Monday, June 19, 2017

There are Memories and then… There are Memories…

  Today, being Saturday and most things that needed to be done being so done yesterday, there was some time in which to do not much, so HBO was tuned to and a movie called “The Last of the Blonde Bombshells” caught my attention.  A simple musical I thought… easy to pass the time. Well, it was a musical -of sorts- with a top cast, including Dame Judi Dench and a singer I had not thought about for quite some time, albeit one of my years ago very favorites: Cleo Laine.

  Mind you, I didn’t know she was on the cast, it just happened along the way to a happy finish. The storyline is about an all-female (plus a male drummer with blonde wig and all) English swing band (“swing” as it pertained to those times) which had become famous during WWII. The movie is taking place in the present, so that long past story had taken place some 50+years ago, the plot switching back and forth between then and now. The main character somehow meets up again with drummer-boy (another story-within-the-story) and they set out to bring whatever is left of the band together again.  

  When they got to the singer, there was this older lady (well… we all get there sometime, don’t we?) who began to belt this number with an incredible low/mid-range voice. My little man brain (the one sitting somewhere back there inside my head) kept closing out the visual and concentrating on the sound part.

- “I know that voice!! It kept on repeating…”
- “But I don’t know that face, I kept answering…”

  The sound just kept coming and being enjoyed… Eventually, the movie came to its end and, out of total curiosity, I stayed on to watch the credits roll by…

  OMG!!! You fool!!! Her name appeared on the screen and in my memory banks… Cleo Laine… to me, one of the great jazz/blues singers/voices of all time.

  Along with her voice came memories of sitting by a pool somewhere, sipping a cool drink and listening to a cassette (Yes, a cassette, what of it???) with her voice trailing over the pool waters unto the sea and the sunset, skipping over a few palm trees along the ways …  “the little ordinary things every one ought to do…” from Ray Noble’s “The Very Thought of You”…

  I did a lot of long winded travel in the late 70’s into the mid 80’s. But it wasn’t all work… Once in a while, there were sublime moments when the world would graciously allow itself to fall away and there was only a drink, the whisper of the water, the sunset and the glorious sounds of Cleo Laine cleansing my soul.

There are memories and then… there are memories…

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 rjalcazar@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

BGSA or AGSA???

Sometime in the future, in a non-denominational world, the ages of quick knowledge and enlightenment may be measured by the above little letters. What do these critters mean? I’m sure you ask…

These precious little letters mean no more and no less than… “Before Google Search Availability” and “After Google Search Availability”. Don’t laugh… there is a great cultural divide here.

If you are reading this, it’s likely you belong to a group of individuals who braved the world of academia with rulers, dictionaries, and… OMG!!!... Books! Yep… those ancient things which had pages to be turned, read, marked, annotated and underlined and then, when you were done with the year studies, they were resold to the next class of aspiring students. The value went up according to the quality of the notes and underlining which paved the way for an easier study time.

I think this crop of students, the “Goooglehead” generation, is privy to a lot of information we did not readily have. It could be said they are smarter because of this and because they can find out the answer to most anything with a few hits to the keyboard on their telephone and/or phablet and/or laptop. Perhaps. I agree that a pocket, electronic Wikipedia would have been a big help in our time. The Good Lord knows what trials and tribulations we went through at finals time; running to get the needed last minute information, going to the library (remember those?) and checking through the cards and the old records you could look at in those old viewers that rolled them in an almost unreadable screen.

On the other hand, there are elements which might be missing from the new picture. The process of learning and thereby assimilating the contents, the acquired patience needed to find sources, read them and cull the wanted information. A patience which comes in handy later in the real world, where not all is solved by stroking the keys of a computer. I have witnessed a high level of frustration in youngsters (Geesh… I’m sounding old) when they can’t get an instant answer and resolution.  

There is another and, perhaps more important area, where overall development could be lacking. Early social life. For many, socialization comes through chat groups, not through face to face interaction. In the usual social media, what counts in the life of teens and young adults are the “likes” they may get to a posting. No matter how silly this posting may be. There have been far too many cases where a “dislike” brings on a depressive state. They become a symbol of rejection. These internet surfers have not developed the emotional and personality tools which would help them deal with the perceived slights.

Yes, I know. I come from a complex, yet simpler time. Complex because we had to learn to interact with others and this was not easy or simple. Simpler time because we were not overwhelmed with an ever-expanding universe of possibilities at our fingertips. We looked for what we needed and didn’t get the surrounding garbage that today comes with all searches.

Is this going to change? Not likely. Actually, the next generation of “smarter-than-thou” helpers is already on its way to us and our children, who gleefully want to be the first in line to get the new goodies.

It is their new world and we, the old geezers, created and handed it to them… Now we are becoming bystanders in the all-out virtual world race…

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 rjalcazar@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Once Upon a Time in Insurance Land...

Many years and moons ago I began selling insurance…

Back in the early 70’s there was this time when I was not a righteous member of the gainfully employed crowd (only smirk if you’ve never been there) and a friend asked me to go to an interview with a local agency of a major insurance company.

- “What, sell Insurance?” asked I with a look of surprise on my face.
- “Yes,” he answered, “That, sell insurance… and, why not?”

I have many defects (Quiet there in the gallery… no need to agree so readily!!) but fear of the unknown is not one of them.  I went to the interview and received an offer to start working immediately… well, OK… that’s the same offer made to most any walking body that might sashay into that office back then… The decision was made to start selling this product, without understanding how much and how drastically my later life would change as a result.

The sale of insurance, as a profession, carried somewhat of a stigma back then and this was not lost on yours truly. But needs of food, shelter and daily countenance do not understand the concept of “stigmas” so, I went on to my training period with The Prudential Insurance Company, affectionately known as “The Rock”. What’s more, this was a debit insurance office, which was the then more modern euphemism for the small, monthly collected old industrial insurance.

What a collection of characters I had the chance to meet!! Phil, the retired army captain, straight as an arrow, physically and mentally. Then there was “Pinky”, the office perennial sales leader, along with his manager Salvatore. Two stalwart old school Italians (amongst several others in their group) who were loud, funny and friendly.  And I can’t forget “Vinnie from The Rock” tall, gangly, orange mop head who was the archetypal salesman… Green pants, loud shirt and checkered sports coat to go with an incredibly bubbly personality… OK, overbearing personality….

That was the beginning of my Insurance career. A hotbed of activity, visiting neighborhoods, collecting premiums which went down to as little as $.50 per month (yes, fifty cents) while talking to clients and their neighbors trying to dredge up new business… I actually survived that office, mostly because I was guided by a good human being and knowledgeable leader by the name of Bernie… Eventually I learned to sell larger policies than those the office could accommodate and went on to “greener” pastures.

Some 44 years later, after holding down many different positions within the insurance business which ranged from sales, to sales management and corporate director and consultant, I am now “semi-retired”. The wonderful years spent in many countries around the world because of tenures with international companies, are part of a web of memories which keep most of these instances alive and warm. And I say “most” because there are definitely some instances which are probably best left for the “delete” bin of the mind.

It is said by those who know more than I do -who make up a rather large contingent- that a person, in the latter years of his/her life tends to become an amalgam of all those experiences lived along the way. I can only hope that I may have managed to nurture the better experiences into my makeup, culling those which could leave a negative component.

Well, I could only hope this is true….

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 rjalcazar@gmail.com

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Innocence, Music and Other Things.

I always thought that innocence and music are gifts from God. The former is pretty much gone and the latter, as represented by some of its latest iterations… well, I’m not so sure…
Ever since I was a little child, hiding behind my grandmother’s skirts, I was a witness -and participant- of a devoted love to music in all its variations. Later, when I was about 8 years old and in the arms of that same grandmother, my journey through the steps of a dance floor began. I learned to dance the music of my childhood and of my grandmother’s adolescence. Danzones, Cha-cha, boleros, Waltzes… even a street conga or two…

It was a time in which I would look behind the big radio to find the musicians that surely had to be hiding inside… Then, on realizing these folks could not really be inside there, I would be convinced that the answer was that there must be a giant theater somewhere in the radio station where troves of bands and singers would be sitting in wait for their name to be called as a result of a request from a listener. Ahh… long gone times... Much simpler and innocent than today, when imagination, fairy tales and heroic adventures are relegated to an ever-growing virtual pile of refuse.

I remember one of my favorite shows, which took place during a fifteen-minute stretch in the early afternoon, after lunch and before the school bus came to take me back to the hallowed halls of education. The little stretch of radio imagination was called “The Adventures of the Three Villalobos”. These were three brothers who were “cowboys” (yes, I know… there weren’t any real cowboys in Cuba but I did say imagination and radio and innocence, right?) and who, as a family much in the style of the latter day television Cartwrights (Bonanza) ran all over the Cuban countryside looking for wrongs to right and to defend the defenseless.

These were basic adventures. A short 15 min program but you couldn’t pry me away from the radio during those minutes. I loved it and also knew that during the afternoon the latest adventures would be a topic of discussion among my friends during the recesses. These discussions were an ode to the imagination and to the knowledge that we could be as good a hero as any of these Villalobos brothers.

Together with this love of music and to the radio adventures and all the imagination these allowed out minds to exercise, there was also a love of curiosity and questioning of all established presumptions. And there were (and are) many of these. I was lucky to grow into a family where there were no absolute bosses and where all were encouraged to talk up, to question, to discuss. I realize today this was not the norm in the environment where I grew up. And am thankful.

As years went by I couldn’t but accept that the music I used to listen to came from records played by an engineer at the radio station and not from live bands in a theater… I also had to grudgingly accept that my beloved Villalobos were but a threesome of badly paid aging radio actors in a studio somewhere in Havana and that all the galloping horses, the pistol shots and the very scarce kisses (remember, cowboys kissed their horses, not women) came from a well managed sound box and its hard working master.

What has been left in me from these and many other similar childhood adventures and dreams is a love of music and the belief that imagination is the cradle of reality and it must never be abandoned or relegated to a totally practical, “non-real” world… Imagination, which resides in that semi forgotten attic we often overlook, allows me to create and explore other worlds, other visions, other realities and, when I finally get to see them, what is to tell me these are not as real as the world from which we spy on 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 rjalcazar@gmail.com

Saturday, February 18, 2017

From the Desk of…

I have always liked this header. It seems to imply position or rank. Whether real or self-imposed, is a different story. There were times when, in the process of getting my own letterhead done, I actually thought about plastering this little ditty on the left superior corner. But in the end, it would not be found up there.

Every time I thought about using it, the question would pop… But… But… whatever is coming, is not coming from my desk, is it? When did it learn to send things by itself? Yep, I know… it sounds nonsensical to me too… In fact, this whole thing sounds off the wall to me.

So, let’s get on to another topic. And just how do we do this, I ask? … you may also ask if you truly wish to do so… The real answer is “I’m not sure” but if we keep on writing something is bound to come up. With all mental efforts avoiding the call to be drawn into the political arena… too easy… and too difficult at the same time.

Your whole life is a manifestation of the thoughts that go on in your head” Lisa Nichols, “The Secret”. Every so often I go back and read a little bit of this compilation book. Perhaps it should be said “re-read” because the book is earmarked in many pages, underlined like a 10th grade school book. It had been a while since my thoughts went in this direction. Today, while cleaning my desk of unwanted excess paper stuff (trying to use less real paper as I go along, using more and more of these virtual pages) there was the book, under a pile of long not-looked-at stuff next to the printer/copier/scanner sitting quietly on the far corner of the desk.  I opened one of the marked pages and there was the passage from Lisa Nichols reminding me that we are and represent, by all measures, the sum of our thinking. And I have to add that I believe this last is but a compendium of all we have seen, lived and become.

The concept behind this book and the myriad of writers who contributed to it is that one is the master of his universe. Well, at least the corner which is included in the immediate surroundings to one self. There are many variables, especially where several of these little universe corners meet and intertwine. Is the stronger wishful thinker going to win the day? Not sure how it works there.

“The Secrets” concept is, at the very least, self-assuring; it leads one’s trending thoughts into a more optimal result. Will it bring on all those things you may wish for? Not by itself. Rather, I think it creates a state of mind which allows the thinker to look at what is going on in his/her life from different perspectives and perhaps, identify a better way of achieving the desired results.

So, in the end… maybe it does function. Or, maybe it helps you identify and do the work that needs to be done in order to achieve your goals or solve a burdensome issue.

Hmmm… food for thought… In the meantime, will continue to weave the ever thinking spinneret…

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 rjalcazar@gmail.com

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sitting by Wally’s Pond… Yet again

I almost called this entry “one man’s opinion” but the other heading looked better on paper…

We have come to live in a society where a single uttered word can unleash all kinds of Pavlovian gut reactions. “Racist”, “Homophobic”, “Misogyny”, “Fascist”, Etc. The list of these terms is becoming longer every day and the number of those who use, or misuse, these words is also growing. I will concentrate on one specific moniker for the duration of this entry: “Immigrants”. Wait, read on… Don’t go off yet…

It is a topic which awakens feelings; both for and against. Yes, this nation has been built by immigrants but, for the most part and up to the last 10 years or so, these came in a somewhat orderly fashion and following a protocol. As is done in all other countries, we do have to have strong borders; I am also not against a temporary ban to immigrants from countries where the main export is terrorism (under any guise); anyone who commits a punishable crime, should be punished to the extent of the law. If you are a citizen or legal resident, you'll go to jail. If you are an immigrant without papers, you'll be deported. I will also define a “criminal immigrant” as someone who has committed an actual crime not just a person who has no documents.

Then, and I am afraid some of my conservative friends may not agree, there are millions who came and have lived here for 10, 15 and even 20 or more years and who have not been able to get papers. Criminals? Not so sure on that score. Most are church going, working 2-3 jobs at menial or less than menial pay to give their families a head start. Despite their low income, many have filed returns over the years, trying to contribute to the society which grudgingly gave them a place, albeit in its hidden corners.

Millions have, despite their legal handicaps, bought homes, cars, raised families -without asking for gov't help- and even a good number have started very successful businesses which generate millions in taxes & payroll every year and where they have given jobs to untold number of other immigrants and citizens. In many cases, I daresay, they have become better members of society than many US born citizens we have come to know along the way.

I'll go further. Many sons of these "illegal" immigrants have proudly worn the uniform in service to our country and of those, many have paid the ultimate price. Do these folk deserve to be judged without a hearing? I do not think so.

I am an immigrant and have citizen status thanks to the fact that one president saw fit to give a chance to those immigrants who had served during the Viet Nam years. I believe it is time to truly look at these proud and good folk, and judge each by what he/she has done, outside the general hysteria that surrounds this topic.

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 rjalcazar@gmail.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Sometimes Darker Side of Wally’s Pond…

As much as I like to visit that little piece of usual heaven which is my very own mental pond, sometimes while there thoughts come uncalled for; thoughts which bring back from hidden little corners those memories which had been hitherto banished for eternity. Well, eternity as may be defined by our mortal and very imperfect minds. Which is a lot shorter than the other one.

I sat there, quietly perusing many memories. Maybe trying to, from an amalgam of words and ideas, pick something which could be transformed into a blog entry; an entry which could be light a little funny (maybe) and easy on the eyes and the thinking process.

But, as things tend to go, when you least expect it…

The clouds rolled in and then away… behind them, came thoughts that had been purged from my mind. Or so I thought. In other entries past I glanced over my time in the army while overseas, trying to look at the better moments. Those were years which most of us who served in the armed forces chose to put mentally aside in the pursuit of a post Viet Nam life. I did not go to Viet-Nam; those who did gave all: body, care, thoughts, families and in many cases, the future stability of their own minds. I am not going to argue about right or wrong; or whether this, like many other wars, was created to pursue the interests of those who were in power at the time. Political and financial power.

I was stationed at Naha Wheel in Okinawa, probably the closest point to VN and the outlet for many of those who were lucky enough to make it and start the long, difficult and painful way back home. While in Okinawa, I drove a deuce and a half and went to the port on a regular basis to pick up used or discarded war ordinance (material/equipment) and bring it back to the warehouse, where it would be processed to its end, whatever that might be.

Those things, after delivery, I did not see again. Often they were not pretty sights, bloody remnants of a war without fronts where anyone could be a mortal enemy. Men, women, children, young, old.

Not so easy to make the human by-product disappear. My memories of those days and nights reminded me. The cries in the middle of the night; cries that came to someone’s lips while in the midst of a surreal dream, most likely reliving moments which would rather be forgotten. Someone waking up with a sudden start and dropping to the floor, looking to any one next to him as you would look at someone who wanted to kill you. The nights when we had to physically restrain a child who too early turned an old man and just coming back from the war zone, until we could make him realize he was amongst friends. The pain, the angst, the wasted lives. The feeling of total frustration and desperate want to help, and not being able to.

Yes, many memories came back. And I know mine are far from the worst. I can’t even begin to imagine the memories of those who at 18 or 19 years of age were in the middle of a fight no one seemed to support. Sometimes we would talk. It was not easy for me to listen and much more difficult for them to speak about their days and nights in the jungle. I laid in bed many nights, totally awake. I could only imagine what this generation was going through. Not knowing that perhaps the worst was yet to come for many, as they came home to a society which looked upon returning soldiers as not wanted killers. Today, after so many years, sometimes I still think about this when I wake up in the middle of the night.

War is real. You kill, you die. You bleed, you hurt. Then, when you manage to survive physically your mind may not. War is not, as some children may think today, a virtual TV game. Which you turn on and off.

Wally’s Pond. Sometimes the memories can be dark. But they are a part of who I am and will not be denied.

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 rjalcazar@gmail.com

There are Memories and then… There are Memories…

   Today, being Saturday and most things that needed to be done being so done yesterday, there was some time in which to do not much, so HB...