Profiles

Rob & Big

The MTV series Rob & Big was like an episode of MTV Cribs, except you never left. You didn’t want to leave.

Show co-stars and collectively lovable knuckleheads, Rob Dyrdek and Christopher ‘Big Black’ Boykin, were just too damned fun to hang out with.

It was perhaps a natural progression for Dyrdek, the skateboarder who went pro at 16. He had grown accustomed to commissioning fellow camera-weilding skaters to film him. Those gliding Spielberg’s couldn’t resist catching lightning in a bottle at every trick Dyrdek executed on Ohio skate parks.

Landing in L.A. not too much later, Dyrdek parlayed that skate-umentary practice into the everyday of reality TV, which was booming circa the mid-2000’s. In between impromptu skate sessions, Dyrdek and Big Black imaginatively unlocked the fun at every turn, by a collaboration borne of mutual respect for one another.

Two peas in a pod of pure, positive attitude

20170623_robAndBig500_HERO

From left: Big Black, Meaty, Rob Dyrdek, as the Death Row trio

Rolling on 22’s, the dual, Zen mind saw promise in every character they met, down whatever path their murdered-out UAV would take them.

DO WORK.

That was their mantra. From 2006-08, when the show aired, a drowning American economy had near seized into a doldrum of prosperity for much of the middle and lower classes. I was preparing my thesis in journalism. Our professor had suggested the entire class produce content for a news website that would focus on young professionals striving to survive in an unyielding market at most ventures. College grads were settling for part-time jobs, over-qualified, underpaid and marred by impossible debt from what seemed then like pipe dreams of success. They had gambled on themselves and had lost. Now, the federal banks were looking to collect. By any means necessary—an indentured servant barista, for instance, shilling double-hot lattes to the Baby Boomers, with long-established equity, who could afford them. Hey, at least Starbucks offered healthcare.

I chose to entitle my thesis, “Do Work!” It followed two contractors aggressively seeking residential construction work throughout the South Shore of Eastern Massachusetts. They were brothers. They were independent businessmen. They’d buy vacant lots and build houses on spec (speculation that, once complete or near completed, the house would sell to a would-be homeowner). Just like so many college grads desperately searching for income, Brothers Jared and Shane Crowley were also gambling on themselves. They weren’t sitting around their Marshfield office waiting for incoming client calls. They were hitting the streets in their trailored red pickup truck. Picking up jobs. Specking out houses and building them and selling them. They were, in my eyes, the embodiment of ‘Do work.’

Of course, I had gleaned this from the do-or-die attitude promoted by Mr. Dyrdek and Mr. Boykin. Those two had neither the time nor the luxury to think, to sit and ponder in these quicksand times. Sink or swim. Do or die. Do work.

A cross-country road trip soon followed my graduation, upon completion of that thesis (which earned an ‘A,’ by the way). We took the scenic route in a Subaru, first dipping down into Washington, D.C., then to Arkansas, clear across Texas, stopping in Austin and El Paso. We wedged the Grand Canyon in there. We completed the trip rolling into Hermosa Beach, in Southern California, for a night, ultimately reaching our destination in The Valley, Burbank. My colleague had enlisted in an L.A. Emerson satellite program for film. I was just along for the ride and flew back east a few days later.

I mention this anecdote not as some acknowledgment of closure having completed and submitted my ‘Do work’ thesis successfully. That’s merely coincidental. You see, one particular garment had protected me this entire road trip across 3,000 miles. It was a ‘DO WORK!’ hooded sweatshirt. Big Black’s unmistakable face filled out the ‘O’ in “WORK!” His official signature, “Christopher ‘Big Black’ Boykin,” lined the bottom of his most popular catchphrase. Its fabric emulated Big Black’s male stripper name, “Black Lavender.” From head-to-waste, I was draped in crushed velvet every time I donned the garment.

That is, until Hermosa Beach. We stayed at a guy’s house my friend and travel companion had known from back home. All that I know is that I slid in with the hoodie hanging on the handlebar of my roller luggage. We strolled into his room, slept over. When we left early the next morning, the coveted sweatshirt was nowhere to be found. Had her friend stolen it? Could the smooth, black velour have slipped from my luggage’s grasp on an errant turn navigating the outside stucco hallways of the Spanish Mission-style apartment building?

I felt true loss that day, en route to L.A. True loss that I hope to regain, by a very simple, but profound idea—perhaps even what that hoodie represented.

From the lips of Dyrdek himself:
“The number one rule: Always surround yourself with good people.”

First #RobAndBig footage ever recorded, March 30, 2005 #doWork | Link in bio →

A post shared by Mike Del Rosso (@delodell) on

Since that fateful West Coast day a decade ago, I’ve scoured the Internet for that hooded sweatshirt. That particular design has been discontinued. And lesser search results take its place on every Google query I’ve ever performed. No matter. It’s not about the hoodie. It’s about Big Black. It’s about Rob Dyrdek. And, most importantly, it’s about Rob & Big. For three MTV seasons, they captured lightning in a bottle by surrounding themselves with good people and positive ideation.

That’s a principle I won’t forget, a Black Lavender ideal I can’t possibly lose. Through the teachings of Rob & Big, I know that the crushed velvet velour of true creation, compassion and empathy folds around every bend. As long as you’re looking. As long as you’re surrounded with good people.

Don’t relent. Do work.

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short stories

Pratt v. Pratt

PRATT

A blank stare. Vacant blue eyes and a gaping mouth peered into the camera. Streaks of blond hair struck back from Pratt’s painfully wrinkled forehead.

‘He has to know I am the original PRATT. There can BE only one PRATT. And that is me. That other guy’s such a douucche bag. He knowws I came first, into the limelight.’

Pratt’s words hung on that Californian twang, tinged by the silver spoon of entitlement. He hadn’t earned a nickel to his name, yet he drove a blue-speckled metallic black Maserati. A shock of black lightning he’d speed through the night like a possessed supervillain.
 

PRATT

‘What’s this guy’s problem?’ Pratt’s eyebrows shaped an apprehensive face. His voice lilted with concern. He shook his head working out the reenactment of engaging with the other Pratt in his mind. ‘He keeps calllling me to say that HE is the only real Pratt. I don’t think he gets that there can be two Pratts.’

Pratt’s eyes gaped wide into the camera. Bags hung beneath them. Beads of sweat glistened on his temples under the gently buzzing lights.
 

VENICE BEACH BIKE PATH

The two Pratts met on the double-lane bike path. Two figures walking slowly toward each other, silhouetted against a setting sun over the Pacific Ocean horizon. They stopped about 10 feet apart, straddling the dotted yellow line that divided the bike path’s two lanes. Both sets of piercing blue eyes held the other’s in heavy focus.

‘Dude, LAaaa is not big enough for both of us Pratts,’ Surfer bro Pratt broke the silence. ‘I suggest you eitherr get outta here, unless you want me to kick yerr ass.’

‘Listen, I realize we’re both named “Pratt.” It’s not exactly an uncommon name.’ Pratt thought he could persuade his eponymous opponent with reason. ‘I’ve met tons of Pratts in my day.’

‘Yeahh, but were they yerr cousinz, bro??’

‘No. Complete strangers. Much like you and me.’

‘I highhly doubt we are strangers by noww, bro.’

‘Yeah, I know. You keep calling me to scare me away. Well, it’s not working. I deserve just as much right to be in LA as you.’

Just then, the more sinister Pratt leapt into attack mode. Much like a Kung Fu master flying through the air in a jump kicking swoop (at least that’s how he pictured himself in his mind), Pratt sailed toward his self-inflicted foe. ‘If you won’tt listen to my words, then, bro, listen to the cold steel of my unforgiving, flying foot!’

The receiving Pratt simply stepped to the side. Pratt fell to the ground and a cyclist nearly ran over his head. ‘Watch it, broooo!’

The good Pratt shook his head. He couldn’t believe he had to spend his Sunday afternoon dealing with this moron. ‘Listen…’ Pratt said. He was always trying to get the bull-headed Pratt to listen. ‘Listen, man, I don’t want to fight you. You’re just going to have to live with the fact that I’m here, as well.’

‘Bro, I will never do that, bro.’ Pratt was still lying on the pavement coughing on sand kicked up by the drive-by cyclists. ‘You may have won this round, bro, but I will not give up. You better get busy moving or get ready to fight, bro.’

Little did the ignorant Pratt know, Pratt (the more educated one) had been recording this entire rendezvous with his phone.

‘Is that a threat, bro??’ The good Pratt baited his evil “bro.”

‘You better believe it, brooo. You should fear ferr yerrr life. One dark LA night, when yerr walking down Santa Monica Boulevard, you better watch yerr backkk, brooo. You may just see a Maserati’s headlights over your left shoulder. That’ll be me, brooo. Comin’ for you. And I don’t miss.’

‘So you’re threatening to run me over with your car?’

‘You won’t even see it comingg, brooo.’

‘But you just said I’d see the headlights over my left shoulder.’

‘It’ll be toooo late, brooo.’ For some reason, Pratt had still not gotten up from the ground. Maybe he liked dwelling at the bottom of humanity. Just lying on the path, as cyclists and longboarders weaved by.

‘Ooook, then,’ even-tempered Pratt said. ‘I’m going to leave now.’ As he turned to leave, Pratt reached into his pant pocket. Yup, the phone recorded it all.

Later that day, Pratt paid a visit to the local police station. He pressed charges against the evil Pratt, armed with evidence of his life threatened. Pratt’s Californian-singed voice signature imprinted on the audio tape was too good to mistake for anyone other than that awful bro Pratt.

From thereon, Pratt could not go within 500 feet of Pratt. As it turned out, Los Angeles was big enough for the both of them.

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awkward

Don’t make me take off my sunglasses

Had a call in this morning to FedLoan Servicing. They’re the suspect school loan servicer who swindles me out of $710 each year on an errant monthly payment claiming they failed to process my income adjustment plan. I made two attempts in the past two months to avoid this, yet they consistently drop the ball. Third year running.

Don’t make me take off my sunglasses.

I have to remember two dozen passwords for double the online accounts that manage my personal admin. I have a running text file that I update frequently to keep these logins inline. Yet, I continually find myself hitting the ‘Forgot password’ option and resetting.

Don’t make me take off my sunglasses.

I’m in my mid-thirties approaching a doldrum of social activity as past friends get married, have kids and do other things they’re supposed to do to remain relevant in this given American society. I’m finding less and less in common with these folk. It’s not that I don’t want to change; I just want to follow a unique path, not one laid out from likely decades of manifested destiny.

Don’t make me take off my sunglasses.

I did manage to steal away some time to reassess life priorities. Work is certainly not the be-all, end-all; it’s merely a method through which to tread financial waters and pay homage to society’s true god, the Almighty Dollar.

Hey, capitalism, don’t make me take off my sunglasses.

But I did briefly escape the imposed American Dream to ponder, find peace of mind in the stillness of inactivity and complete lack of urgency. Zen.

And I’ve found a purpose, better than anything anyone else can tell me. I’ve located it within.

Alright, lemme take off my sunglasses now.

I got work to do.

#DontMakeMeTakeOffMySunglasses

 

 

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Verse

Art

Art
Picasso’s ‘Girl before a Mirror,’
Is art
Van Morrison’s ballad ‘Into the Mystic,’
Is art
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,’ written and directed by John Hughes

They trace frequencies onto the media of paint, vinyl and celluloid, respectively. Each of these art forms require adept skill with instruments through which the artist conducts his energy.

An instrument conducting energy through a given medium.

Creative writing, however, remains one of the only art forms in which its instrument and medium are the same—the written word. The written word, which can be read, heard, said, sang, seen, and most importantly, thought.

Or is the medium the brainwaves of the prose reader? His instrument, like a player piano, is the script before him. While his eyes scrawl words latticed like hanging ivy all over the page to project a play within his mind.

Brainwaves.

The thick, gooey cerebral medium, as still as an endless well, as violent as sea squalled swells a thousand miles off the coast of any shore. When a brainstorm strikes, conjuring a nor’easter of electric, swirling connections, the artist must tune the vibrations from the source, the eye of the storm, staring straight up through the heavens concentrating ever upward into a golden recursive spiral, drawing the levity on down to his fingertips, where speech meets screen in the form of the printed word.

Just like the vibrating needle recording rich sound’s footprint on liquid vinyl.

Just like a painter’s fluid arm brush strokes the blank canvas.

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Verse

Now

Lose faith
Abandon, ye, all hope
Rid your mind from the plague of ill-formed pipe dreams

Just drop them
And move on
Stride boldly forward into the moment

Only for that moment and no other
Don’t hold back
This life is just now

If you’re not fully here

NOW

Then you’ll never get to that mystical carrot
Hanging six feet in front of your face

It will always be six feet away

To attain It, forget it
Let go of the stifling burden

Now you’re weightless

Free to float through the ceiling
To where the True Carrot shines
Warmly within arm’s reach

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Verse

Earth Airlines

Are we just visiting?
This planet, I mean.
Is the Earth a starship hurdling through space?

Our bodies are the pods enveloping life forces
Until we’re big enough to crawl into the next shell
The stillness, serenity are but illusions

They’re the Gifts that Mother Earth gave us
The present days of our short, short lives
The stillness is but a feeling that will fleet upon death
When we’re reintroduced to the explosion of deep space expanding

Let us wait
Just wait
Sit down in your seat

Unbuckle

Let your trays down from the upright position
Recline your back rest
And relax

Earth Airlines fly smooth through the black velvet
Maximize your time here
So you’re awake when we arrive

As the galaxy slings us along its celestial arm
Into the Grand Destination
That lies beyond all possible human conception

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