Oct 29, 2017

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part 24: "A Gift For and From the Heart"

(photo, Francisco Pereira)
(photo, Henry Leonardo Minas Veliz)

I returned from a two week visit  to see my dear, long time friend, Kelsie Reed.  I met Kelsie over two decades ago in Antigua, Guatemala.  She was married during that time to a terrific, well liked, all-around fun guy, and they were a popular pair of "Norteamericnos" new in town and country.  Hospitable, friendly and fun!  These past two weeks we chatted much about Guatemala..and our individual thoughts/feelings on our lives and "Guatemala" days.  My thoughts tonight, the night of my return from Florida, are filled with happy and with moments of sad...real, and very deep, feelings that for the first time in my life I understood because of Guatemala.
I had been visiting, sometimes living and one-person-loving in Guatemala since the early 1980's (I was dazzled by the the lore, the color, the passion, the powerful secretlike force in the place. I didn't even realize there was a ghastly, and deadly, Civil War going on. There were hundreds of thousands who died during those years and I had no idea why I was one of the few visitors.  The Hotels were almost empty.  Few travelers. Few guests.  

 I thought Guatemala was only friendly and cautious and those military "check points" seemed prudent and wise. Many Military Police and Civilian Guard groups stopped me for "passport checks" in my rental car. They were pleasant and sent me along. I drove, windows open sucking in the gorgeous, one-of-a-kind living/breathing grandness of the "Land of Eternal Spring". I was smitten by a kind of deeply rooted love that was something stronger than anything physical that I had known before anywhere (I am well traveled).

My message tonight is that I love Guatemala more and more.  I lost my dearest and deeply loved partner-friend here...he was a younger, kind and loving person and he was an innocent who was murdered. No reason/killer found. I left, then returned for retirement at age 62.  He is always with me and especially each November First.  My grief didn't go away. I returned because my love, my heart, my art and my Soul live here among the Maya, their descendants, and many other friends too.  I am here among the Volcanoes and religious celebrations and processions because they embrace me.  I am welcome here. Celebrations fill the streets with incense, flutes singing, drums beating, brass bands playing (sometimes hello to Santos/as and follow and sometimes I join in the Funeral/followers walking behind the shoulder carried coffin)....The celebrations and traditions are breathtaking and spell binding in my town.  Some other early mornings, at Maya ruins, I hear faint chants. I feel presence of the unknowable...it is deep here, so deep even the lakes sometimes don't know how deep they are. Volcano-love is real too.  I know, as I love the Fuego Volcano. It's active and many volcanoes I feel kinship with...they are alive. Odd?  Not to me. Not any more. Guatemala grows everything and everyone deep down from inside of itself, inside the ground...sometimes we bloom and sometimes we wilt and sometimes we suddenly erupt...every moment is real.

I love you Guatemala and as a loved friend of mine would say:  

"a gift given and received from the heart"

Leonard Clark Beardsley

Leonardo Ricardo
San Miguel Dueñas
Sacatepequez, Guatemala
Central America

Jul 22, 2017

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part 23: "I had no idea there was so much of me/others to see."

"So Many Feelings"
Leonardo Ricardo
July 2017
I keep wondering about all the feelings I have.  I have so many.  

Does one get enhanced feelings with more age?  Who knows?  Not me, but it seems like I have more of them, or I feel them more than ever before.  How do you keep count? Sometimes they wear me out!

I have a friend who I chat with regularly on the telephone.  A friend who lives in Guatemala but not near me.  We are "Norte Americanos"  both.  My friend has a PHD and is very wise in many real life "experienced" ways.  She has experienced many BIG challenges, met them and remembers much of the journey that may come to an end in Guatemala one day.

We agree that life is a one way *trip* and the inner and outer scenery changes/changed greatly along the way...all the time there are changes and mostly in a very mind-expanding, and/or mind-boggling way.

We are NOT among those who stay with their/our own tribe...mostly.  We are one way travelers with individual seat assignments, plans, hopes and ideas varied regarding our past and our personal destinies. We are singles and one of a kinds. We agree, we were/are willing to go for the ride, strive to do our part to survive, and to keep going on the creative, and even not so creative, journey. We are willing to "accept" the many things we can not now, or before now, change. We both know how to say "no."  We don't admire "denial" or pretend.  Each of the "we" are a strong force in our own lives (and sometimes other peoples lives too).

For me this is a renewed but even more clear awareness...personal awareness grabs me, shakes me and says something like "stay, stay with ME again today, feel the real, don't be afraid"...being in the *real* brings me to exactly who I am at this moment in time (my time and your time/all time). Few diversions from the "truth" are allowed by me.  Leap!

I had no idea there was so much of me/others to see...I like being present.  

Leonardo Ricardo aka Leonard Clark Beardsley

San Miguel Dueñas, Sacatepequez

(it's a beautiful/sunny day today)

Feb 20, 2017

BREAKING THANKFULNESS - Chapter 22: " I find it thrilling to discover that I have just awakened from what seemed a very long and less than cheerfilled sleep." Len

EARLIER CHAPTER: "I ran/run in life! Ready (again)! Fearless/afraid, hardworking/feckless, steaming/rolling/drolling but mostly clammouring for, and hoping for, more life-filled delights in/around/for me, me, me...this particular story has been about me."

HERE I GO AGAIN:  I am now 73+ years old and living into 2017 just fine...well, mostly.  Do you want to read this?  Hear this?  No matter, I will tell you anyway:  I've had another break-through.  It is true. I have not quite passed from my youth, my midlife crisis and into my viejo-hood...at least, not in my mind I have not.  I find it thrilling to discover that I have just awakened from what seemed a very long and less than cheerfilled sleep.  I think I've drifed away from the deepest part of me for well over a decade.  Who knew?  Not me.  Not me until a couple of weeks ago when I discovered every kind of passion lurking inside of my "being" and my body and my soul.  

My renewed passion for living and loving came as a shock to me.  Afterall, I am 73+ and I wasn't expecting to leap into the starting blocks of newness again. I didn't know I was going to leap out of bed, consider a proper diet and be extra enthusiastic about life again!  I will soon be going to the GYM again (where I spent much of my earlier life trying to be attractive for other people).  This time, I realize the gym results are for ME

I went for a long walk to sort things out on Sunday.  It was a gorgeous day for me to stroll around alone in my little town.  "Hola Don Gringo" they greeted me! After about an hour I came to the tiny park at the entrance to San Miguel Dueñas (center of the universe as many know it to be, including me)...the extra fascinating thing about this pointed park (a road splits at its beginnings) is that the big statue of San Miguel the Archangel is held up high into the sky by huge/painted cement hands...not your everyday kinda display of greatness and the holy...but here he is...our patron, our pal is being "glad-handed"...heavenly!

I think I have always been graced/blessed/touched/whatevered with an extra keen ability to sore high up into the sky without moving...I have always, since childhood, thought of God as everything and everyone around me...first my God loves me when I drink cold water on a hot day.  A very big high for me. Then God smothers me with joy when a dog passes my way...I am gifted by the divine with every zesty emotion that includes wanting to make love to the volcanos I see around me (there are three, what kind of love would that be?). I love loving people too.

How could this be?  How could my custom and fresh appreciation and lust for life be happening to me?  I am 73! I think I know. I have been stimulated by powers and people outside of me...I love to appreciate life and them deeply! I thought deep love had died away and been withdrawn from me.  No, I think it, love, will just be behaving differently...maybe. 

I accept my reality and I hope to live another ten years+ and paint with my heart, my delight with everything around me and with the help of my two associates. My studio is at the foot of the Fuego Volcano and we are active, the volcano and me.  Guatemala IS another land of the free...it has freed me. I have been called upon to express my love for life and appreciate the lives of others around me - more freely...I don't intend to miss the next part of whatever it is that I need to do or be.

Vamos a ver (not so secretly),

Thanks for being here, I love you,

Central America
February 20, 2017

Aug 22, 2016

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - MY 73rd BIRTHDAY - Part 21: " I have been flying through my lifetime. I have never wanted to miss any of the possibilities..."

In a few days it will be my birthday.  I will be 73 years old.  How could this happen to me?  How did I become a full-grown+ man so quickly?  "It just happens that way", they say. I got it, "they", like it or not, are often right about "normal" things. Everyday things like getting old.  Tantrum: stomp, snear, turn away...well, ok! 

I know what "getting older" means and it may not be the favorite part of my being human escapade. We will see, what we will see...verdad?  More, no doubt, will, and ought to be, revealed.  

I'm getting a glimpse of myself in the memory-mirror...my full length and lifesized "blog" one. It's a whole wall of mirror and a ceiling mirror too.  It's clear...the reflecting of the whole of my life mirror. I have defogged it and I am seeing a well focused glimpse of me. The "take a good look at my life" mirror. I think it must come just before the images start to fade around the edges.  Probably perfect timing...I'll tell you later (if I remember) when I look into the future of my real life mirror.

This is my first time as an admitted "old" person. I am inexperienced at telling this truth.  Like all the other "times" in my life I show up, I will try to figure new/old out. I pay attention to friends who do *it* well and I, then, will do what I can to enjoy older and survive myself. I am a survivor so far, I would like to continue for a decade longer (or two).

 As my Mom, Ardythe, the "lovely in every way" person, often said to me: "We shall see what we shall see, dear"..you see, my Mother still talks to me and I am almost 73.  Mom has gone elsewhere, but she remains close to me.  I still pay attention to what she tells me.  I am a good son.  You can ask her someday if you don't believe me.  She will vouch for my many attempts/efforts at seeking/improving my personal integrity.  Sometimes I do, and have done, better than other times.   

My Mother knows all (many Moms do).

I have been flying through my lifetime. I never want to miss any of the great possibilities. I could easily see the great fun/potential for fame/fortune around me. I always wanted my life, almost always, and in most every way, to be a dance, a party, a kiss/etc in the dark...a success, one more drink at The Top Of The Mark, a good report card and/or later, a HUGE raise (and a little praise)! A full-up life that was/is full of my desire to embrace it and accept it as my own, my own customized/pasturized (now, soberized), terms. I always wanted to kick the tires and have a go fast life. I got it. I've never wanted to run out of gas or be strangled to death with a silk scarf like Isadora Duncan...I only want the wind in my face as it blows through my hair...I most always roll the window down at any speed...with or without a car or not even 
going anywhere .. full stop!  

Things have often been much different than I thought they ought to be...amen. 

Most of my life I have been striving very hard to get everything packed and repackaged to fit into the life I imagined for me! I have pushed and shoved my life sometimes.  I have wanted everything  exciting and a free-to-be-me in life.  I have wanted life to keep laughing and kissing/hugging everyone/everywhere around me! 

A delicious life, in every way, for myself and others.

I ran/run in life! Ready (again)! Fearless/afraid, hardworking/feckless, steaming/rolling/drolling but mostly clammouring for, and hoping for, more lifefilled delights in/around/for me, me, me...this particular story has been about me.  

The Otherside of the Volcano leonardoricardosanto.blogspot.com
 blog entry chapters are all about me:

BUKAROO/ay bandido!
SAN JOSE/do you know the way?
DREAM DO-TOY/marched in!
DRY DOCKED/12-13-78! 
BIG FROG/little pond/s!
FLAMBOYAN GLEE/not the tree!
SUN VALLEY/art leaguers!
CUBANOS/Dons, joyas, y media de noches!
BEST/s - LAST/s?

 Each moment, each part, each joy, each person, is catching up with me!  I will be 73! I have outdistanced myself and sometimes I run/ran, slam/banged into a wall.   I rarely saw the "walls" coming.  I always hated them...climb over the walls or  jump the fence! That's my motto (fingers crossed). 

Getting "walled" in or out of life is not fun. During some of my younger years I opted for alternate thinking/drinking. I escaped the reality that was, or could have been, mine full-on.  Lost in my time, and  hazy as the drunk kissing of a stranger under the pier at Santa Barbara during a heavy rainstorm late at night..all night long - or, should you know about the under-overcoats affair? I was sober. I was Winterwandering during snowfalling on a brisk-late-night walk in Paris. The Eiffel Tower glowed in the dark and a unknown friend kept me extra warm.  
Yes, it was me. I was there. I was inside the overcoats and looking in and outside of myself.  The view was spectacular! 

My life likes to play pretend sometimes...but in a good way, a clear way and in a sane way I leap into the today...often it's like an Artist should/would/could and does way. 

Gracias, a Dios.

I cherish my life.  I am thankful for my life and for all of you, you and you! 

I love you, now and before now,  

(green is my favorite color, did you know?)

Leonard/Leonardo/Len/Ricardo/Leo and Lenny too! 

to be continued 

Jun 10, 2016

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part 20: " Don't tell anyone, I didn't tell a living soul how terrified I was of not being enough, or getting enough. Enough of anything desireable."

It's June of 2016 and I am sitting at my computer at the foot of Fuego Volcano in Scatepequez, Guatemala.  It's now "rainy season" and it has been raining off and on for a few days...good, my world is turning emerald green. I love green, green is my favorite color and I like the rain too...I pull the down comforter over my head and a couple of dogs are always at my feet.

This morning I am going into Antigua and rush around doing errands, lunch too and then, friends to greet. I am going to Florida next week for one week but my thoughts keep drifting back to the nineteen sixties and the many "Buying Trips"  I made to New York...all the "fun" and all the enthusiasm I have always felt for travel, for my work, for life, keeps on rolling along...now and before now, life keeps singing me its alluring song: "there is more to be and see"  (and should be/seen). Appetite, I have a great appetite for life.

I have always enhaled deeply on every moment, every adventure and discovery in my life. I've not wanted to miss one thing that has "warmly" touched/brushed by me, my little corner of the world and my part in it. I like almost everything (except bigotry, plain nonsense, exploitation and greed).  I am riveted to the small, good and bad, details of life everywhere. Sometimes pushing for the next part of life extra hard...wanting more, even craving more...always wanting the positive and better. There is my extra hard striving as to not  "feel" the very insecure nature inside of me that was (not much now) afraid I wouldn't get my share of whatever there was I must have.  Sometimes ignoring "difference" in real evidence that appeared before me. There was always the underlying doubt that I was not "good enough" to just be me, or "get enough" to please me and all of you.  All sorts of appetities in my life that now amuse me and shock me. 

I defied my own doubts about me, mostly.  I´ve ignored, or pretended, that LGBTI people were perceived differently than we were (or angrily overeacted when it was clear we were not). We were/are second class slimy monsters according to those who whispered vileness about us/around us (just loud enough for us to hear the slurs).  Liars! I was defiant and angry, albeit often secretly, but I often returned the favor of unkindness (secretly or not so much). I desperately sought to have more worth than I thought I was "worth" receiving. I eagerly forced my way through my teenage years and then into adulthood, and grew on my own terms (with kind help of others along the way).  There was no handbook of how "to be" for LGBTI people like me. I always, and instinctively, knew the world was wrong about people like us...I was right and the haters of LGBTI people are still wrong...sometimes deadly wrong. 

I was obsessed with living and gaining on life.  I was self-obsessed and lacked much gratitude for gifts I had been given. This morning, at age 72, I know how fortunate and gifted I have always been. Gifted, as in with gifts, given to me in endless ways by my heritage, my parents, my family, my talents and coworkers and a lengthy lifetime of loved ones and dear friends...we laughed, we´ve cheered, we won/lost and we´ve sometimes cried and even died. Endless giftides, flowing in and out of my life. 

The younger me thought he needed to survive those who would shame and harm him. Some of his fear and "nerves" and self-loathing were based on reality...my reality as it really was but also how a few other people, friends and family, thought it was or thought how it ought be.  The authentic in me couldn't figure out how to "be" me...just be, me, comfortably. I didn't know about the business of growing into a emotionally secure human being who shared freely, loved others and participated mutually.  I drank to help me resist feelings of awkwardness and inferiority.   Don't tell anyone, I didn't tell a living soul how terrified I was of not being enough. Or getting enough, of anything desireable.  I sometimes prayed "God, help me!"

I remember something startling (sad-chilling) right now.  My travel work/pleasure adventures always included a desire for romantic encounters...enchanted, or not, encounters with handsome young men of my own age  (sometimes a little older).  My idea of healthy men were handsome, popular and filled with laughter and passion for life and me (lasting relationships I thought would be nice/right too).  The first decade of my New York "working-buying" visits I was in my twenties the whole time.  I was in good shape, attractive in a regular White young guy sort of way and wore fashionable clothes (I was a department store buyer with a 25% discount gold/executive discount card, heavily used).  I remained that way, and tried as hard as I could (including taking diet pills if I gained five-six+ pounds) to remain 150 lbs with a 30 inch waistline...I visited the dentist regularly...my smile was genuine and nice...fancy salon type hair cuts too and in and out of gyms, depending.  People usually liked me just as I was...but, if I especially liked THEM, I was not comfortable with being around them...I didn't want people I was attracted to, to know I liked them!  Even people I just wanted to be liked by socially!  Odd? I may have been mostly afraid of rejection, but, in my mind, today, I think I was mostly afraid they might like me, and then what?  What do I do? You see, I didn't like me and I certainly didn't want to keep entertaining you with my charming-funny, temporary/artificial, personality! Itimacy, of most any variety, stark sober, was not normal for me with people I admired.  I needed, and desired, a buffer, I needed relaxing...I needed the kind of nerve that one gets after a few drinks. Party with me!

Here's the catch: I always drank alcoholicly and smoked Marlboro Cigarettes (only at night) when I was out in the bars cruising or attending parties or meeting someone new...I had "habits" that would become addictive but I was never interested in marijuana or hard drugs. I was a child of sixties, but not a hippie. I was trying as hard as I could to be a more popular me (and "Dancing as fast as I can")...I wanted to be a more desireable version of ME.  That is exhausting and it wasn't about self improvement!  

Image result for Liquor Bottles,photos

Early in my 20's, I was a department store buyer. Salesmen/women took me out for lovely lunches and dinners. I always ordered a drink (or two, not three or I would get drunk).  Almost every night (later in the evening) I went out and met friends at various bars. I got drunk almost every night. I almost always, for years, was hung over at work (anywhere)...often I felt dread and almost dead inside but I pretended to be HAPPY/ALIVE so the world wouldn't know the real pain inside of me! I tried extra hard to succeed at work. I needed to succeed.

One trip to New York I was drinking heavily on the plane before landing at JFK.  I had a hotel reservation at a "nice",  not elegant, hotel on Park Avenue South...I was drunk when I got in the taxi cab and went to the hotel to check in.  Drank more in my room, changed my clothes and then had another taxi driver drive me all over New York.  A very lonely night on the town: Uptown, Downtown, Midtown, Eastside/Westside...everywhere! I was afraid to arrive at any destination because I didn't want anyone to SEE me as drunk as I was...as drunk as I needed to be to meet that "someone special" who, of course, could not possibly have been interested in a drunk like me! I knew it.  After a couple of hours I paid the cabbie and I went back up to my hotel room and looked down on the lights and people on Central Park South.  Selfpity: "I would like you to meet Leonard.  Len is in his twenties and he is Gay and alone tonight in New York City...you'd love him if you liked him...and, so would he."

To be continued

Feb 27, 2016

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part 19: All-night, every night, "nights out" in New York City

New York, New York,   Lauren Bacall's "Applause" and more!
Phil Stout was a very good friend.  Phil went to University of California at Berekely and worked part time at Rhodes Department Store in Oakland selling womens shoes.  Most all students that I knew had part time jobs while going to college. We met in San Francisco and became part of a group of young friends who traveled into "the City" every weekend from different colleges in the San Francisco/San Jose Bay area...we hung out mostly on Sutter Street at the Club Rendezvous.  FUN (but no dancing allowed for Gay people in S.F. yet in the early 1960´s even though Carol Doda was going topless in North Beach)!

Phil was especially clean cut and attractive in a blue eyed, big smile, flashing white teeth and deep-dimpled way...he was intelligent, handsome, well mannered and modest...he had a great sense of humor.  We became regular "drinking buddies" and after University he did graduate work at San Jose State and lived close by me near downtown San Jose.  

Ron Williams returned to San Jose, after the Peace Corps (and his divorce) and met Phillip.  The two became immediate friends and intimates.  I was pleased, I was fond of the both of them. After Ron was hired at the Community Development Foundation for assignment as country director in the Dominican Republic, he moved abroad.  It was a sad seperation for the two of them. Ron later promoted Phillip, to his employers, for his assistant job that was available in Santo Domingo. Phil, UC graduate, spoke Spanish, was a natural, and he got the job. Off he went to work with Ron in the Caribbean.  I missed my friends but my life went on in a positive way and I moved to Arizona and moved up in my career path at Goldwater's.

Ron and Phil had "relationship" troubles and had a very nasty brawl on a vacation they took together in London.  Phil left Ron, quit his job on the spot. A few months later he moved to New York city and found work immediately at Gimbel's Department store on Herald Square.  He worked as a salesman in the mens sportswear department.  Someone told me Phil was living in New York and working at either Macy's or Gimbels...on my very next buying trip I set out to find him. I SURPRISED us both when I DEMANDED help/service after spotting him behind the Puritan knit shirt counter on the main floor at Gimbels!  Hugs! What a great time we had..quickly.  I moved out of the hotel and we spent my store expense money on lovely dinners, theatre tickets (vendor paid) and nights out...mostly, all-night nights out...we were in our twenties and filled with adventure and free-spirit with a pre-HIV/AIDS state-of-mind.

Ron later quit his job in the Dominican Republic and came to Arizona and lived with me.  We rented a house in Scottsdale behind Camelback Mountain and Ron became a Probation Officer for Maricopa County and then he purchased a 240 Z (a very hot car at the time)...not one quiet moment followed.  

More later, you'll agree.

to be continued 

Jan 23, 2016

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Chapter Eighteen: Arizona, late 1960´s - I experienced life while looking through heavily tinted/medicated/inebriated eyes - playing pretend

Breaking my own rule by telling you part of my ¨drinking¨ saga.    
I am reflecting about my life as I type my ¨personal¨ story.  Not an unsual thing since it is an autobiography.  I can see as I type/reflect and write about my life in the sixties there is much drinking, drugging and lots of self-medicating by me.   In San Francisco and in Arizona I drank without much restraint several times a week.  I took me with me when I moved to Arizona, then back to California four years later.  Interesting, now, after more than half of my life sober, I'd forgotten most of the out-of-control everyday antics that led me to another whole new version of ¨being¨ in my later life, at 35 years old...I'd forgotten the madness that helped me reach out for a saner based existence. I'll share some of my earlier real life experience which led me to wanting me back from the addiction of alcoholism.  

Living in Arizona, late sixties, I experienced it through heavily tinted/medicated/inebriated eyes.  After arriving in Arizona I set out to make friends.   I knew not one person and there were only a couple of Gay bars (as opposed to San Francisco/San Jose area dozens).  I liked my new job as a buyer at Goldwaters.  Everyone at Goldwaters seemed to be ¨Conservatives¨ but very accepting of the rights of the individual...I was amazed.  I was fond of my coworkers at Goldwater's, but, I knew right away my social life must reinvent itself..finding a ¨Gay¨  outside social life in Phoenix was going to be a challenge. Phoenix/Scottsdale was not a Gay destination (yet).  

There was a Gay bar by the the name of Diamond Lil´s on the ¨right¨ side of town and another two Gay bars deep into the downtown bowels of old Phoenix.  The downtown bars were totally out of question and not well patronized but LIL´S I could tolerate. The newish bar had small tables and plenty of air conditioning (no dancing). Lil's, in a strip mall, was the only place where younger Gay people, out-of-towners and/or newcomers like me met.  That was good (enough). The ¨local¨ Gay people seemed quite closeted, shy and secretive and needed a little ¨organizing.¨  A small group of us, more experienced with Gay life we out-of-staters, helped them!  We found one another, poco a poco, eventually...then, finally, we created some excitement in the night hot Arizona air.  We made up a social group of  (those of us sentenced to the calm Gaylife in Arizona) who began to have FUN in the ¨Valley of the Sun¨...Maricopa, Country, Arizona. Here we are! We grew, we had parties,  we made Lesbian friends, Bi sexual and Heterosexual friends too...we made the place move with our ¨group!¨ Almost every Sunday we went tubing down the Verde River and had late afternoon cook-outs afterward...Mondays were a struggle after all that fun in the sun!  Lot's of dinner parties, meeting new acquaintances and laughing all night (or at least until one o´clock when the bars closed).  Later another bar, with dancing, Mi Casa/Su Casa opened up the street from Diamond Lil's..it rocked.

I went to New York and Los Angeles on buying trips from Goldwater's.  Since I had spent my high school years in Los Angeles I knew my way around the ¨City of Angels¨ and Hollywood/West Hollywood too...Los Angeles was where my family lived and I considered Los Angeles home (I still do and I have not been there for decades and my family has mostly all departed).  

New York was/is wonderful.  I had visited New York as a buyer for Hart's in San Jose and going back more regularly for Goldwaters was  inspiring! New York always takes my breath away with the real possibilities! 24/7 real possibilities of enchantment, romance and many discoveries.  Some of my San Francisco friends had moved to New York city in the 60's...I had pals in NYC and quite often I would use the per diem for Hotel/etc and party with the friends I stayed with in The Village.  I also received lots of ¨pairs¨ of Theatre tickets and saw most everything on Broadway (with great seats - the vendors paid for them) during those years! The bars in NYC were open all-night.  I drank all-night.  Almost always I would have a heavy work schedule in the market (or at the 5th Ave office of Associated Dry Goods) each day.   I took tranquilizers, I drank at lunch, I survived myself. I was young, filled with energy but DREADED each hung-over work day. When staying in Hotels I sometimes would call the house doctor in the morning for ¨vitamin¨ shots (which I think were pure sedatives because I felt ¨perfect¨ immediately).  

I pretended I was alive inside. I have always lived in a world of my own especially neurotic, imaginative, overdrive.  I was, sometimes I am still, hiper or edgy and suffer from claustrophobia and fear of heights! I find most every person, every place/thing and *situation* fascinating (both good ones and not so much).  I can become rivited on the bazaar and not hear a word spoken around me...thirty seconds short of obsessed , I come back and I move along. 

When I had appointments high up in New Yorks Empire State building or when I would have lunch dates at the ¨ Copter Club¨ on TOP of the Pan Am building I would get very nervous...my shakey hands would swet...I needed a drink (or two) and I would find a bar and have vodkas on the rocks (you can't smell vodka..verdad?)...then, and only then, would I ascend in the elevator (all the while thinking about the great distance as I was taking myself away from the ground level...swet, swet) . Then, post lift off, I would join in and pretend that I wasn't scared to death when they seated me next to the window (always, so I could enjoy the view)!  Most of my 20's I was hung over to the point of feeling sick, upset and different than everyone else...I was (but I didn't want them to know I was)...I am really good at playing pretend with myself and others.  

to be continued

Dec 20, 2015

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part Seventeen: Fast Forward to Pre-Christmas 2015 GREETINGS with Pedro and Beatriz Alvarado and my living compañeros/compañeras too!

The Panchoy Valley, Sacatepequez, Guatemala
It's almost Christmas.  It's almost the end of the year 2015.  It's a very cloudy morning at the foot of the Volcan de Fuego, Sacatepequez, Guatemala. We are feeling festive and fine and Juan Carlos, aka Carlitos Fuentes, is preparing the garden for Noche Buena celebrations and Convite guests a few days later.  

During the past week I have been thinking about my life and the gift of living it as a (busy/loved) child, (active) teen, (striving) adult and as a once *thirsty* and now non-drinking alcoholic. Today, I am a sober (not to be confused with always sane) artist in residence who is living at my adopted retirement cottage/village in the enchanting-take-your-breath-away valley of Panchoy, Sacatepequez, Guatemala, HERE: 

https://books.google.com.gt/books?id=_K_Ou92_Ib0C&pg=PA9&lpg=PA9&dq=Valley+of+Panchoy,+Guatemala?&source=bl&ots=RH8yhdMQN2&sig=vvmUUbOx5TRbLNfXv9z6hAZmypk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi08eq56-rJAhVMXR4KHV2xCPsQ6AEILzAD#v=onepage&q=Valley%20of%20Panchoy%2C%20Guatemala%3F&f=false  . 

There is a whole lifetime of  adventure and experience that I have journeyed through and enjoyed (mostly) in my passage to date.  It's been fun writing my personal story here, chapter by chapter, The Otherside Of The Volcano is slowly taking shape. I keep thinking that I want to tell more very private parts of my experience...maybe I will write flashbacks in the new year. My personal ¨narrative¨ on life brings me to this morning, December 20, 2015, in this historic, and sometimes mysteriously enchanting, place. Leonardo aka Len, a white, retired-Americano (almost all English blood with a touch of Pawnee Indian thanks to a pioneer to the U.S. West and my Great/Great, mixed race, Grandmother ) . I live on the Calle Real at the foot of the Fuego Volcano and at the edge of Spanish Land Grant finca San Sebastian.

Volcan de Fuego (active)
I am living among the Guatemalan people (mostly with Maya and mixed, Ladino, heritage) in a fascinating  village environment that is San Miguel Dueñas, Sacatepequez.  The local residents/culture, all of them/it intact, except for retired married Americanos who live at the other end of town.  I rarely see them. Most everyone I interact with daily are Guatemaltecos.  I love them and they are very kind and polite to me...they always inspire me.

Volcan de Agua (Ciudad Vieja at upper right corner and Antigua in foreground)
San Miguel Dueñas is authentic to the core with a very long local history since it is located just south of Ciudad Vieja, the second Capitol of Guatemala.  Iximche, the first capitol, now a lovely ruin (and favorite place of mine) is about one hour and a half away by car http://leonardoricardosanto.blogspot.com/2011/11/thanksgiving-spirit-of-iximche-in.html ).  

Historically interesting, to me, is my nearness to the Volcan de Agua and the death-by-mudslide place of Beatriz de la Cueva de Alvarado (1510 -September 1541). Doña Beatriz, second wife (sister of first wife) of Pedro de Alvarado y Contreras, Conquistador.  You see, after news of the Governor Pedro Alvarados death in Mexico, Doña Beatriz manipulated the political confusion and made herself Governor of Guatemala...she died a few days later, drowned, with her baby, in a mudslide at her home in Ciudad Vieja.  A superstitous end?  Some say so

There are still mudslides in Ciudad Vieja when it rains extra hard during the rainy season. Some things never change in this little valley and I  feel drenched in the culture, history and lore of this place...mysterious, thick! I can ¨physically¨ note the heaviness of the atmosphere that includes memories of the past: tragic, honorable and/or grand or bad. Sometimes I feel the presence of the passionate, and often desperate, lives led of those who have come before us. Is it my imagination?  I don't think so.  

This morning Juan Carlos lit another votive candle honoring the life of a friends mother who recently died.  The journey continues...may she rest in peace and rise in Glory.

Pedro Alvarado, Conquistador, 1st Governor of Guatemala

(The World around me continues to astound me)

to be continued

Oct 24, 2015

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part Sixteen : David Hicks and Lady Pamela Mountbatten (and me, me, me)

Here I am. Well, this is not exactly me but a very nice  (I am certain) OPEL enthusiast speaking German.  

I arrived in Arizona.  I drove my NEW RED OPEL Kadett fastback (this, was my second Opel, and it had black seatcovers and no air conditioning) from San Francisco (who needed air conditioning in San Francisco?) to Phoenix (swet).  Goldwater's paid for all the moving and relocating of me expenses. I arrived at a motel they had arranged near the Park Central Mall (the Executive Offices of Goldwaters).  I was given a week to find a home and lots of per diem to find my way around Phoenix nightlife.  Good God (help me), this place was not exactly Gay San Francisco.  Where was the ¨make love and not war¨ crowd? Who knew?  Not me...worse yet, the bars closed at midnight or one and it often was 100+ degrees when you stepped outside!  Inferno!

The very next day I started looking for an apartment to rent on a monthly basis until I found something more like home.  I was told to stay on the ¨streets¨ and not go over to the ¨avenues¨ (avenues were not considered very chic neighborhoods).


Camelback Mountain 2.jpg
Camelback Mountain - soon I would live directly behind it!
¨Rent above Camelback Road¨ which was the main connecting street that takes one from Phoenix to Scottsdale.   I did.  I rented a one bedroom apartment in a swinging singles (young, like me, mostly) modern/nice/big pool party building by Camelback Road on the edge of Scottsdale.  I never met one person other than the manager the almost-a-year I lived there...they weren't my type.  Sniff, sniff (forced smile)...besides, I was a very fashionable buyer and I traveled lots!

Goldwaters had a lovely branch store at Scottsdale Fashion Square where we served customers such as ´Kitty¨ from ¨Gunsmoke¨ and Joseph Stalins daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-15931683 who was married to architect William Wesley Peters.  There were also dozens and dozens of even more notable everyones con dinero who shopped Goldwater's.  Goldwater's Arizona - we were a ¨carriage trade¨  upscale store and quite a glamourous bunch of retail coconuts...yes, we were*. 

Goldwaters Scottsdale (Katchina dancers dancing on the facade)
*Much later a salesman informed me that we, Associated Dry Goods employees, were ,most often ¨white anglos¨ and considered to be quite the ¨specially selected¨. sniff/sniff, staff in a retail buying world made up mostly of Jewish merchants...oy vey, I didn't know.  

Amanda ¨Miss Kitty¨ Blake
Joseph Stalin with daughter Svetlana, 1935.jpg
Lana Peters and her dad

I must tell this story.  I'll tell it right now.  After a year of buying all the Smallwares (Stationery, Notions, Luggage, Greeting Cards etc) at Goldwaters I was promoted (thanks to great sales and profits and our then President, John Rupel) to Buyer of all the Home Furnishings Soft Lines ( Sheets, Bath Shop, Table Top, Bedding, Design Studio and Decorative Fabrics)...it was a very large volumn area in the store and I loved developing the volumn by introducting lots of  * designer *  fashions in linens/etc.  We, high-end specialty type store that we were, also had extra fine Wamsutta linens and a Carlin Shop.

On one of my Market/Buying trips in New York I was invited by the J.P. Stevens company to meet the very famous, almost the most famous, British designer David Hicks.  David Hicks had designed a marvelous and colorful group of sheets and towels and he was going to introduce them by visiting a few (very/very *suitable*) stores who would be featuring David Hicks designs for J.P. Stevens...there was a huge publicity campaign nationally and lots advertising money for four color.

David Hicks wife would be accompaning him for the personal visits/U.S. tour and three stores in the United States were selected.  Goldwaters of Arizona would become one of them (they wanted to see the Grand Canyon and there we were)!

The wife of David Hicks - Lady Pamela Mountbatten
(cousin of Queen Elizabeth II)

Lady Pamela Carmen Louise Hicks (née Mountbatten; born 19 April 1929) is a British aristocrat. She is the younger daughter of the 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma by his wife, Edwina Mountbatten. Through her father, Lady Pamela is a first cousin of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and a great niece of the last Tsarina of Russia,Alexandra Feodorovna. As of May 2013, Lady Pamela is 687th in line for the throne.


GULP,  the Queens cousin is coming!

My team of interior decorators were nicely talented people who specialized in  doing draperies, custom bedspreads and some floor coverings for our clients.  Not one of them (three in-house designers and my two assistant buyers) had done anything like the room vinettes that we must plan/execute for our special David Hicks at Goldwater's Scottsdale opening!  We would be using ALL David Hicks fabrics of course and J.P. Stevens sent me large quantities of every design/color to work with....all gratis.  

There was more: All the newspaper full page ads in the Arizona Republic and National Magazines...100% paid by J.P. Stevens.  The  little ¨rooms for vinettes¨ (4) were brand new and ready to be ¨designed¨ in the decorative fabric department after the recent remodel of our Scottsdale store.   Plus, the Decorative Department was directly accross the main aisle from the sheets and bath shop!

However, there was NO promotional  Goldwaters budget for either the room setting samples or the gala Champagne Party! 

After lots of angling and haggling our team finally got Redmond Largay (a new President at Goldwaters and self-isolating ass) to agree.  He was my merchandise manager. I reported directly to him, yet, he rarely collaborated with me even with my sales/stock buying plans.  

We agreed. Our group would make ALL the custom merchandise for room settings and attach retail prices to each item...no samples, no free-bees, no display budget.  All custom designs in the vinettes would come out of my open-to-buy and be added to my business plans of the various departments represented in the sample rooms.  

Catherine Westie, Advertising Director and Fashion Coordinator would host the Cocktail party (Catherine *got it*) . 

Mr. Redmond-unavailable always, didn't know much/anything about David Hicks or the Home Furnishings Soft Lines area or all the publicity and excitement we would generate.  By being with Marshall Fields and Bloomingdales, Goldwaters was included with/featured  three fashion U.S. stores...excellent publicity! We even enhanced our position with the TRADE newspaper editorials.  El Largay  finally *got it* after making our lives misersable for weeks (don't tell anyone but I proceeded without him before he said yes because J.P. Stevens had ¨guaranteed¨ the sales no less). 


   The David Hicks room settings turned out beautifully (naturally).  They were beyond great and well-received by all ¨specially invited¨ present. David Hicks and the J.P. Stevens people made many statements of praise to the press and to me and my staff.  I was included in many of the photographs with store top tier management and David Hicks.  Redmond strutted his stuff. The event was a drop-dead success with every well-known person in Arizona attending.  The waiters were spiffy, the (good) champagne endless the hors d´oeuvres the finest.


I was asked to have my photograph taken with Lady Pamela Mountbatten.  We stood together, we chatted a bit, we posed and my right cheek started twitching.  It twitched uncontrolably..the photographer, re-positioned us for the photograph, relax/etc, my face kept twitching, the photographer kept trying...Lady Pamela looked at me TWITCHING  and then quietly whispered to me ¨go drink some of the champagne¨

¨You will be fine¨

I did.

I was.

It never happened again (yet).

to be continued