Posts Tagged With: Colombia

The Weight on My Shoulders… and Elsewhere :-/

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival

There is something about San Francisco that gets my attention regarding my weight. Six years ago, I was in a friend’s wedding in San Francisco and almost had Grrra breakdown when I saw the photos. I was horrified at how I looked. In the six years since, 4 -5 of those years I had actually gotten down to my ideal weight and was happy with my weight. This last year has been a struggle not only as my Multiple Thomas_in_BogotaSclerosis (MS) continues to progress, hampering my ability to exercise, but realizing I had returned to the same weight I had been in the wedding photos that shook me up so is depressing. Well…. I am shaking again after visiting my friends in San Francisco and seeing myself in photos that again horrify me! 

After the wedding, I moved to Colombia, South America. There, a lifestyle with no car, that necessitated the simple act of walking more; access to healthier food at a much lower cost; with the additional benefit of a climate that was more beneficial for my MS and I found being healthier… easier. My MS combined with a tight budget has landed me back to a life in The States and my weight reflects my frustrations with adapting. 

In an effort to create some accountability, I plan to “blog” about my journey back to my ideal weight or my attempt to make this happen. I plan to post about once a week about what I am doing, how I am doing it and the results. My goal is to keep it simple… diet (eating healthy) and exercise (walking). I will be following the guidelines of “The 17 Day Diet” (http://www.drmikediet.com/). Here is my “CliffsNotes” of the 17 Day Diet: avoid white foods as much as possible, no starches like rice, potatoes, or bread; eat plenty 20140914_174304of protein and fresh veggies; 2 servings of dairy and 2 servings of fruit daily; drink green tea; and spend at least 17 minutes making a concerted effort at exercise. During the 17 days, I keep a list of foods that I crave during the 17 days and in-between the 17 days cycles, I allow reasonable “treats” from that list and I call these my “cheat days”. So… there will be no more Ghirardelli Chocolate and Wine Festivals. 😦  And yes, that is chocolate on my shirt and I am having a big ice cream AFTER being at a chocolate 20140830_145822festival. Gone are those days!

This is the photo that shook me up this time and that I use as my “before” picture. True, the angle may exaggerate my size a bit… but does not lie… I am that big! I will still post about consumer, social, political and religious issues but also look for updates about my progress. My 17 days began, Monday, October 13, and I weighed in at 227.7 pounds (103.28 kgs). 

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Finding THAT Connection

Sometimes most all of us would benefit from a good whack in the head to be reminded that we need more perspective in our lives! Lazaro 8The whack that just caught me upside my head was Lazaro Arbos and his American Idol audition. Lazaro, a 21 year-old ice cream scooper from Florida, has had a stutter since age 6 that has deeply impacted his life. I cannot imagine the courage it took for this brave young man, with a pretty severe stutter, to sit in front of television cameras and share his story. By the end of the audition he had tears of joy dripping from his chin – and so did I.

What an indomitable spirit he must have! His family immigrated to Florida from Cuba when he was 10 years-old Lazaro 16and his parents still speak Spanish. This would make me guess that he learned English well after the stuttering began and is now bilingual. Reared all of my live in the United States, at 40 I immigrated to Colombia, South America, and have had GREAT difficulty learning the local language of Spanish and I do not have a stutter to overcome. This young man has whacked me in the head reminding me I have to stop making excuses and learn Spanish or this inspirational moment will have been wasted.

At one point he says – things that “normal” people would think are so easy becomes so hard for him. I do not doubt that a lot of things are more Lazaro 7difficult for him, but I hope he misspoke using the term “normal” people in a way that could exclude him from being “normal”. My brief moment of sympathy was quickly followed by shock. This guy that just inspired not only me but thousands, does he feel he is not “normal”? Watching it the first time, I just wanted to give him a big hug. Watching it again, I wanted to shake him and say, “NEVER feel you are not ‘normal’!” But the confidence, courage, strength and intelligence he must posses to be bilingual while having a stutter and giving such a heartfelt performance convinces me, and I hope, he just misspoke.

I am such an easy target for a story like his because I have a real empathy for his situation. I had hearing difficulties as a lazaro 14child and out of a necessity created my own language. It was actually the official language of the little world I lived in – within my own little head. Lazaro’s mother Gisela says she often had to speak for him. My little world also had a translator, my older sister Darlene. People would listen to me jabber on and on (one thing that has not changed about me), not understanding a word, then ask Darlene, “What did he say?” Then she would relay my message perfectly in English. She was really the only one that truly understood me, having to also translate for Mom and Dad at times! At age five, I began to learn to speak English, the language of the people in my new world. I no longer had to live in my isolated world and began to FEEL more and more connected to this much bigger world outside my little head.

My translator Darlene & Me

My translator Darlene & Me

Acting as my translator, Darlene and I built a unique bond. Now we are adults, we often argue and fight. In thinking about this I have come to a realization why – I struggle wanting her to understand me to help translate who I am to a part of the world that does not understand me – my family! Our rifts are about religion, politics, as well as lifestyle. While she and my family remain very religious, conservative, and content; I, on the other hand lost my religion, tend to be liberal (I really think I am what they now call a Progressive), I am openly gay and live what I have convinced myself is an adventurous life given the constraints of a life dealing with limitations because of Multiple Sclerosis. So I try and hope for her to understand me so that she can translate so I can feel a connection with my family again. We do make real effort, but for now… I am still jabbering on and on in my own language and feel I NEED that ONE person that understands me to help the world (outside of my little head) understand me!

Seeing this video surprised me because I felt I was witnessing Lazaro’s moment, the moment he found “MUSIC” was his translator and people beyond his Lazarofamily could understand and connect with the world he has been isolated in for so long.  He found his Darlene!  I think he FEELS he has connected; others see, feel, and understand his world a little more. Not only is music his translator – he sees that it is an APPRECIATED talent. He has found some of the respect he has craved and deserves.  Feeling this connection has to be incredible! He has been actualized as a member of the bigger world. The talent that until now has been comfort in his isolated world can now be shared – WORLD, MEET LAZARO!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/18/american-idol-lazaro-arbo-stutter-video_n_2501225.html?ncid=webmail19

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Optimistically Pessimistic or Just a Realist?

For many, they would see that a person is either an optimist or a pessimist but in true fashion, I even complicate these descriptions when I self diagnose.  I see myself as optimistically pessimistic!  What is my rationale?  I enter sweepstakes and buy lotto thinking I have as much a chance to win as anyone else – Optimist.  But I know deep down I my chances to win are very slim – Pessimist.  But the more choice word I guess should be – Realist.  Living with Multiple Sclerosis also feeds this concept. I know I have good days – optimist, I also know that the price of realizing the good days is experiencing the bad ones – pessimist, but I know I have to make the best of THIS day – realist.

Because of my M.S. and spending so much time fatigued and stuck in the bed, I began entering online sweepstakes.  I have won a few nice items: an Apple iPad, a $300 Best Buy Gift card, a $100 Overstock.com Gift card, several iTunes gift cards and a dozen or so smaller prizes.  But as you see, I  have not won a big cash prize, a car, TV, or trip; but I continue entering the sweeps.  I enter the sweeps just to have something to do and on bad days I sometimes do not even enter one.  I win something sometimes – optimist, I do not win enough for the amount I of time I spend entering sweeps – pessimist, I have SOMETHING to do to pass some time – realist.  

My M.S. is like this also, when I have a good day, I tend to do too much and overexert myself.  The good day, I get to have SOME fun – optimist, the bad days I may be in great pain and stuck in bed – pessimist, when I AM stuck in bed I can remember the good days – realist.  A common saying in the M.S. community is, “I have M.S. but M.S. doesn’t have me” – optimistic.  Reality, there are days that my M.S. does have me – pessimistic.  Few people know truly how my M.S. complicates my life.  I try only to let people see the optimistic side, the healthy side of my life I do get to enjoy.  Since I do tend to project the image as someone healthy, I miss out on truly helping others understand the impact M.S. has on my life.

Staying in Medellin, Colombia as much as I do not only helps with my M.S., it also helps me mentally!  Medellin is known as “The City of Eternal Spring”.  The milder climate does help in that I do have fewer relapses and often when I do have a relapse, it may not be as severe.  This is a big plus!  The biggest benefit is that I am able to live independently!  Living totally on my disability income in the U.S. is impossible for me, but here in Medellin, I can afford to have my own apartment and feed myself.  There is little money left for other things, but the advantage of feeling independent out-weighs the disadvantages.  The downside of this independent life means I also have to sacrifice seeing my family because the M.S. limits my traveling and the money for flying is also VERY limiting.

Friends usually see me as complicated and difficult.  They do not realize what I have to do in order to “feel” like meeting for a dinner or beer – it takes careful planning for me!  I once wrote how I feel like Sid the Sloth from the Ice Age movies (https://thomasajohnston.com/2011/03/05/trapped-in-an-ice-age/).  I feel most of my friends simply tolerate me, but like Sid’s herd, my friends do down deep care about me.  I use the expression “Colombian time” in Medellin because Colombians just do not seem too concerned about schedules, appointments and timing.  This complicates my being part of a herd in Colombia because even when I explain how I NEED to keep schedules because of my health issues, the relaxed attitude of Colombians is more important to them than my schedule.  I rest, I medicate based on being somewhere at a certain time and then they see me as inflexible when they say we have changed the plans or times and just think I have the ability to adapt that easily.  Like Sid… I am sometimes abandoned.

Then again, I find it easy to thin my herd or “clean out the friend closet” sometimes!  Some people make it easy!  As I am sure I make it easy for some to reclassify me as a former friend.  I have become a self imposed hermit and actually find I enjoy being alone.  Limiting my time with friends helps me keep friends!  lol  I am very happy for the few friends I do have in my herd – Optimist.  I do wish making new friends was not so difficult for me – Pessimist.  This desire drives me to improve myself and educate even friends of how M.S. keeps me Optimistically Pessimistic or just a realist?

Categories: Colombia, Life, Medellin | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Weather Factor & Multiple Sclerosis

Sometimes I am even able to act like a tourist! 😉

I am not able to speak for everyone with Multiple Sclerosis, but in my case, weather is a major contributor to relapses with my MS.  Not that cold is better than hot or hot better than cold or even the fluctuations of the drastic changes in temperature on Spring and Autumn days in the South.  There are days we run the air-conditioner in the day and heat is on at night.  These extremes and fluctuations where brutal to my MS symptoms.  

Now I am living in Medellin, Colombia, South America.  Many ask why an American would leave the U.S. to live in Colombia?  The simple answer – weather!  The nickname for Medellin is The City of Eternal Spring.  For someone with MS like me… the climate is ideal.  With fewer days of really hot or really cold and the fluctuations of a mild Spring day back home (1.5 hours North of New Orleans), I notice fewer relapses while in Medellin.  By no means does it mean they go away, but the severity of relapses is reduced as well as the frequency.  Regardless of climate, fatigue remains my chief adversary!  Even here I fool myself into believing I am able to do more than I actually am capable of.

With a new place to live comes the obvious challenges like finding a place to live, learning a new neighborhood and making new friends.  Moving to a new country adds even more challenges like language and immigration issues.  Fortunately for me, Colombia actually has a special visa to encourage people to retire in Colombia – a pensionado visa.  This visa is granted to anyone with a pension (Social Security is considered a pension).  Any Colombian Consulate or Embassy in the U.S. can give you the step by step process for getting this visa.  The downsides are: it is a government agency so understand going into it that foreign governments are as bureaucratic as ANY government and the visa needs to be renewed annually. This process is always subject to change especially and now more so because the Colombian Free Trade Agreement is being implemented with the United States of America (which MAY even simplify thing more – cross my fingers).  I cannot (will not) discuss the political issues associated with the Free Trade Agreement until I learn and know more about it.

Making new friends in Colombia is EASY – they are a welcoming people!  But for me, there is the added obstacle to educate friends about how my MS affects me.  One main reason is because Multiple Sclerosis is much less common in South America in general versus North America.  Just as the climate seems to reduce my relapses and symptoms, it also reduces seems to reduce how the local population is affected.  The photo shows, the further south one goes, the fewer MS diagnoses.  Since there are fewer people diagnosed with MS, it is even more important to try to educate my friends how this illness affects me.  My experience has been overwhelmingly supportive!   Just like in the U.S.A., there are many misconceptions, but once I explain, most are understanding AND supportive.

Medellin may not be the best solution for ALL people with MS and I cannot even advocate

Maybe a benefit of a healthier lifestyle will be weight loss! 😀

ANY one else would find it as beneficial as I do, but it could be an option for some.  Medellin is now ranked the #1 city in Colombia (link below) “According to this year’s study, Medellin made massive improvements in several areas including environmental initiatives, where it jumped three places to rank fifth. In human capital rankings, which consider health, education and employment opportunities, Medellin came in second place, moving up one spot. “We will strengthen(…) the goal of furthering the education and training of our human talent to achieve equity and remove inequalities,” assured Medellin’s Mayor Anibal Gaviria.”  I always mention Colombia’s tourism campaign slogan Colombia: the only risk is wanting to stay and my slogan for Colombia would be: Colombia: it is not what you think… it is so much MORE (maybe I should trademark that? lol)!

*I am not a medical expert of any kind and this article only reflects my personal opinions and experiences!

http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/25140-medellin-ranked-colombias-best-city.html

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Viva Colombia

I am often asked why I like Colombia, South America so much.  My response is, “Colombia and I share something – we are both misunderstood and quite often misrepresented!”  I am quite happy when people realize that in spite of my progressive politics, unique views about religion, and gay activism – I am still quite a nice guy.  The same is true of Colombia – in spite of the exaggerations of Colombian life portrayed in Hollywood movies, Colombia is quite a nice country!  Seeing beyond stereotypes opens the mind to so many new possibilities!  Also please notice… the country Colombia is spelled with an “o” not an “u” (Columbia).

Like me, Colombia is much more progressive than many realize – sorry, I mean Colombia is more progressive… anyone that reads my blog already knows I am Progressive!    Colombia’s government is a Republic with Democratic elections and three branches of government including Executive, Legislative and Judicial (that should sound familiar to Americans).  The FARC have basically been neutered and the days of drug cartels controlling the country are now mythology.  The drug lords, guerrillas, and kidnappings are great for the movies, but not a part of the typical Colombians daily life.  

I have lived in both of Colombia’s largest cities, Bogota and Medellin.  My opinion is that Bogota is more of a

Medellin, Colombia, South America

metropolitan lifestyle similar to living in New York or San Francisco and Medellin a little more like living in Los Angeles with San Diego weather.  Bogota has the larger population with just over 8 million to Medellin’s 3.75 million.  Medellin’s climate is more ideal with a very pleasant 65 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit (18 – 27 Celsius)  year round, compared to the cooler climate of Bogota ranging from 50-75 Fahrenheit (10 – 24 Celsius).  I have great friends in both cities but I feel the weather in Medellin is more conducive for Multiple Sclerosis, so now Medellin is home!

Colombia’s tourism campaign is: “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay”.  This proved to be very true for me!  With an American Passport, 60 day tourist visits and there are other options for longer stays.  I wanted to stay longer and found the way for me to get a resident visa called a pensionado visa ( basically a retiree’s visa to encourage people to retire in Colombia) .  I do have to renew my visa annually, but that is ok with me.  Colombia could be an option for many more, especially for the benefits of the climate for people with illnesses like Multiple Sclerosis.  I invite people outside Colombia to come experience the reality of this beautiful country with beautiful, warm, welcoming people and forget what television and movies portray about Colombia!  This is a country you should experience for yourself!

*** I will be posting weekly (maybe more) about life in Colombia – follow this blog and let’s share the experiences of this wonderful culture!

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It Is Cold In His Shadow

Glen Thomas Johnston

September 21, 1932 – March 22, 2011

I have learned that life in the shadow of my father after his death is even more difficult than when he was living.  Most people have idealized their father to the point of being an unrealistic character.  In my case it was real!  My Dad was a character but it the best way – everyone loved him.  I have NEVER heard anyone say ANYTHING bad about my father, where as I do not have to leave the house to find people that will speak ill of me.  My father was not perfect, and even people that did not agree with him still  respected him.  The year since his death, I have learned it will be impossible for me to have a fraction of the respect from family, friends, and community that he had – this frustrates me.

Next week I will begin therapy (AGAIN)!  Even before his death I had issues.  The more I am living at home and in this community, the more I see things I had felt were big accomplishments in my life have been undermined by some.  I miss Dad because he was proud of me and he let me know it.  Our family did not make a big deal about birthdays, they were usually a simple family meal but never a real party.  Now when I graduated from Ole Miss (University of Mississippi), he and Mom threw me a party!  I was the youngest child, but the first to graduate from college.  When I bought my Toyota 4-Runner, he would not have been happier for me if it were a Land Rover.  When I went to work for Sony, most people would, by his account, think I was hired as the President/CEO instead of lowly marketing guy.  When I bought my BMW convertible while living in Las Vegas, I hoped he would be impressed.  Even though he liked the car, what impressed him was the deal I got on it.  His disappointment was that I had bought a BMW that was 2 years old instead of the brand new Toyota Tacoma I had originally planned to buy.  When I moved to Colombia, an Ambassador’s welcome would have been too little in his eyes.  I was the first in the family to have a Passport and to get a stamp in it.  Now all of my family has Passports and stamps – other than Mom and I hope to change that soon.

The last few years have been very tough for me.  I finally had to surrender to my Multiple Sclerosis by taking disability.  This meant I had to say goodbye to Sony, goodbye to my BMW convertible, goodbye to my Las Vegas life and even pretty much all of my independence.  He had been diagnosed with Dementia. I had just moved from Bogota to Medellin, Colombia, when I got a phone call,

“If you want to see your Dad alive again you better get home as fast as you can.” my Mom said.  My sister’s were in Brazil.  We all rushed home as soon as we could.  

I walk in the hospital room where he was setting up, smiling as if nothing had happened and he said, “What are you doing here?  I thought you were in another country.”  

I replied jokingly, “I came home because I thought you were dying!”  

He said with a smile, “Not today!”

What I learned later was that the night I was flying home, he walked out of the hospital and security found him in his pajamas trying to get into his car.  Mom asked him where  was he trying to go.  He said, “To get Tommy.” (Tommy was my childhood nickname).  Even supposedly dying, he was thinking he needed to come get me.

My Dad not only loved me, he respected me.  He knew how much I struggled to get through college.  He occasionally would help me out with some money, but he knew how I worked to support myself and pay for my education.  I told him years later that I did not want him to leave me anything in his will because of all the help he gave me in college.  But even what I consider to be a grand gesture has been reduced to, “Thomas don’t want anything because his Dad paid for him to party at Ole Miss all those years.”  He is not here to set the record straight and stand up for me and say Thomas deserves respect because his finishing college was quite an accomplishment.  Even though he would have loved for me to have lived closer, he encouraged my dreams that required I live away.

I have given up any hope that people will have the same respect for me that my father had.  My own family can’t even muster simple respect for me and it hurts me, makes me angry, and helps fuel my desire to live away from here.  It is easier to leave and just start somewhere fresh.  People I worked with and customers at Sony had a great deal of respect for me (other that a bitch – I’ll just use her first name – Renee).  Friends that are from all over the world encourage me with my writing – even though it makes me no money, it makes me happy – and my family knows little or nothing of my writing.  My life of wanting and trying to have my family respect me fatigues me more than my MS.  I have severed my relationship with one of my nieces because of her blatant  DISrespect.

A year ago I had to say good bye to my father – and the to the respect he so easily gave me.  I miss my father!  He was ALWAYS in my corner.  Now I just find I am fighting with myself – and I am losing!  He and I did not agree on politics or religion, but he still respect me even though I aggravated him with discussion of these topics.   Maybe the therapist will help me get on a more positive path even with myself.  As RuPaul says, “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”  Maybe I have to learn to love myself in spite of how family and friend view me.  I will always be in his shadow and it disappoints me that I will never be half the man he was – even through my own eyes.

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My Celebrity Highlight 2 – John Leguizamo

Welcome to My Celebrity Highlight!  I highlight a celebrity and discuss why the celebrity peaks my interest and why they would be invited to my dream dinner party. Any celebrity featured in My Celebrity Highlight should feel free to contact me and accept this as a genuine invitation to join my dream dinner party!!  lol  😉

John Leguizamo has been on the guest list for my dream dinner party since the first time I was asked who would I invite.  Through the years I have grown to enjoy his work more and more.  When he first came on my radar was as a fart joke, irreverent comic that had no need for the term “political correctness” in the movie The Pest.  Through the years he has juggled comic and very serious roles and excelling at both.  He has won an Emmy Award, a CableACE Award, multiple American Latino Media Arts Awards.  He has been nominated for a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award.  For his writing he has even won the Norman Lear Writer’s Award.

I have written and compared myself to his character Sid the Sloth from the Ice Age movies.  Sid is my favorite character followed closely by Walter from Gran Torino.  I feel I am the love child of Sid and Walter, a loveable character that most either love or hate. I call my friends my herd.

Long before I could even admit to myself I was gay, I could admit that John Leguizamo was a sexy guy.  Now that I spend as much time as I can in Colombia, South America; I must consider I must have subconsciously known he was Colombian and was the seed for my love of Colombianos.  Another reason to love him is his willingness  try adventurous characters like Chi Chi Rodriguez in To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, which led to his Golden Globe nomination. 

His inclination to chose (or accept) independent films is endearing to me.  The independent film, Where God Left His Shoes (a Sundance Film Festival winning film) with his child co-star David Castro broke my heart.  David’s character was needing to feel some love and the chemistry between the two was amazing!  From the beginning of the film I only saw characters…. I did not see the acting, the two made it feel voyeuristic or like a documentary instead of actors playing roles.  Young actors (especially in the Latino community) like David Castro I think benefit from working with such a versatile, powerful actor and role model like John Leguizamo..

Recently on an episode of Tosh.0 on Comedy Central, Daniel Tosh featured a web site http://www.celebritynetworth.com.  As you can guess the website posts the estimated net worth of celebrities.  John Leguizamo was one of the first actors I checked.  Not just to know what he was worth, but to see if he had the success I thought he should have.  At $25 million I was happy and proud for him, although I feel he deserves more!  I cheer for his success professionally and financially, but he will always have a place for a hot meal at my dream dinner party!

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My Only Successful Relationship Is With A Rock Band!!

To date… I have only had one successful relationship in my life and that has been with Maroon 5.  As relationships have come and gone (or been absent) in my life, Maroon 5 was singing just what I was feeling.  From their first hit Harder To Breathe to the most recent Give A Little More, each single released by Maroon 5 matched what was going going through in my life at that time.

Now I will break the relationship down:

Harder To Breathe

When I first heard Harder To Breathe in late 2002, I was asking myself, “Is there anyone out there?”  I loved the music but it did hurt that lead singer Adam Levine also took my breath making it even harder for me to breathe!  So now my relationship with Maroon 5 had begun!

This Love

Next came This Love.  At the time, I was paying the price of loving someone unworthy of my love and it was taking its toll on me.  This is a pattern for me – loving people unworthy of my love.  Maroon 5 was proving worthy!  But this was still a début album – could it last?

Sunday Morning

I met someone late 2004 and all of 2005 and 2006, Sunday Morning had a real connection for me with lyrics like, “Steal some covers share some skin” and “That may be all I need, In darkness she (for me HE lol) is all I see, Come and rest your bones with me, Driving slow on Sunday morning And I never want to leave”.  I was in love!  I had found the person who I wanted them to “Come and rest your bones with me”

Makes Me Wonder

Late 2006 Maroon 5 released Makes Me Wonder.  So in January 2007 all I could say about my love was, “… it really makes me wonder If I ever gave a fuck about you”.  I was heart-broken! “I wake up with blood-shot eyes, Struggled to memorize, The way it felt between your thighs, Pleasure that made you cry, Feels so good to be bad, Not worth the aftermath, after that, After that, Try to get you back” were the lyrics that had replaced Sunday Morning.  All I could tell him is , “….I don’t believe in you anymore”.

Wake Up Call

“I didn’t hear what you were saying. I live on raw emotion baby, I answer questions never maybe, And I’m not kind if you betray me. So who the hell are you to say we, Never would have made it babe.” are lyrics from Wake Up Call.  This song I pick parts that were for me as I mourned the loss of my love.  “Would have bled to make you happy, You didn’t need to treat me that way.”  Again, Maroon 5 was singing to me.

If I Never See Your Face Again

If I Never See Your Face Again

All American Rejects were giving Maroon 5 a little competition with Gives You Hell then even Maroon 5 stepped up and came to my rescue with If I Never See Your Face Again.  My love and I did have one more night that gave my heart hope to only be crushed again, but “Cause you keep me coming back for more, And I feel a little better than I did before, And if I never see your face again, I don’t mind, ‘Cause we gone much further than I thought we’d get tonight.”

Misery

Almost 2 years have passed and I have never had to see his face again, but now I am in Misery.  “So scared of breaking it that you won’t let it bend, And I wrote two hundred letters I will never send, Sometimes these cuts are so much deeper than they seem, You’d rather cover up, I’d rather let them be, So let me be, And I’ll set you free.” I did, I FINALLY set him free by setting myself free.  I had learned while in Colombia that there is a chance for me to be be truly loved as I deserve.

Give A Little More

Now Maroon 5 knows what I am feeling now and has taught me what to say, “I’m waiting for something, always waiting, Feeling nothing, wondering if it’ll ever change, And then I give a little more, oh babe ohhh, Give a little more, oh babe ohhh, I’m not falling in love with ya, I’m not falling in love, I’m not falling in love with ya, I’m not falling in love, ’til I get a little more from you baby ohhh, Get a little more from you baby.” Anyone wants my love now has to “GIVE A LITTLE MORE!!!

My love affair with Maroon 5 continues and is the longest lasting love I have achieved in my life!!  And short of Adam Levine coming to rescue me himself…. I expect they will nurse me through any more attempts I take with love!! I love Maroon 5!!
🙂

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Meet My Mercutio – A True Firework!

Mercutio is one of my favorite characters in William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.  He is a jokester; that through Romeo finds his free-spirited, privileged lifestyle challenged and pays dearly.  Well my Mercutio’s life was a challenge, he began his life paying dearly, but has now found his affable personality and I pray soon his rewards.  His mother was the mistress of a married man.  He, his brother and sister were known to his father’s family, but were scorned because of how they were made related.  His mother was the anchor to this family with their detached father.  He was marked with his father’s good looks, making the father’s family despise him even more.

His mother made great effort to make their family life the best she could with little help from their father.  But she truly loved the father of her children and accepted their place as the “other” family.  His father died when he was 7, leaving him conflicted because of the love and the hate he had for his father.  The death of a parent at this tender age would be difficult for anyone.  Now even the little help from the father was gone.

The struggling family was strong, creating a very unique closeness.  His mother became sick.  She had cancer.  His siblings were there for him, but he was the one that was there for his mother.  His mother did not want him to leave university for the unimaginable task – caring for her as she was dying.  As she grew sicker, this teenager was not afforded the care free bliss most teenagers know.  The more debilitated she became, the more resolved he became.  In his heart knew he was doing what only he could do – truly care for his dying mother as she had always cared for him.  He cleaned soiled bed linens, cooked and tried all a young man could do to comfort his mother.  All the while keeping up with his studies in his Engineering program at university.  But even the efforts and love of this young man could not save his mother and she acquiesced her final breath.

I had chatted with Mercutio online for some time without knowing this story.  I already had an admiration for his dedication and loyalty to his employer.  He had been working for weeks without pay because his boss was having a tough time financially.  Mercutio was putting himself through university and was already struggling financially, but remained faithful to his employer when I think few would.  He continued long hours without complaining because he knew again, he was doing what he needed to be doing.

When I met Mercutio for the first time in person, he was shy, quite, but very pleasant to be around for a 21 year-old.  This story was told over several beers.  I felt a cold dagger in my heart because I could not conceive such a tough road at such a young age.  He is a beautiful young man and I saw an essential need for him to tell his story.  I knew I was in a small club, few had heard this story from him.  We never talked much about his history again because seeing his smiling face – shit eating grin – I knew I did not want to ask him back down his dark childhood memories.  I only would mention it to express my admiration.

I recently wrote I Am A Firework. This young man is one of the people who ignites my spark, to let my colors burst.  He owns the night like the 4th of July.  There are few people in this world that deserve to shine more than this young man. He has shown what he is worth and leaves me in awe!  This past August, Mercutio graduated from University with a degree in engineering.  Meeting people like Mercutio is why I so enjoy my gypsy lifestyle.  Mercutio’s determination helps drive me when dealing with my set backs because of Multiple Sclerosis.  I am proud of Mercutio.  His dark days are behind him, his care free days are ahead of him – just opposite the character Mercutio in Romeo & Juliet.  My Mercutio is truly a FIREWORK!!

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My Life and the Knife

Day time photo of the location of my robbery attempt.

Talking tough has become second nature to me.  Moving to Bogotá, Colombia, was evidence I was tough enough to challenge the preconceived ideas most people have about Colombia.  I have become accustomed to defending my life decisions and opinions regarding politics, religion, lifestyle and philosophy.  But 8:05pm, Wednesday night, June 9,2010, I had to defend my life as someone attempted to rob me using a buck knife with a 6 inch blade.  I have had self-defense training, but had never needed to use it.  The training was also like 20 years ago.  In the crisis…it came back to me.  I learned I am not all talk – I AM tough!

Buck Knife with 6 inch blade.

I was walking on Caracas Avenida (a main street in Bogotá) between Calle 47 and Calle 45a (avenida is avenue and calle is street  in Spanish).  I was returning a phone call to a friend.  I had been warned talking on my cellphone in English while walking alone could be risky, but I was by the Catholic University of Colombia that had security and I was close to my apartment, so I felt no risk.  Afterall Colombia’s tourism motto is, “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay.”

Generally when I walk in Bogotá I am walking with a purpose.  I walk fast, I try to avoid eye contact and I do not talk with strangers.  So, as a guy walking next to me said something to me, I ignored him without even looking thinking he was a bum asking for money.  I continued my conversation and I heard blah, blah – Gringo.  I kept walking and turned to him and said, “I am on the phone!”  He was about 5′ 9″ and looked like a typical college student.  Again I heard blah, blah, blah – Gringo and then he grabbed my phone.

FLASHBACK – A little more than a week earlier, while trying to renew my visa, a guy grabbed my phone.  I was holding the phone in my left hand.  instinctively I used my right hand to latch on to his arm and I stuck out my leg and threw him to the ground.  I am not sure if this was instinct or not, but I gave him a strong kick and shouted, “¡Váyase!” (Spanish for “GO AWAY!”).  He did.  Actually he was running full speed before he was even fully upright! haha

The Krzr phone that seems to be in BIG demand in Bogota!

Now as the guy on Caracas was holding my hand as well as my phone, I think he began to realize I was not just going to let him have the phone.  It is and old Motorola Krzr phone with no real value and now for the second time within 2 weeks someone was trying to steal it.  My God – what would happen if I had an i-phone?  Anyone reading my blog regularly knows I do not have the money to buy another cellphone … I do not have the money to even buy my plane ticket home.  So my rage of I am not letting a thief take something I do not have the money to replace.  This rage helped tighten my grip. This let him know for sure, if he wanted this phone – he was going to have to do more to take it.

This is when he took his stand and in his left hand he raised the buck knife.  My grip on th phone grew tighter because it also my grip on his right hand.  Knowing he could not use his right hand now and my right hand free I drew back and swung my fist.  I made direct contact with the center of his chest.  I heard a solid thud.  He fell back a let go of the phone. Then  he elevated his left hand with the knife.  I had a quick flash visualizing the knife enter my chest and I was NOT going to let that happen!  I no longer was defending my property, I was defending my life!

At this point I threw my backpack to the ground freeing my arms completely.  I drew my right arm back with a white knuckled fist ready to fly.  Pointing with my left hand with the phone still in my grip, I the announced loudly, “You better be willing to kill me!”  If I had been Superman, red lasers would have been shooting from my eyes.  The look on my face, the tone of my voice, I knew he understood me even if he did not understand English.  Our eyes locked. I must have looked cross-eyed because I was staring at the knife and looking in his eyes at the same time.  Again I visualized him charging me and sticking the knife in my chest.  Then I saw he make his next move – RETREAT!  He ran away.

This is the moment I realized my friend had been on the phone for the entire altercation.  The sad thing is his English is not good and had no idea what had happened.  I told him, “A guy just tried to rob me with a knife!” His response was simply, “Que?”  (que is Spanish for what?)  I said I would call him back later and pick up my backpack.  I walked to my friend’s café on the next block and began reporting my story.  One guy there called me a hero, but I already knew I fell short of being a hero.  Once again in my life –  I found myself a survivor!  Okay…. A TOUGH SURVIVOR!! lol

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