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There was a controversy at my bodega this morning that escalated into a shouting match. A Jamaican man was making a fresh pot of coffee and blocking access to the machine while myself and another customer, a Mexican, stood waiting, even though a fresh pot sat ready on the other burner. The Jamaican paced back and forth as he prepared the pot, loose limbs flying in every direction, muttering under his breath. The Mexican and I, apparently, had no choice but to stand by and let the chef cook.

The Jamaican had an unorthodox method of preparing the filter and one of the Yemeni men who runs the joint stepped in to hurry the proceedings along. The Jamaican took offense. Choruses of “let me do this,” and “my way is better,” wrinkled the morning calm. When he said, “I pay money,” what had been a small kerfuffle mushroomed into a referendum on capitalism.

“This is America. Everybody pays money,” said the Yemeni. The argument lost its thread as everyone seemed to be saying the same thing, only louder – “I pay money. You pay money. Everybody makes money.” To this dead end the Jamaican added the turn, “I don’t always make money.”

The Jamaican started towards the counter as the coffee pot had finally been wrested from his hands. Fresh brown elixir splashed down into the empty vessel from the spout. By this time the Yemeni working the front had joined the fray, not as loud as his brother but granted special gravitas given his authority over the cash register. “You only pay fifty cents for coffee,” he said, “sometimes you don’t even pay.” I stood in line waiting to pay a full dollar for my cup as the Jamaican exited the shop, stage right. “I pay for my coffee,” he said, “I pay.”

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Last night a film I directed and have been working on for the past six months aired on national television. It plays at an hour with commercials but premiered at its festival length of 43 minutes at ABFF this past weekend. I am quite pleased with how it turned out, thank you very much. You can see it online in its entirety here.

UPDATE – Legacy Lives On won a gold Telly award in the documentary category.

It was important to me to film some black cowboys while we were in Oklahoma. Although this scene didn’t make the final film, it makes a great alternate teaser:

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I’ve always wanted to be sponsored by a camera company and over the past year it happened. Kinefinity, the manufacturer of the cinema camera I bought last year, took such a keen interest in the footage that I created with it that they let me take their flagship camera out for a spin to help launch it into the world.

The sci-fi genre is close to my heart. And this project gave me the opportunity to write down a bunch of crazy ideas. In science fiction, philosophical questions about the world swim a bit closer to the surface than I’m used to as a writer. Re/Connections dabbles in tones and themes I haven’t worked with much. I built props and designed effects. And while I’m proud of the resulting film, I also know that this is a first step. I’m excited to figure out where to step next.

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The regal woman waiting for the bus slowed me down. Her calm, that light. I felt lucky to have shot something I liked so much but couldn’t figure out how to write about it here and so I waited. That was January.

Because it’s rare for me to walk down that block I didn’t notice they’d torn up the street until September, and was sad to see such a peaceful little perch destroyed. I wrote a short thing about the ephemeral nature of things and how blah blah whatever. But that wasn’t what I wanted to say either and so I deleted the post a couple minutes later.

Now the street is fixed up like new and I still don’t know what to say. Other than thank you. To her, I guess, and to you.

I shot that one on New Years Day and it has been something of a talisman for me all year. The homie pushing that Crown Vic is FOCUSED, COMMITTED, and READY for whatever’s next out here on these mean streets. Just looking at him lifts me up.

So here’s a little reminder to hit whatever’s coming as hard as my man is about to hit that gas pedal. Because this moment, right now, is a gift. With everything so crazy all the time it’s hard to see it that way sometimes. These burdens don’t lift themselves, after all. Just know that I’m pulling for you as hard as I’m pulling for myself. There’s even a few seats available in the whip. One love.

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This is my grandfather’s Columbia University football jacket. It’s about ninety years old. I wore it for the first time Sunday and have scarcely taken it off since. It makes me feel invincible.

In 1931 Manuel Rivero was the star halfback for the Lions. At the time, many college football coaches observed what they called the “gentleman’s agreement,” which meant if one coach had a black player and the other didn’t, then the “gentleman” coach wouldn’t play his black player that game. Fuck manners. My grandfather’s teammates found out about it on the train to a game and told the coach that they wouldn’t play either. It’s because of that game and others like it where teammates, allies, stood up against racism that black players were allowed to play college football.

Football was my favorite sport as a kid and my dream was to play quarterback in the NFL. Now I don’t even watch football because of Colin Kaepernick and concussions.

My grandfather was consistent. He watched Wheel of Fortune every day. He also socked away a hundred dollars in a Merrill Lynch account every month for decades and that’s how my mom was able to afford sending me to an Ivy League school. If need-blind admissions had been in place maybe I wouldn’t have gotten in. My grandmother, Grace, used to tell stories about how she had other suitors, “but that Rivero fella kept hanging around.” She’d been a professor and spoke the most beautiful English you’d ever hear in your life.

When I was eight Lincoln University named its gymnasium Manuel Rivero Hall. Both grandparents taught there for over forty years. I wore my Raiders jacket to the ceremony.

In the film Bladerunner, digital characters think they’re real because of the photos they possess, their memories. In this digital simulacrum I share my memories with you.

Around high school my dream changed from playing football, to making movies. I’m working on a new film now, a short. You’ll probably hear me say something about it around these parts. I think being a film director is about the closest job there is to being a quarterback. And for the next few weeks I get to live out my dream a little bit. I have my grandfather to thank for some of that. And you’d best believe I’m wearing his football jacket every single day.

© 2006 – 2023 Raafi Rivero.