The End of The Toothpick Diaries

Hey everyone! I’m rendering this blog inert. I’ve decided to use Notes From The Shadows as my one and only blog where I’ll post my random musings and fiction and photography. It’s a name more fitting for where I am now. The Toothpick Diaries was a name chosen because, at the time, I had just quit smoking and needed a toothpick to help with the cravings. I’ve since started smoking again so it was rather moot. Blah blah blah

Thank you.


Crippling Fear

During the first event of The Paperback Project two nights ago, there was one guy who came up on the open mic portion of the event and did spoken word. I was smoking outside when he did his piece. Didn’t hear what he was saying since the speakers outside was turned off. When I looked into the window to see what was happening inside, I saw him on stage, his face was contorted, mouth was moving a hundred miles an hour, with certain tics that was all too familiar. I thought he was a stutterer, too.

I rushed back inside to hear him, almost carelessly. In those few seconds, something stirred up inside me. An excitement, maybe.

He wasn’t a stutterer. He was just that intense. I took photos anyway so the energy I spent in those moments wouldn’t be a waste. Also, I had to since it’s my role that night. Went back out to light another ciggie after a few minutes. One of the staff from Luna noticed the way I rushed back inside. Told me I was “tensyonado.” Didn’t even realize I was that excited when I went back inside. Didn’t realize how transparent I was that time. I replied that I wanted to take photos of the dude’s intensity. Save myself from the embarrassment.

I got too excited, I’ll admit. One, because I’ve never met another stutterer. Two, if he (had he been a stutterer, too) can come up on stage and recite a poem without the feeling of shame and embarrassment, then maybe I can, as well.

I sometimes forget just how much akin to a prison being a stutterer is. Most days, it becomes an afterthought. Just something that’s there that I have to live with day in and day out. I’ve been so used to it that it’s become “normal” for me already.

But in the rare occasions when I take a step back and look at myself from outside my skin, I see it. I’m constricted by this “personality flaw” of mine. I sometimes don’t finish my sentences and let others just assume what I intend to say. Things get lost in translation. I avoid talking to people when I have tons to say or ask. It’s crippling.

Singing in public was my way of fixing that. It was a way for me to get used to being around people (in front of them) so that the stuttering will lessen. But now that I don’t/can’t/won’t do that anymore, I need to find another solution.

Photography doesn’t really help. In fact, it raises more problems for me. Being a portrait photographer requires speaking to the subjects/models, making them feel at comfortable, thoroughly explaining the concept of the shoot, etc. I can’t do that. Some subjects/models just might get thrown off when I speak.

I need to figure out a way out of this. I need to figure out how to adapt to this.

The year starts with Janice and I on the rooftop with the new day before us. It’s like any other midnight, except for the fireworks that was in full view of our damaged bodies. We stop arguing for the 360 degree view of what was happening in this time zone. I look at her for almost five seconds, fearful of how the animosity of the colors reflected on her face might change her mind on the things at hand. And I look away just as she turned to me, smiling in the corner of my eye, asking for a cigarette. I grab the pack in my front pocket, take out two sticks, light them both, and pass her one, never taking my eyes off of the fireworks. She thanks me, then with a smile in her voice, asks me if I think it was possible to see a shooting star at this very moment. I politely scoff, then look at the heavens around me. I tell her that it’s not in the nature of shooting stars to appear when there are fireworks in the skies. She laughs, and I can tell that everything will be fine.

I got myself a new DSLR last Friday. It’s a Canon EOS 60D, and it’s a magnificent piece of tech that reminded me of how much I was love with photography years ago. It took a bit of getting used to as my old DSLR was an entry-level with limited controls compared to the 60D, but once I got the hang of it, it felt natural.

I got to test out my music photography “skills” the night after at Luna. Rizza Cabrera played and she was the perfect subject for the comeback. I realized later on that she was also on the lineup when I sang in public for the first time. It was destiny, perhaps, the way things happened. I did alright that night. The camera was on Manual mode, something that I never did back then. (I never got to fully experiment with it in my younger years. Too impatient.)

Rizza loved the shots, I think, as she asked if she could steal the ones I posted on my Instagram. Felt good knowing that the subject liked my shots.

I’m still getting the hang of it. I’m relearning (or learning) everything I learned back then. Truth be told, I never had any formal photography lessons. I don’t know of that’s a bad thing, but meh. With how the internet is now, I can just browse what I need to learn. Experience, of course, is still the best teacher. And I intend to keep doing this til my wallet permits me to. Photography requires me to be out there in the world shooting and shooting and learning and experiencing. Travel costs money. :/ Moreso with music photography. But I know that it’s worth it in the end.

I’m gonna be doing portraits soon. I already have a model and a concept in mind, but I’m saving that for when I think I’m good enough. Don’t want to do it and screw up and embarrass myself yet. Perks of having a sister and a brother in law that does modelling? I get to practice on them.

I’ve said before that the life of being a singer/songwriter that I lived for few months made me alive again. I was frightened of that life slipping away and I’d end up where I was before that, in an empty room with no windows and no door to escape from. I was afraid that I’d be trapped in the prison that is my thoughts again. And when it did slip away, I didn’t revert back to old habits. I didn’t “die.” I was still alive. I was still hopeful and happy. Cautiously happy, but happy nonetheless.

I have the love of fiction writing and love of photography back in my life. It feels good.

Back To Basics

I still can’t believe how sudden I made the decision to retire from the life of a singer/songwriter. Was I that disheartened from recent events? It wasn’t just because of that, mind you. It was a lot of things that to led to it. It’s funny how I kept saying that in order for my singer/songwriter career to survive, I had to sever old connections. And I did just that. For the first time in my life, I did what I believed was right. But, in the end, it was I who undid what I had started.

People talk about conviction and faith in their art. They talk about the will to make their dreams come true, and the will to make it stick for a long time. Did I lack that conviction? Was it even there in the first place?

I think I had the conviction. I’m sure I had. I believe that once you can imagine yourself doing something you want to do, no matter how stupid it is, it can happen. And I could imagine myself there. I imagined myself still doing it ten years from now. I can still see it, in fact.

My path, however, has changed now. I’m going to be doing the things that made me love life in the first place. Writing. Photography. Those two were the ones that defined who I was. Those two were the ones that I previously thought had died years ago. Past loves. Former passions. It’s all coming back and I am excited. My head is filled with all these ideas for future shoots. My head is brimming with inspiration for my fiction writing. I’m a bit rusty, I admit, but I’ll get there again.

Maybe I’ll still record my songs down the line. Maybe I’ll still sing them live. For now, I gotta do what I gotta do.

I’ll be loaning my acoustic guitar to a friend of mine for a while. I had already cased her up a couple of days ago because I couldn’t foresee when I’ll be able to touch her again. It’s not so bad. Fiona is a talented musician and has the makings of a great artist and she deserves a great guitar. Nina will be in good hands. A great guitar like that deserves to be played. I mean, the motto of Guild Guitars is “Made to be played,” anyway. I’m just following that. Lol.

Introspection: Embracing Misery + Unmasked

Written 10/12/2006

Introspection: Embracing Misery + Unmasked

Twenty two years. Twenty two years of acute happiness, of remedial loss, of sensible sensitivity. Twenty two years of nearly criminal irresponsibility, of heartbreakingly tragic consequences, of a reasonable contentment. Twenty two years of the same corrective repetitiveness. Twenty two years. Well, almost twenty two years.

I may not have the same dreadful life as the helpless, not that I am in competition, but I have my fair share of catastrophes. I have lost a mother to suicide when I was four, so sadly, I have no momentous recollections of her, which is a shame, really. There are some minor memories, yes, but nothing significant. But having minor memories is better than not having memories at all. Still, a huge part of me wonders how things would change if she survived Valentines 89. If she did, I wouldn’t have the memory that no child should ever have to remember. The memory of her funeral. What’s worse is that, the imprint in my mind is not even like a photograph, but like some brutal video, a scene wherein my younger brother and I were chasing each other in front of the mausoleum.

Do I regret that which I had no definite control over? No. I would not trade my life, as disarrayed as it is, for any other life. I would not want to let go of the people that I have come to love. I would not give up the memories that I can somehow still remember. I would not give up the experiences that I have become familiar with over my almost twenty two years of existence (it may not be a lot, or noteworthy, but I do cherish everything that my sentimental tackiness can withstand).

It would be interesting, though, to enter some kind of alternate reality wherein my mother survived and have a remote control of sorts that would fast forward (or rewind, or whichever) moments and, well, the life I have in that specific alternate reality. I’d be the grand witness to the only thing in this world that is invariable, change.

I am a survivor. I have survived all the misfortunes, big and/or small, that have come to me like a fatal car crash. I am an emotional person. “Emo”, if you will. Who wouldn’t be with everything I have experienced? Maybe that’s why I am who I am, who you see. Maybe that’s why I am who I see in front of the mirror everytime I fix my hair, or brush my teeth. I perceive a fragile person everytime I see my reflection on the windows of my car everytime I go down from it. I always say that I am stronger. I always try to be stronger. Hence, the facade that is “Evil Johnny.” His intentions made me a confident person. But that’s just a mask I wear to “deny” who I really am. I use that persona to contradict the face beneath the mask that I thought I have no need for. As it turns out, I need the face beneath the mask. As do the people around me. It’s not the mask that they need. It’s not that mask that they love. It’s the person who wears the mask.

Denial. I have denied grief for an artificial happiness everytime something awful happens. Everyone does. I am not alone in this dilemma. I always thought that it was much better to feel artificial happiness (not necessarily alcohol or drugs or other stimulants) than to face everything. I look the other way everytime something bad happens.

I haven’t cried for a long time now. There were so many moments up until the last time I cried that I wanted to do so. That’s why I fear that day wherein something catastrophic happens and I would just implode. And heaven knows if I could survive that. I could only endure so much. And honestly, I am tired. Life has taken its toll on me.

This is me unmasked. No “Evil Johnny”. No “Emo Johnny”. Just plain me.

Still, I’m in the dark. Tragic.

Begin Again.

It had to end sometime. The life I lived from September to December of last year was the best I’ve ever had. But that path isn’t for me. Living a dream of being a singer/songwriter isn’t for me. I’ve got tons of reasons to step off the path I chose. But it took me a burned bridge to fully realize it.

I was never one to be in the spotlight. Tried to avoid it as much as I can. Being up on stage gave me an inexplicable feeling, but I’m better behind the scenes. I’m my best when I’m behind the scenes, away from eyes and the spotlight.

I’m happier when I’m listening to music rather than creating music. Writing songs, playing them live, that’s something else. There’s a sense of accomplishment. You get to release what you need to release, even though it’s the same story told from different sides or in different ways.

But the high I get from listening and understanding and drowning myself in the music of my favorite artists…that’s something that I’d gladly get lost in.

That’s what it’s all about. Getting lost in the things that you love, and being fine with it. For me, anyway.

I’m still gonna be “doing” music. A friend and I just made a new music production team and I’m excited where it takes me. I’m gonna be writing again. I’m also gonna retake photography. Those two, writing and photography, were always what kept me sane in my earlier years.

Do I have regrets? None. I learned so much about people, about myself, about how things in that world works. When I started doing that, it awakened my artistic side that I thought died back in 2009. Back then, I couldn’t write and I couldn’t pick up my camera. I became an empty shell. My short-lived “career” of being a singer/songwriter filled me up again. I might even finally finish the novel I started writing years ago.

Will I have regrets? Maybe. But those will be regrets that I’ll live with. The kind that I’m alright with. I’ll still be writing songs. I’ll still sing them. Just not for an audience.

It had to end sometime. But what ended made me learn to live again.

Infinity Blues

It’s time.

I have ten original songs that I’m going to release as an LP sometime next year.

1. You & I
2. I Won’t
3. Shine A Light
4. Never Enough
5. Instead
6. Thunderstorms
7. Night Terrors
8. Relapse
9. Rushing Home
10. Two More

The album will be called Infinity Blues.

I’m more than satisfied with all of them, save for one, “Shine A Light.” It’s a good upbeat song, but I feel that it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the tracks. I could take it out and leave the tracklist to 9 songs, but I do want it to reach the double digits. I’ll eventually replace it with something else. I’ve got tons of unfinished songs that I can change it with. Or, perhaps, a new one. I have been writing a lot again lately. “Night Terrors” was just written two nights ago, as a matter of fact.

Hell, the album just might have more than 10 tracks by the time I go into recording.

This is it.

Where’s the warmth? Where’s the fire I can feel?

December 21/23, 2014

It’s difficult for me to feel joy. Actually, I’d rather not let myself feel pure joy. I still feel happiness, no matter how small it is. I still feel it. Those “awwww” moments. Those times when someone does good for me. But the ones that are pure happiness, the ones that last more than mere moments, those are the ones that I avoid feeling.

Pure happiness. I had a taste of it this year. Almost went all in. In my heart, I was ready to give it my all. But my mind held me back. For good reason. It helped me survive something that should have taken me down. I’ve always had one foot out the door in every room that I enter. I’m more comfortable straddling the line between what I know and the unknown. I’m safe in that line. And it’s being in that line that I’m still alive. It’s being in that line that I can still pass myself off as sane.

I had this strange moment a while ago. I was driving back home from running errands. There was nothing strange about the drive back. There was nothing out of place in the road I was in. But for a brief moment while I was in that specific part of the road in that specific time, I felt calm. Mentally and emotionally. Like the weight I was carrying suddenly disappeared for a bit. It felt good. And then it was gone.