Danmichael Reyes

Doctor Starinken's Failed Adventures

Pianist/Producer/Writer

19/364

You know, I admire you. No one that you know now and talk to now becomes important ten years from now.

You’re going to get married. Well I only assume you will definitely be engaged ten years from now. None of those friends you hang out with get an invite to your wedding. You still see a few of them from time to time, but it’s quite absolute none of them make it to your wedding. There might be one person who gets in. You’ll just have to wait until the 39/364 comes out to find out who that one person and their plus 1 is and if they even made it.

Why would your fiancée need a plus 1? You don’t get married to anyone you know now, which either a really good thing for you or a really heartbreaking thing. It’s mostly the former and the latter you’ll get over soon enough. Oh yes… there’s that painful heartbreak during your senior year right? Fuck it. The moment you decide you’re over it because you’re going to places they only dream of, you’ll just find it comical.

So… you’ve just finished reading that no one now is important ten years down the road. There’s a caveat. No one you know now at school becomes important and quite frankly you outgrow most of them, but keep those friends in your heart. You’re probably just scared shitless of Dr. Lee, but you’ll amaze the shit out of her by the time you leave. If it weren’t up to petty politics you would have gotten Honors your second semester. Oh yeah… you get Honors Piano by the time you leave. Oh yeah… you leave.

You transfer out of FJC. Unfortunately not to your dream school, but to something more appropriate than your dream school. I’ll give you a hint: in your heart of hearts it’s the city where you truly have always felt like you’ve belong. People have told you that you belong there before ever setting eyes there and you’ve always been confused by it. Just wrap it up as a sign from god (more about that later).

Yes, you transfer out of FJC and you do go to an amazing music school. It’s not the one you’re thinking of, but man… it really was the perfect place for you.

You’re going to do well, kid. Keep it up and take my advice. You know I won’t lie to you because I’m you.

1). Ask your teachers how rhythm works. It’s okay. Ask them.

2). You were primarily self-taught. It’s even amazing you’ve made it this far. It won’t feel like that for you, but you’ll soon figure it out.

3). Don’t be a snob.

4). Smoking cigarettes don’t make you cool.

5). They might be musicians also, but that doesn’t mean you guys are exactly the same. You’re not quite like every other Filipino kid right? Why should every musician be exactly like you?

6). There’s no excuse not to practice. Ever.

9/364

You won’t understand this now, but maybe you could. In my mind you’re this brilliant kid who could — if he wanted to — probably learn Malay and have gotten into EM1. But why should you? You’re not Malaysian. You’re Filipino and you’re well aware that you are. Your earliest memories playing out on the school yard is of someone poking your eyes because the couldn’t understand the tagalog you were speaking. But why should he? That boy knew the local language of Arabian, it was you — Filipino kid with your tagalog — who was the foreigner.

You’re going to move to America soon and you’ll be a foreigner again. I know, right? Again. You’ll pretend to like it. It won’t be like you pictured in the movies or like in Home Alone. It doesn’t snow in Los Angeles and where you end up growing up in Torrance is nowhere near as exciting as Singapore. You don’t have to fake the “Yes!” with the super excited look when asked, “So do you like America?” Deep down inside you’re disappointed in Los Angeles’ South Bay region.

You think that you should say you’re grateful to be here and tell people how excited you are because your mom says she’s grateful and excited. She’s not. You can’t possibly understand this and you won’t for a very long time, but your mother at Singapore was paid quite well. What immigrant is able to afford an immigration lawyer right away to square off Visas and get the green card process started?

Again, you’re much too young to understand this. But I don’t know… maybe you do and might understand because you’re actually a lot smarter than you let on. But I think that’s because you had great parents.

How does having good parents equal your ability to keep your feelings under wrap at such a young age? Your mom is going to make $5 an hour as an architect when you guys move. Your dad still has to finish a couple of projects in Singapore and someone has to pay that aforementioned lawyer and it’s not happening with your mom’s $5/hr.

But here’s the crazy part that no will tell you until you get much, much older. They’re not telling you because there’s really no way you could understand the significance of your mother making $5/hr. In your mind, your family could probably live off the savings you have in your bank.

(Truth be told, you probably do have more money in the bank that I currently do. It’s this skill you’re quite good at that for whatever reason gets lost by the time you get to me).

Your mom is an architect and a damn good one too and she was making much more than that — a lot more — while working in Singapore. So why are your parents being good equal you hiding your emotions at a young age? This is one of two times you’ll see your mom cry. She’s crying because the her paycheck bounced. What company hires a professional of your mother’s statute only to pay her $5 because she’s an immigrant then not even have the necessary funds to pay her under minimum wage check? Who wouldn’t cry?

Why should she leave her position in Singapore? She was happy there. Her mother and sister were living with you guys and you had this gorgeous apartment. You were doing relatively well. Why move?

If I’m honest, I don’t know why they moved. I’ve asked them and they said it was for you and your sister’s future. But I was doing quite well in Singapore, so I think that’s just something they tell me.

I don’t know why mom agreed to move to America as uncertain as it was. We were only here for a vacation and then the next thing you know, they decide that you’re staying here.

You’re going to get real good and hiding your feelings because your parents — to the best of their ability — hid a lot from you and your sister so you and your sister remain as innocent as possible. If you’ve skimmed the entire beginning and only got down here, just remember a few things ya?

1). It’s okay to tell people you’re from Singapore. Kids may or not make fun of you. I guess I’ll never know because I told them I was from San Francisco. I’ve been to San Francisco and it’s cool — Singapore is better.

2). Don’t make fun of other kids so you can look cool in front of the other cool kids. I know that this is the only thing you’ll be concerned about, but you’re quite cool already. There’s no need to try to be “cooler” than you already are, especially when it means you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings.

3). It’s very much okay to like music and the piano. Learn to love it and learn to play it much earlier than I did. It’s going to be your lifeline when you get older.

4). You’re going to think a lot of kids here are stupid. Once again… be nice and keep that to yourself ok? Shaming others is frowned upon in America.

5). No. That’s not the girl you’re going to marry. But don’t worry, they’ll start noticing you really soon also. For now, just enjoy the unlimited time you have to play your Playstation. When they start to notice you can’t play as much.

6). Your prototype for Virtual Reality video games comes true. You didn’t invent it, but man if only you had some money to start Zephyr Industries. (Pretty good company name… you’ll think of cool names in your spare time).

7). Last thing.

Speaking of names. Remember it’s D A N M I C H A E L. Don’t be ashamed of it. It’s who you are and you will never meet another person with your name. You’re the only one as far as I know.

Recovering New Yorker

 

Getting re-acclimated to a place you call home is a strange feeling. But moving to a quiet suburb where noise dies out after 10 pm after living four years in a city inundated with constant activity would take some getting used to. I forget that people here smile at you and that it’s natural to say hello to someone when you pass them by the street. That wasn’t really the case over there. I guess that in a city of 8 million people sharing a small set of islands, everyone sort of has to keep to their own bubble to let everyone live. 

So I’m reminding myself that maybe I could smile when I’m on the opposite side of the counter at a coffee shop and that the baristas here who are attempting at small talk are genuinely nice people. They’re not the quiet-somewhat-snobby liberal arts student who got up at 4 am in the morning to catch the train to open up shop at 5 am only to be shat on by asshole hedge-fund banker types. This means that by the time my 11 am morning cappuccino rolls around, they’re just fried with six hours of latte art to equally vibey people. 

“Hey how are you?” 

“Good thanks. What can I get you?” 

“Cappuccino please.”

“$3.75″ 

::swipes card:: 

“Thanks.” 

:waits for drink // grabs drink:: 

“Thanks man. Have a good day.” 

“Yeah. You too. What can I get you?”

It’s more than just attempting to entertain small talk with espresso pulling professionals also. There was this card that went along with having lived in one of the most dynamic and vibrant cities in our epoch – and perhaps the history of mankind. There was this huge exchange of information that went through all the 8 million inhabitants that created this electric feeling and buzz on every avenue block, subway car and Lyft cabbie. There’s a visual excitement that occurs just by walking down the street. Take any block, and it’ll probably be the most interesting thing you’ll see that day. 

Even the daily commute on the hallowed L train – a line where most 20-something transplants lived off of – felt like a big stage production. I know that sondering has since become a famous blog meme – or whatever kids call it nowadays – but trying to decipher people’s days by the looks on their face and what they were wearing was all the entertainment anyone needs on their ride back home. 

Everyone looked like they were part of their own first-person narrative that played out in their heads or their Moleskines. It was a thrill to know that someone on the train could be intently studying me just as I was intently studying others. 

It all sounds so egotistic and self-centered, but there was a deep-seated groundedness in all of it because everyone was on it too. Unless you had your own car, and very few people did, your personal space was shared by everyone else. Even living arrangements usually meant that you were sharing the sanctity of your “home” with other people. 

We didn’t feel self-centered because city fed off and needed our collective conceit and egoism. It could only claim to be the greatest city in the world so long as the greatest thinkers, artists, musicians, writers, educators, financial minds and basically people who are just plain better than everyone else inhabit it. Head to any random restaurant in any neighborhood, and I promise you that whatever you’re having that night is probably a better meal that the bullshit that you’ll get at a mall. Waiting for the subway? That trio comprised of drums, sax and contrabass playing their asses off in the sweltering heat and humidity of the subway station at West 4th is playing with more intent, conviction and soul than whoever is headlining your local House of Blues – unless of course D’Angelo is hitting HOB that night. Bored? Why not go to one of the many museums and see the the magnum opuses of masters like Dali, Van Gogh, Monet, Pollock and others. Broke? Concerts in the park are available throughout summer. Sometimes hip-hop legends are rocking at the park next to your apartment and you won’t even know it until you hit Instagram. At times, some of the best and brightest instrumentalist provide free concerts of their interpretations of some of the most beloved classical pieces in our collective history. 

As hard as living in an egregiously expensive and competitive environment, it had its mental perks. You could place the blame on every bad thing that was happening in your life on the city. Broke? Well everyone is. Can’t find job? So are the 1,000 people applying for that barista job posted on Craigslist two minutes ago. No one is hiring to play piano – well, they would rather get Robert Glasper or his protégé on the gig than you. I write a lot and people read it, but I’m underpaid… so is your friend who has a graduate degree from Columbia’s Journalism School and is a producer at notable news source as well as all the talented people you know. 

More than anything, it was the collective dance between the city herself, the people living in it as a whole, and your personal dance with the place and the people – plus all the other combinations that you can make up with that set of parameters. At times the performance was a poised ballet dance at a Juilliard recital hall. Sometimes it was a break dance on a cardboard box off a G train stop. If you were at a certain part, then it was a merengue or a salsa. Whatever it was, there was always this give and take between your partner(s). As you moved the city and its inhabitants moved along with you. 

10.26.15