The Inspiration of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Especially Ryan Lewis.

"I don't feel like I'm the grownup. I feel like I'm the 15-year old down the street, trying to escape, get out of class, smoke weed..." - Macklemore

...Because I seem to be on a roll with the #blessings-that-look-like-something-else; roll or rut, you decide ūüėõ

During the second banking merger I experienced in my former work life (Dryden-Meespierson by Fortisbank), the name of a very senior boss in the upper echelons of the acquiring institution began to make its way into conversations among our more immediate bosses. Firmly based in the Netherlands at the time if I recall correctly, most people in Asia didn't know that much about him.

The story that got everyone's attention however, had to do more with his perceived parenting style - which then largely formed people's impression of his personality, thereby earning him a revered and fearsome reputation as a boss: Already having several biological children of his own, he had then chosen to adopt an HIV+ child to come live with his family. One of our bosses met him and after a long dinner late one night had finally asked him why he did it. Super Big Boss had then launched into a description that included all the precautions they had to take at home, regarding open wounds and bodily fluids, trips to the hospital for blood transfusions, medications. He had wanted his biological children to learn something, from living with an HIV+ sibling. 


Ok, and now to Ryan Lewis of Hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Ryan Lewis grew up with a mum who became HIV+ due to a blood transfusion during the birth of her first child (Ryan is the youngest.) This was a year before testing was mandatory for blood given during transfusions, and she didn't find out she had been infected til after all the children were already born.

Ryan Lewis has said "it" had a profound effect on him: 'I think it really just opened up the door, as a kid, to life experiences that most of my friends didn’t know anything about.' Growing up firmly middle-classed in a conservative Christian family, his parents told him his mum had AIDS when he was 6 years old. His parents are both social workers. That giant tattoo on his forearm is an AIDS ribbon.

'This was an era when people were really shunned for having HIV,' his mum, Julie Lewis, says. When she was diagnosed with HIV, she was 32 years old and had 3 young children - 2, 4 and 6 years old. She was given a few years to live.It's called the 30/30 project because 30 years later she's still here.

I found all that out later.

Here's why I was writing about him to begin with:

Ryan Lewis was 18 years old when he met Ben Haggerty, and they started to work together 3 years later, after finishing college (Lewis majored in Comparative History of Ideas, examining the interplay of cultural, historical and political contexts - which I assume is why some of their other songs were released with a rough correlation to legislation being passed). "Thriftshop" was the first single since 1994 to hit No.1 on the Hot 100 charts without the backing of a major label. Ryan Lewis then was... 25 years old. (He is now 29.)

pic from Youtube

pic from

They eschew branded goods and make it look really cool turning second hand thrift store stuff into your own look (I like when he impresses the "sneakerheads" with his dance moves...

screen shot off Youtube

...while wearing those white velcro school shoes we've all worn to public school haha) I'm not embedding the video because of the language (my limit is soft-swearing*), so instead here's a few more screen shots:

(Rocking adult-size Batman onesies and racoon hat) pic from

...inspiring also signs and memes on rebloggy and memegenerator...

Found the Sesame Street one (sadly the real one with the bad language sounds better):

Ok here's a "clean" one, Ben Haggerty surprising his grandma on her 100th, in a nod to reality tv not unlike Maroon 5s "Sugar" video where they ambush-perform at random weddings across town, and use that as music video footage:

Note however that at the start Surprised Grandma asks, "What d'you want to do, go for a drink? Oh, you don't drink, just me. I took up your habits.." Macklemore picked up and struggled with addiction in High School. At one point his parents transferred schools, but it didn't help. Some interviews put him at 13 years old when he first raided his parents' liquor cabinet (12 shots, his first time). He eventually checked himself into rehab in his 20s on his dad's urging, only to relapse after the success of the first few hits. ("Glorious," above, is more recent.)

Now, to my next point about Ryan Lewis. His much more famous partner Macklemore is 5 years older (remember they met when Lewis was just 18), and is widely seen as the face of the duo. Jimmy Fallon even did a segment, "Who Is Ryan Lewis?"

(Then prompting articles confirming Lewis actually does everything else, from producing, managing the recording process and mixing the music, to directing the music videos.) Note he appears so secure, very non-plussed, in the fact he's the by far lesser-known half of a successful hip-hop duo that no one seems to know his contribution to - and he's fine with that. (Hello-o, Sesame Street -You replaced Lewis with Oscar the Grouch to do the kid-friendly version of Thriftshop with Macklemore - really??) So I started Googling Lewis.

Addiction features strongly in Macklemore's life, and he's a rockstar, a real hip-hop celebrity, but if you watch some of the interviews, you'll find Macklemore saying things like "If I (don't think about people other than myself), inevitably I will relapse, and Ryan will leave me and go make an album with someone who is probably not as talented but more consistent as a person.." He's also credited spiritualism with helping him stay sober.

How did this duo succeed, and how does Lewis stay so grounded? Raw, wild talent..... and Refiner's Fire.

ps: Ok, rant time, feel free to leave now ūüôā Addiction or excess are things that I grew up feeling very strongly about. I mean, I spent more than a decade in a dealing room (alcohol! cussing!), and my dad being especially fussed about alcohol prompted me to always have some in my dorm room fridge (me¬†badass!¬†:D) BUT in reality I've never been drunk in my life.

When I first started work I spent several weekends at Boat Quay "learning to drink and order stuff" so I wouldn't embarrass myself or get drunk at work events.. but Dad, that time I fell down the stairs was because I was in 3-inch platforms, not because I was drunk... Your asking me that in jest inspired me to¬†buy¬†the stuff and put it in my fridge! Imma rebel! <fist pump> Still, thank you for believing I could actually pull off feet killers¬†hooker heels¬†instruments of foot death¬†weapons of mass podiatric health destruction ūüėÄ

For real though, I once read a commentary by a young woman recovering from substance abuse, and she said someone who has never known the lure of a cigarette cannot understand the craving of an addiction. Those words scared me into never taking up smoking or getting drunk. Much harder to stop than to never start. Anyway, if you've ever wondered what it's like to smoke or try recreational drugs, you should also wonder what addiction feels like:

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Meet QQ: 8 weeks old, and with her career path set out for her

Hah! Betcha thought QQ was a human!

Hamster Ninja got a real kick out of finding QQ, an 8 week old Lab puppy, in the stroller next to our table one day when we were ordering Chinese takeout... Hailing from a long line of working dogs, QQ is being fostered until she turns 15 months, when her guide dog training will commence. For now however, she's replete from a full morning running about in this heat and sinks repeatedly, unconscious, into the depths of her comfortable stroller (which would explain why this is the first puppy we've seen in one of these strollers, usually we find old or sick dogs in them).

How will her foster caregiver deal with having to give her up when duty calls?

"She's already my second foster animal; I'm going to be doing this for awhile..."

Just so...

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Hashtag Blessed

I don't think I acknowledged how incredibly fortunate we've been in the last few weeks... and last night was no exception..

Where we were last evening - the A&E at Queen Mary

Because of what else she might have, besides this.

Hang on, lemme tell you how she got that.

Hamster Ninja flew completely beyond a bouncing castle's padded walls and landed outside the enclosure on bare concrete (yes like in the photo). It was easily a 5-foot fall from over the wall, the proprietor would shakily explain to the nurses. They had not expected any kid to fly over the wall, and so they hadn't laid the soft mats at the back, just 10, 20 feet deep in the front and along the sides. Watching from the ropes, I suddenly see HN appear over the top of the wall, landing a moment later on the floor below and screaming her lungs out. By the time I run round to the front, push through, yell at the attendant to let me in, and run back to where she fell, she's gone. It takes us several minutes to find her, tearily sliding out from another castle. Her friend's mum has called the police and mall management, but I don't wait for anyone to arrive, I just leave my number and we go straight to the nearest A&E.

I'm not squeamish about broken limbs and what-not, but I'm very concerned about head traumas. A secondary school friend long ago abruptly lost his dad during a squash match when the older man slipped on the court. Just like that. My uncle who works in the medical field came home one day to my cousin blading (slowly) round the house without a helmet and really lost it. Earlier that day he had seen a boy who had not worn a helmet, and then fallen off his bicycle. The inside of his head, my uncle said, had looked like when you drop a watermelon on the pavement.

People use "Hashtag Blessed" for the most beautiful things, for awesome vacations, for prizes, for all manner of "good stuff" that happens to them. Yesterday evening, that packed, bare bones (but very "chaotically efficient," if there's such a way of putting it), extremely busy A&E room, with the smells and the noise and the... walls.... that is our Hashtag Blessed.

At reception, I'm frantically telling the staff who appear non-plussed but turn out to move quite fast (in retrospect I think they always appear non-plussed because of the constant traffic of injured going through the crowded hospital - there's a sign that reads something like Waiting Time Will Be Increased If Resuscitation Is In Progress) how HN fell out of the bouncing castle.

Its a short wait before they determine she's stable and can wait awhile longer...

Nurses: Any dizziness?
HN: No.
Nurses: Any vomiting?
HN: No.
Nurses: Is that your mother standing over there?
HN: <blinks>
Me: Ay - hit your head already cannot remember me issit? 

All around us, seriously injured people perpetually coming in on stretchers. The ambulances empty, then go back out. There's also been a car accident, traffic police start moving between the seated people, with clipboards. And so I ask if, since HN is stable, I should bring her to a less crowded clinic for the more extensive check.

When I asked at reception, they then wouldn't take payment of the HKD 180 entrance charge, and tell me to check with the nurse re paying or moving HN.

Nurses: <pause> Are you a tourist? (I shake my head No, but this is our first urgent A&E visit; I think if you haven't got the HKID yet then the cost is HKD 1230 thereabouts) Well we can't stop you if you want to leave, but I can tell you you won't wait long because (HN)s going to be put in the urgent queue. Fall and head trauma from that height..

They're right. Not too long later, we're called to a cubicle, where a masked doctor briskly looks her over.

"...She fell... completely out of a bouncing castle from a height of 5 feet, and hit her head on the hard concrete floor."

"That must really be important information, you've said that three times."

Rockstar blinks, and we exchange a look of appreciation. Sarcastic Doctor! At the perfect moment, it diffuses some of our anxiety. Where's his cape?

Doctor (to HN): See that purple line? (HN nods) I want you to take your mum down that line to the X-ray station, can you do that? (She does, and so they know she can both see the purple line and walk on it.)

This leads us eventually to the room where HN is given a CT scan.

(which looked very similar to this) - pic from

The wait after the check and scan (after they've seen HN and verified she's not in immediate danger) is much longer. Truth be told not a few friends who have come to this hospital with less urgent needs have all mentioned the wait is long. There are many, many people who need medical attention. You can spot some of the "regulars", including several blonde-and-blue-eyeds - they've brought earphones, laptops... A couple of... Indonesians? Philippinos? Have brought full meals in tupperware.

Kings arrives after his work event, in time for us to be called back to Sarcastic Doctor's station, where he delivers the best line in the world: She's alright. Ok, Bye bye.

After thanking him profusely (honestly, he barely blinks behind the mask, he must be so swamped and preoccupied, goodness knows how many patients he urgently has to see in a night) we try to figure out where and what to pay. I get a couple blank looks over masks, before returning to the reception counter.

"We also had a CT scan"
"(slight raised eyebrows) That's.... included in the HKD 180"

The bouncing castle proprietor apologises, explains again about not laying mats at the back because they never thought kids would be falling out of there, tries to pay for our consultation. Of course Kings declines, but more than that, what stayed with me was that when we went to the counter and I was describing HN's fall "from a height of 4ft thereabouts," the proprietor, worried as he must have been about whether we were going to make a serious complaint - certainly mall management had begun to swarm and take pictures as we were leaving, including politely stopping HN on the way out to the A&E for a picture - had put the height she had fallen from without a soft mat as higher, 5 feet (not say, lower). He had not tried to downplay HN's injury risk, and we respect him for that.

So all's well that ends well. And HN's face in this quick snap I took while we were waiting briefly to enter the X-Ray room says it all:

Hashtag Blessed


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