I arrived in Santa Cruz on a Friday, nearly a week after I left Portland. She wasn't there. As the road has it's twists and turns, so does life. We had managed to switch places. She was in the San Francisco Bay and I was in the Monterey Bay. It was worth a shot. Luckily, I am fortunate enough to have an uncle and aunt who live in Santa Cruz. Aptos to be exact. My Uncle Mike is my father's oldest brother who lives on a nice 4 acre hillside plot of land. Not just a typical plot of land. He hand picked this spot and built a house on it. One of the main reasons he picked this spot is because there is a natural water well that he taps for his own water supply. The place is beautiful. They were kind enough to let me stay for the night after dinner and a drinks.
"So Matt, what's new with you?" I was hesitant to tell him the news of my most recent life changing decision, afraid of how he might judge me. (To give you a bit of background information: Houlemard's are ingrained with the curse of pursuing success. If you aren't ambitious enough in your pursuits, you will be judge by constant shit talking). I told him that I transitioned from full time to freelance at Sandbox Studio. "Oh I see... so you are still enrolled in college right?" Here it comes, shields up Matt, all hands on deck! I told him I was but I didn't want to bend the truth so I begin to explain myself. "I am at a point where I am doing what I love, I know what I am doing and I don't want to go half ass on it and..." Very slowly and eyes squinting, he walks up close to me with his arms crossed. I am nervous but still a bit loose from the Manhattan he had made me for the evening. "Matt... how old are you? 24? 25? You are your own man, you don't have to justify any of your decision making to me, your dad or your other family members. We Houlemard's have all become successful in our own way. Everyone's path is different. We are family and we all still love each other no matter what. Rightfully so, we want everyone to achieve success! So we teach only in the way that we have achieved success ourselves. That doesn't mean that it is the right way for you. I've seen you take photos, you really do have a skill. If that is what you want to do, then do that with everything you got." The weight had been lifted.
The next morning before I hit the road to Los Angeles I hung out with my uncle for a bit longer doing what I like to call "Houlemard Things." Basically we just did things around the house, fixed things, moved things, things to do while we talked. I was cutting into my schedule of making a pit stop in Santa Barbara to meet with a good photographer friend, but I felt the need to stay longer. My uncle is very successful at what he does and I wanted to learn a thing or two. Hopefully I don't butcher this but he is on the board for the Fort Ord Reuse Authority. The man knows how to build cities. Not to mention that his wife is the Vice Chancellor of UCSC. They are a power house couple and have a lot of life knowledge to share. That coming Wednesday Uncle Mike said he was up for his annual review. I asked him how he felt about that, he said "I don't care... I could retire tomorrow and live happily here with your aunt. The money we have put into retirement together is more than enough." That got me thinking about retirement, so I asked when did he start thinking about retirement, "I started thinking about retirement at age 50 and started putting money away. I could of retired 5 years after I started my fund..." My mind is blown how far he has gone in his career. So now I want to get deep down and figure out what made him tick, what pushed him so hard for success. So of course... I asked. There was silence for a second. Then he looked at me and told me this story:
"Your father and your other aunts and uncles have all experienced this on their own accounts but I remember vividly my experience. Now I was fortunate enough that your grandparents put me in a private catholic high school to play baseball in one of the best programs in Southern California. I was good! The team that year was great as well! The team was getting along and playing amazing. Now... you have to remember the times I was growing up in. I remember one day when we all went out to IHOP for a team dinner. The entire team! As I approached the door, the owner sees me and before I get to the door he closes it and locks it in front of my face... they wouldn't let me in! The owner looked to the coach and told him 'you are all welcomed in here except for him. No niggers allowed in my restaurant.' That's when it hit me. By no fault of my own, I was at a disadvantage because of the color of my skin. That's when I knew that if I ever wanted to advance myself in society I'd have to work harder than everyone else and become better than everyone else. To become valuable to those who are in power. To become more powerful than them so that I could have my say."
The two photos below are from Santa Cruz. One is of the boardwalk, where I had originally planned to meet her. Coincidentally as I walked along the boardwalk Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" played on the loud speaker. I felt like I was in one... still in disbelief that I was there to see her... it's been years. The other photo is of my uncle's house. Both were taken with my iPhone... no time to take out the Nikon on this pass.