I am, as of late, preoccupied by the passage of time. Tempus fugit weighs heavily on my mind on this, my 50th consecutive summer since my mom, my older half-sister, and I moved back to the United States after living for six years in Bogota, Colombia.
As you’ve probably noticed – if you are a Constant Reader of A Certain Point of View, Too – 1972 is a “landmark year” for me because it marked the end of what I call my Colombian Childhood and started me on the path that led me here, to a house in Lithia, Florida, 251 or so road miles from where I lived before.
When 1972 began, I lived in an elegantly furnished apartment in an upscale neighborhood in the northern part of Bogota, the capital of Colombia. My mom was a businesswoman in her early 40s; she’d co-owned a restaurant (La Rueda) with her older brother, my Uncle Octavio for a few years, then co-owned a restaurant called La Codorniz. On the year in question, I think she was involved in another establishment named El Tap Musical, but I can’t be sure.
Back then, my half-sister Victoria (aka Vicky) was starting on the long and winding road to a nursing career. She was a Red Cross volunteer and the Colombian equivalent of a candy striper in a Bogota hospital. She wasn’t in the apartment much during the daytime, and because I was a school-age kid in 1972, I attended Colegio El Nogal from 9 AM to 4 PM on school days, so our paths rarely crossed even when I was home after school.
By the summer of 1972, all that was in the past. After I suffered a cerebral hemorrhage shortly after my ninth birthday that March, Mom – under advice from my attending physician – moved heaven and Earth to make the transition from our admittedly cushy life in Colombia to a more modest one in Miami, the city where I had been born nine years earlier because, as Mom told me many years ago, the doctors thought that a kid with cerebral palsy was better off in the U.S. instead of in Colombia, which – they claimed – was lagging behind in the area of caring for disabled children.
So, 50 years ago, on July 24, 1972, I was getting used to living in a city where I barely spoke the language and the average daily temperature was in the high 80s during the day after six years in Bogota, a city that sits on a high plateau in the Andes Mountains’ Cordillera Central and where the average daily temperature in July was in the 60s in the daytime and the mid- to low 40s at night.
Mom was busy with the financial and legal aspects of buying the house at 1001 SW 102nd Avenue from an elderly widow named Eleanor Zimmerman, who was finding that the three-bedroom, one and-a-half baths single-story dwelling was “too much” for her to keep up on her own. Her next-door neighbor, a Puerto Rican woman who worked in one of Miami International Airport’s duty free stores, had already offered Eleanor a room, so moving would not be an expensive or disorienting process for the older woman.
I didn’t know it at the time, but Mom bought the house at Coral Park Estates for $31,000. According to the tax records on the Miami-Dade Tax Collector’s website, the sale was finalized on August 1, 1972. This, of course, explains why Mom left me in the care of her then best friend Carmelita Blasco, a Colombian woman who only a year or so before had married a Cuban truck driver named Norberto. Mom had to run errands from morning to the early evening, mainly to get all the I’s dotted and t’s crossed regarding the purchase of our house, but also to start buying new appliances and decorating the house prior to Moving Day.
I wasn’t the kind of kid that liked to be indoors all day, at least not on that seemingly endless summer of 1972. Thanks to that strange-to-me concept of Daylight Savings Time, I could play with my future neighbors’ kids till 8 PM; in Bogota, the sun sets shortly after 6 PM; in Florida, it sets around 8:20 on average in late July.
And even though I would not be functionally fluent in English until mid-1973 and fully conversational in the summer of 1974, I picked up the language quicker than I thought possible. This was because:
- Mom did not allow me to watch the Spanish-language TV channel WLTV (Channel 23) at all. She wasn’t mean about it, but she was insistent that I did not use “el Canal 23” as a crutch. She wanted me to learn English quickly so I would not have a tough time in school, and immersing me in the language, she thought, was the only way this would happen
- I spent a lot of time in the house (925 SW 102nd Avenue) of the Blanchard family – Charles “Chuck” Blanchard, his wife Sheila, and their two sons, Robert and Patrick Blanchard. Mom knew the Blanchards from the first time that we had lived in Coral Park Estates from 1963 to 1966, and I had dim memories of playing with my near-contemporary Robert (who is a year older than I) as a toddler. (Patrick was born in 1969, so he was only three years old when I met him,) Chuck’s mom was Colombian, so he spoke perfect Spanish (albeit with an American accent). Sheila did not speak Spanish, but somehow or other I eventually understood the gist, if not quite the specifics, of what she said to me
- All of the Cuban American kids on the block were bilingual, and once I met them, they spoke to me in both English and Spanish
Of course, by the time summer vacation ended – either in late August or early September of 1972 – I still did not understand a lot of English, but I was learning new words and new phrases every day.
I don’t remember being overly homesick for Bogota then. I did miss my grandparents and my mom’s two older siblings, and I also was happy that my half-sister was going to join us in Miami. And I sometimes wondered about the few friends I had made at Colegio El Nogal, although by that time the effects of my cerebral hemorrhage, combined with the sensory overload of so many changes in a short span of time, were making me forget names and faces. Fifty years later, the only students I remember from my school days at El Nogal are a pretty girl named Diana – I had an eye for the ladies even as a young boy – and a bully named Jaime. Everyone else I attended that school with is a blur clad in a blue-and-white school uniform.
Other than that, I was so busy getting acclimated to my new life in Miami that I rarely gave Bogota any thought.
I dimly remember fretting about potential hurricane strikes and the potential for encountering water moccasin snakes; we lived not too far away from the Tamiami Canal that runs parallel to U.S. 41/SW 8th Street, and Mom told me that water moccasins – aka “cottonmouths” – lived in the canal and its banks. I also worried about run-ins with alligators, but Mom told me that those were less likely to lurk in our yard.
Even though I had interests above my school-grade level in 1972 – I loved to read books about aviation, space travel, and my perennial favorite topics, military history and the Second World War – I wasn’t yet a news junkie. Thus, aside from the reports from Vietnam – where the American military involvement was winding down in advance of the peace negotiations in Paris – I didn’t know much about the Presidential election, Watergate, or even the difference between Republicans and Democrats.
I would, of course, learn all about those topics at the proper time, but not in 1972.
Before I Go….
Since I like Dr. PinkCake’s adults-only game Being a DIK a lot – even though I’m stuck on Chapter 4: When Worlds Collide, yesterday I threw caution to the wind and bought a sort-of prequel, Acting Lessons.
Set in the same universe as Being a DIK (which stands for “Delta Iota Kappa,” the fictional college fraternity featured in the game) but with a different cast of characters in a post-college environment, 2018’s Acting Lessons was the first game created by the Patreon-supported game designer known as Dr. PinkCake.
Like Being a DIK, Acting Lessons is a “visual novel” in which you are the story’s male protagonist (sorry, ladies, apparently Dr. PinkCake is male, so his protagonists are guys) and the choices you make as the story unfolds affect how the various characters perceive you. As with the more recent Being a DIK, Acting Lessons mixes a decent story with an actual, honest-to-goodness plot with some nicely rendered (but graphic) depictions of sexual activity. Not as numerous or as varied as in Being a DIK, but enough to pique the interest of gamers who seek adults-only content.
Because Acting Lessons has a less elaborate story and omits minigames and puzzles, I finished the game in four hours – two last night, and two hours earlier today. I theorize that this is because Acting Lessons was Dr. PinkCake’s first attempt to create a visual novel, so the person who did the design and wrote the script kept it simple before moving on to the more complicated Being a DIK.
If my blog were geared for adults-only audiences, I’d post some of the hotter screenshots I took last night. However, A Certain Point of View is, at best, rated PG-13 so I’ll just post some tame shots to give you an idea of Acting Lessons’ look.
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