Monday, December 29, 2014

Short Story: The Underground Connection

Moments seem still but are constant, fluid in nature, always changing yet perceived as single froze pictures of time in our heads. These perceptions that freeze us also illuminate oneself to a new dimension of understanding and observing. It is in these moments when the ordinary is ignored and the smallest details scream out the most interesting stories. Some of these moments change lives, others allow for self-evaluation, and still some just are. Not everyone is attuned to the various moments in their lives and as a result miss out.

One moment all began with a song, as I race down the seemingly always crowded steps of Grand Central subway station to go uptown on the local 6. Standing on the platform, taking in the grotesque yet beautiful character of the New York City subway; Headphones on, cell service gone, a reprieve from the constant connection to the world, yet surround by hundreds going in all different directions. It seems as if in my own introspective way, as music blares into my ears and no one else’s I attain a new perspective on the environment around me. As the everyday noises are drowned out by my personal theme music, I view people in a different light. It could be the music but as I wait for the 6 train, I observe the people around me and assign background stories to them all. Some are anxiously waiting, some impatiently, while others seem relieved by the long wait for the train. Certain characteristics show you a story behind each and every one on the platform. From the way they dress, to what they’re carrying and how they stand, it all gives hints to a life out of the tunnels, in the city above. 

To my left stands a young man, around my own age of 24. Although he looks composed from a distance and put together in a wrinkle-less suit and leather messenger bag, small details give him away. From the subway map in his hand and the brief moments of confusion on his face, it is easy to tell that he isn’t from the city and hasn’t worked here either. Perhaps he is here on an interview, dressed in his most sleek outfit, resume freshly printed and stored in his newly bought messenger bag. If he is where he’s suppose to be, he must be going to midtown, maybe Park Ave or Lexington for an interview. Then again with the glimpses of confusion on the otherwise confident look, he may be waiting to go uptown when he really needs to go downtown.

As I turn to look down the tracks to see if the 6 is coming I see a woman slowly walking down the platform, on the yellow edge might I add. She is older, gray hair sticking out of her small hat, a dark brown wood cane on one hand and a classic style purse on the other. Her back is hunched and legs look weak but this woman is not vulnerable at all. From the sneakers she wears on her feet and lack of uneasiness in her tired eyes, you can tell she’s been taking the subway for years, if not decades. Her wrinkled exterior is a hard coat of armor, a testimony of years in New York. You know she expects a seat on the subway but only out of respect not pity. 

Also amongst the crowd is a girl in her late teens, most likely a college student. She seems to be average, not too tall, not too short, not thin but not heavy either. What grab my attention are her clothes. Her outfit seems to be a mismatch of bohemian meets punk meets emo, with some additional flamboyant colors. She’s trying to be unique but in doing so she is just like every other ‘unique’ person. Expressing individualism through fashion is something everyone does. However, if you copy trends, even the one that make you look different, you still can lose yourself in the exterior image. She seems to by trying too hard and it will only backfire, placing her back at square one of self definition. The confusion and mystery of her own identity can be seen in the quick glances around the station, followed by the smallest glances of insecurity and body language that lacks self confidence. Although she seems young, she’s probably still in school with plenty of time and opportunity to find herself. 

Soon the dim light of the oncoming subway car caught my attention as it slowly began to light up the darken tunnel and align with the subway platform. The crowd began to swarm to the demarcated areas where the doors open every time. The ones that take the subway daily know not to block the doors but to stand next to them in order to miss the outgoing flow of people and slide in from the side. As everyone crams on to the subway car, the very over used expression comes to mind, the car is truly packed like sardines. Headphones still in my ears, music blocking out all noise except for the incessant beeping of the doors, which are constantly closing and opening for the last of the passengers that can’t clear the threshold. Frustration grows in every one’s eyes, including my own as the doors continues to open and close due to that one passenger standing in the doorway. As I survey the crowd, the faces that I can see show frustration and restraint all ready to scream at that one passenger causing the delay but hey it’s New York no one is suppose to care. 

Finally the subway pulls from the station, embarking on my ten minute subway ride. I relax a little knowing that I'm on my way and focus on where I stand. Fidgeting with my music to find an appropriate song I take a quick glance in the darken window of the door. As I hold on to the center pole, my reflection, although not perfect, is clear enough to straighten my jacket and give me a boost of self esteem. Once I establish confidence that I look ‘put together’, I begin my quick yet subtle glances around me, close by and far away. I see the older woman who did get a seat, sitting straitlaced with her purse on her lap and cane on her arm commanding her own space. The young man standing nearby trying to stay wrinkle free as he constantly looks at his service less phone, most likely late for his interview or meeting. The teen girl, in her unique outfit, stands back by the door looking around like myself. It’s crowded but not jammed packed like a mash pit at a heavy metal concert, which it can be some days. As I look past face after face, I look for the ones that grab my attention, the beautiful, the unique, the ugly, the confident and the confused. They all tell stories and enlighten the imagination. In a way it’s a silent community of mixed races, occupations, ages and beings all sharing a small moment in time that seems displaced in the rest of the day, beneath the surface and in between point A and point B. 

As the car pulls up to 51st street, an exchange takes place; some people leave, some get on and others shift to a different position. There always seems to be one person slithering through the crowd to either get off or find a better spot. As the doors close I take another glance around to see the newcomers. This stop is predominately suits and shoppers. It’s amazing to see some of the men and women dressed in business attire, not a hair out of place, faces stoic as if nothing can penetrate their business exterior. The shoppers on the other hand look thrilled at their latest purchases, which reside in the multi-colored bags hanging off their arms in the most precarious positions, at least for fellow riders. Then there’s the other shoppers who may have just bought a whole new wardrobe but still they look bored out of their minds. I guess retail therapy doesn’t work for them or perhaps they shop so often its lot its effects? 

As I look beyond the shoppers, I see a young woman, her royal blue dress, zippered up her back and dark brown hair catches my eye. Her attire makes her stand out, it’s bright yet not over the top. Her dress looks like something that could be worn out on the town, yet it has a business vibe to it as well. She’s wearing high heel sandals that accentuate her legs perfectly. She holds the side bar with one hand, while her other grasps onto her phone, which is acting as her mp3 player, headphones resting against her body from her ears to her hand. Her purse is small yet goes with the outfit; it’s tucked up under her arm. This woman is put together. As I continue to look at her from across the subway car, I see her head slowly turning. I get a good look at her face, an angelic face confirming that she is beautiful from head to toe. She’s looking around as if surveying the crowd, probably the same way I do. As she scans in my direction our eyes meet for a brief moment before I look away. I don't want to be one of those creepy guys. I try to see her in the reflection of the door but the guy next to me is in the way. I causally look over at her again, her heads turned but wow she is beautiful. I briefly look away for a second, as I turn back I notice she is staring back my way. Now there is no way to tell if she is looking at me or just in my vicinity but I feel some eye flirting going on. I can see her checking me out from the corner of her eye. This causes me to grab my iPod and pretend I’m searching for a song, just to do something so that I look relaxed. As people begin to gather their belongings and inch towards the doors as we get closer to the nest stop, 59th street, our visual connection is interrupted. I noticed she seems to be getting ready, releasing the overhead bar and gripping her purse. As the train comes to a stop at 59th street, we share one last look before she is consumed by the flow of people exiting the car. For a brief moment, the dreamy romantic in me ponders, who knows what could have transpire between us if we had moved passed the eye flirting. One day I’ll say hi and make conversation, it might not lead to anything, but to have the experience to speak to a complete stranger on the subway just seems interesting, it would be like Rick and Ilsa but instead of always having Paris, we would always have the subway...

As the doors closed at 59th street I begin to move towards the door, positioning myself to be the first one out. I politely push and squeeze through the crowd like a cat, contorting my body as I slide between people. I make it to the doors, which is perfect because now I can check on my appearance. Once again I look into the clear glass window and as the bright light of the station turns to the black mirror of the tunnels I reevaluate how I look. I fix my shoulder strap to my canvas messenger bag, move my headphone cords to a safe place so not to snag on anything or one, I straighten my tan jacket, popping the collar because it looks better that way. Once I’m all straightened out, my eyes quickly look at the mirrored riders standing behind me before I begin to glance down. As I look down the window, the black mirror begins to become translucent again, allowing me to see the bottom of the tunnel. I hypnotically stare at the support beams as they fly by. Then I focus once again on the music blaring in my ears, only to realize its Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind. A great song for the Yankees and the city but to listen to it in the subway on a weekday makes me feel like a tourist. I skip it hoping for something less stereotypical or at least more of a classic. As I skip through the songs without looking, the tunnel begins to brighten, the car begins to slow and as always the speaker blares out: 68th street, Hunter College. As the doors open and my reflection is replaced with a stranger waiting to get on, I step off the subway at 68Th street Hunter College and begin my trek up two flights of stairs to the street, focusing on my objectives above ground but not before briefly remembering the confined space of the underground connection. It is a place where lives cross paths during a reprieve from the world above bringing about a sense of self evaluation and knowledge all in a series of moments. Moments where the smallest details around you as well as those from within will tell a story. Take a moment and discover a plethora of stories around you

The Oil Men - A Short Story

As Americans embark on an energy revolution, the debate over new energy technologies retard the progress. Many are hung up on the lives they have built over the years of extreme consumption. An almost mystical approach to the world, believing solely that the earth and everything on it is theirs to use and abuse. However this is not the case, as more resources were purged from the earth, the dominion, as the bible refers to it, grew from not just the land, sea and animal kingdoms but a control of the human species, at least for the aristocracy. They began to take control of those who they thought were draining their society. Those that spoke against them disappeared, never to be heard from again. Their power creeping into all domains from government and media to the classroom and living rooms of all Americans. The elaborate ties and incest between those in power and oil was stronger than a deal with the devil signed in your own blood. As the world evolved around America, other countries moved to new energies and technologies, but Americans continued to feed their blood thirsty addiction and obsession of a lifestyle soaked in oil. Those that backed the idea of peak oil, years earlier, could never understand why oil did not run out, emptying the pockets of these few rich men as the last drop was pumped into an over sized SUV. The simple answer is the wells did run dry; however they found a replacement to substitute and expand the remaining supplies to last for years to come, securing their future fortunes. Why would they do this and not move on to new technologies? The answer lies with the desperate grasp with which they held on to the oil industry and now they could never move to a new business without losing everything. This selfish greed among men with too much power and time on their hands resulted in a disturbing extension to the age of oil. 
It took years for anyone to find their secret ingredient to prolong oil production, many who found out did not live long enough to divulge the information. These men that ruled America with puppet strings of oil and pockets deep as the wells in the Gulf of Mexico, worked like business men to get what they wanted. A modest proposal was made to the government with all the added benefits to their new plan. These included a number of problems facing the United States government. The oil men promised the government that if they were allowed to operate with a secret ingredient, it would allow the military to continue on without converting all its transportation to new forms. It promised that prisons would never be over crowded again, crime would be lessened, people would have jobs and the status quo would prevail for years to come. To seal the deal these oil men promised to help settle the debt of the American government over the years. This last benefit persuaded the government to turn a blind eye to the process of the oil men’s refineries. With government control out of the way and the time ticking, wasting money as oil began to disappear, the oil men began to assemble the parts they needed for their new business adventure.

The first stop was the overcrowded prisons. Taking those that had been on death row and prisoners that were serving life in prison without parole. Next they stopped at the juvenile halls, picking out repeat offenders, those without families and runaways. All of this was done under the cover of night with the soft blanket of protection from the Patriot Act and other government permissions. The round up was secret ops meets cattle drive, messy and animalistic, yet planned and executed to a tee. On the way to the private factories, trucks would stop in small towns and large cities offering free beds and food to those that were living on the streets. So far the companies were keeping their promises to the government, as the weeks went by, prisons populations shrunk, homelessness decreased and crime slowed. Future plans for the company included the round up of illegal immigrants and political extremist but that would come once the factories were in full swing and big oil was securely placed as the king of the hill within the energy sector in the United States.
The factories were on private lands far from the semblance and sanity of small town America or the big cities of the coasts. Out in secluded meadows where animals once roamed before the toxic smog and acid rain forced them to migrate. Large factories with multiple smoke stacks arose from the ground like mechanical trees. Deep beneath this barren land the ground was hallow like graves, soul less and darken, salting the earth forever. In these holes of desperation and darkness lay the factories and the future of oil. The Oil Men with their hearts draped in slick black oil, found away to prolong the use of their liquid gold, a feat that could not be matched in history. A problem that was never solved, for to solve it would mean the utter destruction of one’s own morals and respect for their fellow man. Yes the Oil men found the key ingredient, one that would change the history of the world forever, setting the standard for humans as property once again. The secret ingredient is the lifeless human body, for what is life to those with oil money.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Check it Out! No Bake Candy Cane Chocolate Balls (Hubpages Recipe!)

Check out my latest recipe on Hubpages! It's my own creation and quite festive! Besides the Candy Canes, it could be considered a raw dessert, meaning nothing needs to be cooked or baked! All you need is a food processor and your hands! These chocolate balls are also pretty healthy, made with Dates and Raw Cacao Powder! So impress your guest at your holiday party this year with "No Bake Candy Cane Chocolate Balls"

Monday, December 22, 2014

Short Fiction: The Lifeless Commute

Like most people now a day, I generally live in my own little world when out and about. Between our own theme music constantly blaring in our ears or the constant electronic connections to the Internet and the comforting texts from friends, the world almost seems quiet. The random conversation with a stranger does not exist as it did years ago. Sitting on a commuter train out of New York City, the train is packed yet seems lifeless, if a pin were to be dropped it would be heard, of course that is if you don’t have headphones on. There is no casual conversation with passengers sitting next to you, across from you, or in front of you. Everyone is consumed and content in their own little bubble world anchored by their cell phones and iPods. Occasionally a passenger will escape from their manufactured world, eye’s wondering to their surroundings taking notice of the other bubbles in the tin car, also known as the train. As I look out the window at the darken landscape, nothing but a reflection of the brightly lit train interior shows. In this mirror reflection of reality, lays a different perspective, visually and mentally. As you look into the reflection, a barrier is created, almost as if you are observing now, not participating in the lifeless commute. This mirrored reality allows you to create stories for the passengers surrounding you. Noticing various movements one makes as they sit. How many times someone will glance at their phones or for that matter how long they look away from their phones. Some of the faces will broadcast to the world the passenger’s day, whether it was exhausting or satisfying. Others sit stoic as if any expression would show humanity, a weakness. It’s amazing so many people in such a confined space don’t speak to each other. Is it not in our very human nature to be social? Due to this lack of communication, stories are created based on the visual observations of fellow passengers on a long commute. What story do you project in that darken refection of the moving landscape onto the stillness and silent train interior?

The Environmental Themed Catalyst for FOX's show Terra Nova (Old Article)

After the success of other series where science fiction meets reality, like Lost on ABC, the Fox Network has released a new show in the Fall 2011 lineup called Terra Nova. The series "Centers on the Shannons, an ordinary family from 2149 when the planet is dying who are transported back 85 million years to prehistoric Earth where they join Terra Nova, a colony of humans with a second chance to build a civilization" (IMDB). This action pack TV series airs on Monday nights from 8-9 pm eastern. Although the show did catch my attention and held it through the premiere, instead of giving a review, I thought it would be interesting to discuss the environmentally themed catalyst that were the base plot for which the story was enacted on. The themes are brief but important not only in the story line but also as a statement to the viewers here in the present. I thought this show had a very interesting environmental ethic attached to it and is worth a discussion.
First lets discuss the more obvious environmental themes in the plot. The show opens with a panning shot over the moon, where the United States Flag still stands from the 1969 moon landing, On the horizon is a brownish globe, similar to that of Mars, as the shot pans down the audience is shown earth in the year 2149. There is no vegetation or blue water, the air is not clear and infrastructure still stands. Next we begin to see people, all wearing masks as if there was an outbreak of disease, but they wear these respirators because the air is unsafe to breathe. In these first moments of the show we are told that earth has been polluted and stressed to the point that the air is unbreathable and earth is unrecognizable. Is this a path we are on? The next scene shows Jim Shannon, the father of the family, coming home to his wife and kids with a surprise. The surprise is a simple orange, something the youngest child has never seen before. This illustrates the lack of fruits in this world, also the shortage of food, which could mean a number of environmental stresses. As the scene progresses the eldest daughter of the Shannon family comes barging through the door yelling that someone was on there way up to the tiny apartment. As the family panics they take the youngest daughter, only a toddler, and places her in a air vent behind a bicycle. As the police knock on the door, the audience soon finds out their is population control on this dismal earth, in this dismal time. Population control in which a family is only allowed two children and yet the Shannon's have three. I won't go any further into the plot now that I have gotten my examples across, I don't want to ruin it for any potential viewers! I was shocked that the show would actually bring up population control. Many deep ecologist, those that put environment ahead of any single thing or being including humans, argue that majority of Earth's environmental problems arise from the over population of the planet by humans. To say the least this has been a taboo issue for environmental related talk, usually only brought up as a talking point against environmentalist to paint them as anti-human. So in the first few scenes of this television show we are exposed to a number of environmental issues, which can all be related to today's problems including air pollution, food shortage, global environmental issues, and over population (carrying capacity). As I began to watch the show I was impressed with the attention and weight given to the environmental issue that end up causing the deteriorating living conditions of Earth and was curious to see what direction they would take the show in.
As the show went on and the family escapes to Terra Nova, what is believed to be earth in the past, on a separate time line, it looks as if the Shannon's as well as humanity will get a second chance. Then I realized all the environmental undertones of the first few scenes had been completely reversed the second they landed in Terra Nova. The plot of the show says two things when they did this: One is that technology can solve our problems and two don't worry about this earth, when it doesn't work for us we'll move on and start somewhere else. This message that we can have two earths doesn't teach people to examine their behaviors and their impacts on the environment but instead reinforces the idea that technology will fix it and/or the earth's resources are infinite. Although I do have to mention that they do use alternative energies in Terra Nova, including wind turbines but I'm not sure if this is to start over in a more environmentally friendly society or could it be that they don't have the resources to burn fossil know since most of what they and we use for fossil fuel is alive and walking around them on a daily basis in Terra Nova. This idea of getting a second chance, although possible, shouldn't excuse reckless behavior in our environment and Terra Nova doesn't send that message even if the first few scenes do.
Despite the contradictory environmental messages of Fox's Terra Nova it's still worth a view, at least for now!