Sunday, October 24, 2010

Church re-Dedication

I tend not to be very public about my religious feelings. I'm catholic and we tend to be quite like that. One of my favorite Bible passages is Mathew 6:6.

We belong to St. Callistus. The church had fallen into bad repair, and it was becoming out right dangerous. Our Pastor Jimmy rallied the parishioners. During a time when many people are trying to keep from loosing their homes, they came up with the all the money needed. That meant that we did not need go get a loan from the Diocese of Oakland.

Today was the re-dedication of our church. While we have had more than our fair share of issues; one area that Catholics excel is tradition and ceremony. Today was truly inspirational. When I entered the church, it had that "New Church" smell. This would soon be cured by a lot of incense.

The ceremony started with a procession of flags. There was a flag from 38 different countries, including Peru (my wife's family) and Germany (the place of my birth). After the flag procession completely left the church, the was a knock on the door at the rear of the church. The door was opened, and in entered a procession of alter servers, priests from all over and our bishop.

There was not an empty seat in the church. The church is large. There are four masses every Sunday weekend. A Saturday evening mass, and three on Sunday. We always have a very good turnout. One thing I have always been very proud of is how diverse we are. At one point in the mass a small prayer was said in a number of different languages including: English, Chinese, Tagalog, German, Spanish, Nigerian and more.

Lila sings in the choir. They did a fantastic job. The church looks beautiful. I remember talking to a priest one time when I was working at the Marriott hotel. He was there on a conference about church designs. He told me that it is important that a church is inspiring. Well, ours certainly is and this mass was amazing. I said a prayer about someone very special to me.

At the very end of the mass they recognized the "Pioneer" parishioners that were part of the parish when the original church was built back in the 1950's They were each presented with a special present by the bishop. Some special recognition was given to those who had gone above and beyond to make this happen. One very special thanks was to Father Larry Burns. He had said mass at our church for over 30 years. Today he is retired and in a rest home, but Father Nick was good enough to bring him. Our parish gave him a standing ovation that lasted quite a while. Afterwards there was a long line of parishioners to wait their turn to thank him, and wish him well. Both Lila and Ceci had served as alter servers for Father Larry.

Thank you Father Jimmy, you really hit a home run. A Grand Slam Home Run!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


My first memories of being in a car were when I was 2 years old. My parents had a Volkswagen bug from the late 50's. I am assuming that it ran on 6 volts. What I remember most is that it had a reserve gas tank, so that when you were out of gas in one tank, you could turn a lever and it would switch over to the reserve tank. I thought that was so cool. The other thing I remember is that it was a rag top. My dad loved to drive with the top down. I was not so fond of it. You see we lived in an apartment off of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California. When they drove around, I was often in the back seat freezing. Having the rag top down, was probably very comfortable in the front seat, but a blast of cold air was hitting this little kid who frequently wore short pants in those days.

My brother Dave was born in San Francisco. My folks saved up and bought a home in Hayward, where my sister Susan was born. By this time, we had a second car. I believe it was a Ford Galaxy 500 provided by the company my dad worked for. My dad was transfered to Glendora, California, where my brother Bob was born.

My mom drove the VW and we all piled in. No seat belts, no laws. By this time the heater was permanently stuck in the on position. Mom would go shopping with all of us. There were kids and groceries everywhere. Sometimes I would sit on the floor in front of the front passenger seat. Was I really ever that small?

Our family grew, and my grandmother bought us a brand new 1970 VW van. It was fire engine red. The VW Bug went to my cousin Nancy. Our family went all over in that VW van. One summer we went all the way across country and visited family in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York and Oklahoma. I will never forget that trip.

My sister Becky was born. She never knew the original VW bug, but she sure new the VW bus. I graduated high school and the day after we moved to Pleasant Hill, in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was my 18th birthday and my present was a 1966 VW bug. This one used to be my cousin Nancy's, but it was not our original bug. I was so excited to have my own car. It was six volts and it was mine.

It was time to retire the VW bus. Our family bought a new blue VW Vanogon. I moved out on my own. I saved my money and bought a 1974 light blue Super Beetle. I loved that car. I got married and bought a white 1968 VW Bus. Carmen camped in that VW Bus in Reno and Las Vegas. With the arrival of our first born Lila, we decided that we wanted a new car. A car that we would not have to worry about breaking down, so we bought a brand new white VW Jetta.

The 1968 VW bus was at it's end. My mom wanted a new car and sold us her Vanogon. We got a lot of mileage out of that Vanogon before it was retired for a Van Conversion. The Jetta was replaced by another Jetta with air conditioning.

I have this friend named Josh. He drove around a blue VW bug that he bought from his dad. Josh's dad had bought the car new. When my sister Susan needed a car, I arranged for her to buy his 1968 blue VW Bug. My sister drove it for years. Eventually, she was ready for a new car and I bought the 1968 VW Bug. Ceci was born. My mother-in-law drove it the Bug. She took the kids to school, went shopping, but eventually it became time to buy a new car, a Saturn. The deal was, I would pay for the car as long as we could keep the Bug.

In the meantime, had a sever sprained ankle. I was in a brace for months. It was not able to drive a manual transmission, which the Jetta was. I traded it in for a Ford Taurus, which we still drive to this day.

The VW Bug sat in the garage for years. One day when Lila was in high school, she decided to take an Auto-body class. She asked if she could use the VW Bug for school and I agreed. School was over and it was time to pick up the Bug. They had done a lot of work on it, but there was a lot of work still to do. It only had primer on it. Almost no breaks, the back window was out, no signals. It was dangerous!

At this point, Ceci was now driving and I needed another car, so instead of buying another one, we decided to restore this one. I drove it to Miracle Paint and then to La Vere's. La Vere's restored VW's. First was safety, breaks, lights ...etc. Then was the engine, upholstery, windows, bumper, a new stereo. It was nice. The front license plate had rusted and broken into pieces. It was the old Black and Gold License plates. I found a place on the Internet that made fake plates and had a replacement made. I drove that bug to and from work for years.

Like many we have fallen on difficult economic times. Money is tight. After we returned from vacation, I went to take the Bug in for a valve adjustment, tune up, oil change ...etc. When I went to drive the car, the only brakes that worked was the hand brake. It was a dangerous journey to La Vere's. With the brakes, I knew the bill would be a lot, but when they called me, the estimate was very high. Too high. There was much more than brakes that needed replacing. Most of the car was over 40 years old.

Sadly, I called my wife and we accepted that we could no longer afford this car. I sold it to the mechanic for much less that I care to admit to. We are not replacing this car. We are simply learning to live without and work with each others schedules. Times are not what they once were, but we all miss that Bug. That car had only known two families.

A friend told me I would regret it. I did immediately, but I had not choice.

So long Buggie...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Venezuela Vacation 2010

Back in 1981, I was working at the Hotel Durant as a front desk clerk. Two ladies from Venezuela checked in. Olga, was in 40's and her daughter Otibel was 21, same age as I was. In fact they had checked in on my birthday.

Olga had come to Berkeley to study at the University. Otibel was sent by her father to keep company and take care of her mother, as well as study English at the University. Eventually they moved into an apartment. During their one year stay, we all became very close.

After they returned to Venezuela, I visited them two years in a row. Once for one month, the second time for two weeks. Otibel's family was very nice to me. They treated me as a part of their family. On the last trip it was clear to me that things between Otibel and me were not to be.

After a time I met Carmen. We got married. I thought the right thing to do was to stop all communication between myself, Otibel and her family. After 26 years past, I got a request from Otibel to be her friend on Facebook. WOW, after so many years.

I accepted her as my Facebook friend. Months pass, and Otibel announces that she is getting married. She invited Carmen and myself to the wedding and even asked me to perform their wedding ceremony.

So off to Venezuela we went. Carmen admitted afterwards that she was very nervous, but as soon as we arrived Carmen and Otibel became fast friends. We spent much of the time preparing for the wedding. It was really a lot of fun. We stayed with Otibel and her fiancée in their apartment. Even though they were so busy, they always managed to do something for us. Whether it was to visit Hatillo, an old colonial town or visit their beach house. They took such good care of us.

One of the first things they did was take us to the house of Otibel's parents. I regretted not having staying in touch all these years. Earlier in the year, Olga almost left us. She is now permanently on oxygen. The hugs were long and intense. Her husband Paco had suffered a stroke some years ago and he was very emotional at seeing me after so many years.

As I said earlier, they had always treated me as family. I always thought it was because we were friends and that they were just kind because I was so young, but Paco explained it to me. His wife and only daughter were away in a foreign country thousands of miles away. I had taken care of them, protected them. I had never thought of it like that. His eyes were full of tears as he hugged me. For the first time, I understood really why I was part of their family. It took 26 years for me to understand this. Now it was all clear. I will filled with a wave of emotion. It was all I could do to keep control.

That day at Olga and Paco's house was fantastic. I had so many wonderful memories in that house. Otibel's brother Felix, his wife and two daughters were there. It was great to see Felix after all these years. He is like a brother. I feel sorry for Felix, because his daughters are too pretty! I think he needs a shot gun.

Felix was the master chef that evening and he prepared a wonderful dinner.

All the days we were in Venezuela were a lot of fun. We tried different foods such as the tropical fruits Lachosa (papaya), nispero, guava, guanabana, guayaba, rinon (chirimoya), parchita (maracuya) and even a banana native to Venezuela. We tried different foods from Venezuela such as arepas, cachapas and hallacas.

I was to perform the wedding ceremony in Spanish. I had done this once, years ago. It is not easy. It you studied Spanish in school, take a lot at the text below:

Familiares y amigos
Les doy la bienvenida hoy a presenciar el matrimonio de Guillermo y Olga.

Han compartido y han contribuido con sus vidas en el pasado, y al presenciar la ceremonia de su matrimonio hoy , Guillermo y Olga Otibel piden que compartan su futuro.

El matrimonio es una promesa que han hecho en los corazones de dos personas que se aman y que lleva a toda una vida de compromiso. Dentro del círculo de su amor, el matrimonio abarca todas las relaciones más importantes de la vida. La esposa y el marido son amantes, maestros, oyentes, críticos, y los mejores amigos.

En la cuidad (see eww dad) de Caracas, en el cual Guillermo y Olga Otibel desean contraer matrimonio.

Si alguno de los presentes puede mostrar alguna causa (cow saw) justa de por qué esta pareja no puede estar legalmente unidos, ahora debería declararlo, o en el futuro, guardar silencio. (Pause)

Guillermo y Olga Otibel por favor, frente a frente se dan la mano y se miran mutuamente:

Guillermo aceptas a Olga Otibel como tu esposa para amarla, honrarla, y cuidarla, en las buenas y en las malas, y serle fiel hasta que la muerte los separe?

Guillermo repeta conmigo por favor:
Yo Guillermo acepto a Olga Otibel como esposa * y prometo amarla, honrarla, y cuidarla * en las buenas y en las malas * y serle fiel (Fee El) hasta que la muerte nos separe.

Olga Otibel aceptas a Guillermo como tu esposo para amarlo, honrarlo, y cuidarlo, en las buenas y en las malas, y serle fiel hasta que la muerte los separe?

Olga Otibel repeta conmigo por favor:
Yo Olga Otibel acepto a Guillermo como esposo * y prometo amarlo, honrarlo, y cuidarlo * en las buenas y en las malas * y serle fiel hasta que la muerte nos separe.

Guillermo y Olga Otibel se han prometido el uno al otro ser buenos amigos y socios en el matrimonio. Para hablar y escuchar, confiar y cuidarse unos a los otros, y apoyarse en la comodidad, y la pobreza , que se refuerzan mutuamente a través de alegrías y tristezas de la vida. Que la promesa de compartir sus vidas juntas con esperanzas, pensamientos y sueños esten siempre entrelazadas entre el amor que los mantendra juntos. Este Nuevo hogar que se construye este lleno de respeto y honor, paz, felicidad y amor.

El anillo es un símbolo de la unidad en la que sus dos vidas están ahora unidos en un círculo intacto; en la que, donde quiera que vaya, va a volver el uno al otro.

Guillermo repeta conmigo por favor:
Olga Otibel, te ofrezco este anillo como símbolo de mi amor y devoción

Olga Otibel repeta conmigo por favor:
Guillermo, te ofrezco este anillo como símbolo de mi amor y devoción.


Y ahora, que han hecho sus votos, cada uno con el otro, y han declarado los mismos por dar y recibir sus anillos

By the power invested in me by your friends from the state of California; and your friends and family here, I now pronounce you man and wife.

Yo los declaro marido y mujer.

Guillermo y Olga Otibel, se han besado una y mil veces, Pero hoy la sensación es nueva. se han convertido en marido y mujer, y hoy sus besos son una promesa.

Ahora pueden sellar su acuerdo con un beso.

Permítanme ahora presentar a ustedes la feliz pareja. La nueva familia Raven Ojeda

I studied night and day. Anytime we went somewhere, I took the print out with me and practiced the pronunciation.

We got to meet Guillermo's family. They could not have been nicer. We all became friends right away.

The day of the wedding arrives. The wedding was perfect. Otibel had worked so hard to make sure everything was just right. Otibel was a beautiful bride. Carmen was helping right down to the last minute. Otibel told Carmen that she had never had a sister... it was very emotional for both of them.

Otibel's aunt and uncle where there. I had fond memories of them and remembered their baby girl. Guillermo asked if I wanted to see the baby. I said sure and he introduced me to a beautiful 29 year old lady. It was so good to see them.

The reception was amazing. I have never heard of anything called the "Crazy Hour", but what an experience. I have never been to such a wonderful party. It was finally time to say goodbye. Otibel broke down in tears as she hugged Carmen. Carmen was fighting off her own tears and said "Don't do this to me".

Everyone was so wonderful to us, we can not thank them enough. I have to admit that I regret not having stayed in touch. Carmen and I have our Venezuelan family. We hope they can visit us sometime.

After the wedding we checked into a hotel. After all they were now honeymooners. The next day we all got together at Olga and Paco's. The last day in Venezuela, Felix picked us up at the hotel and took us to an amazing restaurant for lunch. It included four cocktails and a lot of meat, cheese and arepas. I get full just thinking about it.

The flight home was long. The memories will last a lifetime. I got back the family I had lost and Carmen gained a family. Both Carmen and I hope that the Raven Ojeda family will visit us in the USA and we look forward to seeing them again soon. Thank you so much. We love you!