My Post-Election Night Thoughts

I woke up this morning firmly in the icy-cold grip of an ominous fog of helplessness, the same disturbing sensation so many others across the country felt as well. Upset with myself, I wondered aloud how I could fail to fully realize how imminently possible a Presidency backed by hate and oppression was. There was no longer anything I could do in my power to prevent a future America backed by intolerance, and I was quick to blame myself for not doing more in the first place.

However, I quickly reminded myself that there is little one person can do that could present a devastating catastrophe on the national scale like the one we bore witness to Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Besides, there is no time for assigning blame or justifying fault.

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Photo by Brian “BT” Twitty Photography

It is my belief that fear of the unknown is the strongest motivating emotion in human existence. I usually use the same example to illustrate this: If someone tells you to do ten push ups, you do ten push ups and then you’re done. No worries. Now imagine someone tells you to start doing push ups until they say stop. Gets a bit more dicey then, doesn’t it? With each consecutive push up, the uncertainty of your directive doesn’t allow for you to relax, making the aches and sores in your shoulder that much more difficult to ignore.

Fear of the unknown is exactly what had me worried the most today. Fear of what will happen to my friends and family that aren’t straight white males. Fear of what regressive policies will do to the Earth’s already fragile and wounded environment. Fear of what a pro-ignorance Presidency will do to an economy that is just beginning to see the light of day again. Fear of what Russian influence and Vladimir Putin could have on a bombastic yet morally weak and easily manipulated leadership.

This cloudy uncertainty is the feeling that is hitting me the hardest at this moment. Will we start rounding up all those who don’t fit a certain profile and send them to modern day concentration camps? It wasn’t all that long ago we did exactly that to Japanese Americans, back in the day when the new leadership constantly reminds us that America was supposedly great. Will free speech be banished and replaced by a state-sponsored system of propaganda? Will a Gestapo-like force knock on my door one night to make sure I’m not protecting people of color? Will it be determined that I have just enough color (and an odd enough last name) in me to be the person the Gestapo is looking for? Just like I’m not sure when I have to stop doing push ups, I’m not sure when I might need to go into a Hunger Games-like mode of survival.

Fear and uncertainty, however, cannot win.

Despite having a person that epitomizes all that I stand against in the greatest single position of power in this country, I still have the power to put positive energy into this world, and no one can take that from me. I still have the power in me to stand up for what I believe is right. I still have the power to set a positive example in my community, at a time when it is needed the most. I still have the power to stand firmly against the persecution of my friends and family. I still have the power to become more educated and, in turn, help educate others. I still have the power, while there is still a single breath in my lungs, to speak truth to power, and hold accountable those who seek to oppress, diminish or marginalize anyone in my community. I still have the power to volunteer for causes and the money to donate to charities. I still have the power to create art and music and share it with the world. I still have the power to make positive contributions to my neighbors and my society, for building a stronger foundation of knowledge and respect is how I, personally, can make a difference in the face of seemingly impenetrable hate. I still have the power to do all of these things, and no one, certainly not an elected official, can ever take that away from me.

I’m trying my best to remain confident and optimistic that our state of affairs seems much more bleak than what will actually transpire. Regardless, now is the time to stand tallest and most proud of who we are, and to lift up those around us. We are at our strongest when we are together, and we will overcome whatever uncertainty we may face.

This is a new reality. As painful as it may be, it’s one in which we will be forced to become the best possible versions of ourselves, and maybe that’s not as bad as it seems.

What Qualifies as Music?

Music consists of three elements: rhythm, melody and harmony. If it lacks any one of those three elements, it’s not music anymore.

Back in my high school days, the most popular kind of music (according to record sales – which I never take much stock in) were boy bands. Yes, let’s hop in the way back machine to 1999. The Backstreet Boys’ Millennium, 98 Degrees and Rising, plus self-titled albums by N*Sync, Ricky Martin and Britney Spears ruled the airwaves.

The bane of my musical existence in 1999

Personally, I avoided this sugary sweet, unfulfilling and ultimately annoying brand of music. My heros of the day were Jay-Z, OutKast, Nas, Tupac and other hip-hoppers. I held their lyrical storytelling and head-nodding beats in high regard, and similarly denounced the corporate-manufactured pop music as a product of the shameless big music business machine. I still feel the same way today.

But that’s not the point of this blog. Back in the day, my friends, who also listened to hip-hop (we were few and far between in southern Indiana), also despised boy bands and pop princesses. We often trashed them with great vitriol, dismissing them as a sham of the music industry.

One argument that we used was basically this: It wasn’t real music because they didn’t play real instruments.

It seemed to make sense, given our preconceived notion that these bands were just shills for their record companies (that part I still don’t doubt). But that raises the question: What musical ability does an entertainer need in order to be considered a musician?

If you want to look at it that way, what instrument does a rapper play? In the same way JT, Lance, Joey, JC and Chris sang prepackaged harmonies, rappers would use only their voices to convey rhythm, melody and harmony. Often times, as I would later discover, using lyrics written by others. Fundamentally, some of my favorite rappers were no different than those annoying pretty boys with their stupid frosted blonde tips (can we all agree that frosted blonde tips should never EVER come back in style?).

In reality, music, like many other art forms, is a subjective experience, one that will differ from person to person. What one person sees as trash is another person’s proverbial cup of tea. While songs like “I Want it That Way” and “Bye Bye Bye” (let’s not even get into the abomination that LFO’s “Summer Girls” was) were the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard to me, I cannot deny that a significant number of people my age adore those songs to this day (you know who you are).

This mentality is still very much alive today. Most notably, it takes the form of people criticizing the rise in popularity of DJs and producers, who often times perform on stage with merely a laptop and perhaps a pair of turntables. The exact same argument is used to discount the idea that because an artist is making music with electronic instruments that it is somehow not music.

Still very much music

While I personally prefer live instrumentation, music that is made electronically is no less worthy of the definition of music since it contains rhythm, melody and harmony. It may not speak to everyone, but it does speak. Hip-Hop itself was born out of DJs using two turntables and a microphone, which predated the modern day MC. In that sense, pioneers like Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa are not too different from the Calvin Harris’, Steve Aoki’s and Mark Ronson’s of today.

With this in mind, pop music is no different than the polarizing views people hold in regards to works of art like Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain”, Damien Hirst’s “Mother and Child” and basically the entire realm of Modern Art. The beauty or apathy are truly in the eye of the beholder.

So while you won’t catch me with a One Direction, Skrillex or New Kids on the Block record any time soon, that doesn’t mean I don’t respect it as a work of art that connects and speaks to so many other people. If it makes others happy, that’s cool even if that’s not what I prefer. It still holds rhythm, melody and harmony, which meets my definition of music.

Now let me get some of that “Party in the USA”, that’s what I call rhythm, melody and harmony!

Self Love and Giving Credit Where It Is Due

I posted this tweet a couple of days ago without giving a whole lot of thought as to how it would be interpreted (world’s greatest twitter user, I know). I had a few people ask me about it, so I thought I’d talk about it long form.

First off, this wasn’t directed at anyone or anything in particular. I may not be the world’s greatest twitter user, but I’m not going to cook beef on the platform. No, rather than subtweet someone, I’ll just got holla at them in person.

Instead, this was the result of one of those random moments where I’m not busy enough to get out of my own head, and let the swirling, eclectic mix of thoughts marinate themselves into my internal monologue.

What this tweet comes down to is self-love.

Too often, I end up selling myself short. I’ll compare myself, or my work, to that of others around me. Too often, again, I’ll give more credence to what others are doing and not give myself enough. I end up elevating other people while bringing myself down at the same time.

I also have ridiculously high standards for myself, and whenever my work falls anywhere short of that, I consider it garbage, cut my losses and move on. I shudder to think of how many great ideas and projects I’ve abandoned over the years simply because they didn’t meet some arbitrary benchmark and I wasn’t willing to see them through.

“I’m not that good…”

“Their shit is way better…”

“I could never do that…”

“They deserve it, look at what they did…”

While maybe true on occasion, the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized that it just isn’t the case more often than not. I am good. My shit is better. I can do that. I deserve it, look what I did. At this point, I’ve built a body of work that backs up that feeling. Confidence begets confidence, and a stronger cycle can and should be born.

Up until this point, I haven’t given myself the self love that I deserve and require. Forgiveness and comfort in one’s own identity is something that I’ve always struggled with. That’s why it’s so important for me to be good to myself moving forward. Through goals, meditation and mindfulness, yoga and awesome friends, I hope I can find the courage to love myself while also respecting those around me.

So don’t sweat it. I wasn’t talking about you. I’m only trying to bring a better balance and harmony into my world and yours. We deserve it.

Because we are good.

Our shit is better.

We can do it.

We deserve it, look what we did and can do.

34 Years on Earth, Ten in Charlotte

Bobcats inside sales ten-year reunion, 2016

Bobcats inside sales ten-year reunion, 2016

So here I am. 34 years old to the day and also ten years to the day that I moved to Charlotte.

If you’d have asked me about my long-term plans for Charlotte, I’d say the same as I would today: I don’t have concrete plans to be here for another 10/20/30 years, but I absolutely could if I had to because Charlotte is such an awesome city, clean and progressive, and now, I even have firm roots here. I’ve done a lot of growing, a lot of progressing, while also having a few stumbles along the way, just like the city that I now call home.

But before we get into that, let’s flashback to Charlotte in May of 2006.

The Carolina Panthers were hot, having just come off a Super Bowl and an NFC Championship Game appearance in the past three seasons. They were coached by John Fox and Marty Hurney was the GM. The quarterback was Jake Delhomme, the first round pick was a RB out of Memphis named DeAngelo Williams and they also signed the decrepit corpse of WR Keyshawn Johnson. The Panthers finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.

The Hornets were still known as the Bobcats back then, just two years removed from expansion status. Time Warner had not yet bought the naming rights to the arena, so it was known as “Charlotte Bobcats Arena”. The key players on the team were Raymond Felton, Sean May, Emeka Oakafor, Gerald Wallace, Brevin Knight, Primoz Brezec and the immortal Walter Hermann. The Bobcats used the third overall pick in the draft to select Adam Morrison, a guy who is today best known for crying at the end of an NCAA tournament game. Michael Jordan first bought into the Bobcats franchise that year as a minority owner, he would eventually purchase the team from then-owner Bob Johnson.

BB&T Ballpark was still in the beginnings of a years-long battle to secure the space, which was at the time, a giant undeveloped eyesore pit in the middle of uptown.

The Carolina Hurricanes won the first (and so far only) professional sports championship in North Carolina that June.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame had just been awarded to Charlotte, but was several years from construction. The US National Whitewater Center was already under construction, and opened that summer.

The light rail was still a year and a half from opening. There was no rail trail, no Little Sugar Creek Greenway in Midtown, and no statue of Captain James Jack.

Construction of the Ritz-Carlton Uptown, 2008.

Construction of the Ritz-Carlton Uptown, 2008

There was no Duke Energy Tower, VUE, Catalyst, Element, Skye, UNCC Center City, Romare Bearden park, Mint Museum Uptown or Bechtler Museum. The Epicenter was under construction, but shady real estate deals and the 2008 recession would dramatically alter it’s course. Dixie’s Tavern (now the future site of Google Fiber) in the prime of it’s Jager-Bomb slinging, Def Leppard screaming life.

Wachovia was still headquartered here before they got bought out by Wells Fargo in 2008. The PGA tournament was still called the Wachovia Championship. Tiger Woods was the absolute undisputed greatest athlete on earth.

The only breweries in town were Carolina Brewery and Rock Bottom. Then-Governor Mike Easley had just signed into law the Pop-the-Cap legislation, which raised the ABV for beer brewed in state from a paltry 6% to a much more brewer-friendly 15%. It would be three years before Olde Mecklenburg Brewery really established itself as Charlotte’s first true craft brewery. The closest thing you could get to craft beer in most stores? Belle’s Oberon.

There was no Kindred. No Passion 8. No Custom Shop. No Midwood Smokehouse, no Earl’s Grocery, no Pure Pizza, no Sabor, no Chima, no Five Church or Nan & Byron’s, no Dandelion Market, no Soul Gastrolounge, no Cowfish, no Halcyon, no Mayobird, no Block & Grinder, no Pinky’s, no Bistro La Bon, no Bad Daddy’s, no Luna’s, no Futo Buta, no Heirloom, no Fahrenheit, no Queen City Q and exactly zero of the food trucks and mobile food options we enjoy today. The Penguin in Plaza Midwood was still in the tail end of its prime, however.

Montford (where I lived back then) was certainly not the Montford of today. You still had Angry Ale’s, but no Roasting Co., Brazwell’s, Good Food on Montford, Duckworth’s and Park Ten Lanes was still a serious renovation away from becoming an acceptable place to hang out.

NoDa (where I live now), was not NoDa back then. There was no Heist, no Jack Beagle’s (and no “Als Ich Chan” mural), no Growler’s. no Crepe Cellar, no Revolution Pizza, no Blind Pig and no Chop Shop (just like today). There was a pre-Guy Fieri Cabo Fish Taco, and Salvador Deli however.

Smoking was still allowed indoors.

There were only five CDGC-sponsored disc golf courses. Now there are 18.

Independence Boulevard was a mess of abandoned strip mall spaces and shuttered doors, a true eye-sore along such a prominent stretch of road. Oh wait…

Eastland Mall was still standing and in operation, however very much removed from its glory days.

Patrick Cannon was a four-year city council member. Jennifer Roberts was on the Mecklenburg County of Board of Commissioners. Pat McCrory… was mayor.

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Senator Obama stumping in uptown Charlotte, 2008

May 13, 2006 – I woke up with an unreal hangover in Athens, Ohio, where I had spent the previous night hanging out with my college roommate who was in grad school at Ohio University. Athens was a good checkpoint in my move to Charlotte, as it’s just a six-hour shot straight down I77. Despite my lingering intoxication, I set out just after lunchtime, for the second leg of a trip that would take me to just the second city in which I’ve ever lived.

The ride south on I77 is actually very scenic. Almost the entire drive is through the robust, rolling hills of the two Virginias. Southern Indiana had a few small hills, but these were seemingly infinite stretches of deep undulations that felt like something out of a movie or postcard.

As I got into the general Charlotte area, probably somewhere south of Huntersville, I realized I hadn’t printed out any directions to get to my new apartment. Back in 2006, maps and directions on phones were technically possible, but not really functional in the way we know them today. Because I had just spent the last six hours on the road, I called my friend back in Athens, had him Google my address and describe over the phone how to get to my apartment.

The first apartment complex I lived in was 1420 Magnolia, a nice but anonymous complex just off of Park and Woodlawn. It was getting dark by the time I finally found where I was and pulled into the parking garage. This would be the first (and last) giant apartment complex I would have ever lived in, and it didn’t seem particularly welcoming. The hallways are dark and cavernous, the doors are made of steel and my unit was completely unfurnished, meaning the only things I had to fill it with were the things I brought in my Jeep.

I didn’t rent a U-Haul (which both then and now seems insanely expensive), so the main things I had to my name upon my first night in Charlotte were a mattress (yes, I was that dude who strapped a mattress to his luggage rack), my clothes, a few small storage units with random shit, and my Dell desktop PC (I didn’t have internet hooked up yet, so it was basically just a stereo playing the music on the hard drive).

My roommate wouldn’t move in until the next day. There was no Yelp!, so I couldn’t figure out what bar was close by. I couldn’t call anyone who could tell me. I literally didn’t know one other person in the city. I called my mom to let her know I got there and that was nice.

It was this unescapable feeling of loneliness that was how I celebrated my 24th birthday.

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A detour in the Smokey Mountains, 2006

Fortunately, that feeling wouldn’t last. My roommate moved in the next morning, and we’re still close friends to this day. A week later, I would start my job at the Charlotte Bobcats, which had a built in team of young people like me who were all new to the city too and just wanted to have a good time.

Fast forward a decade later and I feel pretty lucky to have grown and evolved in step with a young, dynamic city. I now have a deep set of roots and a diverse circle of friends, colleagues and acquaintances. I can actually navigate my way through the majority of this city without the help of navigation. I’ve also starting following the Hornets and Panthers as much as the Pacers and Colts (but not more).

I still don’t know if I’ll be in Charlotte for another 10/20/30 years, but this city is awesome enough that if that were the case, I wouldn’t be mad about it. Charlotte is a great city that’s only getting better. Today I’m celebrating myself, but I’m also celebrating my city, and all the ups and downs we’ve shared over the past decade.

The original Bobcats inside sales team, 2007

The original Bobcats inside sales team, 2007

Words at the Bechtler

A few weeks ago, when the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art hosted Creative Mornings Charlotte, I was called upon to deliver a few words on the Bechtler when our president wasn’t able to make it. I had no idea I would be speaking that morning until about ten minutes before this video was filmed. Given just a few minutes to prepare something to say in front of 250+ influential Charlotteans, this is what I came up with:

Andy Goh / Bechtler Intro – CM6 from Charlotte Star Room on Vimeo.

#GohJoGoal: February – Completed

Quick backstory: I’m not the New Year’s “resolutions” type. I think it’s pretty silly to use the changing of the calendar to start half-assedly working towards some arbitrary goal, especially one that is year long. I’d rather set more reasonable attainable goals in shorter time spans and spread them out consistently throughout the year.

That’s what I thought, anyway. Until I realized I wasn’t doing it.

Instead, I found myself spending more time daydreaming about doing those goals and the perceived benefits of them, rather than actually, y’know, doing them (sound familiar?).

That’s when I found myself this year, very ironically, setting a goal for myself for 2016. My goal? Set goals.

Each month I’m trying to do something different and new, something that challenges me to get outside of my comfort zone. I want to try to drop bad habits, and also develop new good ones. I also don’t want to try to do it all at once, so 1-2 goals each month is the right number to keep me focused.

I wanted to start easy, so my January goal was only two weeks, and that was to not eat meat. Excluding all meats except seafood, I ate a pescatarian diet each day for 14 days. I’m not trying to be vegetarian any time soon (I constantly get distracted by the thought of a steak dinner at Beef & Bottle), but I knew I had developed a mentality where meat had to be not only present in every meal, but the feature of each meal too. My 14 days as a pescatarian helped me shake that mentality just a bit. It forced me to consider meals (both at restaurants and at home) that did not have beef, pork, chicken or turkey. That was a slight-but-noticeable change in the planning and preparation of meals that had become entrenched and automatic. While I haven’t made it a point to avoid meat in the time since, I have been able to appreciate significantly more meals based on greens and grains.

That brings us to February. My goal last month was a daily one, and a two-sided goal at that. I decided to meditate for at least ten minutes each day, while also not having a single drink of alcohol the entire month of February. Meditation is something that I’ve wanted to make a consistent practice for a while now, and just never made myself do it. To compliment that, not having any alcohol would allow myself to make the most of my clarity-driven mission.

I’ll tackle my assessment from each sub-goal and then as a whole. Context: Yes, I completed each goal.

I have never thought I had a problem with alcohol. I don’t mean that with any sense of irony, exaggeration, or pretension. I’ve just never been the type of person who felt the need to push it to the limit when it came to drinking.

Not that I haven’t done my part to help sustain the prevalence of booze. I went to a big state college for five years, lived in a frat for two of them, burned my meager paychecks at the uptown bars (RIP Dixie’s) when I moved to Charlotte, and have been a huge fan of the more recent craft beer explosion.

But again, these challenges are all about taking me out of my routine.

If have any problem with alcohol, it’s that I’m too quick to drink just because that’s what everyone does at the places I hang out (familiar, again?). Just like eating meat, drinking booze at the bars / a networking event / a sporting event / at the airport / at home / basically everywhere except work has become just something I do, because that’s what I do.

February would have its challenges, too. Right away, the Super Bowl was a huge test. I would be watching it at a friend’s house where I would likely be the only person not drinking. Initially, I thought I would give myself a pass for that day because seriously, the local football squadron was playing the big game! After a week of not drinking, however, making it through the game was relatively easy. Full disclosure:

Not one person even asked me about it.

I suppose the most awkward feeling I had was when I would be at a place like Hattie’s, the Birdsong patio or Legion Brewery for #instabeerup and someone would ask my why I’m not drinking. It’s a question that’s tough to answer without looking self-righteous, but the answer that I always gave is the same answer I’m writing here: To challenge myself and step outside my comfort zone.

More so than not drinking, meditation for ten minutes everyday I felt made a tangible impact on me. This is something I’ve always wanted to make a habit, but it’s always been so hard to keep it consistent. I would do a few minutes for a day or two, forget to do it for a day, then be done. I would attempt the same feat a few months later to similar results. In February, I had not only done a ten minute session each day, but by the end of the month, I was finding pockets of ten, fifteen minutes to meditate. After a morning shower, at lunch, after work and before bed were the most popular times for me.

After of month of building a meditation habit, I feel that it’s something that still takes a long time to really feel the full effects of, but in the short time I did I felt that it was a great way to take a mental break from an easily cluttered day. Especially working in social media, information comes fast and it’s absolutely necessary to be able to take mental breaks and sort through everything that’s coming at you.

I’m looking forward to continuing to grow with meditation and mindfulness, I have a feeling there’s a long path ahead. As nor not drinking, well, I like having a quality local craft beer, or a glass of bourbon, whiskey or scotch, I won’t lie. And a night filled with one, two or a few of those, and some good company can make for a fun night. I won’t be cutting that off any time soon, but I will continue to be more conscious about drinking when I really don’t want to, or feel is necessary.