuel L Jackson was waiting on the inside. I really wished to be an Avenger.