In Spite Of It All

I didn’t sleep well last night, all on the account of our raggedy-ass phone call. I got up in the middle of the night and walked around in circles. The sun refused to come up, the stubborn sky remained gray from all the wild fires burning up California. I knew it was a Monday. I can feel Mondays even if I’d lived in a cave for the last year and had no access to a calendar. It smells, tastes and has the stench of a Monday. I don’t even work anymore—so it really doesn’t matter what day it is——-but it’s definitely a fucking Monday.

Music. I love all kinds of music. But as the saying goes, “There’s only two kinds of music—Good music and bad music”. But music like all art, is subjective——-So who’s to say what’s crap and what’s God smacked?

Music and writing have been good friends to me over the years. It consoled me, taught me lessons about myself and others, its given my blues a place to call home, its made me laugh and awoken the devils and angels haunting my soul. It’s my Kryptonite to stave off all of life’e bullshit–it’s given me a tiny glimpses of nirvana. 

I don’t know if I’ll ever sale one of my songs or stories and I suppose at this point it doesn’t really matter all that much to me. I’ve never written anything with the sole purpose of being published. I just enjoy the process of writing, dropping my fishing line into the abyss and seeing what I reel in——it’s always a mystery and fills me with a sense of wonder. A lot of my stories and songs are catch and release——Damn, see what I did there with that clever lil metaphor twist?

Here’s what I think. I think we should be kinder to one another. We should be supportive and encouraging. We should find ways to be complementary and positive. We’re all just fumbling around with ideas, emotions, words, melodies, rhythms and vibrations. We may not be on the same vibration, but we can be there for one another at some level. You’re the one who turned me on to the vibration concept. I believe there’s some truth to your theory. Those closet to us are the ones who vibrate at the same frequency. It’s something that once experienced requires no explanation.

The world is full of critics and nay sayers. So, am I asking you to offer only “happy” input in regards to my music? I guess I am. And if you feel this is phony—Well maybe it is. Art is a lonely pursuit and artist need supporters and benefactors. I’m sure you can come up with many reasons why this is hypocritical or of no value. You are entitled to your “truths”.  But for me, find good things to say or say nothing at all. And in return you can expect nothing less of me. And if this rubs you the wrong way, then I think it’s best to no longer send you projects—-I respect your opinion, although it differs from mine. 

P.S, Van Gough painted like a three year old. In his lifetime he only sold one painting. It’s hard to believe in yourself until the world believes in you. I think ya have to let go of what the world thinks. 

“Thank you, in spite of it all

For the good, the bad, the rise, the fall” 

VU

“I’ll be me, and you’ll be you

In the music, find me, I’ll find you”

VU
Love ya always brother, 

Those Were The Days

Sorry I can’t make it to your mothers Celebration of Life event. This will be my final installment to Jeanne’s letter writing project. I hope she enjoyed the previous eight letters I sent to her while she was in the rest home. I hope they comforted her and made her laugh or perhaps cry—- my stories and words were intended to help her relive some of those good ole days we shared on Briar Lane. I can’t be there to tell my story in person, but if there is a place where pictures and such are being displayed, perhaps you can post this letter.

I’m going back, I’m going way back in time. Back to the 70’s. Back to when classic rock wasn’t something you now hear being played in the produce department of Safeway. There is something unsettling about listening to Van Halen “You Really Got Me” on the store sound-system as I watch an elderly woman examine the firmness of a zucchini. 

 No, I’m going back to when rock and roll was still rebellious and social networking was hollering out your car window at girls in their cars—I can still recall those hot summer Yuba City nights and that distinctive scent of rotten peaches lingering in the stale night air. It’s the end of August and another summer is slipping away. The sound of crickets, bullfrogs and a lone barking dog make up the evenings chorus. Thoughts of returning to school leaves me feeling flat and uninspired. This is the stuff that keeps a small agriculture town like Yuba City forever tucked away at the edges of my memories. We all carry pieces of our hometowns within us. Rainy days playing monopoly, making jokes to hide our insecurities, experiencing an awkward first kiss, playing baseball in a weed strewn field, climbing the levee for a swim in the the river——and coming to appreciate the value of being part of our Briar Lane gang——-where we made friendships to last us a life time.

Back then, on our block we played outside until it got dark or someone’s mom hollered “Supper time”. Yeah, “those were the days”. That’s what old farts use to say to me when I was a kid. I thought that was a bunch of nonsense, but now that I’m an old fart, I find myself muttering “Those were the days”. I suppose, ya don’t know somethings, until you’re ready to know them. Sometimes it’s too late——- and there’s nothing worse than being too late. Too late to share a morning walk, too late to share an evening sunset. Too late to share all those seemingly insignificant moments that comprise a lifetime. Too late to say the things you always intended to say. Things like, thanks for always being on my side, thanks for believing in me when no one else did——thanks for loving me—-cause that ain’t always such an easy thing to do——just ask my wife.

So there you lay and here I stand. Although you no longer inhabit your body and it no longer imprisons you——-I will always carry your voice and memory within me. Somethings are immortal. Somethings never die. 

Jeanne——mother, wife, friend, neighbor, teacher, counselor, life learner, strong and courages, gone but never forgotten.  And to you I proudly say—— “I love you”.

Victor S. Uriz II

Briar Lane Poet Laureate  

Education and Knick-Knacks

This piece is dedicated to a good friend and talented teacher—-Roberta

A complete education teaches critical thinking, non conformity, risk taking and personal accountability. It teaches students to think for themselves and to follow facts not opinions. This requires students to become well rounded in their quest for knowledge and truth. What good is it if a student studies nuclear physics but has no appreciation for the frailties of humanity. What good is it to study philosophy but to not be given the tools to decipher right from wrong. What good it is to study history if you can’t apply it to solving todays social issues. As the saying goes, “Those that fail to learn from history are destine to repeat it”. An education should prepare students to answer the most difficult questions. This includes questions regarding morality, social justice, racism, global warming, political ideals and religion—-to only name a few.

The core purpose of education is not to receive a piece of paper that states a student has completed a series of classes and successfully passed a list of required tests. Education should provide students with the tools and skills to become contributing members of their communities. Compassion and empathy should be a common thread that runs through the curriculum of all subjects and disciplines. This is more true today than ever before.

I’ve dedicated over twenty years of my life to serve as an educator. It’s been an honor to have touched so many lives. I’ve always prided myself in being a motivator and mentor who sought to help each and every one of my students reach their highest potential. I’ll always carry with me the memories of my high achieving students but in some ways, I’ll remember the students who had to struggle and fight to meet their goals even more so. Sometimes what they needed more than anything was for someone to believe in them. That is something not taught in books, but rather given as a gift. These fond memories put a smile on my face. No one can ever take that from me.  

So, I leave here with a cardboard box of mementoes. Some silly knick knacks, a coffee cup and twenty years of student pictures, poems and old flyers advertising plays and concerts. I even have a couple of plaques that recognized me for a job well done. Such a bitter sweet feeling. I’m acutely aware of the sound of my footsteps as they echo down the deserted hall for the finale time. I slowly turn around and whisper, “Farewell old friend”.  

Two Ticks Of A Clock

Between two ticks of a clock

A baby inhales its first breath

Between two ticks of a clock

An old man exhales his last threats

Between two ticks of a clock

Lives may be changed, forever swallowed up

Between two ticks of a clock

Names and days may forever be forgotten 

Between two ticks a clock

Someone falls in love for the first time

Between two ticks of a clock

Someone falls out of love for the last time

Between two ticks of a clock

Entire lives pass by

Between two ticks of a clock

Entire lives slip and lose their grip

Between to ticks of a clock

Everything can change

Between two ticks of a clock

Everything dangles in an abyss 

Between two ticks of a clock

Anything and everything is possible

Between two ticks of a clock

Everything conspires into nothing

Scream-Breathe

There’s no reward for a life well lived

There’s only the conquering of midnight thoughts and defeating those loathed barbed days 

Inhale——-exhale——inhale——exhale——sigh

Time has sun baked our souls and left craters and wrinkles deep in our faces, that mirror like a river refuses to be damned or tamed——-inhale-exhale-sigh

Once young and untested she gave her body to me 

I took it and imagined it would always be this way

But I was wrong, now-a-days the destination is seldom worth the journey—exhale-exhale-sigh

Were we ever that young, that hopeful, so foolish and immortal inhale-exhale-sigh 

Love has a life of it’s own

It lives, it dies

No one knows its life span—exhale-exhale-sigh

It morphs into memories of sun kissed spring days

Time lays in-wait, slipping by, steadily unwinding

Self-doubt is contagious, and it will kill you

Just when you think you have it all figured out

It changes direction—inhale-exhale-sigh

No more listening to boring dweebs yammer on about their views, their values, their beliefs, their god—their rights 

Nobody gives a shit about your petty proclamations, I said nobody, nobody cares asshole!—exhale-inhale—sigh

STOP!  Stop blathering on about your politics, your Jesus, your conspiracy theories and the price of gas and how it was so much better back in the “good ole days”-inhale-exhale-scream!!!!!

Tigers Or Table Scraps

The universe keeps trying to convince me that I’m mediocre, but I refuse to give in. All the greats have had to fight that urge to shrink and fit into normalcy.

Crazy is better than normalcy, going mad is better than normalcy. Do something, do anything to prove that you’re still alive—-that you’re a worthy opponent. Release your bullshit on the world like a tiger ripping into a fallen gazelle.

Kill or be killed—–most are already dead and feeding on table scraps. The true holy ones aren’t afraid to climb free solo—they know that no one is tethered to security.

Make fear your best-friend and nothing will ever scare you again. 

Belief, Beer and Tide Pools

The sky remains cold and damp as I fiddle with my windshield wipers intermittent timer. Too fast, then too slow and constantly falling out of time with the songs on the radio. Even though it’s late afternoon the gray skies and drifting fog gives this dreary day a sleepy morning feeling.  I pull into the parking lot of an ancient looking motel and double check my GPS to confirm if this indeed is the Ocean Spray motel. I begin to have second thoughts about saving fifty bucks by making reservations at a place that only has three out of five stars. Never trust the glowing comments made about an establishment on the internet. No one, or nothing is what it appears to be on the internet. Anyone who’s tried their luck on one of those internet dating sights can attest to this. I figured that after I downed three beers my motel arrangements wouldn’t appear so shabby. Beer makes life’s intolerable events bearable. 

The old gal behind the registration counter stares out at me through thick eyeglasses that gave her the look of a bulging eyed goldfish. From the back room, which I surmised is her living quarters, I can hear the familiar voice of Pat Sayjak blathering on about someone buying a vowel.  She tilted her head back and looked down her nose at me. “Is it just you mister, or do you have a lady friend along for the ride?”  There was a bit of sarcasm in her enunciation of the words, “lady friend”. I stared into her exaggerated bulging fisheyes and responded, “No, just me ma’am, just me.”  She offered up a suspicious nod, “Okay, no partying or hell raising allowed, quiet time starts at 10:00 pm and check out no later than 10:00 am.  Here’s your key, room number 12.” She turned and shuffled back into the blue hue of her TV room. 

I open the door to room 12 and I’m greeted by the odor of mildew and the lingering hint of Fraabreeze. It’s a poor attempt at giving this joint an air of respectability. I’m more than sure that these four walls have seen and heard their share of dirty things——(maybe I’ll sleep in my clothes). I crack the window, pop a beer and lean back against the squeaky headboard. In the distance I hear the comforting sound of waves breaking against the rocky shore. The occasional lonely sound of a foghorn gently lulls me into slumber. It calls out a warning to those lost sailers who may be drifting too close to the rocks. These waters with their tricky currents and hidden reefs have pushed many a vessel into the teeth of its rocky shoreline.   

I’ve made my share of memories traveling up and down the northern coast of California, but my favorite memories go back to when I was a kid seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time.  My lifelong buddy’s name is Patrick and his mother’s name is Jeanne. Jeanne had a big influence on my young life. She’d pile Pat, his sister Erin and me into her 1970 Bonneville and we’d drive westward out of the flat Sacramento Valley. We’d travel through the green lush coastal range making our way to a place on a map where the land gives way to an emerald sea with its endless gray horizon. My god, I remember how those enormous vistas made me feel small. Highway 1 meanders its way along the rugged cliffs and through the stands of mighty old growth sequoias. We’d eventually reach that sea weathered town known as Fort Bragg. Even though fifty years has passed since I first pulled into this town, it appears to have changed very little. It’s a landscape of moss covered picket fences, overgrown berry-bushes and a misty coastline that time seems to have forgotten. Home isn’t where you’re necessarily from, it’s more about being at a place where you feel that you’ve always belonged. I finish off my beers and fall asleep to the sound of breakers crashing on the shore and that sweet song of a foghorn calling out into the darkness.

The next morning I wake early and take my shower in a yellow tile stained stall. I stop at a cafe and grab a hot coffee to go. I’m headed to MacKerricher State park where my tide table guide indicates low tide is at its peak at 5:50 am.  I look at my watch and see that I’m on schedule to get to the tide pools on time.  Out on the horizon I spy a fishing trawler chugging its way north. If I weren’t prone to seasickness, I’d love to be at the helm of that boat. I imagine myself being addressed as captain Sabino by the bartender as I enter the local tavern. After being out to sea for weeks, I envision myself saddling up to the bar and buying a round of drinks for the entire bar. Lost in my fantasy causes me to absentmindedly drive slower than the speed limit, the car behind me impatiently honks, rousing me from my daydream. I think to myself, “Fucking jerk”. 

I pull up into the parking lot of the state park and roll my window down. Man, the smell of the ocean does something to me that makes me involuntarily smile. In the past fifty years there’s been a lot of changes, but this place remains frozen in time. The damp weather is the great equalizer making everything look permanently worn and tired, yet it’s comfortable and unexplainably familiar, like the face of an old friend. Thinking back, I remember Jeanne with her fiery red hair and her strong willed personality. She had an independent streak that fostered a fearlessness in her eyes.  If inadvertently provoked she could have a bit of a temper——you didn’t fuck with Jeanne! She was a feminist before that word had become into vogue. With just her tenacity and a love for nature, she’d haul us kids into her car and we’d head out on spontaneous adventures. We were like a bunch of carefree gypsies rolling down the highway together, playing twenty one questions, singing along with the radio and laughing with a spontaneity that only comes with that rare feeling of being young and free.   

Before the intrusion of smartphones, social networking and 24/7 news cycles, we’d spend an entire day exploring beaches and the woods. I suppose this is gonna make me sound like an old fart, but I do believe life was simpler back in the “olden days”. Kids these days would probably shake their heads and laugh at the notion of being unplugged from the internet for a twenty four hour stretch.That twelve year old boy inside of me is still amazed at the beauty and danger that comes with climbing down the slippery cliffs to the wave sprayed rocks.  It’s a funny thing how beauty and danger seem to go hand in hand. I clamor from one green mossy rock to the next. I peer into the tide pools observing their tiny worlds within. Each tide-pool is a community of sea urchin’s, sea anemones, starfish and skittering rock craps. I stick my finger in the middle of a sea anemone and watch as it closes around me. I lick my dry lips and taste that organic flavor of  sea-salt. The ocean is mother-nature’s womb, the place where life first quivered into existence, evolving from nothingness into everything-ness——what a beautiful mystery to behold.  I’m not sure why it is, but the ocean with it rolling waves and windy cliffs draws us all back to its holy vastness. I watch folks standing silently at the edge of this continent staring introspectively into the hypnotic waves. Couples hold hands as the whistling winds mess their damp hair. I suppose there’s still pieces of us all in those thundering waves. I stroll the beach and see the litter of driftwood and seaweed left behind from where high-tide left its mark. These tides are tied to the pull of the moon phases—-all things supernaturally connected. Nature is my cathedral, my church. 

I climb back in my car and head to the harbor where I’ll have lunch at one of the open air grottos’s. The fishmongers are busy cleaning and laying out the days fresh catch. I smell the fresh fish, deep fried calamari and steaming clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. The glass refrigerated case is filled with squids, abalone and a multitude of different types of fish neatly laid out atop white crushed ice. Behind the counter with its decorative fishing nets and colorful buoys is an old 19 inch TV hanging from the ceiling. It’s hard to believe, but fifty years ago at this very grotto I watched Neil Armstrong on a snowy TV screen utter the words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” My god, how many grains of sand have passed through my hour glass since that memorable day? I wish I could turn that hour glass over again and allow me another fifty years.

When I visit a place from the past that changed me, I become engulfed by a tremendous ache deep inside my chest. I’m keenly aware of the impermanence of all things. This life is chaotic and messy, people come and go, people change, memories become irretrievable and the continuum of time splinters and disappears into thin air.  There’s no way of going back from what was, to what is, time only moves in one direction——-forward. Time is like the waves that break on the shore and then recede back into eternity.

I hand my motel key to the googly eyed women at the front desk. She in-quizzically  inquires, “Did ya enjoy your stay? Ya find everything you came for?” I responded in a pensive tone,“I came here to remember something——or maybe more importantly, to once again believe in something.” She leans forward and in a hushed voice asks,“And, what do you believe in?” I pause for a moment as I consider her question, “That each and every day is truly extraordinary. And, if this enormous ocean is possible and real, and if it can be imagined like god can be imagined, then anything and all things are possible. That’s what I believe.”