Thursday, April 11, 2013

Once In A Blue Moon...

A blue moon was immortalized in a musical standard that became a lover’s hymn… it is also part of a popular saying that implies that whatever is being alluded to, never really comes to pass… I wonder if these two apparently divergent concepts are related…

This is one of those titles which allow the writer (that’s me) to go into all tangents available to his mind (let’s assume it is working at this time) and express most any idea without a real deep commitment to any of them.

This week birds are in the news…or rather, one particular bird. According to Venezuela’s interim President this was the late Commander Chavez’ way to come back and communicate with him… Hmmm… and this man runs a country?... Then again… On the other hand, this is the same guy who would have us believe that at some point during Chavez’ last days, while in his death bead and comatose, he held a five (Yes, 5) hour work session with him, and without the aid of a Ouija. Maybe that is what finally pushed him over to the other side… Methinks it may be easier to believe he talked to a bird.

Continuing with Venezuela… this Sunday there will be General elections for the presidency… “G”eneral with a capital G because I don’t think the Generals in the armed forces will allow the current regime to lose their power, no matter what the majority of the voters may say. The current interim government, headed by the “Bird Whisperer”, seems not to have the same people power the late commander had. And this is a cause for concern. As much as they try to revive the image of the late Chavez at every speech and rallying point, giving the accurate impression that Maduro by himself could not bring the people to vote. He tries… oh how hard he tries to imitate the style of the late president but… he fails miserably. Just doesn’t cut it.  We’ll see what happens… the last popular polls indicate that the contender actually may have taken the lead… however, this doesn't mean much in a dictatorship…

Closer to home, our Social Security and Medicare benefits are taking the blunt of the Presidential economic attack… funny… every time there is talk about a cutback, these two line items always get the priority. It’s like a permanent threat… we don’t get what we want, we take yours away. It doesn’t matter if someone has worked 40 or more years to get these benefits (and NO, they are NOT an “entitlement”… they are the result of a lot of damn hard work) our dedicated government hits the proverbial SS panic button, instead of cutting back a lot of wasted allotment moneys that have no apparent coherent reason to exist. Other than political expediency. We’ll see what some 70 Million “Baby Boomers” who are retiring in these 5 years have to say in the next election. Especially those who voted for this government.

I think we Cubans in the US -as a group- are beginning to finally grow up some. For many years it was perceived that “he who shouted the loudest” was "rightest". Even when wrong. Miami radio airwaves became a slug-fest of shouts, screams and of people hurtling epithets to one another as loudly and quickly as they could shout “Death to Fidel”.

Over the years, many new Cuban American generations have been born and bred and are more concerned with their American than with their Cuban side. Also, there have been a great number of migrants coming into Miami from most Latin American countries (and even from Spain, where the soup has become quite a bit thinner as of late) so the “Cuban” issue is becoming of lesser overall interest and weight. Yes, we do have the senators and congress people, which is a true achievement for a relatively small group of immigrants, but they now have to divide their time and efforts into the other “non-Cuban” issues.

Yoany Sanchez, a well known and respected dissident blogger who is of that very rare breed who courageously choose to do their "dissidence" from within Cuba, proposes that the embargo against the island should be lifted. And she is quite willing to discuss her thought-out reasoning. However, when she was coming to visit Miami, a group called “Brigada 2506” (made up from the remnants -without disrespect- of the failed assault group that was sent to Cuba by Kennedy around 1962) vowed to shout her down. Then, it became apparent their call was going unheeded by a vast majority who follow and admire YS (some 10 Million hits a month in her blog). In an unprecedented reversal, their “protest” became a very small group of ageing folk who quietly held a couple of signs across the street where Mrs. Sanchez was speaking.

Changing times indeed. As a group, we seem to "maybe" be finally moving forward… it only took some 55 years to do so.

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!!!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

On The Road To Recovery… Part 3

“Recovery” is a loose term which encompasses many of one’s attempts to right something that has gone wrong… physically, emotionally, economically and sometimes, a bit of all three combined.

This June will mark the 5th anniversary of my arrival in Charlotte, NC. No fanfares, no welcoming committee; this was not the arrival of a visiting dignitary… more like the coming to town of someone who maybe got off the bus by mistake, not knowing if this was the right place or not.

I called my brother from one of the bus station’s payphones. One of the few areas where these were then still available and a reminder that most folk who regularly come through here, cannot afford to have cell phone services. As was my case then. My brother asked me to wait outside, he and his wife were on their way.

Since the “family” reunion was already covered in “Part 1” of these entries some time ago, I won’t go into it again. I think best to fast forward to that point where my wife and I re-met after some months separation, as she had stayed in Miami when I came to Charlotte, and we had already been apart for the last 2 – 3 months of my life in that city.

We had a lot of ground to cover.

Was it all to the good? It never is all to either side. I will say there was more to the good than to the bad; as there were areas which could be called non-definitive. There were very difficult times ahead, some we were aware of and others that hit from the blind side, no warnings, no pity.

She drove all night and all day, stopping every once in a while to rest, eat something, continue to smoke (she has stopped this habit since coming up, I’m glad to say) and to get her bearings. Also to figure out whether this trip had been a good idea or… not. Thinking all 20 travel hours as to whether this was a worthy effort. My truer instincts tell me that the fight was, within herself, as to what might be more difficult to survive… coming here and reuniting with me or returning to whatever mess had been left behind.

The first 18 months after our reunion brought three surgeries, one a major one, and a 2 1/2 month long cancer treatment, a treatment which would bring side effects we would have to deal with as a couple. On the other hand, on the plus side of the ledger, this unwelcome visitor has been kept at bay since then. And no, I don’t refer to my wife… I’m talking about our friendly CA.

After all seemed to be settling down, getting on to be the latter part of 2011, I received a late phone call which would change my life. When I saw the caller ID and realized it was my ex wife, what came to mind was that her mother had finally passed away. These would be sad news indeed, for she was a dear person but, because of her long lasting bout with Alzheimer’s, the news had been expected for some time.

-“Hi Rafe” came a very upset voice over the phone… -“I have some very bad news for you”…

- “Hi” I answered… “Is this about your mom?”

-“No… worse yet… much worse…” she said… “Eric was in an accident”

-“What happened?” I cried back… Eric was our son, who was finally making headway after a very long and difficult period in his life… -“Is he in the hospital?”

-“No Rafe… he is gone… he died…”

There isn't much I can add to these words which, no matter how long a time may pass, will stay in my mind as the worst news I have received in my life… I know death is part of life, an end which is inevitable but it is very difficult to bury one’s child…

Time has once again done its part in taking away the worst of this loss; but there is not enough in a lifetime to take the pain fully away.

Being here in Charlotte, with my wife and friends has been very helpful throughout this process; it has been a balm of sorts which prepared me mentally for this very difficult stretch of emotional roller coasting after all the physical treatment and cures.

When he heard about my son's death, a friend asked me… “how can you continue to believe in God after this loss?”

“More than ever, I do” was my answer; “He has never abandoned me and is continuing to hold my hand”. This was sometime ago; since then, this belief has been reaffirmed in my heart and mind.

And life is beginning to smile again in many fronts… still holding back on others, though…

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!!!

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Joy to Behold and to Hear…

“And what is left for you to see on this life?” was the last question asked by the show’s host of his guest, dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez… -“to see my country free of this tyrannical government” came the quick, unbridled answer…

If you are a regular reader, a few entries ago there was mention of a lady who practices patriotism of the highest kind: the one which is done from within the bowels of the enemy… while your knees shake in fear. She has managed, over the last 7 years or so, to produce a blog which is now read by over 12million people a month, in some 40 countries of the world and which is translated into 14 languages.

This was my first time with her; the anticipated moment when I would be able to actually watch and listen to this lady whose blog entries have been a guiding light to the realities of that beautiful country I left behind so many years ago; a country which is fast disappearing in the mists of time, fleeting threads of memories hanging on like a slowly shredding banner daring the wind from a worn out mast.

What would she be like? … What would she say?  Would she be baring her soul or knowing that the enemy would be faced again in less than 4 weeks, would she be holding back?

The conversation began… on the one side, was Jaime Bayly, a well known host and very intelligent questioner. On his asset list, is being a rabid defender of the right to think and to express thoughts… an enemy of any tyrannical government… On the other side of the desk, sat Yoani Sanchez; an equally strong proponent of the right to be…

She answered questions, spoke about her fears and about her life. She spoke about being able to meet people, especially that other branch of the family who has been away for so many years and, without whom, there could never be a fully realized Cuba. She spoke about the difficulties of managing her blog and about how many people around the world were giving of their time and efforts to see it realized.

Bayly asked about her being afraid, living right there at the mercy of those who so wanted to see her work silenced, her thoughts destroyed and forgotten, the quiet voice that brings to life the day to day misery of her countrymen. But she is not about to let this happen. Not voluntarily, anyway.

Answering Bayly’s questions and comments, she was candid, transparent.  -“Yes, I am afraid… Of course!!”… “My knees shake at times but I can’t stop doing what I have to do, what I feel compelled to do” -“Have you been threatened?” he asked… “Threatened, beaten, jailed…” she quietly answered, with a wistful look in her eyes.

She was in awe and wonder of how many people wanted to meet her, to speak and embrace her… Some, I’m sure, to bask in her glory while trying to hold on and even revive their own fading colors… She was determined to bring her message across without hyperbole, without the usual nasty comments, so common to many… without screams… and she managed to do just so.

A clear, orderly thinker with clear and complete answers. I saw and heard a person who, while being afraid of very real potential reprisals, continues to raise her voice to denounce the tyrannical government of her country; my own birth country. Who is determined to do her utmost to bring a change about with her words and convictions. And with those of a generation of Cubans who are beginning to –thanks in part to her example- lose a bit of the immobilizing fear in which their minds had been compartmentalized.

-“In the Cuba of my dreams, the President would only be one high ranking administrator… not a self named leader” –“Everyone would have a job to do; everyone would have the right to do it, a right to have a decent life and to think, to talk” –“No, please, I don’t want that” she quickly answered to Bayly’s suggestion of her potential candidacy to a Presidency. –“I’m not good at that stuff… I want to run a major newspaper and rejoice in the freedom to publish whatever needs to be shouted to the world”.

I watched her and a few words came to my mind, in trying to describe this person; a young, unassuming mother, wife and True Patriot… Quiet Inner Strength. And then, something else came to mind also…

When people like this woman can exist, despite all the efforts to silence her from the powers that be, there is definite hope for the future of that beautiful, Caribbean island I called home in my childhood years. Many blessings and, more than this, much support to her in her war of words…

Blog …    ---    ”Twitter” @yoanisanchez

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!!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What If…

There are those moments when all crickets quiet down, when the mind begins to drift and questions come unbidden…

One of those questions is, inevitably, the one that appears on the title line and this is a question which sets our mind into a sometimes lonely memory trip. A trip down a road which is full of potential falls and of misunderstandings yet, full of lessons as well.

What if… childhood dreams had been attained in the same country where I was born and where all those dreams were forged…

What if… a family that was torn apart (as thousands were in my homeland as well as in many other places, times and lives) had been allowed to stay together…

What if… people who were a part of our lives as growing up teens had been kept in the fold of our living…

What if… plans made along the way had been able to be completed… at least to some extent, instead of having more often than not to –and not always voluntarily- change or forget them…

What if… a life which has spanned almost seven decades had been allowed to do so in one place, with one direction, rather than being forged in a changing and multidirectional world…

What if… those who shared a dream with us had been allowed to be there at waking time…

What if… we actually had some say in what life and destiny has planned to send our way…

As we (OK, Ok… as “I”) sit and wonder at possible answers to these questions and all the others which perforce come along for the ride, the mental environment becomes a philosophical tour de force. Everything in question is questioned; everything becomes part of a nebulous “Why?”… We are, in a Biblical sense, reassured that it all becomes clear at some point… the “right” point… yet, after all these years (a fractional nanosecond in cosmic times, to be sure) it is still in doubt that any concrete answer at all will be forthcoming; at least in this lifetime…

What brings about this kind of melancholic ruminating? (Hmmm… like that?) It could be many issues… in this case, the trigger has been looking back at three (related) lives which were supposed to have, upon coming to this world, a defined path to follow; instead, they have been thrust upon meandering roads which, at times, seemed to have had no clear objective at all. In honor to the truth and at least in my case, I have to admit that some of these meanderings were the direct result of my own misguided decisions… but then again, were these part of an overall plan as well?... or were they missteps at a moment in time when I should have “heaved” but “hoed” instead?

Do you know the answer to that last question, as it might relate to your own life? 

I sure don’t… as it relates to mine, of course…

Sitting and thinking about the “What Ifs” of life, it becomes clearer in my mind that asking these basically unanswerable questions doesn’t really bring about any change… what is already in the past cannot be changed anyway; but this exercise just may help me make some of the many, many other decisions yet to be made along the course of the rest of my life. And, who knows?... I might actually hit the bull’s eye in some of them… I haven’t lost hope yet…   ;-)

Along with this thinking comes the realization that, in order to have made so many mistakes (and to have also done so many things right) a few years must have passed by. And it is great to anticipate that many more are yet to come, for I know I have to be able to put into practice all these wonderful experiences and convert them into positive results. At heart, I will always be that child of long ago full of wonder and full of curiosity and, yes… also questioning anyone who thinks he/she has all the answers.

You and I know this isn’t so.

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!!!

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...