Studio 54 Doors Bring Pictures From Home

The only connection of Studio 54, the disco nightclub that opened in the late seventies, and the Broadway theater it now houses are the doors, and the building of course, and a disco ball which I managed not to spot. And my brain which now regresses to my disco dancing days in New York City (Manhattan).

But I’m thrust into present time when my purse is searched and I pass through a metal detector to enter the theater. I’m already entertained with the architectural details.

I’m here to see Pictures From Home by Sharr White with Nathan Lane. I know nothing about the play, nothing about the photographer, Larry Sultan, whose project of photographing and exploring his parents’ life the play is based on. But I am a fan of Nathan Lane, and this is his 25th Broadway play.

I bought my tickets on Today Tix, an app that allows you to get Rush (day of) Tickets at a deeply discounted price. I expect a really crappy (excuse the highly technical adjective) seat, yet it ends up being in the Loge with an unobstructed, wonderful view. I’m lucky enough that the next three seats adjacent to mine are empty so I can maintain a distance from fellow seat neighbor and cross my legs. When handed my Playbill I am told that the play is 1 hour and 50 minutes long with no intermission. I’m already impressed. Only three actors, mostly on stage at the same time… that’s a heck of a lot of memorizing to do.

As I read Sharr White’s words: “This play is my exploration of Larry’s exploration. But take one further step with me: it also represents these extraordinary actors, along with our director, interpreting that exploration: Larry’s pictures, his parents’ images, this play, all further interpreted by you.” I, the analyzer, the one that delves deep into what seems simple things and actions, am already hooked.

And the lights dim and people are silenced and it all begins. I’m unprepared to give a truly educated review of what happened on stage even when this is my world, or was. Yet I will do so, in the same manner as I “rate” wine. Did my palate enjoy it? Does it have any undertones? Do I want another sip? And the answer to all is yes. Oh yes.

The actors were absolutely superb. Aside from Nathan Lane, Danny Burstein was perfect in his portrayal of his father, simple in his way, more complex than the character would ever think of himself, Zoë Wanamaker, so perfect in her role that even a small glitch in the lines suited the character. I was drawn in, immersed in the life of a grown, successful man digging through his lens and his actions into his parents’ day to day life and past. I was going through my dad’s 8mm films once and they revealed so much. Wish I had my parents alive then to further confirm what I sensed. How lucky for this photographer that he had the opportunity to talk, even quarrel with them, and just delve into their beings when they were still alive. Perhaps finding himself along the way. Creating with his staged photos a reality. Truth or fiction. The photos are masterful either way. His angst is noticeable in the pursuit of his never ending project. I left the theater having been a part of that family. I was moved. I also laughed, maybe a bit awkwardly, because some things hit a bit close to home. And thankful, grateful that witnessing it impulsed me to write again, an activity that I love almost as much as acting.

I leave my happy place, the theater (second only to when I am on a film set doing my thing) and am reminded of another life when, as I cross the street, the SAG/AFTRA Foundation building is lit up. Robin Williams’ name is spotted as well on a building. His name always brings a second of sadness to me. I’m on 54th Street and need to get back to Penn Station on 33rd Street to take the LIRR (Long Island Railroad) back to where I live. I was going to grab an Uber but I decide to walk back experiencing this city that never sleeps. All lights are on. Eighth Ave. is crowded at 10 pm, New Yorkers walking fast and purposely and tourists of all nationalities slowly absorbing the vibe Manhattan gives off. I pass many bars and only then do I regret not being with someone to share a drink and thoughts. Then I pass a hotel and the feeling passes for it reminds me that in the anonymity of a hotel and the solitude a room provides when traveling I do not feel alone. I pass crazies, and homeless people (one giving a dollar to another), cops, and dogs being walked and I bask in memories of my life here. New York, Manhattan in particular, energizes me, yet it also crushes me, steps on me, leaves me with no breath and resuscitates me. I don’t believe any other city can elicit so much in such a brief span of time.

I’ve reached my destination just in time to jump into my train and depart. It’s been a good day.

Categories: Uncategorized, United States | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hank: Play Time in NYC

When I moved permanently to New York (Manhattan in particular) many a years ago, my soon-to-be-husband warned me that I would love it for a bit and hate it for all time there in… he was wrong. I loved every year of the 13 or 14 I lived in it. But the weather and a new love separated us. I learned to love and consider home another city on the other side of the country. However, NYC was forever in my heart.

Where I lived long time ago.

Now, some 25 years later friendship and other circumstances have brought me back. Yet, NYC can be isolating, cruelly so. Making you feel more alone than you really are. I’m not in Manhattan but the city has a magnetic appeal that I have to be part of. I must satisfy my fix as often as possible. So I joined a newly formed community of 55+ vibrant people to explore the city with:

My second experience with them would be to visit the Museum at Eldridge Street housed in the Eldridge Street Synagogue. I’m not Jewish but I am an admirer of architecture and love discovering new things so how can I not visit a synagogue that was built in 1887 and now registered as a National Historic Landmark?

I take the LIRR (Long Island Railroad) to Penn Station in Manhattan and from there I venture into the subway. Take the B train to Grand St. and as I emerge I am in the middle of a thriving and chaotic Lower East Side, Chinatown. I am early as usual so I walk around.

Still early for the private tour with the Hank people but it is terribly hot so I head back to where I passed a Buddhist temple with chanting going on and a place for me to sit.

I sit at the entrance enchanted and mesmerized by the cadence of the chant but the heat is even less bearable than outside so I head over -only a few steps away- to the synagogue. Outside, a man with a t-shirt with a saying that I believe was there just as a reminder for me. 🙂 I may be doing the Camino de Santiago de Compostela so it was quite fitting. “Life is a journey, enjoy the stride.”

Life is a journey. Enjoy the stride.

The Eldridge Street Synagogue, is really beautiful from the outside. Completely out of place in the middle of Chinatown. Back when it was built at the cost of 1 Million dollars (about the equivalent of $25 million now) it was a way for Jewish immigrants to say that they had arrived, proud to be Jewish and American. Other plaques outside tell you more of its heritage.

I believe our docent said the congregation is of only 14 Orthodox Jewish families.

Our Hank leader, is stuck in the subway. I am the first one going inside so I become the welcoming and gathering committee by the facto. It gives me the opportunity to know the ladies and our fantastic docent, private tour guide Seth. He’s an American History professor at a university. He’s super knowledgeable and personal and has a close bond with the synagogue. We start in what is the basement of the synagogue. Our lovely Hank leader, Barbara, has joined us.

We gawk at an ancient Torah and are surprised by one of the prettiest spittoons I’ve ever seen.

We then head up into the synagogue. The temple was built by tenement architects so there are many elements of what they had incorporated in their previous buildings like the tiles used as flooring that I absolute would love to have in any house.

And what comes next is gasp-inducing as one of the brochures says. The interior of the synagogue has been restored. We go in and all of us just fall silent. These pictures do not do it justice.

We head upstairs to the women’s balcony. Better place to be but the climb must not have been fun.

From here we get a better view of a striking stained glass window that was not originally there. The original was damaged and replaced by this work of art in, I believe, 2010. A collaboration between artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans. More on it here.

As we leave the synagogue I read a poem that I had never heard of before. “We Remember Them”. It touched me and so I mention it.

We say goodbye to the docent that we were lucky to have as our guide and engage in conversation with the guard that recommends various places for us to go eat. The “Pickle Guys” comes up more than once and we all agree that we must visit this NYC legend and buy some pickles.

Our numbers are dwindling. 3 women are left, our Hank tour leader, and me and another. We are a block from Essex Market which I am quite impressed with. I opt for a ceviche at a Peruvian stall, Don Ceviche, which was quite authentic and delish.

I join the ladies at Top Hop, a bar where I have lots of seltzer to subdue in part the spiciness of the fish and continue a super interesting conversation on future plans and on Hank which I am quite happy to have joined for free.

Another set of goodbyes and I continue to Penn Station on foot. New York reminds me of my past. I pass a park with a gigantic sculpture of a frog, an animal my mother was deathly afraid of. I inherited her aversion if not her fear. And it reminds me of a friend that loves her White Russians (the drink, not the guys) and of another who has a son bartending at La Pecora Bianca and of my Los Angeles which, as New York has, remains in my heart, as I pass The Ace Hotel which I didn’t know was in Manhattan as well as in LA and of a time when The Village Voice was a newspaper I read weekly in Washington Square Park as I walked my dog and again of Los Angeles with the Standard Hotel.

And it reminds me that beauty can grow anywhere in the most unlikely places.

And as I continue my walk it reminds me how creative and with a cause New Yorkers can be.

And best of all, it reminds me that a child still lives in this old body of mine and its okay to be childish at times.

I love you New York! Until next time.

Categories: New York, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

A Walk in The Woods

It started with me weighing myself on a scale that had no inclination of lying to me. I was horrified. I had managed to disregard the fact that the jeans were becoming a bit —okay, way too tight— but the digital numbers brightly announcing the pounds that I had gained were hard to ignore. 

I have never been good with gyms and now, with the pandemic, I was even less motivated to go. But I’ve always loved walking and it was time to start again. And it would do me good mentally too. 

Near the apartment is a wonderful trail that does wonders to transport me to another world. My walks the only alternative to traveling for now. 

Not many steps in I encounter an unkempt stone wallI and the writer in me spins tales of a lost civilization being desecrated, the only vestige of their existence this stone wall that did not properly protect its people. A few more steps and my mood is echoed by trees that seem to cry with me expressing their sadness of these people’s demise through a strange vine, weeping willow style, that hangs from its branches. 

I later come across an old stone gate and wonder what it may have welcomed in some time past.

My mind, continuing creating tales, takes me on a survival trip where I must find food as the grumbling of my stomach grows louder. A burst of red , and another indicates that I would not die from starvation. Or would I die from popping any of these in my mouth?

There’s another kind that resembles a very inoffensive blueberry. 

And then come the signs that I am not alone. Someone has been making little canvases and putting them along the path.

Each makes me smile and I commit to making one of my own to attach to one of them so as to thank “CM”, for making my passage pleasant. 

I encounter a painted rock that reminds me of a group of “rock painters” that a dear friend, Grace Kono-Wells created – Random Rocks of Kindness their rocks meant to be put along various paths to brighten someone’s day. Her beautiful “Breathe” rock probably has reminded me more than once to take a breath. The painted one on my path, “mask up”, gives us a much needed reminder of the life we lead now. The sign on its side (Nottely Hidden Cove) is displaced, for it seems to belong to a farm in Georgia that oddly advertises as “a great place to social distance” so I figure it is somehow appropriate that it be paired with the “mask up” rock.

There are other signs that tell me where I am and to where not go. Others that give out a set of rules so long that my enjoyment would be marred should I stop to read it all. 

The woody trail ends, I cross a street and follow another path that leads me into an expanse inviting me to go further. I cannot resist its beckoning. 

Turtle alert! In other short walks I have come across some turtles. One, named Jacinta (we are in Latino-land and she deserves a Latino name). Please don’t ask me why I denominated her a female for I’d be at a loss to answer. And another that was named Jazmin. She had yellowish markings on her shell. She was quite pretty.

This one I believed was a “he”. Again, no rhyme or reason to my gender designation. I know nothing about turtles. I get real close and his eyes get squinty and he begins to go into his shell. I take another step and he surprisingly comes out again, opens his eyes and seems truly comfortable with my proximity. I’m touched by his trust. Or is it his naiveté?

I continue on to owl-land. Part of the sign announcing: “Our nest is a mess! We keep trash near our nest. Do not remove.”, makes me laugh and I am reminded of a hoarder I once met and of another that is his exact opposite. Funny how my travels -be they of any kind- seem to remind me of past and present lives lived, and those that populated them.

The same way that the manmade signs along my path have bettered my mood, the flowers along my way seem intent on competing for my delight. There are those that show off in a burst of color very similar to the sparkle firework sticks of my youth and those that resemble slender bells, and there are the leaves that seem to try to outdo the flowers in shades of green and red.

And a papaya tree which reminds me of one -actually two- that my parents had in their backyard. Images of times that will never be again flashing so vividly that they stop me in my track.

My steps grow slower as my heartbeat grows faster with the memories but lessens with images of a sunset that my camera does no justice to.

And because I have promised to end my blogs (and because you have at least scrolled up to here) I give you two songs.

One from Alfred Sheppard (who I had never heard of before) and Mandy Harvey, the deaf singer with a heavenly voice, which wowed pretty much everyone at America’s Got Talent a few years back. We should all fall into our dreams.

The next one by J.P. Saxe ft. Julia Michaels. I love the original song all in English but this one with a singer I had not heard about, Evaluna Montaner, is not bad. Besides it gives my Spanish readers a way to understand the song.

Categories: Florida | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Comfortably Numb

It was hand-delivered to the penthouse residencia de señoritas (ladies’ residence) on Avda. Generalísimo (now renamed Paseo de la Castellana) where I was living in Spain. A beautiful envelope with a wax seal and a “Personal: a ser abierto únicamente por el destinatario” label on it. In it, a ticket to London and along with it a handwritten note that invited me to a Pink Floyd concert there. More on that as you read on.

Today, as I watched the documentary Whatever Happened to Pink Floyd? memories that were long forgotten floated back in. Definitely not love at first “hear”, my appreciation came in stages. I didn’t like them at all at first. I didn’t do drugs and saw their music as one that could only be enjoyed while partaking them. But their sound wafted through my roommates’ radios, and at first I learned to tolerate it, then their music infiltrated my mind. I even bought their LP (record/vinyl for those too young to know what that is).

The note in the envelope received was unsigned but I knew who it was from. I went downstairs to the phone next to the kitchen where I dialed the number from a card that had been given to me saying that I should call if I ever needed anything.

Ultimately, Pink Floyd music, became the soundtrack of a memorable part of my life. Though I learned to love their music I knew little or nothing about the integrants of the band or of the band’s history. Which reminds me of a documentary The Pink Floyd Story: Which One is Pink? A documentary I enjoyed even more than the one mentioned above and gives more of a history of the band.

The conversation was short. I didn’t want to express how upset I was at the arrogance of believing I would accept the invitation. I was young but not naive enough to not know (or be suspicious enough) that this came with a ball of strings attached which I was not willing to unravel. So I thanked him and said I was, unfortunately, unavailable.

As I write, it comes up that Pink Floyd is having a fundraiser: COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO by releasing Pink Floyd – PULSE (Restored & Re-Edited 90 Minute Version) on YouTube. At publishing time it looks like they’ve raised over 2 million dollars of the 7 million they are aiming for. There are 68 days remaining to donate if you are inclined. I’m assuming it’s legit though I am not sure of much these days.

Many more gifts came to my residence after the first. All were returned. But the one that I always had a tinge of regret for was the Pink Floyd one. Would have been grand and I would be able to say, “I saw them live!” It would have been quite a memory.

For those who may have wondered about the title of this post “Comfortably Numb,” it comes from a song they released as a single (“Hello, is there anybody in there…”). Here it is:

Categories: Musicians, Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

The “Crown’s” Little Talked About Impact

The day the World Health Organization declared the Corona Virus outbreak a pandemic, I was headed to a friend’s house to do a transcription. Social distancing was already in place there when I arrived. I disinfected everything I touched before and after which is something not that unusual in me. I am not a germaphobe but I have always tended to overly clean myself and my environment. I wasn’t quite grasping that this was only the beginning of a surreal world situation. The next days Los Angeles proved that it does rain in “sunny California”. Perfect to frame what we would all start living soon.

I grew up in a world that consisted of hugs given the Latin way —close, body to body. It was how my mother comforted me as a child and, as a teenager, how I awkwardly expressed that I liked you. As an adult, it was not given as a precursor to anything (as in foreplay) but as an everything all in itself. I grew up in countries where men kiss men on the cheek in greeting without their sexuality being questioned.

A few days ago I read that scientists have said that we may have to live with social distancing for quite a while. Six-degrees of separation (which actually linked us) has turned into a physical 6-feet separation. So this virus may not only effectively turn lethal to those in the high risk section but to life as we -or I- knew it. In the midst of official social distancing and a self-imposed distancing from mostly everything, I am longing for a touch more than ever. Though I know that I will learn to live without, it saddens me more than words can express.

When I hear about the deaths this virus has caused I think of the sorrow of the loved ones left behind. But I also think of those that in times like this tend to be even more forgotten than they usually are: those suffering from depression and/or anxiety disorders -a not-so-exclusive-club which I have been a member of, off and on, all my life.


There are many reasons why people tend to shy away. An actor recently said that no one wants to deal with you in your darkness. Even less so in this “be positive” world which doesn’t give room for you to express your thoughts or fears and discards them -and the one that shares them- seeing them as negativity. Now, when we are all dealing with so much, including getting to know ourselves, we gravitate to a mental distancing of anything not considered essential. And those alone feel so even more. 

I am a nurturer by nature so taking care of a kitten recovering from being neutered early last week helps me with feeling needed and not inconsequential, even when I am getting no sleep thanks to his nightly desire to get out of my bedroom (by rasping his cone against the door). My roommate’s (who hasn’t been here since then) other cats undefined await in the rest of the house for some love, food, and water… in reverse order. So all in all I find a sense of purpose in my isolation.

I have shutdown my intuitive side which leads me to thoughts and images I cannot handle right now. I have also steered clear of Facebook and Instagram. My anxiety level is high enough as is.

I have texted, so as not to be obtrusive, with friends checking on how they are doing. I have called and left a message when it goes unanswered. Sometimes, that is all the other side needs. Though it is easy to ask someone to reach out should they need you, it is when they probably will feel less inclined to.

Fear, anxiety, and loneliness are paralyzing. Consider mentally going through your contact list and call or text that person you have not contacted in a while, or a friend or someone that you may suspect may need you. Not in a mass text or Facebook or Instagram post but as a personal message making someone on the other side feel special. I am not suggesting by any means that people may be on the brink of a metaphorical precipice, just that the message of “you are not alone” is a powerful one, one that we underestimate while convincing ourselves of our fortitude or when basking in the proximity of ones we love. And yes, a disclaimer is coming: I am not a doctor or pretend to be one so take this all with a grain of salt. As to taking care of yourself, see what the CDC (Center of Disease Control) says about dealing with it here.

We may already know the value of family and friends but this is a reminder that those with a strong support group should be thankful for its blessing while not forgetting those without.

So let’s maintain physical separation for now and pay more attention to our mental connection. That text or call may mean more to someone than you may imagine.

And as a parting note, corona (aside from being a brand of a beer) means “crown” in Spanish. What on earth are we being crowned as (or with) now?

I have promised to end my blogs with songs so here goes these: Michael Bublé – Help Me Make It Through The Night (feat. Loren Allred) where he explains the reasons why he recorded it as a duet (I think it was written by Kris Kristofferson in the 70s); OK, performed by Mabel which has the sub-title of “Anxiety Anthem”; and Beth Hart – Mama This One’s For You because well… I wish I had her now.

Categories: Ramblings, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Friendly Friday – Simple Joys

So I never hitchhike on another blogger’s blog but this was too tempting. The Sandy Chronicles puts out a challenge on Fridays to post photos depicting a weekly theme. I realized that my last posts were kind of on the too nostalgic/sad vein so I am counteracting them with this one of Simple Joys!

When I questioned this nun in Myanmar if she missed her family in her village she responded, “I am joyful here. I do not miss.” Her smile and earnestness gave me joy.

Same joy that I felt seeing this little girl’s smile in Laos. The one on the left wasn’t so sure about me…

Photography gives me joy. Though losing my external drive with most of mine made me pretty sad.
Eating gives me much joy as well. Oysters being one of my top favorites. These at a fish market in Sydney.
Sunsets give me joy because without them there are no sunrises. This one is in Long Beach, CA, U.S.A.
Traveling (while not so much a simple joy) makes me incredibly joyful. This is Paris.
And the ocean… ah, the ocean gives me so much joy. Photo credit of my friend and photographer extraordinaire, Johanna Siegmann
A graffiti in Buenos Aires that says: “Where I am Always Happy”

Categories: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Anniversary Blahs

In November 2009, as I stood sobbing (not a pretty sight) outside my mother’s hospital room, a nurse ran towards me asking me if her patient was alright. I mustered a nod while more water than I ever thought was possible to pour out of my eyes, did. “She’s out of danger so why are you crying?” she asked. “Because I’ll never see her again.” I sensed it. I knew it. The next morning I was to head back to California where I lived and would leave her behind in the city where I was born, Asunción. My mother had Parkinson’s for probably 15 or 16 years. A month before, when I had arrived, she had gone into ICU due to complications of it. A disease that slowly, torturously shuts down your body but leaves you with a mind that knows what is happening, with no possibility to convey to others how you feel, not by voice, not by any movements, not even facial expressions. So very cruel.

Turned out they were prophetic words. My mother left me January 5 of 2010. Nothing would hurt as much as her passing. I doubt anything ever will.

My mother’s Death Certificate where they noted her passing as Jan. 6 so that they could keep the casket open until my arrival. (A long story.)

My father, a week later went into ICU and died a month and a day after her.

10 years. A long time. I can almost hear some of what I have heard before expressed in a kind way when she died, but at the time just made me want to scream. She will always be with you. Yes, but how I long even now to hear her voice or even her breathing when later, with the progression of her disease, she lost the ability to talk. I knew that she suffered no more and I was grateful for that but, selfishly, how much I wanted her alive nonetheless. When I was severely depressed I was told to “snap out of it.” As impossible as that task felt, to be at peace with her parting seemed even more daunting.

Another consolation phrase which I related to but reacted strongly to when she died was “you now have a star above lighting any darkness you will encounter”. That turned out to be so. Every Dec. 24 I search for “our” star and just talk to her. And in death she has been with me as in life, subtly guiding me in some way or other. I was late to recognize her warnings. On quite a few Jan. 5ths I would get into an argument with someone, letting me know I should not give them my loyalty. I should have terminated those friendships but I’m a slow learner and only realized recently that it was her telling me to stay away. I did not always understand the messages but I knew she was there. A particular song playing in the most unexpected place and time. A unique bird-like sound I hear that connects both her and my dad to me in a special way.

A few years into her death I found myself still grieving. I called a dear friend, a grief counselor, to ask him if this was normal. He responded that there is no “normal” way to grieve and that there’s no deadline to get over someone’s death. We all deal with it in our own very personal way and in our own time. He wasn’t going to urge me to stop grieving. He wanted me to go through the process at my own pace. As long as we can function in daily life we shouldn’t beat ourselves up.

My mother’s favorite rose color. The most striking examples show up when I need her most.

So I concentrated then and now, on being thankful that her suffering had ended, that I was loved in a way that no one will ever love me again. I inherited none of her best traits: her patience, which to this day is like no other I’ve encountered, her innate ability to serve as a mediator without either party realizing they were “mediated” (she was more diplomatic than my father, a career diplomat, ever was), her ability to -without effort- make everyone feel at home. She was soft and sweet in demeanor and in voice. She had fabulous cooking and baking skills (she made jams and jellies that were coveted by all) and so much more. She was the kindest person I have known. No one ever has said anything bad about her. She also had traits that I could have done without learning but managed to assimilate. She never spoke up for herself and that hurt her immensely later in life. Though I grew up being very much a rebel, assertiveness isn’t a trait I truly have, it requires a lot of effort from me. She was amazing in so many ways, yet she didn’t have much self-esteem. I come off very self-assured most of the time but my mom, doubting herself constantly, lives in me.

Anniversaries have always been celebratory for me. But in the past years there have been too many that meant departures of some kind, of endings. There have been beginnings for there can’t be them without endings, but the scale dips by the weight of the ones I should not remember. So this is the last year I commemorate the anniversary of my mother’s death or, in fact my dad’s. I will not start next year by remembering that she left me some years back on Jan. 5th and my dad on Feb. 6th. Instead I will live being thankful every day that she -and he- gave me life.

And even with the above resolution I have no doubt I will miss her forever.

And keeping my promise of ending my blogs with a song, here is not one or two but three! First an Oscar nominated song I’m Standing With You from “Breakthrough” sung by Chrissy Metz, then one from Katie Melua about a mother I Will Be There and finally a short one that has nothing to do with family ties but does about heartbreak, from Rhys, Maybe I Will Learn.

Categories: Ramblings, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Holiday Blues

I feel blue. In this time of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s I feel an oppressing pressure to be joyful. Solitude -which I treasure- turning into loneliness at warp speed and in slow motion at the same time. I do envy those who truly like being alone. And regret not being one of them. I am grateful for so much and so many but today I just feel blue. Winter creeping on me both physically and metaphorically.

A snowy cold day on the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Remember the movie Inside Out? On Halloween the year the movie was out (2015), I dressed up as one of the characters: Sadness. So this is an accurate portrayal of my state of mind now.

In the past my solution to my “blueness” was to travel. But I can’t anymore, so when I’m low I reminisce and travel again in my mind. For some reason Vietnam came to it. Which is odd, for of all the countries that I visited in Southeast Asia, it was the one I connected to the least. Yet, it was there that I was introduced to Caodaism. According to “The noble effort of CaoDai is to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world. CaoDai does not seek to create a gray world, where all religions are exactly the same, only to create a more tolerant world, where all can see each other as sisters and brothers from a common divine source reaching out to a common divine destiny realizing peace within and without.”

A dirt path strewn with litter that leads to…
A beautiful, well-kept building…
Which is absolutely breathtaking inside.

I realize I am in Rossmoor and that in Garden Grove, only 17 minutes away, is a Cao Dai Temple resembling the one just outside Long Xuyen, Vietnam that introduced me to this religion. Did someone say I could not travel? Off I go in a virtual journey no more.

So the path to the temple in Vietnam is dirt and rubble. Here it is busy streets that lead me to a residential area in Garden Grove, CA. I see the colors and it’s as if they are mermaids singing to me. I must go to it. Hopefully this visit has a better outcome than when the mermaids lure sailors in.

undefined They have a parking lot and as I park I hear the sounds of a language I have not learned and probably never will.

The entrance is a mini-me of the temple I so admired and moved me in Vietnam.

However the main pole in front of the temple does not have the reversed swastikas which happen to have a Buddhist influence and is sacred to many Vietnamese. The swastika (a Sanskrit word) is also a tantric symbol to evoke ‘shakti’ or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness. I don’t doubt that its absence is due to trying to avoid controversy.

The one in Vietnam.

I take a few photos. Take off my shoes (as ordered) and enter another world.

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The place is smaller than than its parent in Vietnam but is just as colorful. The quiet I expected is not quite there for the side doors are open and in comes loud voices in Vietnamese from the courtyard. There’s a gathering of followers who are sprucing up the church. One side door is being primed and the other has already been painted yellow. It is noticeable that the congregation takes pride in their home. I kneel and find my inner quiet.

As I look through one of the windows and hear the background chatter, I am almost transported to Long Xuyen.

It is in the little touches of daily life and some writings that I linger.

Before leaving I explore the back of the temple. I pass about 15 people sitting around a table chatting and as they turn their head to see me, I join my hands in prayer mode and bow slightly, saying nothing. They go back to socializing; I go back to the car knowing that I will visit again.

And keeping my promise that I would end each blog with a song or two. Here are two. I did not see the movie that “I’m Standing With You” comes from (I think it’s about a mother and child) but I feel we all want that someone that stands with us through whatever we go through. I’ve been lucky to have those people beside me.

And then, one of Peter Bradley Adams, a singer that brings me happy memories. “For You” How can you not love a song that says: “If your wandering ever leads you, To a place where you don’t know which road to choose, Leave your worries behind, Take the road that leads to mine, And I’ll be waiting there for you”

Categories: California, Ramblings, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

There’s Not Much Hope in Hope

I have immersed myself in my friends’ lives (both past and present) for the span of a week. I am so very honored that they have entrusted me to help edit a book retelling their lives. Lives that have not only survived unimaginable events that could have destroyed (both literally and figuratively) most of us, but lives that have thrived in so many ways and went on to benefit others. I get teary-eyed when I think about it. One is a lawyer, the other is a doctor, both are activists. I am in awe of and love these two very much. Soon you will be able to read about it. “Beauty and Beyond” will be coming online and to a bookstore near you.

It’s Carlsbad where I have arrived after my 27 hours of car, train, and waiting time in between. Since I have a limited time here, I want to take advantage of the time with them as much as I can, so we have been immersed in the writing. It’s also been so very hot outside that it is not the place to be. Carlsbad is home to the Carlsbad Caverns which are beautiful and certainly worth a visit but I’ve been there before so not a good enough excuse to play hooky. But since even God rested on the 7th day, on the 8th day they take me to the mountains where they have a few acres. I am going to be a tourist with local guides!

Frank has left the night before and will be meeting us in Mayhill. So it’s a girl’s road trip for Marta and me. We don’t pack because this is going to be a day trip. From Carlsbad, NM to Mayhill, NM is about two hours. But first how can we not stop in a town named Hope? When Marta mentions it she has a twinkle in her eye. I need not wonder why for we arrive in Hope soon enough. It t is soon apparent that this town should change its name. An old building which housed Alice’s Treasure at some point is the first to great us. undefined It initially makes me yearn for my little antique/collectible stall I had in a mall in Orange, CA but this store ended up like mine, shut down and lonely. The Hope Store also is closed. undefined All that is left are the signs. In the “garden” a tractor that is very much like the ones I saw in my birth country of Paraguay. undefined This one has no more life in it.

And then there’s the washing machine which brings me memories of my grandma. I can almost see her squeezing the clothes through the rollers to then hang them in the sun on the clothesline to dry. She was a strong woman. One that took control of the household and smoked cigars she rolled herself.

Surprisingly, this town has a USPS a post office that is large and new-looking. Even though, across the street is the only Fire Department that itself has burned down. I can’t think of no other with that fate. (I would later find out that the Fire Department in Carlsbad had a hotel construction next to it which burned down even with its firehouse next door.) It may be a New Mexico thing. Before we reach Mayhill, Marta wants us to stop at Tom and Pam Runyan Ranches. undefined She wants the owner to meet me. Unfortunately he was undergoing some medical procedure and I didn’t get to chat with him. There’s a petting zoo here. undefined One where a camel and an Asian water buffalo co-exist and, dare I say, have formed a friendship.

In the pen you will also find pigs and goats and a few other species.

It’s a rescue farm and they re-home as many animals as they can. I have a little kitten who hitched a ride in the engine of the car (TWO rides of 20 minutes each!) that I would love to find a home for. But they don’t take domestic pets. Anyone? I will deliver! Here is a picture taken by master Pet with Human photographer Johanna Siegmann.

Bootsie has the “Stop maaa, it’s my spotlight.” look.

This metal overgrown rooster has yet to find a home as well. A few signs catch my attention.

And we arrive at their town. It’s only a few blocks long.

Then off to their property undefined to drop off a few things.

We arrive only a few minutes later and pick Frank up to go to Cloudcroft which is 9,000 feet up undefined and a ski haven, therefore a more touristy town.

Our main focus is to buy an incredible piece of pie and a really, really good burrito (not eaten in that order but listed in order of importance).

With our bellies nice and full and our sweet tooth more than satisfied we are ready to move on.

And on we go to Shady Pines. The house of a local woman that holds wonderful classical concerts in the summer.

The place is pretty magical. She is super creative and the garden is chockfull of wonderful plants (she gives me a chocolate mint one, whose aroma later permeates the car and makes me hungry once again), of little quaint areas to rest in, and paths where you can channel your Zen.

Everywhere you look there is something to smile about.

And we head back with a pit stop to take a photo of flowers and bees.

The day after comes my own trip back to Los Angeles.

And I wish not to forget that I would close my blogs with a song. Any song that resonates with me or that catches my attention. So here goes… because this is how I may be feeling.

Categories: New Mexico, Uncategorized, United States, United States | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Choo, Choo, Here Go I.


I am trying hard to fight the romanticism of what I am about to embark on. I’m going on a train ride. A very long one. 16 hours (and 10 minutes). On Amtrak, which isn’t the Orient Express or anything close to it. Before that I have to take a commuter train (Metrolink),  for an hour and a half. And before that a 45-minute car ride to Riverside, CA train station. In between, a 5 1/2 layover in Los Angeles. Oh, and then a 3-hour car drive from El Paso, TX Depot Station to Carlsbad, New Mexico, my final destination. All in all, about 27 hours of travel. Is it crazy that my enthusiasm and gushiness have not subsided?

After the 45 minute car drive I arrive at the Riverside Amtrak Station. I buy my ticket at the machine on the platform since on the Metrolink commuter train you can only purchase it on the day of.

As I approach Los Angeles the old bridge studded with graffiti seems to ask if I really want to leave. The answer is a rotund yes. I’m due for a road trip even if it is on a train!

At one of my very favorite old train stations, Union Station, I take a seat in their waiting lounge where a friend I haven’t seen in a while agreed to meet with me to make the wait before my next train shorter. It’s 5:00 pm and the rush hour commute is full on as well as a sea of blue that arrives to go to a Dodgers game.

A while back I toured a space in Union Station that housed the Harvey House which closed in the late 60’s. It was a stop to men returning home from war and those going off. It was also famous for its “Harvey Girls” which were the subject of a 1946 Judy Garland film of the same name. I often wondered why such a magnificent space hadn’t been used. Well, about a year ago the Imperial Brewing Company went in and it is there where my friend Jon and I head to. There truly isn’t anything better than a friend to the rescue, good conversation, oysters and beer.

My friend leaves and left alone I walk through “my” station. Union Station is the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States and is widely regarded as “the last of the great train stations.” Inaugurated in 1939 I consider it a Grand Dame and give it the respect that entails. I love everything about it, including the characters in it. This group was singing loudly as they traversed it.

An Amtrak employee befriends me and chats with me until my time to board. Such a nice man, the kind that saves Amtrak from any criticism. He has been with the company for over 20 years. I think his name was Cyro or something like it. Thank you sir. And before I know it the time comes. I’m boarding!

I’m really glad that I checked my baggage because not having had to lug anything through the 5 1/2 hour layover was such a relief. And the storage on the train is minimal. Besides, the stairs going to the second floor on the train are so narrow people with any luggage or disability were having a rough time. I started helping people going up. As a result I was on a first-name basis with a lot of them in my wagon. I became fast friends with a retired gentleman going to Louisiana that was seated in front of me and another young man who had never been on a train, also going to Louisiana (I think they both had about a 2 day ride). The older one takes this trip 3 times a year and knows the train very well. He takes us on a tour. We settled in the observation car and chatted non-stop for hours. I now know what a lot of expressions in Louisiana mean and how to make gumbo from scratch. They were both great cooks.

We stop in Palm Springs and, with the lights, the landscape is eerie.

It’s around 2 am and we all head back to sleep a bit. I sleep soundly and quite comfortably. At 6:30 am Steve is up and looking my way. Want to go to breakfast? I say yes and off we go. He with a steady step, I bumping into the sides of the aisles. My equilibrium has never been good. At breakfast I forget my Keto diet and eat pancakes with syrup. The seating is cafeteria style and I smile inwardly when I think there’s a sense of intimacy to breakfast which I am now sharing with strangers. Train rides have a tendency to make total strangers into friends that tell you their life story.

Then to the observation car again where we claim the same seats we had last night.

As we cross Arizona we can observe the Cochise Head in the Chiricahua Mountains. If you look closely you’ll see his head, nose and chin. He’s face up.

Then we cross New Mexico (where I will backtrack to, once I “land” in Texas).

Train tracks all the way. The landscape is arid but I am most enjoying it.

I can’t believe almost 16 hours have passed since I boarded this train… 27 hours since I left home, but it must be because the conductor announces that our next stop is El Paso. I’m excited to see my friends at the station but I also am sad leaving the train. I kind of want this trip to continue on. Maybe forever. My friend tells me that I should buy burritos from this lady on the platform. They are tasty, really big, he says, and cheap at $2 each. But my friends will be picking me up and I’m sure we will eat on the way, which turns out so. We stop at a local mom and pop restaurant with fantastic service and that has their last name. I have a menudo. No. I am not keeping to a Keto lifestyle.

We have 3 hours to get to Carlsbad and as we drive we pass a checkpoint that brings back memories of 9 years ago when doing a cross country from Los Angeles to Orlando I was stopped and was questioned about my nationality and status. But that’s a long story that will be told another time.

We pass Diablo Rock where it is said that people have died on its trail from heat exhaustion. It does look quite imposing.

The sun sets, my eyes can barely stay open. Guess it was a long trip after all.

I have said that I would end my blogs with a song. One that reminded me of something or one that touches my heart in some way. I haven’t done so but I do want to, so this one ends with a video of a forever friend that just happened to have written a “little” song that Pat Benatar made famous and that forms part of many lives: We Belong. This song is one of my favorites of his, Arrows, of maybe a relationship lost but friendship gained. Dan Navarro is truly a folk legend.

Categories: California, New Mexico | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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