Fellas, That “Love Yourself” Stuff Is For You Too

It’s Memorial Day! Time to indulge in some meaty animal carcasses, potato salad (so long as the preparer is officially ordained), spirited fellowship (I’m not interested in small talk, just prepare to get whooped in Spades/Horseshoes/Dominoes), and dranks.

Aside from the Super Bowl (or The NBA Finals, or any other masculine major sporting event), summer is the most joyous time to be a dude. Ladies are wearing sundresses, bikinis, and not much of anything else. The weather is gorgeous. (Global warming is melting my ass though.) And grilling season is here. (Don’t bring that wack shit ’round here if you ain’t got skills. Seriously, not every testicle having human being can grill. Stop burning meat, slapping Sweet Baby Ray’s on it and calling it barbecue. Nah, bruh.)

But now that warmer climate is upon us and fun times are in full bloom, another annoying trend has reared its ugly head. Everyone is trying to get their “summer body.” From social media posts (telling people you’re about to be stuntin’ won’t help you reveal your abs), to crowded gyms (yo’ ass ain’t been there since January, the last time you were supposed to transform yourself) errbody out here trying to get their “beach body.”

Never mind that we’re two days removed from June (you had at least six months bruh, rushing now ain’t gon’ get it no faster), people still starving themselves and aimlessly cycling through ineffective exercises. And for what? To look good naked? To fit into some old shit you wore in high school?

To make matters worse, while females are on the decline with indulging in this fruitless habit, dudes are Jonesing bad to look like an Abercrombie model. Thanks to campaigns and bloggers (shout out to Gabi Fresh) celebrating curves, and loving oneself, women are giving fewer fucks about chasing the antiquated, unrealistic, superficial definition of beauty. Rolls, stretch marks, saggy tits, it doesn’t matter. These marvelous queens are out here living and enjoying themselves despite whatever you may think. It’s a beautiful thing. (Y’all look good too. Ladies, if this isn’t you you better get in on this.)

Meanwhile, I’m witnessing far too many testosterone-driven, meat-sacks out here chasing the same tiresome bullshit we’ve been prone to following for years. Dudes are out here trying to emulate Terry Crews, Zach Efron, or Channing Tatum. Here’s a news flash fellas: STOP THAT SHIT!!! Channing Tatum doesn’t even look like Channing Tatum half the time. (He’s an actor gotdammit. He’s paid to look good. You’re an accountant. You’re paid to do numbers. DO NUMBERS!!!)

Just last week, after a few games of pickup basketball (I hoop a lot, ball is life) one of my homeboys showed me an Instagram photo of some shirtless negro he was trying to look like by his birthday. Pause. You screenshot another dude and carry it around with you as motivation? NOPE! Not even remotely okay.

I get it. Everyone wants to be “healthier” and would care to avoid being the comedic muse of fat jokes. I hear fat jokes all the time. (I also clap back with the quickness. If you come for me, I will ruin you. Can’t nobody save your feelings.) I’ve put on some weight and had to buy some bigger Levi’s. So fucking what.

Sure, I’d like to be leaner so I can do shit like dunk on unsuspecting opponents, and dust fools who wanna test me in flag football. But I legitimately don’t give a damn about my belly. I don’t. I still walk outside with my shirt off occasionally. (It’s hot gotdammit.) When I take my son to the pool, my shirt is off. (If you’re over the age of 5 and you’re wearing a shirt to the pool, STOP.) If you’re looking at me, cool. If not that’s cool too, no fucks are given either way. Neither should you! (Keep your fucks to your self. Be stingy with those fuckers.)

Being healthy should be a lifestyle, not some fad diet Dr. Oz concocted. You should be practicing daily habits that help you achieve the results that you want to see for a lifetime, not just a season. (After 21 days what’s next? You gon’ cut off a limb to lose the next 30 pounds? Then get fat again when the temperature drops? That’s fucking stupid!)

The bottom line is we’re too grown to let other people’s expectations dictate our happiness. That includes how we look. And it includes you too fellas.

So have some Crown and Vernor’s (what up doe?!), eat some gotdamn wings, laugh as much as possible, and don’t get caught reneging on the Spades table. Your summer body is already here because summer is already here. A wise man once told me, “When you’re ready to go to the gym, it’ll still be there.” Enjoy yo’self.

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Kevin, I Hope This Keeps You Up At Night

I was fully prepared to embrace an NBA Finals completely void of the Golden State Warriors. For as unlikely as it was, the greatest regular season team the NBA has ever seen was now in jeopardy of being reduced to nothing more than a few hilarious “Crying Jordan” memes. It was fitting that their disappointing fate would come at the hands of an underachieving foe that employs two of the game’s most dynamic stars. The consummate basketball team from Oakland (that features a pair of Al B. Sure golden boys – one of whom is the league’s first ever unanimous regular season MVP – and thrive on precision, timing and fun) were about to be aptly undone by a pair of wildly athletic, unpredictable, angry dudes, a Kiwi sporting an impressive mustache and a beautifully gifted, 7’0″ Congolese-Spaniard who hits 3 pointers as fluid as he blocks shots. Oh, the joys of juxtaposition.

With less than 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter of Saturday’s pivotal Game 6, the Thunder were poised to knock off everyone’s favorite sweethearts. After all, they were up by seven playing before a raucous home crowd at Chesapeake Arena. During their two previous trips to Oklahoma City, the Warriors were annihilated by a combined 51 points. They fell victim to consecutive losses for the first time since basketball became an actual sport and not just a casual hobby at the YMCA (or since last year’s NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers).

The stage was set. All Durant and Westbrook needed to do was be who’ve they’ve been over the past couple weeks and set in motion one of the best sports debates since the Patriots lost to the Giants. They only needed two Kendrick Lamar songs to guarantee travel arrangements to the ugly confines of Cleveland, Ohio. (I’m from Michigan. Thus, everything is ugly in Ohio.)

But then like a feel-good, melodramatic, Disney produced, cliche sports movie (probably starring Denzel Washington), the un(fucking)thinkable happened. After building charity houses with his vast amount of bricks, Klay decided that he wasn’t going to miss another three ever again. (He made 5 of his record 11 treys in the 4th.) Stephen Curry suddenly grew a pair of balls and not only joined his fellow Splash Brother in the rain-making business but also attacked the living shit out of the paint. Miraculously, Andre Iguodala emerged from the abyss (or wherever the fuck he was hiding), swatting anything vaguely directed towards the opposition’s basket.

Meanwhile, the Thunder – after exorcising the 4th quarter demons that haunted them during the regular season against the Spurs (this past season’s “other” super team who play identically to the Golden State Warriors) – decided to display the same 4th quarter meltdown that plagued them during the regular season.

Suddenly, Durant didn’t understand how to play fucking basketball. Westbrook, who committed a single turnover through the first 36 minutes, decided to willingly gift the ball to Golden State four times in the final 12 minutes.

The Thunder had every opportunity to free us from the agony of witnessing another annoying post-game presser featuring the misdeeds of Riley Curry. Wardell Sr. was all but ready to embrace his spoiled offspring.

Then poof!!! As fast you can say “a unicorn is shitting rainbows,” Steve Kerr’s heart palpitations subsided long enough for the Warriors to steal a game in the most gut-wrenching way possible. FUCK!!! Gotdamn you Kev and Russ. You had one job. ONE!!!! Uno motherfuckers!!!! May the “Crying Jordan” gods show you no mercy upon you. Let the bullshit conspiracy theories flow like fine wine!!!

The Book of Trump

For a little over a month now, I’ve been trying to understand how we’ve come to this point. After an unpredictable amount of campaign success, Donald Trump is the last Republican candidate standing. He’s now poised to become the party’s presumptive nominee for the 2016 Presidential Election, and there’s at least a 33.333% chance that he’ll be our next Commander in Chief. What the entire fuck just happened?

It’s not that I’m genuinely surprised by this disturbing revelation. I knew back in 2010 that we were in for a shit show when the latest vile incarnation of The Republican Party, otherwise known as the Tea Party movement, took hold of the country. Anytime a Cuban-American (Marco Rubio), whose parents are immigrants, is elected Senator of a state with one of the nation’s highest concentrations of immigrants (Florida), with the support of the Tea Party’s anti-immigration agenda, then proceeds to use his newly acquired power to degenerate the ascension of immigrants, you know something’s wrong.

People were royally pissed when a Black man became the President of the United States of America. And in their pisstivity, they acted out in the manner we’ve come to expect when a person of color succeeds at something that’s been historically White. Vehemently racist. “You gon’ get this hate, boy!”

No, what genuinely perplexed me was why people are supporting Donald Trump. Specifically, why working-class, semi-educated, and otherwise decent human beings are supporting Donald Trump. The notion just didn’t register with the traditional thought lodged in my college educated brain.

Sure, I could surmise that people would vote Republican. I fully expected Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz or even Rubio to gain the party’s nomination. But Trump? He isn’t even a real Republican. One can make the argument that he’s not a politician.

So you’re supporting a billionaire who represents the interests of other billionaires, and you’re not a billionaire? You’re putting your faith in a man that has a reputation for making piss poor business decisions? You believe in a man who has a disturbing record of misogyny and racist rhetoric? You’re voting for an oversized Oompa Loompa who refers to himself as “The Donald” and cheats at golf? You’re fucking kidding me, right?

So, I set off on a journey to figure it out. I recently had some in-depth conversations with five Trump supporters in the great State of Alabama. The names have been changed as each of them declined to be publicly identified. They are listed below:

Lisa: Caucasian, 42 years old, married with two children, office manager
Daryl: Caucasian, 33 years old, single with no children, package delivery driver
Gerald: African-American, 37 years old, single with no children, youth pastor
Bob: Caucasian, 55 years old, divorced with two children, owner of building company
Cody: Caucasian, 20 years old, single with no children, college student

As you can see, it’s not a varied bunch. All of the individuals I spoke with identified themselves as Christians, except Cody. He informed me that he is an Atheist.

I spent at least 2 hours talking with each person. I wasn’t poised to engage in a debate or even a discussion for that matter. My views didn’t have a place here. Instead, I was only interested in understanding their perspectives and the various reasons for their support of Trump.

While much of Trump’s rhetoric is deeply rooted in hate and bigotry, many of the people I spoke with didn’t convey the same rancor as their desired candidate. Yes, there were certainly some racially insensitive, and gender-biased undertones. But what I mostly garnered from listening to their various concerns was fear and anxiety rooted in misinformation.

For instance, Daryl told me that he was supporting Trump because of his distrust of traditional politicians and his growing frustration with the ineffective policing of illegal immigration.

Daryl says, “I’m sick and tired of Obama raising the national debt and it ain’t fair that I have to foot the bill for programs I don’t believe in,” specifically referring to Planned Parenthood and the NEA. He also said, “It just isn’t fair that people are losing their jobs to Mexicans who don’t pay any taxes when I was born here and have to pay taxes.” He then said, “I’m a Christian, and I don’t believe in abortion, so why do the taxes I pay have to go to supporting abortion?”

Lastly, he stated that just last week there was a robbery involving two “Mexicans” which resulted in the shooting death of a woman. He said, “more needs to be done to keep them out.” I asked if he was aware of any legislation that cracked down on illegal immigration in Alabama and he replied, “There is no such law because they’re still here.”

So here’s a couple of things to note. Daryl doesn’t know that Alabama passed one of the harshest anti-immigration laws in the nation. He also doesn’t understand that abortions account for less than 5% of the services that Planned Parenthood provides, with the other 95% allocated towards screenings, prevention and treatment of STDs, and contraception. Moreover, tax dollars cannot be used for abortion. It’s illegal.

Furthermore, while he vehemently opposes the NEA, Daryl doesn’t know what the acronym stands for, just that it represents, “unnecessary money for artsy folks.” Note: it stands for National Endowment for the Arts and it’s much more than allocating money for “artsy people.”

When speaking with Gerald, he stated that he was supporting Trump because he was a huge supporter of Ben Carson’s meteorically terrible bid to become the 2nd Black man to call The White House home. Thus, when Carson declared his endorsement for Trump, he followed suit, blindly supporting Carson once again.

He also said given his profession, he was Pro-Life, unless of course conception occurred as the result of sexual assault. I asked the obvious question of why on God’s green Earth he would support Trump given his ethnicity. “Bro, you’re Black, and you’re supporting Trump? That doesn’t make sense to me, or most other Black people for that matter.”

“I know it’s not a popular choice, especially given my skin tone,” he said. “But I believe he’s the best candidate that’s available.”

He then went on to say, “In the end, I probably won’t vote. If I do, it’ll be Trump. But it’s not like voting matters. As long as I’m busy doing the Lord’s work, then that’s a better impact than voting in my book.”

The other three people I spoke with shared similar convictions about Trump. Lisa listed morality and “the growing abomination of the transgender community” as a few of her reasons. Cody said his father lost his job as a result of “ObamaCare” which then led to his struggle with substance abuse. Thus, he is now anti-Obama and anti-Democrat.

The most compelling person I spoke with was Bob. He has been financially affected as a result of Alabama’s HB56 law. He told me when members of his staff discovered the bill’s existence they vanished seemingly overnight. Since then, he’s struggled to find adequate, cost-effective labor.

“People don’t want to work anymore,” he says. “They just want to get paid $10 (an hour), take breaks, and do shitty work. I didn’t have that problem with Hispanics. They came in, worked their asses off for $7 (an hour). And they never took breaks. It could be as hot as a hooker’s twat in hell, and they’d still be out there working.”

Bob has also benefited as a direct result of Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act – or ObamaCare – due to a preexisting heart condition. “I own my own (business), and no one (insurance company) wanted to cover me,” he says. “I had a heart attack a few years ago. Too much red meat, booze, and women, I suppose. But ObamaCare ain’t so bad. I got coverage. I’m able to spend time with my granddaughter. I’m alive dammit. That’s all that matters.”

Despite this, he still supports Trump, because he’s simply tired of being “politically correct.” As he so eloquently put it, “Everyone’s too damn sensitive these days. (You) Can’t say shit without offending someone these days. My son’s gay, but I didn’t raise him that way. I called him a faggot once, and he hasn’t spoken to me since. He’s being a pussy over some words I said. But he still spends my money. That’s what’s wrong with this country. Trump will change that.”

I casually asked him, “Would you call me a nigger?”

Without an inkling of hesitation, he replied, “Of course not! From what I can tell you’re a bright young man, and you’ve got a hell of a (golf) swing. You’re not like these other ghetto folks out here blaring that terrible (rap) shit making your car shake.”

Only I was. When I pulled up to Eagle Point Golf Club a few hours preceding our chance meeting, I was bumping the hell out of ASAP Ferg’s “Hungry Ham” with my windows down. So if he witnessed my “ghetto” entrance before our round of golf together, Bob would’ve labeled me a “nigger” despite my impressive golf skills and uncanny wit.

As you can see, on the surface it may seem like the individuals I spoke with are just abhorrent, intolerant ass-holes. But as I said before, it’s not that they’re flat-out bigoted racists. (Although they may be a little bit racist, probably un poquito.) They’re mostly just misinformed, which then sparks their anxiety and subsequent distrust of the establishment.

Most of all, they’re just scared shitless. Bob is afraid the business he built from nothing – real nothing, not Trump nothing – will dissipate because his children have no interest in it. It also concerns him that his son will be hurt, maybe even killed, because of his homosexual lifestyle.

Daryl is genuinely panicked about China one day owning the US due to the country’s increasing national debt. He fears that he may lose his job and won’t be able to take care of his mother.

Tina just wants her kids to be “healthy, happy and not gay, so they don’t go to hell.” Cody doesn’t understand why his dad lost his job as a result of ObamaCare while Gerald doesn’t appreciate the real value of his vote. And they’re all getting their news from the same sources: Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and The Daily Caller. “None of that liberal media bullshit,” says Cody.

What I find most ironic is that The Republican party deployed every fear mongering tactic at their disposable in hopes of building a strong base to propel their most prominent candidate to the throne of the Oval Office. They did so without hesitation, confident that the result of their mass solicitation of calumnious news would pervade the minds of their viewers and listeners.

And it worked. But instead of backing the party’s presumptive favorites (most notably Jeb Bush) people became enraged, not only by the believable bullshit that was being shoveled down their throats, but also with the existing Republican politicians who apparently did nothing while Obama destroyed their country. They wanted a leader who could make America great again. Who better to do so than the man who gave us “The Apprentice” over-priced luxury condos?

Trump has said many times he is the only candidate fit for 1600 Pennsylvania. After all, he’s the only candidate who’s uninfluenced by special interest groups. He’s the only one who’s funding his candidacy to the White House. He’s the only person who’s smart enough and bold enough to take on the tasks that traditional lawmakers have been afraid to tackle. And while this grandiloquence has resonated in the hearts and minds of those most apprehensive to change, it’s the antithesis of Democracy. One man cannot make America great again (assuming you believe it was once great) because one man didn’t do it in the first place. Unless of course you’re an incendiary autocrat. In that case, you can do anything. You’re welcome America.

 

The Crippling Ghost of Depression

In October 2015, during a pickup basketball game, I experienced an uncharacteristic amount of built up anger, animosity and sadness. I remember shouting at one of my homeboys for not passing me the ball after I managed to get free for a wide open three-point shot. It didn’t matter that he scored on an easy drive to the basket. I still lit into his ass. I yelled and berated the living shit out of him over the next three games (somehow we kept winning, and he managed to refrain from kicking my ass). It was a colossal overreaction (but he should’ve passed me the ball dammit).

A few hours later, after downing a six-pack of Cayman Jack’s margaritas, I found myself crying in the parking deck of an emergency room with thoughts of suicide. This is the story of my battle with depression.

I can’t recall what catapulted me into this dire state of mental agony. I suppose it’s important to understand the source of what caused this downward spiral, but honestly, I can’t pinpoint a single scenario.

It could have been work-related stress and the pressure to live up to the gaudy expectations of others (back then I’d recently received a promotion and felt I needed to out-work my self-inflicted, exaggerated hype). It could have been anxiety over my place in society and the growing desire to have a bigger impact on those around me (I wanted to do more than peddle t-shirts and sneakers). I could even attribute my feelings of despair to the unnecessary racism and unwarranted police attention that I encountered on a daily basis while living in Birmingham, Alabama. (How many times do you have to be called a nigger before it starts to bother you?) In retrospect, it was probably all of it, and then some.

IMG_2016An actual text message from an unknown associate.

I tried to talk to a few people about my head space (my fiancé, close family, and friends) but they brushed it off as simply being down. They all made a concerted effort to draw my attention to the many great things that were present in my life. If I even dared to mention the dreaded “S” word I was condemned as being a poor Christian, or worst, over dramatic. They simply couldn’t understand how a decent looking, intelligent, funny, father of two, with a great job, a clean bill of health and an impressive sneaker collection could be sad, let alone depressed.

They told me to pray and offered their prayers as reinforcement. They showered me with text messages containing Bible verses and positive quotes. It was hard for me not to channel my inner Hannibal Buress in response to this outpour of support. “So you ain’t gon’ do shit for me then,” I remember thinking (an anecdote from one of Hannibal’s stand-up routines). “You just gon’ sit there and send some fucking memes and Jesus quotes, huh?”

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It’s not that I didn’t appreciate their concern. Deep down, I genuinely did. They were all doing what they thought would help, providing their best form of encouragement. Unfortunately, their lack of understanding, coupled with my deteriorating mental state, only made the situation worse.

I found myself becoming increasingly estranged from the very people who cared the most. In some instances, I stopped communicating altogether. I bottled everything up, put on a faux smile and went about my business. I may not have felt better, but I was going to put on a facade as if I were. Fake it ’til you make it, right?

After all, I am a Black male. Melanin-rich, penis having motherfuckers, are not allowed to be depressed. This was reserved for Kevin Spacey-like dudes from American Beauty. Or spoiled, pretentious suburbanites who can’t come to terms with their vast entitlement.

Moreover, I wasn’t a victim of abuse, I didn’t experience a grave loss, and I didn’t suffer from a traumatic brain injury. Frankly, I was just overwhelmed and extremely stressed. Given the current climate of our society, I wasn’t experiencing anything unusual.

As you might expect, internalizing the struggle only exacerbated things. Soon everything became a laborious chore. I suffered from severe bouts of insomnia and didn’t sleep for days at a time. I drudged through simple, monotonous tasks at work. I had trouble focusing, and on occasion, became completely detached in intimate settings – mostly, in the presence of my beautiful infant son.

Soon my mental problems began to manifest into “real” physical issues. First, I began to suffer from chronic migraines and extreme sensitivity to light. Then came the increasingly frequent lash outs against others. That was followed by excessive weight gain and erratic weight loss, various gastrointestinal illnesses that flared up without warning and finally short-term memory loss. I was losing mind to the point where I had become unrecognizable to myself and those around me.

I once visited with a psychiatrist who was determined to assist me in recognizing my illness. She said to me, “If there were a zombie apocalypse that occurred right now you’d probably just walk out there and let them eat you. Your adrenaline has declined so much that your innate will to survive doesn’t exist. This isn’t a bad dream or some dark fairytale. Depression is real. It doesn’t discriminate based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or even socioeconomic status. It infects your mind and leaves you in doubt. It robs you of your character and your best intentions. And if you’re not careful, it will kill you.You need help.”

I’d like to say that my point of awakening came shortly after this conversation, or following some other life altering event. I had certainly experienced my fair share of them. Over the course of a year, I saw my romantic relationship deteriorate, put on 50 pounds, developed an unhealthy drinking habit, was in jeopardy of losing my job and tragically lost a friend to a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Any of these should have woke me the fuck up. But they didn’t. My struggle persisted.

Oddly enough, my personal reflection didn’t come until about two months ago following an episode of Game of Thrones. In it, there is a scene in which Tyrion Lannister (played by Peter Dinklage) is speaking with his brother, Jaimie, and says, “Death is so final whereas life is full of possibilities.” For some reason, the line resonated and stuck with me. Its simplicity was incredibly jarring.

tyrion-dancing

Though I’ve pursued counseling as a means to slay my personal demons, I found my greatest refuge comes in talking and reading about the struggles of others with similar problems. One author, in particular, is Alexandra L. Smith (more commonly known as Alex Elle). Her book, ‘Words From A Wanderer”, gave me some perspective. There was also my close friend who had experienced the same depths of hell I was enduring.

I’d like to think that everything is better now, and I’m completely cured. But I’m not. I still have good days and bad days. Some are worse than others, but they’re few and far between. I find that my faith helps, and I still have a strong support system to rely on should I desperately need them. Most importantly, I feel like myself again. I find joy and happiness in everyday activities, like giving my son a bath or playing a frustrating round of golf.

I’m not penning this to seek any pity or support. Frankly, this isn’t for me. I’m writing this because along this journey I’ve discovered that there are other people out there, just like me, fighting this internal battle every single day. The age of social media has made it difficult to see the warning signs. Everyone seems to have their shit together. But beneath this digital veil, deep down inside, a lot of us don’t.

Some of us are wrangling with the darkest inner thoughts, aimlessly clinging to any glimmer of hope. If this is you, I implore you to get some help. Seek out what works for you and come to terms with your battle. You don’t have to endure this pain alone. I hate to sound cliche, but there really is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it feels pitch black. After all “Death is so final whereas life is full of possibilities.”

Someone You Love on GoT is Going To Die (Permanently)

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, by now, you’ve probably seen the fourth episode in what’s building to be one of the most epic seasons (season 6) since the show’s inception. Scratch that, if you’re a fan of GoT you’ve definitely tuned in to watch episode 4 of season 6. In fact, you’ve probably re-watched it, dissected it in your mind, discussed it with your communal GoTers, read about it on a blog and watched it some more. It was pretty fucking epic. If you haven’t seen it stop reading and go watch it now. Right now. At this very moment.

Titled Book of The Stranger, in this latest installment we witnessed some prime awesomeness. Jon Snow reunited with Sansa, in what has to be viewed as a major emotional victory for House Stark. The “let’s fuck each other and have kids” twins, Cersei and Jaime Lannister, make moves to restore order, and ultimately privilege, in King’s Landing.

Tyrion is out in Meereen flexing some political wit as he looks to settle things with both current and former slavers, and consequently, The Sons of the Harpy. Theon finally returned home to the Iron Islands and a thoroughly pissed off sister, Asha. Little Finger (or Petyr, whatever you prefer to call him) is back, conniving the shit out of crazy-ass Lysa Arryn’s pathetic heir.

And Ramsay, fresh off killing his father, and feeding his infant step-brother and step-mother to blood thirsty dogs, is still doing evil, menacing, sadistic shit, like killing more people (this time Osha, the Wildling chick who was watching over Rickon) and sending grim letters to Jon Snow at Castle Black. I definitely hate Ramsay more than I hated Joffrey. So much so I may punch Iwan Rheon (the actor that plays Ramsay) in the throat if I ever see him in these streets. Not for real though. Still, fuck this guy! (Ramsay, not Iwan).

Ramsay

Most important, Daenerys Targaryen the First of Her Name, The Silver Queen, The Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, literally burned the motherfuckin’ house down (again) enroute to strengthening her claim to the Iron Throne. This is the second time we’ve witnessed Emilia Clarke’s nude body emerge from flames and it was just as enjoyable as the first. (Side note: I wouldn’t mind if Emilia Clarke was naked amidst fire every episode. I’m certain it boosts ratings. Who needs clothes when you can survive fire? David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, make this happen!)

daenerys targaryen fire game of thrones

One last moment worth mentioning: Brienne detailing Stannis Berratheon’s last moments (before subsequently beheading the life from him) to a bamboozled Davos (oh, you didn’t know this crazy motherfucker burned his own daughter, your beloved princess who taught your illiterate ass how to read, so he could win a war that he ended up dying in anyway?) and her recollection of Renley’s death while mean mugging the shit out of Melisandre. All that said, a lot of cool shit happened this week, to say the least.

This episode was a wonderful primer to what I hope will be more epic awesomeness. But while we’re all feeling great and eagerly anticipating what comes next, please do not forget what this show is and what it’s about. GoT exists to fuck with your emotions. Just when you feel like things are finally headed in the right direction, and your favorite character is catching all the momentum, and your serotonin levels are raised to monumental highs, GoT will swoop in and gift you a crushing blow to your limbic system, crumbling your happiness with annoying apathy.

Someone you love, cheer for and/or enjoy watching will die. They will die a terrible death. And this time they’re not coming back. They’re really going die (permanently).  What’s worse is no one really knows who that character is yet (aside from the actors and show runners).

Unlike previous seasons, season 6 does not have a corresponding book. There is no source material (at least not published) that we can use to prepare our emotional state for what comes next. Though I’ve only read through one of the five books in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (they’re enjoyable, but also dense as hell, and laborious as shit to power through) every season I’ve usually been able to surmise the dooms of my beloved characters prior to its on-screen delineation thanks to A Wiki of Ice and Fire.

And while there’s some material from previous books that coincide with this season’s storyline, I have a hunch that everyone, devout book readers and novice show watchers alike, will ultimately be surprised (in most cases, meteorically disappointed) once episode 10 concludes. So consider yourself warned and take this for what it is.

While I have my own thoughts on who’s headed to meet the Lord of Light (wouldn’t it be terrible if they brought Jon back just to kill him again?), I do know without a doubt that it will be a significant loss (Sansa, Tyrion, Brine, Jaime, Cersei, Bran, Rickon or even Arya – ain’t nobody safe in the seven kingdoms no more). I say this with the utmost confidence because we’ve already lost Ygritte (Jon’s Wildling love interest), Oberyn (and also the rest of his family) and a whole gang of Starks (Ned, Catelyn, Robb and his beautiful wife). ALL PEOPLE WE LOVED!!!! Oh, also Tywin and The Hound. But nobody really cared for them. They needed to die.

The point is we’re headed to episode 5, the midpoint of the season. History tells us that episode 7 usually hosts the season’s cinematic climax, and someone usually dies either during this dreadful hour or in the following weeks (episodes 8 and 9, not 10). Thus, your favorite character only has, at most, 3 hours of screen time left before they’re dead. Enjoy them while you still can.

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Vegetarian Asian Take-Out, At Home

I’m proud to announce that I am officially a vegetarian. Well, almost. I haven’t eaten meat in about week, so I guess that counts for something. Truth is, since reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals nearly seven years ago, I’ve been failing at permanently kicking my carnivorous appetite.

Here’s a fun fact: meat is terrible. Unless of course you’re consuming naturally sourced, grass-fed, humanely raised and slaughtered animals. In that case, it’s not so bad. But for the vast majority of us (me included) we’re not. So again, meat is terrible.

Despite evidence of the many adverse health issues linked to chemically treated animal carcasses, it doesn’t change the fact that they’re so damn delicious. Not to mention extremely convenient. And while vegetarianism provides a litany of benefits, for most of us, we find the path of a plant-based diet to be flavorless.

We catapult ourselves into this green, “clean eating” lifestyle, predicated on losing weight and living right. A week later we begin to satiate our cravings for tender, blood ridden, tender juiciness with sweet, sugar-laden gooeyness, only to end up stuffing our face with a chicken’s beautifully seasoned, buttermilk fried, lifeless limb, courtesy of Purdue’s death camp. It’s tough out here for the new vegetarian.

But don’t fret. Alas, I’ve discovered (similar to Christopher Columbus’ discovery of The New World) a recipe that will help you stay on the wagon. Plus, if you’re a fan of Americanized Chinese cuisine (like I am), you’ll enjoy this more so.

Pictured below is what you’ll need:

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1 head of cauliflower (or two 10 oz. packages of cauliflower florets, because nobody has time to cut an entire head into florets)

1/2 cup coconut flour (because it has a boat load of healthy carbs and all-purpose flour is for suckas!)

2 cups Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

McCormick Perfect Pinch® Asian Seasoning (not pictured)

4 eggs

12 tbsp Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)

8 tbsp brown sugar

4 tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp chili paste

2 tsp Sesame seed oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into florets (or open the bag of ready-cut florets, like a boss) and place in a bowl.
  3. Combine flour and seasoning (to taste) and toss florets until fully coated.
  4. Set up a dredging station: In one bowl, add Panko and in another bowl whisk eggs. Submerge cauliflower in beaten eggs, then in Panko until fully coated. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (or for an entire episode of Master of None on Netflix).
  6. Combine tamari, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, chili paste and sesame seed oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Allow the chili paste to completely dissolve into the sauce.
  7. Dip baked cauliflower in sauce, and voila!

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A few notes: If you’re really craving greasy, crunchy goodness, you can try these little darlings fried. Replace step 4 with a frying method of your choice and you’re good. Also, use safflower oil (it’s healthier). Lastly, if you must have meat, make sure it’s naturally sourced as much as possible.”Not that from concentrate shit,” as Ronnie from the movie Role Models would say. Replace the cauliflower with chicken.

You can enjoy this dish alone, or if you’re really feeling fancy, over a bed of quinoa. It’s a great alternative to fried rice. (I prefer Susie’s Asian quinoa. You can find it at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s or Fresh Market. It tastes great and is ready in only 1 minute.)

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