Monday, October 31, 2011

Transitioning Back

Thank God I've given myself a good week to return from vacay before the season starts.  I almost forgot about the phenomenon of lingering spirit.  Long ago, when I was frequenting Jamaica, I discovered that although my body may come home, it takes a good 5-6 days for my spirit to return.  So has been the case for me.  Before I left, I was highly motivated, approaching business after business in hopes of fundraising for our basketball program.  Also, aligning X's and O's to assure our plan of attack is well calculated.  Upon return, my mind is moving soooo slow, it's difficult for me to even decide which cereal to eat in the morning :)

The beauty of vacation was, I really didn't have ANY decisions to make for the last 10 days.  However, the backlash to that is, the decision making part of my brain has by grossly malnourished.  I've had more than a few laughs at myself as some of the more simple crossroads have given rise to extended deliberation.

Its not all bad though, the island vibrations are still very much at the core of my movements, as a few last second monkey-wrenches have thrown onto my coaching plate, yet my mentality has been "Deep breath".."And so it is."  A few weeks ago, I may have lost a lock or two stressing over these matters.

That being said, it is now time to gear up for the upcoming season.  As my 1st at the helm, there are more question marks than exclamations.  Especially when it comes to talent on our roster.  Regardless, in a matter of one week, all of the ideas will now be given the opportunity to take shape.  As a firm believer in the creative trinity Thought-Word-Action.  I am chomping at the bit to begin intertwining mindfulness with sport.  I remember being absolutely astonished at my body's capabilities after 1week of yoga.  Yet equally disappointed that I was 21 years old and finished with my playing career.

Of course I enter this affair with extreme optimism, but a good part of the journey will be witnessing what works...and what doesn't.  Ideas are beautiful, and I have no shortage to those.  But execution, that remains to be seen.

In all these areas...Only Time Will Tell.  I am certainly excited, anxious, and a myriad of other emotions about these forthcoming days.  Yet here, in the present, I am thankful as can be for the spiritual tune up I just received in St. Thomas.  The time for talk is now subsiding.  Action is now upon us!


Monday, October 24, 2011


My host Star
As previously stated, I managed to make my way out to the island of St. Thomas.  Little did I know, that my friend whom I was visiting happened to be living in his own private resort!

His spot was gorgeous.  Nestled into a hillside, it overlooked the ocean and provided panoramic views from his poolside deck.  Toss in the "pool room" complete with pool table and flat screen tv, conveniently located at the shallow end of the pool, and you've got all the fixings of paradise!

View from the Deck
My primary motivation was to be WARM for the duration of my stay.  St. Thomas accommodated just right.  Every day was a pleasant 85 with a cool sea breeze.  According to my host, my timing was perfect, as it was apparently humid and muggy just before I arrived.  Needless to say, this made for ideal beach weather, and when in search of white sand beaches one doesn't have to look far to be dazzled in ST.

Of the 7 beaches I went to..Yes 7!!, not one of them disappointed in any way shape or form.  The sand alone was the stuff vacations are made of.  Not to mention there are random, different sized islands sprinkled off the coasts.  So depending on which side of the island you're on, your view changes drastically when gazing out at the ocean.  My initial intent was to take some time and work on a few songs, as nature continues to not only inspire me, but also give a bit of clarity and space to create from the core.  However, this go round, I think I put my headphones on twice during my entire stay, as I purposefully chose to simply listen.  Listen to the water, the wind...the laughter of the children...and the bickering of the parents!  It was all a part in the sensational experience of the island.

It took me a day or two to realize, contrary to my initial beliefs, St. Thomas is very much America.  Although the culture has strong Caribbean influences, from Puerto Rico to India, at the core of the surroundings are all the familiar sights one would come across back home.  Foot-Locker, Wendy's, Hooters :), etc.  At 1st I was a bit put off by this, as I'd been hoping for a 'wholly other' experience.  But it didn't take long to grow on me.

Island Eats
The one cultural element that I was openly anticipating to engage in was EATING.  From my trips to Jamaica, I had very high expectations of what was to come in the food category.  Once again, it took a few days to find the spots, but once I did, the possibilities seemed endless, and my belly was the only obstacle between me and taste heaven, as I simply couldn't fit all the goods in in such a short stay. Pictured here, was my plate from G&G aka 'The Black Truck.'  This was the exact dish I'd envisioned from back in Cali; Ox Tail, DUMPLIN, Mac n Cheese, Cabbage, some Yam, & Rice n Peas.. words do no justice to the pleasure I experienced when eating this.  Nor the 'itis' I had after!  As much as I wanted to eat, it didn't take me long to realize I was best off, eating something light for breakfast, and then having 1 solid meal around 2/3 o'clock that would last me the day.  The food was so hearty and proportions so large, this was all I could stomach.  Aside from G&G which was the best on the island, I also indulged in a lil Texas BBQ Pit and a Puerto Rican spot that had fried plantains! Heaven ya'll...heaven!

Trunk Bay, St John
Oddly enough, as much of a traveler that I am, I'd somehow forgotten about that initial acclimation period.  The 1st 2 days or so, I felt extremely out of place, as if an outsider trying to learn the secret codes of communication.  I probably talked to all of 3 people other than my boys friends.  However, something clicked on that 3rd day, where the island began to have its' way with me.  I not only felt a little more comfortable in my own skin, but also adept to my surroundings and more "me" so to speak.  That was when the magic of traveling, and doing so there in St. Thomas, all started to take shape.

The people are absolutely beautiful.  Engaging on a whim.  Witty as all get out.  And insightful beyond words.  Interacting with them brought out the best of me.  As much as I love me some Santa Cruz, there were dynamics that I was expressing from the pit of my being that seem to be overlooked in my day to day living in Cali.  And above all, the people are much more friendly and considerate.  To not say "Good Afternoon" to someone when passing by or entering a room is considered extremely rude.  Of course, it's easier to be friendly when you LIVE in the tropics, but still, the folks truly brought my island experience to life.

Just when you thought I was basking in utopia...allow me to inject a piece of reality.  Mosquitos love foreign blood.  I woke after my 2nd day with no less than 75 bites scattered about on my legs, arms, shoulders..NECK?!?!  Ridiculous.  From that day forward I slept, dowsed in Off, with a bug zapper disguised as a tennis racket at my bedside.  I'd imagine by the end of my stay, we were about even.  Me, in a vengeful rage...and they in their night stalkings.  So yes, even in my most peaceful state, I was at war.

Although my motivations were primarily basketball and mind/body/soul alignment, I'd be a fool to not capitalize on the opportunity to spread the word about my music.  A little hustle supplied me with the opportunity to rock the mic at the islands' most prominent night club, Fat Turtle on a Friday night. Although my presence came as a surprise to most, it didn't take long for the folks to shift gears from that top 40 listening, to my material and still keep it moving.  That was a beautiful sight to behold, watching people look up at the stage, go through their own mental evaluations and then decide, "Hell Yes, this is hot...I"m dancing!"

After rocking, the rest of the night took on new life, as we were VIP.  Kicking it backstage, then allowed into the next club after it was "closed." We ended up kicking it with a whole bunch a jewelers and their lil lady friends for the night.  Turned out, the owners of the club were from Tel Aviv. A place I spent a couple weeks in.  Needless to say, the night lit up from the moment we made that connection!

As my vacation was winding down, I had one last hurrah before setting sail for the mainland.  A guest appearance on the islands' most prominent radio station, 105 Jamz.  The interview went well to say the least.  And once the DJ (Tony T) got a listen to my music, he was all about the cause.  Made mention of putting me in rotation, which is always lovely for an up and comer like myself.  After banging a couple of my tunes, I made sure to thank the people of the island for playing their part in assisting in my alignment and sharing the good spirits that they have.  And on that note....I exited stage left!

Full of life, light and purpose, I now return to Santa Cruz ready to shape the lives of a handful of young men. Thank You St. Thomas for the energetic enhancement!

Last Sunset

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

On The Horizon

As basketball season draws near the anticipation is building not only for myself, but my staff as well. In less than a month, we will be leaving our stamp on the personalities and spirits of 25-30 young men in a fashion that will never be forgotten. To this day, I have a myriad of memories which I call upon from time to time with respect to every coach I've ever played for. I can only hope to make those positive ones for my players in the days to come. As we seek to solidify the dynamics of our program (offensive/defensive sets, philosophy, etc) I've decided to take a step away and place myself in an ideal environment to not only recharge my battery, but also lock in the disciplines I intend to pass on to the players. After sifting through my options, it came to my attention that I could use miles to fly just about anywhere I wanted to in the tropics. As enticing as a return to Jamaica sounded, I ended up settling :) for St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands! Thus prompting a reunion with a great friend of mine from my college days, "Star." Ironically, he was there the 1st time I donned the name "Free." It turns out, Star's been doing a bit of leg work for me down there, and a couple of my songs are already playing in rotation on the radio station 105 Jamz. Couple that with a guest appearance at a major show Friday the 14th at one of the islands' hot spots "Fat Turtle," and you've got the making of an ideal "vacation." Looking forward is an understatement. However, before doing so, I've got a good deal of business to solidify here in Santa Cruz. We've begun our major fundraising campaign for the this season. What we're selling is advertisement space in our program. After my 1st day on the town, the reception has been surprisingly delightful. I had no idea so many people in the community have connections to our school and basketball program. From the looks of things, sky is the limit for us financially. That is, IF, we ask. And I'm making it my business TO ask :) Not only here in the community, but out there in cyperspace too. If you're interested in donating to our program, you can do so here Regardless, all looks extremely bright on the horizon. For those of you who pray, please do keep my Harbor High School Boys in your prayers, not only for their health, but for added doses of patience in dealing with their new coach :) Blessings

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The cover of today's Santa Cruz Sentinel

My Mom's latest greatest..

Here's a little something my mother wrote recently. Powerful enough to share. Certainly good food for thought. Waiting To Be Saved The Temptations had it right when they sang their hit song, Ball of Confusion in 1970. Now, 40 some years later, those old lyrics still hold true. It is amazing that in all the years since that song became popular, our planet is still in the same dysfunctional position it was in then. We’ve not yet been able to take control of a world out of control. Instead, we’ve embraced more wars, which are clearly God’s fault, as well as new forms of communicating. We now have the internet, I-pads, smart phones, digital, wireless connections (shall I include Skype and Facebook? ) that increase the sounds of our voices and expose the shadows of our actions in record speed. We can see clearly now with our new abilities to visualize within seconds of an event taking place. Is the world speeding up? Possibly, where are we going? We can depend on elections of any kind to present a dire picture of the status of our world. It is impossible to escape all the rhetoric, the picture painting and the name calling that propels voters to make some sort of an emotional stand. We get tired of it, yet we encourage the dark side of politics by the attention we give it. We are a world that is waiting to be rescued. From being asleep for many years, we’re finally beginning to awaken and we are terrified with what we see around us. We’ve spent generations ignoring signs that the Earth Mother was suffering. We have located fear in every corner of the universe and have produced more terrorists with our belief system than ever had existed. We are suddenly aware that we’ve overspent our budget and we’re now in financial, physical and moral bankruptcy. We have each set the stage for personal and national disasters and we search for someone to blame for our dis-ease. Perhaps we were waiting for our prince to arrive and make life perfect for us while we slept soundly, lost in our grandiose dreams of a life without retribution. Certainly if anyone could save us it would be our President who promised change. We assumed that meant there would be no price to pay for ignoring generations of misconduct. Our prince would eventually arrive and fix everything for us. He would waive his magic wand and all the fear, all the abuse and decades of dark manipulations would disappear. We’d be whole again; miraculously healed by someone or some organization outside ourselves. Sadly, somehow it didn’t turn out to be that easy and we are indignant with the results. Surely there is a president, a prime minister or world leader somewhere, a political party, a world bank, perhaps even a carefully selected minister of God that can save us. There must be someone that can step forward and heal our self inflicted wounds, making life a little less painful for us. Are there not protestors everywhere that can sound the alarm that we need a savior of some kind? We have lost our personal power and our freedom by mindlessly giving away our own, individual, responsibility for creating peace. We have given away our rite to happiness to our governments, our spouses, our children, abusive relationships, our careers, religions, our politicians and our Gods. In our disorientated state of mind, we continue to blame everyone else for our personal tusumis, and our terminal dis-eases. We are dying a suicidal death and we’re still waiting for someone to find us and gallantly save us before it’s too late. Suddenly the planet demands that each one of us is faced with our own likeness in the mirror. We are astounded to learn that it is we, ourselves that will be held accountable for the actions we have (or have not) taken. The winds of change have been blowing while we have slept and suddenly we find ourselves unprepared for the future we have created. There is no one left to blame and there is no one coming to save us. Yet, it is when we find ourselves in our darkest hour of need that we learn our truth and evoke our strengths. It is when we have come to the stillness of the deep that we are faced with our self created demons and we finally realize there is no way out unless we courageously find it ourselves. It is there, in that darkness of despair where we make our decision. Will we continue to be victims, tossed about like a sailboat in a hurricane? Will we follow the example our distracted, elected officials are showing us by assigning blame to everyone else for our tribulations and our ineffectiveness? Are we waiting for God, the President or perhaps Oprah to come and fix what our ignorance has destroyed? Isn’t it time for us to bravely step forward and own what we’ve allowed? Isn’t it time we finally take responsibility for our own healing by realizing that we are the savior we have been seeking. We are the answers to the questions we have been asking. It is each one of us, individually and collectively who has the power to confront our enemy (and excuse) which is named Fear. There is an anonymously posted quote found on the internet which reads: “The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear If it were legally possible I would rewrite the last sentence to read: “Only the moment we reject all help and all excuses are we freed.” Written by Brenda Silverhand-Garriss 28 August 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Commencement '11

As fate would have it, I received a phone call a few weeks ago from the principal at Santa Cruz High.  Although I’ve done a good bit of teaching over there, summer was on the horizon and I couldn’t quite place why she’d be reaching out at this particular time.  It didn’t take long for her to bestow upon me one of the greatest honors I’ve received in this lifetime.  Keynote Speaker at Graduation. 
As the day drew nearer I began to jot down ideas and coordinate my thoughts for the event.  With a good deal of stage and classroom speaking time under my belt, I wasn’t too concerned with nerves or organization.  So long as I could step to the microphone with some notes as a reference, I felt pretty comfortable addressing the students off the cusp so to speak. 
Well, the day came, and as I strolled at the front of the procession, smack dab in the middle of shorter district representatives and school heads of staff all adorned in black gowns, I couldn’t help but say, “(Damn)…I feel like OBAMA!”  It was great. 
Photo by Pamela K. Iriguchi
Even better was standing on the stage, watching the students file in.  There was an overwhelming sense of pride emanating from both them and their parents looking on.  It was truly powerful. 
As the last of them made their way to their seats, the principal stepped to the mic and said. ”Students, you may be seated.”  However, NO ONE HEARD HER!  She glanced back at the soundman, baffled.  Yes, the unthinkable was happening.  Before a good 3,000+ people, the mic was not working!  All too familiar with the unreliable nature of sound systems, I smirked knowing full well we were in for a ride for the next few minutes. 
Initially, I wanted to jump up and snatch the mic and start checking it…”Check Check..1,2 1,2”  Then I thought to grab another mic and make the switch.  Without question out of everyone on the stage, I was the most comfortable with handling this kind of situation.  BUT..I was THE keynote speaker.  I had to keep some dignity about me! So I sat.. and I sat..and waited for the sound man to do what he was being paid to do.  After the longest 3-5 minutes of our lifetimes, there was still no sign of progress.  I could sit no longer. 
Pamela K. Iriguchi
I stepped beside the pulpit, looked toward the students and said let’s clap…We started slow and progressed to fast.  Basic and fun.  Next we moved on to the wave.  Started it with the students and passed it on to the parents.  It took a few tries, but by the 3rd time we managed to get it going all the way around the stadium.  With that, I returned to my seat and whispered to the Assistant Principal, ”You’re on your own.”  A couple of minutes later they managed to generate sound. 
As the principal began addressing the students, I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out my notes, to review my progression speech wise.  No sooner than I did, did she begin to start her shpeal about me.  I looked at the AP and said…”I’m on NOW?” 
She said, “Yep.” 
I was stunned.  I could’ve sworn the keynote speaker came well into our ceremony back in the day.  But I can’t say that I recall so clearly now a good 10+ years removed from my most recent graduation.  Regardless, the time was NOW and I was extremely uncomfortable as I stepped to the microphone. 
Pamela K. Iriguchi
But that was just the tip of the iceberg.  The moment I began to speak, one of the students started to toss a blow up girl around the student body.  It was absolutely hilarious!  But quite a distraction to fend with in the opening of such a meaningful moment.
With no time to waste on account of our delay, I jumped right in despite the diversion.  It took a good while for the buzz to die down and the focus to return, but I pushed through and continued to deliver, all the while that voice in my head was screaming “What the fuuuuck?!?”
Needless to say, my rhythm was disturbed, but this is graduation.  It’s not like the classroom where you can stop the students and say, “Hey, I’m trying to tell you something important right now and you’re over here playing with dolls.”  You can’t tell the parents, “Hush folks, I’m tryin to give these kids some guidance.” simply push through.  And that’s what I did. 
Pamela K. Iriguchi
I drew parallels between graduation and the Rites of Passage ceremonies that take place in cultures throughout the globe. Discussed the balancing of passions and practicality. (Can you believe? J)   Addressed the power and uniqueness of the stage of life they are in and how they have the opportunity to guide their lives toward whatever it is they’re passionate about.  And a myriad of other nuggets before closing out with a story about my good friend Awad, from Sudan, who told me right there by the Red Sea in Egypt that no matter if I’m on TV or in magazines, a millionaire or just a good father… I will be and am A STAR.  It was powerful. 
Pamela K. Iriguchi
And then I sat…and wondered…just how bad that speech was?  It felt choppy, disorganized and anything but smooth.  I couldn’t believe it, right there before thousands of people, I failed to rise to the occasion and capture the moment.  But as they say in Egypt, “Hallas.”  It’s done.  No turning back, no undoing…it’s done. 
And when graduation was done, all those doubts were put to rest.  Students, parents, teachers, Grandparents, they all came and shared a different part of the speech that spoke to them.  For me, that was the most meaningful part, seeing all the different generations who were touched by the message.  I even got a Hallelujah in the middle of one part!
It was awesome…and still continues to be.  Now when I walk downtown, I get stopped by people I’ve never met before who were there and were moved by the words that spoke through me.  It’s absolutely HUMBLING.  Not only to be given such a beautiful opportunity, but to feel a purpose much greater than me has been served. 
God Is Good.  (and so is Buddha and the rest of em!)

Monday, June 13, 2011

The latest on Japan from Shux Wun

I recently reached out to everyone I build with via email with a life update detailing some of the beautiful events that have aligned for me of later.  In return, I asked them to fill me in on what's been going on with them.  A good friend of mine Shux Wun who has been in Japan since I left almost 2 years ago filled me in on what the transition as been like for him and those surrounding since the recent earthquake.

DJ Sarasa, Shux Wun, A Homey, Mr Free

Well, following the biggest natural disaster in world history a few months ago here, things got pretty difficult. I lost a lot of students (not perished, just stopped taking lessons) and lost video clients. People were not focused on the extras, just their immediate needs and watching their pockets closely. Aside from losing over 20,000 people to the tsunami there are tons of people who survived but now have no home. Then to add to that, so many people who were unaffected by the quake and tsunami but forced to evacuate their cities due to the radiation in their areas... so needless to say, it's a bad situation for a lot of people here still.

Tokyo was virtually unaffected, however, the initial fear of radiation affected everyone here. I left Tokyo for awhile and stayed in Osaka, as did thousands of others who were unsure about the actual reach of the radiation. The government here did a very good job of keeping their people in the dark about everything, so a lot of people decided to either leave the country or go farther south until further notice...
I left because within the first two days after the quake I found out that all the foreign embassy offices here had moved their locations to Osaka... so what's good for them is good for me I figured. Also, all the convenience stores and supermarkets in my area got completely wiped clean of dried foods, because we were facing electrical blackouts and our refrigerated foods became a problem. People panicked, hording and whatnot, although in a much more peaceful manner than what would have happened stateside... nobody was robbing and stealing to get theirs here, from what I know of. However, the greed was blatant although more polite.  I bounced south and Osaka was perfectly fine, no problem finding food and nobody seemed concerned about radiation.

After a bit of research it was realized that the radiation levels were very minimal in Tokyo (but that doesn't include the thousands of gallons of contaminated water dumped into the ocean and potentially affecting our seafood). I returned to Tokyo and things back in the neighborhood were better at the supermarkets and whatnot, but still a very tense feeling in the air about what we all are really facing concerning the radiation. Upon more research I realized that even if there were radiation affecting us, it wouldn't be a health risk for another 15 or so years as something like cancer may develop, but that would be the extreme case in being exposed to a high level on a daily basis. As of now, even American and other foreign experts are reporting a "no health risk" situation for this region. So, I feel a bit better but not completely at ease... but enough to keep me here I guess. :)

If you're interested in seeing more...Shux put together a few videos as well  (March 14th 2011) (April 3rd 2011) (April 23rd 2011)

Keep Japan in your prayers!