viernes, 29 de mayo de 2015

Stranger in a Strange Land...

Please forgive, but I'm doing some "over the shoulder" writing to catch those up about where I've been before I take off on where I am now and where I'm going.  Many friends have remarked that they feel as if they are in a similar position as I was in October 2011 and they would like to know "how I did it".  Short version: I just up and did it.

I never even bothered to look at a map to see how far Puerto Rico was from the mainland. Once I was in Miami International, I did see a map, but by then, it was far too late to change my mind.  I had known for years that I was always coming to a Spanish-speaking country and, in my moment of decision, this was one where I didn't need a passport, which I didn't have at the time.  Now, to be fair, my kids were grown, I wasn't living in my hometown and I really had no "ties" to speak of in Georgia where I had last lived.  What I DID have was a ton of responsibility, very little compensation and a LOT of pressure to perform in my marketing/advertising capacity.  What I did NOT have was a love for my industry, which I had always held so dear.

Anyway...(as the awesome host Ellen DeGeneres says at the end of her credits), the point is I had to make a change.  Being the Sagittarius I am, it ended up being a drastic, poorly thought-out change; actually there was very little thought at all.  Here's what transpired.  I cashed out my tiny 401(k), packed some necessities (including the 1988 film I co-starred in, VHS format I can't even play and a DVD of "The Producers"), left behind suits, furniture, a car, etc.  I bought a one-way ticket to a place I'd never been, arriving with one week in a hotel - the charming Coqui Inn - with $600 in my pocket; no job, no family; no friends.  Scared to death?  Yeah.  But I kept falling back on the mantra that helped me make my decision.  If I'm gonna be broke, at least I can be broke in...ummmm...San Juan, Puerto Rico and be happier than this!

I had a dear friend named James who spelled the truth out to me years before that.  I was lamenting and hand-wringing about "this has to be done, that has to be done" and he said, "Michael!  Do you not realize that you are free to do anything you want to do at any given moment?  You can catch the next bus to Mexico and leave Louisiana forever if you want.  You just have to be prepared for the consequences."  Truth, James...truth.

That may have been the best advice I've ever received.  The important part of that is "you have to be prepared for the consequences".  In this case, I was finally busted down to a scenario where there was no Mom and Dad, no benevolent employer, no church, no one to lend a support system.  For the first time ever in my spoiled-brat life, I was reduced to the sauce that is actually me.  What a blessing that was!

I promise God had a hand in choosing my destination (He knew the map much better than I did).  Friendly people, metro vibe, music, inexpensive's all available here.  The beach, ocean and weather are honestly secondary, but, wao, do I love 'em!  I built my own business as a voice actor, found a really nice Mom-and-Pop radio station to fall in with and, while I can't impress you with my car, or my house, or my wallet, or my TV, I've never been happier in my life.  More to come, thanks for reading!

P.S. Waaaaaayyyyy back in 1993 - I wrote the best song ever in my life, which actually had a forecasting of things to come (listen to the waves) - you can hear my band "infinity Over Zero" and my life's theme "Lemmings/Tea Time" here:

An added bonus track with a dear Nicaraguan friend of mine, Josh Hernandez from 2011 follows - now, don't say I never gave you anything!  Peace and LUVS!

jueves, 28 de mayo de 2015

So, now...where were we...oh, yeah!

So, just as an old friend can pick up with another after years have gone by, I offer this recap.  When we last left our unsuspecting hero, he had baptized himself in the Atlantic Ocean at precisely 11:11:11 AM on 11/11/11.  He had found a recording studio at WQII-AM in San Juan, still with no permanent residence or much else in the way of material things.

First, I owe credit and thanks to the gentleman who asked me to tell this story. He is a motivational speaker and feels that I may offer some measure of inspiration.  You may be the judge on that point.  His name is Eric Watts, Eric Ejw Watts on Facebook or @WordTalkPro via Twitter, also by searching Google, etc.  Eric, thanks for the uplift!

Next, I owe answers to the recurring question: how did you have the guts to make such a bold move; to reboot your life?  I'll be completely honest.  I felt like I was acting out of fear and cowardice, not courage.  One particular conversation with my son tipped the scales.  I told no one of what I was contemplating...just abandoning USA life and hitting reset.  I DID call my son and daughter.  My son asked the burning question, to which I now set before you..."do you wanna wait until you're 75 to do something about it, and shuffle along in your walker at the beach to say 'hola, chicas, como estás?', or do you wanna go while you can still do something about it?"  Point taken, sir.  The coward got on the plane.)

Here is the Grand Truth that I had failed to realize: I wasn't running FROM something (my belief at the time), I was running TO something.  I didn't even bother to look at a map to see where Puerto Rico was until I was at Miami International Airport, with no possible way to return.  It was either continue on that voyage or be a homeless guy in the terminal.  I got on the plane.

The question continued to arise beginning about three months into the experiment, "how did you have the "GUTS" (paraphrased for gentle readers) to just rebuild your life like that?  I'd give ANYTHING to be able to do that!"  Oh, really?  It is indeed possible, maybe easier than you think, but in a 3 1/2 year look over the shoulder, that's easy to say.  All I really needed was the support of my grown son and daughter and a kick in the pants.

So, saving lots of little anecdotes for future blogs, here's the deal.  My life was never made for the consumption of creature comforts.  I've ridden in a car maybe 20 times in the last 3 1/2 years; I've driven precisely 3 times - I walk a mile to my studio each day and a mile back to the apartment, which has no air conditioning.  Anybody remember when, in the US, houses were BUILT to accommodate air flow and a nice breeze?  The days of the attic fan and jalousie blinds and kind porches?

Here's my ultimate truth for this story - I was never meant to be defined nor built to be beholden to material things.  Does someone have a bigger car, a bigger TV, a bigger house than me?  It's quite likely.  I'm of the firm belief than, upon my transition bed (i.e. "death" in popular terms), I'm not really going to care about those.  I will, instead, embrace the great conversations, kisses, hugs, arguments, etc. that I was able to encounter on this wonderful planet.  Again, Eric, thanks for yet ANOTHER "kick in the pants" to begin this story!  I look forward to speaking with you all again, soon!

lunes, 14 de noviembre de 2011

Blogs, frogs, dogs, planes and buses...and chickens = Brave New World

OK, now, the blog is easier to find at  So, if one came to San Juan to write, I suppose one must write, or the whole adventure is wasted.  Thus, it shall not be.  In an effort to hit the "reset" button, it became apparent that 11:11:11am on 11/11/11 was a moment that should not go to waste.  Fortunately, my dear friend, Andrea Hildebrand, answered this question, "what will you be doing at 11:11:11 am on 11/11/11?" with this answer - PRAYING!  I was struck by the simplicity and the magnitude of her answer and decided that was an excellent idea.  As God should have it, my version of that was neck deep in the Atlantic Ocean, completely immersed in His creation. 

Nothing can be verblized for that, other than the internal cleansing that it provided. It was (no pun intended) too deep. If I had wondered about all the chances and perceptions that walking on the highwire with no net had provided, they were pretty much set aside at that point.  There are so many people that I care about and so many reponsibilities that matter deeply to me.  I am still a little amazed that I had to take such drastic steps to be able to do right things, but I am now more certain than ever that doing the first right thing, getting on that plane, was indeed "the first right thing".

At any rate, my view is from the 16th story of a condo on Calle De Diego.  Today, I learned (way more than I had planned) about the train and bus system in San Juan.  Cancel your fears - it's CLEAN, it's FAST and it's ON TIME!  And for $7.50, you can go every place you want to go for a week!  I have never had the chance to be a train/bus person, and I will readily admit that doing so in a 2nd language presented its challenges, but I DID IT!  The system works, people are nice, and I don't mind walking out of the way when I'm too dense to follow or understand directions.

So that's trains and buses.  Frogs, as the Coqui has been discussed, continue to provide a sweet song from dusk until the wee morning hours.  Being on AST (Atlantic Standard Time) my clock is somewhat out of sync.  I finally saw the sunrise this morning, but it was before 6!  By 7 at night fuhgeddaboutit, it's dark!  But the Coqui is a nice indicator that you are indeed in the right neighborhood and on the right path.

Dogs.  Damn, but if everybody doesn't have one.  Had I known, I'd have made Dixie my carry-on.  One lady, as I may have mentioned before, brought her Pomeranian in a baby carrier on the flight from Miami to SJ, which was all cool until we descended.  Note:  teach your dog to chew gum or its little ears will pop and it will express itself in a most unpleasant matter (diplomatic enough?)

Chickens.  Damn, but if everybody doesn't have one.  I have NEVER been in a city as cosmopolitan as San Juan.  Millions of people, the 5:15 train was full of life, medical professionals, university students arguing over test questions...but from 3 in the morning until noon (and it's best to sleep with the windows open), you hear rooster after rooster after rooster.  Even in this 19 story condo, there are chickens in the courtyard.  CHICKENS!  It rains at eye level.  Airplane passenger can wave at us.  I can see Lake San Juan and the Atlantic Ocean and TALL buildings as far as the eye can see and there are CHICKENS!

And, despite all doubts, I did manage to find a radio station to get some studio work done.  Wonderful people, Manuel, Jorge, Edil and Ofeila with  Ismael gets the credit for that; having run by the station downtown and literally saying "there's one!".  And thus, the studio career continues and keeps the little ship-of-state going.

I'm reasonaby certain few are reading this, which is A-OK.  Lisa taught me that the creation of the art is the art.  Its observation is merely lagniappe.  Blessings on your heads (which Dana Keith is helping me work on in Spanish).  Love to you all!

jueves, 10 de noviembre de 2011

The Shoe is on the other foot...

So, for all the noise about immigration in the United States, a question to ponder:  what if, all of a sudden, you found yourself in what you would consider to be exactly the opposite position?  What if you found yourself surrounded by "exotic" surroundings, foods, smells, architecture, languages, culture?  What would it be like if you woke up one morning and nearly everything you had packed away as "the way things are" had suddenly been yanked out of the forefront of your reality into the background?  Five days into that experience (without proper photos, I regret), I begin sharing that right about...NOW.

I'm staying at the most laconic spot in all of Isla Verde, Villamar, San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Barefoot in the lobby is cool.  The high temperature is 87...every day...without deviance.  Conspiracy theorists about weather control...tighten your tinfoil hats!  Some days it rains with the most delicious can look at the radar and see a huge blotch of green cover the entire Island.  They don't do a flash flood warning..,.it's an Aviso de Inundaciones...yep, your roads are about to be inundated by a big ol' bunch of water!  There's a local frog here, the Coqui, named for its sound (ko-KEE!).  It's rather high pitched and sounds like a Bobwhite kinda.  Which oddly enough, I had been thinking about in the weeks prior to my departure.  (When's the last time I head one?  Can't recall...).  So now, the Coqui calls at night with almost the same fervor as tree frogs in Louisiana, without the insistence.  The Coqui has a sweet song, not a song that just reminds you of how hot it is.

So, back to the shoe on the other foot.  I guess when a Latino comes to the United States, it must be pretty hard.  You speak Spanish...a little English...and everyone around you speaks some kind of English, but virtually NO Spanish.  Here, almost EVERYONE speaks pretty darn good English, especially in Isla Verde, cuz it's kinda tourist-y.  I've met maybe...3...people who don't really speak much English.  So the American version of "bilingual" (which I had quite the rep for) is LAME compared to the Puertorriqueno version.  Makes it a little tough on the job front for me...but every day I wake up is a chance to fight another day.  So far, so good.

Oddly enough, the other language I run into (and thought I had FORGOTTEN) is French.  I've had to use it more times than I would've thought, particularly with newcomers to the hotel.  Once I can stutter my way past thinking in Spanish, I actually remember the stuff; even walked a family to the closest restaurant, because no one else could tell them anything!

Here we are on AST time.  When you hear 9, 8 central...that means it will be on TV here at 10.  So when it's 10 here, it's 9 EST, 8 CST and 7 MST.  And they NEVER change the clock an hour forward or an hour back.  I've tried to get up to see the sunrise, but it's already in the office by 6:00am.  It's dark by 6 too, which makes my diurnal clock start to fade around 9.  Not exactly the life of the party.

I did better last night.  Went to La Plazarita in Santurce with Ismael, Cari, Gian, Rafa, Genesis and Natasha.  She just came in from Slovenia and hadn't even been on the island 20 hours...and off to the restaurant with her!  Young people get all the breaks.  The first day I was here, Wendell wanted to go to the beach, but it was like "Take the T-5 and then make a transfer until you get to the train station Parada Corazon and then we'll txt you on how to get here".  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

OK - enough for the moment.  Lisa told me to blog about the whole thing and, true to my nature, I'm late getting started.  But LOOK, I DID IT!  And so now I'll keep up with it.  Great suggestion!  More later.  Luvs and bye.