Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thoughts on The Art of Improvisation, Freestyle Rap and Performance

Hey Folks,
As many of you will know through my performances and content, I absolutely love freestyling and improvising. Even in elementary school, long before I knew about hip-hop, I recall making up silly songs on the spot to make my friends laugh.  Fast forward 2 decades and I've been doing a weekly freestyle show "Spontaneous Sundays with AllOne" for nearly 2 years now and constantly improvising rap in my shows.  This blog was prompted when a fan named Ryan sent a very complimentary email asking simply "HOW DO YOU DO IT?" So I thought a lot about it and polled an audience of some of my favorite improvisers that I know personally for their thoughts and responded with a version of the writing below.  I think anyone can freestyle if they practice and still I think it is one of the most impressive and amazing performances to watch whether it is musical, rapping, poetry, dance, acting or comedy.  Here are some thoughts.  I have so many personal and distant artistic influences who've helped me grow over the years and I've tried to pepper in articles and videos throughout to pay homage and share the wealth of knowledge and talent out there, as I'm far from the last word or best practitioner of freestyle!  These are numbered but in no particular order of importance.  Please comment with your thoughts and stories of your  favorite artists and books, movies, songs, videos and articles about freestyling and improvisation! 
Improvise life,
-Bruce AllOne
Cyphering at O'Briens in 2015 with DJ Second Nature, guitarist Matt Heeb, Miggs Son Daddy, Dope KNife and Drent 

1) Freestyle rapping (When I say this I specifically mean IMPROVISING, going "off the top" "off the head" "off the cuff "off the dome"  etc.) is a "practice makes... practice" skill, like everything else. There is no such thing as "perfect" especially in improvisation.  However, I think that is one of the magic and charming aspects about it is the high wire act of tripping up and then having something brilliant occur and the very next moment so long as you stick with it. The practice of freestyling is the only thing like it, there are no replacements for engaging in freestyling. It is always the same situation where you are always IN THE MOMENT. You will often have different limitations or influences depending on the scenario (you may be playing with musicians to influence your rhythms, other rappers to influence your topics, a crowd to influence your energy or even the duration of time during which you are rapping) but you are always trusting yourself into the same capricious art.
The short version of this is: freestyle as often and in as many different scenarios as you can.

Anticon rapper DoseOne and his parter Jel had a Freestyle 101 class. This video and the rapping and articulation of the skill of freestyle in it is incredible, inspirational and instructional.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH the FREESTYLE 101 mini-documentary. 

2)  A number of people (including my talented friend Eli Brooklyn) responded to me opining that flow/rhythm/cadence is more difficult to master and more important to experiment with and develop than rhyming words. “Anyone can rhyme, but flow is tantamount to great rapping.” What I take from this or what I would expound on is this: expand your toolkit of deliveries that you insert words into.  If you are comfortable switching into many different deliveries and tempos, those fluctuating factors will not trip you up and leave you open to finding rhymes and word choices as you improvise. 

3) There is an almost-magic paradoxical quality of improvising. I find that you have to walk the fine line of being completely loose so that the majority of your imagination and vocabulary is available to you and but also be alert, aware and cognizant enough that within that "blue-sky period" space you can steer yourself in any direction at the drop of a hat.  You want to be in control what you are doing so you are able to make those moves and rapid creative choices consciously, but be open to new ideas (the "yes and" principle will be expounded on below). 

There is a ritualistic or meditative nature to accessing the free-form mentality that most felicitous for performing improvisational material.  This was never more beautifully or impressively brought to bear than when I was with my long-time friend, the brilliant poet and teacher, Eliot Green last year at an intimate house-show event and we went from talking one second, to him walking across the room at a moment’s notice following a quick deep breathing exercise and then inexplicably performing two completely lucid, mistake-free, articulate and topically relevant perfect  spoken word pieces that were totally improvised.  I had chills the entire time.  When I asked Eliot about it he has much to say. (He renounced performing written work years ago because he felt disconnected from audiences when reading from the page but was also disenchanted by the cumbersome ordeal preparing and memorizing material).  Eliot described a visual exercise he learned to do which I’ll poorly paraphrase here:  “I close my eyes and breathe deeply and imagine myself walking down a hallway to open a door.  When I open the door, I'm in a “blue-sky space” and am able to freely and comfortably improvise."

 CLICK HERE to watch a freestyle session as a Spontaneous Sundays with AllOne episode.
Which you can also watch for examples on adapting to different conditions and style (I go for more spoken word phrasing,tempo, vividness of language and allow the a capella format to let me loosen up my usual attachment to rhythm. 

4) As my rapper friend Kev Varghese (the most frequent Spontaneous Sundays guest) and several others made a point to focus on: One of the most important things is to HAVE FUN.  Let go of your ego and get  out of your own way (this is a hard thing culturally for rapper's to do, as it is a braggart's domain.)  Freestyle sessions are all fleeting moments and there are no wrong answers. Performing before people can be scary and you might want to impress people and do written-level virtuoso lyricism completely off-the-cuff. Trust when I say that "yes, written level improvising is possible" but ironically, fixating on that genius level of achievement will undoubtedly lock you up and stop the flow of thought.  This is essentially the experience of giving yourself writers block in real time.

 (As an aside I view “writers’ block”as an illusion created by stifling expectations. I.e. You have such a high bar set for yourself to impress yourself and the people who will consume your art that you never allow anything to come out because you’ve narrowed the aperture of what is acceptable and you never get any of the helpful creative juices flowing, so to speak.) 

An example to illustrate this point of expectations = freezing up is that, often, if you can get people who don't rap to goof off and freestyle sometimes they come up with incredible rhymes because they have no inhibitions, no presumptions that everyone thinks they will be amazing.  This "beginner's luck" or more accurately, "outsider's freedom" phenomenon is probably exclusive to rapping because essentially you are just talking with more rules as to what you say and how you say it. It is liberating to remember that we essentially improvise every conversation!  Freestyle rapping is the same thing as talking, it just imposes more limitations such as tempo adherence, rhyme pattern, topic consistency, word play etc. 

5) Despite seeming contradictory to the advised abandoning of our ego, when it comes to accessing our peak potential in all things, an ambitious sense of confidence is key (this is where fun comes in!)  All things are good in moderation, confidence is one of this things to balance in improvisation.  You need to be able to trust your skills enough to fall back on your instinctive ability!  If you feel good about your ability then you can be loose or psychologically spry enough to really grab onto whatever mercurial thoughts that you have and utilize them as expressive tools in the moment. 

6) Expose yourself to different scenarios, freestyle with other people. Try improvising singing. Rap over live instrumentation as well as different sorts of beats. Presenting yourself with these challenges is only going to on your skill set exponentially. Remember, in true improvising there is intrinsically no comfort zone. (This is probably true of art of any sort.)  

7) In general, improvisers of all sorts operate best with a “yes, and“ initiative. You may have heard this. It's a big axiom in improv acting. Never refuse a prompt to go in a new direction.  Run with suggestions full speed ahead with open arms and an open mind to do your best to meet the challenge proposed. The beat speeds up? Speed up along with it and see what happens! The other rapper suggests that you trade off every four lines? Go with that and see what happens. This is not limited to your interactions with other people or other factors in the freestyling, this rule is probably most useful in the self-contained meta-cognitive experience of rapping.

"It's not the note you play that is the wrong note it's the note you play after that makes it right or wrong." -Miles Davis
If you watch Spontaneous Sundays you’ll notice that I “screw up” a lot, I'll miss a rhyme or I say a nonsense word or a trip up my words. This can be embarrassing, but also it can be seen as an opportunity to take a new direction either with a rhyme scheme or an associative string of word play.  Even incorporating the newfound cadence created by my trip-up into the lines that follow can be a fun hair-pin turn.  Removing the ego and being open to anything helps us let every momentary mistake be a redemptive springboard for a recovery landing in a new, unforeseen direction.

8) Nearly everyone I talked to agreed that writing songs helped improve their freestyling. (My friend Dope Knife responded with the reverse statement, saying he observed that the more he freestlyes the more he notices his writing and rapping improve). Both seem inherently obvious as mutual benefactors and beneficiaries as both practices are great exercises for sharpening your thinking as well as your relationship to language, music, poetry and self-expression.  Writing a lot will help with your vocabulary as well as elucidating your ideas, your understanding of language, the style with which you write or rap and what you enjoy most about language and how you employ its plethora of tools. 

9). On the subject of expanding vocabulary, which Ryan explicitly expressed concern with his acumen for conjuring words,  there is a simple -if dry- answer to this: Write every day. But also and most importantly, read everyday, listen to music every day. When you come across a word or a turn of phrase that you don’t understand, stop for a minute and look it up and write it down. Writing it down will help you retain it and maybe do your best to employee that word or turn of phrase the next time you’re creating something or the next time you have a conversation.  Stephen King's "On Writing"  and Ray Bradbury's "Zen & The Art Of Writing" are both must-reads that comment extensively that you cannot be serious writer if you do not read. If we follow that logical thread, you cannot be a superb freestyler if you are not a good writer/rapper. Any of the greatest rappers of all time will tell you that they are readers and diligent students of their craft, I almost guarantee that!

Here are some particularly great freestylers and projects that I think would be informative to study/get inspired by:

Eyedea (Here's a link to Eyedea and Slug's famous freestyle on The Wake Up Show).  Eyedea is my personal greatest artist/freestyler/writer of all time.

(I've gotten to beatbox on stage for Kristoff Krane freestyling in NYC in 2010, he is always getting open and freestlying in his sets and for videos.  Here is Eyedea and Kristoff Krane's all-freestyle project “Face Candy”  they did 2 albums of live recordings as a group. "This Is Where We Were" and "Waste-Age-Teen Land"

Astronautalis (who includes freestyles in each of his shows by taking topics from the audience.  He also did an amazing project called "DANG!" (listen here) comprised of 7 freestyles in 7 nights where for a week straight when he woke up he recorded  a freestyle song about his dream the night before.)

Sage Francis (amazing freestyler and one of my favorite writers in hip hop of all time!)

Dope Knife (who has a freestyle section in each of his sets called "Who Got The Props?" where he takes items from the audience and makes songs about them)

Supernatural is a legendary freestyler and battler.

(Thesaurus and Illmac are two pioneering battle rap legends. Here are their 2 final rounds winning World Rap Championships 2006 and here's their 2007

Here are some great Spontaneous Sundays with AllOne episodes with fellow improvisers of various disciplines.  Each guest provides a different example of me working to adapt with different influences and styles and prompts:
Spoken Word artist Eliot Green 
Beatboxer, rapper, singer Kaila Mullady
Rapper, writer Tim Will Hunting
Rapper, Singer Zeus Lee
Producer/musician Drip 'N' Drive

Monday, January 1, 2018

Sorry, I'm Working! (Prioritizing art and combating distractions)

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018 my fellow AllOnederers.

As the symbolic significance of year's transitions entice us into hopeful changes of habit and pursuits of our ideals, this post I've been thinking about seems prime time to share.
One of the things I value more than anything is my writing and musical creation craft.  However, our priorities are really expressed through how we spend our time.  As Kristoff Krane expresses with beautiful brevity on his new 2017 release, "Kairos part 1":
"There's nothing more true than "You Are What You Do" "

I often find myself having a difficulty carving out time to simply sit down and work on a recording project or a writing endeavor.  A mix of my own ADHD and codependency (Note: Self-observed and described) implores me to say "YES" to every plan and event offer or request that a friend or family member asks of me.  The trouble is, often I'm thinking in the back of my head "Well... I have so much to do..." and yet I will confirm and commit to recreational plans.  Because it's just fun, right?  Life is passing me by and I'm lucky to have friends.  It's more exciting to go romping about with a slew of pals or catch some new stimulating media than it is to shut in privately and do creative work or -worse- dry independent-artist business work.  But pulling aside the impulsive answer to the intrusive-though-complimentary social opportunities, I'm very plainly neglecting my highest calling by not aligning the short-term-decisions with the long-term-goals.

Which calls back to the idea When saying "NO" to others, we're able to say "YES" to ourselves.

Often, if I bring up my own creative goals (admittedly meekly) as a refusal to proposed plans, people don't take that answer seriously.  Don't get me wrong, I love my friends and I'm grateful to have companions and family members who wish to spend time with me, but it can also be fairly distracting.  Frequently, non-creatives immediately figure that as an artist with a nebulous goal, you have a shifting timeline or a floating schedule and no real deadlines.  Yes, I should be more adamant about staying disciplined about my own goals.  However, I needed to do something to combat other's convincing prejudice against taking creative work seriously as well as to safeguard against my own tendency to jump impulsively into plans. 
(Remember: "People pleasers" are people too...)

Here's where another observation came into play.  Nobody questions when you say "Oh I have to work".  Not even for birthday parties and more formal or special events!  It's just accepted in this "us vs. them" sort of mentality that "yeah work sucks and external forces are controlling you and taking you away".  Yet I don't actually care about my own 9-5 work or my day-job, but it is a rarely-if-ever suggested thing to try to abandon or get out of work obligations.  Fusing these situations brought on a strategy that would take care of everyone that wasn't entirely lying, or was at worst lying-by-omission.

Recently, I've been identifying all my creative-time vaguely as "work" and nobody challenges me, and I can go about what I need to get done in a serious, uninterrupted and guiltless way. 

If I have creative work or artistic goals that would make me uncomfortably opt out of plans with friends or family, I just tell people "Oh I'm working until X time" to buy myself time to get what I need to accomplished.  When I am getting out of my day job at 6 and then planned on writing/editing or what-have-you at the library until 9, I just tell people "I'm working until 9".  Nobody asks questions, nobody tries convincing me to "wait until tomorrow to do that", nobody says "well, can't you do that when you get home later?", nobody makes any implication that the work isn't serious or a top priority

Really, all of this is a simple semantic way for me to trick myself and my friends into creating an environment that I can take my music and writing career more seriously.  If you have codependency issues or if you frequently find yourself distracted by the fun of other's plans and suggestions this might be a viable way for you to reclaim some of your prioritizing confidence.  For friends who I've done this to who are reading this... sorry, I can't talk right now, I'm working.

I hope we're all able to prioritize our goals and preferred disciplines while managing our time in a way that is best suited to becoming who we feel most represents us and accomplishes what we need to in this world!

What are your thoughts on this?  How do you keep on top of your goals and creative schedule?
Please contribute comments and suggestions below!
Always be loving, always love being!
-Bruce "AllOne" Pandolfo

Friday, December 29, 2017

Bookworm recap 2017 booklist (with links and recommendations)

Hello Bookworms!
    As we approach a new year, which comes with a cliche degree of incredulity, I figured I'd share the  list up of books I read in the past year (with as many links as I could muster to relevant things either purchase-links or information/website links.)   I don't think it affects you remotely, except perhaps to see where my head may have gone as far as motivation to read one title to another if there were any discernible through-lines, but this list is also in chronological order of reading them (save for random comic volumes) This year I actually obtained three new bookshelves, one of which I made from two old dresser drawers, so my crazy personal library is a little more tidy!

  To my retrospective surprise, A great majority of these are both graphic novels AND specifically ones by Alan Moore.  I've really fallen in love with the graphic novel form. Also, in any endeavor he is tackling, he seems to be the greatest creator in it.  I've actually come to the conclusion that he's one of the most thoughtful, interesting and gifted living writers, and certainly the finest I've ever read.

   I also ventured back into my love of Kurt Vonnegut in a big way as well as discovered a great love for Jules Verne in debuting him for myself.  I read a fair amount of authors who were new to me, none of which really disappointed in their own ways;  Tim Will Hunting (my friend Tim Mission), Tim Ferriss, Dashiell Hammett, Jonathon Tropper, Truman Capote, Jon Baird, Italo Calvino, Franz Kafka, OSHO, Randy Pausch and Joseph Conrad.   I'd venture to say that as far as novels/books specifically go, I think the most fascinating and enrapturing and enjoyable was "The Explorers Guild" by Jon Baird and Kevin Costner (yes, THAT Kevin Costner.) Illustrated by Rick Ross (No, NOT THAT Rick Ross).  Second to that might have been the poetic and strange Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.   

Special Mentions:
Best Non-fiction 
"Custodian Chronicles"

Best non-fiction collection:
 "All These Wonders"

Best Graphic Novels: 
Miracleman and/or Promethea 

Best "Classic": 
The Lost World

Best Story Collection:
 "Trigger Warning"

Best Anthology: 
"Shadow Show"

Favorite author new to me: 
Dashiell Hammett

Best Fiction read: 
"Explorers Guild"

Most unique prose fiction read:
 "Invisible Cities"

Most pragmatically impacting: 
"4-Hour Work Week"

 Please comment with some favorite reads of your own this year or if you have reviews or opinions on any of the following works! Asterisks will accompany my strong recommendations on this list 
Happy New Year and Happy Reading my fellow bookworms!

** Tom Strong books 1-6 (Alan Moore) **

** Promethea Books 1-5 (Alan Moore) **

Tom Strong's Terrific Tales book 1&2 (Alan Moore)

Dept.H vol. 1 & 2 (Matt Kindt)

Friday, October 6, 2017

"Confronting confrontation" (an essay on anger, sincerity and emotional filters)

"Confronting Confrontation"

What a furious countenance!  Passion. Intensity. Still not angry!

I don't think one can ever really successfully say "I'm a nice guy" .  It's suspicious in its self-aggrandizing presumptions.  I mean, that's up to everyone else isn't it?  At best you can endeavor to be an amicable, well-intended person.  I'm reminded of a very funny and perceptive comedy routine by Louis CK when he ruminates on how you don't get to deny when someone else says "you're an asshole ", rather, that indicates that it's time to reflect how you got there. (Enjoy the routine by clicking here).

I am a naturally gregarious person. I love spending time with people, both old and new.  I am grateful to be in some beautiful, supportive and inspiring social circles.  I'm blessed to say that I'm on good terms with almost everyone I've met (I think so anyway. See what I'm saying?  How this can be problematic?) If I'm being honest I'll admit to bearing a striking resemblance to someone with codependency issues. Alright, whether I'm "being honest" or not, I probably have a bit of working through codependency to do.  

All jokes aside (despite that I want to have fun here) I think the honesty is what I want to talk about and how the codependency could tie in with how we choose to present ourselves, to what layers of us get revealed. 

I'm generally a jovial and optimistic person.  Real "anger" inhabits me with the infrequency of Halley's Comet. Obviously, I get frustrated by mundane circumstances or people throughout the day, but typically I brush it off with a smile, a laugh or a logically adjusted change of heart.   However, I sometimes find myself in these situations that I'm sure are relatable.  In the rare moments when I get mad (or, better put: I feel agitated because I perceive myself as slighted, disrespected or taken advantage of) I go through these acerbic dialogues with the "jerk" in question where I chew the person out and "speak my mind".   I'll vividly envision saying my piece, being blunt and potentially hurtful in this imaginary standoff with my fantasy assailant, editing my points and being cleverer and more acerbic as I go.  Shortly after some thinking playing Devil's advocate and seeing multiple angles, I relax and let it go.  Even more worthy of note (and what prompted me to write this in the first place) when I see that person, most of my aggravated indignant feelings melt away as they are humanized in my presence and I simply want a pleasant interaction. 

That cordial second stage of this and what actually happens is more what I want to talk about.  

To revisit this:
 I initially feel righteous and confident in my spurned frustration.  I dwell on it and fantasize about an altercation until I have a rational discussion internally.  In my best moments I weigh both sides or multiple perspectives and subsequently dispel my anger with logically-met conclusions.  In fact, the first step in this process is that I often dismiss anger as an option altogether, it never solves much of anything.  For better or worse I have an estranged relationship with anger.  It seems like an incomplete feeling, like its just an idiotic impulse emotion before going to somewhere better and smarter.  It isn't even a  clearheaded or constructive lens through which to communicate or evaluate anything.  So by the time I see the person I was upset by, all of my self righteous anger has sort of drifted away. 

Sounds pretty good right? Internal problem solving and peacekeeping! Here's my conundrum: am I being a "nice person", forgiving and thoughtful, or is this cowardice?  Am I eschewing anger because I can't bear to upset people and/or speak my mind for fear of the consequences?

 I wrote in a song, "I'd  confront my fears but my fear is confrontation" and I think that probably plays in somewhere here.

 I encounter all of these people that have these staunch opinions of themselves and share popular, proud phrases of uncompromising self-certainty; "Take me as I am or watch me as I go", "Don't don't yourself for anyone", "I have no filter" and things like "I'd rather be a bitch than fake".  I've never met a person of these believes that I decided was just making a excused for being insufferable and unable to adapt or be empathetic.  Regardless, all of these people would look at my thought processes and would likely think I was being disingenuous for not stubbornly and scornfully having flown off the handle the very same moment I felt upset.  For one reason or another, combativeness repels me, it all seems childish and petty to me.

 Even therapists remind us, "all of your emotions are valid" 
Yes, but surely some are more productive and constructive than others.  If all our feelings are ours, at what point are we crossing a line from "real" to "fake"? If I've sincerely journeyed through my emotions in a self-aware thought process and decided against my more heated instinctual reaction then I'm being "real".  

The difference is the incentive for presenting oneself to their "opponent" differently than you initially felt.  It is a fine line between the censored, unhealthy bottling of emotions and actually processing your natural reactions and emotions before interacting with others. 

I feel I'm teetering between being maturely considerate and being cowardly in avoiding confrontation because I haven't the confidence to be forthright about my opinions or stand up for myself. 
Also, it is certainly easier to argue my point successfully against villains in my mind and resolve to the comfort of my uncontested "morally superior standpoint".  I then get to celebrate my own "advanced" ability to snuff or develop my raw and more rugged irrational reactions. 
 I don't know if I'm "a nice guy" or not but I am sure that I intend to be kind and pleasant to encounter.  Obviously,  I hope to be around nice people as well. I also hope that others would trust that I'm capable of having a mature dialogue or disagreement if something was an issue that needed to be discussed.   Maybe some of my issue is that perhaps I'm not trusting others in my life enough to comfortably bring difficult conversations to the table and perhaps I'm not trusting myself enough in that my perspective is worth bringing up even in the face of someone else's doubt about it.

 Do any of you have similar conflicts (or lack thereof)? I don't know if there is a right or wrong answer here I just notice these issues and I'd like to hear what you think.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

"Challenging Days" Recap (All My Challenge Reflections)

In June 2017 my writer and musician friend Phil Corso and I randomly chose a predetermined "task" or "challenge" to change our perspective or learn something new and experience something different from our typical life!  We decided to called this experiment "CHALLENGING DAYS" and Phil created a website where at the end of every day we would post our reflections on the experience and invite people to participate alongside us and submit their thoughts as well.  I made this post to share the full month's worth of my 30 reflections and challenges, which are now also edited more carefully since I was often just doing a first draft voice-to-text update into a shared google document at the end of each day while we were doing it.  I really enjoyed this experience and had some epiphanic and profound moments throughout the month.  I look forward to potentially doing it again soon!  If you did any of these or you have personal experiences with this, please let me know and comment with your anecdotes and thoughts! -Bruce "AllOne" Pandolfo 

Although I am not the type to complain and generally take inconveniences in stride, today was still an enlightening meditation. It comes as no surprise that enforcing an embargo of complaints is innately soothing.  The only thing worth remarking on about that seemingly obvious point is that we complain as if to incredulously rally against our obstacles and discomforts.  The irony is that justifying complaining enables the practice and it becomes an ugly obstacle in itself.  We become less and less comfortable and more willing to be petty in our outrages.   Several strange things happened to me today as if the day was trying to challenge me further (I unprecedentedly threw up after the gym, was tasked with looking after the most difficult individual at my day job, which I was also late for due to construction and traffic).  Happy to report that while I don't ordinarily complain all that much, I didn't even utter one gripe when new scenarios that were less than optimal came my way.  Interestingly, being more mindful about complaining sort of makes you an anthropologist in what quickly becomes apparently is our culture of querulousness. The good thing is that I find that even if today's "Anti-complaint challenge" was unspoken, I found that stoicism and not encouraging other people's complaints sort of shut down their angst-fueled momentum.  It's as though griping is infectious and the antidote is calm, mature acceptance. It occurred to me that complaining is a lot like impulsively saying "ouch" or helping when you didn't really get hurt (and is equally as useful).  Once you have eliminated the impulse to uselessly whine about something that has occurred, your only option is to productively invent a solution, skipping a juvenile reactionary step that is needless. No complaints here!

I have always had an adverse relationship with sleep. It appeared that my grandfather, who I idolized, never slept. He would stay up late with us then wake up to train at the gym before the sunrise and then head to work early each day. I always saw this epic mythical tireless lifestyle as an ideal and I still frantically feel that sleep is a huge waste of time (although hugely important of course, I just wish we didn't have to do it!) Growing up, I took pride in always being the first person up in my house. The last five years I've probably gotten an average of five hours of sleep a night. I recently changed jobs and I have been "sleeping in" more because I've been staying up later and I miss having the mornings to myself. Despite planning on waking up an actual two or three hours earlier than my normal 9/10 o'clock Rising time lately I went to sleep around 4 AM and woke up at 7AM, groggily. I have always had the strange ability to be almost immediately on point, "0 to 60" right after rising no matter how many hours of sleep I'd gotten. Sadly, as I'm nearing my 30's, I'm certainly finding that indefatigable superhuman nature attenuating! Waking up with nearly no sleep was admittedly a little rough at first but I threw my gym clothes on, grabbed a drink and was in and out of the gym by 8:30, grabbed a breakfast sandwich I rarely ever have time for. I was able to read. I felt like I'd cheated time having the mornings back. My town was calm and quiet and mostly free of typical late morning errand-running hustle and bustle and even standing outside on my porch hearing no cars presented a lot of solace. Although I didn't do any creative work during this time I did find myself wondering if all of that isolated work free from distraction would be a good work time as I used to and have intended many mornings. I definitely recommend this and certainly plan on endeavoring to reassert my schedule as a productive morning dweller, just next time maybe I will go to sleep at a reasonable time!

I was really excited about the prospect of this challenge especially as an open task for people to participate in hoping we could collectively make a difference! Through people like Tim Ferriss and Sam Harris whose podcasts and work I am enamored with, I found out about an organization that helps people to know what charities are most effective and our most honest about where their money goes… I ended up giving to the "against malaria foundation" which was one of their most recommended charities. I decided on donating enough money to purchase five insecticide infused nets to prevent the lethal spread of malaria. I didn't realize that malaria is collectively responsible for more deaths in human history than anything else. Sam Harris, whose opinion I trust about most anything, also opts to donate to them monthly. I don't have a ton of money, but I try my best to often crowdfund artists and projects since I know and appreciate the struggle. Admittedly in my starry eyed creative enthusiasm bubble, I don't contribute enough to “real world” higher-urgency issues, I'm grateful to this challenge for the opportunity to change that up and I felt good about that. Challenge yourself to change the world and change yourself to challenge the world!

When I thought this challenge up I was thinking about how we read a lot of the same work and how some of us don't even read at all. I felt that short story would be a good compromise. I ended up reading "An Experiment In Misery“ by Stephen Crane (most famously perhaps as the writer of “Red Badge Of Courage”), in a collection that my friend Annie bought for me while on tour in Connecticut. The story was really well written and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the collection. The story focused on characters of abject poverty and the division of class and feeling unseen. The interesting coincidental part is that in this edition, the footnotes revealed that the story was opened and closed in its initial publishing with a concept that the main character was an affluent man doing a sort of extreme “challenging days” scenario where he dresses as a vagrant to understand that life. Very recommended.

 I was really excited about this challenge for Phil and I and especially to challenge anyone participating alongside since technology is so cripplingly pervasive. I won't rant on that, anyone who is familiar with my work knows that I have a strained relationship with technology. Admittedly I am very “plugged in” because I use my phone so much for making plans to do musical and creative projects as well as social media for awareness-raising of my artistic endeavors. I was excited until the night before, when I realized that a pen pal of 5 years who I've never met was in town and we wanted to make plans to meet up, and I had to drive A LOT to pick him up, get lunch and then drop him off and then get myself to work on time. I got sudden histrionic anxiety and started thinking about changing the challenge and texted Phil "fuck fuck fuck" histrionically! (Anyone who is remotely close to me knows that I have a comical-bordering-on-pathetic ineptness when it comes to navigation.). Before I went to bed I hand wrote all of the directions on a sheet of paper and then went to bed with my phone on airplane mode and jumped up and got out of bed quickly without the option to mess around on the Internet or check on my emails or social media or texts, that was very noteworthy! I got out to Flushing Queens 45 minutes away, miraculously for me (pathetic, remember?) With no problem and had a slight moment where I wasn't sure what door I should use and had to ring the doorbell… Gasp! I had a moment’s apprehension and anxiously plotted what I would do if I used the wrong doorbell! It ended up being the right door and I exhaled an absurd sigh of relief! Admittedly as I drove us to the breakfast place 45 minutes away, we got a little lost and because we were pressed for time I ended up cheating and turning on my phone just to use my GPS… I was made aware that by 11 o'clock I already had 30 or so text messages without me replying at all, think of all of those amassed distractions I’d normally have had to engage with, taking me from the everyday moments! I don't think that I'm alone in not being able to navigate without a GPS despite my terrible “inner-compass”! I ended up using my GPS to get home as well but otherwise did not interact with my phone at all until I had a slight moment of panic when my car started acting up and I couldn't rifle through the driver’s manual fast enough so I impulsively turned on my phone and used Siri to ask what to do… How insane is that? The answers were in the manual right in my hands but that was not fast enough! The rest of the night and my workday I didn't even have my phone physically near me and it made me feel much more present and engaged. at the end of my shift I was able to read and took a nap with no phone to apprehend the focus of my intent! I ended up going on a two hour walk to pick up oil for my car and simply walked and sang to myself and rapped as I often used to, unencumbered by any demands or even having the addicted urge or option to checking my phone periodically. It was very liberating and a hugely important reminder. As I'm writing this in Phil and my google doc it is nearly 9:30 and I have 45 unanswered texts. Usually I get back to people the moment I receive their message with frantic intentions if politeness and checking off a minor communicative task, but I’m experiencing a sort of profound and guiltless rewriting of that mentality that remind me these things can wait.

This one was an easy one but apparently not for some people, many people confessed to wanting to do it and then just decided that they can't or just out right defiantly exclaimed "no!" As one friend did. Growing up I hated the idea of coffee all the way until I was about 20 and I went upstate to school in Oswego, NY where I was perpetually broke and it was freezing cold and I needed to stay up to do work and they had free coffee which remedied all of that so I started drinking it black both to emulate my grandfather and to make it so that I wasn't really enjoying coffee because I am weirdly ascetic and stubborn in that way. Fast forward nine years and I drink coffee rather regularly sometimes in crazy amounts always strong and always black and always in large quantities. Recently I hadn't been drinking as much coffee and I probably have tea every other day at least at night to relax or settle my stomach. I liked this because it's a little more soothing even if the tea is caffeinated and it feels more hydrating to drink tea. I had three different kinds of teas today, at home I drank a yogi tea that was called cold season, I brought my Celestial Seasonings pumpkin tea and traded it for a peach tea with a friend at work… That's another thing I really like about tea, is that you can have drastically different flavors and as long as you have hot water you can make tea anywhere ( as I did at work and shared with other people.) It was communal, as well as a nice and relaxing source of warmth on this cold day. I feel like Internet culture specifically makes all of these clichés about how "I'm not a human until I drink my coffee" etc. and sort of cutely emphasizes this addiction with such exhausting predictable repetition (like the “case of the Monday's” nonsense). This was definitely a good reminder that I should scale back on the immense amount of caffeine I consume and I can hopefully avoid some ulcers in the process!

Today's challenge received very polarizing reactions. I have some friends who were telling me that they are almost constantly on the phone when they're in their car with the option of Bluetooth and then I have people (Phil included as I'm sure he will tell you) who were mortified by the prospect of it altogether. . It is funny that we are so caught up in our phones but that we don't ever use them as phones most of the time and we get some form of absurd anxiety at the thought of phone calls many of us. It also occurred to me that it is a sign of the times that many of these "challenges" and prompts to change life up are centered around reconnecting with one another in more intimate ways or disengaging more from technology. I myself am of the breed that I'm not necessarily intimidated by phone calls unless it is something business related and often while touring I will take it vantage of the Bluetooth in my car returning my car into a giant phone booth and allowing me hands free access to catch up with people and just feel less alone on long isolated drives! I did this for several hours on thanksgiving this past autumn and just called everyone in my phone and talking with anyone who would answer! I think some of the anxiety about phone calls stems from our inability to converse fluidly these days as the cultural Zeitgeist orbits around interpersonal interactions less and less and more in the paradoxical isolated illusion of connectivity that social media perpetuates. Sometimes I don't answer calls because I think it will take longer than I have time for and I think I've almost always found that I can achieve more in a phone call as far as an exchange of information that I can get all day through text in a matter of minutes. Today afforded me the opportunity to catch up with my Grandma, talk with Phil for a hilarious spell (I think he was using me as a non-threatening warm-up), talk to Owen “Drent” my rapper buddy from Rhode Island (which resulted also in potential tour plans) and my rapper/artist/musician friend Miggs to find out about him coming to town to perform. I also left a handful of voicemails as well for people, I do enjoy texting as a convenient opportunity for multitasking throughout the day and making plans where a phone call would not be appropriate, but phone calls always add a more human element and once you can adjust to the difference in pacing and the immediacy that doesn't exist in text message there is so much more emotion and humanity in those interactions. This was not necessarily a "challenge" for me but it was a good opportunity for sure. Reconnect!

I really like this challenge because it rewires your brain to think about charity as a goal from moment to moment basis. I didn't have any cash on me although I thought of a few different options like where panhandlers were that I know of and where I could possibly just pay for someone's food, drink or toll in a drive-through. Then I looked around on Kickstarter for ideas for people to support and in the suggested list there is one for a podcast and news media outlet of community investigative journalism called "BROOKLYN DEEP” that has gotten rave reviews by its small audience and seemed like it had its heart in the right place, was really trying to do something for good people and give a voice to those who did not have that opportunity by covering events and issues in central Brooklyn. I would really recommend that you check this out and donate a little money, they have 22 days left but were only 30% funded. I kept scrolling down more and saw that there was a "Kevlar iPhone charging cable" and it had 10 days left and was 2200% funded. I was immediately enraged by this contrast and felt saddened by this tawdry representation of where our collective commercial interests and priorities lie. With righteous indignation I happily donated $50 to "Brooklyn Deep" with a hint of vindictiveness towards my vapid peers and shared their page on my Facebook. The Brooklyn Deep 3rd Rail podcast is now subscribed to (and has great feedback). Hopefully they get what they need. The challenge today was perhaps as much a bitter lesson as it was a chance to learn about something that I now feel excited for and feel good that I had the opportunity to learn about something special and possibly make a difference in its trajectory or longevity. Now my phone is dying and I can’t find my charger cable… I certainly won’t be picking up a Kevlar one… but the quote “ideas are bulletproof” as I remember it from Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta comes to mind.

Phil suggested “Void” by Vanna for me today, a band that I know he loves and I've been curious about (mostly because of his love of it). I've never listened to them and this song was a hell of an introduction. Intentionally abrasive and admittedly hard to listen to at first with how aggressive and dissonant the screaming vocals were. This isn't innately my preferred music style but looking up the lyrics I enjoyed the writing and really could feel the energy in the song and the darkness of it. As a lyricist, sometimes it occurs to me that any writing could be any “genre” which paints me a picture of how certain delivery of lines renders them more effective. The vocalist really got the point across. “I’ve become a black hole I'm not like you,I can't fucking pretend that the sun’s not gone My sky’s all wrong, no floating on clouds”Were probably my favorite lyrics, so visual and devastating in their way. I don't know that I have a new favorite band in Vanna, but I'm grateful for a glimpse into a friend’s musical taste and to the song for reminding me the power and great breadth of expression, maybe I need less self-consciousness and more abandon when recording. Thanks Phil!

I thought of this challenge because I know for a fact that I never drink as much water (or liquids in general) as I'm supposed to… When I talked to a few people some replied they do this all the time and others even said "I don't think I could drink that much of anything!" and I think the tasks that get the most polarizing responses are the most telling. I felt throughout the day like I was drinking an excessive/obsessive amount and felt strangely “full” on water. I definitely peed way more than I'm used to, but I suppose it is way more natural as my urine was clear and I felt like an engine that just got an oil change and just generally subtly healthier. Maybe this feeling is placebo and so I think I'm going to keep this as part of a regular routine and see if I feel a difference in the long term! Definitely odd to feel that drinking was such a chore and worried that I would not be able to reach the goal that seems so simple. Certainly found myself a new way to treat my body that is a very easily achievable improvement. A third of the way there!

I try to do this challenge many days of each week, as a writer and just as a person I feel that vocabulary is so important. Communication is so much of life, empathy and interrelations and attempting to comprehend and articulate the nuances of our human experience. I have a word of the day calendar (my parents have been buying me one every year for the past 4 years.) While I was finishing a great book that I’ve been reading “The Explorers Guild volume 1 Passage To Shambala” I came across a word I needed brushing up on, “Proselytize” which I then looked up and wrote down (as I always do in this situation). Proselytize is a verb that means to convert or attempt to convert (someone) from one religion, belief, or opinion to another. Or to promote or advocate a belief of course of action. I kept checking to be sure how to use it and pronounce it and finding reasons or places to use it, and it was a good feeling to have a new way to express ideas.

 I suggested this challenge because it was something that I knew I wanted to get back into. For a while I got a lot out of meditating daily using the app "calm" and then the app “headspace”. But I had a job change and my life got a little busier and my morning routine didn't have time for meditating without fear of falling asleep. I interpreted this task a few ways, and so I went to the barbershop because I found that always to be meditative and relaxing. I didn't have one of those thought-free heads, I just had a peaceful time and got a nice haircut so there was definitely something gained in that and a solace there that I experienced. When I went to the gym in the morning I did what I do about half the time and went in the sauna first, sometimes I try to do a little meditating and stretching but this time I deliberately put on a guided meditation for 10 minutes from YouTube and just sat and sweated and concentrated and probably overheated but really relished in the calm blazing sanctuary while nobody entered the sauna my entire sitting and time sort of disappeared and I think I had a moment or two of real clarity and I felt as I used to feel, a little more clear headed and rested and maybe more in control or "at the wheel" the rest of the day. This was yet another challenge that introduced or reminded me about another habit and lifestyle that I should take up to be my best self. Thanks "challenging days"!

Today was probably an easy one for both Phil and I but I'm always happy to have an enforced excuse to create and to stay mindful about productivity. One of my thoughts, especially artistically, that kept coming up with the idea of creation versus consumption. I felt more aware about the decision to make things instead of just taking them in distractedly. Today was a welcome and incessant reminder to spend my energy on forging something new as opposed to just picking something up whether it was a show, or food, a song etc. Speaking of creating/consuming… today I made the best cheeseburger of my life I think on the grill outside! Making your own food is so much cheaper and more gratifying and often tastier than going out or just picking up food and I feel like time is an excuse for people, but it really only takes an hour tops to make most things it seems. On an artistic note, I also spent a significant amount of time editing and writing for a new song with my DJ, BMO that I'm recording this Saturday and worked on it throughout the day! I made and posted my daily web-comic, DUGGS. I made two small videos today sharing my progress on the new song and reminding people about my weekly project spontaneous Sundays for being out with its new episode! I decided that this was a good excuse to get back to pickling vegetables which I haven't done and more than half a year and I miss it and so I went out and grabbed some cauliflower and string beans and cucumbers and spices and made a bunch of jars of pickles which was great fun. I also intended on submitting my short story to a project I am a part of and I hauled a pallet a mile or two all the way to my house to turn into a bookshelf which is a task I've been wanting to do, but I sort of ran out of time and I think that was one of the big lessons today the reminder I got from Tim Ferriss that a busy to-do list doesn't really mean a productive one. My housemate has said of me recently that my focus is like a shotgun blast while my other housemate is like a precision laser and with my ADD style brain I can certainly agree I tend to have "too many pans in the fire" and juggle so many things that it takes all projects longer to get done. It can be a sort of time management version of "jack of all trades master of none". While I felt extra gratified and excited about yet another day of being hyper focused on creating more than anything else it definitely made me realize that a full plate doesn't always make for the healthiest meal and that less is more of you apply the 80/20 rule, 20% of your actions could produce 80% of your positive results. As someone who is scatterbrained and constantly excited and inspired today was an invitation to revisit my thought process on what a normal day might be like anyway and on that generous opportunity for perspective alone, CHALLENGING DAYS proves useful again!

Sort of strange or pathetic that this was one of the hardest tasks to stay faithful to! Profanities are ticks, crutches and fillers. I broke this somewhere between 5-7 times. In one observable trend curses slipped out in two different conversations and it was totally unconscious, the commonality was that I was talking with people who routinely swear, so I guess we reflect and adapt to those we speak with. I remember Malcolm Gladwell reporting in The Tipping Point that we synchronize our micro expressions and speech patterns to people we speak with to subtly meet them in the middle, making for smooth conversation. Another time was I was typing to someone and halfway through typing “sh..” I started backspacing censoring myself with comical alarm. The majority of my swears didn't happen as I walked to work for 4 hours after a dealership 2 miles from my house declared they could not in fact give me a rental car. They happened while I was rehearsing my songs and frustrate blurted agitated profanities impulsively when I kept consistently forgetting lines. I played a few songs live with mild curses. Today was a reminder of holes in my eloquence or crutches in my ability to express myself. They're so useless! Also keyed me in to how often other people use curses and with this new personal rule in place as funny as it sounds I wanted to convert them to my pure and innocent vanilla speech! I often stopped myself before cursing casually or even stopped myself from the moot expletive declarations of agitation. They may be called “curses” but they don't magically change anything!

Strangely this one was more “ difficult” than I would've expected ( maybe I took it more literally than I should) but there are very few people in my contact list that I haven't spoken to in “years”. I understand the idea of this challenge and actually I find it in my natural mode to keep in touch with people. Whenever I think of someone, and I find myself mentally flipping through the Rolodex of people in my life quite often, I will immediately message them or call them. Something about my tendency toward nostalgia or just my gregarious nature just makes me eager to talk to people and catch up with people often I don't feel that it's weird at all whether it is people that I had some kind of a weird problem with (which almost never happens, I rarely experience a prideful need to shut people off) or exes, I generally keep in touch with everybody out of curiosity and affection. I did reach out to a few friends who I don't talk too often enough and got to catch up a little bit which was a good feeling for sure! A friend of mine who has been following these challenges really declared some heartwarming sentiments about Phil and my experiment that she has been following and said that today was her favorite challenge as she took it as an opportunity to regain contact with two people that she hasn't spoken to in a long time for one "reason" or another and she had beautiful re-connections that prompted teary-eyed reactions for her and plans being made! This is exactly why I wanted to do this project and I'm glad that this was a reminder to just keep friendships and connections warm and active. I always find myself newly inspired by what people are up to or given some new recommendation or interesting anecdotes or thought from people who I don't always get to hear from.

As Phil and I keep finding "challenging days" has a very strange coincidental sense of humor. The day that we are prompted to walk around listlessly happens to be the first day after a week that I had my car and I spent the whole week exhaustively wondering around to get to work and from work and to places More than 5+ sweaty, sunburned, cramped, limping, sore, callused-foot hours a day. I have had it with walking at this point and so much of it was done without the phone on anyway… this is all not to mention today was one of few recent days that it rained! I didn't end up walking around until later on at night in the rain-soaked ground under the street lamp glowing fog and mist. I always love these times and they remind me of jazz and storytelling. I used this more aware/technologically unencumbered opportunity with the street to myself to rehearse my song aloud for the studio tomorrow morning and mentally edit The lyrics and map out the cadences that I wanted to use. I found it and then slowly helpful and it was nice to just take a walk before going home, I even got a little bit lost (which I have an annoying problem with) but it was very liberating and nice. When I came up with this challenge I was thinking about how I often do this and get something out of it, but how strange it is to realize that s majority of people can't do anything without being shut away from the world around them and so much of what is great about wandering around is all of the soundscapes and people and experiences in your periphery. Yet another hilariously timed but enriching task to fulfill!

Coming up with this challenge was of course inspired by both the YES MAN book and the movie, I read the book many years ago and it's actually even crazier than the movie thing is that the author Danny Wallace really does throughout all his time of responding positively with complete lack of filter to the things he agrees to and that always impacted me as a really great lesson even as he took it to the extreme! There were not a ton of situations where I found myself having to say yes to things bought a few of the opportunities that occurred were getting paid for a feature guess the verse that someone commission from me for a good amount of money (only later to be chastised militantly by a mutual friend and then having to say yes to giving some of that money back that I’d said yes to the generous initial offer), I donated to the cerebral palsy foundation because someone invited me on Facebook to do so and despite my meager funds I made a donation that I could afford, I got to go to a really great ice cream parlor that started in the 1920s in Massapequa for a friends birthday party and I had a great root beer float! Cherry? Yes? Whip? Yes! Normally I would say no to the whip cream but i'm glad I said yes because they make it homemade and it was the best whip cream I've ever had! I also I agreed to plans to go to the gym with a friend next week who I don't see often enough and also Being agreeable led me to the opportunity to do some grounds-keeping “side work” on Monday! There were admittedly a bunch of times where I was sort of dreading what might come up and I thought about how silly that is, how it is a very weird plague of the psyche to be afraid to react positively to opportunities and situations that might bring you joy for new experiences! I even thought about how I might possibly want To extend this experiment longer and see what it brings about! I generally am a “fly by the seat of my pants”, “go with the flow” type and I am agreeable to a lot of things and my codependency often has me saying yes to more than I can handle but I make it work one way or another, but today was a realization that there are so many things that I respond negatively to throughout the day without even really thinking about it.

This is sort of a funny prompt to have especially in our hyper – commercial society we have to battle constantly to save and stave off our impulsive purchases. I dreaded this a little bit when I got it funny enough because I'm very broke, but I did recently treat myself just the day before to plane tickets for a cross-country road trip with a friend! Today while I was playing guitar I was looking up tabs and ran into a block where I needed to buy an app for three dollars and so I decided to treat myself, it was not expensive and it will hopefully encourage me to grow and learn and is more about experience! I have been thinking a lot about materialism and collecting that we seem to do and I've been listening to the minimalist podcast a lot and trying to invest more in my goals and experiences as opposed to acquiescing to my impulses in the thousands of advertisements and encouragement to spend our money on hopefully each day. I hope you got to treat yourself! Today was a reminder that value comes from something that is useful and helpful rather than something that is more gaudy or tawdry.

I thought of this challenge as not only the antithesis of yes-man day but a sort of therapy. This came about from me trying to combat my codependent issues. To stop putting other people's suggestions and prompts to change my intended course before my own goals just because I am compelled to help. Part of the codependency is seeking validation or approval from people’s positive responses to things that you do for them while neglecting yourself all the while and the trickiest thing about it is the idea that "well I don't have a problem, what could be bad about being nice?!” Admittedly I didn't get a lot of opportunities to implement this change in mentality but all of the things that I said yes to work enriching or important. I think this would work best as a more long-term consideration and perhaps I will continue to work on it!

In an age of social media and self indulgence it's funny to make this a challenge but it seems neither Phil nor I feel comfortable posting pictures. I don't often do that unless I'm promoting things. Without getting too much into posting a “selfie”, it felt good to just feel okay with letting go of the shyness or just presenting oneself unselfconsciously. Maybe it's alright to show your face here and there?!

My initial plans to hang out with my friend Dan who I don't get to see a lot at the gym and it up getting canceled but luckily I also followed through with later friend plans to meet with my buddy Mike who I also haven't seen much since we got different jobs and stayed busy in our own lives! We got to eat ice cream together at my house and catch up on all sorts of events and things in each others lives and wax philosophical and make nostalgic jokes and reminisce and just spend some time talking. That's all we did we sat talked and enjoyed one another's company as longtime friends and we even ended up making plans to get together again tomorrow! Felt good to whittle away at the evening delighting in scrumptious desserts with a pal. Good to reconnect on a human level amid all this bewildering hustle and with the communicative facade-book!

This was actually one of the scariest challenges that I anticipated, and how sad is that? Whether it is a little white lies to keep people from feeling bad about the little feelings that we have that aren't necessarily moral standpoint that we need to righteously declare or big secrets, we tend to be dishonest I think at least generally as far as beating around the bush, sugarcoating information or skirting around stating things openly for fear of the repercussions of what we actually think whether they would hurt someone else or reveal something about us that would be reprehensible. I think when I envisioned this challenge I imagined all sorts of people coming out of the woodwork from my past declaring with a hot interrogation light that they wanted to know all sorts of dark things or whatever about me that would be damning or at the very least embarrassing. In fact, it turned out that that didn't happen at all. I found myself almost to comforted by the permission to be blunt and bracing myself against needing to just state declarative and candidly what I was thinking or feeling at a given moment. The fact that I was so worried about this challenge probably says a lot about how I conduct myself whether coy and meek while trying to spare other’s feelings or just dishonest and trying to save face for myself and that should be changed. Thanks “Challenging Days” for yet another wake up call.

I sort of copped out of this one, I only ate one meal today and the closest thing I made close to a meal today was microwaving leftovers at my parents’ house for dinner late at night. What can I say? Money’s been tight. (Someone pay us to do this project!). Making food at home is often much tastier, healthier and cheaper than eating food out and paying for the convenience of food elsewhere. Worth noting. This post was brought to you by Blue Apron…

The very nature of this challenge fused with the very nature of my night owl self meant that I could not update this at the end of Saturday. It is currently 3 AM on the 25th technically and I'm just about ready to go to bed. I tend to go to sleep late and wake up early and sleep very little, tonight the extra hour or so was definitely necessary since I spent a lot of time during the afternoon, evening and night at a graduation party for my brother so I wasn't able to get as much done as I needed to so I transcribed and edited some poems for a book and did some promotional work and write ups for a single that just came out that I did with my friend Kyle. I definitely always wish that sleep was not necessary so that I could have so much more time to work but I get it, rest is important too. This task came at a good time, it gave me the kick in the pants to stay up and get the work done!

Today I listen to a song from when I was around eight that my dad made a tape for me and used to play "Neverland" by the eponymous titled CD by night Ranger. I remembered liking the song because it was so epic and rocking and my dad was so enthusiastic about it and would sing it when he would pick me up after work in construction in his big van, the song has a fantasy theme and I really liked fantasy stuff at the time (and still do, though I'm not as focuses on it now). Listening to the song now, I am able to appreciate a lot of its musical strengths and I have to say that it holds up. From the musicianship and the catchy riffs and uptempo vibe to the fun story-lyrics and the harmonies along the band changing through interesting parts it was definitely a solid choice by my Dad at the time and I'm happy that I have his musical influence or creatively wired genes!

This was an enlightening one since I'm so bad with money and have had none lately, this one is a good lesson. Continuing Challenging Day’s serendipitous sense of humor, a credit card that I signed up for last week out of desperation. I did use it to pay off a ticket, and I did drive my car a little, but I also canceled my Itunes Music account that I don't need. I invited a friend over to eat, I ate food that I made at home and sold two of my graphic novels for 20$. I walked to my gym and enjoyed the weather, made no unnecessary purchases and ate only free food. I went to a bar on my way home and just listened to music without getting any drink or food. Not having money definitely helped with this one, but if it was an important reminder and lesson.

I’m a pretty gregarious guy so today was sort of easy for me (as a lot of friends who knew about the challenge joked). While I was at the gym, coincidentally, a guy who I always see there who sort of reminds me of my grandfather started asking me for a spot and we started talking. Later, the shirt I was wearing which was advertising one of my favorite places to eat on Long Island, Tiger Lily, sparked a conversation again later on. It was cool to get to have a conversation with this guy who is a sort of an iconic “extra” in my gym experience. Later on when I went to lunch at a local cafe, (admittedly not Tigerlily) I started amiable conversation with a handful of people. What I most liked and observed about this challenge was that it generally made me more aware of being ready to have social interaction and encouraged me to carry on socially and invite others into my world and myself into theirs, and for me, it consistently worked out for me and enriched my day.

As Phil will tell you, he and I met up for the first time during challenging days, we wandered around the town of Patchogue wandering into cafés and bars and music venues trying to find live music but I guess it was too early because it was to no avail, I ended up using the opportunity to stop in at one of my favorite venues of all time that I have performed at more than any other venue and I've seen probably more shows there than most other venues combined and really enjoyed my time at the velvet lounge. It resulted in me reconnecting with friends who were performing there doing some improvisational jamming and some excellent lamb samosas and the musical inspiration. Going there was a real reminder of what I have been missing lately and it also resulted in me booking two events for July so that was very productive! Improvisational music is so inspiring to me and I got to watch my friend John on the drums which was encouraging and mystifying all at the same time. There is so much live music around us on Long Island we are spoiled like that and I'm sure that the world would be an even better place if that was even more music than we are spoiled with to enjoy to bring us together. These Wednesday night improv things happen weekly and so in addition to performing at one in two weeks for my YouTube series "Spontaneous Sundays with AllOne”

 If today taught me anything it's that I have a lot of friends that live far away from me and many of them made recommendations of places that were pretty out of reach. I also learned that I have had many many kinds of food which is sort of a comfort I suppose!? My friend Steven and I went to a café spot in Port Jefferson after stopping into three different places when deciding that nothing on the menu was personally unprecedented despite the food smelling amazing. From his recommendation at Locals, I ended up getting a turmeric latte, which was delicious and made me feel pretty well taken care of bodily speaking! We then swooped into Tigerlily and although I have had veggie burgers before I've never had their veggie burgers and that is sort of the thing and I have to say it was fantastic, later when I went to the gym I tried an RX bar that my roommate always gets that I've never tried and also some weird coconut drink with protein in it which wasn't all that great but it's fun to think in terms of "I need to eat something where I am completely unsure of what to expect” since people so often get caught up in the familiar and shy away from any other choices outside of their typical expectations.

If texting is included in this challenge I failed pretty clearly. I made this challenge because as anyone will tell you I am verbose and have a tendency to trail off on my need to for tangents as well as a “need” to explain myself or give detail and all of my ideas or thoughts with each response. I was talking with a friend recently about the value of "comfortable silence" and how it's an ideal scenario that I romanticize and treasure because I am uncomfortable with the quiet space as though if I'm not filling it with interaction it somehow means that I'm not entertaining and therefore not connecting with the person in my company and that reflects poorly on me or us. “Comfortable silence” it's something I value because not only would indicate that I am trusting enough with the other person that I don't think that are quiet reflects anything negative and I have overcome that obstacle but also because it's something I rarely experience and need to work on. As far as talking out loud I was probably a little more pithy than usual but admittedly it was not easy. Once we have decided that a particular style of communication is best for us and we have locked into the routine of that it feels almost uncomfortable to offer something different, I found myself thinking that I was cheating other people or was being a jerk by being more tacit. Challenging Days’ "talk to a stranger" actually resulted in a suitor and so I stopped in for lunch where she works and spoke with her for a while. A friend of mine on the phone was seeking advice and brief responses did not feel just or fair… but then maybe long-winded responses aren't preferred!? This was definitely a learning experience for me. Admittedly I am writing up this review/report the day after this challenge, so don't scold me for having a long entry!