Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Rant in Estrada Minor – 1,000 words on my teenage years

Braces, dance classes, awkward silences, strange looks, sexual tension, sexual discovery, kisses, acne, bullies, fights, writing, old friends, new friends, old new friends, new old friends, confusion, confusion, confusion, change, change, change. Teen years are not for the faint of heart although latest reports demonstrate that most of us make it. Some of the most painful deaths in your life will happen in these years. I had my share. My grandfather was awesome. And one day he was gone. So was one of my dogs. The first one to pass. That’s teen years for you. Sudden changes. Slow changes. Sudden deaths. Slow deaths. Mortality 101. Love 101. Desire 101. Master’s in confusion. Croaky voice, unwilling yelps as your voice breaks. Hair begins. There is enthusiasm with hair. Not like when you’re in your thirties. REAL enthusiasm. Protein and hormones conspire to give you a soft felt lip. Moustache hair. Armpit hair. Chest Hair. Hair down there. The kindling of manhood. I always liked girls. Now I REALLY liked girls. I thought of girls. I dreamed of girls. Girls, girls, girls. My first kiss was a tongue kiss. Here’s to overachieving. Everyone around you is breaking in their own way. Teen years bring heartbreak of varying kinds. 31 flavors of rejection and then some. No sprinkles. No whipped cream. Just rejection. And heartbreak. And Confusion. And redemption. Teen years are unpredictable. Things can be lukewarm, then an inferno, then artic tundra. There’s no escape from teen years because those formative scars, complexes, frustrations, and pain live for you. These are some of the most permanent memories in your life. Some of your best memories will be playing videogames. Being able to relate to pixels is weird. But you can. And you do. Part of who I am is defined by Super Mario, by Samus Aran, By Link, By Edgar, Shadow, Locke, Terra, Celes, and the liberating ride atop a chocobo. You want a mog. You also want to ride a luck dragon. You swear you know everything when you’re a teen. You know everything and your parents know nothing. I remember having a discussion with my dad. I was pissed. When he left the room I started doing one of those angry teenage dances where you’re flipping off into nothing and getting really into your moves at how unfair life is. Very mature. He walked backed into the room. He saw me flipping him off. He lowered his head and said in a low voice, “Why did you have to do that?” He turned around and left the room. That wound is still there. I’m sorry dad. There’s a lot of I’m sorrys when you’re a teen. That’s one of them. I’m sorry for falling in love with people I had no business falling in love with. I’m sorry the girl everyone wanted was into me even if only for one occasion. I’m sorry we kissed. I’m sorry she stopped kissing me. I’m sorry she told me she was thinking of her boyfriend. I’m sorry I was so afraid I had to go throw up. This was not a normal teenage guy. Actually this wasn’t a teenage guy. But she was a teenage girl and was with a man no one should be with. I’m lucky I wasn’t some sad headline: Stupid teen gets shot for making out with beautiful girl and boyfriend commits double homicide. In an alternate universe I’ve died so many times. Two of those times would have been in the water. I almost drowned twice when I was a teen. Got caught by a huge set one day and dragged across the reef. I was held down against my will. I was force-fed seawater. But I made it out alive. The same as I made it out alive from my teen years. I fell in love so hard I scraped my heart’s knee. Almost busted a kneecap on two occasions. I had a best friend I had a bad fight with. We had been best friends since 2nd grade. We fought at the end of 8th grade. We talked again well into 10th grade. That’s two years of being too proud to admit it was a misunderstanding. It was a lesson in life and friendship. Now when things like that happen, I accept it. I had my first kiss at 14, first drink at 15, first cigarette at 16, and first cast at 17. I’m proud of only one of those facts. In Puerto Rico, underage drinking happened often. I saw Mortal Kombat under the influence of alcohol. I would have given it an Academy Award. You weren’t carded in the good old days. That’s why teens did stupid things under the influence. Now they do more drugs. Or maybe I’m just less ignorant. My dad smoked Winston. My mom smoked Marlboros. Yeyo smoked Salem. Padrino smoked Camel. My family smoked and I carried the tradition up and out of my teenage years. I’m happy I quit. But as a teen you know better until you finally know better. I used to get bad migraines in high school. A combination of needing prescription glasses and hormones. Or maybe I just liked to watch TV on a school day. I picked up a guitar when I was 17. I took two classes and learned I don’t like to take classes. Everything I learned, I learned on my own. It’s not much, but it’s mine. Much like life in teenage years. Sure you can have people tell you what will happen, but there is no better lesson than a cold bitch slap courtesy of life. There is an overabundance of those during your teen years. You eat anything when you’re a teen. You wonder why you don’t feel great. Then you do a recount of the tube of Pringles, the 3 sodas, the bag of Oreos, and still wonder what the hell happened. Just like teenage years. Often you’re left wondering what the hell happened. And somehow you survived. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

A lesson in Now

I often say people should dance outside their comfort zone and last Friday I was presented with an opportunity to do just that.

Here's how the sequence goes:

My brother sends me a message through facebook that they'll be offering free recording sessions at the Liceo de Arte y Tecnología here in Puerto Rico. It says to message Héctor Caolo Álvarez, someone I actually don't know at all.

I see my brother's message and say, Ok, I'll write later...... then I say no, not later. Now.

I write Héctor to say I'm interested. He responds in less than twenty minutes sending me another contact, Dennis Morales, a telephone to reach him, and tells me a lot of people are apparently calling. I think to myself, well maybe they're full... but I'll call later... then I tell myself, no. Not later. Now.

I call Dennis Morales, tell him I'm interested and he asks me if I could swing by Monday at 8:30 AM.

I say yes.

He says awesome, see you then.

If you see the above sequence, there are several instances where I could have said later, not now. And here's the thing, later is the root of regret and of passing opportunities. Hesitation is what makes you swing a half second late, take off on a wave too late, and either miss out on a life event or eat it hard. I actually did hesitate, but I willed myself to just give myself a chance.

That's why this Monday I recorded three of my songs in a beautiful studio with the help of a cool group of great students and a kind studio engineer who is a professor.

I am an indie writer with 5 published books. I have a youtube channel and occasionally record original songs and for now, one cover. I've sung in public 3 times: at my wedding, in my second book activity two weeks ago, and in a recording studio... this past Monday... in front of 15+ people I didn't know.

Common sense would clearly establish that I have no business being in a recording studio. Oh and did I mention that last week my allergies were acting up and I'd been coughing quite a bit meaning my voice was subpar? Might I also mention that I don't sing particularly loud.

Yet there I was: in a recording studio, with my voice and my acoustic guitar.

And it was awesome.

The students at the Liceo were super kind and they were hungry to learn and took me super seriously. They had patience and I gave my best during the experience. Whatever self doubt may reside within me, I gave it the day off and whatever patience I lack as a musician, I multiplied intensely to give whatever I have to capture those songs and help these students learn. In the process I also ended up learning a lot about myself, about recording, about opportunities, and about the discipline it takes to make a record.

My thanks to the students for their kindness while dealing with me and making me feel like somebody and appreciating my work and my dance outside my comfort zone. My thanks to Dennis Morales for the opportunity, for making me sound like a musician, for patience, consideration, and skill. My thanks to Héctor for answering my message on facebook. My thanks to my brother for passing the message. And my thanks to my gut for insisting on the now instead of the later.

Here are the links to my first three songs recorded in a studio. Click on the song title to hear them.

Are they perfect? No. Will they make me a superstar? No. But are they mine? Absolutely, and that is as wonderful a reason to have done this as I can think of. So here's to embracing the now.

Peace, love, and music.


The Rain


Monday, March 14, 2016

In search of my Tao

Since they are taking TED Talks off Netflix, I have binge watched several talks. Yes, I know I can see them for free online, but rest assured, I adore spending time away from the computer and the comfort of watching a TED Talk on a larger screen while lounging on a couch is priceless.

NOTE: this is equally wonderful for anything you watch. Seriously, lounging on a couch is a lovely way to watch TV because then when I do other things I literally have to get my tuckus OFF the couch.

So taking that into consideration, I’ve watched upwards of 40 TED Talks (not in a row) and it got me into thinking of what I will do in my life. For those who don’t know, I recently resigned from the corporate job I had been in for 7 years in favor of pursuing several endeavors and investing my time more wisely.

NOTE: I’m not always on the couch, so no worries. I like staying busy. I might occasionally drape myself on a lounge chair as well, but that's besides the point.

So a couple of questions I’ve asked myself during my life and more so the last couple of years came on a crawling through my consciousness the last few weeks, most notably:

What do I want to achieve?

NOTE: Do NOT confuse this with what I will do to make ends meet until things hit critical mass (that’s another post).

Instead, look to these questions for a better example of what was running through my brain:

What is my mission?

Who am I as a human, a professional, a creative individual, a writer, a singer songwriter?

Why am I that way?

Then I’ve thought of how a post I’ve written has set me on a route to commit something to a public forum to be accountable. To remind myself, you SAID you would do this, so do this. You SAID you wanted to do something, so WHAT are you doing to achieve the thing. NO excuses. This is not a trial, but your oath to what you want to achieve.
So then I get to ask myself what are my vision and mission. If JD Estrada stands for something, what does JD Estrada stand for?

And here are a couple of answers.

What’s My Mission?
To have a positive impact through my craft. To promote values, to invite people to think, to never take my audience for granted, to challenge the status quo, while still being kind. To offer fresh perspectives and truly demonstrate that everything has NOT been written and we are not rehashing old ideas. That is a defeatist attitude and we have enough of that going on. The mission, the base mission is to create and to give purpose to what we create. To embrace the power of a story and demonstrate we can improve the world one story at a time.

What’s my vision?
To be an ambassador of creativity, whatever that may mean every day. To look at every single day as an opportunity to create, to have fun, to do something meaningful, to help, to make someone smile or laugh. To inspire people to throw caution to the wind, ignore naysayers and share their most genuine self.

What are my values:
  • Creativity to share the best of our humanity 
  • To cultivate common ground where perspectives can be shared with respect and an open heart 
  • Create obeying your inner self to be true to you while being of service to others 
  • Inspire others so they can release the world within them 
  • When the opportunity to help arises, take it 
  • Dance beyond your comfort zone 
  • Smile
I am a writer from Puerto Rico. I was born from a Cuban mother and a Puerto Rican father and these are my current projects:

The Human Cycle – my exploration of humanity through fiction. A very personal work that takes Tolkien elements, mashes it up with Jungian psychology and countless other influences to create a perspective of the world and humanity as I see it. There are vampires, therians, photogeni, and a whole lot of exploration of humanity.

Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore – Although YA in tone and content, the mission is to create smiles across the world and bridge the gaps distance and other factors may create. We are one world and we can all dream together.

Poetry – exploring the world, emotions, humanity, and trivial things to show the inherent beauty in bliss and pain and everything in between. Life is beautiful and poetry is the literary reminder of this.

Workshops - to give perspectives at a community level and corporate level to inspire people to offer the best of their humanity. This is me dancing beyond my comfort zone again. I want to make a positive impact in the community and in a company. Why? Because the more we nurture a community, the more we can do and why a company? Because in these vast wastelands of malaise, frustration, and disenchantment with life, I’d like to remind that life is good and that every day we can do something to be happy even on the job. If you want more info on this, drop a comment and I'll gladly share with you what's in store.

Visual Typos – Every Monday the mission is to help bring at least ONE smile to the world. If I get more, awesome. But my aim is to make at least ONE person laugh to show that in mistakes there is an opportunity to smile and laugh and that being silly is good for the soul.

For writing out loud – my blog where I allow my messages and creative perspectives to converge into one online hub. It is as personal as it gets and I’m always pushing to go deeper and share perspectives with more people. I love guest bloggers who want to collaborate or who want to contribute. So in short, if you have an idea, write me and let’s make something together.

Teactionary – Every Tuesday I profess my love for tea in a creative manner as cerebral as it can be silly. Humor can have several layers to it as can some of the most savory things in life.

SkyThoughts – Every Wednesday I look at the sky and offer positive thoughts to inspire harmony and a warm smile. They are not pre-made, they are where my head and soul are at that moment to show we can invite light to shine even on hard days and send good intentions across the world.

Blanc Comics – They are my invitation to artists of all ages and around the world to help me see my stories so that it becomes OUR story.

The Perception Collective – This project aims to promote tolerance and acceptance of different points of view to promote harmony and peace. In a period of time where there are countless polarizing things occurring and there are people who crave the divide, I want to speak to all the people who would rather come together than grow apart in the hopes we can change a few minds and give our best.

These are several of the things I am working on or will work on. It is a first draft but it’s pretty close to what I have in my heart. Can it evolve? Of course As can I. But I just wanted to share this with all the people who read me and who are kind enough to believe in me and share this journey with me. If you like what you see, let me know. If there’s something you’d like to see, let me know. If you have any question, let me know. :D

My thanks for everyone who reads this and for your support.

Peace, love, and maki rolls.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Collaboration Nation: The Well of Good Intentions

Karen stood on her garden path looking at the smiling man in disbelief. In front of her, where her gate usually stood was a shimmering rectangle of blue sky.

"Taa daa!" said the smiling man with a theatrical swoosh of his hand.

"JD, what on earth is that?" she asked with a nervous tremor in her voice.

"It's a portal," he said as though it was the most ordinary thing in the world. "We can't get to Beyond without it, especially if we want to make it to The Well of Good Intentions with our resolutions by sunset.”

JD reached out his hand and she reluctantly took it. "Why does this feel like an episode of Doctor Who, with you as the Doctor and me as the hapless companion about to be deleted by an army of Cybermen?

JD laughed. "Allons-y," he yelled and unceremoniously pulled her through the portal.

Beyond was not how she had imagined it at all. They found themselves in a cobbled alley at the edge of a medieval town square and it appeared to be market day. Looking around, it seemed they were not the only visitors to Beyond. Several distinctly non-human beings were perusing the stalls in front of them.

They stopped at a stall laden with curious fruits, grapes that exploded into droplets of wine as they touched your tongue and sighing strawberries, so sweet it was impossible not to let out an exhalation of delight as you ate them. 

"As tempting as it is to linger, we have to locate the path to The Well", said JD looking at his watch. "It's a long walk and time is tickety ticking on". He approached an elderly lady selling loaves of crusty fresh bread. "Excuse me; we’re looking for the path to The Well Of Good Intentions".

The old lady looked at him with a horrified expression. "The Well? You don't want to be going there, dearie. Or is it that you don’t realise the path takes you through The Forest Of Lost Dreams?"

JD and Karen exchanged glances, "Is that a bad thing?” they asked in unison.

The old lady gestured them near with a gnarled finger and whispered...

"Beware gentle strangers
 the starless night is cruel
 the wraiths have souls to gather
 amid the darkling wood.

 Sorrow's voice will find you
 as it lulls your heart to sleep
 you'll be lost forever
 your dreams theirs' to keep".

The words had barely left the old crone’s mouth when the sound of a flipping coin caught their attention. Both Karen and JD looked in the direction of the noise and saw a large cat dressed in sailor clothes leaning against an alley wall. He had a peppermint candy cane in his mouth and a sailor’s accent to go with his clothes.

“Ye wanna see tha well, ye come with. Ye wanna have delicious bread, ye talk to ‘er.”

“And who might you be?” asked Karen taking a defensive posture quite unlike her kind vegan nature would lead one to believe she was capable of.

The cat meowed a giggle and gave his coin a toss and snatched it from the air and put it on the back of his paw. With another meow, the cat giggled as its skin seemed to melt and morph into a fox that spoke with a sexy female French accent. “Moi, Je suis Flip. And I am ze ideal guide to ‘elp you croz ze forezt.”

JD and Karen looked at each other, baffled at the Deus ex Machina moment though choosing to go with it. It’s not like they expected Beyond to be anything that could be described as familiar.

“And your fee?” asked Karen.

“Catnip and quail croquettes as sold by the lovely Madame Croquette over yonder.” Flip was pointing to the right and when they were finally able to look beyond the crowd, they saw the sign indicating the Madame’s booth. The crowd was as raucous as they could ever imagine making it clear that the croquettes were in high demand. Looking back at the now foxy Flip, the smile showed her intentions. “You do the line and I won’t even make you pay.”

Karen looked at JD. JD looked at Karen. Both looked at Flip and spoke simultaneously, “Deal!”

“Fantastic!” said the fox as she flipped her coin in a manner as graceful as her corset and dress would allow.

She made a beeline straight to a heavy brush next to the market and spoke to it. “Let me pass, I have business in the forest.”

The shrubbery hissed and shook and giggled too if such a thing can be done by plants. It then spoke in at least 4 voices of varying tone, volume, and tenor. “You know the rule. Say it.”

“Say what?” asked Flip a bit bored at their request.

“Say the thing,” said the shrubs in their whisper giggle.

“What thing?” asked the fox annoyed at their insistence.

“What did the fox say?” said a solitary voice before the other voices broke out in huge laughter.

“Seriously? You’re going to be that way?”

The laughing continued and at least two of the voices were able to speak while the other 3 or 4 couldn’t stop laughing. “Thems are the rules, Flippety Flip Flip.”

The fox continued to flip her coin though not pleased at all at the demands. “Fine. Ask the question again.”

The laughter had rendered 3 of the voices unable to say a thing. The two remaining voices spoke in tandem: “What did the fox say?”


Explosions of laughter scattered from the bushes as they finally parted to open the way to them. Flip snatched the coin from the air and put it on the back of her paw again. “Damn… still a fox. Shall we?”

JD and Karen looked at each other, shrugged and went into the forest with their Fox guide.

The forest path immediately plunged them into an eerie twilight world of rustling leaves, creaking branches and unidentifiable sounds. Karen peered cautiously around her while JD smiled broadly into the darkness.

"This is great!" he said. "I promised you an adventure and here we are!"

Flip let out a decidedly foxy yip of laughter. "Be careful what you wish for, JD."

No sooner had she spoken when a figure appeared on the path in front of them. A curious creature made of mist and shadows. It drifted towards them with silent determination and made a beeline for JD.

As they drew nearer they saw a beautiful woman, dark eyed and luscious lipped, but as Karen looked closer she realised there were two layers to the creature.  Below the perfect surface swam a gnarled, wizened apparition, cruel eyed and slack jawed.

Karen looked at Flip. "Is that what I think it is?"

Flip leaned against a tree and casually tossed her coin from paw to paw, her tail swishing in a lazy arc. She let out a smug sigh… "Yep"

Karen turned back to JD and was horrified to see him gazing adoringly into the wraith’s eyes.

"Do something!" she screamed.

Flip laughed, "he's your friend, you do something."

Karen glared at her furiously and made a grab for JD's arm. He pulled away with a frown.

"JD… wraith!" she yelled, tugging at him urgently. It was no use; he was completely under its spell. A curious pale blue light was slowly seeping out of his skin and drifting skyward.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and with a look of sheer determination Karen kicked JD in the shin as hard as she could.

"Owww… what the hell?"

Karen pointed at the now angry shadow creature and bellowed "WRAITH!"

JD windmilled backwards knocking Karen off her feet. Flip clapped her paws in delight and chuckled. With one swift motion she sent the coin in her paw sailing through the air, gracefully arcing through the wraith in a spinning motion. The wraith shimmered and the beautiful disguise slipped away. With a voiceless scream it made its escape.

Retrieving her coin from the ground Flip let out a throaty chuckle. "Forget the catnip quail croquettes, this trip's on me! I haven't laughed this much in years!"

JD and Karen glared at her, watching as the wraith disappeared into the trees, a faint glow of blue from JD's life energy still floating behind it. The two friends exchanged worried glances.

"Are you ok?" Karen whispered, her hand on JD's arm.

His answer froze on his lips, as out of the gloom came a low, rumbling growl.

Growls turned to barking, and if a voiceless scream had escaped the wraith before, some pain laced voiceless yelping was now coming from the bushes. From the same place the wraith had escaped into the bushes, it now came screaming and burning a trail on the ground but without the life energy following it.

All three of them had been left staring at the wraith running, a piece of its essence clearly missing from the rear side of its glowing tunic. Looking back into the bushes, two dark brown eyes peered back at them with that disarming kindness only one creature could possess.

“Bailey!” said JD and ran to meet the basset hound in the clearing.

“Ick!” said Flip at the sight of the caramel-eyed dog.

JD knelt and took the full brunt of the basset tackle that sent them both rolling to the ground. Tears of joy flowed freely and even hitting the perfect scratch spot that sent the dogs legs bicycling from here to forever, the dog known as Bailey still managed to gratuitously lick at his friend’s face. With each lick, strands of JD’s life essence coiled around the young man, binding to his skin and melting back into him. He felt warmth and joy return and could care less about the mess.

“That’s a good boy. Yes it is. Such a good boy.”

Having his fill of cuddling, JD got up, covered in dog hair and smiles.

“Are you done?” asked Flip a little disgusted at the young man.

“Yeah, I think so. You want a hug?” JD said cheekily.

Without losing a beat, Flip flared her coat and drew two pet hair rollers and before he could even mumble a complaint, was as clean and the two rollers looked like pet hair versions of candyfloss. Flip threw them behind her head and kept leading the way.

“I hope we don’t have to walk too much longer,” said Karen while kneeling down and scratching at the kind basset hound. “You did really good, Bailey.”

“As you can see, he’s a bit of a floozy and will go to any kind person willing to properly scratch and love him.”

Flip drew another pet hair roller, “Do I have to use another of these?”

JD knelt back down and met the dog’s piercing gaze. “Thank you, papa. Now you know where you have to go. I’ll meet you there in a bit. We have a daydream to share soon.”

As he’d done thousands of times before, Bailey gave a slow nod of his head and stamped his cold nose on JD’s cheek. Afterwards, he bounded back into the bushes.

“Nice pal you have there, JD,” said Karen smiling at the sight of the dog.

“He was the best,” said JD a look of longing clinging onto the last sight of his dog.

“Touching sentiments, now care to walk long enough to get to the Well of Good Intentions?” Flip said almost indignant at being ignored over a dog.

Karen looked at the fox and shook her head. “I will never grasp how someone can avoid being a dog person.”

“Right?” said JD with a look of confusion on his face.

“Well of Good Intentions? Ring a bell?” said Flip defensively.

“Let me guess, we still have to walk miles,” Karen said.

“Actually, it’s just around the corner… literally.”

The fox pointed and Karen and JD followed the finger to a little slope that went down a bit into a clearing where the edge of a building stood there, surrounded by a canal of glowing water.

“So it really IS just around the corner,” said Karen.

They walked down the slope and a happy hum came off the glowing water. Next to the canal, little plants grew with bulrushes made of little crisp looking cookies.

“What are those?” asked Karen.

“Those are wish wafers,” said Flip. “How else do you think you will make a wish at the well of good intentions?”

JD knelt down and picked one for him and one for Karen. “Milady,” he said handing her the wafer.

“Wow, I have no idea what to wish for…” she said.

Flip gave a smile at both of them. “That’s a good thing actually. Good intentions need not be specific, just good.”

Looking at JD, she gave a shrug nod accepting that such a thought made all the sense in the world. JD put his arm over his friend’s shoulder and smiled. “So what say you, Miss Ohren? Got any good vibrations to send into the Aether?”

Her smile was kind, sincere, and warm, as were her good intention. With those in mind and heart, they both took a bite out of the wish wafers and sent the soul of a warm smile into the Aether and onto the world.