Volume 36: When Opportunity Knocks...

“Opportunity comes like a snail, and once it has passed you it changes into a fleet rabbit and is gone.” –Arthur Brisbane.

There’s a Hindu proverb that says, “A man who misses his opportunity, and the monkey who misses his branch…cannot be saved.” On September 12th I will be celebrating 30 years of life. Most view the end of one’s twenties as a milestone, however I view it as just another year of life-and opportunities for new beginnings. At this age, virtually everyone finds him or her self dissatisfied with financial status. We often have lofty goals and expectations and envisioned our careers going much better than they are. Rather than sit back and blame the economy and conjure conspiracy theories about the government and recessions, I take that time to evaluate what I could be doing to rectify this situation. If you know me well, you know that I believe that the company one keeps is just as important as one’s education or intellectual capacity. My personal mantra is “If you hang around nine broke muthafuckas…you’re bound to be the tenth.”

I’m reaching that point where I am looking to surround myself not just with people who provide fun…but people who are of like attainment-people who want the same things out of life that I do.

The cool thing about my photography career is I feel as though I’m finally beginning to receive the respect and credit that I’ve wanted for so long. The market in Philadelphia still sucks and I’ve been shooting all over and waiting for my big chance to show what I can do. Just when I begin to grow frustrated and second-guess my talents, another amazing opportunity presents itself-and I’m reminded that I am destined for great things. I was invited to shoot the Walish Gooshe Fashion Event in D.C. Walish Gooshe is the high fashion women’s wear line owned by Gregory Taylor- who I photographed previously while working as the fashion photographer for pH Magazine. I covered two of his runway shows held in Philadelphia, which were amazing, and now I was being invited to cover the 1st annual D.C fashion event. Covering an event like this is a great experience; Working around fashion designers will sometimes resurrect that itch to resume my aspirations to get back into designing (I was a fashion design major in college), and to be around so much creativity is very inspirational. But for now…fashion photography is my love, and it’s what I think will enable me to achieve great success one day.

Making it in this industry can be one of the most difficult things for man to accomplish. Oftentimes, opportunities are few and far between. I am always looking not just to attain success for myself, but also to help friends maximize their potential and make it as well. I decided to contact a friend from college who lives in D.C and inform her that I’d be coming to her hometown to shoot a fashion show. Like many of us in this field, she had not achieved the status that she wanted; she works at a fashion boutique in D.C, with hopes of one day becoming a fashion stylist. She was unhappy with her current job and always complained about the lack of opportunities. I told her that I would be covering a major televised fashion show, and if she were interested, could attend the show with me. Attending a major show would open up opportunities to meet professionals working directly in the industry-many of them with flourishing companies located in her hometown. She said that she’d love to go, and I found myself feeling very good at the fact that I had been blessed with a great opportunity and could help a fellow artist with a pivotal opportunity.

I hadn’t seen my friend in several years. We both attended Cheyney University, but she transferred after her first year to attend another HBCU. Through social networking sites like myspace and facebook, we maintained communication and spoke several times on the phone-often about our career paths and how to make it. There were many people who would have jumped at the chance to attend, but I felt she had the most to gain from it…so the choice was clear. I gave her the date and time of the event and we ended our conversation a few minutes later.

A week had passed and it was now Monday. The Runway show was scheduled for that Saturday. I decided to give her a call and see what was up. I asked her if she were still interested in attending. She replied, “Of course! Why would you think I wouldn’t?”

I simply stated that I hadn’t heard anything in a few days and didn’t know if she had forgotten, wasn’t interested or perhaps something else. She said that she couldn’t wait and repeated the date and time exactly as I had explained to her a week ago. She told me that she would call me right back. Of course she didn’t. Days passed and Monday soon became Friday. The show was scheduled for Saturday. Growing annoyed at her lack of enthusiasm at such an opportunity, I decided to place one final call. The conversation was short, but once again she assured me that she were still interested and would be there. She said that she’d call after 9:00 because she was at work. I believed that statement about as much as I believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Of course…she didn’t.

Saturday came, and I made the three hour ride from Philadelphia to D.C. I told myself that I wouldn’t call her anymore. If she shows…she shows. At the end of the day, it’s her career. Me, being the professional I am, found a free parking space in Northwest D.C and arrived at the K lounge an hour early. I hung around until the show’s 8:00 start time and then turned off my blackberry. There were no calls, emails or texts. It would appear as though she was a no-show. Hmmm…

After a phenomenal show and some great shots captured, I began to leave the K lounge and make my way back to my car. I turned it on and there was a text message that came through. There was a text from Miss “no-show” which read: Are you here?

I responded: Yes. Just finished shooting the show. You didn’t show. She then wrote: You didn’t call me. Now I was beginning to get angry. With my blackberry battery low, I stopped at a nearby hotel and charged my phone in a lobby outlet. I called her and I’m sure the irritation was evident in my voice. “You were supposed to call me,” she said. She was going to have to come up a better excuse than that to appease my anger now. “No…you were supposed to call me,” I said. I would expect this type of nonsense from a pre-teen, but when it comes to the career of a 27-year-old woman…I cannot feel bad for these kinds of actions. I began to tell her that her attendance to this show was strictly for her benefit and if she didn’t take it seriously, then it’s her career. She said that she was currently in her apartment with “her friend” and was going to “hit me right back in two seconds.” Right. “My friend” is the black females way of saying “I’m here with a GUY.”

I hope that the dick was magical, because moments later I was on the road back to Philly and deleting her number from my phone. I just feel as though I’ve progressed to a point in my life where I cannot be affiliated with people who don’t have their shit together. When someone offers you a golden opportunity, and you basically bullshit them and make them look like a fool after trying to help you…then I feel as though I have no more use for that type of person. Do you guys feel as though I was wrong for my actions? Or were her actions a prerequisite of what to expect from that kind of friend? The opportunity to attend a $75 fashion show and priceless opportunity to meet industry professionals who can change your life-you’ve got to be a complete moron to not show up. And the caliber of person who would do that to someone in a professional environment-in a field that I take so seriously…says a lot. Am I overreacting? Lemme know what you guys think…

This is my life…this is what I do…


The average person works at fifty percent or less of their potential. Your job is to unleash that extra fifty percent.
-Brian Tracy

...These Are The Random Thoughts Of Ronald Gray…

Volume 35: Why I HATE Clubs

“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”
-Fydor Dostoevsky
There will always be those in life who enjoy being the center of attention; there will be those who revel in being watched…being sought after…even being envied. No one location better personifies these characteristics than today’s Clubs. In almost all of my twenty-nine years, I’ve been a Philadelphia resident. Although not known for its nightlife, this city has a multiplicity of clubs within its borders. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate clubs. I’ve always been uneasy surrounded by a crowd of people I don’t know. The weekend comes, and everyone’s venturing into Philadelphia’s nightlife scene-meanwhile, I’m avoiding the crowds like a politician avoids tough questions. Some of my friends admire  my indifference towards crowds; others become confused and wonder why someone like myself like clubs. After a barrage of questioning during a recent outing, I decided to explain...
The first obstacle of the night, is to deal with THE RANDOM FOREIGNER/ VALET PARKING ATTENDANT- who starts things off by slapping you in the face with a $20 charge for the dubious honor of parking your car in his lot, which smells like piss, oil and cigarettes. Usually an African, Middle Easterner or Haitian…No matter the day, the Foreign Valet Attendant will always have an attitude. Sometimes he’ll turn to his buddy and talk shit about you in his native language.
So you arrive at your destination, and now you have to deal with THE LINE TO GET IN THE CLUB- this can be a very humbling experience. You wait in line as a 6’6, 350 lb Neanderthal…with the I.Q. of a Mango Smoothie, makes you stand there like a misbehaving 2nd grader during his lunch recess. The icing on the cake is when you’ve been in line for twenty minutes and a group of attractive women walk past the line and right inside with no delay. Gotta love it. One of the funniest things I’ve witnessed were people in line who’ve decided they’re gonna just walk to the front like the previous group that did it-and see them promptly sent back into the line by the doorman…and now they’ve lost their original spot. Priceless.
THE CLUB’S BARTENDER-can be the Gatekeeper to either a great night out with friends, or a disastrous night of epic proportions. Unfortunately, a major reason that I hate the Club is because the bartender usually winds up being the latter. I usually find myself standing amid a frenzied crowd of alcoholics demanding service, while he/she completely ignores the section of the bar that I happen to be standing in. Much like the line to get inside the club, the saga at the bar can be a humbling experience. It sucks when you’re waiting fifteen minutes for one stupid drink and the bartender ignores your pleas of “Excuse me” for the rude bellowing of “Yooo! Bartender!”
So…after a twenty-minute ordeal, I finally have my drink…watered down and usually wrong. I make the best of it and within an hour, it’s time to do it all again…
“Some people get swept up in the lifestyle-clubbing and partying with celebrities. You can’t live your life like that, though. It’s fake.” –Gemma Ward
So…why do I avoid clubs like the plague? In my opinion, CLUBS AREN’T DESIGNED FOR YOU TO “MEET” PEOPLE- now some will say No, that’s not true. Clubs are a social atmosphere created for people to meet.
Fellas…have you ever seen a beautiful young lady in the club and attempted to have a back and forth conversation with her amid the distractions and throbbing music? It’s the most annoying thing ever. Attempts at dialect with someone in a club will usually sound like this:
Random Woman: (speaking over loud music) “Hey…I’ve seen you before. What’s your name again?”
Me: (extending my hand) “My name is Ron!”
Random Female: (shakes hand and speaking loud) “WHAT?!? JOHN?!?”
Me: (speaking louder) “NOOOOO! My name is RONALD!”
Random Female: (smiles)“Oooohhh…DONALD!”
Me: (growing frustrated) “NOOOO!!! RONALD… Like RONALD McDONALD!”
Random Female: (makes confused face) “Did you say Roger?!? Or Ryan?!?”
Me: “nevermind” (walks off to stand in twenty-minute bar line)
Men come to clubs for one reason and one reason only: To meet Women. The craziest person you ever date will likely be someone you met in a club. There are so many things that can go unnoticed about a person you meet in a club. It’s dark…the music is too loud for you to converse with that person and learn anything of substance…and you’ve likely been drinking! (laughs) The club is an atmosphere that would be ideal to someone who’s simply looking to “hook up” that night, or possibly someone looking to plant some seeds for a near future hook up.
I explained that most men go to clubs to meet women…so that must mean that most women must go to clubs to meet men, right? Wrong. Honestly…the vast majority of women that I know go to clubs to dance. Some go simply to hang with girlfriends and enjoy a few drinks-preferably free ones. We also have those who crave the attention -having legions of brothas drooling all over them and craving moments of their time. Lastly, we have the minority of women…who actually don’t like the clubs, but they go simply just to get out of the house…because playing Texas Hold Em’ on a computer or chatting on facebook is never anyone’s ideal Saturday night.
But, back to dancing: brothas in Philadelphia seldom dance. Perhaps it’s because everyone here seems to have a gun concealed…I dunno. It’s common to see a group of girls dancing with each other, while men stand off to the side or play the bar.
There is something so captivating about the way a sista dances…the way a sista movesthe way she walks. It’s graceful…almost surreal. Their movements remind me of a gazelle moving throughout the humid safari. And much like the family of gazelles, there’s always that “straggler” in the crew-that female who deviates from the pack of girlfriends she came out with, in order to visit the bar or the restroom. Like the wily gazelle, she strays from the pack and becomes potential prey. The Random Brotha in the club sees his opportunity to strike like the mighty lion. He waits patiently by the bar or away from the crowd…ready to strike…as she walks alone. And then…he pounces…using his patented arm-grabbing technique. Next thing you know…you’ve got your number programmed into some loser's blackberry.
So during my attempts to help my friends understand why clubs don’t “do it” for me, the topic of dancing comes up. I mean, what brotha wouldn’t enjoy a night of dancing with lovely young ladies dressed to kill? That would be true…if people still actually danced. The sad fact is that NO ONE DANCES ANYMORE- what is commonly referred to as “dancing” is now comprised of movement-which resembles standing lap dances and rhythmic doggy-style sex. Not exactly what I care to do with someone I don’t know…especially after seeing her do the same for every other person in the place.
Let us not forget our regular cast of characters that you meet in the clubs and the cast of characters that one often travels to the clubs with:
First we have THE COMPULSIVE SHOE-STEPPER AND DRINK SPILLERS, who love nothing more than to step on your brand new Prada shoe with their size 15 timberlands, or that tipsy female, Martini is one hand…Cosmo in another…bumping into 16 people on her way back from her trip to the bar.
Every group has THE ONE FRIEND WHO CAN’T HANDLE THEIR ALCHOHOL INTAKE- it’s sad because you truly love this person. However, after a few beers or a few Long Island Ice Teas…they will take on one of many roles:
a) THE FIGHTER- where they suddenly wanna pick a fight with the wrong person and you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of apologizing for your friend’s infantile actions and probably in the long run saving him/her from some serious trouble outside.
b) THE EMOTIONAL DRUNK- here is where the teary-eyed “I love you guys” confessions and reminiscing on old times begins. Consumption of alcohol will have this friend starting one of many “Remember When” stories.
c) THE CHILD- I call this one “the child” because we all have that one friend that you hate to drink with because you eventually become reduced to the role of “Babysitter.” They’re too impaired to drive, they can’t walk without your help, They suddenly begin losing personal items (car keys, cell-phone, wallet, etc.) so you end up ruining your night because you hafta play babysitter.
d) MR OR MRS “C.R.S”- which stands for “Cant Remember Shit.” They’re the ones that do the unthinkable when drinking. They’ll dance on bars, flash people, make out with strangers, get in 3 fights, then have sex with a stranger in the bathroom…and they never remember shit afterwards. Thank God for technology and camera phones.
We all have that one dumb-ass friend that still travels places in 2009 with NO IDENTIFICATION. Why do people still walk around with no I.D?!?
So there you are…at the club or lounge…and this idiot is patting his pockets like, “Aww Shit! I forgot my I.D!” To make themselves appear even more stupid, they attempt to plead their case with the bouncer by producing a College I.D, as if you have to be 21 to enter college. (shaking my head)
More colorful characters that frequent the Philadelphia Nightlife scene are:
MR. TOO OLD TO BE HERE- Ladies, there are few things more frightening than a 45 year old married man in a club where the average person in there in between the ages of 21-27. I remember my undergraduate years at Cheyney University, where there was always that one strange person in the college parties, who graduated 8 years ago. I think I speak for all of us when I say…take your ass home…and move on.
MRS PUT ON SOME DAMN CLOTHES- every club has the underdressed female; the oftentimes attention-seeking female who’s outfit leaves nothing to the imagination.
Sometimes you see an outfit so scandalous, that you sit there and wonder what kind of store she had to go to in order to purchase it.
MRS I DON’T WANNA TALK TO ANYONE OR DANCE WITH ANYONE- this particular woman baffles me. I mean…why the hell are you here?!? She’s completely anti-social and she doesn’t dance at all…yet spends her entire evening walking around the room with a facial expression as though she’s constipated. She becomes irritated every time a man approaches her and never loosens up the entire evening. She’s the anti-Christ.
Then there’s the brotha that I refer to as DR. OCTOPUSS- he’s the reason why 99% of the sistas in there are dancing with their girlfriends. His patented move? Groping young females to death and totally killing the ambiance of the club while dancing.
His hands always travel way too low towards a female’s ass…or wander under her shirt. He’s the #1 reason why Mrs. I Don’t Wanna Talk Or Dance With Anyone’s face looks that way.
And finally, we have MR. I’M GONNA SHOOT UP THE WHOLE DAMN CLUB- this is by far the #1 deterrent when it comes to The Educated Negro and Nightlife. He’s easy to spot in an upscale club. When everyone’s dressed up…he’s in the club with a hoodie and some Timberlands. His mission is clear. He’s not there to dance…he’s not there to socialize. He just wants his weekly dosage of some drama. Lo and behold, he sees some guy at the bar that was looking at him funny eight months ago at some other club and now he’s got to pay. His weakness? Grown and sexy clubs with dress codes render him powerless. He’s got over 20 different types of guns in his house, but he doesn’t own a pair of shoesor a tieso he won’t be bothering anyone at the All White Linen Party! club…
I hate the clubs…
“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” -Tom Bodett
…These Are The Random Thoughts of Ronald Gray…
Note: The comments mentioned above are based and predicated on my experiences with nightlife. They are the opinions on Ron Gray and Ron Gray only. They are not intended to insinuate that every person’s nightlife experiences has been or will be just like mine, but rather to take several frustrating and humorous scenarios that I’ve experienced and share them with my friends. I say all that to say this: There’s always some moron I’ve never even met who comments somewhere or writes back expressing how much they disagree about something. (shrugging my shoulders) They are called RANDOM THOUGHTS for a reason. If you don’t like it…shoot yourself in the head. (smiles)