Monday, October 31, 2011

It Is Monday … Again!


This is the beginning of the week; a beginning which comes right on the heels of a very busy weekend … one of the those that leaves you feeling totally exhausted and needing of a, well, restful weekend to recuperate…

Except that there won’t be one. It is late already in the day and this morning there was an English ESL class to give. Truly, it was not one of my better efforts and when the next class time comes around on Wednesday, I promise to give them twice as much … not of the same … but of the right stuff…

This seems that is going to be one of those days when time moves awfully slowly, with every minute taking an hour or so; one of those days when the sun shines a little darker and the wind puffs a little stronger … and colder. Have you ever lived through one or two of these days? I think we all have, or will… there is no explanation, although in my case I will blame the long night and short sleep, following the long two weeks and the seemingly insurmountable amount of adrenalin which flushed my system(s) during this time period. The flow is finally beginning to slow down and the effect is that same one which is probably felt by a long distance runner who has given his all … and come in last … The mind and the body just refuse to go on and want to go into, like a yawning bear at winter’s door, total hibernation.

But, unfortunately, all those waiting due (and overdue) payments on the basics of life will not wait; they demand that no matter what the feelings may be, off to work we go. Like the dwarves in that famous story we all knew as children, we pick up our shovels, our ladles and pails and go off to the mines so that today’s ore can be picked up. No, I do not go away singing, just trudging along… Did you ever wonder where these little guys ever went with their ore? Where was this converted into the currency which would allow them to pay for the electricity, the food, their collective mortgage, etc? No? … well, I did when I was younger, long before the honest understanding of what a fantasy story came along to enlighten me and, at the same time, cut down my innocent enjoyment of these very tales.

Anyway, as the day will wane, so I hope this “blues” feeling does. Nothing really matters; nothing really moves me today. Yet, this roller coaster feeling brought on by our (un)friendly adrenaline “insufficiency” has to be managed, and a “five hour” boost will simply not do.

While looking at a documentary based on the life of a gentleman I knew as a child, it struck me that on this You Tube site (/Cienfuegos, Cuba), there were several short films that were shot in the fifties, and in venues our family frequented. One in particular, showing summer swimming meets of the 50’s, caught my attention. As the very blurry images came on, my sister and cousin were very recognizable on the girls’ side. Unfortunately, the boys’ side was not so clear and the faces were not recognizable. Most likely, one of the two or three taller boys was yours truly, but I could not pinpoint my grinning face image. But the curiosity “damage” factor was already done, and the memories began to come through…

The two in the middle are
my sister and cousin... cute, huh?
 We, as a team, were subjected to what amounted to be a very laughable training schedule. Our coaches believed that these summer activities were to amuse and “entertain” us, not to kill us by wanting to eat the rest of the world while it was still alive. Therefore, whenever we came up against one of those juggernaut teams with a military like mentality for training and development, we did not fare well in the water. But we had a blast! Yet, and surprisingly, we did win our fair share of meets. It was indeed a fun time we had and, I guess, their objective was met. Memories are good and, having come across some of those guys with whom team colors were shared at the time, they have told me that they also have the good memories.

I think ... I am the second
from the right ... but won't swear to it
 At the Yacht Club, three things were “sacred” and in this order: crewing, a sport which gave the club a good name and many trophies; fencing and swimming. My older cousin(s) were part of the crew which won Cuba’s title at one point in the mid/late 50’s, and went on to the Pan American games as national representatives. There they did not fare as well, managing to make it to the quarterfinals. But in Cuba, where it counted… they went undefeated that year. Each regatta was an occasion for joy and celebration. And there were 5 of these during the long summer. At the end, the season culminated in a ball at the winning club facilities where the champions were officially presented to the world … well, OK, to the other members of the club, invitees and friends. It was fun; the air was full of festive feelings and people were always smiling and congratulating each other, even if they wouldn’t know what to do with an oar, if one ever found its way into their hands. In the meantime we, the swimmers, went on spraying and slapping water as we made it through our laps. No, we did not go undefeated, just undaunted.

The Cienfuegos Yacht Club
Main Entrance.
 This is a snapshot of a little bit of our summer lives, whenever it was I was not at my stepfather’s farm getting up at 4am in order to milk cows, which I also loved to do. I must say, my swimming experiences brought on a gold medal years later at the PacNW competitions (Senior High School level) and, during the Army service, it allowed me to go on special duty every once in a while, whenever a lifesaver or a water safety instructor was needed. This is how I met my first daughter’s mother … Not bad…

Well, it is time to go and face the reality of this harsh world. But this entry had to get done first; it has become a top priority for me to communicate with and to you on as close to a daily basis as it can get done.

Thanks for all you comments and support during these past two weeks… They have meant much ... God Bless You!!

Be Well … Be back!!


Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Any comments please send to otherboxp@yahoo.com; it comes directly to me. I promise to read all coming messages, and answer as many as I can.
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs).  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Friday, October 28, 2011

One Day at a Time…


The above, the working motto of every addict in recovery (a lifetime journey), applies to personal situations as well. Especially when those situations touch the core of the individual, rocking the foundations of faith, of living, of believing.

I have to admit that, in this area, much was learned from my son as well as from the many people who crossed my life path through him, and who were undergoing the same struggles he was. The concept of managing pain, anger, angst and just plain simple shock, goes back to minute by minute mind control. No, I do not refer to the kind of control which leads to forgetting what is the cause of this unbalance … that would be very selfish and impossible to do. I refer to the type of mind “control” which allows the process of digesting, accepting and, eventually, learning to coexist with what has happened.  

Yes, we must come back to regular days and regular life, whatever that means. There is work to do, bills to pay, people to see and talk to… this last is perhaps a very difficult aspect of the healing process. Our friends have been constantly on the phone, whether calling or texting. My wife has taken it upon herself to be a “filter”, understanding that in trying to cope with such a difficult issue the best intended callers will, every time, bring back to life that horrendous moment and its consequences and this will not aid in the healing process.  Do they mean to create more pain? Of course not … they mean to let us (me) know that their support is there and that their prayers are present. These I will accept gladly, and encourage. But it is important to understand that there is little to be gained by “reliving” what has happened; be it in this particular case, or in any other similar one.

In talking with a Pastor friend he was telling me that, while it would be impossible to actually regain 100% of what we were before the loss, it was very important to stop, at a given point, asking the question Why?
The reason, he explained is twofold:

-    Chances are we will never have a coherent answer, because there were several aspects of the events leading to the accident which are incongruent with what we knew his good riding safety record had been. Any possible explanations he took with him; 
-        The more we try to answer these questions, without success, the further we will sink into despair and anger. This could eventually be a source for our own downfall as people.

These reasons are true; we, as his family, want answers that cannot really be obtained; in the process we become angrier with life and stop living it. It becomes simply a tiresome existence, and  this would be a great disservice to the memory of our son.

Yesterday, his ashes were strewn over the ocean. His sister tells me that the skies were cloudy but, for a moment after the ashes went into the water, there was a break in the clouds and the sun came through. Yes, I know … but it is comforting to think this was his spirit just letting them (and me through them) know that there was peace and beauty.  

A chapter closes on a life; the chapters in the book of the living continue to be written on the others lives around that one. Every page on those continuing chapters will have, inevitably, a touch from that other essence, the one that got away. This is the way it should be; not the pain which will eventually subside, but the loving manner in which his presence among us will be remembered and cherished. 

...One day at a time …

Be well … Be Back!!



Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Any comments please send to otherboxp@yahoo.com; it comes directly to me. I promise to read all coming messages, and answer as many as I can.
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs).  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar. (last week we did not go “on air” … we’ll be back this week)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

English as a Second Language…


I am not sure why this topic came into my mind; as things stand, I am happy to be able to open my mind to subjects other than the one which has kept it painfully occupied during these past days.

Perhaps because this is something I have dealt with for several years; perhaps because this morning I was able to go back and continue a “hobby” class that takes place a couple of mornings per week. The fact is, I thought about it when the computer opened to its customary blank page.  It has been over 30 years since I stood for the first time before a group of people from different countries and different walks of life and tried to understand what they were expressing, as well as trying to begin the long process of having them understand me. In that first class there were two students from France, one from Italy, two from Japan and one from Russia. The classroom was a small room in a converted apartment on a 4th floor, on East 46th Street in Manhattan.

It was truly an eclectic group and one which was the source of much fun and cultural enlightenment for all. There were picnic trips to Bear Mountain Park, where each would bring something typical to the communal pot. On one outing, we had cheese, bread and wine from, of course, our French student, rice balls and chicken bits from our Japanese guys, a bowl of pasta salad from Italy and an actually good boar meat pie, made by the mother of our Russian fellow. Not bad, huh?.

As it turned out, one of the two Japanese students was a chef at a local restaurant, not too far from the school, and during the course of the classes we became friends of a sort; he was always very curious about not only the US, but also about Cuba. And I returned his curiosity about his home country, one of the countries in which I have always been very interested.  After we finished the course of the classes, he had actually develop enough language ability to communicate on a basic level (there were no grammar or written classes, the focus was on sounds and the ability to communicate orally) and he was very happy about his progress.

As a way to say “thank you” he invited my then wife and I to join him at the restaurant where he worked for a full course Japanese meal. He was really “only” a chef’s first assistant, and I am sure the costs of this dinner were fully charged against him; it was his way of saying thanks to a couple of folks (my then wife always came to all the outings) who had been a part of his introduction to the US. It was a rainy night in Manhattan; one of those early fall nights when everyone in his right mind is curled up on the sofa with a glass of wine or a hot chocolate, watching TV or listening to music while reading … like that mental image, right? … me too … and we lived in Connecticut, about 45 minutes away. We almost cancelled but, in the end, decided to go since the preparations for such a dinner would have been started much earlier in the day.

When we arrived and were announced, he came out in his full regalia (no Benihana trickery here!!) and escorted us to their “6 tatami room”, the second largest in the house and where normally up to 6-8 people would be seated. He had reserved this for us. A tatami is the roll up bamboo carpet which in the older, traditional Japan served as bed and also defined the boundaries of personal space and was always carried as part of the belongings of any the traveler. Rooms were then measured by how many tatamis fit in and anything larger than a 4 tatami room was considered big, in any country home. We were seated, and he personally brought every dish, seating with us to explain what it was while we savored it.

I can tell you the fish looked like it was still alive, the soups were incredible and the arrangements of every single dish were out of this world. The visual introduction of any dish was amazing in texture and color, as well as subtle flavors… we wanted to save each one as a decoration, but in the end ate every single piece… What an experience!! We had seven courses, including soups and dessert. All accompanied by different kinds of warm sake… depending on the particular dish it might be drier or slightly sweeter. By the end of the night we were truly impressed by what we received. Not only by the actual food and the incredible personal service;  but the intimate gesture of friendship extended by this young man who simply wanted to say “thanks” and who wanted to do it expressing the pride he felt in his country and traditions. I have not seen him again; but this night was never forgotten.

There have been other classes and other groups along the way. Including the one that now occupies a couple of mornings a week. They all have had something in common: the deep desire to be able to get ahead in this society of ours, to be able to work, raise their children and partake of what this beautiful and great country can best offer: an opportunity. When you see someone who perhaps does not speak English as clearly or a well as you may, think about how would you fare if the sides were swapped: you are in a strange country and culture, trying to learn to deal with different issues every day, while attempting to communicate with others in a language you can’t quite understand yet. It would not be easy, would it?

Think about this the next time someone speaks with an accent, or does something which you might see as strange; remember this person may actually be doing something that she or he interprets as being good …  During my classes I usually tell the students to learn to listen and to think through a “filter”; this will allow them to see or appreciate a little more what is around and how to communicate.

I will say the same thing to you, my dear reader … we live in a social community which no longer is only composed of those who were born and raised I this country. Each individual brings something of his or her culture into the general pot, and this truly does nothing but raise the value, flavor and aroma of the stew that is cooking. Learn to listen and to receive these experiences with a “filter’. This is nothing more than accepting that, while someone or something may be a little different, it does not necessarily mean that it is bad.

Don’t be afraid to be open to others; don’t be afraid to talk, share and learn from  those who have come from different places and who are incredibly curious about who we are and what we do; as you learn from them, they are also learning from you at the same time. This can only enhance your experiences in this life, because getting to know other cultures and other ideas will greatly expand your thought and behavior patterns for the better.

Be well … Be Back!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Any comments please send to otherboxp@yahoo.com; it comes directly to me. I promise to read all coming messages, and answer as many as I can.
  • Remember:  We will be back “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs).  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox
     If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your         address bar.
(last week we did not go “on air” … we’ll be back this week)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Retaking a Normal Life...


It is said that it is best to, in order to be able to put life’s truly bitter moments behind, immerse oneself in whatever it is that will occupy the mind and –in this case- the heart as well. While there is really no possible way to ever fully put behind the events of this past week, we must go on; we must continue to struggle with our newly accented difficult circumstances and learn to cope with them at a functional level.  If  I do not do this, I am going to defile what my son’s life meant to me and this will not be done, so I will do what must be done.

It will never cease to amaze me as to the incredible and truly unfortunate relevance of the different issues we liked to discuss and to “argue” about of late (albeit in a friendly and joking manner) whenever we had a chance to talk; whether in person (far too few times since I came to NC) or on the phone. This last communication medium allowed us to talk to each other for long periods of time; Eric really enjoyed being “mind tickled” and liked to be pushed to coming up with possibilities ... about anything … the immediate topic could be irrelevant, it was the actual discussion that kept him going. In doing this, he truly pushed me along as well. I have had the pleasure of meeting good minds in the four corners of the world along the way, during these last 40 years or so. I have enjoyed discussions over coffee, wine, tequila, vodka, pisco, tea … even plain water … my early training and constant reading allowed me to hold my own in many of these encounters but when “whipped”, it became truly a learning experience … fascinating and enlightening. Eric was and felt the same way. He enjoyed going into esoteric territories and discussing issues which, to most people, were simply a “waste of time” or “not grounded in real life”.

What, or who, is to say those things that belong to “real life” and those which do not? Is it a defined boundary or a defined point of view? Being this last the case, than it all belongs in "real life", since we are all of it. As far as I am concerned, there are no limits to what the mind can, or should, explore and visualize. If my memory serves me right, a bright guy once said; “Imagination is more important than knowledge” … his name? Albert Einstein … Wanna argue with him about knowledge? … Or reality? … Didn’t think so …

Ever since the moment we come to being able to undestand, we are bound on all sides by norms and parameters … what’s “good” and what’s “wrong”. We are taught in our schools about what not to do, rather than about what we can do. Then, as a child grows up, all taboos fall in line and confine his being and his mind. And whenever, once in a while, a bright and inquisitive mind develops and wants to explore all that could be, (yes, I fully understand that this could be humanly impossible to do… but much fun in the trying!!) then it is treated like a pariah and shunned aside by the bulk of the functional sheep who, while bleating out loud, know nothing other than to unquestioningly follow someone else. Someone who managed to go beyond the immediate envelope and who is afraid to allow any follower to do the same … Job security, you know… This has been a point of argument for me since I have mind to remember; probably since at age 8, when I was told by a religious figure that my grandfather, the man who brought me up, would never be received in Haven for he was a Mason. Rather than turn my back and run scared, my response was something to the effect that, if my grandfather could not go there then it wasn’t good enough for me either. This earned me a long stint counting cracks on the column outside the classroom.

When Eric and I would get involved in some of these discussions, he reminded me of self, many years ago. It downed on me, relatively early on in his life, that his mind would be a source of potential problems for him. Never, ever, truly anticipating just how deeply into despair these troubles would take him. His incredible intelligence, intellect and constant inquisitiveness were more than his reasoning ability could handle. His mind reacted by creating, little by little, a world of its own. No, he wasn’t crazy by any means … he was a too bright child who could not understand what was going on around him, or why he was being treated differently by his peers.

This is not a treatise on the negative issues my son lived through; rather, a plea for anyone who may read the entry and who may be dealing with a child who seems to be insatiable in his/her quest for knowledge of all issues, not just school. A child who may be a little slower in reacting than others around him; don’t assume this slowness is due to a less than normal mind; on the contrary, it may be the reaction of a mind that takes in more than your own and takes the time to explore mentally what if, and what could be. Remember that “abnormal” does not necessarily always mean less than normal … it also means that which is greater than normal. And, in either case, it must be dealt with accordingly.

Look around you; touch the person you love … don’t be afraid to hold that person to your heart and to say “I love you”… Just three days prior to my son’s death, we had a very long conversation and, at the end, I had the blessing of being able to say and to hear those words … “I Love You!!” without knowing it would be the last time. I will hold that conversation in my mind and heart for the rest of my life and I do thank Our Father for that beautiful moment.

Be Well … Be Back!! 


Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Any comments please send to otherboxp@yahoo.com; it comes directly to me. I promise to read all coming messages, and answer as many as I can.
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs).  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar. (last week we did not go “on air” … we’ll be back this week)

Monday, October 24, 2011

An Open Letter to my Dear Son…


An Open Letter to my Dear Son…
This past week, as your physical presence was taken from us, brought much pain into our lives; not only your family’s lives, but to all those lives whose path you crossed and, in doing so, made better. This past Saturday we had a celebration of of your incredible accomplishments son. The people who knew you and who loved you; those who knew you as a young man … and those who stood by you throughout your more difficult times. They were all there. Yes, I know … you definitely would not believe these many folks would come to remember you and to tell all how much they loved you and how much you impacted them; because of your constant inner struggles you were always self effacing my son, yet you had grown to be incredibly strong and made that strength an impacting presence in your relationships.


I had a chance to think about the many different aspects of your life; about your inquisitiveness, your curiosity about all things … your thirst for knowledge. Our too few visits and our marathon like phone conversations. Always wanting to know “Why?”, “How Come?” I guess by now you must be the main assistant at the celestial library …Along with having an endless open account at the nearest sushi bar …. My Word!! The amounts of food you could put away never ceased to amaze me or your friends who sat at the table with you!! … a reflection of your hunger for all things, even food; your incredible intenseness was present in all you did.

You had a troubled life my son; but, once you decided that it was finally time to set things to right, that immense inner strength you always denied having took over and enabled you to indeed wrest you life back into your hands. Yes, the struggles did not end there … we know this and, most importantly, you knew they would always be present but you were not afraid of taking them on, even when there were times this could prove to be tiring and frustrating. You NEVER gave up!!

This letter is about whom you were in life son, and about what your incredible spirit meant to so many people. Your accomplishments were extremely important. The simple fact you were able to come back from the hold of addiction is, in itself, a life feat worth celebrating. But you would always act as if these were not important and as if you were not deserving of praise, since you were not comfortable with this concept. Yet, much praise was deserved. In going back to school and always being amongst the top 3 (usually at the top!) in your group, and eventually getting your plumbing license, you were so proud … and so were all of those who knew and loved you son, starting right here with your family and friends.

A shy smile remembered
Your smile and quick (a little too sharp at times …) dry wit always made me laugh; your observations about people were always right on the money. But you know what was more important? You always looked for that good thing anyone could have and always hung to this, rather than looking to find any negative qualities that could be derided; you had learned first hand the damage this could do. This is a beautiful quality of life son, and I hope I can learn to emulate you in it… You taught me this and many other things. I learned much else about your last few years from your friends; all of it made my heart burst with love and pride. I was always proud of you son, and always loved you for who you were; I think you knew this, for we often would talk about your pains and frustrations … and I always told you that your worth, as a person, had no boundaries … you were well worth all the effort, the love, the struggles, the tears, the understanding and also the time … The long conversations and discussions about your true passions; those we shared like music and books and those we did not share, like your love for your bike(s). Yes, this last took you away from us, but I also know that it gave you perhaps the most joyous and peaceful times of your life… How could I resent this? I am grateful to have shared your time in this life son, and am incredibly proud to be your father.

You were now called into Our Father’s arms my son. You leave behind a void which will never be filled; there will never be another like you, nor would I ever look for one. I will terribly miss your physical presence; your spiritual presence and love remembered will always keep me company.

I do not question the Will of The Father; He had brought you back to us at a time we thought you might be gone forever. That allowed for your eventual entry into treatment and recovery and in doing so, life gave you a chance to blossom into the beautiful person you truly always were. This is the person we all remember with much love and pride; this is the person who won over all those with whom you came into contact; this is the person who was truly kindhearted, loving, giving, a true friend, someone who understood that love meant really caring about the entity beyond a fa├žade, the true core of the individual … for you knew intimately my son the pain that could be caused by just measuring the surface and not going beyond.

Years ago, in one of the many times we would go out for a night “talk” (that meant you talked and I mostly listened…) you said to me “I hope that when I grow up, I am just like you”… You never had an idea son, what that has meant to me throughout my own life’s ups and downs. But I want to tell you this … You were already a much better man than I ever could hope to be, and I loved you for this and much more…

So long my son; I shall not say goodbye, for we will meet again … and at that time you shall be my guide and mentor. Be well; you now enjoy the true love of Our Lord and the true peace of His presence. Knowing this, we find solace and acceptance; you are beyond trials and struggles; He knew you were ready to be at His side.

We love you; we bless you and we send you on in peace.

Your father. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Time for Grieving…

I wasn't sure I would write about this and put it on the blog … Yet, you who have read these entries have become sort of my extended family; some of you I know personally, some I haven’t but still you are all a part of this enterprise. This will likely be the last entry for this week; I hope to be able to resume next week
Eric Charles Alcazar
09/19/1978  -  10/18/2011 
He had just turned 33 years old, his birthday being the day after my own 65th … a wonderful birthday present many years ago; grown into a man-child who had just recently begun to experience the possibilities of looking ahead, and to dare think that his troubled world would permit him these illusions.

As a young man, many issues and inner demons brought him often to the brink of desperation and well into the realm of frustration and depression. Yet, he always managed to remain a loving child, who simply craved that someone would care for and love him in return. The time we spent overseas, when he was in grammar school, was a time he always cherished, actually maintaining contact with a dear friend over the years.

As time went on he grew into a young man who, while encountering even more inner issues with which to contend, tried very hard to be accepted by and be acceptable to his peers. This was a very difficult process, being he a basically shy person who was convinced, for reasons only known to him, that he did not deserve this camaraderie. Eventually, after years of painful trial and error management … mostly errors, he decided to face his inner demons and try and wrest his life back into his own hands. It wasn’t easy, the process was one which asked him to bear his soul and perhaps, he wasn’t quite ready for the first few weeks. With the coaxing of his mentors and of us, his family, he did finally embrace the healing process and began the long, taxing road back into taking over his own life.

He was so proud when he finally got his plumbing license!! “Look … It’s mine … I did it all by myself!” … he loved to work outdoors, to be in touch with nature; a trait learned from his grandmother, who from the time he was a baby, became her project and her loved child. I am firmly convinced her ministrations as well as her unconditional love and prayers, were the catalysts that eventually brought him back to us.

In another recent post, never for a moment thinking that this day would come, I mentioned that my pride of him was and will forever continue to be, immense. In life, he went to the gates of addiction hell, faced the demons and was able to come back, fighting them to a functioning draw. A draw which would allow to go on with his life and to begin to scale that mountain which for most us is difficult enough; for him, it was like trying to scale Mount Everest with one leg tied … but he never gave up. I don’t know whether or not he reached his personal top, his pinnacle. But he came to understand that the fight itself was what made it all worth while and what would decide his being able to go on.

Sometime ago, we met for lunch; he was very proud of the fact that he was able to invite me, the result of his hard work. We sat and, as I was going to order a glass of wine, I remembered and changed to tea … “Don’t be silly and have the wine” he said … then he smiled that beautiful smile of his and added … “I am the one with the problem, not you!” With that I understood he had indeed come a long way.

Thank you son for sharing your, unfortunately, too short life with us. During these past years, as you became more at ease with yourself, we all came to know the Eric those who loved you always knew was there; caring, loving, warmhearted, willing to help others, funny and sarcastic and quick with that bright half smile which always seemed to question  whether you had the right to smile. You more than earned the right to smile son.

Life was not kind to you, yet it –try as it might- could not dampen the love in your heart. You were tested often and harshly at times; yet you were able to fight and pass those tests with flying colors … My pride in your accomplishments will never cease.

Holding on to my faith as a lifesaving vehicle, I ask that Our Father has received you in His hands with open arms, in love and peace. That same love and that same peace you earned and so richly deserved and that you were never quite able to attain amongst us, try as we might.

Go In Peace son… with our blessings and our undying love.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An Empty Day …


Well, not really … but it’s not a bad one liner to get the motor started and, in doing so, prove to myself that, indeed, an empty day it is not.

Actually several issues are at the forefront,  some of them deal with the ever ongoing fight to get one of these transactions, which seem to be ready one day, only to find out the next that it was an illusion of sorts. The latest roadblock seems to be the ongoing financial crisis in Europe … major banks are hesitant to issue guarantee documents and minor, fringe banks are not acceptable. Maybe because these last are always ready to issue guarantee documents, even when these go beyond their declared assets … If we did this in our everyday account, we would be hit with an overdraft surcharge … but some of these same banks get away with the proverbial murder.

I received last night an e-mail offer to have my name “numeroloread” (there goes another coined word!!). It was a “free” offer to look at what the numbers have in store for me. I have learned that whenever the offer tended has the word “free” it usually means there is a money hook at the end of said offer. My favorite?  “Folks … when you call in we will show you our thanks by sending you a … FREE GIFT … Huh??  Isn’t the very nature of a gift that it is, indeed, free? The hyperbole used by the marketing world, especially in the now ubiquitous “infomercials” that pollute the cable TV world, is astounding. 

We can have our colon cleansed, our noses cleaned, the hair on our bodies eliminated, age erased and face lines ironed; bad cholesterol lowered and the fat around our middles reduced to a blubbering mass of, well, blubber …  all this and much more for a mere  $49.99 per month. I never thought I would see the day when becoming “eternal” could be so cheap. Too bad there is never an offer for a $49.99 “smarts” pill, guaranteed to help you look beyond what is on the screen and into what is behind the offer.

When one of these pitches comes my way and is interesting enough to be explored I call in to see what gives and, usually, am subjected to a pitch by a robot like human who is reading from a script. I can tell how new is the script reader by his/her reaction to my usual opening line … To the “And How Are We Today?’ said too loudly and with a 1000 Watt smile on (never varies) my answer is usually “Not well…” Then, the poor fool who hasn’t quite graduated yet “Script Reading 101”, without missing a beat or, for that matter listening, answers … “That’s Good!!!” and launches into the rest of the story … So pathetic, it becomes funny.

Marketing is an art which escapes most of these midnight gurus. Don’t get me wrong … many do make more money than you and I together and to most people this justifies the barrage of garbage they subject the viewing world to.  The stations also find a way to pay the bills, by simply charging for the time and avoiding any production costs. The other night I became so exasperated by the lack of actual late night programming, that part of my sleep time was spent in looking at the first 500 or so available cable outlets. My Lord!!! A full 65% of these were in infomercial mode… jewelry, vacuum cleaners, free courses for any number of topics, the most available were on how to make money by the truckload… What the speaker fails to mention is that the only person making the money by the bushel, is the guy pitching the “free offers”.

Speaking of marketing … Sometime ago one of the blogs dealt with the religion “industry”. This came about because one day while going to a client’s house, I actually counted 15 small “neighborhood” churches; all of different denominations and all espousing that each was unique in its approach to communicating with Our Lord… Folks, there were more neighborhood churches than neighborhoods!! I have attended, “parishioned”, “fellowed” and congregated at several churches along the way. In too many of these small congregations a regular day-to-day person receives “the call” and becomes a Pastor in one of several, relatively easy, ways (not to be confused with those churches where the ministers must pass several years of study). This allows him to preach (His strength) to a group of congregants, pass the Word according to his view or the view of the corporate church his chapter represents and, most importantly, receive the tithes, donations and pledges, all in cash please and to be divided with the sponsoring church … a not too shabby franchising business.

With luck, the pinnacle is attained when the pastor manages to open a TV chapter of his church, for he is then open to receive more of these offerings. Many large churches have made TV their medium, reaching an average of 100,000 viewers in any one show. Some well known pastors, of course, reach many times those numbers.  Figure that if only 30% of the viewers send in an average of $40.00 … each show will bring in over $1M … not bad … not bad at all! Perhaps this explains the huge buildings, designer clothes and the limos waiting at the door…

Anyway … we regular folks go on with this “empty day” and proceed to deal with the more mundane issues we must solve day in and day out, right?

Be Well …  Be Back!! ….
And don’t forget to set aside 30 minutes on Sunday afternoon!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… This is the original "Wireless" phone ...Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Any comments please send to otherboxp@yahoo.com; it comes directly to me. I promise to read all coming messages, and answer as many as I can.
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs).  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thank You…


It had been some 30+ years since I had the opportunity to actually reach out and “touch someone” through the airwaves. Last night we had a chance to start a 30 minute weekly cast of this blog and it was well received by many of you, who took the time to write a note.

Thank you…

There were some definite rough edges with which to contend, but these I hope to be able to smooth out as time goes on. It was in New York City, around 1974, where my last opportunity to “do radio” came around. In fact, as my mind was wandering around just before the time for the cast, thoughts about those days came bounding in …

The Studio ... a favorite place
My life as a recently made bachelor was OK; during the day I would work in sales, the weekends were devoted to the local radio station in Stamford, CT, where I then lived and 3 nights a week there was school to tend to. Pretty full plate … One of my pastimes back then was geometric design … this is a cool way to say that I couldn’t draw or paint worth a hoot, but could bolster my “artistic” ego with a ruler and a crayon… and, actually, some of the finished sketches were not bad!! Anyway, while I tried my hands at these at night, there was this radio station that was always on … This was WNEW-FM, the then top rated album rock (no, no CDs were available then) station, located in NYC. 

If you were a young, ambitious “DJ”, this was the station that was your impossible dream… top rated, in the top entertainment market, well known and with “radio personalities” to spare. Of course, out of reach for this Cuban working “part time” at a local “teapot station”… these were the local 10,000 Watt stations which were dimmed down to maybe 3,000W after dark… your audience was then reduced to about the immediate 5 square blocks. No matter… I was “On Air”, even if so reduced …

The local stations ...
a training ground
 Every late night, as I listened to “NEW”, there was a lady who came on the airwaves, and who had this incredibly sexy voice… Her “On Air” name was Alyson Steele, "The Midnight Owl" … Her incredibly sultry voice seduced me, along with half of NYC, every night … as I drew my circles and straight lines on a cardboard base. “I can do what she is doing” said I to self … Of course, every TDH (Tom, Dick and Harry) who was an aspiring radio personality and listening to her would most likely say the same. On one of those early morning hours my hands gravitated from the already botched straight line on the cardboard, towards the phone … and I dialed her call in number. My call actually got through to her and we talked for a while. Then, I would call every so often and we would chat, until I got her to actually talk with me “off air”, meaning while the music was playing and she was off microphone. A much more relaxed, non-pretentious call.

These conversations were interesting and we talked about my dreams and the fact that I was already working on radio … one night, she said to me “you know, you actually have a very nice voice for radio … why don’t you send in your demo tape to our director?” “You really think he would listen to it?” … “He must have hundreds of these” “Well, actually” she continued in that voice of hers, with a touch of a smile … “it’s more like thousands” … in the silence that followed (well … what would you have said to this?) she actually laughed (what a voice she had!!) and said “but don’t worry, I will ask him to listen and perhaps he will call you in”.

When this sign lights up...
You go into a "zone"...
There is something to be said about experience. Even of a different kind. In the early and mid 70’s there were several stations in the then rapidly growing FM market (yes, young’uns … there was a time when there was no FM broadcasting) and most of the big ones were in NYC. There was never a lack of unemployed (or self-denominated underemployed) “personalities’ making the rounds, which made the job possibilities not fertile ground for folks who, like yours truly, had never worked in one of these so-called large markets.

What to do? On one hand, I did have enough experience no to make a fool of myself (this is something which is not hard to do, believe me!) but not of the right kind. On the other hand, I had this ringing (well, OK … friendly) endorsement from “The Midnight Lady” herself and, on the other hand (huh??... you didn’t know I had three hands?) I had already been accumulating sales experience for several years. This is something these other floating “personalities” turned out to be short on.

So, after this careful analysis … OK, once over look, I grabbed the phone and put in a call to his Directorness… I say this with much respect and fond memories, not a dash of sarcasm here. He was Scott Muni or, as he was known, the Golden Voiced One … Music Director and Director of Operations for the station in question. I had already sent in the demo tape and was following up, saying the Ms. Steele had asked me to call him (I did mention sales experience, right?). Perhaps she had actually said something to him, for he took my call … and this was a rare thing. The appointment to come in and interview was set for 4 days hence… Damn! I think I lost about 10 pounds in four days … Couldn’t eat, sleep, or do anything … I was going to an interview with Scott Muni at WNEW-FM …WOW!  

The eagerly awaited day came and in the hallways (that is hallowed hallways to you …) I did come across a couple of the round making “personalities”, who were commenting on how the Great Scott had told them they would likely be welcome at some point, while showing them the way out … (did I say he was also a salesman?). Then, the dreaded interview came; he had a very tough reputation (he outlasted every other station director in a very tough market, where his reign was only over when his health finally gave out years later) as a difficult person and as a taskmaster.

The Great Scott ...
At his favorite place... the mike...
 When he received me, he gave me a once over look and said: “Talk to me about yourself, no about why you want to work here”. I was at a loss; for the last three days I had been taking a refresher course on rock music and the bands and singers who peopled this world. He added “If you are here, I assume you know your music … I want to know you”.  Whatever I said, must have been OK, since in the end I was told to report on Friday at 1am (actually, Saturday) to follow my own WNEW Guardian Angel (well, guardian Owl …) … when I came in, literally flying in from closing down the other station, she received me with an ear-to-ear smile… best welcome I have had to a job … Unfortunately, my tenure there lasted for a bit over 14 months when, for personal reasons, I had to leave; this was my last formal radio work, but the love and the taste have stayed with me ever since then. I love radio; it requires, more than any other media, a great amount of imagination along with the ability to transmit your own mental images.

These times were an early life school which taught me that truly, nothing is out of reach when you really, really want to do it… It took 30+ years, but last night I opened what I hope to be a new chapter in my radio days… up to day and global… This is just the beginning!!!  Stick with me and you’ll love it!!! 

I promise!!!

Be well … Be back!! … And now, listen in on Sundays …

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Any comments please send to otherboxp@yahoo.com; it comes directly to me. I promise to read all coming messages, and answer as many as I can.
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs).  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hi ... today is an off day, but this is just to remind YOU that THIS Sunday (10/16) we will be "On Air", coming to you through Blog Talk Radio ... this momentous event will happen at 6:30pm (18:30 hrs) Easter Standard Time (GT - 5Hrs) and all you have to do is follow this link ... if this doesn't work ... then cut and paste ... but BE THERE!!! 


I look forward to talking with you and making this crazy idea grow like wildfire...  


Remember ... your comments to :  otherboxp@yahoo.com

                         http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox   


Be There!!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The World According to Cheito … Part II (and 1/2)


Yesterday was an off day. As usual, this was so due to unforeseen circumstances, not really planned. I guess I could blame Cheito… He had told me that I would receive something in the “easemail” to put in, about the time he was away … nothing came in and as he said when I finally got a hold of him… “Mi’rmano.. the little princess wanted to go see “Mini an Micky” mouse at the Hialeah Park Fair… How can I say no to my little princess?” … I wasn't ready to fill in. He sent something last night and promised he would finish it “as soon as I can” …

… “CACHITA, M’ija… mira que no encuentro las chancletas…” (Ed.Note… lose translation: “Cachita, baby… I can’t find the flip flops”) “Caray, cuantas veces … how many times I gotta tell you to put them unner the bed?” Just this morning I tol’her not to mess with my flips. “Man!! When I NEED THEM, I NEED’M”

We just come back from a trip to the Everygleids (EdNote… SIC!) and we had a cool and roff (EdNote… just sound these things out, PLEASE… I’m going crazy!) time this week. Yeah… just to make it a little less expensive, we tried camping next to the big lake … Oki … somtin’ and it was real pretty over there. Mi Cachita and me, with our little princess. It wasn’t easy to find the place that my cousin Pepe tol’ me about. He said “jus’ go in this little dirt road until the end and then turn left” … “You can camp there next to the hut, that’s the bath”.  What he didn’t say was that there was nothin’ there … just swamp.

Friendly native ...
took this picture from the
retreating car as we were going
 in "marcha atras" (reverse)
 “JU CRAZY OR WHAT…”? screamed my Cachita as we got out of our old and beat up transportation… “Ju think we are gonna stay here?” “Get back’n the car let’s get back to the town”  “Mamita, wait!!” we haven’t even looked yet” I said to her, as her hair roots began to fire up … this was serious stuff, man!” Then, we looked at the pretty lake and saw moving stuff in the water … big logs with eyes on top … “AYYYY!!!!” I heard my mamita say ripping her chords” she stopped long enough to breathe in and continued  “DAT’S A COCODRILO … GET BACK IN THE CAR PRINCESS AND WE’RE LEAVIN NOW!!!”

What can I tell you man … we piled back into our little wagon and headed back to the nearest town. This was a town where there nuttin’ but strange Indian names for everythin … I thin’ it was inna reservation or sumthin like that … and we found a hotel where we stayed for 3 days… not pretty, but it had a pool in the back for my little princess …”

Pretty huh?  I had to buy this one.
Cachita wouldn't go back there ...
Ed Notes, commentaries and such… 
The above is as far as Cheito got in his present state… I think he is nursing his head, where Cachita bashed him when they got back home. She was madder’n a hornet. “Imagine” … she said on the phone, after telling me Cheito couldn’t talk … literally … “first vacation we take in 5 years and this hijo’e … (not translatable, at least here… but I can tell you it has something to do with dear Mrs. Perez, Cheito’s mamita) goes all cheap on me” … “he told me that we were going to a lakeside place, and I thought he meant a nice place … but No, I “shudda” known better …” Poor Cachita … I met them years ago, when I stayed in Hialeah for a while. Then, they had just bought their little condo, moving in from their “effishis” (that’s Hialeah Cuban Spanglish for “Efficiency”) after their little “Princess” had been born.

It is not easy to adjust to a new life and culture, after coming to a new country as an adult and having grown in a society where most things available are just the very basic ones, and where every day is a struggle just to put a plate of food on the table. Add to this, the learning of a new language while getting to know the “ropes’ that deal with how to survive, in this case, the streets of Hialeah and Miami … Cheito and his family are but a small sampling of a core group who live in a foreign country, yet hanging on to their roots and habits as these get mingled as well as mangled in their new home.

Obviously we key in on Cheito because he represents a culture I know well. But he could just as easily be called Borys, Rocco or JeanMarie … Maybe even Mr. Chin or Odeiwee … As we go through many of the larger cities in our country, we see those pockets made up of people who have come here looking to fulfill a dream; and as we have touched upon these thoughts at times, these dreams are becoming harder to accomplish ... especially when fighting to be recognized and accepted by others who forget that they are the result of a very similar dream their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents had when they came to this country. Accept it folks … If you are not a “Native American”, your family is here thanks to a migration at some point in the chain.

It has never been a matter of taking something away from those who are here; it has always been a matter of adding a new and valuable piece to this grandiose  puzzle-in-the-making that already exists. It is a mix that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Yes, there is immigration in other countries in Europe and the Far East (little in these last due to the very strong barriers created to avoid just this) but in most cases, the immigration that comes into these countries is from a few underdeveloped countries where the now host –albeit reluctant- nation did some damage as a colonizing presence. There is never a mix that encompasses people from just about every nation in the world, like we have here. And this is wonderful!! Where else can you literally take a trip around the world without leaving the city you are in? Try NYC, LA, San Fran, Chicago, Miami and many other great cities, where the different neighborhoods offer each their own aromas, foods, clothing, colors, music and even mix of languages. And in most cases the visitor will receive a friendly welcome, because these folks are honestly proud of their own cultures, without forgetting the new one where they have been given the opportunity to be.

What I have learned just by talking to coworkers, neighbors and just to people at parks and fairs … What beautiful images every one of us keep in our minds from our original home countries! Often when my travels took me to some of these places, it was easier to manage and adapt because of the knowledge I had acquired in these conversations.
A present from Cheito...
nice thought ... I think.

Cheito, my friend … I send you greetings from here, hoping you recuperate soon and send me some more stuff … There were many notes from your readers and they want more … In the meantime, when you see someone who may dress a little differently or sound a little differently than you, please don’t shy away … he is just as wary about you as you may be about him and someone has to break the ice … or not? You'll be surprised at what you can learn ... 

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Any comments, please send to otherboxp@yahoo.com; it comes directly to me. I promise to read all coming messages, and answer as many as I can.
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Remember that as off 10/16 at 6:30pm EST, we’ll be “On Air” for a 30 minute period and will be able to, hopefully, continue it every week-end.  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox   -- If the link does not work, please just copy and paste or copy to your address bar!

From Wally’s Pond… Again…

This will become entry #400 for this blog. It started late 2009; a means to pass convalescencing time from my cancer treatment and the firs...