Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Art of Thinking.

Is this an art form which is being lost in today’s electronic world?

We get up in  the morning to the sound of whatever noise we chose to put on the “I-Droid” phone which, last night just before we went to sleep, reminded us about what we had to do this morning. Of course, after it beeped and squawked to let us know that a rainstorm was on its way (which never came).

Sometime after we have a cup of coffee from our automatic coffee grinder-maker, the early morning routine starts with the check up of the mail and assorted messaging services; with the push of a few buttons in our “I-Droid-Tablet-Portable” we go through whatever messages come to our several e-mail addresses and get to see those each service decides are important enough for us to read… the others have gone into that great virtual garbage can on the screen… err, sorry, desktop.  It seems that advertising materials by the truckload are the only things that come now via the “snail-mail”… no wonder the USPS is defaulting on the second payment of their debt…

As we get in the car and turn the engine on, the GPS comes alive and shows us the best way to go wherever it is we are going. Doesn't matter that it has been the same for quite sometime now; if the GPS doesn't come on, we seem to be at a loss. Along the way, the car’s computer reminds us that tune-up time is near, to check the lights and the water level and, oh yeah… that it’s time to change the oil. Once most of us are at work, our respective computers light up, welcoming us to our work station and letting us know what it is we have to accomplish today. The display even gives us ideas as to how to best do it…

Towards lunch time a little buzzer goes off to let us know the amount of calories we should not surpass and what to drink… and not to drink at lunch. Every so often, throughout the day, the calendar app pops on to whatever screen is in front of us (just did on mine… hmmm…) in order to tell us what we did and didn't do…  At times we pet the virtual dog or cat (they don’t really need to be walked or cleaning after, you know…) without even thinking about it and move on to whatever the next task is that has been brought forward by our electronic valet.

And so the day, and the days, go. One task after another which follows one electronic reminder after another; we are surrounded by gadgets which have come to rule more and more of our lives. Issues and things which we might have given thinking time to before, are now relegated to second class citizenship.

I know I am somewhat old fashioned about certain things in life; I believe in stopping and smelling the roses (real ones, not virtual ones) along the byways of life; in looking at a beautiful sunset or sunrise in pure enjoyment and to rejoice in watching other folk go about their lives and even talking with them about the small, nonsensical things that make up our relatively simple lives. I believe in thinking and looking at life from a very human, non-electronic perspective.

Thinking is indeed an art, and it has to be practiced on a regular basis. We have to exercise those physical cells in our brain which, when conjoined with that very little known and less understood aspect which we call “mind” produce some beautiful streams of consciousness we might call “thoughts”. 

Our brain and our mind are our own computer that we carry from the moment we are born; the brain is the hardware and the mind may be called the software memory which allows us to utilize that hardware.  As the memory in our electronic computers may be increased by adding “chips”, that software memory in our minds can indeed be increased by adding knowledge and practiced thinking.

My fear is that as we develop the store bought electronic brains functions, we may allow these to more and more think for us; to make our decisions and to define what and who we are and what and who we may become. The question begs... Is this what we as human beings should want to happen?

I know my mind is at times foolish and that it will err in decisions made. I also know that it is far from perfection and from being able to make split second moves and choices. I realize that modern computers, given the right codes will always act faster than I possibly could, in my best day.

On the other hand, I know that when I join my mind and brain with those other factors known to man (and woman) and which we call emotion, empathy and heart, the results far outweigh anything a computer may decide in its best sequencing day.

After all… I’m only human.

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!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Coming of Age in The Carolinas.

Today, it had been my decision to write about something banal and non-confrontational… 

Here it was a beautiful day, sunny and warm but not hot… full of light and happy thoughts. So I sit here at the keyboard and try to think about how to start this particular piece…  Well … Fat Chance!!!

As I open FB to see what the postings are and what my known universe folks are getting around to doing, I see that several FB friends have posted their views against anything “Republican”… They are very adamant in taking the attitude that as far as they are concerned, if it comes from their man it is saintly word. However, if it comes from the other side, no matter what it is, must be the lying devil in disguise.

Well… I cannot agree with this, so I posted something not very flattering (but easily documented) about their man and, sure enough, there were immediate messages coming back. Several inquiring about the posting but others, however, trying to browbeat me into taking it down because… HOW COULD YOU??? Well, the answer is… EASILY!!! Seems that my Democratic (the party, not the concept) friends accept my views when they are in agreement with theirs… This is not a real democratic (the concept, not the party) approach.

I deal daily with many folk who are part of that great mass of people who have no papers. They work harder perhaps because of this lack of documents, and they look to the possibility of having their daily nightmare come to an end. So, of course, many do favor the current president because of the recently signed “Dream Act”. Others because the guy speaks “pretty” and talks a great talk. Others yet, because they have been convinced of the aforementioned concept that all that deals with “the other guy” is nothing but a big lie and that, if elected, he will round up 35 million people and deport them. This message seems to be the workhorse that is being used by one side to scare those in the middle about the other side.

To whoever few listen to me I keep paraphrasing what another candidate of yore used to say… “it’s the economy… it’s the economy”.  Most everyone will agree that things are tough, that jobs are scarce, that the economy is not in a good cycle; that, no matter what this government has said it has tried to do, it has not been able to kick-start it.

Right now, our country’s debt has gone up by 65% (and counting daily) in just 3.5 years (from 10.1Trillion in 2008 to over 16.3Trillion – as off yesterday) and those who are receiving government help now number just under 50 million folk. Up 100% from the end of the year 2008. That accounting line increase alone represents roughly between 750M and 1Billion in additional yearly expenses. Those numbers, courtesy of the studied (non-partisan) folk who are supposed to know about these issues. And the expenses keep piling on.

What will happen if this trend continues for an additional 4 years? Shudder Me Timbers!!! We will be mortgaging the future of the next 4-6 generations… that is, if our country’s economy survives the savage attack. Today, for reasons which really have no valid explanation, the US$ is considered to be still the reserve currency of the economic world. For this reason alone, the Mint is able to continue to print additional dollar bills and use them to, nominally, pay the debt and maintain a usable supply moving around. If some other currency happens to be treated as a favored currency, our $$$$ will devalue faster than a shipment of air conditioners in the middle of a northern Alaska winter storm.

About 45 years ago, yours truly burst into the labor force, fresh out of the Army. Then, I secured what was considered a very good job which paid $7,500 per year, starting salary. My wife then made another 8-10,000 per year. With our combined income of about $17,000 per year, we bought and paid for fairly nice living quarters, had two cars, ate reasonably well, were able to take our vacations, go out and even could “dress for success”. We came into our marriage with a “pre-existing” daughter and then had our own. Yet, we were able to cover expenses and do it all with that income. And this was being done in an area of the country which was considered “expensive”. The North East corridor of NY/CT. 

Today, just 2.5 generations later, in order to do all that in a similar family and in the same area, the overall household income has to be in a $65,000 to $75,000 range. That is 4-5 times the amount. To those who say that inflation is not for the US… think again!!! And when we see that the national debt clock (no, not really a “Republican” concept) spins faster than my car’s engine at 60mph, I am left to wonder why not many more see this as a real concern.

Marketing… we have touched this in the past, in more than one posting. Tell people something enough times, and they will believe it. The average person is being told constantly that other –more easily identifiable- issues are the true core of the problem… not to worry about the economy. Unfortunately, many do not look beyond these “news” and assume them to be the full picture.

So… even when their food basket gets smaller and more expensive every week and the gas costs more and more… and with it so does everything else, the response seems to be easily summed up as … “What, Me Worry?” the favorite line of Alfred E. Newman… the face and voice of “Mad Magazine” of the 60’s and 70’s…

Happy Hunting!! … or fishing… or… whatever we are supposed to be doing in this beautiful, sunny, calm and happy day…

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!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Fall of the Usher in the House.

Not a tale of incest and inbreeding… but almost.

There was once this usher who moved into a beautiful big house. He had been entrusted to do so by many of those who stayed outside. This house was no ordinary house, but a very special one, sitting atop a hill and presenting a commanding sight for anyone to see. Those without looked upon it and the usher inside for their well being and guidance. Those within, looked upon those on the outside as sheep to be herded and guided for, after all, theirs was the Usher in the House.

In the beginning, the Usher would walk around the halls and rooms and exclaim out loud, for all to hear… “We must clean out all the stuff the people before left strewn about” and the cheers would come, from within and without.

Much movement and much to do, many figurines came and went … and Usher would say “My… how many things are yet to be sorted out” … still the cheers would come from within and from without.

As time went on, mysterious ongoing(s) signaled the beginning of a new reign… it said, to all who would listen… “Hear ye, hear ye… this is the new order, this is the new command… you must obey or from enjoyment you will abstain”. And many of the sheep were happy to oblige, for their lot was to follow… not to express concerns about the morrow…

Yet there were some who did question, who did in discord reply… “This is not what we wanted, this is not what we expected… you, Usher in the House, must answer this cry”… “Why?” And the Usher and his band only answered: “yours is not to ask, but to follow my dictate… otherwise and enemy you will be… and not a friend of Usher The Great!”

Whenever a discordant cry was heard, the anointed band of public criers would all, in unison, publish their views… of course all in agreement with that great big house son… “all of you who question Him, just because He has not complied, are a mistake making… to obstruct his path, don’t even try” This public ranting would go on and on with many, just like a rabid dog, frothing at the mouth and well playing the part of a truth clog. “Anyone who questions is wrong; anyone who dares say the contrary… will be in the square (paper) crucified” actually, freedom be dammed… all in all, quite scary.

Now comes the time for many of this band to be called on to make sense of their misadventures, for this time spent by Usher in The House has been a continuum of errors, ranting and truth bashing terror. But, sadly for them, reality check is upon their reign, those of us who have looked beyond the prose on the non-results obtained, can only writhe in pain.

So, it’s up to the little folk, many of whom happily welcomed Usher when He first came to the fore… But after this time of calculated misdirection… they want no more!! Oh, how they want to return to a better time… when they could go about their business without a blinding guiding light always on… especially when the not wanted road is the one being shown.

So, this is the story of the Fall of the Usher in the House… yet to be, I’m sure. That is, I hope. However, predicting the future is only for seers and fools, being both sort of a tool… useful, but useless at the same time. However, our country needs this to happen, for things to be fine.

I know... this prose is poor and badly written... A bard I am not, a writer of soft lines perhaps; a witty repartee maybe comes about once in a thousand incursions but, the truth is that by sad circumstances I am smitten and driven to try, to bring about a change, to see the errors corrected and the future thus improved. Otherwise... well, as from the mouths of babes the truth shall come, I foresee a bleak and sadness filled tome. 

But giving up is not a choice for, you see... this is my home.

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!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Birthday Week… Some Thoughts.

After the initial phase of early life, birthdays take on a somewhat different meaning.

This week brought me to the beginning of my 67th year on this earth of ours. Sometimes the accounting method for this kind of thing is questionable… is it FIFO (first in-first out) or LIFO (last in-first out)? … In any event, many years have passed since that glorious morning when in a room at the Spanish Community Hospital in Cienfuegos, Cuba, (Building #4) there came into the world… Ta-Daaaa! … Yours truly.

The fateful day, as well as the time and place of its happening, as well as all that surrounds this magnificent event that is “birth” has a bearing on the life of each person. Or so tell us those who deal with numbers, zodiacs and lives. I know I have, somewhere in my bag, one such write out which was sent to me some years ago, by someone who was trying to get me to sign up for a continuing service … or some such. No, I did no sign up, but did keep the chart write out. Thank you.

I have read it a couple of times… well, OK… maybe a few more times… it is actually quite extensive and divided into several sub-segments. I will admit that some of the things this chart spells out do make sense, when reading them while sitting in the house of Jupiter and looking out to the windows of the house of Mars… or is it looking at the backyard of the Moon’s dark side? Anyway, and all kidding aside, some do make some sense but, then, there are so may issues which are discussed in a general manner here, that some would have to come close to events which have actually happened and to traits developed over the years.

I am supposed to be introspective, well ordered and “neat” … all because I am a Virgo. Then, I have a “Libra” ascendency which means … well, something else altogether. So, in the end, I am confused. But, no fear… for a mere $39.99 all will be made clear in the end.

The business of divining and such is indeed a good business. Actually, all that deals with the spiritual side of life, since we don’t really know much about it, becomes a good business for those who can convince someone else that they are actually in touch with that little understood side of our existence. What better than being told we are on the right path? … That our future (it seems to be always “the future”, huh?) will bring all we have desired and worked for? … And, of course, that a “certain” (never a specific here either…) someone who has been hovering around us will come into our lives and take care of all our problems …

There was a time (years back!) when I actually would sit with a deck of cards and someone on the other side of the table, and “read” their cards. No, never collected a penny for this…. more the fool I. The right mood would be set and then the cards would be spread on the table, cut and dealt. I had read up on the art of doing this and would “interpret” what the figures seemed to say to me… What was amazing was the readiness with which those who would sit on the other side of the small table were willing to believe everything said.

What scared me off in the end was the fact that some of the interpretations came extremely close to the real life version of events and that some of the “predictions”… actually came to pass. I wasn’t ready to handle this, especially when this was all done as a joke and a pastime. In my definition of life’s priorities, when it comes to business… I do want to know what is going to happen and how it can be controlled to my benefit. But when it comes to life… then I am not so sure that I want to know what is in store for me… much less, someone else.

As mentioned in different posts along the way, having had a close encounter with the real possibility of my own death through a bout with cancer, and having encountered and met death through the loss of a child -a living memory made more poignant by the fact his birthday would have always been the day following mine (I actually considered him a “birthday” present)- change the perspective that dictates how I now look at life.

Much of what was important before, has truly become less so… and many of those things which were at one time present but perhaps less important on a day to day basis, especially those dealing with the inner self, have become much dearer to me. The search for peace and understanding at the core mind level has indeed become a priority factor in my present life.

Why is it that it takes events of this magnitude to open our eyes to this ongoing need? I do not have an answer; perhaps it is the shock of coming face to face with what, heretofore, was only a known, but surreal  concept. This type of encounter reminds us that we do indeed have to look inside and analyze what it is that makes one “tick” … what will help us go on to the next level of understanding; and then know there are further roads to travel and to explore.

This post has been in the making for some 3 days… I am not sure that I am comfortable with the results but, it will be put out there for you to read… maybe it will make more sense to you than to me…
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!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Auntie Hortense and The Musketeers.

Auntie Hortense was a kindly and quiet lady… except when she read to me about the Musketeers and their adventures.

Everyone has a hero, or two… even three. In Dear Auntie Hortense’s case, there were four. When she was a very young girl she began reading, as a way to practice the art, about the Three Musketeers and D’Artagnan; they became a staple in her daily life. As a growing child, she was very convinced they were real and traipsing around the French countryside, running errands for the king and queen. Apparently no one could tell her, much less convince her, about the difference between fact and fiction. They were real … Period! ... No arguments!

As she grew up, the fictional reality of the story began to tentatively creep into her thought process but, don’t think for a minute that she believed these almost saintly characters –from her viewpoint, anyway- had never existed. She was willing to negotiate a settlement and admit that … maybe, just maybe, they had a streak a fiction in them. But that they never existed??? … Never!!! ... Jamais!!!

Auntie Hortense was otherwise a kind, quiet lady and somewhat into her years, by the time I met her. Or, at least, from the time I remember meeting her for the first time… Too many “times” to remember? Well, no matter…  It’s time to go on with the story.

She loved to tell stories of gentlemen saving ladies in distress; of horseback riders who would take down the baddies and, as they were cheered by the common folk, restore peace, love and unity to the countryside. Ahhh… nothing like a real dose of romance and romantic tales to make her eyes light up and, while showing her interlocutor the shine of her eyes, fondly think about those days of yore… yes, sir… those were the days!!

Many nights she would come to my bedside and sit there, asking if I wanted to hear about her beloved musketeers… and D’Artagnan, of course!!  As I looked into her eyes, I remember that all I would usually see were two huge windows into her mind, full of life, wistful imagination and a never ending love for the worlds where that gaze was firmly fixed.

Auntie Hortense could make that story come to life so vividly that, often, on those nights I would become a willing and enraptured audience of one … besides the love of a great tale, I knew this meant that the sleep “curfew” hours would go by the wayside … The following hours would bring me, through the world of Morpheus, into those very plains and forests where these brave musketeers pursued their quests, ending one enemy’s reign and assuring that the rightful queen or king would see the throne room from within its walls and not be left to look at it from without.

What wonderful nights those! I would find myself handling an epeé and a blade better than all except, of course, the four heroes. I think this limitation was bred into the storytelling somehow. No way could a simple child be allowed to best her version of the “Superheroes”. And … Oh My!!! The horses flying through the grasslands and jumping over the riverbeds… Of course, not the stuff of real life but… Who Cares??

As all in this existence has a beginning and also, by definition of a finite life, has an end, so did Auntie Hortense. My knight(ess) in shining linen and silk took her last horseback ride when I was but 6 years old. This champion in training, yours truly, was devastated … nothing in life seemed to matter anymore.

Then, another wise court counselor (he presented himself to me in the guise of my grandfather, but I just knew he was really an important magician of yore) came and said to me:

- “Why don’t you try walking through the same glens and crossing the same riverbeds on your own?” - “I think your aunt would love to see you do this … and she is watching you, you know…”

Hesitantly, I asked him –“What do you mean?”

-“Come, let me show you…”

I took his hand and followed him through the hallowed halls of the familial manse, until we came to a small, guarded room… He opened the waiting doors and inside… an incredible number of books… about anything and everything that could be imagined or even fantasized… And there, in the Middle of the mound… was that magical book from which Auntie would read night after night…

Needless to say, I embraced that wonderful tale and many, many others as each one would open my mind’s eyes into these incredible worlds which came from the imagination of so many great writers… folk who could see beyond the immediate, into a world yet to be or… long past gone. But never to be forgotten.

Every time I reach for a book (and this happens quite often, you know) or every time I reach for the keyboard (not as often as I would like this to happen) Auntie Hortense’s face and eyes come to mind… the eyes that have it… the love of the fantasy, of the what if? … of the wide open plains inside and, yes, outside the mind … those dreary plains where we must abide in day to day pursuits.

Let your mind grow out… reach for those worlds that so many say do not exist for, as you believe in them, they become real in your life. Let all others be well set with their feet firmly planted on the ground… they can grow roots for all I care…

Don’t be afraid to let your heart wander and your mind wonder… It’s an incredible, never ending trip.

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!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

One Long Sentence… one explanation to ponder.

There are traditional ways to explain and define issues, then there are interesting ways to do so.

There has been much said about the so named “Obama-Care”, proposed by the President to, eventually and if it actually works, supply health care to all.  Because of all the nuances involved, I do not believe even those who put it into law truly could fully describe it, nor could they begin to explain how it is that this mammoth undertaking will truly be paid.

Of course, all the political pundits on both sides are busy either pushing it or taking potshots at it. The only problem is that because of the very hugeness of the proposed project, no one really can either explain it or attack it with enough clarity for the average individual to grasp and/or understand the message.

Today I received an email from a long time friend. It was a short –about 2 minutes long- presentation by a lady who seems to be a doctor and she was speaking out against the plan, so I will assume this was from the Romney camp. It was a funny way to present a viewpoint; I don’t basically agree with the plan or with many of the present administration’s ways to manage money and society. I thought this long winded sentence was indeed funny and yet, quite complete in its explanation of a proposed plan which not many really know how it may, or not, function and how it will be managed and paid. Unfortunately, I could not get the name of the lady… I would have been nice to remember and to give credit where credit is due.

So it goes:

“We are gifted with a health care program we are forced to buy and fined if we don’t and which will add 10 million patients without adding a single doctor but which will provide for 16,000 new IRS agents subject to a committee whose chairman admits he does not fully understand, passed by a Congress that has not really read the law –but who exempts its members from it- and signed by a President who smokes, to be administered by Treasure Department personnel who haven’t paid taxes and for which we taxpayers will be taxed for the next four years, before a single benefit goes into effect and that is to be managed by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by an obese Surgeon General and financed by a country that is broke… Sooo… What the (@@#$%%$) could possibly go wrong with this scenario?”

Granted… perhaps a funny and somewhat simplistic view but… not too far astray from the truth. From my humble viewpoint, after some 40 years in the personal insurance field, I know that health insurance cannot be mandated unto the health care providing companies (regardless if they are private or government managed) without a well thought out financial backing and risk taking plan in place. It’s not that easy… and it’s not very realistic to say otherwise.

We are in the midst of a campaign that as usual, slings mud both ways. I think that we as voters have to look beyond the nice speeches and pretty marketing pictures that both camps present to the public, and understand individual qualifications and shown respect and support for a way of life… OUR way of life.

This country cannot really support a social gifting oriented government; it was not built on that financial premise. It was built on the premise that we all have an equal opportunity to try, to fail and to try again. As many times as it may be necessary to achieve a goal. And that those who actually make it, are not to be punished for it, but lauded and looked at as examples to follow. Not every one is born to be a leader; not everyone is bred to be a risk taker. We need those and we need the ones who quietly toil day in and day out. As a team, we make this economy go and grow in synergy. Don't think it is really that difficult to understand... Or, is it?

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!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

From The Shores of Wally's Pond...

Fleeting thoughts and memories of unrelated moments in time and space.

So… now that I came up with the flashy title and trailer… what do I do? Let’s see… fleeting thoughts I have a lot of… Unrelated moments … there are tons of those… Time and space?  Too complicated a concept for a Thursday afternoon. Where do I start? ... maybe High School would be a good starting point...

1963… Fall. Just started my senior year in high school… Think I am going to ask Tresh to be my girl. Met her before and really liked her… good looking and seems to be a nice person… Hmmm… did and she said yes. We went out and I met her mom and dad; lives outside of town in an “outpost” called West Richland… Have to cross the bridge. She met my foster parents and they liked her.

1964… Spring. Have to make some decisions… my father wants my sister and I to go to Puerto Rico. My sister has to go; she has no other options but won’t go if I don’t go with her. Mr. C., my foster dad, tells me he has secured a working scholarship for me at Portland College, a good mid-size Jesuit University in Portland, Oregon. What to do?

1964… Early Summer. The decision process has been difficult. I am loathe to once again say goodbye to whatever little bit of stability I have found here, but understand I must go. I tell Tresh and she tells me that she is going to visit her family in Arkansas… a way to avoid being there when I leave.

1964… late Summer. Tresh has already come back from Arkansas and I am still there. She gets to say good bye after all, when I finally leave in early September. Not happy about having to say goodbye twice. It will be many years, several marriages with several children (on both parts) and many miles traveled and places lived before we connect again…

1966… After two+ years of family reunion, family separation, work, study and good times in general, I decide to study part time. Uncle Sam then decides he ”wants me”. In fatigue greens… not the most flattering color but, hey… the clothes and accessories are free. Only thing is that some of these could be fired. Didn’t really mix well with the high top shoes.

1967… Spring. Met Carol, my first wife and mother of my daughter Nikki… She was the captain’s girl… I a lowly private… we were married in early summer, before I was to leave for Okinawa.

1967… late Summer. Welcome to Okinawa… disputed island territory that belongs to Japan. But not as disputed as that other territory, Viet Nam.

1968… Fall… discharged from Army; a good standing record.

2009… Early spring… Admitted to Veteran Administration healthcare. Blessed payback for those years of service so long ago… I can honestly say this saved my life… Prostate cancer diagnosed summer of 2008… had no insurance and no means to handle it. By the time the treatment started, it was a “Gleason” (not the Jackie type) 9+… aggressive little cuss. All taken care of. Along with a couple of other issues, like a huge growth on my back (not malignant) and a lousy, old, overused and abused hip. I now “BEEP” every time I go through security stations… loudly.

1974… Early Spring. Divorced from my first wife… amicable… sort of. My daughter had turned four; her daughter from a first marriage was 9. Or 10.

1974… Late Summer. The relationship with my second wife-to-be develops and spreads. We are married sometime later… May of ’75.

1072 – 1975… assorted times… radio work as DJ in Connecticut and in New York City. Was supposed to be a “part time” job. I remember now that I think about this, what it was like to be in front of a microphone. Lots of fun!! If I had a choice… the kind of work that would really fulfill my wants. Had to stop because it interfered with family life… I thought… Hmmm… too bad I could not see into the future.

1980 – 1985… Absentee father. Traveled around the world as “good will ambassador” and consultant at large in the life insurance business… got to see lots of the world; got to see little of the family.

1985… Fall. Moved to Chile and then Argentina. Trying to recover the concept of “family life”. Worked somewhat; mainly with the children. Not with wife #2.

1990… back to Miami. Back to travel … only this time in Latin America . Marriage continues to deteriorate. Two sided issue this one… not one sided.

1996… Fall. Separation from second wife. Rent furnished “bachelor” apartment. End of year sees the start of a new relationship.

1997… Spring. Divorce from my second wife. Not amicable. Definitely.

1997… Summer… Marriage. Third time a charm? We’ll see… still here today.

2010… Fall. Tragedy strikes. My son Eric dies in a motorcycle accident. Death teaches that life continues. His memory is physically and painfully present every day. But very loving.

By now, the water at Wally’s Pond is getting a little cold… I look up and see… not much because it has become dark. I think it is time to gather up my mind and start the road back. Interesting, how almost 50 years of a life can be bit and pieced in two and a half pages… Hmmm… could be considered a depressing thought… but no… Life is promising and beautiful and of course, there are many details not included here… Those … well, those are kept under lock and key… for now.

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!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Curiosity Killed the Cat…

But it gives us the chance to live beyond the line of sight.

As many of these entries, the title and possible subsequent content were spurred, in time, by something said or read. I say “possible” subsequent content because whenever I sit at this keyboard, it seems that a direction of its own is taken by the written stuff… Me thinks that we will go north with any given piece and end up somewhere near Patagonia…

There is, in my humble opinion, no better fuel for the imagination than curiosity. Or… is it perhaps the other way around? ... No matter in which direction this may go, it sparks flights of fancy and also flights of despair and possible disaster. But … What If? With this short question, my mind looks at something and begins to see it differently, spinning it on its own axis and looking through whatever matter is there, allowing me to see the all the way to its core, or even beyond.

While someone else who is next to me and looking at the same object is only seeing a tree … I see life, green foliage in different tones, water, shade for many, oxygen which seeps out from its limbs and leaves, allowing us to breathe better… I see a host of creatures, big and small, that depend on it for survival. And even when that tree may have arrived at its living end at some point in the distant future, I see that it may provide shelter for others who seek it, giving life beyond its own.

What wonderful thing is, this imagination and this curiosity … As far back as we have records of modern man, we can see it at work: from Michelangelo to Verne to Asimov and Tolkien and to so many others who simply let it take flight and carry them away… into those realms where we lesser folk fear to tread. We follow them there through their work and simply... become in awe at the might of it... I believe imagination feeds that other -as seen by some- evil, curiosity. We must be curious; we must remain curious beyond our childhood and not be afraid to let that great and wonderful mystery of curiosity guide us.

As we get older and rub elbows with “learned” and “down to earth”: folks our wonderment, curiosity and imagination seem to suffer. We are told that these traits are children traits and we, as young adults, should learn to leave them behind. Bah, Humbug!!! says I… Ok, Ok… somebody said it before but I will expropriate it for this purpose. In love and war… and all that … well, you know how that goes…

I believe that the day we lose our imagination and our wonderment at life’s little details, we cease to exist; at least emotionally … and perhaps spiritually as well. For it is said that wonderment at life is one of those candles which when kept burning, show us the way to our inner reality and this, brings us closer to our Creator. As a child I had plenty of imaginary friends, and they accompanied me on a day to day basis. As I grew up, some disappeared but others came bounding in to take their place… then, life’s reality checks came in and my life was torn asunder, as was that of innumerable thousands of children before and since.

For a while, I have to admit, that imagination lost ground to new demands on my mind and thoughts; I was being forced to “grow up” long before I was truly ready to do so. My life long friends and companions, Mr. Curiosity and Mr. Imagination took a reluctant back seat, but never quite abandoned ship. Thank God for this!!!  They somehow knew things would eventually straighten out enough for me to welcome them back into my daily routine.

I have to admit it has taken more years than I would have thought possible, but it is to be admitted here that some of the issues that came into my life during the last 16 years or so, those of a more dark nature, would have taken a much larger toll on yours truly had it not been for these dear and trusted friends who never really abandoned me. In the more difficult moments, they allowed me to look ahead and see better times, times of more light and happiness and allowed me to understand that those moments others might have thought of as terrible, were nothing but a proving and strengthening ground so that the fuller moments, when they came, would be more appreciated and better understood.

Today those dear, dear friends are well and living within my heart and mind again… well ensconced into their lairs. From which I hope they never leave. They do many things for me … things that a sensible person might think nonsensical … They allow me to look and see, with my mind’s eye, those who are no longer physically with me but who I simply know are always nearby, in spirit. For, you see… when the body goes to its rest, the spirit goes to work… they depend on our curiosity and imagination to keep them alive…

At times, my friends help me enjoy a last ray of light as the sun dips into the horizon, as well as the darkness of the night as it slowly creeps throughout my world after the light goes… they allow me to feel and hear the breeze as it whistles past me… perhaps through me... they help me look beyond what we physically see and experience what might be, just beyond my reach. And always those questions pop into my mind…

What is?... What might be? … What if?

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!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Friday, September 7, 2012

A House Divided…

When it comes to religion and politics… even the home front is affected.

Last night, the Democratic National Convention came to an end with (the)POTUS accepting the nomination for a second term… nothing new or unexpected here. I listened to most of the speech from afar, for there were other issues that needed attention at the same time. I am not a professional speaker, although there were several years my income depended on my ability to do so and convince others of my ideas. There were some thoughts that came to mind while I listened to the man speaking…

The speaker was somewhat subdued; unusual for this particular speaker. There were no specific details, but far too many “independent and third party expert” references, none specific. Therefore… credibility is an issue. No major promises made; perhaps fear this would bring up other promises made that went unfulfilled… References (made by both the President and the VP) to remarks made by “That Other Guy” which were not fully factual (as confirmed by NPR’s and USA’s own fact checkers this morning) or taken entirely out of context. All in all, a less than expected performance from someone who has heretofore been a stellar and moving speaker.

Just a few days ago a mail came in from a good friend and it contained several charts of statistics, some of them covering over 100 years of government activity. They included looks at job trends, social spending (mostly welfare over the last 30 years), business acumen in government circles, experience, Gov’t debt, etc. Of some of these I, and those of my generation, have living memories for we lived through some of the more radical changes in our country during the last century (Excluding the two WW, but not Viet-Nam, for this became a watershed socio-cultural issue). Yet, what these stats show is a definite negative trend within the last 5 years and, especially, the last 3.  In fact some of the numbers are, quite frankly, alarming.

Do we raise a question mark about the performance of this government? It is not only our right to do so if we so choose to, but our given duty. We must question any leader (regardless of affiliation) whose actions we believe are taking our country down the wrong path. Understand please… this does not mean that we should scream only because we disagree with the ideology, for each one has its merits and should have its opportunity to create, but we must raise a flag when we see that our environment and living conditions are diminishing and this is a direct result of decisions made at government levels.

We have major social issues at hand, none of which has easy solutions. A most pressing (and growing) one is the issue of “illegal” folk (mostly, but not all Hispanic) who come to try and make a decent living for themselves and families, but do so without following the adequate due process. Recently, the President signed a Dream Act Mandate which will, if it goes into actual effect, allow children (themselves undocumented) of parents without documents to stay and go to school. All well and good for there are many brilliant minds in this group but, in my humble opinion, this was nothing but a political ploy to gain votes in an unexpectedly tight race. When discussing this with a Hispanic Minister whose congregation includes a high number of Latinos without documents, his comment was: “This is a potentially explosive issue… we may end up with thousands of young men and women whose parents may be deported along the way… what will we do then… how will they be supported?

Is change needed in several fronts? Most definitely so. However, is this the right way to make this (or any other) change happen? I can say I don’t know but, I don’t honestly think so… when something so impacting and important is done on the spur of a needy moment, the long term consequences tend to, in a  high percentile,  negative results. Usually of related issues, such as those the Minister raised. Should we not do anything then? No… this is not the message. But when we act and that action potentially impacts the lives of millions, then we have to act on a way determined by reality, process and potential good and bad. Not by emotion or political need.

As the convention came to an end last night, there was somewhat of a silence at home. My wife is in favor of the current government (mostly spurred by the personality involved) and I am not… mostly spurred by the lack of positive results (with the corresponding increase in negative results) of this mandate.  It can be said (and vehemently it has… over and over) that this mandate started with a difficult legacy to handle. Yes, it did. No one expected a turn around in 90 days, perhaps not even in 4 years.

However, we did expect a definite movement into the right direction(s) in important areas and I look and try to find this, but cannot see any at all. Just excuses, unwarranted additional expenses and a “blamefest” and, no, not everything that goes wrong can always be blamed on the “other guys”. Responsibility begins and ends with the top guy. Regardless of party affiliation, for a decision so important as a vote is not (or should not be) about personality, party or ideology. It should be all about what is best for the country and its future for, as the country goes, so will those of us who live here.

Having said all this, it is important to add that whoever wins the election will have my support, as a citizen of this great country, to try and get things going in the right direction… but will also have my comments if otherwise. That is also an integral part of supporting my country and its system.

So, we do not discuss politics at home… well and good, for there are already too many areas of discussion to be tended….

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!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

“Juat’s A Convenshun?”

Sometimes, hearing from Cheíto becomes a reality check… a needed one.

I had not seen so many flashing lights since a bad electrical storm over the Okeechobee Swamps some years ago. This morning, in a 3 block stretch, there were enough police cars to ferry half a city, all with their “party tops” full a’blazin… Then, as I approached the perimeter road, there came a blazing procession of motocops, followed by an array of black SUVs and trailing vans... all with their lights flashing to impress, like there was no tomorrow.  

I guess with the party convention in town, this was to be expected. Especially when this was not the “other guys” convention, but the ruling party’s convention… nothing but big wigs and big guns (almost literally) in town.

After I came back home, there were some things to be done but, as soon as I got into it, the phone rang. Almost didn’t answer, but I did…

- “Hey compadre… JUAT'S GON ON’?”

It was none other than Cheíto, coming back to life after a long absence…

- “Cheíto” I answered… “Man where have you been?”

-“Jus’ workin’, ju knoe… hey… I heer ju hav a convenshun out dere…”

-“Yes, that we do” I answered him and, after a few seconds of silent reflection, he came back with …

-“Man… I dun wanna soun dum’ but… essackly juat’s a convenshun?

I tried to explain what in a political time and near elections, a convention is… about party showcasing… about how thousands of people travel to participate and to support their respective chosen ones. How these feasts impress and impact the decisions of many people… and how the organizers hope to be able to convince others to support them, if they liked the show well enough.

After we talked and I tried to explain as well as I could the ups and downs of the “convention business”, he was silent for a while and then said to me…

-“Ju knoe Rafa… I dun unnersten hou thins’ work in dis kontry…” he reflected some more and continued:

-“Thins ar reely bad now… I meik less mony now… becuz ther is less to do… ju knoe my princesa gos to church skool becuz the odder one is to far…” “to meny frens’ ar losing ther houses an’ dun’ have no yobs an’ no mony…”

I tried to say something but he continued on…

-“Ju nou tel me that a bunch of peeple cum and hav big partee wid’ restaurantes, esspensiv hotels, wid poliss people from odder touns, airplains, food, lotta nois and music… big places…”

A bit of silence…

-“Hou much mony dis cost?”

-“I don’t know” I said to him… which happens to be true…

-“Hou meny peeple ken use dat mony to eet? Hou meny niu teechers ken be paid?  Hou many ol’ peeple ken be help’?”

As I was going to try an answer the unanswerable, he went on…

-“Ju knoe… if’n dey keep they promises… it mebbe OK” … “But dey nebber do… we en’up payin for all dis an allus en’up makin’ less mony”

-“Rafa, my brudder… I luv dis kuntry… da bes’ in da worl”… “but I dun unnerstan’ why dis peeple meik thin’s so har for us instead of makin’ thins better”

With this, and a very quiet “bye” he hung up the phone, leaving me to wonder about the many thousands of “Cheítos”, from many different parts of the world who, in coming here, have put their faith and future in the hands of leaders who more often than not, forget about these working people. About how much they are hurting and how much they are the backbone of this country.

How can I explain to someone that faith must be put in the system and not the person who happens to be at the helm at any given time? A system that has survived less than stellar performances in the past. Then again, I am left to wonder just how many times that system can continue to rebound from the many abuses it receives.

One can only hope and work as hard as possible to assure these rebounds do happen.  

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!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

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...