Archive for the ‘essay’ Category

Rodriguez Boys - I'm in the middle.

Rodriguez Boys – I’m in the middle.

Back in the early 1980’s, my uncle decided to visit with his brother, George (my father) and my family in New York. He noticed how both my parents were having a hard time with my brothers and I. He suggested to my parents that he could take us to his place in Connecticut for the summer to give them a break. However, I suspect what my uncle was, in fact, trying to do was give my brothers and I a break from my parents’ abuse. Our first summer in Connecticut was an adjustment for us. We expected the same type of abuse from Uncle Jesus as we had received from our parents. When this didn’t occur, it increased our anxiety. Eventually, we relaxed and began to truly enjoy this brief respite from the chaos and abuse we endured at home. Unfortunately, we had to return home at the end of the summer. We’d had a taste of what life could really be like when treated without even the threat of abuse. We begged our parents to allow us to return the following summer. Uncle Jesus readily agreed and our parents reluctantly granted our request.

The following summers were brief moments where we could live in an idyllic, albeit pseudo, family atmosphere. What resides in my memories of Connecticut the most was how my uncle and aunt would take us to different art shows and events. The Ballet, the play, an art exhibit, all types of art functions were presented to us. I also enjoyed watching my uncle play soccer and how the other team members would always cheer him on whenever he had the ball, always running to make the goal. It was a whole new world. One I desperately held onto every summer. I was unaware at the time of how much my uncle’s efforts seeded my consciousness. I also came across a poem during this time that would eventually open up the beauty and transformative experience that is poetry.

Then, my parents decided summers in Connecticut would no longer be allowed. I became depressed, desperately sad that I would no longer enjoy such wonders that were, briefly, within my grasp. Two years after the last summer in Connecticut, we moved to Texas. My parents had divorced prior to the move but decided to try once again to live with each other. They split up again a year after we moved to Texas. But, thanks to my uncle’s influence, I was ready to answer poetry’s call of self-expression at the tender age of 15.

Rodriguez Boys - I'm on the far right, yes, mullet and everything.

Rodriguez Boys – I’m on the far right, yes, mullet and everything.

Three to four years after I had begun writing, I started watching a popular television series starring Burt Reynolds called, B.L. Stryker. The name Stryker hit a familiar note in me but I couldn’t adequately explain why at the time. I decided to use the name along with the first three letters of my last name because I remember Uncle Jesus would sign checks and cleaning bills simply as Rod; hence the name Rod Carlos (my first name) Stryker. I have been using this pen name for a long time, but it was only recently while talking with my aunt that I understood why I actually decided on Stryker. Earlier I mentioned how I would witness my uncle playing soccer. I found out from my aunt that my uncle would usually play the soccer position called: the striker.

And so, here I am, an award-winning poet, author, art photographer, and more because my uncle decided to help three young boys escape, if only briefly, from the abuse of our parents. And, he introduced me to what eventually would be my liberator: the arts. I use Rod Carlos Stryker to honor my uncle and I always will.

Rod Carlos Stryker (a.k.a. Carlos Emilio Rodriguez)

award-winning poet, author, art photographer, human (thanks in no small part to Jesus and Cindy Rodriguez)

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world trade center tribute - dan cabral

photo by Dan Cabral

As a boy raised in New York, and of Puerto Rican-American heritage, I was ridiculed, teased, shunned because of the color of my skin. I wished to myself and through little boy tears to not be Latino. I confessed to my mother how much I didn’t want to be brown. She helped dry those tears and also helped me to look past color and prejudice, to ignore and rise above hurtful stares and comments. Until finally, I was not only proud of my heritage, but also joyful of being human.

What I know, 

As a former member of the U.S. Air Force, I was stationed at various places around the world, including Europe and the Middle East. In each and every place I witnessed people, all with their own struggles, loves, choices. All trying to understand this difficult, sometimes unforgiving experience called life. I saw children, parents, sisters, brothers. In every culture, no matter how foreign to my ignorant eyes, I saw families, loved, coveted, cherished. Hopeful at being human.

What I know,

is that as different as people may be perceived, we are just as similar. We try to judge, to give excuses for being angry, and some excuses can seem extremely valid. But what I know is we ALL make choices in our lives. Honey mustard or mayonnaise, crunchy peanut butter or jam, to take the subway into work at the World Trade Center or at the Pentagon or stop at the corner gas station or not. And all our choices are made freely, never knowing what the Powers-That-Be have in mind for us. I could step off the curb tomorrow and a drunk driver or stressed out mom or young teenager racing his friends, or a crazed maniac with an axe to grind for all life has dealt him might end my life. And yet, I still make the choice to step off the curb, with this knowledge in mind, I enjoy my life as much as possible, with zest, with verve, with passion…being human!

What I know,

And what I do with all this knowledge, all this experience, is perhaps unpopular, is usually unpopular, especially now. I  CHOOSE to forgive. Yes, that’s right. I forgive Osama bin Laden and all those dictators who wish to harm and kill, I forgive their following for their role in this tragedy and other tragedies they may have committed. I was reminded, after much angry thoughts and seething ideas of retribution the day of September 11th, 2001 that to answer this insane violence with more insanity, begets more violence, more insanity. So, I’ve decided to propose peace. I will make a start, perhaps alone, to envision peace, to imagine it encompassing the world. Instead of God bless America, I propose God bless the Earth. The only path to REAL peace is not war, but dialogue, understanding, forgiveness and as blind as the world may be to this simple concept, this simple hope, the only real method of attaining true peace….is love. Give it some thought. And when the anger has subsided, when the seething desire for destruction has abated, all I know is what I envision, for myself, for my children, for my children’s children. It starts with one person, it starts with me, this human…being. I embrace all life, all ideals, all beliefs. And try to remember, if you can, that we are one. We Are One.

  

Rod C. Stryker, poet

San Antonio, Texas, United States, North America,

Planet Earth.

This was written years ago, but it is just as relevant today as it was on September 11, 2001. May the world know real peace.