In My Headphones, Lyrical Journal, Vibe Journal, words

LOVEJAM #4: New Familiar

An old stranger,

Newly familiar,

Introduced me to the Old Wind.


She thought if I knew

The touch of His howl,

His voice would unlock

The language of all Winds.


One night in winter, we gathered on the edge of the Colorado Desert,

And stared at the starlit sky, until the moon was the only thing we could see,

And the yucca trees cast long shadows across the sand.


She grabbed my hand in her hand,

And told me to close my eyes to listen.


A gentle voice lifted from the desert floor

And bellowed from the mountain tops,

Landing as a whisper in my ear.


I’ve heard the Winds ever since.


Winds are ancient roads and folklore tales

And ritual patterns and hidden veils.

The seasonal rotation of gusts and breezes

Breathes a new language into the land.


Storms have come and passed, and now

The March Winds blow through my town,

Carrying the butterflies from the South,

To their love dance in the North.


I stand in the grass

And loosen my grasp,

Closing my eyes to hear the Painted Ladies laugh.


These delicate creatures with fragile wings,

Ride zephyrs for miles and miles,

Introducing Spring.


– Tyler

photos, Visual Journal

Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico



Tulum is the first place to see the dawn in Mexico. At this time of the year, the sun crowns the horizon at 7:30am, and splashes gold into the sea, the trees, and the people. Each morning of our trip, the Yucatán Peninsula would welcome us with a warm breeze that smelled so sweet. We’d wake up to the birds tweeting outside our hut on the beach. Whether we’d spend the day reading next to the waves, or touring sacred Mayan grounds, we’d always end the day flopping into the Caribbean sea at sunset, bellies full of beer and ceviche.

The Land.











The Water.














We lived in paradise for six days, and returned to the Pacific seaside just in time for the holidays. There was so much more we did on our trip not pictured here, so check out my Facebook post if you want to see us in an underground cenote or climb half of a Mayan estructura (or eat lots of fresh fish).

– Tyler

Lyrical Journal, photos, Visual Journal, words

Soft Sand

Back in March, Michael and I left the county in a fever for the wildflowers. The El Nino storms created the perfect conditions for what is known throughout Southern California as the very rare Superbloom.

We packed the camper shell, and set out for Anza Borrega State Park in his brother’s pickup truck. All along the side of the highways, lilies, poppies and desert gold flowers decorated the mountainsides. The colors popped against the sand, painting a colorful portrait that reached out to the horizon. About an hour and a half into our arrival, Michael was calling 911 from the middle of the hot dusty road.

After driving down Pinyon Mountain Road for 3 or 4 miles, the dirt road became harder for the truck’s 2×4 traction as the sand got softer. Lacking any experience on this type of terrain, we jollied along down the road bumping some Anderson. Paak. We were in awe of the land. The Spring sun carried a sweet breeze, lifting the scents of the lavender all across the valley. Bouquets of cacti and wildflowers illuminated the dry plains.

The beauty turned flat, and the lush valley was now in the rear view. The road shifted to a smooth bed off the beaten path. When we pulled off the path to turn around, we landed into a bed of deceptive soft sand.

The song ended abruptly. We were definitely stuck and every minute became a precious note in time. The sun was still in high noon and I knew it would take us at least an hour to get back to the road. We grabbed paper towels, the Infinite Jest, and all the water we had, and said goodbye to the truck in the hole.

While walking on the road I thought about a lot of things, Neil Cassady driving on a dirt road in the 1960s, how much food we had, and what the day could’ve been had we turned around sooner. I was worried, but I wasn’t frantic. Deep down inside I knew we would be laughing about this later – I just didn’t know if we’d be laughing -$400 later.

Walking down the barely visible road.

Taking pictures to remember where we’ve been.

We left breadcrumbs for our trail with pictures on my DSLR, and took portraits of each other amongst the nerves. 40 minutes into the hike, we headed towards the lush valley between the two mountains and received a signal. Hesitating, Michael dialed 911. When the operator answered, we asked to be transferred to the Park Rangers. After ten minutes of transfers across a variety of departments, the best the CHP could do is send out a tow for us. We told them we’d try to get our own tow services, and they gave us their direct line if/when that wouldn’t work out in our favor.

Michael on the phone with 911 operator.

Smiling through the panic.

Feeling helpless, we continued our march towards the main road for better service. The sun was high and the horizon began quivering with heat. Out of the dust, a white Toyota truck appeared on the road. We pleaded to the couple for help, and they offered to try to tow us out. We hopped in the bed of the truck and headed back down the road that we had just trudged for nearly an hour to get out. The ride felt much less bumpy this time, with his truck carving the dirt road with four-wheel drive.

The strangers turned into our angels, who devoted their time and patience into helping us out of the soft sand. With their help and guidance, I began carving the tires out and scuffing my white chucks and digging my manicure into the sand. We harvested rocks and shoved them underneath the tire for traction.

We attached the front of the truck to the back of his truck with ratchet straps and prayed for a miracle. The first time it didn’t work, sinking us further in the sand. We were now determined to get out of this hole. We dug out more sand, shoved more rocks, and this time, took some air out of the back tires. Me and the wife climbed into the bed of the white truck, and closed our eyes as the boys cranked the gas.

Pop! The rubber popped off the tires and we went sailing through the soft sand for about a couple of feet before the straps snapped. We were elated. Knowing our salvation was close, we carved out the tires, cleared a path and continued to try again.

After the third attempt got us too close to turn back, a Toyota Runner decked out in camouflage drives by us on the dirt road. When Michael asked for his assistance with some fresh towing rope, the sunburned bald man looks over at me, and looks back at Michael with a face of contempt. He comes out the car, and hands us a thick and long yellow rope.

“Y’all don’t look like you get stuck much,” he said.

We attached the new rope, and try one last time with the white Toyota truck. Our truck lands in even softer sand, and we determine the only way we can go to get successfully out is back, using the tracks we already built. The gentleman in the camo Toyota Runner strapped the back of our truck to his, and with the car flying in reverse, we landed ourselves back on the main dirt road in Pinyon Mountain. From there we left for Hawk Canyon, and made ourselves at home in the desert.




The fields of wildflowers stretched all the way to the horizon and more. Purple hillsides and yellow valleys. It was a magical introduction to the spring, and Anza-Borrega. We made ourselves at home in the backcountry of Hawk Canyon. We pitched our chairs and decompressed the day over cans of tuna, and an audience of wildflowers.



Hawk Canyon Road.


“Now let me take yours!”




Here are some things we learned about getting stuck in soft sand & backcountry camping in general:

  • If you get stuck, determine the grade of the land and see if there’s an incline
  • Keep the tires straight
  • Move in the only direction your car has traction
  • Let some air out of the tires to gain better grip
  • Rocks and wood create surface tension
  • Keep cool and remain levelheaded: every decision matters
  • Use 4-wheel drive so you never get stuck in soft sand
  • Always drive with rope
  • Do lots of research about the state park and the appropriate roads to travel
  • If you have to hike in the desert, bring more water instead of the Infinite Jest

– Tyler

photos, Visual Journal

Sweet & Dandy

My desk is cluttered with rolls of undeveloped film, chapters of my life framed in 35mm format. Here are some special exposures from Coachella to FYF to Santa Barbara taken on my Canon point-and-shoot with Lomo 200 slide film. Cross-processing is a natural way to obtain saturated and high contrast photos without any editing.

Little Dragon.

“Resist” floats above the Coachella ferris wheel.

Chicano Batman was my favorite Coachella set.

Tent city at the campground.

– Tyler

Lyrical Journal, Vibe Journal, words

Notes From TwentySeventeen


It’s 2017, and the Obama Years are over. The luxury many Americans felt in the previous administration vanished, and has now been replaced with crippling anxiety and despair. The gravity that once held this country together, has collapsed into a blackhole called Amerikkka.

Nationalism is spreading globally, sweeping a number of important national elections to the far right. Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States. The systemic powers that have ceaselessly worked against minorities and against progression, have traded their hoods for red Make America Great Again hats.

[Kodak Black portrays the current racial tensions surrounding the political climate.]

All the while in this very odd year, the woke culture gains momentum. People from all walks of life and all ages are getting involved in political matters, galvanized by the troubling times. Young public school students are speaking up about the Secretary of Education nominee, and citizens are engaging in online exchanges about what they believe the national budget should look like.

I turned 22-years-old at the beginning of these divided times. On my birthday, I mused on what it means to be young gifted and Black in 2017, and found three goals of utmost importance in this definition: understanding the intersectionality of all minority struggles, spreading Black Girl Magic, and fighting for the liberation of Black people.


One way I know how to achieve these goals is by re-learning the history of my people, as told by Black historians and scholars. History books paint slavery as The Big Bang of Black people, and celebrate only a few heroes that fought for our cause. In reality, there were many names and organizations that paved the path for Black Liberation, such as the National League of Colored Women and other Black women’s club movement of the late 19th century.

In Angela Davis’ Women Race & Class, she gives depth to accomplished pioneers, such as Mary Church Terrell and Ida B. Wells, who faced the hurdle of Antebellum America to establish political capital for Black women. She also gives breath to the many female Communist agitators, such as Lucy Parsons and Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor, who fought against racist and patriarchal ideals for an equal standing in society.

Another way I know to reach these goals, is by preserving the culture and uplifting stories/names that have been left in the dark. I recently attended a discussion held by the California African American Museum titled #BLACKGIRLSMATTER that focused on the 1991 murder of Latasha Harlins. I was moved to tears when Latasha’s aunt spoke of the family’s struggle for justice. The panelists, who included professors, organizers, and two members of Black Lives Matter, inquired on a number of the details that influence the fate of black girls in America. Lack of representation in the media, the devaluing of Black labor, and misunderstanding the fullness of humanity in any all contribute to black girls experiencing the double-edged sword of a racist patriarchal society.

I’m doing more and more to get involved in fighting the resistance against our conservative government. Much like the Tea Party, The Indivisible Project has directed me with ways to communicate with my local representatives and other local organizations that can bring about real influential change. Last year I placed a heavy amount of importance on making money and building my career, this year however, the risks are too high to be selfish and not take a stand against the injustices introduced by this Administration.


2016 felt rotten from the inside out. This year, I hope our new collective outlook on our government persuades a real underlying change in the way we shape ourselves. I know that the odds are against me. I know how lucky I am to see another revolution around the sun.


In My Headphones, words

Aretha Awakening

It was in the early dawn when I first felt the power of Aretha Franklin’s voice. It came trembling out from my fingertips and shaking through my knees. It washed over my sins like faith.

Her mighty vocals possessed such strength, her gospel seemed to lift the weight of God into my headphones. So I listened with complete absorption, on a westbound train to a day’s work, far from the comfort of my man’s loving arms.

Two of her albums in particular, 1968’s Aretha Now and 1970’s Spirit In the Dark, translate womanhood in a way that is neither sexualized, marginalized or inflated. Instead, these songs highlight the sensitive details in temporal activities; such as putting on makeup, going out to eat, or just feeling lonely at home.

The more I listened the more her tracks became saturated with my own experience as a young Black woman in love. I began to hear my own longings and loss in Aretha Franklin.

In just under 30 minutes, Aretha Now establishes a sound at the intersections of blues, gospel, and pop. The two leading singles from the album, “Think” and “Say A Little Prayer” illustrate this intersection the most.

“Think” opens the album with an attitude that declares her disillusionment towards the efforts of a lover. She howls with the rage of a woman scorned. She is not only claiming autonomy over her body, spirit, and mind, she is asserting an equal standing of power in the relationship, themes heavily suggested by lady blues singers. Her rallying cry for Freedom, is an anthem parallel to the liberating aspects of the Sexual Revolution throughout the 1960s.

Following “Think,” “Say A Little Prayer”” shifts the album’s entire sound with a softer tone, demonstrating how she can command her vocals from firm to tender vibrations. Her outward displays of frustration become intimate revelries of love. Although this track is a cover of a Dionne Warwick single, Aretha’s delivery–accompanied by the choral vocals of the Sweet Inspirations–illuminates the loyalty and faith found in love.

On Spirit In the Dark, Aretha displays a more mature expression of womanhood, one that juxtaposes the sunny and bright bulb of Aretha Now with darker shadows and blues. On “Don’t Play That Song” and “Spirit In the Dark,” Aretha summons this sultry magnetism with refined skill.

The piano melody on “Don’t Play That Song” holds as much gravity as her vocals. Instead of depicting the woman in heartbreak as weak, or succumbing to anguish, Aretha lifts above that misery and expels the forces that seek to drag her. She reclaims her power to grieve, instead of allowing it to inflict her own outlook.

The slow draw in “Spirit in the Dark” is sensual and strikes like a match. The sway of the beat combined with the organ begins like a religious hymn, but it’s low growl turns into a praise full of dance and rhythm. This track shakes and shimmies like rock and roll, and releases like an exhale.

Although the aforementioned songs are some of the most popular in her repertoire, my favorite (and underrated) picks from these albums are “Hello Sunshine” and “Try Matty’s.” On “Hello Sunshine,” Aretha welcomes the spring while her vocals reach for their ultimate might and grasp for the heavens. “Try Matty’s” is amazing for its portrait of a woman expressing her affection for her local lowdown juke joint.

Both Aretha Now and Spirit In the Dark reveal a multitude of love’s grace and complexities. From fury to frustration to grace and glory, these tracks illustrate all the faces of a love affair. The mastery of her vocals, combined with the fact that Aretha wrote many of these tracks herself, proves exactly why she’s the Queen of Soul. Aretha Franklin captures the freedom of the Black woman.

– Tyler