New Post on Single Guy Says!

Single Guy Says Hope.JPG

My newest post on my new blog, Single Guy Says, is now up! It’s about my most recent trip to Philly and a chance meetup with someone from way way past. I deal with hope and disappointment, and remind myself why I need them both. Please go check it out and subscribe to my new blog to get all my latest posts and updates!

Jerel Says, ‘What’s in a name’; Willy-Nilly

What's In a Name

When I started ManVsLoneliness, I wasn’t really thinking too much or too far into the future. I had this massive, intimidatingly wide and deep rift of heartbreak left in the wake of my last destructive relationship. This blog was my attempt to bridge the chasm, one dangling piece of wood at a time. I didn’t know if I would be able to follow through for the entire year, or what reflections and experiences it may bring. I never thought to expect any sort of readership, let alone the much appreciated and loved level of engagement and communication I ended up having with some incredible people through WordPress.

Day 1

Having never blogged before this, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the experience. Before this I couldn’t even remember the last time I wrote for pleasure or leisure. Now I can’t wait to share my thoughts on love or movies or music, food, relationships, events, or travel. I can’t always say they’re good thoughts, but I can’t deny my compulsion to share nowadays. I have crossed the rift stronger, wiser, and happier. A little worse for wear, but overall, overwhelmingly and satisfyingly intact.

Jerel Says

I’ve built my bridge and walked across it, and now in new and unchartered lands I find I want to continue building something. I can’t keep looking backwards and adding to the bridge, as important and essential as it has been to me. It was always meant to help get across and find something new and worth finding. A lot of people have asked me, ‘what happens after the year’, ‘what happens after ManVsLoneliness‘. And I always said that I’ve learned to love blogging and want to continue on with it, but I didn’t really know to what capacity or to what purpose.

In a way it’s kind of strange to look at my newer posts, with its new outlook and perspective, and still see ManVsLoneliness. It reminds me lot of the heartbreak and the insecurity of the beginning, and it doesn’t give me the opportunity to reflect and portray the growth of the past year. I just figured I couldn’t continue on with the same name, when I’m no longer just a man trying to fight back loneliness.

Single Guy Says

But now I think I’ve figured out what I want to do, and it requires a new look, new identity, and new focus. So I’ve started a new blog, titled SingleGuySays. A lot of the posts will look very much like how they’ve been looking recently, starting with a quote that captures the theme, experience, or thought of the post. Those are the Single Guy Says posts. But I will also be adding other kinds of posts that are kind of the main inspiration for what it is I’m looking to do now. Those will be the Single Guy Tries posts.

Frisbee Alone

Spending a year on your own means that eventually you’ll have to venture further than your own home and continue to experience your own life. That means a lot of solo activity.  Eating out by yourself, watching movies, going to events like concerts or festivals, and a whole lot of solo travel too. It’s been my experience that often times doing these things alone change kind of how people act or behave around you. Servers and bartenders are really good examples but so are locals when you’re traveling or strangers at a festival. So I think there’s a lot of interesting insight and reflection to be had about viewing these experiences from the single person’s perspective.

And at the same time a comment I get a lot from friends and family is how much they’re  usually surprised by how comfortable and secure I am doing these things on my own. And I’ve written in the past about that feeling of insecurity or self-consciousness or just lack of self-interested self-motivation that prevents a lot of people from doing things Eating Alonesimply because they don’t want to do it alone. And I want to explore that, live in that, breathe life into that for a lot of people and to also see it from both sides and understand that feeling. So I want to do things that I’ve always wanted to do and maybe have held back because I thought it would be better or only reserved for when I was with someone. I don’t want to restrict myself or the things I do. And I want to tackle some ‘couple things’ that I’ve just always wanted to try. Like dance lessons. I don’t want to wait until I have someone who wants to dance and then start trying to learn so I can dance with her. I want to be the guy who can dance already. Or what happens when a single guy wants to do a paint and sip class? I want to have this  conversation with people, ask them either about the things they’ve always wanted to do on their own or the things they never got to do because they couldn’t find someone else to do it with them and were too afraid to do by themselves. And there’s a great opportunity there for communication and collaboration and feedback from the community on ideas and requests and places to go and things to do.

Single Guy Tries

So yes, I’ve changed my blog identity and name. And I know this is not something to be taken lightly and I don’t change willy-nilly. It’s going to mean a lot of starting from scratch. I won’t have the same subscribers, the same exposure, but I can always work to build it up again, and I can’t ever forget that the first person I write for in anything is myself anyways. When I first started I was happy to throw my thoughts into the void, and while now there is a part of me that takes some pride and accomplishment in the thought that I can share my writing with people who are interested and care, I can keep writing for myself and trust and hope to find others along the way.

For the next couple days I will continue to mirror the posts on both blogs to give people as much time as possible to find my new blog and starting to go there  by default. Eventually I’ll simply have it redirect for a long period of time to keep getting as much notice as possible. But otherwise, having built one bridge already, now I’m excited and looking forward to building something else, something brand new. I really, sincerely, hope to see you all there to see what I end up making.

Jerel Says, ‘Ato no matsuri’; Organize

Obon Night

Ato no matsuri

Translation: The day after the festival (to be late, to miss one’s chance)

-Japanese proverb

Every August, for three days, the Japanese celebrate the bon festival, otherwise known as Obon. It is one of the most important Japanese traditions: a time when many Japanese return to their hometowns to honor their dead relatives.

Festival Crowd

The origin of Obon comes from the story of Mokuren, one of Buddha’s disciples. Mokuren used his psychic powers to look for his deceased parents to see in what world they had been reborn. Dismayed at finding his mother in the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, he went to Buddha to ask how he might save her. Buddha instructed him to make offerings to the many Buddhist monks who finished their summer retreat on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (eighth in the Gregorian calendar, hence August and not July). In doing so Mokuren was able to rescue his mother. Looking into his mother’s past, he also began to see and appreciate her kindness and the many sacrifices she had made for him. Overjoyed and grateful not only for his mother’s rescue but for her selflessness, Mokuren began to celebrate and dance. His dance became known as bon odori, or simply the ‘bon  dance, which is still one of the major aspects of the bon festival to this day.

Bon Dance

I’m pretty fortunate that there is a rather large Japanese demographic where I live, and Edgewater, NJ is home to the largest Mitsuwa Japanese Marketplace in the country. These two things combined mean that every year around the 15th of August our Mitsuwa holds a giant summer festival in honor of Obon and it never fails to draw an enormous crowd. I even ran into an old coworker from my glory days working at Blockbuster and an old classmate and former club member from college. It was nice to run into old friends and catch up for a bit while enjoying a whole assortment of Japanese summer treats. There were all kinds of treats to enjoy. I had an assortment of grilled seafood, grilled chicken skewers, takoyaki (fried dough filled with octopus), yakisoba (fried noodles), okonomiyaki (Japanese style pancakes), squid pancakes with fried eggs, gyudon (rice bowls with simmered beef and onions), gyoza (Japanese dumplings), and desserts like shaved ice and mochi (sticky rice dough filled with ice cream).

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There were games where you could win prizes by shooting targets with a plastic toy bow or if you could get plastic rings caught on wooden pegs. On others you had a tiny net with a thin strip of paper and you had to delicately try to catch toys floating in a kiddie pool. Still others had a whole assortment of prizes attached to pieces of string and on the other side you had to grab one and pull and find out just which prize you ended up pulling out. You could also buy a variety of plastic Japanese festival masks. Some were the traditional demons and gods while others were things like superhero masks from Japanese television shows or even Pokemon.

Throughout the day, local Japanese cultural clubs and societies put on different displays and demonstrations. One was the trademark bon odori with singing and dancing and bells and spinning hats and parasols. The other was a taiko drumming performance. There was something really therapeutic and de-stressing about watching the flurry of sticks and movements and the yelling and the deep thunderous roar of drumbeats.

Taiko Drums.jpg

It really was a huge community event and not just for the Japanese (obviously, since I’m Grilled Seafood 2Filipino). You see a lot of people enjoying the summer festival every year. It’s not uncommon to see a couple young kids from high school and college anime clubs doing cosplay and showing up dressed as their favorite characters. There are plenty of families and it’s adorable to see little kids dressed up in yukata and kimono (traditional Japanese festival wear). I can’t tell you how many times I probably fell in love with some of the young women dressed in kimono as well. Whole generations of families, grandparents, parents, and children, Okonomiyakiwere enjoying the festival together. Some were celebrating their culture, others were learning about an entirely new and different one from their own. Plenty of couples, groups of friends, all different kinds of people coming together not just to enjoy, but tons of volunteers of all different ethnicities running booths and helping to organize the event behind the scenes as well.

In the US the summer festival is a fun celebration of Japanese culture and food. Mainly food. It’s a nice community event, but it’s obviously more about the surface level things like food, toys, and fun cultural displays. But I like to remember the spiritual origins that Ohakamairi.pngare still major in Japan. See the story of Mokuren ended up taking on a very specific and influential meaning in Japan. It became a story of honoring one’s ancestors and celebrating and appreciating family. Over the three days of the bon festival the dead are allowed to return to the realm of the living. Families clean their houses in preparation and hang lanterns to guide the spirits back home. They also visit their ancestor’s gravestones to place offerings such as food and incense and also to clean them up every year by brushing away dirt and leaves and washing them with water. This is known as ohakamairi. On the last day of the festival families light paper lanterns and set them afloat into rivers to send their ancestors’ spirits back off into the afterlife. It’s a beautiful tradition that fills Japan’s rivers at night with floating lanterns that is just surreal and serene and at times equally somber but also celebratory, remembering our family members who’ve since moved on.

Bon Lanterns.png

Obon is definitely a beautiful and wonderful time to reflect on family and to honor the people who’ve moved on. But I also think it’s an especially important time to remember to appreciate life and the moments we have, because we never know when it’s ‘ato no matsuri’. There is a Buddhist teaching that says that the most universal message the dead have to give us is that death will come for all equally. Kings, peasants, rich, poor. Obon is a surreal, magical time where the infinite divide between the living and the dead is shrunk just a little. We feel closer to the people who’ve moved on, who we miss and who were huge parts of our lives. Maybe it’s nice to think that there is this time where we might be visited by them, that they haven’t entirely left us and we can bring them home. Or maybe it’s just nice to have this festival to set aside time for us to reflect and remember them and honor their memories. But it’s also an important lesson that the best thing we can do is to live our lives fully and well, and to leave a mark on the world that our families and friends might remember in the future, so that years from now, they might light a lantern for us.

Jerel says, don’t wait until the day after the festival.

Jerel Says, ‘Remain Constant’; Amble

ETAR Entrance

‘Even as the archer loves the arrow that flies, so too does he love the bow that remains constant in his hands’

-Nigerian proverb

WHAT. A. WEEKEND. I have been riding on an archery high ever since I got back from my first ETAR (Eastern Traditional Archery Rendezous) experience. The scenery was spectacular, the people were incredible, and the shooting courses were absolutely fantastic. I had no idea what to expect last week, but ETAR completely blew me away.

First off, if you remember from the last post before I left, I shared the video that got me ETAR with Effieinterested in and started on the path of traditional archery. Among the people interviewed were a young brother and sister from north Jersey, Demetri and Effie. Well, I got to meet them! It was a completely random happenstance but basically as I was browsing the vendors tent admiring all of the high quality bows and arrows and leather quivers and braces I saw two very familiar faces. Very much uncharacteristically of me, I approached these strangers and asked if they were in fact, the same two people from that video. They were! I was ecstatic, and shared with ETAR with Effie and Raythem that it was that video and their words that got me interested in traditional archery and inspired me to make it to this festival. They were super nice and very happy to hear and offered words of encouragement. We exchanged numbers and, since the brother still shoots in north Jersey, he let me know where he usually goes (a park only fifteen minutes from my place) and hopefully sometime when we’re both free I can get out there and shoot with him!

They had just started browsing the tent and I was on my way out to finally hit the ETAR Practice Range.jpgcourses for the first time so we chatted for a bit before I headed off to the practice area just outside. I’ve really only had indoor range experience so the practice range was a necessary stop for me to get used to the new environment and setting and circumstances. That’s where I first got a real sense of just how big this festival really is. All across the back of the field you could see endless rows of campers and tents. It was like a small army had set up camp in the scenic beautiful woods of the Pennsylvania mountains. Over the weekend I’d come to meet people from NJ, NY, California, all states in between, and even people from as far away as Switzerland. There were plenty of archers just at the practice ranges, and even more ETAR Practice Archers.jpgtucked into the many gorgeous hikes carved along the park where the shooting courses were set up. I spent about a half hour getting used to the foam animal targets, figuring out where the target circles were on the bodies, and shooting from different angles not just straight down a lane, before I headed off to tackle the ten different courses.

So if you’ve never been to a 3D archery shoot, it’s very different from indoor target ETAR Bobbyarchery or even outdoor target archery. For one, the shoot is designed to mimic settings for a hunt, and the ultimate goal is to help archers practice for live hunting. So instead of round targets with painted circles, the targets are foam animals of varying size, shape, and design. Large black bears, bears on their hind legs, cubs, turkeys, bobcats, boar, deer, and even the random jackelope. Another big difference is that there are almost no regular straight shots. Since this is meant to be an outdoor natural shoot, often times you’ll either be shooting uphill or downhill, or at least from different angles. There might be small trees, brush, or bushes in the way. Fallen trees might obstruct or obscure certain parts of the animal. You only get one shot, and every target along a particular course is like a new problem to be solved. How you approach your shot, how you make your target, is between you and the woods.

Speaking of the woods, my god what an incredible setting for a shoot. Denton Hill State ETAR Solo KillPark is nestled on the northern slope of Denton Hill in the Pennsylvania wilds. Almost the entire park is canopied by trees. It was cool, shaded, and the air was crisp and clean. The paths were marked but far from worn. Some steep climbs, drops, rocks, fallen trees, every step took you further from civilization and closer to peace and calm. Sometimes I almost missed sighting a target because I was already just so content to amble through ETAR First Kill.jpg the woods admiring the scenery. Being more than just a 3D shoot, being a traditional 3D shoot, also meant there was a real natural connection to everything. It was stick and string the entire time. In the dead quiet of the forest you would hear the distinctive whoosh of wood arrows being shot from wood bows. It’s a different sound than glass or compound bows. And the satisfying thud of hitting foam let you know when an arrow found its mark. There was something deeply peaceful and almost meditative walking through the nature trails and taking a shot at each stop.

ETAR Boar Target

What really made this festival memorable though was the people. I spent the weekend ETAR Making Friends.jpgsurrounded by some of the nicest, most welcoming, generous people I’ve ever met. Demetri and Effie were great and super nice, and on my way to my first shoot I met two other guys who ended up being my shooting buddies for the entire weekend, Kevin and Bobby. They were from upstate NY and had been hunting for years, and were so generous with the advice and knowledge. In one day’s worth of shooting and chatting with them I learned more than I could have learned in an entire summer on my own. They shared great stories of past festivals, shoots from all across the country, and hunting conquests and failures. But more than just Demetri, Effie, Kevin, or Bobby, the people of ETAR are incredible. No one really has any ego, there’s no judgement. Beginner, expert, we all go into theETAR Kevin and Bobby woods together and we all shoot together. And whether you miss or hit the target dead on, we all walk into the woods to pick up our arrows together before moving on. There’s no time, no opportunity, for ego to get in the way. There are some shots that will naturally come, some we’ll struggle with, beginners will hit when experts miss.

ETAR Last Kill

I’ve made some great new friends at this festival, and I’ve learned a great deal more in terms of my archery and practice. But now both, these relationships and my skill, are going to need me to put in the constant time and effort to continue to grow and develop. I don’t want to lose these connections I’ve made with genuinely nice people, and I don’t want to forget the lessons I’ve learned that will help me hit all my targets in the future. Now, as the archer and the person, I must remain constant.

Jerel says, ‘remain constant’.