Upper East Side Filipino Thanksgiving = Turkey MIA

Lechon, originally uploaded by joeytoofresh.

My family has never really been big fans of turkey. The earliest Thanksgiving I remember my family celebrating when I was in grade school, the centerpiece was a chicken. We made turkey in following years, but never in the traditional American way. One year my uncle roasted it outside on a spit. The past two years my dad has been slow cooking it in our Webber to perfection.

So, in true Santos-Villacorta style, we served pork loin roast, pinakbet (pork w/ string beans and squash), baked chicken, and a ham accompanied by rice, stuffing, etc. The picture above is from the after party. YES – the day after. It just so happened that a bunch of family was visiting from the Philippines and Washington State so we were invited to not one, but two nights of revelry where Friday evening’s centerpiece was a suckling roast pig. Better than any turkey out there. Vegetarians beware when coming to my house…

Sometimes It Sucks Living in a Social Experiment

Social Experiment. Those are the two words that best describe what’s happening in Bedford-Stuyvesant, my adopted neighborhood. What’s happening in Bed-Stuy is not too different from other urban neighborhoods – gentrification bringing in changes that are good for the community (more Black owned businesses, community initiated revitalization, etc.) and sometimes bad (people getting priced out, gentrifiers not really caring about the history of the community they’re moving into, etc.) Most days I love it and other days – well it’s just down right frustrating because, despite my self-awareness of where I fit in this social experiment, I never thought the negative effects would hit home.

Imagine this – the evening after the United States’s democratic process won and elected Barack Obama – my housemate is walking up our block w/ groceries and is hit over the head w/ a brick and robbed of his wallet. Knocked out COLD and taken Woodhull Hospital. The police show up at our doorstep and fortunately my sister is home to hear the news. She heads over there and finds him a little shook up, but otherwise ok. We start talking about all the strange things happening in our part of the ‘Stuy – more gang activity since Halloween, etc. and what it all means for us. Because even though a lot of this stuff had been happening over the two year span we’ve lived here (hey we’re not far from the Marcy Projects), we were relatively safe. Our neighbors on our block look out for everybody else and we return the favor. We also participated in block activities and made it a point to get to know key players on the street. But when this happened to my housemate just four houses down, who is a young African American man at that, it really made me think about just how safe my sister and I really are walking these streets and if it’s even worth the risk of staying.

We were thinking of riding it out for a couple more months until the same housemate was taunted in front of the same house where he was robbed and asked if he was looking for his wallet. Moreover, I spoke to one of our neighbors who I’m friendly with and he informed me that this particular house is full of squatters and is a drug den that the block association has been trying to get rid of. And the icing on the cake was my sister called the cops as a precaution this past week because she overheard a kid saying someone was bringing a gun to the block to shoot somebody.

Now, after all the crazy events of this week and a half, there is no doubt in my mind that my sister and I are making the right decision to move. Not out of Brooklyn, but to an area where we don’t have to constantly worry about our safety and be closer to our friends – whether that means Bed-Stuy or not, as long as it’s a good place. I’m happy with our decision, but part of me is still angry and sad about the circumstances that led to this choice.

I am happy not because…

Thanks to my fellow blogger Wqueens7 for posting this pic!

Thanks to my fellow blogger Wqueens7 for posting this pic!

Not because the candidate I voted for was elected.

Not because my family came in the 1970s and fought hard to become US citizens and reminded for days on end to vote.

Not because the kids I work with finally have a popular Black male role model to look up to who isn’t an athlete or music star.

Not because my friends around the world are breathing  a sigh of relief.

Not because he kept whatshername out of the White House.

Not because he is Black.

I am happy because we were all witness to the democratic process working on that glorious Tuesday evening, bringing back some of the hope and faith lost 8 years ago.

And when the confetti is cleaned up and the streamers put away – we can go to bed at night knowing that Barack Hussein Obama won fairly and convincingly.

God Bless America.

Hardest part of the evening is gettin’ the crowd going…

Yvette’s crowd, originally uploaded by joeytoofresh.

And when a finicky house crowd starts to do freaky things on the dancefloor while I beat the shit out of Steve Arrington’s, “Way Out”, it’s a job a well done. My set was early by DJ standards – 11pm, but my goal for the night was to make my DJ mentor/good friend RAS happy during 40th birthday party and to get his crowd…yes HIS crowd…into the groove. I knew I was doing something right when he kept giving me the nod of approval and the house heads started going 4 to the floor.

I felt like it was one of the best sets I’ve ever played, albeit a short one because once I got settled in after the technical problems, my mixes were clean, and I was having fun w/ the crowd.


 Valentine’s Day means so much more to me than a box of chocolate and a hot date.  This is the day that my paternal grandmother aka Apo was born in 1918.  She is still alive and well. Gentle and wise like Yoda.  I try to call her every couple of weeks to see how she’s doing and of course I didn’t forget her birthday.  We talked for a few about life mostly about work and what I ate that day.  I asked her if anybody was coming over and she said “just us.”  “Just us” means 7 of her 8 children, 9 of 13 grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren.  Whenever there’s a Filipino party in Concord, CA, chances are the Cuencos are at the helm.  With the advent of technology I got to join in on some of the fun! This clip is of me greeting Apo for her birthday (in our native tongue, of course) and her blowing out the candles.  You may want to turn down the volume as the Cuencos have no sense of pitch control. 🙂 Enjoy!

The Beauty of Technology…

Is when I can talk to my parents, brother and little sister online via video chat.  My dad gave me a MacBook so Joanie and I get to talk to them often.  He’s also planning on putting one at my grandmother’s house so they all could talk to the folks in the Philippines.  I also get to talk to Joe when I’m not at his place or vice versa.  It’s so much better than using the phone AND it’s free. It makes missing the people I love a little easier.

Jumpin’ into the New Year!

The Santos Family Jump! (I'm in the orange coat)

I’ve been back home in BK for about a week now after enjoying the holiday break with family. As always with every large family – you get a little bit of everything.  My sister and I started our vacation by visiting our nephew in New Jersey. He was born in late November and this was our first time seeing him.  Mind you, I’ve had nieces and nephews for a while now, but being around him is different because most of my other cousins w/ kids are much older.  Seeing my cousin who is my age have a baby made me realize even more that new chapters are being written by me and others in my generation.  
Me & Dylan
My focus right now is my career, saving money, and spending time with who I love most – my family, Joey, and my friends.  All this is not necessarily for bigger and better things – but to simply find a negotiable balance and to plan for the future. Surprisingly the desire to have a family of my own is more prevalent than it was before, mostly because I see me and my cousins moving into this phase in our lives, but I know it will take time and planning.  No need to rush or worry about when it will happen, especially since I am with somebody who wants all those things too.
 My nephew Ethan singing at my grandfather's grave Christmas Day
My parents’ generation are also moving into another phase.  Although I think my parents are still young and have 1 chick in the nest, they are already starting to talk about retirement and asking me and my sister to make sure we are financially stable so that we can help them with our youngest sister when she goes to college.  They are also starting to see their parents pass away.  My dad’s side of the family experienced their first major death, my grandfather’s, in April and then my grandfather’s brother on January 2nd of this year (my sis and I saw him while we were there). While it was odd not seeing him during Christmas, I’m coming to accept that my grandparents aren’t going to be around forever and I greatly appreciate the fact that I had them for as long as I did.
With all this in mind – 2007 was an eventful year.  From birth to death and everything in-between.  I don’t like to predict what 2008 may bring, but I know I will do my best to enjoy each and every moment.