Chicago Review

Chicago Review

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

Sept. 17, 2015

Of course, I had to photograph the sign and marquee of one of America's historical icons.
Of course, I had to photograph the sign and marquee of one of America’s historical icons.

“CHICAGO” lettered in white capitals against a decorative red background hang several stories high above my head right outside a large theater on my left. Right below this display, a smaller marque showed in black lettering the July 17 concert headlining Boney James and Brian Culbertson.

What a concert is was — to see two prominent musicians in their genre playing in the Windy City. It was not only my first concert but also the first time I saw live Culbertson, the funk and R&B keyboardist / pianist, and James, the urban-style saxophonist.

I felt the buzz in the crowd immediately as Culbertson and James played recognizable pieces. People young and old packed the theater to see the two major musicians in the smooth jazz genre. People of different races clapped, hummed, and jigged in their seats to the tunes played up on stage.

Culbertson and his band took the stage for the first half of the show. Popular pieces he played were “Let’s Get Started,” “So Good,” “Get It On,” “Back In The Day,” and “Hollywood Swinging,” to name a few.

Although Culbertson played many of his popular songs, a few moments he also reflected on the twentieth anniversary of his career. He played a few songs from early on in his career, such as “Come To Me,” from his second album, and “City Lights,” the first track listed on his first album A Long Night Out.

While going retrospect in his career, Culbertson did look ahead to possibilities in the near future. Hinting at a imminent new record release as early as next year, he and his band performed a cover of “Got To Give It Up,” originally by the legendary Marvin Gaye. After playing the teaser, Culbertson said “It was just something I’m thinking about.”

Culbertson received cheers and a standing ovation when he played his keyboard backwards on stage during one song.

After a brief intermission, Boney James played his half of the show with his saxophone and his backing band.

James interacted with the crowd when he played the title track from his 2011 album Contact. Followed by a body guard, he walked down from stage and danced with one woman he welcomed out of her seat near the front. After a short while, the artist rocked his iconic fedora and sax through the central aisles as he continued playing “Contact.” After weaving his way from the front to the back of the theater, James returned to the stage.

Finishing out the concert, James played several pieces, like “Vinyl” and “Drumline,” from his new record futuresoul, which came out earlier this year. He also played a few pieces from his earlier records, such as “After The Rain,” “Sweet Love,” “Lights Down Low,” “RPM,” and “Grand Central.”

One song James did not play was “Camouflage,” from his 1995 album Seduction. A woman in the crowd, actually sitting a few rows in front of me, screamed the song name aloud multiple times during breaks between songs. James paused and laughed after hearing the woman’s request as he was speaking commentary about his album Contact. Others in the crowd chuckled at the awkward moment.

As I mentioned, Culbertson and James are prominent artists within smooth jazz.

Culbertson received gracious homecoming applause at the show; he grew up in Decatur, Illinois and attended DePaul University before breaking through in his music career. He has also hosted his Napa Valley Jazz Getaway in June annually since 2012, featuring other popular jazz, funk and R&B artists. Popular albums from his discography include It’s On TonightSecretsA Long Night Out, and Nice & Slow.

Meanwhile, James has earned four past Grammy nominations. Many of his fans, including Chicagoans, enjoy his albums ContactPureSweet LoveSeductionBody Language, and Seduction. At last check, James’ latest album futuresoul, from earlier this year, spent 11 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s contemporary jazz list.

Both artists have collaborated with other popular musicians in their genre, like Eric Marienthal and Rick Braun, have generated steady record sales, and are household names to smooth jazz followers. Culbertson and James also tour across the U.S. and internationally, including an annual appearance at the Smooth Jazz Cruise.

The star-studded concert at the Chicago Theater is only one of few things I enjoyed on my early evening visit to the Windy City on July 17.

Before the show, my dad and I took a short walk away from the intersection of State and Lake streets downtown. Not surprisingly, the heavy traffic of cars and pedestrians congested the streets of the busy major city on a Friday evening.

However, the rich diversity I saw did impress me. People of all races and ages surrounded me on the busy sidewalks. Even more encouraging was the immense number of young adults trotting around in their professional and casual formal attire. Experiencing this change in demographics to me felt invigorating after growing up and living the majority of my life in a small and quaint farming area in southern / Appalachian Ohio.

Several people of different backgrounds enjoyed the concert with me as well. It is great to see how great music, like that of Culbertson and James, can bring different people together.

With one final note, I wanted to share a website by the URL of

Smooth Jazz Chicago is present by Rick O’Dell. O’Dell briefly promoted his website before the show. In light of terrestrial radio stations stripping the smooth jazz format from the Chicago airwaves between 2009 and 2012, his website now is a home for fans to stream the format.

Below, this video features O’Dell speaking about the scarcity of smooth jazz in many other U.S. markets. (You may have to turn up the volume.):



By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

Aug. 18, 2015

My first visit to church in two months this past Sunday is only part of my rebound from my rough summer.

Three posts ago, I wrote about all the recent challenges in my life this summer. It all started with my bout with pain in my left eye due to chronic eye dryness in late June. Also, around the same time my old car began failing, forcing me to take it to the shop for a sensor repair only to trade it in this past July. These two major challenges alone discouraged me from my novel writing during this time after making good progress through the better part of June.

My ambivalence towards church was my most difficult challenge of them all. Most notably, I stated my disgruntlement and hurt from my time in my college church, comparisons with my life to those of my cohort from college, and concerns with fitting in due to my race as reasons for my indecisiveness in continuing my Christian faith or not.

Faith is mainly the reason why I rebounded back into church. I once had a spiritual leader around my home. Now that this leader is no longer involved in the Church, I didn’t want to fall down into this person’s level because of similar scrapes with the Church. I realized that I have the choice to continue my faith even with the depressing stage of life that my former spiritual leader is in now.

I also realized that I was attributing too much of my discomfort with attending church to people in the Church who hurt or failed me in the past. For example, I keep fearing that I’m going to get hurt by a small group just because of the girl in college and her friends who hurt me as far back as three years ago. I have also attributed my fears of racism or racist attitudes too much from people in high school who hurt me. It’s like I keep thinking that just because people in my church are mostly white and I’m black, people might say hurtful things to me or about me like bullies “Sam” or “Than” once did. While these fears are very warranted, they are not entirely healthy.

I have been allowing past hurt or my own mistakes to control my mind, or influence my thinking, towards possible scenarios that may not even materialize. Also, I have realized recently that some issues with my race or my personality around other people are just unavoidable. I stand out as a young black man in a predominantly white church, and I am my own person. But, just because I’m different than most people around me doesn’t mean everyone else is going to be racist towards me or not want to associate with me just because I’m black.

One big part of my discomfort, however, is coupled with my desire for a relationship with a woman in the church. One of my big wants in life is to take care of woman, have a healthy relationship with her, be excited and happy with her, and, hopefully, raise a faith-based family with her. Unfortunately, there are two big problems with this want.

One is that I’m only attracted to people outside of my race (mostly white women and other races). With this problem, I face the challenge of traditional mating of two people of the same race: White tends to mate with white. Blacks with blacks. Plus, whites in my area tend to hold negative attitudes towards interracial mating, from the father forbidding his daughter to a white woman looking seemingly disgusted at a black man being attracted to her. My counselor reminded me of this cultural tradition two years ago when we discussed dating and race. On my walk back from his office that particular day, I wished I were dead. I wanted to die. I felt that I could never date someone who was different than me because I was black and the world around me was cruel. Lately, I’ve felt this discouragement as I go to my local church, see the women of my age around me who are white, and think “There’s no way they would ever feel attracted to me or want to walk with God with me because I’m black and we’re too different. She won’t trust me. She’ll think I’m creepy, scary, or evil just like those stupid girls in college.

Over the past few years since, I still have little hope that I could meet a White woman, or a Latina, Native American, Indian, Russian, or Asian woman and take care of her someday. I want to marry someone who is different not just because I want something different and exotic than myself but because I want to break barriers and show that love between two people transcends skin tone. I also want to marry someone because I love them and I feel attracted to them, not just because society tells me I should only date someone who looks the same as me. With all that said, my counselor reminded me that, with whomever I may have children with, my children will have some dark complexion. But, why not? I would consider myself an agent of change if I am lucky enough to maintain a healthy Christian interracial marriage.

The second problem with my want is that it has often been misguided because of my chronic loneliness and body image discomfort in my adolescence. So, my way of coping has been obsessing and trying to force myself into a woman’s life. This has never yielded my desired outcome. My counselor has said that I have been trying to make things happen on my own and not allowing God to work or to guide me to whomever I’m best suited to take care of.

Although I have this big want for a relationship with a woman, I do keep telling myself how lucky I am that I am still single for several reasons. One is that taking care of a woman or any other person will take money. With this crappy year I have had with my car and my dreadful career path right now, money is something I have little to offer. Another reason is that I still haven’t left my parents’ nest because of the money issue. So, if I can’t take care of myself financially at this point, taking care of a woman and being financially responsible for her looks unrealistic (God, I hope this changes real soon.). Thirdly, I’m happy I still have free time to pay on my college loans and, hopefully, go back to school in my early 30s (hopefully late 20s) so I can get another degree and enter a better career that will allow me to take care of a woman and a family. Finally, I’m happy I still have time to work on me. I’ll humbly deny that I am mature. I think there’s always room for me to mature and gain wisdom from my new experience in my post-college years. I still have social skills I could improve on as well because I didn’t have playmates when I was young or friends during my teen years.

Now that I’ve ranted enough about my dry and sorry social life, I can share a little bit other things going on in my life:

Forget about BG

I have made the decision to only visit Bowling Green if I am invited. I only have two friends / colleagues from college who I can talk to. At this point, I no longer feel that BG or the college church I once was affiliated with is a welcoming environment for me. Part of it is my own doing by constantly spouting off my frustration with that church on Facebook. The other part is by how certain people have treated or perceived me. For example, there was that girl who disrespected me over an innocent card and her frustration that I was so afraid to talk to her. (Today, I still get pissed thinking about the words she texted me while I bit my talk and restrained my rage.) Then, there was a girl who was friendly to me at the Colorado retreat two years ago but then gave me a long scornful glare when I visited a church service in January. It is also tough for me to drive three hours just see two people but refuse to be involved in a church I hold in contempt.

Silent Treatment

Because of my ambivalence with the Church, I have refused to speak to God over the past two months. I have not journalled, prayed, or read any Scripture just because I have been upset with God. It seems like I keep getting hurt, other people around me are enjoying their successes, and God has done nothing to bring justice or joy to my life. It’s kind of hard to talk to someone whom you feel is allowing you to get bad breaks.


At this point, I have delayed my story writing so I can develop my characters first. I want to give, mainly, the supporting characters depth and purpose so that the story won’t be solely focused on the relationship between two main characters. This has been challenging. I also want to work on the plot so it isn’t messy, or sloppy.

Ensemble Cast

Ensemble Cast

A teaser to an untitled novel in progress by

Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

July 31, 2015

Below are a list of a few main characters in my novel. I’ve decided to disclose a few details about each character’s role and background. My hope is that I entertain without giving out the full story. I’ve included illustrations, which are photographs taken by other people. (Unfortunately, I do not draw very well myself.)


Purple Cloak
Illustration of what Eleanor might look like.
Photo from “nissa” on Veliop, from Google Images:

Eleanor is a half-human, half-shape-shifter. She is prophesied to be the companion of Arlan’s companion so they both can help restore peace to another realm of reality. For several reasons, she is known popularly as the Purple Cloak.

For most of the story, the Purple Cloak is under attack by a villain. Because of her being under siege by this enemy, she relies on her friends and later Arlan to see to her well-being.

In my story, Eleanor is known by her dark purple hair that covers a purple birthmark on the right side of her face. She appears Russian, Japanese and Romanian in her human-like form.

Eleanor is a character based off a combination of few real people I met.

Two things about her personality distinguish her from the other characters: She is diffident, and she uncomfortable about her body image. Despite her personal insecurity, she helps characters Arlan and Adela with their similar issues.


Arlan is a half-human. The other half of his genes originate from a race of people who can appear in both physical and non-corporeal forms of light.

Illustration of Arlan, an important protagonist in my story.  Photo by David Robert Bliwas on Flickr:
Illustration of Arlan, an important protagonist in my story.
Photo by David Robert Bliwas on Flickr:

Like Eleanor, his abilities do not begin to emerge until the age of 22.

Arlan is prophesied to become Eleanor’s companion. For a few reasons, he is known as the Red Cloak. He is known for the red tint in his hair when his hair is shown in bright light.

He appears to be of African descent in his human-like form. Although he gains his abilities of light, he maintains his physical form throughout most of the story.

Arlan is based off of a person I know very well. Like Eleanor, he is uncomfortable with his body image.


Ashlynn is a clairvoyant, making her perhaps the most influential character in my story.

Illustration of supporting character Ashlynn from my novel. Note that she would be a young woman who is blind.  Photo by Ben Raynal on Flickr:
Illustration of supporting character Ashlynn from my novel. Note that she would be a young woman who is blind.
Photo by Ben Raynal on Flickr:

Although she is a blonde who is physically blind, she can see future and past events in people’s lives. She is a member of a race of people who can listen to people’s thoughts and sense their feelings. However, her abilities to see visions makes her more special than others of her kind.

In my story, Ashlynn is tasked as being a confidant and counselor for Eleanor. The two become very good friends. The blonde who is blind helps Eleanor understand her insecurities that are routed from past events. Ashlynn also helps maintain peace among her friends and other characters.

Ashlynn is based off a real person I met. Like the real person, Ash is known best for empathizing and working well with people.


Illustration of Adela. Photo from Photobucket:

Adela serves as a guard or personal protector for Eleanor. She is assigned to protect Eleanor up until Arlan’s abilities emerge so the prophecy might fulfill itself.

As the story goes along, Adela realizes she is gay. After two failed relationships with two male characters, she discovers her sexuality and develops a secret crush on a female main character. She battles an internal struggle while keeping this secret from her colleagues around her. She doesn’t tell her friends until near the end of the story, for which she receives mixed reactions but overall support.

Adela is based off a real person I met who was recognized as an outgoing and gregarious person. She is best known for her long scarlet hair, which she wears in a French braid. She is also has a reputation in the realm as being a noble woman.



Elden is asked to be a confidant for Arlan. Although he does not have abilities like Ashlynn, he serves in a similar relationship to Arlan as Ashlynn does to Eleanor.

Illustration of Elden.  Photo from Flickr:
Illustration of Elden.
Photo from Flickr:

The handsome young-looking man with the braids is not a perfect counsel for Arlan. In fact, Elden was surprised he was asked to help heal Arlan because Elden has a checkered past. A costly and selfish mistake he committed years ago has ruined his reputation among common people in the realm. Because of his mistake, Elden was banned from serving with his fellow guardians, the militia, in the realm. Before meeting Arlan, he lived with his cousin in an isolated city.

Elden is influential because he once shared similar struggles as Arlan does. Elden helps Arlan feel good about how he looks and helps him heal from hurtful events in the past. As the young men’s friendship grows, Elden begins calling Arlan by the nickname of “brother.”

In the middle of the story, Eleanor makes a startling discovery about Elden. She finds out he may not be what exactly he looks like he should be. Of course, this will complicate his friendship with Arlan.


Jaylan is actually Eleanor in disguise. She is an alter-ego she morphs into in the middle of the story. She uses her guise as Jaylan to help Arlan form healthy relationships with women. She also must get close enough to Arlan after she discovers he somehow is an anecdote for her poisoning, which restores nearly all of her shape-shifting ability.

Illustration of Jaylyn. She is an alter ego  and disguise whom Eleanor assumes. Photo by Bold Content ( on Flickr:
Illustration of Jaylyn. She is an alter ego and disguise whom Eleanor assumes.
Photo by Bold Content ( on Flickr:

Eleanor planned her shape-shift into her alter-ego Jaylan very carefully. She does not want Arlan to discover her, and she wants to see how he will respond to her appearance. Jaylan appears to look Indian or Pakistani by physical appearance. She also appears to be a human in her late-20s or early-30s.

Not only does she appear older, but Jaylan also carries herself more maturely beyond Arlan’s age. Jaylan becomes a big sister figure to Arlan as he develops his abilities and overcomes the big mistake he made early in the story.

As a reader might imagine, the Jaylan alter-ego will complicate Eleanor’s relationship to Arlan if she reveals her true identity.

Secret Crush

Secret Crush

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

July 25, 2015

Adela’s Secret 

LGBT issues have become arguably the most popular topic for conversations of social change and social equality. One of my supporting characters must deal with the challenges of her private sexuality in my novel.

Adela, a chubby but athletic heroine who sports a scarlet French braid, might appear straight. Her enticing green eyes may often capture the attention of men, but the scarlet-haired one would find it hard to romantically satisfy those said men. Despite her outward appearance and her charm among her male friends, Adela is gay.

Adela slowly discovers her attraction to women in my novel.

This illustration of Adela shows how she might look if she unfastened her French braid and wore scarlet hair down. Photo from Photobucket.

For a time, the woman with the scarlet French braid closely befriends a male guardian she serves with named Uri. After a failed relationship, she tries to make things work with a rival of Uri’s named Elden. Her relationship with Elden also crumbles to an end while they guard a gated community of protected people with special attributes. Adela had tried to make things work so she could enjoy a relationship with a man, but she cannot find anything enjoyable about it as other straight couples around her. After two failed relationships with Uri and Elden, she believes something is off about her but neglects to address the internal conflict.

Years go on with Adela’s life until she is entrusted to guard Eleanor (a young half-human, half-shape-shifting woman prophesied to become a matriarch known popularly as the Purple Cloak). The noble woman discovers her physical and emotional attraction to Eleanor, as she becomes the Purple Cloak’s personal guard. Adela develops her attraction to Eleanor because both young women have similarities. Although Eleanor is trimmer in weight and stands taller (nearly six feet), she is very insecure of her plain body image. Also like Adela, Eleanor has often had emotional issues dealing with young men who are attracted to her. Through this identification, Eleanor quickly confides in Adela, often speaking to her for guidance and comfort as both get to know each other early on. For Adela, she believes that Eleanor provides her with a friend and empathizer with in many different ways no else previously could. Even more significantly, Adela develops a nurturing style of love for Eleanor. The scarlet-haired guard becomes very protective of her crush with the pale skin and deep purple hair; she quickly bears her slender sword out of her sheath at any sign of posing threat to Eleanor. Adela also sees to Eleanor’s basic needs before other characters arrive for support. For example, Adela carries Eleanor in a large clay pot due to Eleanor being poisoned and being forced to assume a black fluid form most of the time.

Although Adela develops strong emotions for Eleanor, she does not reveal her true feelings to her crush. Keeping her secret from the future matriarch dressed in purple becomes challenging for Adela. Especially when certain characters arrive to support Eleanor, Adela loses some of her charm towards these people. This happens becomes she believes she will eventually lose someone she deeply cares about, and, therefore, she feels she must compete against these other characters.

Adela becomes jealous but not nasty towards, Ashlynn. Ashlynn is a mind reader and clairvoyant of future and past events in people’s lives. The blonde one who is physically blind becomes assigned as Eleanor’s confidant. Because of Ashlynn’s special abilities, she is able to uncover the root of Eleanor’s issues much more deeply than Adela possibly could. Ashlynn develops a personal but professional friendship with Eleanor that grants the empathic to also care for some of the Purple Cloak’s needs on her way to fully functioning as a shape-shifter again.

Adela develops animosity towards Arlan, who is the young man prophesied to become Eleanor’s consort for the sake of the realm. Arlan is a half-human, half-“person of light”, who later can assume a physical or non-corporeal form. By prophecy, the young man with the caramel-toned skin is known as the Red Cloak. Unbeknownst to Arlan, he actually competes against Adela for Eleanor. Although Adela knows the prophecy well, she maintains a cold attitude towards Arlan and a very protective stance towards Eleanor whenever he talks or flirts with her early on. In the middle of the story, Arlan makes a critical mistake that could annul the prophecy to become Eleanor’s companion. After seeing how this mistake threatens Eleanor’s physical well-being, Adela uses the young man’s error to cast him out of the camp for dealing with an enemy.

Later on in the story, Adela’s internal struggle over her sexuality is resolved. She first reveals her feelings to Eleanor after the Purple Cloak asks her why she often vilified Arlan for his attraction to his future companion. Adela later reveals her secret crush and sexuality to former boyfriends Uri and Elden, who like Eleanor are surprised and offer mixed reactions. After telling Arlan the truth, he then understands why she was nasty to him and forgives her. In the end, the characters in my story offer support for Adela.

Other teasers about Adela:

Adela appears to be Latina. She is half-human and half-Lioran.

In public, she is very outgoing and gregarious. She often catches people with a friendly greeting and smile and a tender demeanor.

Although she appears physically in her mid to late-20s, she is around 320 years old. (People in my fictional realm age 10 times slower and live prolonged lifespans, compared to humans.)

Inspiration for Adela’s Characterization

A real, living person inspired me to create Adela as a personal protector and friend for Eleanor. I met the real girl a few years ago. (Just to be clear, my character and the real person look drastically different, and I never knew the real person closely as a friend.)

As for Adela’s sexuality, many current events and issues drove me to writing this as part of her person. First, I have grown up in the Church with certain beliefs towards homosexuality. However, I have noticed that there seems to be a lack of understanding and knowledge about LGBT issues, as well as a lack of empathy towards people of the LGBT, in many cases. This “ignorance,” for a lack of a better term, concerns me whenever talking about or talking to people of the LGBT.

Over my young adult life, I have also known a few people who are gay. Some of these people I have met were my classmates or colleagues in high school. A few people in the dorms I lived in at college had to bear some of the social challenges that come with their sexual orientation. Even a few people from church I have known as colleagues have struggled with same-sex attraction at some point in their lives.

Still, I would actually love to get know some of these people a little better without them feeling like I would judge them. I would like to hear about their lives. How did they discover their sexual orientation? What challenges do you face daily? What is it like to be gay? What is it like to be born with one body but feel that you are another sex? Those are the type of questions I would like to ask to gain understanding and purge away some of my own prejudices.

I know some may say that making a character gay might seem trendy because of current events, such as the Supreme Court decision in June, or what we see in entertainment. But, the point of my story is to start conversations about social justice and social issues. My novel highlights issues like prejudice and body image insecurities. So, why not talk about a heroine who is secretly gay?




By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

July 21, 2015

I knew starting out after college might be rough. I just wasn’t expecting the past five months to be so discouraging.

This sums it all up my feelings: It feels like every one of my peers’ lives after college are great and mine, well, sucks.

Fatal Comparisons

Comparing my life now with others around me seems to be the biggest cause for my unhappiness.

Wiser adults around me have advised my peers and I to avoid comparing ourselves to others on Facebook. This wisdom makes sense. A lot of Facebook profiles seem to gloss over, or hide, the negatives of life while mostly capturing “happy moments” in photos and status updates. With all the pictures of friends, wedding ceremonies, and status updates of accomplishments, it’s so hard not to compare myself to others. One year ago, I even set my news feed settings to hide my FB friends’ activities. Even with this preventative measure, I still can’t help myself from time to time. I still check up on my friends and enemies. Rather than take joy in their accomplishments, I’m left feeling jealous or dissatisfied with my own life.

Car Trouble

Peer comparison isn’t the only thing dragging my spirits way down. In the past five months, I spent a lot of money on car repairs. The throttle control sensor was the most recent damaged part addressed. For a few weeks, the car drove fine after taking it in to the shop. Then, the fail-safe for the throttle control came back on just as my dad and I rolled into the Chicago-metro area for a jazz concert on July 17. Luckily, we got as far back as Jamestown, Ohio, and limped back home that Saturday. The next day, we traded in the piece-of-crap car for a later model car. The newer car seems nice. The only problems are that I am now paying for my own auto insurance plus higher car payments month-to-month. The costly repairs on the older car alone set me back on saving to move out of my parents’ home soon. Now the expenses for the newer car has prompt my current search for a second job. I realize a lot of people have car trouble and make car payments, but I feel like my peers are either earning more monthly income or paying less on college loans than me to offset those issues.

A Wasted Four Years?

Speaking of college loans, I’m wondering today if going to a four-year college was worth the costly debt I’m paying on. I graduated and earned a journalism degree with a high GPA, but I’m not doing anything with my degree. I feel like I chose the wrong major. I only chose journalism because writing has been a hobby of mine since first grade. Despite this rationale, I waffled quite a bit with my major. Halfway through my first semester, I thought about switching to psychology; my own issues with people and my personal flaws piqued my interest in studying human behavior. After deciding I didn’t want to spend my life laboriously as a researcher in psych, I stuck with journalism. I guess that was a mistake.

If given an opportunity to redo college at BG, I would have changed my major — maybe not to psych but at least to something that matched my interests and giftings than journalism. The cumbersome tasks of news writing steered me away from print journalism, so I chose public relations as my journalism track. I honestly did not know a thing about PR (which I later realized was a fatal mistake in my decision-making). I just, I guess, rode it out, opting to learn as I went. By the time I began searching for internships in PR, I realized that PR was not for me. Every good internship I sought at an agency or reputable organization rejected me. The painstaking duties of a journalist and the discouraging internship process weren’t the only spiritual indicators that I had chosen the wrong major. At a summer retreat right before my senior year, a girl asked me whether I liked my major or not. Aside from my admiration for her physical aesthetics and her interest in my life, I cannot describe the soberness I felt from her personal question about me: “Do you like your major?” The worst thing about answering her question was also trying to describe what exactly PR is. It was at that culminating moment I completely lost interest and taste for journalism.

By the time I began my senior year, I just wanted to pass my classes and graduate so I could move on with my life. At the end of my senior year, I became interested in social work. I wanted to become a counselor, just like the one I have been talking to occasionally over the past three years. I applied to graduate school. Although I got accepted to begin in the fall, the cost of graduate housing, my car issues, and my outstanding student loans forced me to drop out of grad school for social work. Of course, there are others like me who either chose the wrong major or can’t even do a thing a with the degree they earned. Just in my case, it seems like all the peers I knew at BG are carrying on with their lives in rewarding dream careers. I’m left working at a job (and possibly a second job to come) that doesn’t even require a college degree, and I feel like a failure. I also feel like I have made a good example of why many Conservatives do not support Affirmative Action for minorities or government loans for college students. I keep thinking that one of my former roommates is saying this from time to time:

See. You were a waste of money. This is why government college loans are bad for America. This is why you cannot give scholarships to students just because they are Black or Native American. You wasted the government’s money, and you took away a place from another person who could have done something with their time in college.

In A Pale Lonely Sea

Social challenges related to race have also discouraged me. I cannot tell if you know this, but I’m Black, or African American (if you haven’t seen my picture on my blog yet). I have lived all but three months of my life in rural southern Ohio, a place that is about 95 to 97 percent white. I went to high school where bullies would constantly annoy me with jokes and direct statements laced with micro-aggressions (which is a form of modern covert racism). Sometimes people would look at me like they have never seen a black person before, like the guy sitting in his truck as I walked out of our local IGA. Then sometimes I felt certain people talked to me in way like they thought I was slow. (Maybe I am a bit slow?) You may have not thought about this too, but girls in high school were a problem for me to.

Girls would not date me because I obviously looked different or their fathers would not allow them to fraternize with me. Apparently, whites think it’s wrong for interracial relationships to happen. In reality, people may feel my race or another minority might hinder them from acquiring as much prestige, social acceptance, status, income, earning power and property compared to them being coupled with another white man. My counselor says this intolerance for interracial relationships is a child of familial tradition; people in rural areas tend to date/marry to people who are alike because it seems less weird, more common, and “right.” You should have been around me when my counselor revealed this way of our corrupt world to me three years ago: On the way back from his office, I felt defect, and I wished I were dead. It already feels hard to be comfortable with myself looking different than most people around me, but it feels even worse whenever romantic rejection is racially charged. I mean, I can’t help that I am attracted to women outside of my own race.

I’ve also found that a form of institutionalized, yet also covert, racism does exist in the Church. From my bad experience in a local church I visited a year ago, a lot of White churches and Black churches do worship differently. Sadly, sometimes one of the churches might invalidate the other’s salvation in Jesus Christ just because of differing world views. This is why I have felt uncomfortable attending mostly white churches recently; at the same time, I feel uneasy with the thought of ever attending a mostly black church because I know I won’t fit in.

Finally, I’ve always felt so uncomfortable living in my own skin. I’ve always thought I was white living in a black body. Basically, I have always wanted to be white so I could be happy. I’ve always wanted to have the ability to actually grow my hair long enough to fall over my eyes. I’ve always wanted to have a vibrant smile set in smooth pale skin conspicuously contrasting my dark hair, as a mark of beauty. I’ve always wanted to talk to anyone or go anywhere I want without feeling like an alien, outsider, or wraith. I’ve wanted to not fear or mistrust the police. I’ve always wanted to fit in.

Not A Sight for Sore Eyes

All things considered from what I have already disclosed, my eyes are also giving me some pain. My left eye in particular has flared up with pain over the past month in spells, due to chronic dryness. Both of my eyes feel like a desert across my face when I wake up at night now. I am not what is causing the occasional soreness in my left eye or the overall dryness in both. I have never allergic to anything. I should know this because my parents and I live with two cats of 14 human years, and my home is surrounded by a hotbed of natural outdoor allergens. I would be surprised if my work conditions is the culprit. I’ve been working at the same place for over a year now without eye problems until now.

The dry eyes come as a discouraging distraction from my story writing on my laptop. In late June, I had finished writing a solid prologue to open up my novel’s main plot. Plus, I had started writing on the first chapter so I could tie up loose ends with the middle chapters I had began writing by hand a year ago. It is my hope that medicated eye drops would alleviate the symptoms I have been dealing with so I can get back to writing soon.

Vinegar-Bitter Pain

Finally, the past has ruined my present and hope for a peaceful future (for the time being, at least). I keep thinking about the guy who bullied me like crazy in high school and his friends who disliked me. After seeing a recent FB photo of those guys together, I keep hoping I’m not the reason I brought them together. Likewise, I keep hoping I’m not the reason the guy I was jealous of in college has been dating a girl I was obsessed with. I also can still not get over the pain of she and her friends rejecting me and treating me like the “bad guy” while the guys in the group are like Superman and Batman. I also still get mad over a girl who disrespected and patronized me just because she didn’t like an innocent card of appreciation to her a year ago. Damn, I cannot believe I restrained myself from saying a lot of bad things to some of these people.

With everything stacked up against me, at this point in my life I wonder where the hell is God in my life? The Bible says He takes care of those He loves, He lifts up those who are oppressed, and He is steadfast in love. The God of the Bible seems fine, but where is He outside the text? Over the past few months, I’ve stopped reading my Bible, praying, and journaling, contrary to what my counselor has persistently encouraged me to do. The truth is I have been mad as hell at God. I’m thinking to myself constantly, “God, I didn’t ask you to make me this way… I’ve asked you to make things better and for justice in my life, but I don’t see anything changing… How could you allow this crap to happen?

Two Years, Too Far From Colorado

Two Years, Too Far From Colorado

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

May 24, 2015

Two years have passed since I joined a few hundred other college students at a Christian leadership program in Colorado.

While I have plenty of disappointment I could air about the program, I want to focus on the positives I have cherished. Such a positive moment can be seen in the photo of myself and a few other colleagues on top of Teddy’s Teeth, a small peak we climbed on our first weekend in Estes Park, Co.

I’m standing with my colleagues atop the peak of Teddy’s Teeth outside Estes Park, Co.

A friend is another good thing I gained from my three months out in the Colorado Rockies. I became good friends with one guy I roomed with in our lodge. We spent a lot of time talking about a few issues we struggle with as young Christian men in our room, outside in the clean Rocky Mountain air, or over a cup of coffee in the guest lodge area. As with all relationships in life, we did scrap through a few petty conflicts, but we sustained our friendship. Ultimately, we gave and received from one another on our way to healthy spiritual growth.

Since returning to Ohio, our friendship has changed in many ways. First, our college life drew us farther apart. He had many duties, from acting as a residence adviser in a freshman dorm to leading a student Bible study. I continued living in a dorm across campus from him and fulfilled my own responsibilities during what was my senior year. We met up two times that school year, but, when we met up, it was very much like our supportive guy talk at the YMCA of the Rockies. Today, it’s been a year since I graduated college. He still has one final year of college, and he is transitioning into going on-staff with the college ministry there. So I think we’re both learning how to adapt to the changes in our lives to continue our good-lasting friendship.

Another thing I did gain was realizing a new way I have found to connect with God — through nature. In Colorado, I experienced a reflection of God through nature in ways I never had before. I viewed picturesque backdrops of the Rockies overlooking calm meadows of wild grass, pristine layouts of the lush green foliage in league with the terrain, and clear skies in which I often saw the entire star-lit night. All of these scenes were great to see but just a reminder of the awesome Creator who made them. Today, in Ohio, I can find beauty on a rainy, gloomy day or on a pleasant warm day on the bike trail near my hometown and be thankful for God that he ‘laid the foundations of the world’.

Writer’s Block


Writer’s Block

By Phillip Martin

Phil’s Portfolio

May 7, 2015

I’m two weeks too late. I know. I’m sorry. Now I can share why I took two months from writing my novel.

My past March is part of the reason for the long break. Several episodes of hurtful memories from high school and, most recently, my final two years in college also led to my writer’s block. Ironically some of those memories are part of my reason for the novel.

I guess I’ve found out the hard way how authors can hurt themselves when they put so much of themselves into their stories. Here is a list of general subjects my story’s characters will deal with:

Insecurity with body image

Interracial relationships



All of the issues stated above are as much important to my characters as much as they are to me. The way the story tells of the character’s hardships are based on my personal experiences. Now that I’ve found it hard dealing with my own real-life memories of the past, I will most definitely modify some of my character’s experiences. The trick is preserving my author’s licence of evoking a conversation on the difficult issues above that millions of people face each day.

Furthermore, I want to share about some other issues I’ve been dealing with in writing this story:


Eleanor is the main love interest of Arlan, who is another main character in my novel. They will have a future together.

The hardest thing has been creating Eleanor. Actually, the truth is creating Eleanor was easy. I just based her off of several people I’ve encountered in real life. The most difficult thing has been molding her into a person without her becoming a facsimile. (I’m pretty sure several real people I’ve based the character on would not approve of such a fantasy.)

To ensure that I didn’t simply copy a real person, I gave Eleanor some unique characteristics. The most obvious is that she is half Japanese and Russian with an average body type. Another difference is that she plays the tenor and soprano saxophones, even though she was classically trained to play the flute and clarinet for orchestral compositions. I also made her relatively reserved and diffident but very mature for her age, in contrast to a few outgoing people I encountered.

Supporting Characters

Another difficult task has been creating supporting characters that interact with Arlan and Eleanor. So far, I have developed the following characters who have important roles in the story:


She is based off another real person. The big difference is that she can foresee future events and also recall flashbacks of people’s past experiences. She has all of this ability while being blind.

Ash becomes a good friend to Eleanor, and she also grows as a very influential character in my novel.


I can say that Elden is just as much influential as Ashlynn. Although he has been marred because of a costly mistake in his past, he is chosen to be a mentor and colleague for Arlan.

Later on, Eleanor discovers that Elden may not be who (or what) everyone thought he said he was.

More Than A Love Story

The final thing I will share is my difficult task of trying to make this novel more than a love story between Arlan and Eleanor. Arlan and Eleanor were destined to arrive to another realm of reality so that they become patriarchs from the ashes of two races of people. I can share that this realm contains a society where four races exist — two of them being more supernatural (of which Arlan and Eleanor learn they are offspring, respectively), the third being more human-like, the fourth are humans taken to this realm by abduction. What happens is that the two more powerful races warred against each other after eons of peace. A demi-god-like villain takes advantage of this war, seeking total power. Arlan, Eleanor, and their friends have to stop the villain. Then, Arlan and Eleanor bridge the gap between their peoples in the end — The End.