Spring Break

Spring Break
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Partying in Palm Springs. Galivanting through Cabo. Rolling the waves off Waikiki. Yep, that’s me on Spring Break…yeah, that’s not happening. I’ve always been intrigued by the college ritual of Spring Break. Any excuse for falling down drunk, orgies, drug-tainted nights where you surrender yourself to whatever whim and desire you wish with the promise you will not remember a bit of it the following day or the next week, so there will be no guilt that you acted wildly out of character and hopefully anonymously. The fear of exposure makes you pucker up your brain and shrink away into a corner to hide.

I remember days like that so long ago, and I wasn’t attending college. It was more than a lifestyle. It was a mission to see how many party days I could fit into one day, to hell, one weekend. I proved that one could fit more hours into twenty-four hours, squeezing minutes into seconds, hours into minutes, and days into hours. Time was stretched and compressed so much that you lost the rhythm of the space-time continuum. Back then, there was no point in a watch. What would be the point? The watch could not measure the stream of lies you told yourself that this would be the last time you got this high and this drunk, the last party you would attend and then forget about it as soon as you left (Who are all these people? How did I get here?).

In 1980, driving a friend’s Volvo (What a great car) back from Miami to Washington, D.C., we stopped in Daytona Beach to catch our breath. Who remembered that it was Easter weekend and Spring Break? Well, we sure didn’t as we traveled up and down A1A looking for an empty room and finding laughter from the motel clerks instead. What do they say about perseverance and patience? Hey, it was a bed in a room with a shower and the sounds of drunkenness and sex and a party next door until they broke night, and you realize that there’s not going to be any sleep in this room.

Spring Break
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Everyone outside has to be at least twenty-one or two or eighteen or even seventeen, not that it mattered as you walked the beach sands. You could swear there was a rule somewhere that driving your car in wet sand was not a good idea or even legal. Still, there they were, racing north and south through a gauntlet of screaming, hysterical, barely standing, barfing college students (I just assumed they were all college students, but something told me that this was also Spring Break for high school students too). We stood at the water’s edge and wondered why we felt so old in our early thirties, and partying like this was a strange occurrence. The only difference between them and us was that we were drunk in a two-story row house or the Hawk N Dove and not on an Atlantic Ocean beach. We also didn’t drive a convertible up and down Rhode Island Avenue half-naked, drunk, stoned screaming. No, we were a little more circumspect and cautious that we didn’t perform gratuitously in front of the police (Funny, I don’t remember ever seeing any Daytona Beach police). There was no sleep to be gotten that night. Not with hard-core partying on either side of our room (what was that rhythmic stomping coming from both rooms?). That was one of those nights that you knew you would write about one day.

Spring Break
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

This week, I’m content with hanging at Seal Beach and Sunset Beach and taking photos of the sky, ocean, and beach. Sitting at the sand’s end and closing my eyes and listening, a quiet close listening, for the sounds of the enormous container ships as they ride the still waters to their final destination. The screeching seagulls ride the waves of air, showing off their wide wingspans, teasing us to look up so they could aim for your head. Yuck. The sand was wet from last night’s storm. But there are the brave folks who, on an early weekday morning, are either walking across the sand or are firmly ensconced in a beach chair smoking a joint with only Catalina Island in front of them the twenty-eight miles from shore, the wealthy million-dollar homes lining the beach behind them. I’m cool with the peacefulness as I pump my meditation music into my earphones, allowing it to flow into my head and my body down to my toes. Spring Break. It’s just another excuse to search for and find those rare quiet moments when you can flush the bullshit out of your life, breathe easily, lazily, comforted by the inner voices that speak to you in many tongues, and you hear them say, it’s all cool. Daytona Beach is a million miles away and a thousand years ago, and that Spring Break is not this Spring Break.

With four or five weeks left in the semester, I am trying to get ahead in my studying, so I will use some of my driving and beach time to catch up on some reading and writing. It doesn’t mean I can’t mix chilling into the life I always dream about. The one where I’m done with twenty-four-hour parties and being reckless in Sodom and Gomorrah and trying to prove some dumb point which I forgot what it was a long time ago. No, I’m good with this life—this Spring Break.

Spring Break
Photo by Antonio Ruiz
The Ocean
	i look at it
	never setting my feet
	in it…not even the sand
	touches me.
	on the edge
	scanning the horizon
	searching for what’s 
	out there
	the surfers in their black suits
	sailboats dodging 
        the container ships	
	that dwarf them
	your cars, furniture, 
        spring clothes
	deep in their bays
	passing me and don’t have a
	care in the world
	because it’s the ocean i wish upon
	the majesty of its vastness
	the deepness of its body
	the hope of its promise
	waiting for me
	to stand at its edge 
	and pray (not in that way)
	pray that it will always 
        welcome me. 


Photo by Antonio Ruiz

I recently wrote about my morning ritual. Listening to new age music, consulting several books: Everyday Serenity by David Kundtz and 365 Tao Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao, among others. During those sixty minutes, my world is focused on words that inspire, challenge, and ask more questions than I ever thought I needed. This is my time. A meditation on one moment in my life. To begin the day aware. I am prepared to make every second count, even if that means doing something or just letting life pass by me by doing nothing. And I’m okay with that.

“No matter how much restriction civilization imposes on the individual, he nevertheless finds some way to circumvent it. Wit is the best safety valve modern man has evolved; the more civilization, the more repression, the more need there is for wit.”

“Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious” (1905) Sigmund Freud
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

I probably don’t laugh, tell, or listen to enough jokes. Or laugh at me enough. Be silly enough. Speak enough witty statements. Look at the world and scream laughter at how silly this all is. It’s shocking and laughable all at the same time. How foolish we are here in the United States of America, where the past is being exposed as untruth for some, and for others, the past is being revealed for its truth. Someone has been lying all the years I’ve been alive, or maybe they believe what they want to think. I should laugh about that more often because, in the end, I need to understand how all this will impact me at my age.

“Remember that you are always your own person. Do not surrender your mind, heart, or body to any person. Never compromise your dignity for any reason.”

“Youth” Page 239- 365 Tao Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

I often tell myself I am a leader more than a follower, but I question that sometimes. I come across a piece of writing that grabs me, and I tell myself I would like to write like that. I read about a person who inspires me with a quick wit and charming charisma and is a famous writer, actor, or visual artist, and I’m like, “I wish I could be like them.” And I know that’s silly because I know that I have much to give and be, and I find those qualities endearing and with a certain amount of charisma and hell, I’ve made it this far without being successful at killing myself, and I think “That has to count for something.” It does. I know it does, so why do I sometimes think that’s insufficient? One is unsure of themselves because they have spent a good part of their adulthood (45 years to be exact) running away from themselves and smothering themselves with drugs and alcohol and fear and insecurity. Yet somehow, there were flashes of brilliance, genius, hard work, successful work, and play that didn’t involve unnatural stimulants, illusions, or delusions. Just naked me. Open to all possibilities.

“Living life as an artist is a practice. You are either engaging in the practice or you’re not. It makes no sense to say you’re not good at it. It’s like saying “I’m not good at being a monk.” You are either living as a monk or you’re not.”

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
Photo by Antonio Ruiz

I dream of being an artist. And yet the truth is that all along, I know I am. I have been one since I first remember looking up at the clouds when I was very young and seeing people, animals, buildings, and plants in them. My imagination would run wild like a spinning merry-go-round that has come loose and is out of control—spinning faster and faster. It took me years to slow it down and realize that I was going around and around and seeing and being the same things. To change and strike a single path forward to open myself up to different views of life, different people, and truths that were opposite of the ones I believed for a long time. Being an artist allows me to immerse myself in life even when it often feels too much to take in at once, and I would drown, even if it was for a moment, three, or years.

These were the painful moments when I would shut myself down and be blind and unable to hear, speak, or feel. I didn’t want to feel anymore because it hurt. Deep down inside.

Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Now and then, a sliver of light would break through, and I would create a poem, a story, a video, a line of great thought, and there would be a relief, an insight, a truth that would inspire me to do it again and again and again. But, the pain would return, and I would have to wrap myself in a cloak of doubt, insecurity, denial, confusion, and wonder if I could ever live free again.

Photo by Antonio Ruiz

Learning. Opening my pure self to new life, new thoughts, and new experiences that’s what drives me now. To create. To put out evidence of my art while being my art. Living unencumbered by foolish memories and instead using them to hold back any thoughts of pain and to focus instead on the warmth of the sun, the tranquility of the ocean, the unique nature of a flower, the shade of a tree, the sizzling touch that comes with hugging those you love and the friends who support and love you with their trust and support. And in turn, you give back a hundredfold in the circle of life.

It’s all good. It really is.

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.

Writing For My Life

The following was written in response to an assignment to read “Write Like a Motherfucker” for English 404 Creative Nonfiction.

Photo by Antonio Ruiz

I don’t remember if I read this somewhere or someone told me this: Writing is writing. Period. If you’re not vomiting words onto a page and instead just looking out the window, standing by the coffee machine, or sticking your head in the dryer waiting for inspiration, then forget it. You’re wasting time. The blank page should be an opportunity, not an invitation to stare.

It took me sixty-eight years to realize that I could not take the opportunity of the blank page because I didn’t see it. I was too blinded by every insecurity and disorder created by drug addiction and alcoholism ever imagined. When I did get sober or straight enough to write, it was but a drop in an ocean of living. And more often than not, it was like the trash you see floating on that ocean. Embarrassing and disgusting all at the same time.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I love the line in “Write Like a Motherfucker.” The one that tells us, “You have to tell us what you have to say.” It has been mainly in the last four years since I turned seventy that it dawned on me that I understood these instructions. While school assignments have been an excellent excuse for writing (no one but me was going to write those class essays), I’ve also realized that it could be a great learning opportunity and a lab for experimenting. I could write until I developed carpel tunnel syndrome, knowing that sometimes I would write some good shit and other times I would write lousy shit that I wouldn’t want to read a second time. But that was okay. I wrote something.

I wrote through my moods (and boy, do I have moods) and the times that I ached from everything that can hurt in a soon to be seventy-four year old man. Fuck, it has come down to time. I don’t have time to waste. I got plans for my future, so I have much catching up to do. To use whatever time I have left (thank goodness old age is a family trait), I’ve got to keep busy.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Best lines in the essay:

“The unifying theme is resilience and faith. The unifying theme is being a warrior and a motherfucker. It is not fragility. Its strength. It’s nerve. And “if your Nerve, deny you –,” as Emily Dickinson wrote, “go above your Nerve.” Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

Dear Sugar, The Rumpus Advice Column #48: Write Like a Motherfucker

That is good advice that I live by every day on this plane. Do it because not to do it is not to live.

long walks on

This poem was originally posted on medium.com. In the coming weeks, I will be transferring and reposting all my writing over to antoniopedroruiz.com.

Image by Damián Fernando Tello Ceballos from Pixabay
the feet are tired
shuffling along rough roads
streets that have not been repaved
in a long time.

the body carrying the memories
of a childhood too long ago
of teen years that are hidden in history books
of sex drugs and rock and roll twenties
of adult foolishness
that you can't pick out of a police line-up.

music ripples through the memory neurons
of whatever is left
and small patches of sunlight 
are visible
and you realize 
your life has not been 
all darkness and shadows and holes
in the ground. 

the kind that gets your shoulders moving
your toes snapping
your head tossing back
your arms clearing room around you
cause it's in your blood
and soul
and deep down somewhere
you realize 
your life has not been 
all darkness and shadows and holes
in the ground. 

visiting the gallery of your life
images on the wall
that speak to you
every second of your life
every person you ever met
every action you've ever taken
every decision you've ever made
every thought you've ever had.

now you are here
it's all that matters
as you put your hands 
in your pockets
and shuffle along rough roads
streets that have not been repaved
in a long time
and continue 
the long walks on
this time smiling. 

antonio pedro ruiz january 22, 2010

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