Morning Ritual

Morning ritual
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

“Build your life brick by brick.

Live a life of truth,

And you will look back on a life of truth.

Live a life of fantasy,

And you will look back on delusions.”

Order “365 Tao Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao”

Waking, shaking my body free of sleep in the mornings, any morning, is a ritual, more than a series of routines, habits that one is guaranteed to fulfill because they are a robot and not a live, breathing human being. There were other mornings when I would crawl out of bed on hands and knees because my mind and my body were so poisoned (you pick the poison, alcohol, drugs, the despair that comes with no sleep from breaking night) that I could barely testify whether I was in a dream or a nightmare or death.

Sleep was an interruption to a stress-filled rush of time measured by how fast I could speed through minutes, hours, or a day that it all became a blur; a series of events, people crashing into each other with no purpose or goal other than it just was and my body would carry me along praying (not in a religious sense but in the sense of desperation) that it would not drop me. Until it often did.

Morning ritual
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Now, I know better after years of falling hard. Of getting my head crushed under the weight of failure and disappointment, I get it. You can either let time control you, or you can control time. Your time. No one else’s time, just yours. And it begins with that moment you wake. You know this is another opportunity to discover, to be someone new, to build a day brick by brick different from yesterday, more beautiful than yesterday, to live with purpose and not just glide through with no hope, no moments of joy, allowing yourself to be in a time of being.

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.”

Henry David Thoreau (1817-62)

That second that I push or pull (aging can do that) myself up from the bed begins my morning ritual (I will not lie; I am often in awe that I am still here). Shaking my body to the bathroom with each step, eyes opening from looking down to looking straight ahead, from stumbling to erect, catching my stride from wariness to determination.

The water flows, warm, over and through my hands, washing over my face, erupting every cell in my cheeks, mouth, nose, eyelids, and neck. The electric toothbrush in my hand vibrates in my mouth, stimulating every cell ending awake and alive.

I stand in the quiet of my bathroom in our house (I recognize that I have the privilege to have one). No one else is there with me, another privilege knowing I am lucky as fuck to have my own space while everyone else is still asleep at five in the morning. My only companion is the quiet that accompanies me to the kitchen and the Keurig coffee maker as I scan the world outside through my phone to ensure the outer world is still here (those news alerts).

Morning ritual
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

The sound of coffee filling my cup (we have cups from around the world, and it’s always a happy moment to celebrate Tokyo, Barcelona, Paris, or New York). The smell of Bustelo Coffee wafting into my nose, bringing back memories of that first spoonful Titi Bebé would give me, of that strong coffee when I was too young to be drinking coffee at all. Flashbacks to 2595 Third Avenue in the South Bronx when my memory swears, I could smell the roasting coffee coming into our apartment from a nearby Bustelo factory.

Cup in hand, I walk, determined to my office. No hangover (I am sober twelve years this September) and no scratching mistakes from the previous day out of my mind.

There’s a ritual. I recheck the day ahead. It’s all laid out before I go to bed (yes, I have a ritual then too). My headphones pump meditation music into my brain, creating a cocoon of thought, wrapping me in a warm blanket of sound, and giving me peace and inspiration. I open my meditation writing notebook and begin a reading and writing ritual that opens a universe before me. Wise words followed by their meaning for me, how they inspire me to create my definitions, and my interpretations for what opportunities I may build brick by brick for my day ahead.

Morning ritual
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

A poem, a narrative, a story built from memory, or a fiction coming from somewhere deep inside of me whose origin I cannot trace, and I swear it didn’t come from a book I read or a video I watched, or a podcast I heard or maybe it came from all those things. Maybe, it came to me when I was fifteen years old on my way to school on the number 26 bus rolling over Westchester Avenue, or was it when I was lying prone in my vomit when I was thirty-two in a stranger’s apartment after testing my limits with alcohol and failing miserably. Stories, true or false, come to all of us in the strangest of places and times if we can remember them all. The truths that would rise.

“Take the breath of the new dawn and make it part of you. It will give you strength.”

Hopi saying.
Morning Ritual
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

In my quiet time, I gather my truths, my strengths, the courage, and determination to throw the past behind me as lessons learned, know that today will be one day part of that past and that I have the power to shape it, to make it shine with beauty and peace and wisdom during my morning ritual.

A Boy with A Gun in His Right Pocket

Image by Vinson Tan ( 楊 祖 武 ) from Pixabay
He’s got a gun in his right pocket

	or is he just glad to see his mom & pop he’s six years old & he already knows that it’s all just cops & robbers cowboys & Indians crips & bloods rivalries where red is just a color on grey sidewalks & body outlines are the graffiti of the day
Image by Victoria_Watercolor from Pixabay
He’s got a gun in his right pocket

	older than his age heavier than his soul longer than he’s been alive trained since he could see you tube & that time his mom & pop took him down to the corner bodega to sit in the street bleachers to watch the shootout between the latin kings & the black guerrillas as they battled over the rights to rob the bodega owned by refugees from north korea on the first of the month before welfare cashing time when the benjamins are lined up single file ready for their cue
He's got a gun in his right pocket

	& he knows how to use it since all those instructions were injected into his soul through his eyes & ears by cereal boxes & fighting videos & music videos & episodes of star wars & dungeons & dragons flooding the unsocial social media where the tick-tock-time is running out before you’re dead
Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay
He’s only six years old with a gun in his right pocket 

         ready for his close-up the one where he holds that big ass cannon with both hands legs spread wide for balance his right eye focused down the barrel aiming for the heart of a people who are too busy working five jobs for rent money for the golden home in the sky that will never come while they drown in their own misery
Image by YasDO from Pixabay
He's a six year old boy with a gun in both his hands

	laughs as he pulls the trigger pressing harder than the wishes he wished at his sixth birthday party when he blew away those candles & this time he blows away his teacher back again the wall motherfucker because well he saw it on that new damn streaming service that his big brother siphoned off their next door neighbor who siphoned it off from the neighbor across the street ain’t technology grand

	and now the blood smears the blackboard wall & the cries of despair are not heard because no one believes this is real. 

Purse Snatch

The following short story is based on actual events. The story was submitted to my Short Story class, English 405, in the Fall of 2021 at California State University, Long Beach. It has been edited for clarity.

The complete version of this fictionalize account can be found at Chacho and the Five Dollar Bag (Part 1) and Chacho and the Five Dollar Bag (Part 2).

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

It seemed simple enough. Be the lookout for Carlito at the corner of 142nd and Willis Avenue. Hector’s Barber Shop is two doors down, where Hector himself would give me a razor cut every two weeks on any Saturday. Sitting in that chair as if I was on a throne listening to Doble-OOO radio station and traditional Puerto Rican music and Spanish-language chatter oozing out like milk from momma’s breast. Next door is Sammy’s Pizza, where, on a good day, Sammy would give us small paper cups of water for free instead of filled with the Italian Ice they were meant for. He knew why we wanted them: to drop clean water through an eyedropper into a bottle cap filled with a small blob of cotton and a five-dollar bag of smack in the belief that we could purify the death created in the name of the father, the son, and the holy ghost.

At least the water is clean. We would buy a slice for fifty cents to say thanks. “Bless you” is all Sammy would say as if it was his last goodbye. Just in case the water drops into the bottle cap full of smack and a small blob of cotton heated over an open flame turned out to be the final act in our dangerous and tragic play titled The End.

It’s winter. I’m cold and shivering. Seven o’clock in the evening, and people are shuffling home from bus stops and train stations and dead-end jobs that paid the rent for rundown apartments in rundown apartment buildings where they have to step over the deadbeat bodies of junkies during the dope epidemic of 1968. Hands in my coat pocket wrapped around my works (eyedropper- check, bottle cap-check, needle safely sheathed, so we don’t stab ourselves-check, a recycled blob of cotton that will not purify anything-check) bundled together with a brown rubber band in a decaying brown bag. A matchbook with 4–5 matches left with the hidden message written across the inside cover “Use wisely, sucker. This is all that is left.”

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I’m standing guard looking up and down Willis Avenue and 142nd Street and up to the 14th floor across the street to make sure my fiancé, Chicky, is not looking out the window where she could see me and wonder, ‘Why is that fool standing out on that corner in this cold weather without a hat on and probably doesn’t have any gloves on?” Yeah, that’s not what she’s thinking! I’m sure she’s probably thinking “he’s looking for dope again. I’m done with him.” And she be right. She and I should be done with me because I can’t believe I’m standing on the corner of Willis Avenue and 142nd Street in this damn cold ass weather on the lookout for la Jara as Carlito stalks an elderly woman up 142nd Street toward Willis Avenue while eyeing her black purse with the determination of a beast stalking its prey.

All we need is ten bucks to split two five-dollar bags of dope, smack, skag, and the white horse. Carlito told me that he’s done this before. “Plenty of times. I grab the purse and run. They ain’t going to stop me. If I have to, I push them down. Not hard. I ain’t no animal.” Yeah, but I’ve never done this before. I don’t want to do this now or ever. But the call of the main vein, the road to a good feeling, is just too strong. Stronger than the guilt I would feel if Carlito had to push some old lady down on the ground because she refused to let go of the goddamn purse. Let it go, damn it.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Suddenly, I hear a shout and a scream shooting up 142nd Street, landing in front of me, shutting out the Willis Avenue noise of buses, cabs, and folks just trying to get home before the threatened snow piles up on the streets. They don’t have any boots because they just got here from Puerto Rico or República Dominicana and they ain’t got no snow down there.

Damn Carlito, why you have to push that woman down? She’s screaming madness in Spanish, and I can’t quite make out what the fuck she’s saying as I scope Carlito running up 142nd street towards Willis Avenue. I pray (not really pray) that he’s got that woman’s purse when I see this guy in a doorway of a rundown apartment building on 142nd street. He’s just standing there, hands in his coat pocket, looking down the street. He’s gotta see Carlito running and hear that old lady screaming mad as hell shit in Spanish. I may not speak Spanish, but I know enough that she’s talking stuff like, “Stop him, please!” and “He robbed me!” Damn it, shut up, I scream to myself. I’m freaking out looking for a way outta here. I scramble to run down Willis toward 149th Street and home but I realize I’m not running. Why ain’t I running? Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see the guy in the doorway step down and lunge at Carlito. I figured he was trying to grab him, but his arm was swinging like he missed, and Carlito let out a scream stronger than the woman’s, “Motherfucker, why you stab me?” Carlito is running but tripping, holding his left arm. Now, the guy in the doorway is joined by other men from down the street running after Carlito.

Carlito ain’t waiting for the light to change as he races across Willis Avenue dodging cars and people toward the projects. To this day, I don’t know why I joined the procession of chasers across the Avenue as they were screaming, “Stop that Motherfucker!” I know where Carlito lives, and when I catch up with them, I tell the men that I saw him cut behind the 242 building to run up 141st. They turn the corner and haul ass while I pretend to look exhausted and when they’re out of sight, I run into 242, take the elevator up the 12th floor, and knock on 12B. I see blood on the door.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Carlito’s mother can be heard screaming from inside. His sister opens the door, and she’s crying. I push my way in, rapping some shit about, “I saw some guys try to rob Carlito, and they chased him to the building, but I told them that he ran up 141st street,” and I wanted to make sure that Carlito was okay. I probably didn’t do a good job convincing them because Momma was looking at this black purse on the floor in front of Carlito, screaming at him, asking what did he do now and who did he rob? The whole scene went downhill from there.

Momma is still screaming. Sister is still crying. Carlito has his coat and his shirt off, holding a towel against his left arm, blood dripping down onto the black purse on the floor that he had taken from the old woman. It was open, and I could see that there was a bible inside. Carlito was huffing and puffing. He looked at me and then looked down at the purse with the Bible book peeking through the unzippered opening and back to me, and I’m like, What the fuck? His mother is on the phone calling someone to come over and take Carlito to the hospital, and I grab the purse swearing I’m going to return it to its rightfull owner and Carlito should be ashamed of himself but no one cares because they’re too busy screaming at each other in Spanish and English with a little Spanglish thrown in.

I step out into the hallway, find the stairs, and slowly make my way down 12 floors, hoping not to run into those guys chasing Carlito, my girlfriend, anyone from her family, or anyone who knew her. When I get to the first floor, I turn to look into the purse. The Bible falls out and down on the ground, opening up as it hits the dull gray concrete. An envelope scatters across the floor, and damn if there ain’t money flying out of it. I stoop down and grab the bills and count them. 1-2-3-4-5. There they are, five five-dollar bills. All that drama for twenty-five bucks. Oh well, I guess I’ll be getting high tonight.

I go out the back into the playground, where I walk across the project complex to St. Ann’s Avenue, Third Avenue to Westchester Avenue, and take the number 26 bus to 156th and Westchester and home.

Image by Лечение Наркомании from Pixabay

My nose is now running, my body aching and shivering from more than the winter cold. I’m not high and will get high until maybe the next day. Carlito is the one that had the connection. I’m going to be left with keeping the twenty-five bucks warm in my pocket instead of the dope in my veins.

But, I learned two lessons: one, I’m a terrible lookout that is never going to be good at committing a crime, and two, from now until the day I die, I will respect all old ladies that I see walking down the streets with their bibles and purses and ask that they forgive me even as they look at me and wonder, “What’s wrong, boy?” Nothing, I’ll tell them, I just need your forgiveness forever.

space is the place/an ode to Sun Ra

A little past midnight in the early hour of 1980 New Year’s day, I saw a performance in Washington, D.C., of the late jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, and poet Sun Ra while tripping on acid. This is a tribute to that memory.

Sun Ra
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
space   		is the place
oh 		        Sun Ra
	                and your Arkestra
where  	        jAzZ	
	               BloWs the truth
teach me TRUTH.
Sun Ra Arkestra: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert
where	             your RhYtHmS
	                     with 	joy
teach me JOY. 
Sun Ra
Image by Alexa from Pixabay
where 	your     fingers
	                      that piano 
	                      with	love 
teach me LOVE. 
Sun Ra
Image by Михаил Серебреников from Pixabay
space 	               IS THE PLACE 
cruise 	               for     answers
	                       for	wisdom
teach me WISDOM. 
Sun Ra
Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay
sail 	              into SPACE
	                      the tinsel sparkled robes 
	                      the egyptian motif
	                      the space-travel headdresses
		                     you wore 
		                     on your way home
		                     to SATURN
	                      teach me 
how to find HOME.

Steppin’ Out

Photo by Antonio Ruiz
Flyin’ at the speed of truth
through tunnels of lies
framin’ them with gold leaf
pretty borders		
                              don’t make ‘em right. 
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Steppin’ out in a gold lame tight skin reflecting suit with gold hat and gold socks and gold sneaks with a gold watch and gold emblazoned teeth don’t make you Elvis or Little Richard or a red carpet darling                     you just steppin’ out trying to be someone or something you ain’t.

Photo by Antonio Ruiz
Strut all you want
Throw confetti in the air
Wave your hands like you don’t care
Whip those hips
Stroke your crotch
Shuffle those legs
Slide those feet
		You can’t hide the truth
		You can’t fool no one
		You can’t hide behind the sweet mask
Photo by Antonio Ruiz
Steppin’ out ain’t goin’ to do shit for you
		We know. Trust me we know who you
		really are. 


Image by Duc Quang Tran from Pixabay
it's always the same
stella with a cold glass
double patron silver  chilled really well  salted rim
at the same bars with
different people
and a lot of times
the same people
wishing they had a cigarette in
their fingers
a woman or man on their arm
drunker then they are
they know they won't make the night
face up.  
Image by Jose Fernandez from Pixabay
jack daniels.  and eddie and mary and joey or pat or jose or eduardo or absolute and if it has alcohol
that's fine too.
this is not cheers
but everyone knows your name
but have no clue who you are.
Image by Social Butterfly from Pixabay
we're not really here
we're somewhere off
on a beach resort with a
tall one and a pink umbrella
and a tropical evening breeze
your brain is numb
to the hammering 
in your head
the screaming from the loudest
drunks in the room
pretending they’re not leaning over
just a little too much
or smashed down on the bar top
their face in their three dollar drinks
the plastic swizzle stick stuck up their nose

and they’re laughing 
their asses off

and no one even notices. 
Image by Angel Chavez from Pixabay
this is not cheers
but everyone knows your name
but have no clue who you are
and that's a good cold drink.

January 23, 2010

Reflections and Random Thoughts II

New Year, New Possibilities, New Future

Photo by Antonio Ruiz

“Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste they hurry past it.”

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard.
Courtesy of James Monroe H.S. Yearbook 1966

I admit it. My life has been a blur. From thirteen years of age, when I entered the seminary until now, it all seemed too fast, one step in front of another at an excessive speed. Afraid that I would miss something but instead missing so much. Worrying about how I would get to tomorrow and that tomorrow was more important than today. The deafening roar of thinking and overcomplicating a task, an emotion, the moment of experience instead of just being… in the moment of being. In between trying to smother feeling anything at all, I found the act of being a challenge. Crushing me as I tried to glide through life as an unaccompanied minor first, then as a lost adult who was making it all up as I went along. I got good at it. Faking it, that is. At least in the beginning. With time, the experiences of failures and successes helped me along. The next time, I found myself in a crisis where I had no idea what the fuck I was doing. Faking it until I figured it out was my motto. And damn, I got good at it. I fooled a lot of people (or at least I thought I did) and myself.

Photo by Antonio Ruiz
Scattered beans
Like so many memories
Randomly 	    effortlessly 
Spilled from my mind
Waiting to be picked up
And read interpreted
Understood  	and then I will know
What it all meant    About how I got here
Shipped here on a plane at 35000 feet
From East Coast to West Coast
Gliding over cities and towns and
Cotton fields and rivers and monuments
To our vanity- and traffic-crowded freeways and people
Millions of them	looking down at their paths
So they don’t fall	tripping over the cracks in their lives
Hanging on to whatever 	small dreams they have
Because	what else can they do
But not look up at the silver cylinder streaking above them
And see wishful dreams pass over them
On my way	            to an unknown future. 

Holy shit. What happened to 2022? And 2000. And 1984. And 1960. And 1948. You really can lose track of time if you’re not paying attention.

Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Life is a cat crawl

Life is a dog walk

Life is a fox trot

Life is a monkey march.

Everyday Serenity by David Kundtz [Pages 8-9]
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

I must forgive myself so that I can move on. Some people- maybe most people- are not going to forgive me, but that’s okay; I know I’m different. I strive for better than I am. To dig a hole full of guilt is a waste of time and stunts growth.

Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Please Tell Me What I am. Hispanic, Spanish-Surname, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Nuyorican, New Yorker, Spic, Latino, Latinx, American, Anthony, Tony, Lippy, Shorty, Antonio, Fatso, there is somewhere a longer list that I can’t find right now that includes Bougie, Person of color, BIPOC, Gringo, Coconut (Brown on the outside, white on the inside), it’s a really long list, not-really-an-American nor really whom I say I am, I don’t speak Spanish so I can’t be Spanish-Speaking, junkie, alcoholic, sexist, misogynist, bully, liar, I told you it was a long list, you say I’m not a New Yorker anymore so I should stop calling myself a New Yorker, father x 2, parent x 2, not a good father or parent x 2, grandfather, all the jobs I’ve ever had including messenger by subway-motorcycle-walking, counter clerk at Chock Full O’Nuts on 57th street until I went nuts, junkie, seminarian, student, petty thief (I’ve got to pay for the drugs somehow), husband x 3, drunk, drug dealer, abuser of so many people and drugs and alcohol and pills and time, writer, poet, producer of images and voices, radio host, good kisser, good fucker, bad fucker, sex fiend, television reporter, lost soul, lost, protestor, traveler, organizer, television producer, obese, marathon runner, slim, possessor of two kryptonite knees, mentally unstable,  sociopath, arrestee, unindicted co-conspirator, snitch, production assistant, supervising producer, defendant, executive producer, bartender, news director, coward, sober, lover, animal lover (they always love back), builder of imaginary worlds, truth-teller, angry man, human being, college student, student of life, scholar, essayist, news junkie, reader of everything I can get my hands on, video editor, video camera operator, mentor, consultant, small business development consultant, bullshit artist, website builder, telecommunications policy analysts, photographer, grand jury witness, stalker, psycho, man with a good heart, selfish, selfless, brother, son, bisexual, unsexual, old, older, senior citizen, American citizen, resident of the Bronx New York Washington D.C. Middletown New York Hartford Connecticut Inglewood California Los Angeles California San Pedro California Long Beach California Planet Earth The Universe, I told you it was a long list and I’m still not finished listing all the names and titles and identities that people say or I say I am begging the question why I should give a fuck since all that really matters is who or what I am in this moment to me and to hell with what everyone else thinks.

Resolutions Revisited

This is what I was thinking nearly a year ago.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

I’ve made my one resolution for 2022. I will have no resolutions. What’s the point? I’m just going to break them in one week or one month or somewhere around May when it begins to get L.A. weather lovely, and I just want to throw off all the burdens of winter and our crazy version of Spring and frolic on the beach and in the Pacific Ocean (I’m lying, I haven’t been to the beach in years except to look out over the sand and water). Resolutions are defined as “a firm decision to do or not do something.”

Okay, so I did come up with one, lose weight—the perennial favorite of tens of millions of Americans. However, I’ve decided not to count that one because I’m either going to do it or not do it, and why would I place myself in a situation where I will have to feel guilty later on about not keeping the resolution to lose weight. I could just resolve not to lose weight. Then, if I lose the weight, I will have broken my resolution, but I won’t feel bad because I lost the weight.

Maybe, that’s the trick. Resolve not to do anything, and then if you break your resolution and it’s about something positive, you won’t feel bad about it. You’ll have reached a goal through the back door, and all you did was break a meaningless promise to yourself. It’s a win-lose situation but at least win is in the equation.

Image by Joan Cabras from Pixabay

You’ve heard the old saying about don’t make any promises you can’t keep, right? Well, that’s applicable here. At this time of the year, we make this long list of promises/resolutions about the future with never fully grasping the level of difficulty inherent in keeping those promises.

Hell, we could get sick with COVID-19 the day after we made the promise and be dead in a week afterward. Or we could find ourselves invited to a sibling’s or best friend’s wedding and realizing that they’re serving food that you love and you just can’t help yourself. The smell of pernil and Arroz con gandules overwhelms you, and you eat until it hurts, and they have to carry you out of the wedding reception on a stretcher because you just didn’t have enough willpower to stick to your resolution to lose fifty pounds before your next birthday. Now, you’ve probably gained ten pounds (fifteen if you count the wedding cake and the other desserts that you stuffed down your greedy little mouth).

Image by USA-Reiseblogger from Pixabay

Yeah, none of this is good for you. You make resolutions, promise that you’re going to stop cursing at home and in public (M.F. has become my favorite word of all time, and I know it’s ugly, but it just slips out unconsciously). I know that on April 21, 2022, at approximately 7:30 p.m. I’m going to get pissed off at some news item on CNN or MSNBC, or some fool is going to make some stupid comment on my newsfeed about you know who and I’m going to M.F. them and the television set (Boy, am I old) and then I’ll feel (a little) guilty afterward, and I will swear to my dead mother and father that I will never use that filthy word ever again. I swear I’ll do that.

I’m lying. So why even go through the charade of making resolutions or promises only to end up repeating the resolution or promise after feeling like shit (another word I need to get rid of), and what does it get me? No, it’s just more inner conflict, and I’ll have to explain to my therapist that I once again broke a promise that I knew I couldn’t or wouldn’t keep.

Isn’t that the root of the issue? It’s not just that we couldn’t keep it; we never really wanted to do it in the first place. We just went through the process because, well, that’s what we’ve been trained by tradition to do, make resolutions that we know in our hearts and mind, we’re never going to keep. It’s sort of like a game of cards played with a cheat. You know they’re a cheat. They know you know they’re a cheat. But you still play the game, knowing how it’s going to turn out, but in the back of your mind, you think you’re smarter than them and that you are under the delusion that you could still win even when you know the truth. Wait what? That doesn’t even make sense.

Image by h kama from Pixabay

But we still do it because we’ve fooled ourselves. Once again. We go through life having unrealistic expectations of ourselves instead of taking a moment to take stock of where we are in that moment and decided yes, I can do that or no, I can’t do that. And if I can’t, then deciding okay, what do I have to do to get where I want to go or what do I have to learn to do what I would like to do.

Look, I’ve always wanted to climb Mount Everest, but I know that isn’t going to happen at my age unless I do a whole series of tasks that I just don’t have time for, like you know, losing weight and maybe starting with a smaller mountain or hill before I decide to leap to the top of the world.

Now, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t dream big or make resolutions or promises to ourselves or others. It just means that before you go climbing to the top of the world, you take a realistic moment and figure out what will it take to get there. It’s just about maybe taking a few mountain climbing lessons. It’s about looking at your body and mind and asking yourself if you have the ganas, the balls (metaphorically speaking) to do what is necessary to do it.

That’s why before you go all out and make that long list of resolutions to do this and to do that, you check yourself first. Do you have the ganas, the inner strength, and determination to make it happen? If you answer truthfully yes, then go for it. If you answer no, decide if you got the ganas to find yourself some ganas. Because life is always full of opportunities where ganas are necessary to make it through the day and life.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Good Ganas hunting and a Happy New Year.

Reflections and Random Thoughts

End-of-the-year resolutions that will soon die on the altar of hope.

New Year resolutions
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

What is it about the end of a year that we are compelled to reflect on the last 365 days and wonder, fascinated that we made it through the fire of days and weeks, and months of work, play, sex, love, hate, hunger, gluttony, selfishness, selflessness, the beauty and the ugliness of being here except to be able to reflect and write these words and live this life learning and growing knowing that one day we will be unable to continue anymore?

2022. I am often obsessed with the reality that I’ve made it this far, not just this one year but all the last seventy-four years of it all, even after forty-five of those years stoned, drunk, feeling nothing knowing only eyes wide shut, refusing to acknowledge that there is a better option. Eyes wide open. All the way open so that all the light, the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars, nature’s sweet calling, and the laughter of babies, children, and adults who sing in the morning and during their daily living because that’s what we should all do. Hey, it’s better than crying all the time and hiding in a closet with no light allowed to enter and no breeze, and fear is one’s only companion.

Been there. Done that. 

Goals are good. Hell, I have had plenty of them. Then, I realized that I was living for the goals and not for the moment’s journey through them. After a moment, I knew that I couldn’t tell you how much the wind breathed or the sounds of the birds and bees that sent me messages or the color of the trees and that flower that greeted me every time I stepped out of my house and the sights I passed on the freeway or city streets because all I did was look straight ahead stiff-backed eyes on the road listening only to the incessant noise of the all-news station or talk radio blabber of call in yahoos complaining about their miserable lives so then soon my life was also sad. I forgot where the hell I was or going or cared.

Kill me now, I often yelled in the emptiness of the car. 
New Year resolutions
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

2022. We’re coming up on three years of the pandemic (you do remember the pandemic). I’m trying to fly above it, being careful not to be dropped head-first into the eye of the hurricane (knock on wood that it hasn’t happened yet), trying to defy the odds while flying to Texas (three times) and San Francisco (two times) and slipping into enclosed spaces at school with a mask on. Still, no one seems to worry on the planes and in school (do they know something I don’t?). I have been scared shitless for nearly three years, and this is no way to live or die, but amid the fear, something beautiful has happened.

Resolution number one: burst the fear like a yellow-topped pimple (yuck). Yeah, it’s ugly and gross, but so is the fear that comes with constantly looking over your shoulder and to the side of you and in front of you and all around you because you’re so worried about everybody else and everything else that you’ve lost faith in your ability to make the right choices that are right for you.

Sticks and stones will always hurt me, but fear can kill my soul. If I stop fearing, the fog can be lifted from my mind.
New Year resolutions
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Resolution number two: Be happy. Only you can make yourself comfortable. Don’t look outside of yourself for salvation. Salvation will only come from you. Don’t look outside of yourself for liberation. Liberation will only come from you.

Trust me. There is no magic pill. 

Resolution number three: Make all the goals and plans you want. Just don’t forget that you must take a path and a journey to get there. It begins at this moment, followed by another moment, followed by many more moments composed of a moment of silence and thought and meditation (something similar to stopping, looking, and listening for the eighteen-wheeler coming at you while you only think about getting to the other side of the street without looking both ways.)

New Year resolutions
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

For most of my adult life, I believed there was no time to stop for anyone or anything. I was in a perpetual hurry fueled by doubt, inexperience, and often drugs and alcohol; I just had to keep going, not knowing what direction I was headed in (I don’t know where I’m headed, but I’m going there anyway) as long as I got there only to find out later that it wasn’t the place I wanted to go to. Or needed to be there. There was no map or directions, only a meandering, sometimes blind journey. What a waste of time, I would shout.

But was it?

Here’s the last random thought. All those detours, dead ends, and misdirection somehow became embedded in my brain and eventually became guard rails, signal lights, bells, and whistles at those intersections in life we always find ourselves. I could count on them to help me decide at that moment so that I wouldn’t again drive off the road or a cliff or something crazy.

Lesson learned. 
New Year resolution
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

I got goals and plans for 2023. Big goals. Big plans. Big dreams. In the meantime, I’ll relax, lay in this moment, and be.

And that's a good thing.

American Flag 1

One in a series of narratives on being American

American History
Image by SEDAT TAŞ from Pixabay

The red white and blue flag waved on high as it celebrated freedom and loyalty even as the founding enslavers who promised everyone freedom but was really meant for land owning white Europeans a life safe from the horrors of living next to people who did not look like then and we believed them as we saw their neighbors lynch fathers and mothers while their own children stood witness as blood ran from the back of their heads in the cold rain with the red white and blue American flag waving as truth behind them on the same courthouse steps where they were ripped from a courtroom and carried high above the cheering crowd as if they were heroes to be honored but were instead just another number of so many numbers their clothes stripped and burned at their feet as they wailed one last song of hope for their children and their children’s children and the generations in an unknown future before the final layers of skin were torn from their faces and hands and feet and there was the blessing by the man with the white collar and black suit and black hat and bible in his hands with the pages turned to the curse of Ham held high as he gave the crowd the consent they wanted but was not necessary because they knew their flag was all they needed to prove that their nation was indeed theirs in the name of their enslaving fathers their privileged sons and their arrogant spirits. Amen.

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