Hello, Beautiful

I figured that eventually you would find this blog. It doesn’t surprise me, and honestly, there’s a part of me that was hoping you would. You should know that you’re always welcome to read. I made this blog public for anyone who needed it. Anyone who wanted to remember the feeling of a long-lost love, or find solace in heartbreak, or strength in solitude, or even just a restaurant or movie recommendation. In case you were wondering, no, I haven’t been back to your blog. I’ve learned too much too painfully from it already.

You now know for yourself what the past year has been like for me. More or less. I’m not going to feign humility here, I’m damn proud of what I’ve done here. I’ve met some incredible people with incredible, fascinating, insightful outlooks on life I might never have touched on, or it might have taken me years to learn for myself when they were willing to show me and teach me. And there are some posts on here that I really really do love. They might not be the happiest, and in fact some of the best really have come from deep hurt, but they are honest and true and, in my eyes, beautiful.

You may look around this blog  and think I built this to villainize you. And I admit, the times when I was more angry than sad, I wanted to make you out to be the bad guy. The cause of my heartbreak. But I didn’t do all this because I wanted to tell the world how much you hurt me and how horrible a person you must be to do so. I’m no more the victim than you are the villain.

Last November I participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge. And my novel was supposed to be about you and I, but really it was about my own expectations and obstacles with honest, true love. I liked almost everything about it but I struggled with the ending. And some of my readers pointed that out, and didn’t like it much either. They thought I victimized myself too much, putting all the blame on you, none on me. And it didn’t show much growth, honesty, or bravery really. I haven’t gotten back to it to rewrite a more satisfying ending, but let me tell you what I would want the ending of that story to be.


Beautiful was never the villain of this story. What happened in our relationship, from the very beginning in college to its very end as young adults happened to both of us. We both felt the pain and the loss and the hurt. And we hurt each other. I hurt her. The truth is, the worst thing I did when we got back together again was never let her be herself. I was so overcome with the joy of being reunited with Beautiful, my Beautiful, I didn’t take a moment to enjoy and appreciate the brand new woman who was standing before me. I lied to her. I entertained her interests enough to say I did so that we could go back to ‘where we left off’. ‘Who we were when we first fell in love’. At least a complete stranger would have had the time and opportunity to let me learn about her before I started doing what I normally did and shoved her into some mold. Because of my short-sightedness and my obsession with cookie-cutter romance, I put her on a pedestal she felt she couldn’t come down from. Our relationship was probably doomed to begin with because of this. After all, what outcome could result from this? Either she would not live to the unbearable weight of expectation I had spent years building up to unload onto her, or she would find any means of escape to get out from under the prison of who I wanted her to be for me.

No, unfortunately, there is, and was, no third option. No happy ending. Not for the people we were, the relationship we were in, the things we wanted of each other. Were I to try and defend that our relationship should have lasted because of the person I was, or to put blame that our relationship should end because of the person she was, I’d still be falling back on molds and expectations. I wanted so bad to play the victim, to have the world cry for my story.

But this was our story. A story where two people were hurt, and two people lost something very deeply special.

I wish I could say to her I never wanted my dream girl. I never wanted my ideal. I only wanted her. I wish I could say how sorry I am for making her feel she had to be anything other than herself. I didn’t know anything about her when she first spoke to me at that college club meeting.  Everything I loved of hers, I learned to love.

I wish it didn’t take losing Beautiful twice to learn this important lesson. What use is a man whose lessons are learned after the test? She was never supposed to be anything more than Beautiful, because that’s all I wanted. She was my everything, my Sun, and the flower asks nothing of the Sun other than to be itself.

Whatever anger I thought I would lash out onto her, through lessons learned, reflections, and staring deeply into this love, I’ve found should really have been towards myself. Taking romantic movies and novels and cheap comics aimed at teenage boys and trying to focus all of that on one incredible woman.

Two people were deeply hurt when all of this came crumbling down. I wish I could have taught myself sooner to love the person and not the idea. I wish I could have told her I loved her and not who I wanted her to be.

I wish I could have learned this lesson some other way, because there will always be a deep part of me that wishes I could have saved this. Saved her. Saved us. I learned my lesson at the expense of possibly the most important person I wanted to share it with. We both did horrible things, not just to each other but to ourselves and to the people around us who would have cared for us too. And of course I wish it weren’t so.

But not all wishes come true. And not all happy endings come to the Prince and Princess who believe in them.


I really am sorry, Beautiful. You were never supposed to feel the weight of my own unreasonable expectations and ideals. I could wait forever for a perfect woman, a perfect love, but for so many years of my life, I learned to love you. Love is not an instantaneous reaction. It is an act, a muscle, it’s something you grow and foster and care for and bloom together. We never should have tried to fool ourselves into thinking we knew exactly who the other person was after so much time. Was I proud and happy and satisfied that you felt I knew you so well, connected so deeply to your soul, even after so much time apart? Yes, indubitably so. But I would have rather  swallowed my pride and gotten to know you all over again if it meant a better chance, a stronger chance, a lasting chance.

What and who I am, I would gladly show you, teach you, guide you, for however long it would take. And what and who you are, I would learn if you would  just understand all I ever asked for, all I ever wanted, was to love you. Ikea and sushi be damned, the test isn’t getting to know who you are, it’s loving you for it.

I wish you could have seen that, before you left us. Before you hurt me. I’m so sorry you’ve had to struggle with who you are with the one person who should have made you feel the most comfortable and proud. You are a flawed, broken person. But aren’t we all? Did I ever ask for perfection when all I ever wanted was you?

I can’t say I’m glad for how things have turned out, or for the lessons you’ve learned yourself, the growth you’ve experienced, or even the happiness you’ve found somewhere  else. But I do support it. To ask me to be happy for you is to accept that the best place for you is somewhere else. I’m sorry. I can’t do that. But I’m a bit wiser and smarter now. And I know the world is huge and that we’ll find plenty of people who will make us happy and fulfilled. So I believe it to be true with you, and I support you in that. And I’m sure it must be true for me too, so you don’t have to worry about that either.

It is wonderful that you’ve moved on, and seen the faults in both of us. I’m so proud of you for finishing grad school, and excited for your new job. I knew you would  push forward and succeed. I have always believed in you, and I know that the world was just waiting for the right moment to believe in you too. I don’t blame you for anything that’s happened, and I want you to keep going forward with a clean conscience. Not because I think you’re perfect and capable of no wrong, but because I’ve learned to love and accept you for who you are.

Don’t worry about Y. I’ll deal with that.

I wish I could get you to see that whatever I thought I was looking for, I learned to look beyond that to see you for who you are. It’d be a lie if I said it was always the case, but I did learn my lesson on that. I wish you could have seen me for who I was, the man I became apart from you and the man I became because of you. I’m sorry, but it’s very important to me that I tell you, I really don’t want to ever see you again. I don’t think I can ever be your friend.

A lot of times I’ve been asked on my blog by readers if, given the chance, I would ever want to get back with you. And I’ve said wholeheartedly, no. But you should know, it’s because I believe I live in a world where that isn’t a possibility. And I need to live in that world. I may have learned a lot this past year about love and relationships and expectations, but I never unlearned how much I love and care about you. If anything, because I realized you weren’t the villain of my story, I lost the hurt I could hold against you. This isn’t about you, or who you feel for, or who you felt for. It’s about me. And it still hurts, paralyzingly so, to hear from you, to see these reminders of you, to think of you. Please understand, I can’t ever see you as anything less than what you mean to me. I can’t be your friend. I would always come running  to see you again if for the chance two people who’ve known each other and loved each other can try again as two brand new people, start fresh as strangers. But unless for that reason, I can’t, won’t, ever see you again.

With all the love that I can muster,

Jerel

Single Guy Says, ‘I’m Heading Full Speed in the Wrong Direction’

The thought of love scares me.

I never thought I’d say that. But it does. And the truth is, though my year as ManVsLoneliness was about forcing myself to step away from love and relationships to learn and grow and reflect with the eventual ultimate goal of jumping back into the waters, now that it’s over…I’m afraid.

There are sharks in the water.

I’ve been in two vehicle collisions in my life. The first, in high school, a minivan slammed onto the passenger side of my vehicle. The second, in college, the driver was on her cell phone, didn’t notice the light had changed, and t-boned my car. It was a direct hit and my car was totaled. She hit me on the driver side. I suffered a slight fracture on my wrist, a few bumps on my head, and lost my first car. In both cases though, it didn’t take me longer than a day or two to get right back behind the wheel. I couldn’t live without my car. I was married to the road and the freedom it promised.

I’ve suffered heartbreak, in varying degrees, plenty of times before. You could almost say I’ve built a habit of it. Hell, I built a mini blogging empire around it. And I’ve never, until now, let any failed relationship deter me from pursuing another.

I’ve never wanted anything as much as I wanted Beautiful. I’ve never lost anything so worth having.

I wrote before about hope and disappointment. About the extreme and intense depths of emotion we experience through love and loss. After a year of numbness, a separation from the source, from either love or loss, how I was beginning to experience these emotions again, discovering how much I could feel. This afternoon, picking up a package on my front doorstep, I felt the tremendous, burdensome weight of both, and the floor going out from right below my feet.

Based on the box, I was about to receive some books from Michigan. I actually went and checked all the manga I received last week to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. (Interestingly enough, today’s post was actually supposed to be about said manga.) Everything checked out, so this was just going to have to be a surprise. Inside was an envelope with very familiar handwriting and even more familiar clothing. The clothes were mine. And the handwriting was hers.

I have memorized her voice, played back sound bites a thousand times in my head. I can hear her whenever my mind betrays me and takes me to those places I thought I  had left behind. I can hear her say all those wonderful beautiful things that made me happy and made me fall in love in the first place. I know how she would say my name, how she would sigh into my ear when I held her close, how she would say ‘I love you’ a thousand ways a thousand times a day. But I don’t know how her voice would say ‘I’m sorry’. Or ‘it’s not you that I want’. Because those she never said to me in person. I had to read it over and over in the gray lifeless listless echo chamber of the loneliest parts of my mind.

I know that this ringing in my ears, this painful heavy weight in my chest, this numbness in my legs, and in the depth of where I find my heart has dropped, that there is the potential for me to reach the same ever-reaching height of happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment, and love, because my heart and my mind tell me so. And I know that I should appreciate and cherish that through it all I can still care and love and feel  because I would in, different circumstances, tell someone else as much with a voice of bittersweet optimism and melancholy hopefulness.

But that might just be the problem. There’s no one else to say it to me. There’s no one to say anything to me. Dissatisfied with my friends, I’ve let myself be more than happy to see them just once a month. God only knows, I might have lost the ability to do much more than that anyways. But not seeing someone and not talking to them is easy. It’s harder with my family. Living at home still, surrounded by people and voices all day, but none able to understand or see what’s going on, having to have the same conversations, it’s torture. During the day I work from home, so I have my silence. But maybe this is why at night I find excuses to leave, to fill my time until they go to sleep, or simply just hide in some separate room. It’s more painful to realize you have no one to talk to when you’re surrounded by people.

I’m not equipped for this. ManVsLoneliness didn’t have to worry about this because he had an excuse not to worry about Beautiful or anyone or love in general. But Jerel, SingleGuySays, he’s fully exposed to love, loss, hope, disappointment, loneliness, and longing. I thought last year I had firmly planted my feet into the ground and, not moving from that spot where Beautiful left me, I was building roots. But I think part of me was just pushing things back. I’m not saying my past year was meaningless. I really did learn a lot and grow. But because of the rules I gave myself, I never gave myself the time or the opportunity to face these things. I was just pushing it further and further away, hoping I could eventually just wipe it all off and have a clean slate. But everywhere I go, I know I am haunted by these ghosts who know me. Maybe it’s because I’m still here. Where I can be found and where I can find the ghosts.

Jerel says, ‘I’m heading full speed in the wrong direction’.

Single Guy Tries Not to Burn Everything Down

Good barbecue is really just about dancing on the fine line between ‘cooking’ and ‘burning’. Under the watchful gaze of an expert griller each piece of carefully,

Backyard BBQ

Fear not: this was only round 1

meticulously,  lovingly marinated and seasoned piece of meat has the potential to achieve the perfect amount of char and smokiness before turning into a darkened, blackened, hardened brick of ash: a sacrifice to the grill gods. Of whom many brave and hopeful backyard warriors have sacrificed a great deal already: eyebrows, aprons, and countless pounds of poor hot dogs, hamburgers, and other form of dead animals. Sometimes they are fickle gods, with no real rhyme or reason for why they turn on us.

This past weekend, one of the last of the summer, my friends and I had a backyard barbecue and danced with the grill gods. It was a potluck barbecue, so everyone brought their own contributions. One friend brought thin slices of fatty pork belly, another brought marinated chicken drumsticks with plenty of ginger and scallion, and I made two kinds of skirt steaks: one with a dry adobo rub and the other marinaded in garlic and miso. With ~4 lbs. of meat, three growlers full of beer, and almost no fruits or vegetables, we made the absolute most of a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Sunny but not too hot, clear skies and a cool breeze, unfortunately my friend’s girlfriend got eaten by mosquitoes, but overall it was a perfect day for grilling.

My station was right at the grill, tongs in one hand and a beer in the other. One friend was on beer duty, making sure the chef’s glass was never empty. The other was on fire watch, with a spray bottle full of water to extinguish any errant flames that got too aggressive with all the meat juices and fat dripping onto the coals. As soon as some were done and I had them on plates, I was already throwing more back onto the grill. Meanwhile I had some quintessential 90s hits playing to bring us back to the days of our youth. We’d eat bits of pork belly and chicken and steak here and there, refill our beers, and keep jumping back to the grill to either throw more food on, take more food off, or keep those flames from consuming our food before we could.

Bean Boozled

After we had had our fill and stored the rest of the cooked food for later, we spent some time just enjoying the weather and playing some games. Ultimate Jenga, with seriously life-threateningly large wooden pieces, and a simple card game called Screw Your Neighbor. But of course, since you can’t play a game with me without some sort of risk or reward, we played to not lose, because the loser had to take a jelly bean from Beanboozled. From the same prominent jelly bean company that brought you such wonderful flavors like tutti-frutti, caramel corn, buttered popcorn, and berry blue comes their version of Russian Roulette, where you always have an (almost) 50% chance of getting either a normal, conventional flavor or a unique, gag-reflex inducing, utterly horrible abomination such as rotten egg, canned dog food, spoiled milk, or dead fish.

That's You

When we’d finally had enough of getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, we retreated back into my house where we continued playing games. This time some great, hilarious, and personal ones on my PS4. That’s You is a competitive game played with friends on the PS4 using your smart phone as the controller. You use it to answer questions about each other, take photos of each other, and draw and write answers to questions about members of your group. It’s a fun way to see how well you all know each other, answering questions like ‘who is the most likely to get sick in the street after a night of drinking’ and ‘who would order takeout and pretend like they cooked it’. Then there are other games where you might have to take a photo of one member of your group and draw them like a superhero or a circus strongman.

Sparkzilla

After a few rounds of this the sun finally set and when it was dark enough, it was time for the climax of the whole affair. While we were grocery shopping I decided to buy some fireworks, which had just recently become legal in New Jersey. This wasn’t just some sparkler on a stick. I had bought Sparkzilla. A pretty hefty fountain type firework. Set it on the ground, light the fuse, step back, and watch as multiple tubes go off  in sequence. Some shooting sparks, others making loud bangs, some shooting mini multi-colored fireworks some six feet off the ground, and others looking like a volcano had erupted with a shower of bright orange shooting up. You can catch the last few seconds of the multi-firework display on my Instagram, ‘singleguyinstas’. My friend’s girlfriend recorded the display for her Snapchat, and without knowing, caught my reaction immediately after it finished and it perfectly summed up my amazement and disbelief.

Good food, great beer, fun games, it was a good day. Took two days’ worth of showers to finally get the smoke smell out of my hair, but it was totally worth it.

Single Guy Tries a Little Bit of Everything

Ko Appetizer

One of the greatest culinary  experiences I’ve ever had was an early 25th birthday celebration with friends in New York. Through the divine grace of some food spirit, the five of us were able to secure a dinner reservation at the much celebrated and highly sought after Momofuku Ko. For those of you who don’t know, Ko is the flagship restaurant of culinary maelstrom and kitchen artist/tyrant David Chang. I first came to hear of him, and his Momofuku brand of restaurants, from his close friend and my idol, Anthony Bourdain. So when my friends and I, then very young and just starting our careers, managed to snag this reservation, it was a big deal. At $195/person not including tax, tip, or beverage, it was and has since been, the most expensive single meal I’ve ever had.

ko-menu.jpg

What followed was a fifteen course tasting menu of local flavors and international techniques created by some of the most impressive and masterful hands I’ve ever watched in the kitchen. And what a treat that was in and of itself. The center of Ko‘s humble almost secretive location is a completely open kitchen where you can watch a team of truly incredible and remarkably young chefs execute these fifteen course symphonies in almost perfect and nearly silent coordination. By tasting menu I mean we as diners are completely at the mercy of the chef, not knowing what the next course would bring or how it would be prepared. Part of the fun and thrill of it all was trying to anticipate the chef’s next move. What flavor would be accentuated to bridge the transition from one dish to the next.  What other fresh, local, seasonal ingredient would be the star in some completely unexpected fashion. Each course, no more than three or four bites each, was distinct and memorable. Every ingredient was handled expertly and with care. It all made sense. And what I enjoyed most about the tasting menu experience is that it, more than any other style, allows the diner and the chef to have an actual conversation. It may be a bit one-sided but there is no more vivid and clear expression of voice than simply sitting down and trusting the chef, letting him or her dictate the flavors, tones, and inflections of your meal. At the very end, diners at Ko are presented with a small booklet. A souvenir with a thick, black, glossy business card and a printout to remind you of what your last two and a half hours (give or take) were all about.

Jockey HollowThis past year my friends and I visited Jockey Hollow in Morristown, NJ. On the top floor of this beautiful 100 year old Italian palazzo style mansion, Jockey Hollow was another distinct culinary adventure that offered high quality five-course prix-fixe dinners, with diners having usually four to five different choices for each course. Similar yet very distinct from my experience at Ko, my dinner at Jockey Hollow was truly highlighted not only by the wonderful meals but also by the impeccable service. Well-dressed waiters pull out your chair and gently ease you in as you sit down. Once comfortable, the knowledgeable and personable sommelier will walk you through some of the special wines available and is more than happy to make some recommendations based on personal taste and particular course pairing. The dining area, inside this converted mansion residence, is classy but comfortable, with beautiful pieces of artwork, warm hardwood floors, and large glass windows.

Jockey Hollow Octopus

I will never forget the feeling of luxury and sophistication that came with my meal at Jockey Hollow. The food had some of the most interesting and elegant platings I’ve ever seen, and each course was punctuated with a simple yet effective palate cleanser. Servers would arrive, stand beside us, and with a nod our dishes would descend upon the table in perfect synchronization. With less courses to run through and with the knowledge of what was to come, we focused more on the sheer variety and diversity of our orders. Since we got to pick our own, and since we often times picked different things, we had opportunities to try each other’s dishes and compare and contrast. All the while we enjoyed the rapt and attentive care of what seemed to be an endless army of eager and hospitable servers. This week was my father’s 60th birthday and, having heard of how much I enjoyed my experience at Jockey Hollow, the family decided to try a more modest prix-fixe restaurant closer to home. It still provided the same excitement of variety and diversity, still offered us the opportunity to taste and compare, and was still focused on a celebration of seasonal flavors.

Kaiseki.jpg

Mention haute cuisine in Japan and you’ll inevitably be led to Kyoto, where the Japanese tradition of kaiseki cuisine is most notably celebrated. To the uninitiated or unaware, kaiseki may seem very much similar to tasting menus or prix-fixe meals in that all three are multi-course offerings. But like most other things the Japanese take particular enthusiasm for, kaiseki takes on an almost religious and deeply symbolic meaning to the diner and to the chef. A kaiseki meal, often times served in traditional Japanese inns or ryokans, are the embodiment of the Japanese concept of omotenashi, meaning to ‘entertain guests with wholehearted hospitality’. It starts before the meal even begins, in the careful preparation of the dining area, the dining utensils, and even with the care that dishes are presented. My new Saturday afternoon dining partner, Emi, shared her pictures with me of the last time she visited Kyoto with her niece and the kaiseki meal they shared. Everything was just majestic. Grilled char was blanketed with a large sheet of thinly cut, almost translucent daikon radish. Things like oranges and melons were hollowed out to serve as bowls with various kinds of vegetables and tender seafood inside. Each plate was handmade ceramic, and the tray it was brought on and presented with even had a delicate flower arrangement in the corner. To me, kaiseki cuisine is perhaps the ultimate in terms of seasonality, locality, and hospitality.

Kyo Kaiseki

Though you may find some food critics and chefs arguing over semantics in terms of prix-fixe vs tasting menu and yet still others may underestimate the deeply rooted spiritual and cultural influences of kaiseki cuisine, all three of them share certain key values and characteristics. First off, they are ultimate expressions of seasonal flavors and ingredients. Restaurants that offer any of these services will feature chefs that pride themselves on their ability to know the perfect times of the year to draw on certain foods. Some may even find it difficult to describe their menu offerings, as it may change from day to day depending on what the chef finds that morning, either at a local market, from local sources, or just outside on a walk foraging for ingredients, as is often a tradition with kaiseki. It becomes a much more intimate conversation, where a talented and astute chef hopes to whisper some statement on region, season, or desire, into the mind of the attentive diner.

Tasting Menu.jpg

Second, I think these types of dining experiences are so popular also because it satisfies our curious and insatiable natures. How many times have we lamented over the burden of choice? And not just with food. I am unmistakably a man of passion and impulse, and certainly I can probably say a lot of my problems, with food, love, relations, could stem from my inability to make a choice, or desire to choose more than one. Having this luxury, this indulgence, to pick all of what we want, or to have the chef literally bring out everything but the kitchen sink, sometimes it’s more about the pleasure of variety than any sole singular taste or experience. As elevated, high class, or sophisticated haute cuisine these experiences may be, I think the real reason they reverberate so deeply within us is that they are primal pleasures. In a rare opportunity, we really can, try a little bit of everything.

Single Guy Tries Instagram

Single Guy Instagram

Under the constant, persistent, and persuasive encouragement of my cousin, I’ve finally relented and am now embarking on yet another frontier of social media. I’m an Instagrammer now. An Instagrite? An Instagramammal.

It’s taken me about an hour just to get the hang of linking all my social media accounts so that what one does, the others share. I’ll have to test it, but at midnight I’m a little short on Instragrammable moments right now.

I suppose Instagram has become popular because of how easy it is to take and edit photos? So hopefully nowadays as I am learning to get more in the habit of taking pictures and sharing my adventures I’ll also have a better tool now for polishing them and getting them out for the world to see. I hope they’ve got tutorials on this stuff though because the confusion on filters and everything else I’m looking at right now is palpable. Give me some time folks, this is going to take  a lot of getting used to.

Now I get to recite the usual self-promotional rigamaroll. Please follow me on Instagram if you have it and get all the pics of all the food, movies, music, events, and places a single guy can handle!

Single Guy Says, ‘Hope’

Princess Leia Hope.png

‘Hope.’

-Princess Leia, Star Wars: Rogue One

One of the biggest changes I’ve had to deal with, having shed the solitary lifestyle of ManVsLoneliness, is the sudden and weighty reappearance of hope, and its partner, disappointment. Here’s a perfect example. I was in Philly this week for work, which is never a bad thing for the food and the drinks, and someone I hadn’t seen, heard from, or even thought of in years messages me late Monday night. It was an ex, and I mean that in the most liberal of meanings. By that I mean those awkward, unsure, middle school days of dating when all it really meant was holding hands in the library and turning around to walk backwards and watch each other disappear over the horizon. Simple, innocent, overall sweet nothings. And now ten-fifteen years later, this playground romance dream is reaching out and letting me know she lives in Philly nowadays and wouldn’t it be great to meet up again.

Linda Chat

We spend a couple days ironing out details and figuring out times and finally it’s Thursday and I find myself in a situation I haven’t really been in since…over a year ago. I’m pacing up and down my hotel room having to pick the best of my…office wear for a night of outdoor bocce (the outdoor sport of choice for twenty-somethings it seems) and rooftop bars. I do a few*coughs*as many as I can*coughs* push ups and sit ups to try and carve something out last minute and for the first time in a very long time, I’ve found a reason to put on cologne for a night out. And all of it comes down to hope. Of what, I don’t know. Honestly I knew nothing of her and the life she’s built since middle school. I saw pictures on Facebook and age agreed with her well, but the point was in this situation I was letting myself feel hope again.

Linda Tweet

We met at Reading Terminal ahead of planned, got some Amish gummy bears (highly recommended, BTW) and a maple bacon doughnut, and sat down and enjoyed the relatively empty and peaceful market on a weekday. I found out about her grad school, her research work, the many places she’s lived and studied, and you probably expected this, her boyfriend. And in a very brief and intense moment that I hope my face did not betray, I was reminded that where hope lived, disappointment did too. Of course, who was I to expect anything? It’s not like I placed any real significant attachment to any of this. To be honest, at the end of the night, I was more grateful and appreciative for the ride. With all of its twists and turns. After chatting a bit more she had to leave and take care of some work thing and meet up with her boyfriend and I left to grab some food and meet them later on in the evening at their bocce league. He’s a frustratingly, undeniably, characteristically friendly, intelligent, welcoming, and overall charming man. I met her two other teammates and watched them lose a slow and hard-fought match, and then we walked to this rooftop bar in an old abandoned school (again, twenty-somethings), and another of her friends showed up at the bar.

Worlds End Pub

And here we go again. Hope, and disappointment. The four of us, my ex, her beau, and this new friend, would go on to spend the rest of the night together. First at the bar we spent a good amount of time discussing the very shocking revelation that I was apparently the most conservative yet libertarian of their group, and yet I couldn’t help but feel some attraction by opposition to my ex’s friend. Then after enough to drink, hungry for some late night tacos (it’s like I was in a living hipster nightmare) we walked to an ironically named hole in the wall for authentic Mexican and her friend shows up with beer. I mean, it was like an arrow to the heart. We split an order of carne asada tacos and toast to the irreconcilable differences of our political and social views. At 1am we end up at the Sugarhouse Casino playing Blackjack and me showing them the much improved world of Spanish 21. I ‘sorority girl’ it up with her with some Red Bull and vodkas. I hate myself, but I’m definitely not hating her. Now all this time she’s been biking everywhere we’ve been going, and these are not light treks. By the end of it all it’s 4am, we’ve been drinking, we’re in the middle of South South Philly, and there’s no way, attraction or not, the person I am could let a young girl bike her way semi-drunk in a shady neighborhood by herself home. I insist we get a ride back to my hotel where I can use my very large SUV to give them all rides with the bike in tow. I don’t take no for an answer, and she’s my navigator. Now, do I tell her I can just put my phone on the dashboard and drive? Please. I’m out of practice, not dumb. When all is said and done, and I’ve gotten everyone safely to their homes and made sure to watch them go in, it’s 5am when I return to my hotel. As I start to sober up and stay to watch the sunrise, I think of this girl, who I only know through an ex with a habit of waiting fifteen years between meeting up, living in a city two hours from me, filled with probably better, more suitable, and more than equally interested men, pursuing a highly demanding and unpredictable career, and I taste that slight bitterness. And for the experience, and not just necessarily entirely for the girl, I am grateful.

David Doesn't Want to Go

This is the first time I haven’t had the impetus of ManVsLoneliness to tell me how to feel or how to react to these situations. It was my first time as Single Guy to see how I would handle it. First off, I will say this, the act of meeting strangers in a city and actually spending long meaningful amounts of time, possibly creating friendships and bonds, it’s not like the ‘friends of the moment’ I usually have when I travel. These were people who I were genuinely interested in, and given the right circumstances, would have wanted in my life as friends at the very least. This to me, is how adults find each other in the real world, as friends and companions.

But most importantly, I realize that hope and disappointment are two sides of the same coin. They are necessary. Especially to the romantic. Now it’s easy to see why a romantic would want hope. But you might ask, what room does a romantic have for disappointment? Well, to me at least, it’s a reminder of what’s missing, of what it is I want. For the past year I’ve lived a good life. I’ve done some incredible things, seen some wonderful places, had some fantastic experiences. But I was just a man barely afloat. Guilty of living with a constant lackadaisical malaise, with little context outside of these individual experiences to really feel much. I could fill a day. But my days were more often than not, not filling. I’ve learned in the past year that yes man is capable of being alone and man can be more than happy and content and satisfied on his own. But there is an undeniable…lifting, when you’re with someone. It’s what elevates even the mundane. Keep your skydiving and your five star restaurants if you can give me ‘her’ and pajamas and our usual Chinese take-out. Disappointment reminds me that there is that empty space not just in my life but in my heart. It’s searing, life-affirming, encouraging heartbreak. Disappointment reminds me of what I had and what  I want. And how good everything could be. You know you would think that those who have experienced some of the worst heartbreak would eventually learn to fear or even loathe love. Like when you’re a child and you learn touching fire burns so you don’t go near it anymore. But love isn’t like that. If you’ve hurt that much, then you know you can care and be equally that much happy. I’m not lamenting I’ve met my soulmate in Philly and I might never see her again. I haven’t projected, in a completely backwards move, all of the same insecurities and false expectations I used to have onto this poor unsuspecting girl. No, actually, I’m celebrating that I can open myself to these experiences and feelings again. Feel the hope and disappointment that comes with honestly and earnestly seeking and wanting love. While loving and living and enjoying the single life I’ve learned to carve for myself. That’s progress. Hope is what helps us find each other, see opportunities for what they are, be brave enough to reach out. But disappointment is what reminds us of why. I’ll be honest, after a year of not feeling either, I was worried I’d forgotten. And for a romantic, for a human soul really, that really would have been the worst.

Jerel says, ‘hope’.

Single Guy Tries: A New Blog and First Challenge

Single Guy Says

Welcome to my brand new blog! If you’ve coming here as a previous reader, you’ll know me from my first blog, ManVsLoneliness. If not, let me just give a brief summary of what it was. After a particularly painful breakup with someone who’d been an important part of me for many many years, I took a year long break from dating and relationships to rethink what it was I wanted and was looking for. So for that year I shared my thoughts and feelings on being single, getting over heartbreak, learning about love and relationships, and in general just sharing my life and hobbies and interests.

But now I’ve started a new chapter, and a new blog. Because having moved on from that heartbreak and having gotten over the loneliness and insecurity, it felt weird to keep writing and sharing and experiencing under that name. So I’ve started SingleGuySays.

What is SingleGuySays about, you ask? Well, it’s about me, now a (happily, but also looking) single guy just trying to live his life to the fullest, waiting and looking for that Suite Life Alone.gifspecial someone. It’s about me thinking about the world no longer as a guy getting over heartbreak and thinking about relationships, but as a person looking at the world from the eyes of a single person. Over the year I’ve traveled a lot, been to many places and done many things, and almost always there’s something unique or interesting about doing these things by myself. Either I notice something different or appreciate something in a different way or the people around me bring something new or the actual activity itself takes on a different level of depth or meaning or just changes how it is experienced. So I want to share those unique perspectives on things from the common and everyday to the significant and special. I’ve learned not to bar myself from life experiences just because I don’t have, though I may always wish I did, someone special to experience them with. I’ve learned not to say no to an opportunity that comes up based on my relationship status or the company I may not have.

It’s also about never being afraid to do the things that some people only do in relationships. It’s about those moments when you see someone outside doing something by themselves, or wanting to do something yourself but for some reason, hesitating because you don’t want to either do it, or be seen doing it, by yourself. It’s about our relationship with the things we want to do and the people (or lack thereof) we do it with and why. I’ll be venturing out and aside from just doing those things that I love and want to do, I’ll every once in a while do something that maybe a lot of people have commented or mentioned being afraid to do on their own or have always viewed it as strictly a couples’ thing. And the fun part there is I’m always open to suggestions or recommendations from readers on what those activities could be.

FIRST CHALLENGE: Single Guy Tries to Improve Himself for 100 Days

One of the benefits of being alone is there’s no one you have to impress. One of the downsides of being alone for a long time is you forget, eventually, you probably will. So with a little more than 100 days before the end of the year, I thought I’d start with a 100 day improvement challenge. One of the reasons why I want to start with this is because the true motivation for self-improvement always eluded me. I’m pretty proud of the impressive array of skills I’ve accumulated over the years, but  I can’t deny that literally every single one was always because I thought ‘a girl might like this in me in the future’. I mean hey I can’t deny though that because of that now I am a pretty talented and enthusiastic cook (in fact, that’s really blown up and become a personal passion and hopeful future career for me). I’m a good driver, and handy with the regular maintenance and repair. Handy around the house with a good toolbox. It’s only recently that I began to pursue growth purely for a truly self-motivated interest. I want to do this for me. To be healthier, happier, and more knowledgeable. To that end, starting tomorrow August 16th and ending November 24th, I’m going to aim for 100 days of continuous improvement in two areas.

Jazzercise.gif

Health and Fitness: I travel a lot for work. Basically every other week. It messes up the sleep, eat, and general living cycle of a human being. I eat a lot on the company dime, sometimes not the best of food, I spend a lot of time in a car, and I don’t get to do much.  When I am home though, I alternate my week nights with different martial arts practices and weekends with various  activities. But I want more consistent, sustained activity. A little for maintenance but for at least the start, for overall general repair of a destructive lifestyle. Knowing at home I can give myself plenty of opportunity but I need to incorporate more in my travel, I’m aiming to start with something simple and sustainable. At the very least, half an hour of exercise daily.  So 100 days with at least half an hour, though I imagine it’ll hopefully end up more.

Knowledge and Experience: This is where I wish I was a bigger and more well known blogger than I obviously am. Possible branding and sponsorship. I’d sell my soul if they sponsored me. I’d like to learn something in the next 100 days as well. Something useful,Conchords French something for me, something I’ve always wanted. So I’m going to learn a new language. Specifically, French. Why? Because I went to Montreal this past year, a trip I had wanted to take for years and finally had the time and money to do so, and I was thoroughly and completely blown away. This would be the first but certainly not last tryst in the tumultuous love affair I now have with this city. And I want to go back with more than a oui and a merci. I’ve downloaded the free to use app Duolingo based on the recommendation of my brother who’s using it to learn German. (I guess we won’t get along very well after this huh.) 100 days and I’ve set my lesson counter to five lessons a day.

So I’ve paired the very significant and daunting venture of a brand new blog with the significant and demanding venture of 100 days of committed, constant, and consistent self-improvement. Both certainly not tasks to be taken willy-nilly. I hope you find something worth reading and watching over for the next 100 days and beyond. Welcome to SingleGuySays!

Jerel Says, ‘Ato no matsuri’; Organize

Obon Night

Ato no matsuri

Translation: The day after the festival (to be late, to miss one’s chance)

-Japanese proverb

Every August, for three days, the Japanese celebrate the bon festival, otherwise known as Obon. It is one of the most important Japanese traditions: a time when many Japanese return to their hometowns to honor their dead relatives.

Festival Crowd

The origin of Obon comes from the story of Mokuren, one of Buddha’s disciples. Mokuren used his psychic powers to look for his deceased parents to see in what world they had been reborn. Dismayed at finding his mother in the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, he went to Buddha to ask how he might save her. Buddha instructed him to make offerings to the many Buddhist monks who finished their summer retreat on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (eighth in the Gregorian calendar, hence August and not July). In doing so Mokuren was able to rescue his mother. Looking into his mother’s past, he also began to see and appreciate her kindness and the many sacrifices she had made for him. Overjoyed and grateful not only for his mother’s rescue but for her selflessness, Mokuren began to celebrate and dance. His dance became known as bon odori, or simply the ‘bon  dance, which is still one of the major aspects of the bon festival to this day.

Bon Dance

I’m pretty fortunate that there is a rather large Japanese demographic where I live, and Edgewater, NJ is home to the largest Mitsuwa Japanese Marketplace in the country. These two things combined mean that every year around the 15th of August our Mitsuwa holds a giant summer festival in honor of Obon and it never fails to draw an enormous crowd. I even ran into an old coworker from my glory days working at Blockbuster and an old classmate and former club member from college. It was nice to run into old friends and catch up for a bit while enjoying a whole assortment of Japanese summer treats. There were all kinds of treats to enjoy. I had an assortment of grilled seafood, grilled chicken skewers, takoyaki (fried dough filled with octopus), yakisoba (fried noodles), okonomiyaki (Japanese style pancakes), squid pancakes with fried eggs, gyudon (rice bowls with simmered beef and onions), gyoza (Japanese dumplings), and desserts like shaved ice and mochi (sticky rice dough filled with ice cream).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There were games where you could win prizes by shooting targets with a plastic toy bow or if you could get plastic rings caught on wooden pegs. On others you had a tiny net with a thin strip of paper and you had to delicately try to catch toys floating in a kiddie pool. Still others had a whole assortment of prizes attached to pieces of string and on the other side you had to grab one and pull and find out just which prize you ended up pulling out. You could also buy a variety of plastic Japanese festival masks. Some were the traditional demons and gods while others were things like superhero masks from Japanese television shows or even Pokemon.

Throughout the day, local Japanese cultural clubs and societies put on different displays and demonstrations. One was the trademark bon odori with singing and dancing and bells and spinning hats and parasols. The other was a taiko drumming performance. There was something really therapeutic and de-stressing about watching the flurry of sticks and movements and the yelling and the deep thunderous roar of drumbeats.

Taiko Drums.jpg

It really was a huge community event and not just for the Japanese (obviously, since I’m Grilled Seafood 2Filipino). You see a lot of people enjoying the summer festival every year. It’s not uncommon to see a couple young kids from high school and college anime clubs doing cosplay and showing up dressed as their favorite characters. There are plenty of families and it’s adorable to see little kids dressed up in yukata and kimono (traditional Japanese festival wear). I can’t tell you how many times I probably fell in love with some of the young women dressed in kimono as well. Whole generations of families, grandparents, parents, and children, Okonomiyakiwere enjoying the festival together. Some were celebrating their culture, others were learning about an entirely new and different one from their own. Plenty of couples, groups of friends, all different kinds of people coming together not just to enjoy, but tons of volunteers of all different ethnicities running booths and helping to organize the event behind the scenes as well.

In the US the summer festival is a fun celebration of Japanese culture and food. Mainly food. It’s a nice community event, but it’s obviously more about the surface level things like food, toys, and fun cultural displays. But I like to remember the spiritual origins that Ohakamairi.pngare still major in Japan. See the story of Mokuren ended up taking on a very specific and influential meaning in Japan. It became a story of honoring one’s ancestors and celebrating and appreciating family. Over the three days of the bon festival the dead are allowed to return to the realm of the living. Families clean their houses in preparation and hang lanterns to guide the spirits back home. They also visit their ancestor’s gravestones to place offerings such as food and incense and also to clean them up every year by brushing away dirt and leaves and washing them with water. This is known as ohakamairi. On the last day of the festival families light paper lanterns and set them afloat into rivers to send their ancestors’ spirits back off into the afterlife. It’s a beautiful tradition that fills Japan’s rivers at night with floating lanterns that is just surreal and serene and at times equally somber but also celebratory, remembering our family members who’ve since moved on.

Bon Lanterns.png

Obon is definitely a beautiful and wonderful time to reflect on family and to honor the people who’ve moved on. But I also think it’s an especially important time to remember to appreciate life and the moments we have, because we never know when it’s ‘ato no matsuri’. There is a Buddhist teaching that says that the most universal message the dead have to give us is that death will come for all equally. Kings, peasants, rich, poor. Obon is a surreal, magical time where the infinite divide between the living and the dead is shrunk just a little. We feel closer to the people who’ve moved on, who we miss and who were huge parts of our lives. Maybe it’s nice to think that there is this time where we might be visited by them, that they haven’t entirely left us and we can bring them home. Or maybe it’s just nice to have this festival to set aside time for us to reflect and remember them and honor their memories. But it’s also an important lesson that the best thing we can do is to live our lives fully and well, and to leave a mark on the world that our families and friends might remember in the future, so that years from now, they might light a lantern for us.

Jerel says, don’t wait until the day after the festival.

Jerel Says, ‘Remain Constant’; Amble

ETAR Entrance

‘Even as the archer loves the arrow that flies, so too does he love the bow that remains constant in his hands’

-Nigerian proverb

WHAT. A. WEEKEND. I have been riding on an archery high ever since I got back from my first ETAR (Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezous) experience. The scenery was spectacular, the people were incredible, and the shooting courses were absolutely fantastic. I had no idea what to expect last week, but ETAR completely blew me away.

First off, if you remember from the last post before I left, I shared the video that got me ETAR with Effieinterested in and started on the path of traditional archery. Among the people interviewed were a young brother and sister from north Jersey, Demetri and Effie. Well, I got to meet them! It was a completely random happenstance but basically as I was browsing the vendors tent admiring all of the high quality bows and arrows and leather quivers and braces I saw two very familiar faces. Very much uncharacteristically of me, I approached these strangers and asked if they were in fact, the same two people from that video. They were! I was ecstatic, and shared with ETAR with Effie and Raythem that it was that video and their words that got me interested in traditional archery and inspired me to make it to this festival. They were super nice and very happy to hear and offered words of encouragement. We exchanged numbers and, since the brother still shoots in north Jersey, he let me know where he usually goes (a park only fifteen minutes from my place) and hopefully sometime when we’re both free I can get out there and shoot with him!

They had just started browsing the tent and I was on my way out to finally hit the ETAR Practice Range.jpgcourses for the first time so we chatted for a bit before I headed off to the practice area just outside. I’ve really only had indoor range experience so the practice range was a necessary stop for me to get used to the new environment and setting and circumstances. That’s where I first got a real sense of just how big this festival really is. All across the back of the field you could see endless rows of campers and tents. It was like a small army had set up camp in the scenic beautiful woods of the Pennsylvania mountains. Over the weekend I’d come to meet people from NJ, NY, California, all states in between, and even people from as far away as Switzerland. There were plenty of archers just at the practice ranges, and even more ETAR Practice Archers.jpgtucked into the many gorgeous hikes carved along the park where the shooting courses were set up. I spent about a half hour getting used to the foam animal targets, figuring out where the target circles were on the bodies, and shooting from different angles not just straight down a lane, before I headed off to tackle the ten different courses.

So if you’ve never been to a 3D archery shoot, it’s very different from indoor target ETAR Bobbyarchery or even outdoor target archery. For one, the shoot is designed to mimic settings for a hunt, and the ultimate goal is to help archers practice for live hunting. So instead of round targets with painted circles, the targets are foam animals of varying size, shape, and design. Large black bears, bears on their hind legs, cubs, turkeys, bobcats, boar, deer, and even the random jackelope. Another big difference is that there are almost no regular straight shots. Since this is meant to be an outdoor natural shoot, often times you’ll either be shooting uphill or downhill, or at least from different angles. There might be small trees, brush, or bushes in the way. Fallen trees might obstruct or obscure certain parts of the animal. You only get one shot, and every target along a particular course is like a new problem to be solved. How you approach your shot, how you make your target, is between you and the woods.

Speaking of the woods, my god what an incredible setting for a shoot. Denton Hill State ETAR Solo KillPark is nestled on the northern slope of Denton Hill in the Pennsylvania wilds. Almost the entire park is canopied by trees. It was cool, shaded, and the air was crisp and clean. The paths were marked but far from worn. Some steep climbs, drops, rocks, fallen trees, every step took you further from civilization and closer to peace and calm. Sometimes I almost missed sighting a target because I was already just so content to amble through ETAR First Kill.jpg the woods admiring the scenery. Being more than just a 3D shoot, being a traditional 3D shoot, also meant there was a real natural connection to everything. It was stick and string the entire time. In the dead quiet of the forest you would hear the distinctive whoosh of wood arrows being shot from wood bows. It’s a different sound than glass or compound bows. And the satisfying thud of hitting foam let you know when an arrow found its mark. There was something deeply peaceful and almost meditative walking through the nature trails and taking a shot at each stop.

ETAR Boar Target

What really made this festival memorable though was the people. I spent the weekend ETAR Making Friends.jpgsurrounded by some of the nicest, most welcoming, generous people I’ve ever met. Demetri and Effie were great and super nice, and on my way to my first shoot I met two other guys who ended up being my shooting buddies for the entire weekend, Kevin and Bobby. They were from upstate NY and had been hunting for years, and were so generous with the advice and knowledge. In one day’s worth of shooting and chatting with them I learned more than I could have learned in an entire summer on my own. They shared great stories of past festivals, shoots from all across the country, and hunting conquests and failures. But more than just Demetri, Effie, Kevin, or Bobby, the people of ETAR are incredible. No one really has any ego, there’s no judgement. Beginner, expert, we all go into theETAR Kevin and Bobby woods together and we all shoot together. And whether you miss or hit the target dead on, we all walk into the woods to pick up our arrows together before moving on. There’s no time, no opportunity, for ego to get in the way. There are some shots that will naturally come, some we’ll struggle with, beginners will hit when experts miss.

ETAR Last Kill

I’ve made some great new friends at this festival, and I’ve learned a great deal more in terms of my archery and practice. But now both, these relationships and my skill, are going to need me to put in the constant time and effort to continue to grow and develop. I don’t want to lose these connections I’ve made with genuinely nice people, and I don’t want to forget the lessons I’ve learned that will help me hit all my targets in the future. Now, as the archer and the person, I must remain constant.

Jerel says, ‘remain constant’.