Happy Birthday, Dad. Still missing you, man!

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Author’s Note: I published this entry on my father’s birthday for the first time in 2009. I still miss him and not only on his birthday, so I post it again today. This is the one post that gets picked up most by search engines. Other folks who missed their departed dads come here to read about mine. If you’re reading this, I wish that you were as lucky as I was in having known someone like my dad Gilberto. Blessings to yours and mine.

If my Dad was alive, today would have been his 81st birthday.  He died in a car accident in Cuba in 1979. He was 47 years old.  I almost died with him.

On a day like today, I am remembering his courage and his grace.

I would love to tell you a little bit about both.

We were in Cuba visiting the family we had left behind a decade earlier.  We were one of the first groups to travel back to Cuba under the Family Reunification Act.  This was an agreement entered into by both the Cuban and American governments to allow family members living in the US the opportunity to visit relatives on the island.

Like a lot of Cuban families, ours had been split along political lines.  After supporting the Revolution from its infancy, my Dad broke with it in the early Sixties.  He felt the original promises of the Revolution — a return to democracy after Batista, with the Constitution of 1940 as guide — had been betrayed.  He called the Castro gang the real counter-revolutionaries.  After the nationalization of private property — including my Dad’s humble-single pump Sinclair station — and the declaration by Castro that communism, not democracy was the future for Cuba, Dad filed the necessary paperwork to emigrate to this country.  I can only imagine the pain Dad must have felt leaving his family and friends behind and move to a country that spoke a different language and lived a different culture.  He was only allowed to take with him the clothes on his back.

About a quarter of my family did the same thing.  The other three quarters stayed behind with different degrees of involvement in the Castro government.  Some close relatives, believers in and defenders of the Revolution, were high up in governmental circles.  I loved these people as much as I loved the ones that made it across the Florida Straits.  My Dad taught me that.  I never heard him say one negative, unloving thing about any family member that had chosen differently than him.  He had a big, accepting heart.

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3 Years o’ Blogging

English: The New York City fireworks over the ...
The New York City fireworks over the East Village of New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cubiyanqui is 3 years-old today.

This little speck in the blogging universe has been my home for over a thousand days. During that period, my enthusiasm for this enterprise has not diminished, even if occasionally — like the last couple of months —  the available time that I’ve had to dedicate to it, has. When I started the blog, I was unemployed. There was plenty of free time left over for posting after all those resumes were mailed out. Today, a job I’m very thankful for takes a lot of my energy and focus. As it should be. I’d much rather be an occasional blogger, than a frequent one facing foreclosure.

From the window that faces the Hudson, on this home saved by grace, I have a sliver of an opening to the New York City skyline. As I write this, the fireworks have just begun. Luckily, one of the Macy’s barges is sitting on the river, directly in front of us. My five and a-half year old son is more excited about the spectacle than I remember him on years past. I loose count of the “Wows” after the first few minutes. Behind the exploding shells — and in direct competition with them — sits a day-old new moon, a majestic red that will soon fade in the haze.

I never picked Independence Day as the day to start the blog. It was a coincidence, but I appreciate the symbolism. I value the liberty to write about or post anything here. Freedom of expression is a big turn on. It is what so many people come in search of, when they come to America. The idea that you can be who you are and say what you mean, whether from a street corner or a humble blog.

I love this country!

Running With The Buddha

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I started running regularly the day after my last birthday, the fifty sixth. The track where I run is a few miles from home, next to the Hudson, across from the magnificent New York City skyline. It’s a place I’ve come to love since I discovered it a few months ago.

Most times when I run, I listen to music. I now carry my entire collection on my phone, a miracle of modern-day electronics. There are songs in it, that, even though I’ve owned my whole adult life and I’ve listened to hundreds of times, I’ve rediscovered and come to more deeply appreciate as I run and sweat and breathe around this cushioned quarter mile. Music mixes well with just about everything.

Recently, however, I’ve begun listening to podcasts by Tara Brach while I run. Ms. Brach is teacher of Buddhist meditation, “with an emphasis on vipassana (mindfulness or insight) meditation.” Her soothing voice and insightful talks have been a pleasant companion on the last couple of weeks. I get the sense that the mind and the heart open up when the body is pushed to it’s limits. Healing, insightful words seem most welcomed. Continue reading

Then The Little Bird Dies…

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Author’s Note: A client I saw this morning was trying to keep a family pet — a goldfish named Sebastian — alive. The kids were at school when he was changing the water of their small aquarium, hoping that fresh water would revive Sebastian. The odds didn’t look good to me. It reminded me of this piece I wrote last summer.

Out early to walk the dog. The heaviness of the air makes you notice it. It rained last night and the sun is sleeping late, covered with abundant clouds. A recent encounter with old treasured memories on my mind and Pandora providing the soundtrack. Time to be with my thoughts and a chance to do some good for my heart.

There’s a little bird on the sidewalk, ten paces from my door. It’s flapping it’s wings that have yet to learn to fly. They can’t carry him away as I approach.

I pick him up (do you call a bird “it” if you don’t know their sex?). I’ll call him “him” because I think he was a boy bird. Something in his eyes gave it away. They’re blinking slowly and as I pick him up, he suddenly stops trying to get away. I put the walk on hold. I feel he needs me but I’m not certain what to do for him. I bring him inside, leaving the dog in another room complaining about the delay.

Birdie opens his beak, the way I’ve seen birds do when they’re taking food from a bird-parent. Is he thirsty or hungry? I try both. A little low-fat milk on my son’s syringe. But birds don’t drink milk, they drink water from bird baths or little puddles left behind by June rain. He spits it out. I try water, the smallest drops I can squeeze out. The way he’s opening and closing his beak make me think that birdie is dehydrated. I hold him in my palm and he stretches one of the wings. He blinks some more and gasps. I whisper: “You better not fucking die, you hear?” I think of Saint Francis of Asisi or whichever saint was good at rescuing little animals. I’m no fucking saint, I say to myself. Continue reading

A Tribute To Leonard Cohen (In The Hopes Of Impressing A Leonard Cohen Fan)

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When I was a younger, less wise, man, I dated a woman who was an ardent admirer of Leonard Cohen and his music. I had never heard of Mr. Cohen back then, but I had heard — and treasured — Jeff Buckley‘s version of Mr. Cohen’s Alleluia. For years, I thought the song had been written by Jeff. Later on, I saw a video of Mr. Cohen performing Alleluia and I remember thinking the man had done a very poor job of covering Mr. Buckley’s classic.

This has all been corrected. I have since given Mr. Cohen his due. I have since given Mr. Cohen’s music as a gift. I’ve recognized his genius and I’m blown away by his prolific talent.

I don’t know what became of the woman I once loved. She might still be a fan of Mr. Cohen and his music. She probably is, wherever she’s listening to love songs these days. I think that once you fall in love with this man’s music, you’re probably a life-long devotee. So I dusted off this old poem I had written, I set it to music and I recorded it.

It’s here:

After I listened to the finished product, I thought that if she ever heard it, she might think that I sounded like a very poor imitation of Mr. Cohen — just like I thought Mr. Cohen compared to Jeff Buckley.

But at least she’d know that I was still thinking of her. Still trying to impress her.

So I Started Running. . .

the day after my fifty six birthday. It was a suggestion made by my doctor that I thought was just plain crazy when he first told me.

I’m in generally good health. Except hypertension I’ve had for a number of years, which is controlled by medication — a little pill I take each morning. During my last visit, Doctor Siraj said that the only thing one could do about hypertension was prevent it from getting worse. Kinda sucks. Not being able to eliminate it. “But,” he said, “if you elevate your heart rate regularly, you have an advantage.” I told him that I walked regularly. He told me I needed to do more.

I remembered running as a teenager and enjoying it. At school, it seemed I could run forever without tiring or running out of breadth. But I had stopped, as soon as I started running after certain other things in life. Or away from them.

“Try it. If you don’t like it, you can always try a Zoomba class.” Said the doctor. He didn’t really say that. I made it up. It sounded like a funny thing he should’ve said.

So I checked with my friend Jerry, a lifetime runner who’s the fittest guy I know. I wanted to know some of the basics. “You need good running shoes,” he said. “And reflective gear if you’re running at night.” Jerry told me that running on the street — over asphalt — was preferable to running on the sidewalk. “Concrete,” he said, ” was ten times denser than asphalt.” I don’t really know if this is true, but it explained to me one of the possible reasons all those idiots run on the street, when there’s a perfectly safe sidewalk just a few feet away.

“You must do it three to four times a week,” said Gigi, my friend and masseuse, “if you are serious about it.” I think Gigi is fitter than Jerry. I think Jerry would agree.

“And you must break a sweat,” she added. “If you sweat, you’re doing it.”

It’s been about a month and a-half and — except for a stretch of a few cold low to mid-twenties days — I’ve kept up with it, breaking a sweat regularly and feeling pretty good about the whole endeavor. The music I listen to while I run makes it better. It’s been a long time since I was a teenager (about forty years) and I can’t run for more that quarter mile without slowing down to a walking pace until life re-enters my body and I can run for another stretch. But, hey, me likes it! Much to my surprise.

Yesterday, I invested in a decent pair of running shoes. The weather was warm enough to go out and break them in. I don’t even know if that’s the correct lingo, the breaking them in part, but I enjoyed running late at night, nice music playing in my ears and breaking a sweat. I especially enjoyed running past the liquor store where I bought the last pint of rum I drank almost twenty nine years ago, next month. I was a sober runner, I thought.

Next week I’m going out shopping for a pair of running tights. The kind with the reflective stripes running down the side. I’m no longer running away from something. Or after anything. I am just a runner, building stamina, clearing my head and strengthening my heart. And sweating.

Unintended Benefits of the Current Recession

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(Author’s note: When I wrote this piece, originally posted here on February, 2010, my financial situation was dire. It was the same — and, sadly it still is — for millions of Americans. I have been employed for over a year, and things have improved a great deal. I have a lot of gratitude for the change in circumstances and I thought of reposting this piece to spread a little hope and encouragement for anyone still struggling. Remember, don’t give up before the miracle).

It has been almost two years since I decided to close my six year-old business because the economic realities were all pointing in one direction: downward. At the end of the line, I felt about my business as I felt at the end of my previous marriage: sad, disappointed and frustrated but I was convinced that I had done all that I could to save them both. It just had not worked. On both instances, when I walked away, I felt that I was not going to look back, except occasionally, to see if there was something to be learned that would help me navigate the current waters.

I make it a habit of not complaining about my situation because I know that there are so many more families that face equal or worst problems than mine. Besides complaining never got me anything, unless I was dealing with Costumer Service at a department store, and even then…

What I have tried to do instead is look for the silver lining — not in a pollyannish, but a practical way — in this economic Waterloo.

Silver Lining in the current recession

I’ve come up with some evidence of silver. I would love to share it in the hope that it might help some of you deal with your own storm clouds. I know that it will certainly help me to talk about it as I move forward.

I never suspected, when I closed the doors to my business, that I would be almost two years without employment and that I would be facing the dire financial difficulties I have faced.

I’ve heard the expression “Every cloud has a silver lining” a thousand times and I’ve never looked up its meaning or origin until I sat down to write this. According to Wikipedia:

The origin of the phrase is traced to John Milton’s Comus (1634) with the lines, “Was I deceiv’d, or did a sable cloud turn forth her silver lining on the night?”

I am not going to talk much about the cloud part of the expression because I don’t want to bore anybody. Besides, we all have our own misery quota. I want to talk about the silver lining component instead, as I have come to understand it.

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