DELve is an idea I’ve been working on for over a year now. As with most things, the final product doesn’t really resemble the initial concept. Initially, I wanted to create an e-zine… blog… whatever, which delved into different topics with a point-counterpoint approach. Another intention was to write a monthly written entirely by me. This concept was jettisoned with a quickness when the self-realization hit that I am a slack-ass who can’t commit to that much time.
I wanted DELve to be so many things that the focus was getting lost. The one thing I was sure of was that I wanted it to reflect my beliefs of being open-minded and inclusive. I also wanted the DELve experience to be topical. So I’ve kept these three things in mind when compiling this e-zine (yeah, e-zine… I like that). So I reached out to my friends to contribute. Starting with the beautiful photograph of Blue Delphiniums by Steve Dzaba (FrozenRopePhotography.com), to Michael Stengel’s take on the birth of his first child, to a Q&A with Randy and Marge who were recently married (not to each other) and ending with the new and amazing voice of poet Meriel Martinez and poems from her book God & Mambo, the contributors offer unique takes on their lives and crafts. I am also including a section that I am calling C.A.F.! (Cool As Fuck!) – things I find cool and interesting.
Being a writer, I like word play. It starts with the name itself (which insiders will understand) and continues with my declaration of wanting DELve to be “topical”. It’s not going to be a news-oriented or political zine, so don’t always think that’s what you’re going to get (but you will, on occasion). Each edition will be dedicated to one theme and what better way to get things rolling than focusing on all things New. I am launching this in the spring, a time for new beginnings (the reason for the cover photo). In this issue, in addition to the articles on newlyweds, new dads, new voices and new things, you’ll also find some first issue magazine covers and a very special tribute. I hope you enjoy and come back for our next issue, which will focus on Blue (not all themes will rhyme). People be prepared, I might be recruiting you soon.
Newness here’s the Anthem
Put your hand up that you shoot with, count your loot wit’
Push the pool stick in your new crib, same hand that you hoop with
Swing around like you stupid
— Made You Look, Nas
Dawn of the Dad
By Michael Stengel
August 1st has always been special to me, it’s my birthday. Last year, that date became extra special as my first child, Hayden Max, was born (four days earlier than expected).
Needless to say, my life has changed. From the moment my wife, Julie, told me we were having a baby, I was very excited, scared and nervous all at the same time. I was overcome with feelings. As the pregnancy progressed, some of those feelings grew stronger and some went away. Nothing could prepare me for how much life would change on my birthday last year.
When you bring a child into this world, you have to make many sacrifices. I struggled with this at first. Luckily I have a very loving and supportive wife that has made this much easier on me. I am an avid gym enthusiast and love to work out six days a week, that had to change. I became less self-motivated. Hayden comes before everything else in my life. There have been many adjustments since his birth. Everyone kept telling us, “Oh, you’re having a baby? That’s great… prepare yourself to never sleep!” I never paid much mind to this. Boy was I wrong. I have learned to operate on minimal sleep. I had to take charge of night feedings as my wife was still recovering from the aftermaths of labor. I adjusted but realized that I wasn’t sleeping as much as napping. It all pays off when I walk into Hayden’s room and see his beautiful, innocent face waiting for me to come rescue him from hunger. Hayden’s sleep has gotten better but I have also become more adept at operating on minimal sleep. Luckily, I have a job with pretty flexible hours allowing me to take care of him and making sure he is cared for when my wife and I are at work. Unfortunately, he has to go to daycare. Every morning, I get him up, dressed, fed, and drop him off before heading to work. My wife takes care of the pickups. Daycare, itself, has been an experience for our family, as this poor baby has come down with more sicknesses in his brief existence than we ever anticipated.
All-in-all, being a dad is the greatest. You have to roll with the punches and improvise in many situations. There is nothing that can prepare you for the many different things that come up on a daily basis.
A Long Island-raised, New Jersey resident, Stengel is the 31-year-old father of Hayden (and husband of Julie). He (Michael not Hayden) is an avid Crossfiter who loves the outdoors, cooking and spending time with the fam.
November, 1945 (photographer, Gordon Parks)
Minoritees, according to the website, has been around since 2004 but it’s not a household name… yet. The afro-centric tee shirt line, which has a logo (on most of the line) of a pic-sporting afro head. The tees have been worn by the likes of singer Brandy, actor Daniel Sunjita and Ms. Jackson… Janet, if you’re nasty. The designs are inspired often incorporating materials like foil, vinyl and rhinestones.
Order online at Minoritees.com
The biggest surprise of the past holiday season was the Apple commercial starring Stevie Wonder. A young woman strolls confidently into frame, begins singing Wonder’s “Some Day at Christmas” and it was love. Looking like a mash up of Rihanna and Eartha Kitt, Day actually sounds like a (dare we say it) black Amy Winehouse. The San Diego-based singer’s debut album, Cheers to the Fall was released on Warner Bros. Records and Buskin Records last year. The album, produced by Adrian Gurvitz and Raphael Saadiq features a stellar group of artists, like QuestLove and James Poyser of The Roots, the Dap-Kings and DJ Jazzy Jeff. A solid album throughout. Individually, Rearview, pushes the boundaries of how an extraordinary vocal should sound.
Former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell has been on the job for over 30 years. While film criticism has become somewhat of a dinosaur, Mitchell has been able to avoid obsolescence and remain fresh with each passing year. Case-in-point, The Treatment, his weekly podcast (which he has been doing for 20 years) in which he interviews filmmakers, pop-culture historians, musicians, authors and the like. Each program is an interview devoted to one topic (an idea we at DELve can support) featuring the artists behind the project. You come away from each podcast enlightened and wanting to know more. The shows aren’t just about film and music. On recent shows Mitchell’s guests included the multi hyphenated Sacha Jenkins discussing his Fresh Dressed documentary, GQ Editor-in-Chief Jim Nelson discussing the magazine’s evolution, Mitchell’s Canadian counterpart, Cameron Bailey discussing his role as artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival and the festival’s history and Power creator Courtney Kemp Agboh, discussing its Shakespearean influences.
Netflix is quickly becoming the new HBO, a place for high-quality and intriguing series. Jessica Jones is one of the MANY shows in this category. The always fascinating Krysten Ritter plays Marvel’s damaged titular character. Jones is a tougher than leather private detective with a drinking problem and a very fucked up past. We’ve seen it all before, but the writing, acting and production in general makes this show playout like a modern-day Chinatown. It’s dark and, at times, funny with a villain (Kilgrave, played by David Tennant) so slimy he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Frank Booth and Hannibal Lecter.
I’ll pretend I’m jealous of all the fellas
And if that don’t do
Then I’ll try something new
— I’ll Try Something New, Smokey Robinson
While the laws surrounding marriage in the United States have changed drastically this past year, the dynamics remain the same, boy meets girl… girl meets girl… boy meets boy. It’s the same old story, they fall in love and want to commit only to each other. The couples profiled are (technically) newlyweds, having put a ring on it in 2014. Marge and Randy were asked about their individual marriages. Two years in, DELve is asking, “Why did you get married?”
Randy and Brandon (m. March 31, 2014). Randy, a teacher and his husband Brandon, a passenger service agent for an international airline have been together for four years. “We met while I was teaching in Korea. The other English teacher at my school introduced me to her friend, who was friends with Brandon.”
Marge and Alice (m. June 30, 2014). Marge is a nurse who has been a school nurse for the past 15 years and wife Alice who has been a nun, teacher, principal, lecturer and senior editor who is currently working for a national hardware retail chain have been together for 23 years. “Alice and I met on an LGBTQ religious retreat.”
DELve: It all starts somewhere, who made the first move?
RANDY: I like to think he did. However, when I went to China on vacation, I brought him a small souvenir back and that started all the magic.
MARGE: I think I did. Alice was a little reticent since she hadn’t signed herself out of the convent quite yet.
D: What is the coolest part about being married?
M: Waking up next to each other every morning, raising a large family.
R: Having someone in your corner that you can count on. Knowing that someone will always be there for you, and having someone to wake up when you have those crazy nightmares.
D: What is the craziest part, the “I didn’t sign on for this” kind of stuff?
R: There are some cultural differences that are challenging to manage. They are things that do not surface until particular situation happen. It is challenging to process the difference in responses and expectations. (On a lighter note, I am very particular as to how the apartment is kept, while he is… not as particular)
M: Can’t think of a thing
D: Why is marriage important or relevant?
R: Marriage is important because there is a sense of commitment, loyalty and responsibility to one another. We have to be accountable and supportive in the sense that we are now functioning as a unit, as one entity. We need to support each other. It creates a bond that goes beyond being in a committed relationship.
M: To be a sign and a witness that Covenant keeping is possible with the grace of God.
D: Here’s one that is always asked of newlyweds, do you want or have children? If so, how many?
R: We got a dog, so for now, he is enough. Yet to be determined.
M: We have two legally adopted kids, one from an orphanage in Romania, the other a DYFS foster baby who came to us at 11 days old. Our second foster baby, James, just turned 18. He is not legally adopted, but he is ours. We have had at least 25 children/young adults live with us. Some were with us for a few weeks, most have been with us for many months or years. Right now we have two young men who have been with us for some time. “Z” was our daughter’s boyfriend who was homeless and very malnourished. Marlon asked to live with us about five years ago. His mother “threw him away”, as did Z’s mother.
D: What was the last thing your spouse did that made you feel loved?
M: Alice rubbed my head last night because I had a headache. She often rubs my feet at night.
R: Snuggling while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. It is the small things that have the biggest impact. Cooking dinner when I’ve had a late night, or picking up flowers on a special day, or random texts just to check in and say “I am thinking of you.”
D: How would you finish this statement, “I am most concerned about… “
R: Finances. Being burdened with student loans creates a very challenging situation as we are trying to lay the groundwork for our future. We live in NYC and know that it is an expensive city; however, as an inter-racial, same-sex couple with strong ties to the Korean immigrant community, we need to be in a big city. That being said, we have a challenging time focusing on the future when we have to be so focused on our current financial situation.
M: We are both concerned about our kids. They all have special challenges.
D: So, why did you get married?
M: Really, for our family and Community to be able to celebrate the joy of love
R: Fist, we love each other and want to be in a committed relationship. Being married is our way of showing each other, and the world, our dedication to each other. Second, so we can be together. When I moved back from Korea, Brandon moved to Canada to be closer to me. I decided to go to graduate school near Canada so we could be closer. At the end of the year, we both had to return to our respective homes, mine in the states and his in Korea. We were apart for a year and were not sure as to how we could be together. With the repeal of DOMA, we were able to begin the immigration process and had an opportunity to spend the rest of our lives together like any other loving and committed couple.
by Meriel Martinez
Piles of snow swallow the ground
Winds punish worn trees and old limbs
A swelling, familiar, possesses the clouds
Ice pellets choose targets at whim
With shovel in tow
I push through again
A dull, stunted spirit
Soul aching for spring
Take rest for a moment
Look up and I see
My vibrant sunflowers
Smile sweetly at me
In that honest moment
The cold disappears
No heartache, no worries, no sorrow, no fears
For bright-colored flowers
With eyes vivid brown
Shine sunlight eternal
Line silver the clouds
Blankets of snow still pile on the ground
Winds sting as they steadily climb
But I’m warm and I’m light and I simply don’t mind
‘cause my springtime is waiting inside.
by Meriel Martinez
It’s already there when you wake
This deep warmth, this heat, pouring from your breast
A force you can’t disguise, control or contain
It heaves, your chest, as you picture him
His luscious skin, like chocolate
Sculptured to edible perfection
Or maybe caramel, drizzling where it will
It waters, your mouth, as you drown in him
Strong arms that take you in, captive
Collapsing under his imposing will
You willed it to be so
You delight in this ardent pleasure
His want, pulsating through your every inch
A force only he can ignite, extinguish and start
M.M.: Of Puerto Rican descent, Meriel Martínez was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. She currently resides in Virginia with her husband and two daughters.
Prince’s music has sometimes left me scratching my head wondering if he was trying to recreate the sounds of a whale in labor. His music could be maddening to us mere mortals. But, like a true Artist, he wasn’t afraid to try something different… to go into some new direction. His misses were as amazing as his hits and they only got better with time.
The longevity of musicians seem to depend on them falling into two categories, those who remain comfortably in their genre and those who chase trends. The former guarantees they keep their core fans and the latter, makes the musician seem desperate. The Artist Prince did neither and it kept him viable among new fans and music’s new guard. Fan and musician alike, he has left us standing at the altar of his greatness.
On April 21st, we lost this magnificent enigma. We are relegated to watch him forever jump, spin and split on video. Thank heaven for video, because how do you explain Prince to future generations? His sound was only part of the story. An androgynous figure in thigh-high heels and mascara who had no problem dating unbelievably beautiful women. In spite of where his religious beliefs had lead him prior to his death, Prince started out relishing his non-conformity. He was fine with controversy.
I knew how much Prince meant to my friends and myself, we would talk about past concerts with the same importance as we spoke of weddings and reunions but the outpouring of emotion from around the world caught me off balance. I thought he belonged to my generation. I thought he was destined to play sold-out concerts to aging purple-clad fans. Since his untimely death, a day hasn’t gone by that we haven’t heard something by His Purple Badness. He is eternal. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that he will be forever in my life.
What is this new exaltation
that I just can’t explain?
What are these new inspirations
That I can’t get out of my brain?
— The Word, Prince
S.D.: New York denizen Steve Dzaba (rhymes with Jaba as in Jaba the Hut) is a writer who is equally adept at photography. His photos can be seen on FrozenRopePhotography.com