Archive for the ‘Me’ Category

leron1calig7

Starting December 14, 2015 to December 26, 2015 , I will be on a virtual book blog tour with Reading Addiction Tours. Below are the websites and tour dates:

December 14, 2015 – Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours (kick off)

December 15, 2015 – Fantastic Feathers

December 16, 2015 – Texas Book Nook

December 17, 2015 – Steamy Side

December 18, 2015 – My Reading Addiction

December 19, 2015 -Always Jo Art

December 20, 2015 – A Life Through Books 

December 21, 2015 – Novel News Network

December 22, 2015 – The Indie Express

December 23, 2015 – On A Reading Bender

December 26, 2015 – RABT Wrap Up

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leron1calig7

 

In finishing “All We Really Need Is Love” I was able to talk with over 30 different people about love and romance, but also look inward to my own love life. Putting a mirror up to yourself is never easy, but it is necessary. I saw the man that I was: a young immature boy that thought manhood equated how many women you slept with  and the man that I am now: a maturish person that values relationships, honesty, and fidelity.

Writing All We Really Need Is Love at times was a great experience. This book is filled with stories of people from all walks of life – straight, gay, young, old, Black, white, long distance, first loves… almost any kind of relationship you can think of, All We Really Need Is Love has it. I had a blast writing this book. I grew as a writer, heard some pretty awesome stories, worked with my girlfriend on the editing process, and saw another project come to fruition. I am happy that LeRon Barton has another body of work done.

I am very excited about “All We Really Need Is Love.” It takes you into the world of love, romance, sadness, heartbreak, and bliss. I am excited for you all to read it. The book will be available Oct 14, 2015.

 

 

Tan_Horween_Leather_Satchel_Messenger_Clutch_Portfolio_Back

What a nice bag……

The things you used to own, now they own you – Fight club

At a dinner a couple months ago, a friend of mine told me of clothing drive for a family that had lost their house in a fire. I shook my head at the thought of losing my possessions and felt a deep empathy for the family. What they could be going through at the time, having to piece their entire lives back together. When I got home later that night, I walked around my studio with a box putting things in there that I felt I could part with. I then opened the closet and saw an almost endless row of shirts, all different colors and jeans and pants of all different designs. I started to grab a shirt and remove it from it’s hanger, but I’d then hang it back up. I’d justify reasons for keeping a shirt or jeans saying, “I’m going to wear this soon..” or “This has sentimental value…” I’d sigh and glance at my small messenger and ask myself, “How did I get so attached to my things?”

All my life I have been consumed with two things: Stuff and space. How many things I can accumulate and how much space I can have to store the stuff. Maybe this comes from growing up poor. Not saying that we were on the churches door step with a sign that said, “Please help,” but my family definitely did not have the most up to date things all the time. I would see class mates with fancy clothes, the newest video games, the most popular sneakers and I would just want. I would stare at them and want what they have. I didn’t bother asking my mother if she could buy me the newest air Jordan’s or the jeans with with the cool pockets. She didn’t have it. My Mom was too busy worried about the basic things like keeping the lights on, buying food, and making sure we were taken care of. All the other things were superfluous and flash. Besides, I knew what she say anyway, “When you grow up and start making money, you can buy whatever you want.” And I did. That’s where the problem started.

Whenever you give a kid who grew up with not a lot, something, he or she is bound to go crazy. It doesn’t matter if you are an athlete making crazy millions of dollars or college graduate that has landed a good job, when you are finally making money, you can do whatever you want and get whatever you want. You finally have access to the things you were denied. Growing up, my friends and I would always says, “We ain’t never had shit.” And when I started making money, I was going to make up for lost time.

To be able to afford the things you finally want is a feeling that I cannot describe. All throughout life I felt as if I was on the outside looking, wanting to dress like the fancy people, wanting to be them, wanting to raise myself out of my situation. So I started shopping and buying whatever I wanted. Shirts, shoes, jeans, electronics, movies, music, and everything else. I was happy, look at the stuff I got! I came up! I remember being 16, 17 darn near lusting after the Super Gun, a video game system that plays actual arcade  boards. I wanted it, but it was sooo expensive. So when I finally bought it years later, I was so excited. I would never forget how I felt. It was like I achieved something.

What started as an enjoyment of my success started to become a problem. When I opened my closet I had at least 30 Oxford or twill collar shirts, T-Shirts spilling out of my drawers, and at least 15 pairs of pants and jeans. Come on now, who needs 15 pairs of pants? That didn’t count the new clothes still in the bags around my place. The crazy thing is, I wore about 25% of my clothes. I knew something had to change.

Recently, I started modeling for an independent bag and apparel company named Christensen Bags. As payment for one of the photo shoots, I was given a beautiful small leather messenger bag. When I first got the bag I thought, how am I going to fit all my stuff in here? The messenger bag I was carrying at the time held my laptop, an adapter, a notebook, a folder of papers, screwdriver and a note pad. How was I to manage?

The morning that I first used the new bag, I only carried my laptop and two notebooks, stuff that I needed for that day. At first I thought I would need all the other stuff. “Well what if I came a across a situation that I needed by notepad? My AC adapter? My screwdriver?” But I didn’t, and it felt good to only carry around stuff that I needed. I liked that the bag was minimalist; it only afforded me space to carry what I needed at that time.  I then started thinking about the bag as metaphor for change in my life.

My ex girlfriend would always tell me, “Remove things from your life that don’t serve you.” I thought about her telling me that as I carried around the bag and I knew I wanted to “de-clutter” my life (I used a different term, but we will keep PG). So I went to my closet, started going through all my clothes, picked out each piece and ask myself, “Would I wear this again?” If I would, I kept it on the rack. If I didn’t, it would go into the pile. Now I wish I could tell you it was easy and that I cleared out my closet, but I didn’t. LOL. But I started.

What I realized is that all this stuff that I accumulated didn’t make me happy or validate me. I didn’t need to have things to make me feel as if I made it. The kind of validation that I was looking for had to come from inside, and when I found it, I felt good, very good. I finally shredded the insecurities I had about growing up poor and have moved on. Now if I buy a piece of clothing, electronics, or shoes, it is to replace something. I have a rule now: One in, one out. And sometimes it’s one in, two out. I am not buying things just to buy them. Besides, I have a new collecting hobby: My savings account. I want to see how much money I can save.

The day of the clothing drive, I dropped off nearly a quarter of my clothes. Another family needed them more than I did. I watched the clothes get put in bins for the family to be shipped away, and I didn’t have any attachment. I just smiled.

 

All We Really Need is Love

When writing “All We Really Need Is Love,” I spoke to many different men and women about their dating and relationship stories. It was fascinating to hear all these stories and know that they all had one thing in common: Everyone all wanted love. This made me think about my dating and relationship history. Writing “All..” has been therapeutic. Through these stories of love and heartbreak, I was able to look at my own history and analyze where I am with love in my life.

For many years, I had looked at love and dating as a game. How many women I can meet, interact with, and wherever the day or night would take us. I wanted to remain unattached, single, and loose. I never thought committing to one woman was “fun.” All my friends in relationships, their lives seemed lame and uneventful. Why settle down with one, when there are sooooo many other women out there! I believed that, but what I did not understand is that kind of life has to end sometime. And when the life of endless dating and sleeping with her and her came to end, I was completely burnt out.

With “All We Really Need Is Love” I relive some of my most important dating and relationship moments. I had a great opportunity to speak with my first girlfriend, my first love and it was awesome. Here are two people that have not seen each other in over 18 years, talk about our relationship, what went right, wrong, our dreams, how we saw the world at 17 and 18, and we were are now. And with building on that conversation, not only did I write about that relationship, but other heartbreaks, and triumphs I have experienced. I just didn’t want “All…” to be about the joys and difficulties of dating, but I also wanted it to be a story of what I have went through. How I came from a broken hearted kid, bar hopping everywhere, to someone that really values relationships and other people’s feelings. In writing about myself, I wanted to “shed” the last remnants of that life and move forward.

Lovestory

 

Soooo sweet…….

 

In 2013, I was able to complete a lifelong ambition of mine, write a book. Straight Dope: A 360 degree look into American drug culture was completed and on the shelves in Feb 2013 and I was stoked beyond belief. Here I am, a real artist. When I first meet people I can tell them I am writer and point to where my work is. But being an artist means that you cannot rest on your laurels. Being a writer you have to constantly write because well, that’s what we do, we write. And so now I had to think about the next project.

Let me rewind a little bit. While completing Straight Dope I had an idea of what my next books would be. I have always thought ahead and have always had a crazy number of ideas come to me (it has gotten to the point that I use my Iphone’s Notes app to write anything that comes to me). One of them was to write a book on relationships. Now as a guy that has dated around for more than a decade and whom is on his longest relationship yet (one year and a half thank you), I probably wouldn’t be the first guy you would want to read something like that from. But, I love asking questions and I love listening to people. I have always been an inquisitive guy and have always loved a good story. So before I decided to backpack throughout Central America, and even before I released Straight Dope, I started working on my next book.

In my life, I am at my happiest when I am creating. I love to write, work on projects, and just work towards my goals. To some it may sound obsessive, but I am a driven cat like that. To create from nothing is my most favorite thing in the world to do. And with Straight Dope, as much as I loved it and the creative process of it, there were sooo many things I wish I could do again. This was my first major project, and with it came many lessons to be learned. I wish I could tell y’all everything that went through the creation of it and the post creation and release of it. So many mistakes made, but it is a learning process and I can tell you, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but one of the greatest things as well.

When I decided to sit down and write a book on relationships, I thought, “Who do I want to talk to?” That was the question and I then sat out to answer it.

 

James Baldwin

James Baldwin, one of the baddest cats to ever walk the earth.

As long as I’ve known him, TJ has been a good friend. He was understanding, pensive, and had a maturity about him that I admired. When TJ and I would hang out, the conversations and activities would range from the silly – getting our faces stuffed with cheap cheese burgers and rummaging through X-Men back issues at Clint Comics, to the serious – having deep discussions on race, politics, and science.  Our friendship started over being from around the same neighborhood and loving hiphop, but our bond was probably due to us two coming up the same. He and I raised by a single Mom and we both liked to buck the stereotype of what a Black man is supposed to be in the hood –We loved indie cinema, punk rock, and not wanting to fall into the traps of drugs and excess.

It didn’t bother me that TJ never brought women around. I had just thought that he wasn’t interested at the time. Dude was always creating and reading, and that inspired me to do so. When the rumors started to surface from our mutual friends, I would brush them off or tell someone to go F off. “Why does he gotta be gay? Because he aint trying to sleep with the whole neighborhood? Come on, y’all cats are corny as hell.” That’s how the usual conversation would go with my friends. I would get so upset like, “Don’t y’all got other things to worry about?” I noticed that as time went by, my responses had a sort of an edge to them, like I was trying to deny it for myself. TJ, nah he is just busy. He is one of my best friends, he can’t be gay. I would know about it. He would tell me. And besides, gay folks don’t listen to hip-hop.

At that time I wouldn’t call myself a homophobe, but I darn sure wasn’t an ally. My friends and I would regularly use the word fag and any kind of gay slur possible. We would make male rape jokes and talk about somebody being “soft.” When the crew would all get together and have sloppy drunken ciphers, or back and forth rap contests, homophobic slurs would be spouted out. It’s not like we were running around beating up Gay people or tagging anti Gay messages on someone’s property, it was all in fun to us.  Ragging on someone that wasn’t getting any was a normal occurrence. “Awh man, you like boys now huh? You wanna start hittin’ dudes huh?” It was normal for us, not even an after thought, and TJ was right along with us, listening to music and saying the same ridiculous stuff. It didn’t hit me until later that he was just going along with the flow.

In hip-hop, it has always been about the alpha male. The man that was tough, hard, and no kind of weakness shown. A guy that took no shorts and was about his dogs. We learned to value nothing but God over our friends. Hip-hop instilled a brotherhood among friends, never turn on them, always be there for them. Songs that sung, “I love my homeboy, I got you my G, and homies above hoes.” Listening to that now, it hits me that hip-hop is hyper male with a bit of homoeroticism. But with the masculine traits that hip-hop exhibits, there is also a undercurrent of homophobia. Through out hip-hop music there has always been an anti gay slant. Gays were considered soft and could not be accepted in the culture. Hip-hop comes from the streets, and that was one place that you could not be weak. So is there any surprise that there are closeted gays in the hip-hop industry?

About two years ago I was on social media wasting time like everyone else and I stumbled upon something’s about TJ. I then contacted a close mutual friend and asked him about what I found. He said, “Well I kinda knew, he has been keeping it to himself, but he knows I don’t care so…” That conversation confirmed it. When I found out, I had the nerve to be mad that he didn’t tell me. I spoke to my lady about and said, “I cannot believe he didn’t tell me! I wasn’t gonna judge him, that’s my man, one of my best friends.” She then brought me back down to reality (like she usually does) and said, “Come on LeRon, really? Do you know how hard that is? To come to terms with who you are? And he probably didn’t tell you because y’all probably said fag this fag that when you were younger.” Damn, I paused. All those times when we were coming up and all the gay jokes we made, he may have laughed along, but was probably hurting inside.

When I got in contact with him the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey whats up man, whats going on?

TJ: Nothing, just hanging out

Me: Listen bro, you know I got love for you. We’ve been friends for a long time so don’t feel like you have to keep something from me.

TJ: I know man.

Me: So why didn’t you tell me about your guy?

TJ: Because I’m a private person, I like to keep things to myself and I didn’t know how to come out and say it.

Me: Look my dude, if he makes you happy, then be with him.

TJ: Word.

Me: Does anyone else know you out?

TJ: Not too sure. If cats know thats cool, if not….what ev’s

Me: Well if cats know and don’t support you, then f them. I’m not dealing with them anymore.

TJ: Word, thanks fam.

Me: No doubt, I got you.

And that’s how it went. He then started berating me on my tastes in hip-hop and all was normal. I write this piece because I can imagine how hard it is to come out and face who you are. If you have a friend that is just coming to terms with themselves, the best things you can do is to be as loving and understanding as you can. It’s a brave thing what they are doing. When I think about my younger self 15 to 20 years ago with all the gay slams and jokes, I shake my head in sorrow, because there were probably so many people around my friends and I that knew they were gay, but were afraid to come out. For that I am sorry. And the way that I am paying it back is by not only erasing certain words and ideologies from my world, but to also teach the youth acceptance.

Nearly two years ago I wrote an essay about overcoming my blatant and passive homophobia called, “Why I stopped using the F word and other homophobic bull sh.”A couple people reached out to me and said they appreciated it and were inspired. The main reason for writing the piece was tell people, “Hey, we have to change the way we interact with gay people.”  I look back on the period in the essay and how I and my friends have grown. We don’t use gay slurs anymore, make gay jokes, or say anything that may make any one feel uncomfortable. With the amount of kids committing suicide from bullying and coming out, I felt it was necessary to share my story and possibly change someone’s perspective.  Last year I participated in a charity drag show where I escorted the models to the runway. I received cheers and was told that my presence was appreciated.

Recently I spoke with TJ and he is doing pretty well. His relationship is flourishing and he is a lot happier. He seems to be embracing more of his orientation and is not ashamed of it. Our circle of friends have been very accepting of who TJ is. We support TJ no matter who he decides to date or be with. And those that do not, they are not around. That’s what friends do, that’s what friends are. I can’t wait to meet TJ’s new boyfriend, get to know who he is and tell some embarrassing stories about TJ. Now his choice of hip-hop, well that is another story.