Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Premonitions... Some Thoughts...

From “The Power of Premonition” by Larry Dorsey;  Institute of Noetic Sciences.

“If a  trait  helps  us  to  stay  alive  and  reproduce,  it  is  likely to become  embedded  in  our  genes  and  passed  down through succeeding generations.”

In looking back through all postings (wow!! almost 140 by now…) the Noetic Science entry was, far and away, the one which has had the most readings. Yes, it has been posted for over one year (amazing!!) but still, it looks like it continues to receive “hits” on a regular basis. And, as time flies by, my interest in this issue has continued to increase. There is an implicit acceptance in my mind that we are all part of a bigger whole; as individuals we are still pretty awesome, no matter how small we may feel at times, but we still have a long way to go in order to begin to understand what the full scope of our capabilities, as thinking beings, truly is.

I was reading the article referenced above and some things mentioned actually “rang a bell”. According to the writer, evidence shows that we are a part of a greater entity. Sort of like small atoms making up a body, separate, yet somehow linked to one another. What we often call a premonition, as such, is then really a warning that comes from other atoms which may have already lived through a specific experience or which may be even further ahead in the light-time space, with knowledge of what we are about to experience.

Further into the article, I read this particular quote:  “A  premonition  is  literally  a  forewarning,  usually  of something  unpleasant,  such  as  a  looming  natural  disaster  or  an  impending  threat  to  our  health…” What this implies is that we, by simply being humans share a link which is somewhat akin, if I am to understand this concept, to the link that some insect colonies do share, especially when it comes to defending their nest. The primary difference would seem to be that while their link is usually chemically based, our link includes a cogent element, an item which is missing in the “thinking” process within the animal world. Going one step further, there are places in our world which are systematically prone to natural disasters, where some animals are closely watched, for they are somehow affected by changes in the environment and can actually “predict” when there may be a disaster looming.

Often you will read in these posts my belief in exercising precisely this part of our natural gift: to think in a coherent manner about what is around us and as to how all things which happen, even if we dismiss them as being irrelevant at the time, do impact our daily lives. The author of the article goes on to expound on his theory, saying that when we fail to encompass the whole, we are ignoring all that is beyond our immediate area of sensual input; and he adds that the fact if we cannot, or refuse to perceive something, does not mean it does not exist. It just means we, as individuals, do not know of its existence. We would, in fact, be acting just like “a fish that considers his watery environment to be the full extent of his world; like it, we have come to believe that the here and now defines the limits of our existence.” He then goes further by saying that we are but a continuum in time and space; our mind(s) being the all encompassing link we have to learn to use and appreciate.

Nobel physicist Erwin Schrödinger adds his take and says that “each person enfolds something of the spirit of the other in his consciousness.” If we are to take this as truth, then it may be easer to accept that when we do have a premonition (and we have all had them at one time or another) we are indeed receiving a “warning transmission” from someone else, usually someone or some entity which is or has been close to us at one time or another; according to Mr. Dorsey, “studies reveal that premonitions frequently link people who love each other: parents and children, siblings, twins, lovers, and very close friends”.

In these posts, I have shared with you a few of the several premonitions I have experienced over the years and which I have learned to accept and, at least, analyze if not outright heed. Some, as a child, I did not understand. One in particular involved a close friend and colleague of my mother. A group of local teachers, including her friend (whom I knew) had joined a tour going to Italy; the Vatican, to be precise. My mother would not go because she was working on her relationship with her soon to be second husband. All goodbyes were said, along with the promises of presents and mementoes to be brought back. The local flight left for Havana, where they transferred to the international flight, which was an overnight journey to Europe. The plane was a four engine “Super Constellation”, the latest in aircrafts. We went to bed and, I remember, somewhere during the night, close to 3am, I woke up crying and went to my mother. I was later told that all that could be understood from what I was saying was “She died, mama, she died in a big fire”. Eventually I calmed down and was put back in bed, falling asleep again.

We got up the next morning and all was going normally, until a niece or nephew (can’t really remember) of my mom’s friend, who lived around the corner, came running to our house asking for my mom to please come back with him, that Mrs…. (The friend’s mother) was hysterical. As we then learned, the plane had exploded midflight in a fireball, right around the time I woke up crying; there were no survivors.

Did I get a message from her at the last minute? Why me? Why a 6-7 year old who really had known her briefly? Often I have wondered if this was, perhaps, because I was the son of her best friend and maybe, because my mind was more responsive, not yet cluttered with years of living and of learned skepticism; in the end, I do not know why. But I know this happened and has been present in my mind more than once over the years.

Do we scoff at these “phenomena”? Yes, we do. Most of us like to think that we always have our “feet” on the hard ground and we do not walk with our heads in the clouds. This is what is more acceptable by our peers and what we are constantly told makes for better members of this society at large. My thinking is that of disagreement; society needs freethinkers as much as it needs doers and hardcore “solid” drones. We are all indispensable parts of a chain which makes our very existence possible. Each plays an important role; like in the old food gathering tribes, some gather, some scout, some cook, some rear the children and all are part of a whole, moving forward in unison.

Eventually, as we further develop that part of our brain which deals with these issues, we may come to a better understanding of what it is that makes us “tick” and how is it that each one of us is a little part of others and that, we, as a whole, are perhaps a part of a greater entity or group of entities.

Old Wisdom usually says that life is a cycle and what we do today will come back to us, or to our progeny; good or bad. In the article, Mr. Dorsey ends with this observation, and so will I this entry: Premonitions  suggest  a  revision  of  the  golden  rule,  from  “Do  unto  others  as  you would have them do unto you” to “Be kind to others because in some very real sense, they are you.

Food for Thought?     I hope so…

Be Well… Be Back!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

There Is a Doctor in the House…

Remember Dr. Shatiff? Well, I am not really sure as to the source of the title but, since everyone did call him by that moniker, so did I.  The more we dealt, the less my belief in his title, but never did question him about it.

Nonetheless we were thrown together by fate, as it were, and the pursuit of business.  The good Doctor was from the Emirates originally and he had, several years before, been part of a number of financial dealings as well as doing some intermediary work for the Royal House. Hence, his letters of recommendation and his stories, which he did his best to bring forth at every possible moment; this may have been a way to try and keep them somewhat current. The papers the letters were written on were becoming slightly yellower every time they were shown; they were mostly 8-9 years old. But, they were apparently credible enough to have brought him to Zurich, on someone else’s expense pad.

Most of the people I met along the way were there on someone else’s nickel; they got there based on promises made to others who had the funds to capitalize these ventures, creating false expectations by inflating the possibility of a business which was as elusive, at the level they were playing it, as the holy grail. Most days, they spent their time doing not much except being on the phone, sometimes even talking to imaginary business partners just to keep appearances (sad, isn't it?), and drinking espresso; one cup after another. This last helped pass the time while they waited for the one call which might change their lot and it also helped hone the hunger pangs, which came from not really having the money to pay for a meal.

Yes this was, and is, a killer business. The basic call of it, in the end, is that it did (does) exist. On the other hand, the stark and cruel reality of it is that, by being an intermediary or someone just trying to insinuate him/herself into a potential deal, there is a 0.01% chance of getting to a successful end. Besides some degree of knowledge, there was a required supply of brass balls and ingenuity.

Having said all that, I found driving myself, Dr. Shatiff and his guest and wife from Zurich to a small Austrian village, where I had arranged for a meeting with a group of my acquaintance, themselves looking for someone with Dr. Shatiff’s friend’s abilities and connections. My guys had available bank documents with a sufficient amount of value, once discounted, to initiate a private investment transaction. This sounds very simple, but it is not; there are several steps which must be followed and, since 9/2001, these steps have become even more astringent and difficult.

But without that first meeting, there would be no possibility. These initial face to face encounters of who should eventually be the principal parties to a transaction, often turned out to be meetings between “high level representatives”, there on behalf of their principals, who would prefer not to show up at these “get-togethers”. This would not be so bad; it meant just added negotiation time if all went well… However, on occasion (often enough) those who represented themselves as either principals or their representatives, really had no contacts at all and were fishing (in today’s terms: phishing) to try and ensnare someone who may actually have a real contact…

Complicated enough yet? 

The meeting between these two groups, on this occasion, went fairly well. Oh yes, forgot to mention that the person brought by the good Dr., needed to take special medication, since he had been poisoned some time back and his central nervous system was functioning only at a 40-50% capacity. This very special medication would be taken every 45 minutes or so, requiring full rest for the next 15 minutes. After this initial meeting, he and I had several chances to meet as time went on, and we developed a decent enough relationship, which brought me to his house in Zurich a couple of times. He was a retired banker (retired due to his health issue, not age) and had kept his hand into these transactions. He told me quite a bit and, in his telling, I learned much.

I learned about the banking structures behind these transactions; about how to best approach a potential transaction; the questions to be asked in order to “smell” and identify possible fakes; about the fact that the folks who acted out as intermediaries (the banks which manage these deals, cannot actually do it directly with another bank, must use a third party) were the weakest link, often being cut off by the principals after a token payment. In his case (yes, I did ask) his bout with death had been a direct consequence of such a situation; the jilted middleman laid the responsibility on him (he was not, he was a bank officer then, not even the principal responsible for paying others but was the only person available; the principal had long since returned to his own country) and managed to get to him, killing himself afterwards. There were months of hospital treatments and these were truly painful; yet he managed to survive and go on with his, now modified, daily routine. I do not know whether he lives now or not.

Unfortunately, all the time spent in Zurich did not yield a transaction. What had brought me there originally had turned out wrong, when some of the documents which had been presented as real and good, notarized and “affidavited”(like that?) by several layers of crooked attorneys (I have some attorney friends, so I will not say this is redundant) had no real backing, cash or otherwise.

Eventually I returned home from Switzerland, having spent a good deal of money without results; there would be other opportunities but there, at that time, there was nothing much to pursue.

Some time ago I learned that the good Dr. Shatiff died in his hotel room, alone. The cause of death was called a heart attack, brought on by the constant level of incredible stress this business generates. I understood this, for it was my métier; it was well known to me what this interminable hustle and bustle could do to one’s body and spirit. On a running count, I knew until yesterday of 7 people with whom I had to deal at one time or another, who have died in such manner over these past years.  Some were friends, other were business acquaintances. Yesterday I learned about number eight. Nuno, the guy who received me in Lisbon several years ago and who initially was my “babysitter” and then became my friend, died of cancer and heart complications some 3 years ago; I didn’t know this. Again, the constant stress and pressure did him in.

So, if this is all true, why do people remain in this pursuit?  The allure of a major payoff, when all chips fall in the right place, and all the hands are dealt in your favor. When this happens, there is a huge windfall, which is also the reason for so many frauds and crooks hanging around. And, yes,  those who do not know what has transpired along the way, will probably say at that time “what a lucky” so and so… yes, luck will have a hand but long years of pain, often accompanied by loneliness and lost families; sometimes illness ignored and always the constant disappointments suffered along the way; these will usually not be known and could not be understood by these casual commentators.

I am not sure how much of this will find its way into these posts; probably more, at some future time. It is still complicated and ongoing, in a way…

Be well… Be Back!! 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Conundrums, Dichotomies and Paradoxes...

Conundrum: riddle, mystery, challenge; puzzle. A) Something that is puzzling or confusing. B) a difficult problem that seems to have no solution.
Dichotomy: A) a separation into two divisions that differ widely from or contradict each other. B) The phase of the Moon or planet when half of its surface appears illuminated by the Sun, the other half bathed in darkness.
Paradox: absurdity, contradiction, impossibility, illogicality. A) a statement or proposition that contradicts itself. B) A statement, proposition or situation that seems to be absurd or contradictory, but in fact is or may be true. 

No; I am not a walking Thesaurus or even a crawling Funk and Wagnall’s. There are, however, certain words which hold a special fascination for me and these above definitely fall into this category. Why? Often we find ourselves (perhaps it should be said: “I find myself”) thinking about situations that besiege our senses, and these are the only types of words which would seem to be of viable use. They say a lot without explaining anything; sort of like “walking on the ceiling”… you can certainly visualize this action and even understand it may be said to signal an “upside down” situation, but don’t expect to really be a witness (other than in a Chinese martial arts movie) to this event ever taking place as a normality.

Every day we are subjected to situations which are difficult to explain or to put on the table, clearly, for all to see and understand. These could be issues we question or, simply, issues that do not hold water with our thinking process. What are some of the issues which may tend to fall into the realm of these words, and their respective all encompassing meaning(s)? I can only answer for myself; could not even begin to try and include everyone else’s ideas into these answers. My thought pattern is to question everything and, especially, assumed authority. No, this does not come from the 60’s and 70’s, nor from a grand consumption of the green weed; ever since I remember, this has been my thought process, having taken form in a era of early Catholic school and having brought on all the subsequent punishments this “contrary” behavior could bring in a somewhat inquisition like atmosphere.

Have you ever entertained the concept of “freedom of choice and thought” within the concepts of religion?  Any religion… all are the same in this respect. According to all teachings, Our Creator gave us the concept of freedom of choice; to me this implies also freedom of thought and freedom of understanding. Can’t have one without the others; I can’t choose unless I analyze the available choices and can’t do this without being able to think freely. Right?, or is this line of thought wrong? Let it be stated I hold a firm religious belief, but do not hold a firm belief in man's religions which usually tend to be used to contain and submit, not to elevate.

I remember as a child growing up, my constant discussions with my teachers, all ordained brothers of the Catholic Church. As soon as the preaching would start, my usual riposte would be in the form of a simple question: either Who?, or What? and, of course, the dreaded Why?

For example, on the concept of freedom of choice; what good is it if every time I choose something which is not in full accordance with the tenets of the religion in question I am then, automatically, a condemned man? Do I really have the freedom to choose then? Or am I being trained form an early age to simply obey and thus hold this freedom concept as just one more “paradox”? Yes, I am free to choose but not really allowed to exercise this freedom. And, by the way, this also applies to places where the government and not the church is the entity putting the rules on the books; the worst possible case scenario is where both government and church (regardless of which church) intertwine and it is then the combined set of rules which prohibits this exercise in freedom of thought and choice.

How about a government where the daily marketing and expediency convenient machine(s)’s job is to tell us that they will spend more money on day to day projects, while reducing bureaucracy and reducing taxes? Methinks this may fall into the dichotomy column. Yes, it sounds great… But… early Native American folks had a much simpler way of dealing with the concept of a non truth; They would simply say -“White (or black, for that matter) man speaks with forked tongue” Yes, I realize this came from Hollywood writers but, insofar as it became a catch phrase, it is certainly applicable when someone would refer to anyone else who, in saying something, usually means the opposite. Politics, anyone?

And so we go through life, listening, learning and often being faced with situations which themselves, are conceptual conundrums. When we are thus challenged, it is imperative that freedom of thought and choice come into play, at least within our brain and that other fellow, our mind. How we have learned and been trained over a lifetime is what the direction of our thought process and pattern will take.

Exercising "Freedom of Choice"...
Would Your convictions be this strong?
It will be very interesting to be able to analyze if this thought pattern chooses real freedom or the more acceptable “status quo” response. What would YOU do in a choice situation, between what your heart and mind accepts to be right and thus rock the boat as it were or simply choose the acquiescence to a pat response so as not to create “waves”?  I am sure all of us have faced such an issue at one time or another and have not always done or replied what we knew (or know) to be right, opting for the “easy way”… It does create a difficult position, doesn’t it?

Be Well?   Be back??

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Yes, It Is The Weekend...

Too many issues that should have been resolved already are still hanging in the air, some by a thread, and my mind is distracted to the point of having to rewrite 2 out of 3 words because of hitting the wrong keys. Harrumph!! Well, harrumph some more… This entry was started yesterday afternoon (seems there is a trend of this lately) and eventually put to rest; there were better things to do. Yet today, after finishing the Good Samaritan paragraph, the whole thing went into a different and really unexpected tangent…

Somewhere it is declared that in order to be able to write, a potential “author” has to be able to put on paper issues which may be considered personal, for all to see; in these posts some personal stuff has come out from time to time; all the remembrances are definitely personal from a time when, despite the circumstances, life was still simpler than today.  What else to talk about? Two divorces and three marriages? Nah, this is becoming much too common within today’s lifestyle. Travels? Already have, and there is much more to come from those memory vaults…

Left everything behind for a while and went to meet with a client, maybe this outing was what I needed to get out of the funk… well, it worked… partially, anyway. However, on the plus side, I was witness to a moment which helped restore a little of faith in humans. I went to have a cup of coffee (no, not that big “Bucks” one but the other, the Dunkin’ one) after I saw the client and, as I was parking, a young man was getting out of his car and so was someone else, parked on the next spot. The second person, as he was coming around both cars, bent down to pick something up and he proceeded to follow the young man; in fact, all of us were going to the same place.

We all went in and the second person approached the younger man. Most of us live in such a defensive mode most of the time that we assume that when someone comes to us on the streets, is because he/she must want something. Such was the reaction of the younger man; not spoken, but “body language” wise. The older man said to him –“I think you dropped something outside” The young man, somewhat disconcerted responded –“what do you mean?” then, the first guy shows a $20 bill he had in his hand… -“perhaps this”. The young man, now flustered, put his hand into his pocket and when it came up empty, he was totally in shock. -_”My God, that’s all the money I have till the weekend”… He couldn’t thank the Good Samaritan enough and I couldn’t help but thinking that there are a few good ones left around. This definitely brought a smile to my, and everyone’s face and did much to lighten my mood.

About 13 years ago, 1 year into an still ongoing disaster chapter of my life which will eventually find its way (at least parts…) into these posts, I met an Egyptian fellow, we’ll call him Dr. Shatiff (obviously not his real name) who lived in Brazil  but who was in Zurich at the time (we found out later on he was not exactly welcome in his own country) trying to sell himself unto a transaction; any transaction which came close enough for him and his cronies, a couple of Brazilian fellows who called themselves attorneys and/or notaries, to insinuate themselves into.
The Old Quarters

Why is he a part of these memories? Well, besides being quite a character, he ended up in a transaction where my interests lay and I was forced to deal with he and his cronies on a daily basis. Dr. Shatiff’s forte was driving the other party unto a frenzied state; then his terms would not seem so crazy. My original partner in this particular transaction and the responsible party for my being in Zurich at the time was an Argentinean, himself partner with another, older Argentinean. The other middlemen running around were an assortment of folks, to include a couple of  self named “sheiks” and many who, not to be outdone, assumed the mantle of being a part of the “Royal House” (never did identify the specific house or “royalty”). I was fairly new at this game in those days; otherwise this assortment would have come across for what they were: a bunch of clowns who lived in never-never land, always on the lookout for the possibility to get into someone else’s transaction, just in case it turned out to be real and doable.
Limmat river, cuts through Zurich

A giveaway to their perennially penniless situation was the then low level hotel in which they all stayed as a flock, cramming 3/4 to a room. Zurich is a hotbed of activity for these international transactions today and so it was then as well. Every Tom, Dick and Harriet (and Rafael) who thought he/she had a track into a transaction involving International currency, gold, bank documents, and such, ended up in Zurich. Why? Because in real life, these transactions did and do take place commonly in this city and within its banking system. What no one seemed to (want to) understand was that the Swiss bankers did not really need any of us trying to hone into their business so, it was “open season” whenever anyone had an apparently real connection to a transaction. As was my case at that moment.
Banhoffstrasse... Shopping and Banking Center

This local banking circumstance made it possible for many who had nothing but who, by simply showing up and coming up with some obscure documents, could possibly slide into a bona-fide transaction as facilitator or some such. In doing so, that person could make a very interesting amount of commission if indeed the transaction was able to be completed. This was an upside down world, but a world where one had to function nonetheless if the goal was to complete one of these “deals”. I have learned much and differently over the years; for example, that being in Europe is not a must, but knowing the right parties certainly is.

I was staying at a hotel which was some 4 blocks north of the central trolley stop (the old quarters, where the other hotel was, being on the south side) and, as such, I was somewhat removed from these characters. The daily routine was comprised of meetings between parties and many of these meetings were truly without reason, except to lend credence to their need for being in Zurich. Everyone had a veil of total secrecy over whatever it was he/she/they were in the process of doing… but, everything was “huge”… anyone you spoke with was involved with at least 2-3 principals, 2-3 attorneys and bank officers galore… By having established this ridiculous number of people who were supposedly involved in any given transaction, there was always the available excuse that one of that bunch was either away, sick, on vacation, in the middle of another “huge”(of course) transaction, or just plain too busy, therefore unable to work on his/her “deal” at the moment. The sad reality was that in most cases, it would turn out to be that they had nothing; they simply had to appear to have something, or their support funds would dry out.  
The ever present trolley car

All of the above should have been a dead giveaway to those of us who had just started to scruff our shoes walking this very treacherous road. 9.5 out of every ten people were out to “score” with someone; they had none of the contacts or structures they professed to have, their reach being as long as their arm and nothing more. Middle Eastern folks from different emirates and or sheikdoms, Europeans (mostly from the Balkans), South Americans, Australians and probably even a couple of Australopithecus thrown in for good measure… it was a mix and match bunch of desperate people, searching for that elusive one time chance to get a life changing reward. Dr. Shatiff was just one more of them and, as such, the support documents he would quickly flash across anyone who might be a possible target would not stand close inspection. On such, these documents showed they had been issued anywhere from 6-8 years prior and would hold little value at then present time. Yet, he did know a couple of important people in the medium and, because of this we found ourselves dealing with him and his Brazilian cohorts.

Enough for now… more at a later post…

Be well… Be Back!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Snippets Heard Here and There… Mostly there…

Today is a double whammy; what was posted this am, was last night’s blog… This one came on after a prolonged exercise routine late this morning… Often, the true thinking pattern of those around is really uncovered when one listens in (not by choice but by circumstance) to conversations being had by people who are nearby, while sharing a communal space.

Such has been the case during these past days, when my ever frustrating non productive efforts take me to the exercise room at the condo community where I live. Usually (not this am, however), my day starts there at around 8am or so, all depending on the time I am finally able to peel myself from the bed sheets, pillows and cover, have some coffee to open my eyes (no, I do not pour it in with a dropper and no, it is not Cuban coffee) and don my regular gym apparel: an old, ratty looking almost matching two sweat pieces (well, I can’t truly call it a sweat suit since top and bottom are of different makes and of slightly different blue color) but extremely comfortable and which I usually put over another set of light exercise pants and undershirt. A primary purpose of my visits is to try and lose as much excess sweat producing matter (actually, fat… but it sounds somewhat better) and therefore the extra layers.

In any event, my arrival time of before 8:30am usually puts me there ahead of a small group of older (actually, they are my age or just a little older, but I refuse to put myself in their mental category) folks who come in to what turns out to be a session of social griping wedged in between a couple of weight pulls here and there. A major boon to being there first is that I get to choose what goes on the TV and usually it ends up on the history channel… Better than Fox, CNN or MSNBC… anytime!! Better look at the history of WWII once again, than look at the current versions of Alice-in-Wonderland-Without-a-Clue-Meets-The-Clueless-Wizard-of-Oz.

As my legs are pumping away and I look at the treadmill’s board trying to understand why is it that the timer is going so slowly, they start talking. What is their main concern? There are several actually; First and foremost is the economy and what this mess we are in is going to do to their retirement funds. This is a real concern, as well it should be. Some are into stocks and have already lost part of their projected funds, and usually they all put their heads together in order to come up with some answers which, in the end, collectively turn out to be “calling their broker”. Poor people don’t realize that most brokers have as little a clue as to what to do, as do they. 

Then, other topics begin to show up. Folks, these are middle income, well right of center white North Carolinians or NC imports, for the most part.
-“What do you think of this guy Rubio?” (pronouncing it “rooobehu)
-“Well, he’s from Miami you know… mostly Spanish people there”
I am actually smiling under the duress created by the treadmill, as it goes into an “uphill” routine. They look at me but, at 6’2”, dark hair and moustache, and very white skin (courtesy of my maternal grandparents from northern Spain) I really do not fit their mental idea of what Hispanic should look like. Thus reassured, they go on.

-“Well, you know that if more of them get into government, we will have all the illegals running around” This sadly uninformed comment automatically equates illegals with Hispanics; those speaking do not realize that a growing percentage of illegal immigration in this country comes from Asia and Africa.

One of the folks, who seems to be better informed, explains to the two ladies that Mr. Rubio, a Senator, is actually a young conservative endorsed by the tea party, not at all in favor of softening the stance with illegal immigration. –“Well, then that’s OK” says the lady who had made the comment but who, after a moment of silence adds, just to put her last two bits in… -“He’s still one of them, you know” thereby arriving at a conclusion which is clear, understandable and all encompassing… at least to her.

The conversation then turns to these “awful” children who seem to be invading the condos, bringing music and noises with them. Actually, the average age in these condos is probably around 38-40, there being many families with young children and animals. These are not “retirement” condos where no one under 58 is permitted to live and where, if you bring children to visit grandpa and grandma, you better have them on a leash. God Forbid they were allowed to be children while there!!

The conversation drifts into several issues, mostly having to do with their churches and what they plan to do with their time over the coming week end. Then, we are back on the political scene. –“This useless president we have is going to sink us all” says the older of the two ladies, “I remember Reagan and he was a really good president”. Now, I do not profess to like Mr. Obama or what he is doing to the country’s structures but, in the end, he is the president until voted out. Reagan was a superb front man, being used to the camera and some have said his best acting was done while acting as president of the country. This group's frustration with the current situation the country is in, as they see it, is actually palpable; the feeling they project is one of impotence to counteract what they perceive as an eroding system. 

This is a generation that worked hard; children of WWII veterans and themselves coming off The Korean War, Viet Nam, The Cold War, The Middle East conflicts and who knows what else. They built a truly good country, a sound economy, a place where folks could have a better tomorrow and, as they now watch events unfold, all that is on the verge of being taken away.

As they enter the years when the fruits of their labor should be ready for picking and slowly savoring, something seems to be out of place… what is it that is not right and what is their fear?  On the first count, they can’t quite put their finger on it, too many ifs and too many people running around without much direction; on the second count and for the most part, they seem to be afraid of the changes they see happening… changes which are taking place without their understanding of the causes or their mechanics; changes in those beliefs which formed their basis of living for three decades or more; changes in the way the world is now “virtually” managed for, to most of them, this is not understood; changes in the meaning of those values which they worked so hard to uphold; moral, religious and just plain living values; changes they cannot control and which are affecting the future of their kids and grandkids and, for that matter, their own future as they see it; changes which show that the wave of tomorrow in this, their country, may possibly not even speak the same language, much less have the same culture.

To the generations which come right behind and to those who follow, change has become a way of life; this is now the new, accepted continuum. Everything changes on an almost daily basis; new discoveries, new frontiers, new gizmos, new thought patterns, new everything at some point or another. But, to that generation which now is retired or on the verge of retirement the concept of fundamental, seemingly uncontrolled change, in of itself, is an alien concept. 

And what is most important, this group is becoming the biggest voting block in the history of this country. Something to be considered, when politicians preach change and the disruption of the status quo; not that it cannot and, even, should not be done… just that it has to be done in a way it is understood by the newer generations' binary fed as well as by the older, biological dependent brains.

Hmmm… I think I will change my exercise routine…

Be Well… Be Back!!

A Day Without a Posting…

A title like this could cover a lot of sins and issues. This has been a relatively quiet day, too quiet for my taste on some fronts, from which specific news had been expected by now. This particular post was started yesterday, late in the day. At about 11pm it was decided to can it and let it go, not much would be lost. Yet, every paragraph is an effort; even when it really does not bring much in the way of enlightenment

So, there (or here) I am, sitting by the computer and looking at all the news (the other, regular kind of news) which have graced our newscasts over the last few days. Those that are considered important, not just present for their attention grabbing context.  What is there?

There is the, by now getting old, issue about M. Strauss-Khan and the alleged sex accusation; it seems to have gone down the dismissal road faster than the Thunder Mountain express at Disney. Obviously none of us has access to the details but I am sure that if the accuser had had a tight enough case, her attorneys would not have allowed this dismissal so flippantly… forget the rights of the lady; there was a lot of money to be earned and camera time to be had during this case.  Good exposure for nabbing future potential clients. On the other hand, it is also my belief that in going this route, the NY Attorney General’s office may have been playing a little bit at facilitating possible future international relations; possibly with some encouragement from the White House (Oh No… They wouldn’t do this, would they??).

a few hours ago..
Now, M. S-K, with his wife at his side, will make a re-entrance into France still being considered a potential candidate for the presidency and quite possibly garner all the pity votes, as well as the votes of those who still dislike the US (many in this corner, for the right or wrong reasons, but just the numbers count) The current president, a conservative, is bound to lose the office for himself and those on his side of the ledger. It seems M. S-K will come from the liberal left rank and file with much notice already, having been the frontrunner prior to this mess and now, this little episode has put his name on the lips of many (remember the rule: no matter whether they speak of me well or not, what is important is that they speak of me) who may look at him as the alternative. A wrinkle which may actually temper this scenario is the fact that there is another lady (a French one this time) waiting for him in France, also with an accusation of pretty much the same thing.  She says her experience tells her that the accuser in NYC was wronged by the courts…

In items of general interest, I learned that our most liked Wichita telephone lineman, Glen Campbell, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. At age 75 or so and being predisposed according to his history, he had dodged this bullet for a while but it has finally caught up to him. He has given several interviews, trying to make his situation a general knowledge and interest topic in order to maybe help others.
In The Beginning

The interview I saw was very poignant and it presented Mr. Campbell and his wife of 30 years, talking about his situation and how he, she, their family and their daily lives, are being affected. He does forget things but, he quickly adds: -“I always forgot everything anyway” –“and now that I am…” turning to his wife he asks her, not even blinking –“how old is it dear?” She, like most Alzheimer’s significant others, being his living memory bank quickly says –“75 years old dear”. But, he refuses to give up, thinking and expressing the thought that there are at least 2 -3 years of practical use left in his brain yet. I hope that and more is the case. A “farewell” tour is in the offing, along with a new album that was just brought out.

He sang a little a capella during the interview –what else, but the opening lines of Wichita Lineman- and that great clear, crisp voice is amazingly still there… Yes, it is older, a little lower in registry but still clear and vibrant. God Bless him and his family, and also all the families and victims of this unforgiving disease.

As a non-sequitur, hurricane season is here!! And for the first time in Good lord knows how many years, a major storm is headed for the Carolina coast. The North Carolina Coast, to be exact. Dear Irene… seems like she’ll be visiting the outer banks and the Hatteras area this weekend and, possibly, as a cat 3-4 hurricane; this is nothing to scoff at, it is major destructive possibility. This, following an earthquake two days ago… Hmmm!!... What’s going on?

On the political front, not much in the way of good news at this time. In fact, all it is giving us is the assurance that we may have to vote just to exercise the privilege, but without a clear choice as a defined “better” man or woman. Several of those who are now running this huge corporation known as the US Govt., have already had a chance to try their hand at running heretofore sound private corporations into the ground. The economy really sucks, jobs keep running away to China or elsewhere and those who have sent those jobs out, are often now working for the Govt. Just an example: The (ex)CEO of GE, which just spent 2.5 BILLION to create jobs in China (guess taking them away from where?) is now working with the govt. in their “job creation” projects… Huh??? Say what, again??? 

But, what to expect, when the same folks who basically were responsible for creating the Wall Street meltdown a couple of years ago (which still stinks of burning debris, by the way) are now ensconced within the ranks of the “advisors” to the President in areas such as economy, real estate, housing… that is akin to trusting a hungry, wild pack of wolves to guard food that is destined for others. Is it me being paranoid, or is there something wrong with this picture?

Finally, read a quote which I will probably destroy in the retelling. It is attributable to the former PM of England, M. Thatcher, one of the better ones they have had over there for some years … She echoes another great leader, Sir W. Churchill in this vein and, having had the "privilege" of living under more than one type of government, I am in total agreement with the essence of this quote:  “Socialism ceases to exist when the money of others is no longer available” (sic)

Perhaps those who would apparently like to see middle and “upper” class as well as private enterprise taxed to death, should remember the above quote. When the rank of those who financially support the government and all the programs it (mis)manages is decimated by overtaxing and expenses, then the very programs these monies support will also cease to exist.

One More day gone… 

On the agenda next... a safe, simple look at a day past...

 Be Well… Be Back!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

E-mails and Sugar Mills

 This morning an email came in from a dear friend… actually we (including her sister) go back to the days of Richland, WA., where we were part of the small band of Cuban teens who came to terrorize the unsuspecting town… not!.

She wrote to me referring to the last posting, about small Ciego Montero, the mineral water baths and about my experiences with my granddad, telling me about her own childhood in a small sugar mill town and her memories of her own granddad and her father, growing up in what was, per today’s standards, a truly bucolic setting. I was very happy to hear from her this morning, thanking me for bringing her own memories to the fore and a smile to her face. Needless to say, this brought a smile to my own face and some memories of my own…

As a return note went to her, the mention was made that part of several summers of my childhood were spent in a sugar mill town, not unlike the one in which she had her childhood, and not far from it, to boot. About a month ago I received another email, this time from the son of a friend of my uncle; the uncle and cousins sometimes mentioned in these posts and who, as it turns out, also lived in a sugar mill town, called Tuinucu. That email also opened a floodgate of memories about that little town, almost a village I guess, since we could bike from one end to the other in probably less than 15 minutes.
Early Days

Sugar was then Cuba’s primary currency; it accounted for a majority of the international income received and Cuba was, for several decades, the premier producer and provider of cane sugar in the world. Sugar mills dotted the countryside and sugar plantations were everywhere. Some were smaller, and some bigger but, there was a uniformity about the little towns/villages which sprung around the mills, populated by those who worked there and who made of these centers a veritable beehive of work during the weeks in which the canes were cut and brought in. We called the “zafra”, the harvest time. In fact, within Cuba’s jargon, anytime someone would come up with an economic boon, he/she would be said to have had a personal “zafra”.
Later Picture; Tuinucu

Early during summer vacation, it was for me a great incentive to be able to go to Tuinucu and stay at the home of my cousins until that time in which my uncle, who was the corporate comptroller, was able to leave for his one month summer vacation. We would all then pile in his car and come back to Cienfuegos, to my grandfather’s house, where my cousins would stay through most of the rest of the summer. My love of Tuinucu had grown over the years, since the first time my granddad took me there (I was about 5 years old then) to visit my uncle and aunt (my mother’s sister and my godmother) and the cousins, as they were being born.  As I got older, there was another incentive for these trips; as I learned how to drive, my granddad would allow me to exercise that privilege for a while, as we went off the main roads during the last leg of the trip. This was WOW!! incredible to me.

In our trips, we would approach the mill town from the back side, since we were coming through a shortcut off the main road, from the west; the main road came in from the east and the closest city, Sancti Spiritus. This approach meant a dirt road which In the rainy season was really not passable with our car; then good for 4 wheel drives, horses and the oxen pulled carts. This was indeed the countryside and it was to be enjoyed totally!! As we arrived at my aunt’s home, the cousins would spill out (there were four, although one was the baby girl, still in the crib… she didn’t spill out with the rest), yelling their welcomes and seeing what it was that granddad brought for them (I know… we learn to be selfish early on…).

Sugar Cane train

After the initial round of welcomes, kisses (ugh! that was not a child’s favorite moment) we would get lost. The bikes were ready and off we were… visit friends not seen since last summer (one of those is the person who contacted me about a month ago…) and feel the absolute freedom that being in a place like this afforded. In the city, there were some restrictions; although a great place to live, Cienfuegos was still a city, with some of the side effects that size would bring. Whenever I was at the mill town, these restrictions were off. Most everyone knew everyone else, families were simply friends and all had kids our age, with whom we were free to roam the place. And Boy!! did we… Forays into the countryside, in zafra time waiting for the sugar cane laden carts to come by, sneaking up to them and stealing a couple of canes; peeling them (not an easy task, believe me) with a hidden knife one of us would have brought anticipating just this moment, then cutting them in pieces we could chew, suck all the juice (Ahhh, pure sugar nectar… literally) and then spit out… afterwards, we would go to the small stream nearby to jump in and clean our faces and hands from the sticky syrup…
A Cane laden Cart

The loaded trucks, the beehive like activity at the mill, the smoke belching up through the stacks, the refining of the sugar, the people who were always ready with a smile, to explain to us what was going on… the stolen bits of sugar and the sugar candies… Yes, I know… we should have no teeth after all this, but our elders made sure we scrubbed our teeth totally, every day. Probably saved our collective smiles by getting us to do so. 

These were times for a child to be just that: a child. Feeling secure, doing mischief, having fun and enjoying a very simple and, sadly, long gone way of life. We all have some of these memories stuck way back there and it is to our betterment to be able to bring them forward once in a while; it is not living in the past… it is just having and keeping this wonderful past alive in us.

Thanks Stella, for bringing this back for me.

Tuinucu… Cuba, circa 1950’s.

Be Well… Be Back!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ciego Montero…
Looking through my –by now- “famed” memory banks, this little train stop as I remember it, was a thermal water/mud therapy spot which was well known in Cuba back in the 30’s to the 60’s. Sufferers of arthritis, rheum, back pains, etc… they all found at least, a lessening of pain when the body was submerged in the thermal pools.

This little out of the way place was somewhere my grandfather had taken me at one time or another, so it came to me to look it up in the ubiquitous jack-of-all-searches “Google-it”. I was thinking about these small baths (then really a train stop, there were no roads all the way in) in the middle of the “jungle” and not sure what would be the search result but, lo and behold!! There were pages of reference and several images to boot. It seems that the little out of the way train stop has now become, while still remaining small, a major curative center of international importance, where the business emporium includes an Italian-Cuban bottling company, which sells tons of bottled water in the manner of sodas and/or plain mineral water. And yes, there is a road all the way into the baths now.  Not a big road mind you, but a road.

Actually, a picture of the old train station (a small bus-stop like little building) came up in the search, old and worn out, as well as that of a train like the one we used whenever we went there. Except this one is a sugar cane laden train and that old one was a passenger train.

The old train stop... It did look better 55 yrs ago...
This really was an expedition for us. Usually on a Saturday, we were made ready the night before and had to get up early in the morning. My grandfather was a firm believer in the curative powers of these thermal baths and he went at least once every two months or so, spending the whole day there and going through the whole process, which included a great country lunch with meat from animals raised right there, as well as viands which were tended with, supposedly, the waters from the magical river.  All in all it was very nutritive and simple fare. We drank water from the source, which meant from a little fountain fed from the spring. Probably if I were to drink it today my internal immune system would become very ill, after so many years of chlorine and fluoride water.

-“Vamos Rafaelito, que nos están esperando”
-“Let’s go, the others are waiting for us” would say my grandfather by way of an “It’s time to get up” call.

The River Source
My grandfather’s right hand man Loyola (his last name, as we all called each other then and, besides, his first name escapes me) did suffer from a lung ailment and I think he was the main reason my GF made these pilgrimages to the baths. He would take Loyola every time and this would be his excuse for the days’ travel.

Since it was still dark outside it would take me a short while to come to life, finally, eventually… making it to the car. I remember it as being a 4 door 1954 Plymouth Belvedere; it was a two tone, pink on top and white below… (no comments from the peanut gallery, please) and it was the greatest car in the world, as far as I was concerned. In this car my grandfather taught me to drive when I was a mere 10 years old and by age 13 and much to my sister’s consternation, he would allow me to drive partway whenever we went to visit my uncle and aunt, who lived about 200 miles away.

As we left early in the AM, our first stop would be at Loyola’s house, followed by picking up anyone else who might be going. The drive was to Palmira, a small town about 7 miles outside our own city, passed the airport and the main cemetery. Once in the town, the car would be left and the small train taken. It was a local train, for the baths were a mere 15 miles north of Palmira; there would be an old, small locomotive and the coal tender, equally small, followed by two or three (depending on how many people were waiting) gleaming wood passenger cars, like the ones you see in a museum today. All passengers would get on (all going to the same place, since there was only one stop) and the slow trip through the countryside would start. This was my favorite part; the trees, the pastures and, eventually the very dense forest like area which surrounded the baths. We would cross the small river and then alight at the little terminal. The train would remain there until the afternoon, when it would make the return trip. All in all, it would take about 2 ½ hours to make it; today it seems impossible… it was only a total of 23-24 miles yet, in those days that is what it took and what made these forays so memorable for me.

Imagine two passenger wagons instead
and you have the train

Once inside, the routine was always the same. We would have some refreshments to temper the weariness of the trip… (well…) Then, we would change into special swimsuits and proceed to the three stage process.  First, the mudbath; very warm thermal mud having a high caustic and sodium content; after some 30 minutes, and just before being baked into a mud statue we would then move on to the thermal showers, where all the mud would be sloughed off and, finally, the thermal pool. A steaming hot natural spring fed (constant feed) water pool, high in several components (forget which) and where we would just sit and relax for a good hour or so, letting nature do its thing.  We would then don our robes and have the aforementioned lunch on the outside gardens, returning to the pool for a last dip, prior to getting dried, dressing and returning in the waiting train. 

It doesn’t sound like much; perhaps the most precious side of this for me, besides the train trip, was being in the company of my grandfather and his friend(s) who made me feel important and good. Besides, the bloody mud and water treatment did make me feel truly better. By the end of the day one felt somewhat rejuvenated (I felt like I was 5 years old againPlease keep your comments to yourself!!) As for Loyola, unfortunately his ailment was much more serious. He had the beginnings of emphysema which wasn’t made better by the fact that he was a heavy, non repentant smoker. The baths probably made him feel cleaner and fresher, but not much more I’m afraid. He was also made to feel important by my grandfather and his friends, and I think this had a somewhat curative effect as well.

Small places along the way which, when brought alongside all the other small places visited and stored in the memory bank, make a life; moments which meant much and which are part of my history and my story. A dearest friend commented to me today she felt somewhat rootless, having moved several times in her lifetime. So do I, said me… yet as we talked a bit, we came to understand that there are physical roots and then there are emotional roots, which are those which remain with you throughout the ages and travels, and through the travails as well. These little places and spaces are very much a part of those emotional roots.

Today's entry road
Ciego Montero, Cienfuegos, Cuba… sometime around 1953-58.

Be Well… Be Back!!  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What Happened Cuba??

Some days items come to me which beg to be forwarded; this is one such. A good friend from my school days in Cuba, now residing in Mexico, sent this to me under the tile of “What’s happened Cuba?” It is worth reading; we have heard much as to what has happened in Cuba since the Castro era  began and much of what has been done has been for export only, not for local consumption. This comes to show that much had been accomplished and that much of the public infrastructure still in use, comes from “BC” (That’s “before Castro”) times. This is actually a reduced list; there are sport issues as well as music achievements which have been left out to save space.

Cuba's Coat of Arms
  • In 1829, Cuba was the first Hispanic American country using vapor ships and boiler machinery;
  • In 1837, Cuba was the third country in the world with railways;
  • In 1877, in Havana, the first electricity powered industrial factory was unveiled;
  • Dr. Carlos Finlay, a Cuban MD was, in 1881, able to identify the carrying agent for the feared yellow fever, determining preventive and treatment measures;
  • The first electricity powered street lighting system in all Latin America was inaugurated in Havana, in 1889;
  • Cuba represented 70% of all gross external revenues for Spain during most of the 19th century;
  • Bullfighting was abolished in Cuba before the end of the 18th century, for being  “abusive, unpopular, and sanguinary”;
  • Both, the first trolley service in Latin America as well as the first car driven in Latin America were in Cuba, in 1900;
  • In 1907, Havana became the first city in the world with direct dialing telephone system; also in 1907 the first X-ray department in Latin America was established in Havana;
  • The first Latin American flight was completed on May 19, 1913 between Havana and Key West, lasting 2 hours and 40 minutes and being piloted by two Cuban pilots;
  • The first Cuban Peso was issued in 1915, it was on a par basis with the US Dollar and so it held in the international markets until, guess when?  1959;
  • In 1918, Cuba was the first country in Latin America to issue a law allowing for a legal divorce;
  • The second radio station in the world was inaugurated in Cuba, in 1922; by 1928 there were 61 stations throughout the island, being 4th in the world in this respect;
  •  By 1935, Cuban writers and producers were the largest exporters of serials in Latin America, having initiated the genre which became radio’s “novella/serial” eventually becoming telenovelas (soaps). The first? “El Derecho de Nacer” written and produced by Felix B. Caignet in 1935/36;
  • The first laws in Hispanic America mandating an 8 hour labor day; minimum salary and the total autonomy of universities, were passed in Cuba in 1937;
  • In 1940 Cuba, with a white majority of voters, freely elected the first black president in all of the Americas; also in that year, the most advanced constitution in the world was approved creating, among others, the right of women to vote, the equality of rights for men and women, and the rights of women to the workplace and to have job security while in pregnancy leave;
  • Ernesto Lecuona, in 1942, was the first Latin American to become the musical producer of a major film house and the first to be nominated to an “Oscar” for musical accomplishment;
  • Since 1942, there has been television broadcasting in Cuba, making it the second country in the world to have this; In 1958 Cuba became the third country to have a full time color television station;
  •  The first centrally air conditioned hotel in the  world (Hotel Riviera) was built in Havana in 1951;
  • In 1954, Cuba has the third highest (behind Argentina and Uruguay) per capita consumption of beef in Latin America (Where is it today??);
  • In 1955, the second lowest infant mortality in Iberomerican (this includes Spain and Portugal) countries with a 33.4 death per thousand births;
  • In 1956 Cuba, as recognized by the UN, has the highest literacy rate in all of Iberoamerica, with a 78% rate. Today, it has a reported 98% rate; the only difference being that this is “practical” literacy, not intellectual, since only that which is allowed to be read by the government is available;
  • Also acknowledged by the UN in 1957, Cuba had the highest medical doctor per inhabitant ratio in all of Iberoamerica; the highest % of homes with electricity (83%); the highest number of homes with indoor plumbing and bathrooms (80%) and the second highest daily caloric intake (2870);
  • The second 3-D multi screen theater in the world opens in Havana in 1957 (Radiocentro); By 1959, Havana had the most movie houses in the world, more than New York and Paris, which were 2nd and 3rd;
  • In 1958, there are more cars per capita in Cuba than in any other country within Spain/Latin American countries; has the highest number of domestic electrical appliances; the highest number of laid railways per square kilometers of surface; and the second highest number of radio receivers;
  • During the 50’s, Cuba had the second highest per capita income in Latin America, higher than Italy’s and double that of Spain (In contrast, today, a practicing MD earns about US$30 per month); despite being a relatively small country with 6.5Million inhabitants, it became the 29th largest economy in the world in 1958; (there has been a somewhat steep dive since then and no, the so called "embargo" has not been the cause, since Cuba has been all along free to trade with every other country in the world and, even with the US in grains and medicine)
Jagua Hotel in Cienfuegos, still considered one of Cuba's best; completed in 1958
There are basic topics which hurt in the telling; when any one of us looks to his country of origin, there is a desire to see the best face. In my country, I only have my memories which have been –and will continue to be- gladly shared with you who are taking the time to read these postings. Yet, there is a history that goes far back, much farther into the times of our grand and great-grand parents. This is also an integral part of what and who we are, no matter where we happen to be today. I truly love this beautiful country which has given me a home and a life for these past 50 years but, at the bottom of my heart there is a very special, impregnable spot where these early memories reign and which suffers deeply when I see what has happened to that once proud, free, happy and productive country; my Cuba.

Be Well… Be Back!!

Doña América and other memories.

I know she has already been mentioned somewhen along this line of sometimes unhinged memories as they relate to moments of my life , but y...