Saturday, March 25, 2017

Cuban Beach Boy's

My "No Problemo" attitude has a wee hitch in it's giddy up. A Mariachi band has invaded my afternoon slumber party. Although not the usual mariachi group  that consists of as many as eight violins, two trumpets and at least one guitar. This Cuban beach boy band has two mariachi  guitars including  the vihuela:  high-pitched, round-backed guitar that provides rhythm, one trumpet, and a bass guitar called a guitarrón, which also provides rhythm. The bongo and the Morocco's add to the rhythm section. They have visited us, on this quiet afternoon,  to bless David and Mary's beach time with a few choruses of "Guantanamera". A famous Cuban song, and probably it's best known and noted song. It is of course from the the poem by the Cuban Poet Jose Marti. So just as Mary has nodded off into afternoon slumber land, the horn player hits a high C or b flat at a few decibels louder than a Miles Davis riff. Siesta is indeed over and this completes our Cuban experience" for the afternoon. We offer no CUC (Cuban tourist money), so in mid third chorus,  they move quickly on, sans ending, to ply their rhythm on other more  (hopefully)generous patrons of beach music.

Vitor is a native Cuban that greets me daily as the sun rises on the beach. At 6:30 daily, he sets up our beach chairs on his own inclination and unasked. Gives them a good sweep with his beat up half broom, then gives me his trademark Thumbs up. Vitor is a small happy native Cuban. Rag tag clothes, bare feet in old beat up clogs, weathered skin (is he forty or seventy? I can't tell), and a smile as wide as the Caribbean sea. He tells us that he makes 250 Pesos a month. He has a wife and four children. "Two small, two older" He is as content with his tranquil life and happy as a yellow bird is, up high in banana tree. 

Vitor tells us that he and his family have a wonderful life, His Children have free and very good health care/medical, free and excellent schooling, and housing is looked after. He loves his life and it shows. I tip him a CUC when I have one on me. A CUC is the equivalent of 25 Pesos, which is what he would make in two days salary. He does not demand or expect it, but he is as grateful as a school boy receiving ice cream on a hot day.

Vitor's gratitude for what life offers him gives me great pause today. Especially as I consider my belly aching last week when my Buick Regal was cold and I bitched silently that my car does not have a heated steering wheel. Sheesh. Vitor has no envy for us in vacation land with our unlimited EVERYTHING!  He walks the beach back and forth all day, every day,  5 am to 5 pm giving us all a thumbs up as he passes, as if to say "It's a tranquil  life" he tells us with his smile!

It is indeed

4 PM on the Beach "Stage left". The Cuban Beach Boy Mariachi band has long retired a few Pesos richer. Vitor ends his long shift stacking up the three or four hundred beach chairs, to make way for the Night Beach cleaning crew. I promise him a pack of "Hollywood" cigarettes when we arrive manyana, and I will make good on it,

He is our new friend.




At the Still Point, There the Dance is !

Day 7 in Cayo Coco, and the sea inspires snippets of  wonderful memory, and to an even more pleasant extent, the inspiration to record it with pen in my journal. Sea, sand, strong espresso with steamed milk, a Cuban cigar! They all add to the creative life experience. This has been an memory that I will not forget for a long time, but I record with pen in paper so I have for posterity.
We are "clapped in" as per usual custom here for us early diners at breakfast. My fruit and cheese is followed by a long serine walk in which Mary and I collect seashells for Aubrey  and memories for our internal visual photo memory album.
Today urban sprawl has invaded our little cave of serenity on the beach, yet we find some humor as we get some bikini clad "asses" in our faces as Mothers tend to their babies oblivious to us, and our personnel, treasured space. European dialects surround us in Dolby sound. Such is life among the blessed vacationers. It is what it is!

Today I am mentally writing a sitcom in which the story line revolves around incarcerating  prisoners in an all-inclusive resort rather than a traditional prison. In my story there is NO punishment, just positive rehabilitation that includes Yoga,, meditation, cooperative sports and lots of thinking. Prisoners can eat and drink as much as they want or need within the confines of the resort  and the "Canteen" hours of operation. There is no curfew or bed time or last call....lots to be learned for these convicts. Stay tuned as I will attempt to craft out this little bit of silliness before I turn 60, and offer to Netflix the pilot that would hopefully star Neil Crone as the "resident prison/resort veteran go to guy" as he, in my mindful pilot, has been in the "All-inclusive system" the longest.

The Beach life here is as predictable as the "Clapping in": The  ceremonies for meals performed by resort staff to welcome us early birds to dine. Beach "stage right" is Cabana land where the eleven (yes I counted them) cabanas are home to the snow birds (usually from Quebec) who rise and claim their spots prior to 5 am. Bless their Fleur de lis souls.

Beach "stage left finds us pure beach folks, with our cave dwelling mates (me) who choose the cozy confines of lush underbrush to do our meditating. This morning, as many others here are full out "Club Nino" : Nino: From Old Portuguese nio and Latin nidus meaning "Nest". I named it as mothers arrive all day with strollers, carry cases, bags, food, and babies to set up their little "Nests". Club Nino sticks for my duration here, I like the name.

Afternoons differ,  are in many ways the polar opposite to the Club Nino mornings, Afternoons are lull after the storm, The quiet that arrives after the cyclones have  left.  It is Montecristo Puritto time! Then Siesta!

Repeat daily




Tuesday, March 21, 2017


I believe I am clear at this stage and age, of what Life Branches I need to prune. And how to keep my new found blossoms bearing fruit. As well as which buds I need to nip on a daily basis.

 Twenty years ago my concerns was growth on the outside: Money, prestige, and catching the elusive rainbows of shiny happiness. It is by chasing, I believe, that I missed the moments. I missed my "reason we are here" moments for lack of a better metaphor. So arriving at this new station in life I allow David to enjoy the rainbow in all it's splendor. Rather than mourning the fading sun, I now marvel in awe at it's magnificent glory.

Three catamarans sail in my view as I write this. Now there are 6 multi coloured sails in my view. Awesome!

Old world David would not have noticed or cared. Today I note the colours of their sales, and admire the sailors technical ability to tack in these  Caribbean winds.
Reading Ian Brown's "Sixty" in this oasis is enlightening and appropriate. So much has gob smacked at once. Many lines in this book are worth re-reading as well as retelling to Mary in our short time on this Island paradise.

"Sorrow is the rust of the soul. and regret is the oxygen that makes it".
Holy Fuck!
"Everyone experiences the exfoliation of the remembered soul at a different rate, and in a different way"

I honestly feel the book this book is worthy of purchasing a paper copy (I am on a tablet), so I can re read whilst making liner notes.
"...this is what I long to be, as I head into the late innings: Less hidden, less afraid, more naked, less ashamed. I want to wear my fragility on my body -  not just my so-called need, but my intentions, and my doubts about those doubts, and the laughable wobbliness of my progress n all things. I want to be human and complex, more that I want to be right and clear".
Yes, yes, yes!

Just past lunch on Day 5 here, as  I finish "Sixty". Feeling more comfortable about my doubts about my doubts, and more secure in my decisions to be less afraid and less ashamed about them. The air here in Cayo Coco has a sleep tonic effect on me. Even after a day which has me polishing off 4 cappuccinos, I sleep like a baby from 9 pm to 6 am. Sleep for the most part here is uninterrupted, which is odd for me. Unusual when at home. Just to go 9 hours without a pee is wonderful!

There is a feeling I have of internal discovery. Reading "Sixty". Being in the moment. Paying attention to the moment. Noticing what I notice. More today than ever in my past.

The growth of my Joy is in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectation.

It's time for my afternoon siesta, then a wander to get a superb Café con leche.



Monday, March 20, 2017

This Is Why We Came Here

My wife Mary said something yesterday that hit me like the proverbial hammer. We had some struggles at our resort with very minor issues. Some long line ups, poor customer service etc that gave rise to a momentary anger and bitterness. As I began to mentally compare "better" vacation resorts that we have been to,  it led to this inner struggle. Mary, later that day on the beach while looking out at the aqua and turquoise Caribbean ocean and walking on the velvet white sand, listened to my bitterness patiently, waved her arms around gesturing to the wonders and beauty of Cayo Coco and said "This is why we come here !" Not only was she spot on, but my internal negative thoughts changes for the better.

I am for the most part, very much a glass half full guy. At times to my determent, as I refuse to accept the worse case scenario. I find the joie de vivre in most situations that life tosses our way. Is it too idealistic to view each and every moment in life as "This is why we came here!" ? Or even "This is God's grace and this is why we are here! To take part."

So now the questions I ask myself as I write on this beach are : Have I now reached the age of concession? "It is what it is", or have I reached and age of Gratitude : "This is why I am here, and am so grateful for it all"?

Mary has just returned from a fruitless expedition at the resort where "No towels today. Maybe Mayana" is the frustrating speech from an overworked towel lady, then the line up to book us an a La Carte meal gave us another "not gonna happen. Third world country (Cuba) is giving us First world grief. So I go to this: Should I be grateful for my Caribbean view as I lie under a Cabana on this world class beach (I am by the way) or should I be UN-accepting of the "What is"?

this Glass half full lad knows the answer to his question.

As a young boy in my "first quarter", I saw the world of  adults as the world of Oz! Streets paved with Gold, no curfews, eat what you want, when you want it; go to bed when you feel like it, not when you're told; sleek and wonderful cars to take us to destinations where "WE" wanted to go, and as fast as "WE" wanted. My "second quarter" was proof, in retrospect was that streets of "Gold" are not what gives inner joy. There will always be a street that has More "gold" on it. I always thought I needed to find that street to be happy until I realized Joy does not evolve from that. What I found was that there is always a nicer, faster car, bigger boat, better house. More importantly I discovered the difference between JOY and HAPPINESS.

So arriving at the "Sixty" train station, I now know that it is the "inner world.....MY" inner-world" where JOY exists.

And that my friends is why we come here!



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Notice What I Notice

Judging by the suns position and the activity on this Caribbean, I figure it must be 10 am. I mentally take note of this not to record the the time, but as a confirmation in my personal growth. Matters not really what time it is, but what matters is reaching a milestone point in my life where I no longer wear or feel the need to wear a watch. As well,  I make a conscious effort  to keep my "Smartie Pants Crack-berry" phone parked in pocket and ignored as much as possible. Mindfulness meditation is a wonderful teacher. Yet there remains   plenty of "pruning" to be done in letting go of the digital distractions,  and becoming more mindful in every moment. My shears are out in full.

"Notice what you notice" has become a mantra of mine. I try to  practice this gospel, and kick ass and pull myself back when I stray. Did my deafness start me on this journey I wonder? Did my utter and profound deafness/silence which arrived overnight ten years ago put me on this journey? Or is it an inner unconscious reaction to being in the remains of my day/my 4th quarter/the late innings in my game?
I sit on this beach now and mentally divide my life into quarters. If I live to 80, then that puts me in my last quarter. Even as I write the word "last", I do so slowly to make it "last". Is this my answer to the why and how I want to slow down the moments, and notice everything I notice?
In my first quarter (birth to 20 years old) life is carefree for the most part. The second quarter is the "Better get my shit together" before half time. Go into a hurry up offense before the 40 mark arrives. After all who wants to be 40 and a loser? But for me, and perhaps most, the second quarter has the carefree exuberance of enjoying life at 75 MPH.
So why is it that I feel that I missed (there is that word again) so much by traveling at the "speed of life" in my "Q2"? I was 29 years old when my Father passed away. I don't recall being tremendously sad, but it was not a happy moment either.
It was what it was.
Where these feelings a result of me not taking the time to know my Dad? To take note of his life's accomplishments, and question him on his story, rather than focus on his failures as a Father?  Was it a selfish reaction from being a son of an alcoholic, and finally being being free of the questions from my school mates: "So, what does your Dad do? Where does he live? I saw him lying a field last night, is he okay or just a Drunk?"
Answering those questions in a truthful way was cause for embarrassment, so perhaps my non-reaction to his untimely death at 59 years of age was indeed selfish.
Now in my 60th year, I have outlived my father. I find no real significance in the number 60, nor do I take any joy in outliving my Father. My marvel comes from taking almost 60 years to reach this stage stage of serenity and acceptance.
Am I where I want to be? No. My journey has not ended. But I know (or think I know) where my growth has to come from. I know which branches  need pruning.
This in itself is an achievement
It is what it is



Friday, March 17, 2017

Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Ten months and a few days will be my 60th! A milestone to be sure. The sunshine and peace of the Caribbean called and we answered. This post was written over sand, surf and beside my best friend : My beautiful wife.
What is about things ending that brings a feeling of remorse or a sadness? The end of a perfect day. A week of vacation. The perfect meal that we prolong the last taste. The last swallow of a cappuccino that gives us cause to swallow slowly and savor. That inner battle that makes us struggle to hold to that feeling of "wonderful".
As a young boy, the end of a day felt as extreme as the end of a life of a good friend does now, in my 60th year on this blue planet. I always fought a losing battle with my Mother to end my games of hide and seek or road hockey, and come inside as for bedtime preparations as night fell. The sun went to "Hell" in my world during those times.
It seems in a sense to rob us of the enjoyment when we know the end of something wonderful nears or arrives (Leaves?) I wonder how does one grasp the pure acceptance of and "end"?
As I contemplate the distinct difference in one word and it's two tenses: Miss and Missed,I realize that the two words are completely different. Missed seems to have regret in it's meaning. "I missed my chance...", and I "miss the chocolate Macaroons from Hunt's Women's bakery from my childhood that were baked fresh and a great treat for me as a young lad of six" has regret, but without the sadness.
Comparing life's, is about as futile as comparing cars, cuts of beef, houses, and even vacations. Not just futile, but also without merit or worth. Oprah is the same age as I am. Oprah has more money than God, has a dream job, and probably has a noble and Honorable life. But I am content and am finding a serenity that I honestly doubt she has. I suppose this has taken me 60 years to reach this conclusion and accept "it is what it is". That statement alone has given me peace, or at least started me on this serene journey.
A native Cuban plies his trade in front of me as I write this. He is offering fresh coconuts and pineapples for 5 peso's. He carries the weight of his tools and fruits (A bottle or two of Rum as well) back and forth in the 30 degree sun. With the skill of an artist he carves open the fruits for his paying vacationers. I marvel at his artistry. I admire him and offer a smile as I mentally compare his life to mine, and wonder if does the same. Or perhaps he has the serenity that comes with acceptance. I ask this question to myself as I compare the complexities of my life to his life. It is in writing this that I reach my conclusion that we both may indeed accept our life circumstances with serenity.
It is what it is.