Happy Birthday Cameron!

Every superhero has an origin story.

Some include dying planets, dying parents, or radioactive spider-bites. But yours was different. I was driving home from King of Prussia, and your Mom called me.

She didn’t speak. “Lin, what’s wrong?” I asked, but she only responded with heavy breaths. It was Saturday, September 27th and you weren’t due until October 10th. You couldn’t be coming now. We weren’t ready. wasn’t ready.

We took three classes to help prepare, and somehow I knew less than I knew before. I pushed the anxiety aside. How did I convince myself? By telling myself it was a false alarm. But I should’ve known better. Just like months prior when your impatience initially showed its face. No one can ever tell you not yet.

The anxiety return as I opened the door to our place in Manayunk. The ceiling fan and light in the dining room were on. The rest of the house was dark. “Lin!” I screamed out, but no response. I charged up the steps and looked into the bedroom. She wasn’t there. I looked in your room, and she wasn’t in there either. I had no idea where she could be and then I looked in the bathroom and saw her sitting on the toilet hunched over.

We moved your Mom to the bed, and I began to text our Doula. I told her the symptoms and she let me know that IT was happening. Debbie told me to ask the usual question of how far apart the contractions were but your Mom didn’t know because the contractions she felt weren’t the kind our class taught us about.

Your Mom got in the shower (for what seemed like hours) allowing the hot water to hit her back. Then as she got out I had her bounce on the exercise ball. Debbie the Doula said this would help with the childbirth (but she didn’t warn us that this ball would haunt us for months). It was then that I noticed a dark patch on the ball. I told your Mom to stop and I looked. It was blood.

At that moment we were no longer waiting for a certain time between contractions. We were going to the hospital. Problem is we lived in Manayunk. I had to run five blocks up a hill to get to my car. A car I parked because I convinced myself this was a false alarm. Debbie gave me a call and in a calming voice said, “Tim, listen to me. Breathe. Just breathe. Lin’s going to be fine. Just repeat after me, and breathe. She’s going to be fine.”

I drove the car back to our place and loaded the pre-packed bags in my trunk. We are off, albeit really slowly (side note: you’ve been in the car with me a ton of times, but for some reason when your Mom is in the car I drive a lot slower. Maybe that’s the Pennsylvania driver in me coming out, but this time? I was going 10 miles under the speed limit. I was driving like your Grandmom).

When we arrived at the Pennsylvania hospital I felt a sense of relief. This is where the professionals take over. That relief faded when I discovered the hospital doors were locked (strike one), the valet service was only on weekdays (strike two), and the parking garage had a power outage (strike three). A security guard came out and took your Mom in a wheelchair as I had to find a place to park.

I drove around looking for spots until pulling into Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Grabbing the bags, I ran slightly over a quarter mile from one hospital to the other. I went up the elevator and once I was cleared by the nurses who pointed me in the direction of your Mother, I heard her…

“Hey, you! Get back here!” She screamed as a doctor exited the room, “I need to poo!” I was confused and, quite frankly, scared. What the hell did I miss in the time I was trying to park. I barely had a chance to sit down before they began to wheel her to another room because the main event was about to occur.

It was there that I saw her completely exhausted, but even more resilient. It was there I saw her doing something you can never prepare someone for (it was also there where the sight of her pain and lack of progress caused me to leave the room and momentarily faint in the hall… but let’s stick to the important stuff).

So much happened that it all blurs together. I remember the nurses’ impatience, I remember your Mom screaming “I hate you, Cameron,” before profusely apologizing, I remember her gasping at the ring of fire “What the fuck was that?” she yelped. I remember Debbie speaking words of encouragement as she put lavender on her pillow. I remember your head crowning before retreating back inside your Mom.

I also remember how people have always said that when your child is born you fall in love with them that very moment. That everything changes. Yet that’s not what I felt. There was the realization that there was no going back to normal. That everything was going to be different. That you were an absolute stranger who came from us.

I cut the umbilical cord and handed you over to your Mother. She was exhausted not only from giving birth to you, but from carrying you, and pushing you out into the world. With God’s help, she did something that a man could never do. She brought life into this world. The sight of such power was bewildering.

The part of writing this now is putting everything in place because it feels like you were always here. We just didn’t know you yet. And as you got used to this us you let your personality be known from the beginning. You refused to be swaddled, you refused to sleep in the bassinet, and you had a bowel movement down your Mom’s arm.

I remember that first night when the nurses stopped checking in so frequently, and neither of our families knew you were here yet. It was just us. Our first night as a family and you were our little secret. Eventually, we let the world in through phone calls, social media posts, and texts. Letting our newfound light find its way.

When we left the hospital we realized how little we knew. We were sent back home with the most precious thing in the world without a clue of how we would keep you alive. Luckily, your Nana was with us for that first week.

That first night home you cried. A cry so powerful, so relentless that we had no idea how to stop it. We tried nursing, tried walking, tried holding, and it wasn’t until we handed you over to your Nana that she settled you back to sleep. She was our safety blanket until she had to leave.

There are thousands of books, blog posts, and opinions about parenting but the truth is no one knows anything. All we truly know is that it’s not easy. Each child presenting an exception to a (far too long) list of rules. We found things that worked and your Mom proved herself to be a superstar as she nurtured you as if this was the role she was prepping for her entire life.

Through years we saw first eye contact, first smile, first roll, first crawl, first night in the crib by yourself. Each first was a monumental achievement which highlighted how much we take for granted every day. We saw you grow and become you.

You tell stories. You dance. You play drums. You like the Steelers (and think the Eagles are trash). You love Paw Patrol, and Word Party, and Elmo, and Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show.  You love to make art. But these are just attributes and not who you are.

Sometimes I watch you and I’m in awe. I can see glimpses of myself in you, but my awe comes in the form of how you aren’t like anyone else. That you are your own person. That makes me happy (even if it can be frustrating) because we aren’t letting you stick to limitations.

Remember this summer when you were scared of rides? Now, look at you. These are just snippets. Just moments and new ones occur faster than I can recall the old ones. So instead of being stuck in the past, or being anxious about the future, I’m planting my flag firmly in today.

I am proud that I am your father, and I can’t wait to see you continue to grow, learn, and become something completely brand new.

Love,

Dad

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Podcast You Should Hear: Mogul

When I first started listening to podcasts my rotation was small. It consisted of The Sound of Young Ameria (now Bullseye), Fresh Air, Radiolab, Science Friday, and This American Life. It was 2004, and it was the brave new world for me. When I bought my 80 gig iPod classic, I intended to listen to music on it. That changed the moment I realized some of my favorite NPR shows were available to listen as well. The moment I subscribed to my first podcast became the moment my obsession began.

Fast-forward to 2017 and it is almost impossible to go to a website that doesn’t have a podcast attached. They are no longer limited to independent sources and public radio personalities. Thanks in part to the phenomenon that was Serial (and all the talk that grew from it), podcasts are now big business.

So with so many options to listen to where do you start? What should you listen to? Well, my friend, you’re in good luck because that’s what I’m here for. In this space, I will recommend a podcast series or single episode that you should check out. Are you ready? Okay, here we go.

Podcast: Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty
Genre: Audio Documentary
How Can I Listen?: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play Music

What’s it about?: In many ways, the story of Chris Lighty is the story of hip-hop. His career in the music industry started with his carrying crates of vinyl records for DJ Red Alert. Later he was hired by Russell Simmons’ Rush Artist Management. While his career was rising he had to make a decision to leave behind behaviors learned as a member of the Violators gang. As Chris became more of a business man he had a tremendous impact on hip-hop being the monster commercial success it became in the late 90’s and 2000’s. One of his greatest moments came when he spearheaded the historic 50 Cent deal with Vitamin Water. To those who knew Chris, he was a success, he was happy, and he was confident. Then on August 20th, 2012 everything came crashing down when Lighty committed suicide.

If you come to Mogul expecting a complete telling of the life and death of Chris Lighty you will be disappointed. With the lack of archival audio from Lighty interviews (he didn’t give many) it left a void that had to be filled otherwise. So instead of being a deep dive into Chris’ story, it became a character sketch. This sketch included anecdotes from Chris’ upbringing, stories of his conflicts with well-known figures in hip-hop, and commentary by people who knew him best. What ties it all together is the narration by Reggie “Combat Jack” Osse who speaks as a contemporary of Lighty’s who is discovering the story the same time as we are.

For some, the highlights might be the bits and pieces of hip-hop history that are shared, but the heart of the podcast is depression and how Lighty struggled in silence. Despite all of his achievements, he faced equally harsh falls and not everyone was as it seemed to those on the outside. It shows how depression isn’t an “affliction for white people,” and that someone could be suffering even though you can’t tell from the outside. It is because of this that many of his friends and family believe he was killed, and that he would never take his own life.

What really made Mogul make an impact on me was that it showed Lighty as a complex character. Where the podcast became more than just okay was when it told the story of Chris’ marriage. It was then it became apparent that Mogul wasn’t going to just be a rosy telling of Chris’ life. It showed that Chris was more than anyone depiction given by the people in his life. He was not a hero, he was a human, he was complex, and he had his virtues and failings.

It is not a perfect podcast, but I found so much that I enjoyed that the negatives did not take away. So if you have any interest in hip-hop or narrative storytelling I’d suggest you check this out.

 

Length: Three hours split over six podcasts
Similar Podcasts: Serial, S-TownCrimetown, and Stranglers

Home Cooking: Breakfast Pizza

“Learn to trust your hands.”

This was the sage advice offered to me by my friend Rawiya as we talked about preparing meals. I was a few months into Pinterest aided cooking and my indecisiveness made a 30-minute meal take an hour. I would check the recipe multiple times in between taking a step. It wasn’t that I couldn’t remember what was next. It was that I didn’t trust myself to not mess it up.

Why was messing up such a big deal? I mean 9/10 a kitchen calamity still results in something edible, right? That tasteless chicken I made my first go round was salvaged with some barbecue sauce. Despite that, there were still echoes of cookies where the measurement of baking powder was off just enough that the entire batch tasted like batteries.

Beyond mistakes, there was also the want to make a recipe my own. To use it as a guideline and not a fixed set of directions. To know when to alter something, when to add something, when something that was listed wasn’t necessary. I wanted certainty but what I didn’t realize was that with so many variables it wasn’t about exacts. It was about a kind of faith that wasn’t decided but instead was earned.

As the advice finally sunk in, my wife Lin helped bring it home by suggesting I just throw things in and see what happens. When I watched the success and failures, I began to learn and no longer religiously followed recipes. They then turned into find your own adventures where I hoped to find a delicious meal at the end.

I no longer avoided recipes that included ingredients that I didn’t have. That is how I came to making the breakfast pizza. The recipe I found on Pinterest called for bacon to be included, but we never have bacon (why? It’s expensive and I almost always end up wasting at least half of the package). It also needed six eggs (I only had five). So what did I do? I improvised. I took two sweet Italian sausages, the eggs, tater tots, cheese, butter, and my trusty cast iron skillet and went to work.

Like many recipes I take on it’s never about a difficulty score but the resulting taste, and boy did this one deliver. The breakfast pizza is perfect for any time of day. Instead of eating last night’s pizza leftovers, take a few minutes to make this.

If you know how to do the following: cook sausage, place tater tots in a cast iron skillet, scramble eggs, and throw cheese on top then you can make this recipe. While I made this recipe without bacon, you can include it or try anything else. Remember the recipe is merely a guideline that you can work off of. The key is to trust your hands and feel free to experiment. You might be pleasantly surprised with what you end up with.

Ingredients

  • 32 oz bag of tater tots
  • 6 eggs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Two cups of Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Two sweet Italian sausages
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. Cook Italian sausage. When finished cut into smaller pieces and put off to side.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Grease cast iron skillet with olive oil.
  4. Place tater tots along bottom and sides of cast iron skillet so that the entire surface of the pan is covered.
  5. Place skillet with tater tots in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  6. Scramble together eggs in a large bowl with salt and pepper.
  7. Grease pan with butter and cook eggs until they set.
  8. Take skillet out of the oven and press tater tots down until they are as flat as possible.
  9. Spread one cup of cheese over flattened tater tots.
  10. Add scrambled eggs, and cut up pieces of sausage on top of the layer of cheese.
  11. Use the second cup of cheese to top off the pizza. Make sure cheese gets to tater tots on the side to hold everything together.
  12. Place skillet back into the oven for 10 more minutes.

Notes

Think Piece’d: Fame, Empathy & Pain

“Terrell has 25 million reasons why he should be alive.”

Kim Etheredge was the publicist for, then Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, Terrell Owens and she was trying to put out fires. Days earlier she found Owens non-responsive after taking painkillers, and now she was faced with convincing the sports world he hadn’t attempted suicide. Where she went to make, that argument was the amount of money Terrell’s contract with the Cowboys was worth. While she thought it was a good defense, it is a problematic correlation people make all the time.

When we see celebrities, athletes, musicians, and other entertainers we often see people far beyond us. These people seem to have everything we want, and thus we don’t see any reason why they would be depressed, or have any struggles in life. It’s as if reaching a level of fame strips away the humanity that they inherently possess because they do something that puts them on the world stage.

I remember when the story broke people made light of Owens and whether he was depressed. It became another red flag for people who never shared a moment of time with him. Another talking point for sports radio, and the endless parade of gas bags presented by ESPN or whatever network decided to cover the incident. This mocking doesn’t stop with TO but touches upon anyone who falls short of perfection while in the spotlight.

A few weeks ago, First Take star Stephen A. Smith ranted about Phil Jackson’s failures as the New York Knicks’ President of Basketball Operations. These televised tantrums are so expected from Smith that they are the reason he is one of the biggest personalities on ESPN. What drew the most attention to this rant wasn’t Phil Jackson, but where he went next:

Smith attempted to soften the blow by saying how much he loved Odom and was praying for a full recovery. That love doesn’t lessen the insensitivity of the mention. It makes it worse because that love should allow a friend, or family member, to see the humanity of the one who is hurting. But as I know firsthand that’s not how things often work.

Two weeks ago, Lamar Odom shared his story on the Player’s Tribune. He walked the reader through the death of his mother, his introduction to cocaine, the death of his six-month-old son, the deep darkness he fell into, and how his children are helping pull him through. It was a brave, and raw account of his struggles that we don’t often get to see. He went as far as to acknowledge how he still wanted to get high despite knowing it wasn’t what was best for him.

The major through line of Odom’s piece was how you can’t run away from your pain. It doesn’t mean that you must succumb to it, but if not addressed it will exist right around the corner. A successful career, recognition, accomplishments, or monetary gains don’t cover that. It’s an obvious thing to say, but in the west (and especially in America) we can focus on the external and hope that it will change how we feel inside.

We see the star and say, “if I had that much money I wouldn’t have any problems.” This thinking completely overlooks the fact that everyone has issues. Depression is real, and it isn’t a weakness. Pain doesn’t have a price or success threshold. That is the major point of note here.

In 2017, we saw both Chris Cornell and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington take their own lives. The news sent their fans into deep mourning. To realize someone who helped them through their own struggles carried a burden so heavy that they chose to end their own lives allowed people to see their humanity. To realize how their fame, success, and notoriety wasn’t enough to erase whatever pain they were carrying.

The news of those losses was met with, almost, universal acknowledgment of the tragedy that suicide is. People responded by posting statuses mourning and sharing the number for the suicide hotline. Yet, if they struggled and weren’t open about what they were fighting against we would see more harsh criticisms lobbed their way.

When looking at celebrities and how we relate to their struggles there is a greater lesson to be learned about how we deal with people in our own lives. That we’re all facing something, and just because it isn’t our struggle doesn’t deny the heft of the cross they carry. That a new job, a raise in income, new friends, graduation, relationship, or location doesn’t suddenly cleanse what is going on inside of us. That while no one is happy all day (and happiness shouldn’t be the goal), we should seek help when we need it and not feel afraid that people will use it as a mark against us.

This isn’t all to say that there is nothing good that comes from the outside but it could just be a layer of paint over mildew.

Music: June Marieezy & FKJ

The weekend is right around the corner.

If you close your eyes you can see yourself running out of the office doors and into the weekend. But when you open them there is an immediate disappointment that there are a couple more days left in your week.

So instead of daydreaming, I figured I could share a song that currently has me stuck and give you a little break from your work day.

Today, I’m sharing an impromptu track by FKJ and June Marieezy (two artists I discovered through Spotify) recorded in Red Bull Studios Amsterdam. If you hear this and can only play it once, or it doesn’t transport you to some place nice you and I aren’t the same.

How much longer will NFL reign?

For as long as I’ve watched sports the NFL has been king.

Once we entered the dog days of summer there was the sound of pads crunching in the distance. The countdown for training camp was underway and we would be inundated with football talk. There was an excitement crackling from each city that had their own team for they believed that this could be their season.

The stranglehold seemed to only grow stronger with the advent of the 24/7 news cycle and social media. We weren’t only inundated by talking heads over-analyzing everything, but we were also in a sea of sports opinions by everyone who had access to the internet.

Now, I’m not here to say that NFL is no longer the most popular sports league in America. The Hall of Fame game was on Thursday and drew 7.8 million overnight viewers which was more than most NBA and MLB playoff games. A pre-season game drew more eyes than the other major sports (admittedly the NBA playoffs were terrible, and baseball is terrible in general) that alone is proof that the NFL won’t be falling off its perch anytime soon.

So why am I making this post? On Friday morning, the driver of sports talk was still the NBA. One week into August, and we were still talking about a league that saw its season end over a month prior. We are in an offseason that featured Western Conference moving heaven and Earth to make moves that will make them lose closer series to the Golden State Warriors. A Summer League that saw Lonzo Ball reignite excitement in a starving Los Angeles Lakers fan base. Just when the boil started to slow the news broke that Kyrie Irving wanted to be traded.

The Kyrie news helped reignite the excitement behind a potential Carmelo trade which shed light on the fact that LeBron James most likely won’t be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The league with the biggest stars, biggest personalities, and the best game play of the big three sports was now encroaching on the NFL portion of the calendar.

The NBA also has something that the NFL desperately wants, but will never have. International popularity. Basketball is a game that is played by the world. Football is a game played by Americans (with a few exceptions). This exposure worldwide opens up the NBA to a greater audience in another area as well: online.

Earlier this year, the NBA surpassed the NFL in subscribers on Reddit.

That’s not all look at these other numbers:

  • Twitter: NFL – 23.8 million followers| NBA – 26.1 million followers
  • Youtube: NFL – 2.1 million followers | NBA –   7.9 million followers
  • Instagram: NFL – 9.7 million followers | NBA – 24.3 million followers

What this advantage digitally also reveals is that the NBA audience skews younger than the NFL. The average NFL fan is 50. The average NBA fan is 42. 11% of NBA viewers are between the ages of 2-17 compared to 9% of the NFL’s (side note: both have consistently seen dips in youth popularity over past decade).

Coinciding with all of this is that the NBA is having its highest rated Finals since Michael Jordan was winning championships with the Chicago Bulls.

The NFL wears the crown, and it probably will for the foreseeable future. In the distance, the sound we hear is that of crossover dribbles, and screeching sneakers.

The NBA got next. The only question is: when?

Breakfast at Timothy’s #19

In 2013, I started a blog called Breakfast at Timothy’s.

The name was inspired by Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the classic film starring Audrey Hepburn, and the site itself featured music I loved and wasn’t ashamed of. When it comes to music I always believe that there should be no such thing as guilty pleasures. If you enjoy a song you should enjoy it without qualifications.

While I loved sharing songs, quotes, and writing about the music itself, my favorite part was the Breakfast at Timothy’s mixes I made. The goal behind the mixes was to share music I loved in one shot. They were intended to be little musical vacations in the listener’s day as they visited whatever place I decided to take them. The goal was never to be bigger than life, or even known, but to share my taste with those who were willing and open to venture into the world of pop.

Over the past three years the blog went away and the mix series went dormant. But now thanks to Spotify’s Discovery Recommendations the inspiration has returned and here is the 19th version.

Playlist:
1.) Lorine Chia, Blended Babies – I Just Want to Love You
2.) Glasses – Close to You
3.) Xavier Omar – Special Eyes
4.) Kelela – Rewind
5.) Tom Misch – South of the River
6.) Lipstick Gypsy – Infatuation
7.) Gavin Turek – Good Look for You
8.) Little Dragon – Sweet
9.) Tuxedo – Livin’ 4 Your Lovin’
10.) NAO – DYWM
11.) Leisure – Know You Better
12.) Joe Hertz, JONES – Simple
13.) Abby Diamond – Love to Watch You Leave
14.) Chairlift – Moth to the Flame
15.) Sinead Harnett – Rather Be With You
16.) Chris McClenney – Pearl

Below are the links to listen:
Mixcloud | Spotify |Download

Enjoy!