It’s been while since I last blogged and since then, a lot of things have changed. Whether good or bad, what’s most important is that it’s all part of the process.
A few months ago, I took a Director of Outreach and Development position with Cruciform Church in Hollywood, FL. The mission of Cruciform is, “To Join God in the Spreading of His Fame and Restoring the Streets.” In my mind, I had no idea what that even meant. For those that know me, know that I’m not really interested in positions or titles for plenty of reasons. But let me be honest here: I was at a serious point of frustration and it was not a good place for me. After many months of seeking, asking, watching, and praying, it was time for my family and I to move on. While some of my reasons were based on my personal convictions, most of it was based on my desire to see the continued growth of my family. After three months, I will admit that I could not be more at peace about my decision. I realized long ago that I was different – hard headed to say the least. But I also realized that I was not willing to sacrifice comfort for my call. Sure, I knew where my heart was and is – I’m missional – but the problem was I didn’t know how I could apply that with The Word and a lack of mentorship and training combined. This caused me to be frustrated. I’m a practical dude. I just want to learn, train, and apply – all in that order. I’ve always felt that in order for me to be effective, there needed to be more than just a regular church service on Sunday.
I’ve always believed that the day you’re not open to learning anything anymore, you instantly become a dummy.
I took a position to not only work full time in ministry, but with the heart to help train others for mission. My task is simple: I’m looking for people who have a missional heart— not people who simply love to go to events every few months and take selfies of them doing “outreach” but people who seriously want to be trained on how to become a resource in their communities… walking around in packs building real relationships with real people throughout our neighborhoods where real bridges can be built for The Gospel to not just be heard but received… I’m looking for people who are committed not just to memorizing a bunch of gospel verses but for people who seek to demonstrate them same verses in power! What I’m looking for are people who live an “in your face” approach to loving their neighbors with the desire to see people and neighborhoods transformed. We are the city pack!
I want to train people to not be information booths, but rather people whose lives are marked by missional intentionality, not sometimes but all the time. Listen, i’m not the wiz and I’m definitely not the only “missional” practitioner out there. I’ve simply learned some things and am hoping to continue learning together with others with the help of an established network of resources, training, and mentoring.
Don’t get this twisted: This is much bigger than recruiting you to my church. My heart is to help people become more effective in outreach but after growing frustrated with a lack of training and intentionality I came to the conclusion that if we truly want to grow in these areas it had to become part of our DNA so that it is no longer something we’re dreaming about but rather something that we’ve become.
It’s not going to be easy, this is not sitting in a class writing a bunch of notes and heading out to a section of the city with a neat and clean plan. This is class on the streets in the sun, sweating and in uncomfortable situations learning, growing and restoring our city. We are #CITYPACK.
Are YOU ready?
While driving so many hours for pizza sounds crazy to some, I’m crazy enough. Hearing who the “Who-Has-The- Best-Deep-Dish-Pizza” debate in Chicago is entertaining. After a pretty extensive conversation with fellow writer Paul Martinez, I was sold on Lou Malnati’s. He had me daydreaming inside the car on our way there as he spoke about everything from its texture to its unique sauce. When we finally arrived at our downtown location at about noon, we found the place jam packed with the lunch crowd.
The sudden smell of this pizza had me thinking deeply about how this experience would be. We enjoyed a short wait for our order – an original deep dish pizza. Make no mistake, this deep dish was not thick bread based pizza with tons of toppings. Lou Malnati’s is different for all the right reasons. The crust is thinner than most which makes for a special crunchy and buttery outer core. The sauce is indeed the kicker: not too strong but with the perfect hint of acid, almost citric. The high quality pepperoni and Wisconsin cheese makes it all come together. Truly this pizza was one of the best I have ever had. I tried nothing else, but then, why would I? After this breath taking pizza eating session, it was only fitting to take two pies back to Miami with me. Not from here? Take my advice: have it shipped. The Lou Malnati’s experience has made me a firm believer that Chicago’s version of pizza edges NYC. Deep dish rules!
I’ve been hearing about Pincho Factory for a couple months, but because of distance I haven’t had a chance to make it out there. After finally making it there, I was amazed by how small it was. Pincho Factory has some real cool concepts of what should be in a burger, and I got to say we love them. Sweet Potato tots with a nice dipping sauce and a freaking Fritanga burger. Getting excited, I decided to try the Double Fritanga burger, with a side of tots. Imagine, a burger combo of two huge juicy in house grinded beef patties, a thick slap of nica cheese, and a nica salad to add crunch to the burger. Man, can you say hamburger overload!
Prices are great honestly for the quality. You can’t knock these guys. I felt like I needed to go back, to many choices and I’m only one mouth. I honestly feel like I made a mistake by not telling the girl at the front who was knowledgeable about the food, that I wanted the burger medium, because it came well done and it wasn’t that tasty. The toppings easily make this burger standout. The picture tells the story. The tots were creative but they don’t make you feel like you’re eating a regular crunchy tot, more like a semi soft exterior that tries to be a replica. They taste good don’t get me wrong but lack that real tater tot exterior that makes you love them. The fries, well let’s just say that’s a whole another story. Pincho Factory makes really good fries, with layers of serious flavor to something so simple. Slow cooked onions, salt, spices, and a ketchup mayo sauce combo that makes you wanna slap your mamma, this stuff can cause addiction. The flavor was amazing.
The final verdict on Pincho Factory isn’t complete but I gave you some options to begin with. I will be going to Pincho Factory again because I was left with a few interesting things to try like the “The Globber,” “Perfecto Burger” and some guava burger looking thing , yes that exist people. Pincho Factory gets me excited but my review is not done. I will see you soon Pincho Factory.
Juan Atiles is better known to his close to 400,000 followers (and counting!) in the social media world as LeJuan James, in honor of his basketball idol, Lebron James. Born of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent, the young comedic actor made his atmospheric leap into the public eye with gut twisting skits portraying Hispanic culture and its community. Inaxxs’ own Manny Garcia had the opportunity to sit down with LeJuan James to find out what made him drop everything – school, work, etc. – to do it for the vine.
Do you remember the moment you realized that using your phone to make videos was bigger than something that was just cool to do?
I always remember that. I’ve been able to change my life, not only for myself but for my family. I was able to put myself in a position to be successful off of social media. Honestly, I got started on Vine. I was playing around. It wasn’t something that I was thinking about doing. I was a full time student/full time retail manager. I wasn’t really thinking about it. I got my family involved and people started gravitating to it. When I started seeing that I was a couple of weeks in and then a couple of months, the type of energy and attention that it drew, that it forced me to dedicate my life to entertainment. I had to leave my job and school. I had to drop everything. Everyone I knew was looking at me crazy. I had never been the type of dude to take risks, but I took a leap of faith and everything is turning out really good for me and I’m really excited.
Give us an inside look at the typical day in the life of LeJuan James. You made a radical jump – a leap of faith as you said. What’s the inside scoop? Do you write something up to post on Instagram?
To be honest, my days are really laid back and chill. There isn’t a routine or schedule for my content. I feel the real creative content comes out when it isn’t forced and it’s not over-thought. I can be watching something and get to thinking about it. For instance, I just happen to be scrolling through the internet and saw The Simpsons and thought about how funny it would be if I reinvent it from the Spanish culture point of view. The content comes out much better when it’s not overdone. I make sure that the content is relative to everyone and has humor. The day in the life of LeJuan is chill.
With everything that has happened for you over the past year with Vine, are you ‘programmed’ now? Is everything you see and experience something you immediately translate into an Vine video? Do they come at any moment?
Yeah, my body and my mind is programmed. I mean, me personally I have to come up with content everyday. I’m not stressing over it. I don’t mean to sound cocky, but it’s the confidence in me that I know I’m going to deliver something good that the audience wants. I see my following and how fast it’s growing. I pay attention to what the public wants and the perception of what to humorize.
I’m very conscious of my image, the things that I do, and what people are saying. I study social media as if it were a job. It’s a science to me. I have particular times to post, particular passions, and certain things I want to talk about. It’s a business at the end of the day.
MG: Let’s talk about the phone. Everyone talks about how funny your videos are. I thought it would be dope to talk about the important your phone is. I have a two part question. 1. How important is your phone and have you change your phone? and 2. If you talked to a phone company, what would tell them to change for people to better interact with social media?
Cell phones are extremely significant. 99.9 percent of the population cannot function without their phone. When I was growing up we didn’t have the phones that we’ve have now. I see kids in school with the new iPhone 6. Generations are evolving and the phone is part of their lives. I have been able to impact hundreds of thousands of people through a device that was originally created to communicate from Point A to Point B. It’s an integral part of my life and everyone else. As far as companies helping to better interact with social media, third parties have done this. Twitter, Vine, Snapchat, etc. These third party platforms have given me the opportunity to get ahead. This is America and this is a place where you can make your own dreams. I mean, I wake up everyday and feel blessed because I have been able to take advantage of opportunities through a phone. There is so much interest in cell phones that it gives the public more interest in me because all of my work is through a phone. You’re always connected to LeJuan James. Whether it be Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and now I’m working on some stuff for YouTube. You just have to make sure you’re marketable. You have to continue to evolve yourself.
Tell me about your videos. I checked out your YouTube and you do a pretty dope job at acting. What’s so cool is that it relates past Puerto Rican and Dominican culture. They’re hilarious and the comedy is clean and I was thinking that there are so many out there who do things on YouTube that is really edgy. Why did you make the decision to keep it clean and so far what has it shown you?
I know I represent Hispanics. There are stereotypes and I want to break those barriers. I don’t want to be another stereotype. I want to show that Hispanics can be educated and progressive, be about their families, and want to get ahead. Specifically in the comedy department, some feel like they have to curse to bring humor, degrade females, or to talk about drugs and crime. At the end of the day that’s not what I represent. A big portion of that is the way I was brought up. I refuse to let society change my mindset. I get people from all walks of life being able to identify with my work and I’m very proud of that. That’s what resonates with me and there’s no dollar amount that can change that.
Let’s talk about the pressure. Is there any to constantly bring out content that is relevant and funny?
I try to live one day at a time. I know many people have high expectations of me, but I just focus on the next thing.
What is the future of LeJuan James beyond just doing Vine videos? I know you done some hosting of parties, done some stuff with Univision Orlando. How do you see LeJuan James five years from now?
As far as the future, we have a lot going on. I invite people to check me out on all social media platforms. It started out with the videos and now we’ve been able to branch out to other platforms. I’m right now on a TV station every Sunday, working with Telemundo on some things, and quite a few other things. The sky is the limit. I don’t want to just label myself. I’m an entertainer. I want to be in movies and TV shows. I want to be able to do everything in my ability. It’s a year in October that I left my job to go on this voyage and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.
I know that family is very important to you and plays a very vital role in your life. Hispanics are pretty private about their lives. Give me a word that describes each one of your family members that are included in your videos.
Everything that has happened to me and has got me to where I am now is my family. When you see you videos, you see the bond. I have a traditional family that really loves each other. Without their unity, I would never be even where I am now.
MG: What team on your own? iPhone or Android?
Listen, I’m on both. I shoot all my videos on iPhone because the video editing is better. I use my Android to talk on. I win all the time. (laughs).
While on a trip to Mississippi, I was clear on getting BBQ. In Miami, awesome BBQ is hard to come by or at least is difficult to find. Cozy Corner was the place I was told to go to. After watching a history video on the place, I wanted to feel the same thing I saw on the video. When you arrive to the Cozy Corner it’s pretty clear that you’re in the hood, which I love by the way. Yeah, I’m from the hood, enough about the restaurants area.
If you’re looking for a serious decor, cool lighting and nice set up this isn’t for you but if you want finger licking BBQ, than this is the place. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon to find the owner sitting table side talking with customers and just helping all around. You could tell that many of the customers are regulars as they speak like family.
We couldn’t help ourselves so we ordered way too much food like rib tips, rack of ribs, and chicken. The portions are huge. The BBQ sauce is a little sweet but counters well with the deep smoky flavor of the meat. Service is OK, a little un-personal, sort of felt like they knew we were from another state.
The BBQ is moist, soft, smoky and ohh so succulent. Yes, you can lick your fingers now. If you can get pass the not so great decor and all your worried about is amazing taste than you hit a home run!!!
* A small tip for all my sweet tooth loving people, try the banana pudding. It’s so good, simple yet done right. We took 5 servings for the road which never made it to Miami. Cozy Corner gave us history, not so great service and serious good BBQ. Don’t worry about the neighborhood, you’ll be fine. Stick to the food, you’ll be safe there.*
When I arrived at Glazed and Infused in Chicago, Illinois, I predicted I was going to get some serious fried dough. It was a cold Saturday morning as I arrived to a hip doughnut shop with great decor and a serious amount of small samples. You can actually try 80 percent of the doughnuts before you buy which really makes a serious first impression.
As I gazed at the vast variety of options, I thought of taking them all but realized that wasn’t going happen. I kept it simple and tried their signature maple bacon log doughnut, which was good. It’s not to sweet but has a solid balance of sweet and savory flavor, making it a great doughnut. The whole time there, I was tempted to try these huge home made marsh-mallows.
The staff is very friendly and made me feel at home. They gave great info on the doughnuts and the history of the shop. There’s something about Chicago’s cold winter weather with a great cup of coffee, and a huge glazed birthday doughnut from Glazed & infused, it’s as good as it gets. Be ready to see working people in the area. Parking is limited which was the only down side. Tips for newbies, do what I did, get someone to drive you up to the location and wait outside while you pick the fresh,glazed ,fried goodness. Glazed and Infused has really made a new fan, especially with all the amazing doughnuts I didn’t try.
See you soon Chicago!
When you say coffee house, few will ever think, nice, sunny, and river side location can be mentioned in the same sentence. Chattahoochee Coffee Company in Atlanta, Georgia is not your normal, overcrowded, free Wi-Fi and hip location. It’s the simple things in Life; a nice cup of coffee and river side.
First let’s take a look at the location. Inside a private apartment complex sits this small but unique coffee house. Walk up the stairs to get a coffee and head outside to an amazing relaxing experience, with lounge chairs, rocks or even a mountain trail if that’s your cup of coffee. The Chattahoochee River is feet away from the coffee house and it just makes the fact of getting a frappe or hot coffee something exciting and blissful at the same time.
The Service is friendly and knowledgeable. No big machines, just the classic real way of brewing coffee. Prices are fair, coffee is good, and parking is easy with in house staff telling you where to park which is nice. The beautiful nature background is what easily sets this place apart. You have to see it to believe it. Have a nice cup of coffee on the rocks and the riverside are things you will never forget. Coming from Miami, it was a new and refreshing in every sense of the word. Or coffee bean in this case.
A Cuban dude from Hialeah starts a food truck and in less than a year has one of Miami hottest eateries.
Latin House Grill is the perfect combination of Cuban and Mexican like you never tasted before. I must admit from the start, LHG is never open on Mondays (Which left me bummed out the first time I attempted to show up because I didn’t look at the website to see what’s up.) “Who cares, they said the food is good.” I decided to take the 25 minute drive from my house to show up at the House that has the best burger! I made the wrong choice to show up when there was to big of a crowd.
The first thing on the menu was the sneaky nachos. The Sneaky nachos are thebomb.com! First you pick the protein, and then sit back and enjoy the Flavor rollercoaster. I picked the care asada sneaky nachos, they are not your regular nachos. They have tender pieces of carne asada with in house cheese sauce, Pico de Gallo and this white cheese sauce makes it all better. There is no overly melted cheese to cover up chips that over power the protein, just a blissful amount of carne with 2 cheeses to get you started correctly.
Looking around the table I began to pick other options. Be very clear, the Vaca frita at LHG is some of the best I’ve had. Either there’s a mom in the back putting her elbow into the flavor bowl or I just can’t describe what you’re getting. It had a little bit of a bitter orange taste and something that was marinated for a while, either way it stands alone. The lettuce wraps with chorizo are also really good. Lastly I had the Champ Burger (which recently won The Burgie awards), it has the perfect heat to get you going. LHG is very good all across the board and if you get the waiter who’s a part time comedian ( John Q ) you can get a few laughs free. I’m in Mad Love Heaven! Till we meet again LHG!
Heirloom BBQ is definitely a hidden gem . The Korean BBQ spot, hidden next to a supermarket in Atlanta, turns out amazing brisket, ribs and so much more. If you want to eat there get ready to stand as they have an outside patio section. I’m sure once you get a bite of anything on their menu the urge to sit will go away in seconds.
Based on reviews from the locals, I had to try their Korean BBQ sandwich. The idea of the sandwich got my taste buds going. The sandwich consists of kimchee, BBQ pork chunks and a nice brioche bun. The spicy pork with the mix of not so hot kimchee, a hint of sweetness, was a great balance. Every bite of the sandwich has a burst of serious flavor.
Brisket was next on the menu. They deliver a nice portion of smoky, soft, tender brisket with so many beautiful black ends. Man it’s like Gold I tell you. The brisket stands alone without anything, it’s almost like candy. I made a huge mistake by not ordering more.The Brisket is a must have.
Heirloom BBQ is affordable, fast and delivers top notch BBQ. If you’re looking for something a little different when you come to Atlanta this is the place you need to visit. The locals know the good stuff, Heirloom BBQ might not have the biggest location but they aren’t lacking the big flavor!!!!