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:,+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 ).  

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 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) 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 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

Sep 11, 2015

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part Fifteen: Living in the shade of the Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) behind Camelback Mountain - Goldwater's Department Store

Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea)
I felt it was time (later in the 1960´s) for me to move up and move along with my career as a retail buyer.  L. Hart and Son and my mentors Alex Hart, Harry Schlisky and Nick Marafino had prepared me for a full-out retail career in a large store/market. I had learned retail skills from the Retail Buyers Guide as an executive trainee.  I had worked in the stockrooms and in all of the departments of my Division as an assistant buyer and even had market experience in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York as a full buyer. I worked hard and my buying and merchandise skills soared.  My achievements were reflected with excellent profits, well managed buying plans and well executed sales/stocks.  I was a young person who had learned quite a lot and I was fascinated with my ability to instinctively know what our customers would want and then they would buy (at the retail price I had determined for quickist/most profitable sale). I had, and still do have good ¨instincts¨ as to the desireability of most classifications of womens/mens fashion merchandise, accessories, gourmet foods and giftwares too.  

In the mid 60´s I also had San Jose State College training/background in art (fine and commercial/design) which most of the other retail people did not. I understood color, I remember color and liked design extra-well and I had the  ¨flair¨ that became a real advantange when selecting/displaying/promoting basic or fashion goods...especially, SALEABLE, fashion goods.  

Remember the sixties?  Remember Peter Max?  Remember Piet Mondrian-retros and the neo-advanguardistas put to fabric and paper prints?  Remember Pierre Cardin?  Psychedelics?  Maxi's and Mini's and Chelsea?  Mod? Pop/Op Art?  Posters? Remember ¨In Cold Blood¨ and ¨I am Dancing as Fast as I Can¨ and (drum roll) ¨Sex and the Single Girl¨ (at Hart's I was the Stationery and Book Buyer and Gifts too)?  Remember Paper Flowers and wearing ¨Flowers in Your Hair¨, incense/candles/sealing wax and Lava Lamps? Andy Warhol? Oleg Cassini?Audrey Hepburn/Breakfast at Tiffany´s and Diana Vreeland/Vogue and the floral fantasies on decorative fabrics by Gloria Vanderbilt for Charles Bloom?  Yves St. Laurent even designed sheets and towels and Bishop Pike was at Grace Cathedral/San Francisco opening thoughts/doors to people and places that had NEVER been opened before!

Because of my Fine Art background, I could work with the advertising department and with their copy writers (especially hyping trends), illustrators and layout people. I contributed ideas to the Visual/Display Departments and their quick changing themes and it was all very natural and fun for me.  I understood the retail business.  I knew it vertically.  My markdowns were always fewer than planned and way below national averages (MOR) with any classification of goods.  That meant the profitability in the various departments I bought for and merchandised was good. I was a full Buyer before leaving Hart´s and San Jose.

DORIS DEAN - Helen McDougall - (and I can't remember ¨Lois¨ the other womens last name)
were the very best (3) Retail Personnel Agents on the West Coast. All three of their offices were individually/discreetly located in Los Angeles near the California Merchandise Mart and the California Apparel Mart.  Doris Dean was considered ¨the best¨ because her clients were the most famous, and often most elegant, Department and Specialty Stores in the United States (and beyond).  I was accepted as one her very discreetly ¨listed¨ up-coming ¨prospects¨ for ¨her stores¨ looking for new buying staff.   Discreet was always the situation in retail (and probably other fields too) as the Buyer was usually still on staff, was needed on staff, even as a replacement was sought or found . The ¨new buyer¨ needed to move to another city quite often and notice/relocation takes time)!  It was all very quietly done and I remember flying off for interviews in the middle of the night before a day off, to return quickly, and back in place after prospective new position interviews in other cities.  Kind of the retail version of a James Bond thriller, I thought.

Goldwaters Scottsdale

Doris Dean arranged my appointment at Goldwater´s Department Store, Associated Dry Goods, Phoenix and Scottsdale.  Very elegant stores that had just then been sold to Associated Dry Good by the Goldwater family I put on my new Hardy Amies suit (with Lanvin necktie that I still have and admire hanging foreverly in my closet) and took the first flight  from San Francisco/SFO to Sky Harbor/Phoenix very early one morning and quickly had my interview with President John Rupel, met Chairman (honorary) Robert Goldwater (Barry's brother), had lunch with George Karatsis, VP Merchandise Manager, at a well known old/clubby restaurant in Scottsdale   The job was offered. Buyer of Stationery, Greeting Cards, Notions and Luggage. I accepted immediately and one year later I would be promoted to Buyer of all Home Furnishings Soft Lines including Domestics/Sheets, Bath, Table Linens, Decorative Fabrics, Fashion Area Rugs and Design was a fabulous job. 

Goldwater's moved me to Scottsdale, Arizona. 

to be continued 

Jul 30, 2015

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part Fourteen: Running with the herd in Indianapolis, visiting loveable Unitarians and their loveable dog ¨Louie¨ in Orlando and off to see more clearly in Miami! (July 2015)

Today is Thursday, the 30th of July, 2015.  I returned from a month long trip to the U.S.A. (of North America) last Sunday. It was a very enjoyable trip for me as every year I work with my longtime friends at Harry Klitzner Company of Providence, Rhode Island at the Elk´s Convention, Grand Lodge.  It's a huge affair and every year the convention is in a different city! We are our own very specialized road show. This year thousands of Elk´s visited Indianapolis, Indiana. Last year New Orleans and next year Houston, Texas!   I love going to the convention and I love working in the enormous convention booth of the 100+ year old Harry Klitzner Company with our team of product development experts, cashiers and salesmakers extraordinare..  H.K. designs and makes jewelry (costume and fine), elaborate custom pins, fashion accessories, embrodered apparel, fun t-shirts, stationery and car accessories for the Elks with Elk personalized custom designs.  

My duties include greeting the extra FRIENDLY Elks and the hundreds of Exalted Rulers, Officers, State Deputies and National Officers year after year. I also help them select some of our upscale fine watches, neckware and custom medallions.  

We have an ongoing and large clientèle 

I have been working the Elk's convention since my retirement which is now TEN YEARS ago.  It's fun and gives me at least one annual visit to my homeland. I often greet the same people each year from Elks lodges nationwide - Puerto Rico, Hawaii and beyond!  I've made many friends. The Elks, both male and female these years, are a very happy crowd and they do great service work in each of their individual communities, districts and states. Somehow these successful Elks members work together, continue meeting together, build membership together and they HELP OTHERS and HAVE FUN too (and they do, trust me).

One week in Indianapolis and our team finished with a grand and delicious dinner celebration! Compliments of Dean and Jill Klitzner and company.  

Thank you!

Onward I traveled to Orlando and I enjoyed a delightful visit, our annual get-together for two decades, after meeting one another originally when Kelsie Reed was assigned to the U.S. Embassy/Guatemala City.  It was wonderful fun seeing Kelsie, her son Sam (now a handsome young man) and their friend Ernest. Kelsie is a fabulous hostess and I have the same extra-comfy room in her lovely home every year...her enchanting home is located on one of the beautiful drives around one of the tree-lined lakes near downtown Orlando.

Thank you, Kelsie, you are a joy to be around in every way.

Kelsie, Sam and Leonardo made several visits to the local SPCA to interview/play with their immediately-to-be-ADOPTED DOGGER. They named him Louie and he is two year old (mas o menos) happy stray with wonderful manners!  All muscle, playful, beautiful and a powerful guardian. 

LOUIE/LOUIE is a champ!

Ten days later I went off for a week in Miami  (South Beach) and a comprehensive eye examination by Dr. James Banta at world famous Bascom Palmer Eye Institute.  My eyes  ¨examined¨ very well thanks to earlier surgeries at Vision Integral (Guatemala City/Zona 9 and los Drs. Hernandez, don Filipe y don Jorge saved my left eye). My California surgery last year saved my right eye (thanks to my niece, Jennifer Fisher, for finding a wonderful=brilliant=extra-capabable surgeon in Dr. Robert Wendel for 

A special thanks to Elizabeth Bell for her Southernmost hospitality and friendship.

Now I return you to my regularly scheduled reminiscing aka ¨The Otherside of the Volcano¨'s amazing (really) that I am still alive, about to be 72 years old and living so fully, happily and I enjoy most days that are filled with delight and adventure at the foot of the Volcan de Fuego, Sacatepequez, Guatemala! 

Gracias a Dios and to all of you.  I send you my love.

Pray for rain (or do a little rain dance in our honor)!


to be continued

Jun 9, 2015

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part Thirteen: ¨...throughout my lifetime, I have loved both ¨straight¨ and ¨gay¨ friends...I mix socially and integrate well emotionally.

Greetings From San Jose, California

Everywhere I looked there was mostly fun early to mid 1960's.  I was full of creative delight being a full-schedule Art Major at San Jose State and I was delighted with my ¨part time¨ job at L. Hart and Son department store, downtown San Jose, main branch.  My parents paid for ALL of my college expenses, all of them plus a weekly check would arrive for incidentals.  My ¨incidentals¨ were growing into weekly trips to San Francisco, bar bills, clothes, parties and restaurants. I used the extra money earned at Hart's to pay for my ¨entertainment¨ which was a never-ending event.  How many young, teen into early twenties, Gay men have their first dating experiences while making new friends and finding their way into learning how ¨to be¨ included in Gay and Heterosexual society?  I was lucky, I was given the gift of meeting people who added much to my school, work, social life...IMMEDIATELY!  New friends, just like me, seemed to be emerging all around me. Friendships flurished as people ¨came out¨ to one another, sometimes openly and sometimes secretly, but there we were, TOGETHER!  A huge new dimension of fellowship layered on in my life.  I would later know, throughout my life  I have had both ¨straight¨ and ¨gay¨ dear friends. I  am mixed socially and emotionally. I like being part of being integrated with everyone...but, it's true, LGBTI people are greatly admired by me.  We are quite the brave lot, we have positive tenacity and strive to survive ourselves and others (we always have).

Immediately I wanted to do a great job working at Hart's.  I liked retail. I liked waiting on customers and I was a good salesperson, stock person and make-shift display person too (we set up sales and rearranged/merchandised the floor continously with ¨best sellers¨ or featured ¨new¨ merchandise). The Divisional Mens Merchandise Manager was a seasoned New York/NYC department store executive, Harry Schlisky. He was brilliant stock/sales planner/lead buyer and his wife, Vivian,  was a ¨pottery maker¨ who was lovely, funny and a fully active artist. Some of us younger/student coworkers were invited to their home for meals and parties and they were gracious, ¨with it¨ and FUN! The Men's Furnishings Buyer was also a married man who I really liked working with.  Nick Marafino was a tall and dashing Italian-American who was loaded with merchandising talent and energy...lot's of wholesome energy. My job was originally working part time in the Mens's Furnishings Department,  Fall into Christmas Season 1962.  I worked 20+ hours a week and I worked extra hard because I wanted management to keep me on after the Christmas rush.  They did

BUSY/BUSY it was as Hart's Department Store as it was quite the volume operation and the weekly sales, door busters and moonlight madness, White Sales, Beauty Salon sales, Cosmetic Guest Stylists (Charles of the Ritz, Helena Rubenstein, Elizabeth Arden N.Y. salon representatives) and  special openings/etc., were wildly successful in this famous old downtown San Jose department store.  We, all of us, sometimes could only keep selling and we didn't have time to replenish the stock.  L. Hart and Son gave away S & H Green Stamps too. There were endless lines everywhere. The Giftwrapping department, Green Stamp redemption, downstairs restaurant...the place was a merchants delight.  Customers quite literally were backed up and waiting at the doors to enter most mornings.  Hart's was the #1 advertiser, always FULL Page Three, in the San Jose Mercury News (a Ritter Newspaper).  Customers raced accross the Main Floor after the BELL rang! Then, down the central staircase to the Home Furnishings, Gifts and Housewares and/or ¨Budget¨ Departments and U.S. Post Office branch or over to the bank of elevators that would take them up/down all three floors (and to a walk-up 3rd floor mezzanine too).  The place was like New York department stores on Herald Square...Macy's and Gimbels, but smaller.

Mr. Alex Hart, grandson of founder, Leopold Hart, was President of L. Hart and Sons.  He was a dignified, attractive and generous man.  He was our leader, a civic leader, we loved him and I think everyone did. He had many good and innovative merchandise ideas regularly.  I learned, I experimented and our sales went sky-high...profits too. Mr. Hart was a teacher to the young assistant buyers and held a weekly class in his stunning office (framed/signed and very personally dedicated photos from the STARS and a Zebra print sofa too)!  I was dazzled. He took us every week to the Garden City Hofbrau for lunch after our training session..delicious and just accross Market street.

 A.J. Hart II was one of the children of several generations of HART notable citizens who were admired for their hard work and generous donations as they helped build the thriving community of San Jose, Santa Clara county. Hart's was the biggest (and highest volumne) department store between San Francisco and Los Angeles!

Mr. Harts brother, Brooke Hart, had been the victim of murderous kidnappers years earlier in 1933 and I don't think Alex Hart ever recovered from the loss of his much loved brother.  Workers and clients at Hart's Department Store rarely spoke about the tragedy...never openly.  He mentioned it once to me. Some of the longtime Retail Clerks Union employees I worked with shared the events of 1933 with me...Brooke and Alex Hart and their sisters were loved by all and the community reacted passionately.

Within a few years I became first an ¨Executive Trainee/Mens Division¨ and later became Buyer of Stationery/Greeting Cards and Gifts at Hart´s while still attending Art School. Mr. Hart, became a friend. On ¨off duty¨ hours he became  ¨Alex¨ during the many elegant and fun dinner parties he hosted at his home off the Alameda and then the Rose Garden, San Jose.  Delicious moments in my young life where excellent food, beautiful table settings, cocktails before dinner and singing at the Grand Piano afterward were featured treats.  I became civilized (mostly) when dining at the home of Alex Hart. Alex was a very well known person-famous-celebrity and a gracious host too in Northern California.  Alex often had very famous guests, from retail world giants and famous movie STARS and others as his weekend guests.  Important film executives and other well-known professionals and politicos visited his home for parties.  Sometimes I would be included too.

I was often among several young people who were gifted with kind and welcoming invitation to his home for spectacular, large and small, social events that were way beyond-my-young-imagination (and everyday dreams of splendid/elegant living reality that included artwork by Picasso and other famosos and his home decorated by Hollywoods most famous interior designer to the STARS). I learned my very extra best manners, sense of style, merchandising savvy and the general way ¨to be¨ in my adultlife from Alex J. Hart. Today, again today I´m deeply touched and grateful because of the many kind and helpful words, acts and general ¨marketing¨ direction that Alex Hart offered to me. I remember well. 

Later in my retail progression, about two years after I moved away from San Jose and Hart´s, Mr. Hart discreetly supported my ongoing retail career by offering a unsolicited personal reference that resulted in me securing a very prestiges, BIG JOB at another Department Store in another city. As it turned out, Alex Hart was a very close friend/business acquaintance with the President of a chain of very fine/high-end fashion department stores, GOLDWATER'S/ARIZONA  (Associated Dry Goods) where I had been presented as a candidate for buyer. I got the job, it was a very ¨big¨ opportunity for me. I´ve never forgotten the many kind deeds of Alex Hart.

San Jose, California was/is a wonder of a place:

to be continued

May 25, 2015

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part Twelve: I learned from others. I learned through my personal experiences. I learned how to capitalize on my own authenticity

In the early 1960´s when participating in San Francisco nightclub nightlife it was quite an adventure for someone, me, who was not legally old enough to drink.  Gay Bars in San Francisco were mainly ¨protected¨ from the California State Department of ¨Equalization¨ or the local ¨Vice Squad¨ . They didn´t bother the larger Gay bars nor clients (much/mostly).  I remember the candidates for city office of San Francisco would come into the bars (with uniformed police escorts) and campaign during election times.  I liked that.  

My favorite bar was The Rondezvous on Sutter street. Upstairs/over a interior design firm. The Rondezvous was filled with hundreds of underage/undergraduate college students from the Universities in the San Francisco/San Jose Bay area.  There was always an older ¨friendly¨ doorman who checked ID´s (and he chose acceptable clients) but he didn´t check our ID´s...ever. Weekends (and sometimes during the week) were endless  college parties. Whopping fun Springlike vacations and many of us became close friends as we met in ¨The City¨.  We often met for dinner and/or brunch at Gay Restaurants like ¨Jacksons¨or ¨Gordons¨  (older men purchased drinks for us at Gordons) and we went to many parties before ¨going out¨ to the bars...we had after hours parties too. 

We, our group from San Jose State, became a larger group of friends after we encountered one another, SURPRISE¨I didn´t know you were Gay¨! We became pals with students from Stanford, University of San Francisco, University of Santa Clara, California at Berkeley and San Francisco State too.  Our own Intercollegiat dating games began and they went on for all of our College years.  

Many of us became close friends for life and our extended Gay family ¨friendships¨ grew up around those friends who gathered under the center chandelier at the Rondezvous.  I still celebrate some of those friendships today and those ¨first¨ Gay brothers became the solid foundation for a life, not a lifestyle, that would extend up to this day as I write this.  I love my brothers both now and before now.

I extra appreciate my early exposure to Gay life in San Francisco because there had never been any clear understanding for me (or anyone else) of ¨how¨ it would be to live and survive (myself and others) as a ¨Gay¨ person in a still non-inclusive (mostly) culture. I discovered how to live a productive life. I discovered how ¨to be¨ exactly who I was/am (almost) in the dimension quite apart from the heterosexual majority.  

I learned from others.  I learned through my personal experiences how to capitalize on my own authenticity and personal talent as I shared ¨secrets¨ with other Gay young men who intended to LIVE and not be denied their part at all levels of everyday life.  We would survive until the ¨Gay Cancer¨ took many of our friends and loved ones in our mid 30´s into 40´s.  

AIDS became a deadly dread as we faced it, campaigned to raise funds/awareness to stop it, became of service to oneanother along with the support of our beloved ¨straight¨ friends and families. We would love one another, mourn one another and some of us would survive the tragic time and tell you what it was like and who we loved and lost to AIDS.

I am jumping ahead in my story again.

to be continued

Apr 14, 2015

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part Eleven: Drinks, Dinner, ME? (whatever happened to the Tonton Macoute)

Our trip to Haiti (my first of two) included Voodoo rituals 
His name was Ron.  Ron was married and finishing up a Masters program at San Jose State.  We worked together in the Men's Furnishings department at L.Hart and Son, part time student employees, both.  Ron was a very enjoyable person - intelligent, handsome and he made friends easily and most people found him extremely appealing in every way.  I liked him as a friend.  He and his wife lived at the Spartan City which was a special community of bungalos for married students. Spartan City was away from campus and near the stadium.  His wife was getting her Masters too, they were both finishing up their time at San Jose State.  They would soon head out for training and then Peru . They were among the first volunteers accepted for the Peace Corps.  President Kennedy's Peace Corps. Everyone loved our President and First Lady Jackie.  Ask anyone.  

One of Ron/Wife family members owned a cabin in the moutains between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz, and one weekend, after working on Saturday, Ron invited me to go to Santa Cruz for dinner.  Dinner and then stay overnight at the cabin as his wife was working and out of town on a field trip.  ¨Sure¨ it sounded we went.  First dinner with lots of drinks and then my car weaved our-much-lost way to the cabin for sleep/pass-out.  That's what I thought was happening. I was wrong.  This *situation* was about to become the first time in my life that I was actually in a very awkward sexual exchange that I didn't expect (or want) to happen.  I was drunk.  I was in the middle of the woods in a little cabin somewhere and I didn't want what was staggering my way.  I was genuinely shocked. There was strong insistance and some weak resistance.  I didn't like it at all.  Not at all.  It was over fast. I was embarrassed. I was not stimulated but that could be blamed on the booze? Yes, no? Never happened before! Yes! I blamed it on the booze and that was the one and only time my friend and I engaged in sex and we never discussed *it* again...Ron soon graduated and off they went. Hasta la Vista.  (I self-apologized but felt shame for doing something that I thought I ought not to have done...was I a quirky homosexual prude or a gay guy with good sense? Who knew? Not me) 

Two years later (lots of overseas air-mail tissue thin/four fold back and forth letters) we would become friends, in person, again. After Peru, after his divorce, Ron returned to San Jose, worked at Hart's again while applying for overseas NGO directorships and we rented a big old house on 4th Street...we had lots of after-hour parties there and that was during the time I met Richard (more later, but he often left boquets of flowers on my front porch during the night - handsome/tall, too) my first, mutual, love blossomed...¨Oh, Sweet Pea, Won't You Dance With Me¨ (often dedicated to me as a song-of-endearment but it made me cringe and I loathed it). 

Ron received a very big job offer in the Dominican Republic and off he went after his nine month layover in San Jose.  I visited him the following Summer for a month. We partied hard and met lots of great people (and a famous young playright from New York who is still famous, more famous, but now exciting in a olderman way) in Puerto Rico and then we traveled back to his lovely/rented/paid-for home in Santo Domingo via Prinair (memorable only because the hostess served huge trays of sandwiches during heavy turbulence without a crumb lost).  It's in the hips

A week later we went to Haiti. Nobody was in  Port-au-Prince but Papa ¨Doc Duvalier¨ and the Tonton Macoute (one of the Tontons was to become our driver from airport arrival to departure) and slept in the car in front of our Hotel Castle Haiti.  We were the only guests. Our Tonton driver knew lots of colorful stuff and took us to places that I still have nightmares thinking about...he had a wrapped/bloody bandage on his upper right arm the whole time (I didn't ask and he didn't tell).  Every night we visited the patio and home (accross the street from the Main Cemetery/Zombies) of Papa Doc's official photographer and drank lots and lots of Rum and chipped ice off a block (like the olden daze)...we ate Conche meat snacks on white bread.  The photographers wife and daughters (presented the last night) were charming and fun and they were great hosts even in the dark as sometimes the city lights were blacked out....I think I'll have one more drink or two. 

Ron and I were to live together a few years later in Scottsdale, Arizona. He became a Probation Officer for Maricopa County, I was already a Buyer at Goldwater's Department Store (a division of Associated Dry Goods).  We were never lovers...we were good friends. As we Gay people say, we were ¨running partners.¨  Ron thought we were a pair of Sebastian Dangerfield charactors out of¨The Ginger Man novel he prized...I didn't agree. However, there was, in fact,  a allnight party we hosted in the middle of Summer for a young, handsome and non-fictional Marquis from Spain (Ron met him on an earlier trip to Europe), that party, was as bazarre and decadent as any wild party would ever be.   A sort of desert studio 54 right there on our leased acre out  among the Saguaros.  I think Fellini ought have directed it. I passed out early/went to my bed at 3:00 A.M., afterall,  I had to leave on buying trip the next day...oy vey. A young woman ran through our arcadia glass sliding door around 4:00 in the morning and they rushed her to the hospital and reattached part of her nose. I didn't know. 

Our friends Richard (yes, Mr. true love-flowers-on-my-porch) and Albee were visiting from San Jose. Richard was my first lover and all previous ¨love¨ for one another ended that night behind the Camelback mountain when I encountered Richard with a handsome young guest of a guest of mine. The dried-up arroyo ran behind our house seemed like a good place to say adios to Richard for betraying me (again). There was lots more  on the free love (make love not war)  front in those days/daze. It was still the sixties and Janis Jopin/Jimi Hendrix still survived .,why ought not we? Some did, some didn't, more later.  Ron didn´t a few years later. One interesting, to me today, party detail, is that one of my beloved longterm friends and coworker from Goldwater´s was at the party that night/morning with her husband...I remember we had a great time dancing the night-into morning away. 

(Today she is a facebook friend whom I still adore...she probably could tell you more)

I´ve jumped ahead.   

One morning I woke up in my lower bunk in my bunk bed at Ana's Non-Greek All-Greek Boarding House.  I was hung over and late for class.  My clock radio had gone off and I was fighting to stay in bed.  I heard the radio ¨The President has been shot¨...over and over again.  I didn't know what they were talking about and was wondering ¨President of what¨?  It was President Kennedy and he was in Dallas and I leaped out of bed as I heard ¨The President is dead.¨  The world became silent and all the classes were cancelled at school.  We wandered around staring into space.  No one said much.  Maybe nothing at all...the television had updates showing Vice President Johnson being sworn in and Jackie standing in her blood drenched suit.  We, every person I met, were silent.  That evening I went downtown to the ¨Crystal Bar¨. ...there were a few scattered customers seated down the long bar.  Craig the bartender was on duty and gave us free drinks.  The guy I was sitting next to turned and said, ¨I feel like I lost my best friend..¨  That was it. I said nothing, I walked home.  The world and our hearts had stopped and it/they remained that way for a while. (I can still feel the pain if I pay attention to the innermost spirit inside of me).

to be continued 

Mar 14, 2015

THE OTHERSIDE OF THE VOLCANO - Part Ten: My favorite cousin is dying. We just now laughed together on the telephone and said our goodbyes. I love him.

Leonardo y cousin Ricardo. BONUS! We´ve always accepted one another as we really are!
Remembering.  Wondering.  Wishing I could change some *things* that I can not.  What a waste of time! Wishing I had been less frightened about my sexuality and more open/willing to receive love when, in truth, I was literally avalanched with much kindness and love since birth. Gay or not, ready or not, I was ashamed of who I was.  Go figure?  Did public opinion drag me down?  Not much.

In this part of my story I will mention that I always drank a lot as a late teen until I was 35 years old and abandoned the hooch.  Drinking alcoholicly impacted my choices heavily in the first half of my life.  I always drank too much whenever I had the opportunity to drink at all.  That would include drinking left over drinks when my parents and their friends were at the piano singing ¨Let Me Call You Sweetheart¨ down in the recreation room, post dinner, when I was a child. 

After arriving at college at San Jose State I drank regularly.  Regularly meaning at least a couple of times a week, at night, after school or after work.  Drinking many drinks nightly as of the Fall of 1962 into the year 1963.  I'm not going to turn my personal story into a drunk-a-log but I can´t pretend my life is/was any different than it was/is.  I strive for a clear view of my very own reality because I have a tendency to pretend it is nicer/better/prettier than it is (or worse than it really was). I am now 71+ years old, I have been alcohol free for more than half or my life and I am the the person I think I was intended to be.  Quite a trip so far.  Reality just takes some getting used to.

I just NOW spoke with my favorite cousin.  He is dying of congestive heart failure.  He lives with one of his children in Texas. He has hospice care call on him daily. He is going to be moved shortly to ¨special¨ care facility soon. We, really, just a few minutes ago,  were laughing about ¨how could you ever end up in Texas?¨ He said, ¨I´ve lived here for ten years now and I still haven´t found much.¨ So there you have it, we are Pacific North/Westerners all the way through until death do we part. Even far/far back in our memories where the pine trees grow all the way up the steep mountains and where the cold delicious water flows. I can taste it. We hiked a lot. I know he can taste the pure mountain water too.

I love my cousin. I was Junior Usher in his wedding when I was 16 and he was in his 20´s.  He had just returned from Germany where he served as a MP (Military Police, not Member of Parliament). He was/is a giant and muscle bound guy and I never stopped being his ¨little cousin¨ ...including right now on the telephone.  Nice. We didn't really get any older, I just found that out.

We have always lived far away from one another.  He's had two families and many children.  He and I are very close in some kind of deep-down spiritual (not to be confused with religious) way. Best of all, bonus, we always accepted one another as we were/are: Different from each other, but  very/very entertained by our differences. Laughing, loving, free and glad.   Lots of real life adventures, both. I love my cousin, Dick, who just announced to me,  not ten minutes ago, that ¨I am about to croak¨...then he laughed until he couldn´t talk any more.  Gasp (and his hearing aid fell out)!  ¨I love you¨ he said.  I said ¨I love you too.¨  We meant it, we always have.

A telephone call from Guatemala to Tyler, Texas...forever memorable in the very best way.  We didn't need to say much because we knew it all...already/anyway. 

to be continued