Saturday, October 20, 2012

Going to Ground in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Ensconced at the northwest corner of North Carolina and much like an overexposed backbone, there lays the Blue Ridge Mountains …

There are quasi mystical stories which have been handed down many generations in these(those?) parts. They are all about the people and the harsh but beautiful environment in which they lived and the way this lifestyle has shaped untold generations of hardy mountain men and women.

Beautiful Blue... 
On the one side there is the Tennessee land… the land of music and good ol’ Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey… Mr. J. Daniels’ legacy, I believe… On this side is North Carolina with the city of Asheville sitting at the junction corner, much like a guardian of the ways into this general domain… Then, to the north(East) of this corner, lays the sprawl which is West Virginia. This particular area is one of the last bastions, in many ways, of what life was for the mountain families of yore. Full of simplicity and hard work… all wrapped in a heavy shawl of spiritual beliefs. The natural scenery provided by the Blue Ridge Mountains is a beautiful frame within which this part of the world can be seen… and truly enjoyed.

However, all of the above is not what this entry is about. I just happen to really enjoy the beauty of these mountains and of this particular area. But these ramblings are not about those great and colorful people but about what it is I have seen in this part of the country, what it has meant to me and why. Perhaps too much information, more than what you may want to find out… but then, what is a personal blog if not … well … personal.
Grandfather Mountain, Asheville.

Late in 2007, as mentioned already in one or more of these entries (after a while it becomes difficult to keep track of all of them) I was given the eye popping news that my body was hosting a number of unwanted visitors in the form of viruses and things strange, which gave life to a cancer in my prostate. As a man then in my early 60’s, it was well within my knowledge and understanding that I was open to many possible illnesses and maladies which had never really crossed my path before. Including this one but since the sum total number of days I had spent in a hospital along the prior 60 years, probably did not go above 20, these possibilities did not cross my mind as probabilities.

After I was told, I went into a deep personal funk… and this lasted for some time. Yet, in all of this, it never crossed my mind that there was a possibility that I would die. That concept simply didn’t exist for me. Yes, I know we all will at some point or another but, in truth, I hope my point of eternal entry –so to speak- is yet somewhat removed.  Too many things yet to do and all that… My personal life had also suffered a setback and I was not happy at all with the goings on… In the end, it was my brother who came to my rescue, inviting me to come to these parts and share a home with his family.

I have to digress for a moment… I am not a good family man, in the biblical and traditional sense. The chance to experience this kind of people union as a growing young man simply wasn't there… Yes, I do love my children with all my heart and suffer because my communication with the two younger ladies has been restricted due to a disagreement (hmmm… is a divorce considered a disagreement?) between their parents. So, when it came time to share a home with two adults and three plus one children (the son of a good friend of my brother was already there, being sheltered as well by these two good people) it was a major adjustment for me. It was interesting to experience, from the outside, the kinetics of a marriage which has issues but where both people work at them, each giving in a little bit to meet somewhere around the midsection which, in my brother’s case, is a good sized territory.

Eventually, my wife decided to come up and join me in these parts. I think being sick of life in Miami then was a more defining issue in her coming here, than the need of my company. I understood, my own life in Miami had become a burden difficult to bear... Not the fault of Miami itself, although this has become a sprawling, crazy like environment. The true fault rested on not well thought out decisions made along the way (along with non-decisions) which created a very difficult setting in which to go on.

Carolinas Med Center... "home away from home in 2009" 
There had been an elusive quest for peace… be it of life or of mind, as it were, and it was found in these parts. Or at least the promise of it. Of course, the cancer shadow was hanging over my bedposts as I tried to fall asleep every night but I knew this would be conquered, as it eventually was. I became a very grateful example for cancer awareness… with my own inner phosphorescent glow included… (only kidding… I think…) My hip, which had reduced me to a very painful limping, leg dragging half gait, was also corrected through surgery. Since there were two other minor surgeries to go along with the preceding issues, I considered that -a good aging wine comes to mind- 2009 was a very good year. 

While still convalescing from all the “friendly” attacks it had received, my body was on its way to redemption. As can be had after 65 years of taking a beating…

My mind… well, this is a story all of its own…

I am going to play coy and simply say… “to be continued”…

 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!!!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I Have a Dream…

Sometimes having a dream is a good thing.  Sometimes, it becomes a nightmare. 
There is one saying that is constantly heard from the very first time one arrives of the shores of this grand country.  And that is that we “all come here to live our dream”.

I, along with many thousands of others, had a dream; I had a dream in which I saw my family together, in which those people with whom I had spent the first growing years of my life would all be able to see each other as always we did, to hold each other, to nurture each other, to be there in time of need.

When we come to a new country, we are all affected by the drastic changes to our lives. From those who come here via first air class ticket to those who cross the Rio Grande inside the bed of a truck, or those desperate folk who cross the straits floating on an inner tube or even trying to accomplish the impossible feat of swimming it, we all hope to be able to look to the future and the possibility that perhaps some day, we will be able to recreate that familial feeling that somehow disappeared as soon as the idea of crossing over became a reality.

There are no people exceptions when it comes to having this wish; it is pretty universal. We who are at a given time trying hard to accept and adapt may acknowledge it or not; we may think we should not dwell on these thoughts and may keep them hidden and private… I know I did for a long time… but in doing so we enter into a denial lifestyle. We react to these feelings as we go along and often they will impact the life we develop while here. Perhaps thinking that we will at some point go back “home”, we do not fully embrace the opportunities that come our way during those first years… usually the most difficult years to survive in a strange (to us then) environment. We fail to see through this self imposed exile within an exile and recognize that we are now in our new home.

As years go by, as I remember this unfolding story, individuals begin to recognize those facts of their new life as lasting; we each begin to accept that, perhaps, we should really define our thoughts and define our actions as it befits the structuring of a new life and a new environment. Many of us, in this difficult process, have had the help of patient folk who saw through this anguish and understood. Others were not so lucky. These have had to fight through that inner field of discomfort and antagonist feelings to, in the end, come to -at best- an uneasy truce.

I have a dream… that some day we can be one again, that we can be truly a part of a group that welcomes one without looking at how he/she looks or thinks… that we can share our thoughts and act on them while respecting the other person’s.

I have a dream… that we come to understand that amassing money and things are not a realistic end… you really and truly cannot take it with you… And while here, one is so besotted with the pursuit of riches that these are never enjoyed. These are material means to ends; instruments and tools to be used in order to yes, live well ourselves, but also to help others with lesser opportunities to study, work and get ahead in order to have themselves a better life if they so choose to do.

I have a dream… that peace among us is a possibility; that political zealots of all stripes will cease to inflame those who follow them and who themselves cannot or will not look beyond what is being said into what truly is… so that we might be able to coexist and pursue our own thoughts in the freedom to do so.

I have a dream… that we, as human beings, can go on to the next level of existence; a level which will allow us to explore our own potential, that which resides in our minds and which has yet to be reasonably utilized. What wonderful frontiers could we explore if we actually set our minds to these pursuits? We can only guess… and dream.

Perhaps these dreams are foolish; perhaps unreal and difficult to accept in our limited perception of what, who and why we are or may be. But not beyond a possibility and, as long as this is so, I will hold on to them.

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...