Welcome Back . . .

Happy Friday, Y’all!

And as we do it around here, T.G.I.F.!  It’s the weekend again, Baby!

First of all, in the last piece about “3 Johns”, I had incorrectly named the hurricane that caused so much damage to my friend John Young’s apartment in Daytona Beach as well as threatened the safety of my other friend John Shelton who lives in Margate, closer to Ft. Lauderdale.  I mentioned it was “Wilma”, which was actually over 10 years ago, but the hurricane was Irma.  I stand corrected!

Coming back “stateside” was going to be a challenge I knew but certain things were unexpected.  You may remember the situation that occurred on the “4th of July” on Ft. Lauderdale Beach this year.  There was a motorcycle officer who sped by in the bicycle lane as the public transportation bus had dropped me and a French friend of mine off on the street side of the barriers placed by the City of Ft. Lauderdale for pedestrian safety.  As he sped by, he hollered, “Get out of the street!” to which I replied, “Where are we supposed to walk?”  He gave me a ticket for “walking in the street when a sidewalk was available”.  I submitted a “Not Guilty” plea to the ticket division of Ft. Lauderdale as well as information that I had already purchased travel tickets for a 3 month vacation in Europe.  I had also mentioned to the seargent with the “Internal Affairs” division of the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department during the complaint against the officer for what I considered “racial profiling” that I would be away for three months and to contact me by e-mail.  Needless to say, I never received any e-mails from Sgt. Coffin nor any other form of communication.

I had my mail placed in a “hold” status at my mailbox for me and E.E. and went into the Post Office on Wednesday when I returned from Barcelona.  I picked up my mail and went carefully through each piece.  There were no communications from the “parking division” and none from the Internal Affairs division.  However, there was a communication from the Department of Transportation from the State of Florida … stating that my license was suspended!!!  I was concerned because I had not only written a request for the ticket division to schedule the court date after October 17th, 2017 due to my already planned and paid for flight to Barcelona, but pled NOT GUILTY to “walking in the street when there is a sidewalk available”.  There were nor correspondences stating that there was a court date at ALL and not one communication from anyone … no one at ALL!  After carefully reading the suspension notice, I saw that the date was September 15th or so when the suspension went into effect!!  I left to go to Barcelona on July 19th so there was a two month time frame before any communication regarding my license was sent to me … and that said that my license was suspended.  So, in other words, over a two month period, the “wheels of justice” moved so quickly that there were “court dates” and activity but NOT ONE correspondence sent to me to inform me of the activity surrounding this ticket.  Now, I needed to rent a car when I returned “stateside” to move some things from Ft. Lauderdale to Daytona Beach … and … a license is needed to rent a car!  Once I got back to where I was staying, I called my traffic attorney firm that I have been using here in Ft. Lauderdale for over 10 years.  They informed me that … 1) a traffic ticket for walking in the street was issued to me and … 2) my license to drive a car … can be suspended for NOT SHOWING UP TO COURT!!!  Yet, there were NO correspondences from anyone regarding a court date nor attempts to reschedule or postpone the court date, as I had requested in WRITING from the Traffic Division.  So … “Welcome Back”!!

So, I paid for the attorney’s services to have my licensed reinstated by 3:30pm Thursday … so I could rent the car Sunday with a valid driver’s license …  It is one of the main reasons why I don’t have much respect for this system … the courts and police … because somebody is ALWAYS dropping the ball there and I am the one paying for everything resulting as a consequence of something that I “have no control over”.  It got ‘er done, I rented the car, packed up at John Shelton’s place, drove to Daytona and unloaded my belongings, drove back to Ft. Lauderdale Wednesday and hung out downtown before catching a 5:30am Greyhound Bus Thursday morning back to Daytona where my friend John Young picked me up yesterday afternoon at 1:30pm.  I just like “gittin’ stuff done”!  NEXT!

Have a great weekend!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

 

 

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Three Guys … named JOHN!

Yep, it’s Tuesday ….

Another day in “paradise”, you understand?!!  I am just sitting chillin’ at my friend John Young’s apartment in Daytona Beach, Florida.  Right now, he doesn’t have WiFi and is in a place that he was moved to after the damage and flooding caused by Hurricane Wilma up here.  I am fortunate to have a friend like John Young who was also the “best man” in my first wedding …  He was supposed to travel with me to Spain and Europe but decided against going because I had told him that I don’t want to come back to the USA!!  He’s got grandkids that he said he wanted to take to “Disney” … So, I went  alone.  We talked and I told him that I may have to come back, and asked that if I did come back, if I could stay with him for a while.  He agreed.  So, here I am … until I shape up my next trip, hopefully, to South America.

It was just last week that I arrived back in “The States”, and was picked up at the airport by another friend, John Shelton!  We know each other after a friendship in Ft. Lauderdale spanning about 7 years.  We call him “Johnny Ace” as he is the drummer of a band in the FTL called “Smokin’ Aces”.  He works full time during the day for the City of Margate.  We all hang out downtown at “The Original Fat Cats” and “Capone’s”, where I have been hanging out for 15 of my 20 years in Fort Lauderdale!  John Shelton is the kind of friend who, if you are stranded in Europe on your way to Paris by bus and have paid for ONLY your first night in a hostel, will put $200 in your account … until my pension payment came in!

Then there is me … John I. Cook … traveling around looking for an affordable city to retire in the world!!  Just recently, I had to take a step back as I am planning a trip to South America to look at Cost Rica, Ecuador and Colombia and noticed that we are “three Johns” … connected by ME!  The other two “John’s” don’t know each other though John Young has come to Ft. Lauderdale a few times … just never met the other “John”!  Pretty cool, heh!?  Maybe it’s just me and my appreciation of two “Johns” who are making my touchdown back here in the USA very “do-able”.  Meanwhile, I am fortunate enough to have a former student who lives in Colombia who not only owns a hostel in Medellin but has been “keeping an eye out” for affordable rentals in Medellin.  After renting a car in Ft. Lauderdale to carry some things up to Daytona to my friend John Young where I will be staying until I travel again … hopefully in November … I will be returning it tomorrow and catch a Greyhound back to Daytona Beach.  Still traveling … thanks to a few good friends … named “John”!

Have a great week!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

 

 

We Did It! “Th … Th … Th … That’s All Folks!”

 

It’s Monday ….

Can anyone say “Monday, Funday”?  Or was that yesterday?!?  Yes.  Today is my last day in Sabadell, Barcelona … Spain.  I was just watching the news here regarding the possible secession of Catalunya from Spain … So much going on “politically” world-wide.  Can you say, “Peace … be still …”?!

The trip has been wonderful … after arriving 3 months ago in Sabadell and taking on other countries’ borders and cities to enjoy a much needed trip.  I mean, before I knew it, I was back in Barcelona!  Valencia was probably where I relaxed the most … taking in the beach there – Malvarrosa Beach – and many of the tourist’s sights … as well as the “not so touristy” sights!  Going on from Valencia to Hamburg with a day lay over in Prague was quite an experience as well.  I met some of the nicest people and on one occasion, either a problematic person or a “stupid” person who gave me the wrong directions to an address that was right where I started when I got out of the train there in Hamburg where I asked him for help!  We’ll chalk that one up to experience because I should have looked around before asking someone where a street was … which was directly behind me!  Lesson: “Trust … but not everybody!”  Hamburg was also delightful with the new Philharmonic Hall and the Port of Hamburg, though I didn’t get to see a German friend who lives in Kiel, and, I was momentarily disappointed.  Life goes on …

Amsterdam was a place that I had never anticipated traveling to but had a “funtastic” time there!  The people were kind, the ladies were as beautiful as they were in Prague and Valencia, and I had two unexpected “dates” with people … one I hadn’t seen since leaving White Plains as a teacher!  The other surprise was from a woman who is a yoga teacher in Amsterdam but who knows an acquaintance of mine from Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  So, I had an unexpected dinner in downtown Amsterdam with a former student, Trevor Henry, as well as a boat cruise on the canals in that City’s lovely ambiance with Cheryl Nesbit.  Peaceful people everywhere!  I never intended to visit Paris … but I did!  I stayed there for like five days and enjoyed everything I could from the Eiffel Tower to Arc de Triomfe as well as a foot trip to “The Louvre” … I didn’t go in … I was too tired!  Shucks, I even saw the original “Moulin Rouge”!  I had some of the coolest room mates in the hostel there in Paris, co-ed type thing, and made some cool new friends.  Paris is truly a city with its own “style”!!  From Paris, I took a 12 hour bus trip back to Barcelona where I hung out another month with the same hostess I met when I had first arrived in Sabadell.  After a month or so of more sight seeing, I took off to Valencia again … I just had to see that beach one more time!  I stayed in the City … downtown Valencia … and got to see yet another aspect of this beautiful city!

So, now I am winding up two weeks here in Sabadell again with a cool hostess, Vicky Lao, who has her own Air BnB set up that functions pretty well!  I can tell you that I have had some meals here that she prepared that were superb!  After arriving back in Sabadell, I had the pleasure of meeting an older gent, a retired doctor, who was born in Spain but grew up in New York’s Queens.  We met at a health food store and became friends instantly.  He invited me on a trip to a place called “Costa Brava” which stretches from Catalunya in Spain to the French border where we had a day of relaxation, beautiful scenery and … some excellent food.  Thanks, Francisco!  Tomorrow morning, I will board the Delta flight back to Atlanta and finally to Ft. Lauderdale.  I will hunker down for a few days in the FTL and then probably on to Daytona Beach while I work out my trip to South America …

But for now, “That’s all folks!”

Have a great day and a greater week!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Notes on Sabadell, Barcelona, Spain

 

Happy Friday, All!

I must admit that I have a pretty powerful “T.G.I.F.” lined up for this morning!  Feeling blessed in many many ways … Peace be still …

Wednesday, I had some challenges getting the e-mail out to “The Family” and tried and tried to resend it to no avail!  Perhaps, one of the addresses was incorrect or perhaps someone doesn’t want to receive any more of them and had me “shut down”!  That’s “the conspiracy theory” about the e-mail disappearance … like in other parts of the world’s affairs!!  You can chuckle if you want because I am only kidding … conspiracy theory against John Cook … now THAT’S funny!

In my last few days here in Sabadell, which is like a suburb of Barcelona in the “famed” region of Catalunya, I have taken note of some pretty cool things.  Sabadell, in particular, is a family oriented “town”, if you will.  The people come out on holidays, like yesterday, and hang out with husband, wife, children and dogs and visit the restaurants that line the streets in the Centre of Sabadell near the mayor’s office, called The Ajuntamiento.  The seniors have their own center and living location with helpers always available.  Those senior citizens who are still able to walk the streets of Sabadell do so in couples … and hand in hand!  When I tell you that I have not seen a fight or an argument nor even a car accident since I have been here, I re-emphasize my level of seriousness.  The people are very civil … not looking for any conflict of any sort.  Yet, as one may note from all of the events surrounding Catalunya’s “independence” here of late, they are awake in the concept of “democracy”.  They have borrowed much of the flavor of movements started by Che Guevara and Martin Luther King, Jr. as they echo their desire for representation in the larger Spanish government … or separation!  There have been multiple marches and activities, the carrying of and waving of the banner/flag of Catalunya at events like the one I attended yesterday in downtown Barcelona at Plaza Catalunya.  The streets were shut down by the police, there were no incidents of “flag burning” or fighting, no throwing of beer bottles, cans or soft drinks.  There was just an orderly peaceful gathering of people who occasionally chimed in on a “Viva Espana” chant coming from an apartment window over looking the street or from a crowd of young people … male and female … touting the flags, faces painted red for the color of Barcelona … and absolutely NO VIOLENCE of any sort.  The environment is beautiful … one in which I could live … if it wasn’t so expensive for a single guy like me …retired and all!

Barcelona is a vibrant old style Spanish city with narrow streets that look like alleys where no violence nor robberies take place … day or night!  There is a very very low level of street mischief like prostitution or drug (marijuana) sales … No hard stuff anywhere though homelessness and “pan handling” are widespread in Barcelona yet non-existent in Sabadell!!!  The traffic is extremely orderly and there is limited honking of horns and NO … I said NO road rage anywhere!!  While I don’t particularly “knock” the USA, we are suffering from a lack of spiritual values … family and human values.  We applaud death and threaten each other on every front possible.  This leaves a society always “on the brink” of a disaster where someone “flips out”, be it a leader … or a citizen.  Life is “tight” … life is propelled by success and money, power and greed … control even.  The fabric of our society … is suffering in the USA.  It has been a great awakening for me to come to Europe … Spain to be exact … and see the family values prevalent that we once held so dear in the USA …

Just some notes …

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Keep Your Options Open … “Think Outside the Box”!

 

Happy Hump Day, Y’all!

How is everything going in your life today?!?  I hope it is going okay.  Yes, these are my last few days in Sabadell, Barcelona and I am enjoying it to the “max”!  Last week, I met a guy in a local “health food store” called “Superverde”.  He overheard the cashier asking me about my license from Florida and asked if I was from “The States”.  Turned out that he is a retired doctor with like two or three “children” who are also doctors here in Sabadell and one in Oxford, England.  So we chatted, we had lunch a few days later upon his suggestion.  We even met last night for a coffee where he invited me to a resort region called “Costa Brava”, which lies all the way along the Mediterranean from Barcelona to France!  We are going Saturday for a day trip … Imagine …  Just from a conversation about a driver’s license from Florida.  I am ecstatic and am looking forward to it.

My yoga teacher here, Magda Amour, has a son and a husband who admire anything “New York” … That would include me!  They had invited me to dinner Saturday, too, but I couldn’t determine when I will be back from “Costa Brava”.  We had talked about Friday but her son plays soccer/futbol and has a practice early Saturday morning and they don’t want to keep him up too late Friday night.  I told her that we could meet up for just an hour or so … just to meet.  That would be cool.  We’ll see.

Those who know me well also know that I am an adventurer … in Spanish … “adventurero”.  So, it wouldn’t be a surprise to you if I said that I am looking to retire in another country all together.  I am on the plan right now as I have learned throughout my years that when the motivation and connections appear, it is time to take action.  I had sent a former student a message last week about retiring in Colombia … Medellin to be exact … and she got back to me last night!  The information is astounding.  The cost of living is right up my “alley”, and, I used to live in Cali, Colombia some years ago … teaching English … so the culture is something I am familiar with …  I asked my friend how she compares Costa Rica to Ecuador and Colombia and she said that there is much more to do in Medellin.  In addition to my writing, those things may keep me alive longer … and the health insurance is better and more affordable than in “The States”.  So, I am keeping my options open … looking waaaay outside the traditional “box” of locations to retire for US citizens.  Can you blame me …. and only God knows how many other “ex-pats” there are who have retired outside of the USA … for wanting a comfortable and peaceful retirement somewhere?!?  If you can, I hope you stay in touch!!

Enjoy your Hump Day and don’t stay limited by “small thinking”!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Educational Excellence

Put Your Best Foot Forward . . . Follow Through!

It’s Friday, y’all … and you know what that means!

Yep! T.G.I.F.!!  Let me hear “the peanut gallery” chime in … TGIF!  Yes, yes … I got jokes … still!

Things are winding down for me as I get closer to returning stateside!  Making contacts with folks and getting flight information squared away …  And of course, yes … I don’t want to leave here for certain things I have experienced.  So, I guess I’ll have to take them with me!  I always try to take the best of any experiences with me as I had “taken them all in”, so to speak.  I try not to forget anyone or anything … because nothing happens by accident along this journey we call “life”!  A friend of mine from back in White Plains posted a video on Facebook on my inbox that showed a “white gent” trying to get a lesson across to a group of teens who were racing for a $100.00 bill.  Before he started the race, he had “a few statements” like, “If you haven’t had to worry where your next meal is coming from, take two big steps forward from the start line.”  Another one was, “Take two steps forward if you grew up with both of your parents, Mom and Dad, still married and living at home together.”  “If you’ve never had to worry about your cell phone being turned off, take two more big steps forward.”  By the time he had finished his “pre-qualification” questions, the start line had mostly “minority” children standing on the line and those who had a head start were “white teens”.  He clarified what he was doing and told the kids that this is how “life” is for the human race … some of us have head starts that have nothing to with “us”, nothing to do with decisions that “we” have made.  When and if one makes a serious effort to understand the inequities involved in this thing called “life”, we may be more conscious of the fact that “some of us” have an advantage and have been given a “head start” in this thing called “life”!  Introspection is a tough personality characteristic to obtain and is not one that many of us, especially in “the land of the free, the home of the brave”, could give two sh@ts about since “we” may have been given those “head starts”.  Now, no one is suggesting that you give away your “wealth”, if that is what you’ve acquired, but be more sensitive to those who have had disadvantages in their lives from the very beginning … through no fault of their own, oftentimes.  Thanks, Daryl Goodman, for providing me with that video.

Many human societies have turned “life” in to a race!  So, whomever finishes “first” gets what?!?  A better life … or death?!?  We can always share things that come with our “good lives” and good fortune, perhaps.  We don’t have to be selfish and “blame the victim” so often.  An encouraging word or two or even better … a helpful hand … not “hand out” … I said hand … is better than some “so-called” harsh words of admonishment!  I look at how and when “we” feel giving someone assistance is a “hand out” or entitlement or not!  I could carry on for hours with this one … I just think of our members of Congress and other political offices who get “the best health insurance for life” … even though they are not working anymore.  How about that six figure pension … or more … that some of them get every year for the rest of their lives even after they have stopped working.  I know, I know … many would say, “They deserve it!”  I would beg to differ …  Whether I can convince you or not that this is “in order” or correct is not important for me today.  I am stating this to encourage those who have been brought into this world that “life” is NOT a race or a game that you win or lose!!  Since I have been here in Sabadell, for example, I have not seen ONE car accident nor have I witnessed ONE “street fight”!  The people here are more laid back … more respectful of themselves and others.  They don’t cut corners or cross the street when the light is red … too often!  Those of us “born” with disadvantages can still put that “best foot forward” … even when others look “down” on you for not having what they have!  To me, it seems that “life” has a different definition for them here … It is to be lived heartily, shared with fellow humans (animals included often!) and that it is something to be enjoyed … by ALL.  When you’ve come up with so many “disadvantages”, people tend to look for opportunities to “take advantage” of other situations sometimes in an unhealthy or dishonest way.  That is also NOT necessary.  Put that best foot forward … and good things will follow.  Carry the “right” attitude about life and people who may be able to help you probably WILL help you!  And of course, once you get some help … follow through!

While I am well into my sixties, I have learned to loosen my grip on life.  I have learned to let the good things come … and the not so good things “go”.  I am always as humble and grateful as I can be when given assistance … and when NOT.  I try not to hold any grudges (besides, it is a waste of precious and valuable energy) and try to “keep it movin'” when I am not welcomed or appreciated.  So far, so good!  What thinketh you?!?

 

Have a great day and a wonderful weekend!

Peace,

 

John I. Cook, Director

“With the Power of Love, Anything is Possible!”

 

Happy Hump Day … I say today … pushing back tears for the injured and murdered in Las Vegas …

My first question is … How can so many “nutcases” … er uh … people with extreme mental challenges … have the opportunity to take the lives of so many innocent persons in America?!  When I look at the “big picture”, it seems like the USA is paying for something that it “did” in the past … Use your imagination and knowledge of history and you may arrive at the same conclusion.  Perhaps, not …

I grew up with musicians like Jimi Hendrix, yes, and I was a “hippy” (still am in many ways!) and I protested the war in Vietnam.  I got my education via scholarship at Princeton University at the same time.  Can you hear me say “thank you” to my Creator?!?  I say it everyday, multiple times each day … it helps keep me humble.  Some folks need to learn that ’cause they think that “they” are actually “gods” themselves … and can do and say whatever they want under the guise of “freedom of speech” … even if it hurts someone else.  Most of the time, I try to be a simple person … not ignorant … I said simple.  In other words, I endeavor NOT to complicate the simplest things in my life nowadays … like “truth”, “peace” and “love”.  I have had dear friends who had promised not to deceive me again, whom I trusted and whom I “was there” for as an ear and shoulder when times were challenging for them.  I had to learn that even “those” people … will not live up to their promises … Peace be still.  Thanks to My Creator, I had learned to balance myself within myself and not depend on what someone “said” to me during the moments that we were having a “heart to heart” conversation.  Some people will say, “Well, that’s life!” or “That’s only human!”  I say, that’s bull crap!!  There are some folks who are mentally unstable and NEED to be told the truth!  They can “flip” at anytime …  Be glad that YOU weren’t in “Vegas” when that hideous shooting took place …  Most of the time, people who have these acute problems and symptoms are known to have them by friends … so called friends … even professionals like doctors and psychiatrists/psychologists … husbands or wives, parents or siblings … even children!  Yet, “they” try to hide the truth … until something bizarre takes place!

In two weeks, I will be returning to the USA …  there are international laws that prohibit even Americans from “landing” in another country and just “staying there” as long as they want.  My trip began as a birthday treat/mental and physical health “retreat” and turned into a “lesson of life”!  You’ve heard the expression: “It’s great to go to certain places on vacation, but to live there is another thing.”  It’s true … because most tourists want to flaunt the fact that they are “tourists”, spend their money, request things of others because they have money, and then leave those same places without having appreciated the fabric of some of those societies and cultures that they have visited, especially the people.  In my journey, I didn’t just “touch down”, spend a day or two acting rich, then went on to my next destination for a couple of days with the attitude that “Hey, I am a tourist … I can act like this!”  Some tourists are indeed unreasonable.  I personally, like to hang out with “the people” of a country or city … take metros and trains, buses and walk while on vacation and retirement … even with two arthritic hips!  Shucks, when I was in Paris, I walked from my hostel to the Arc de Triomph and The Eiffel Tower, past Moulin Rouge and a couple of other cool places until I couldn’t walk anymore!!!  I sat down at a cafe, had a croissant and a fruit juice, rested my legs … and got on my path again.  On those same trains and at those tourist attractions, I had young ladies  as well as well as folks near my age offer to “carry my suitcase” up a flight of steps of the metro or pick up a coin that I had dropped while buying something from a vending machine.  Like I said, I try to keep it simple and not put on “airs” … unless forced to!

I can hear “Jimi Hendrix” now with Buddy Miles jammin’ the tune “The Power of Love” … Yes, I was a hippy … and still am in many ways.  I am fortunate that I have some friends who come through in moments of challenges in my life.  I love these friends, and they love me!  While in Europe, I met so many nice people who gave me directions to where I was going, some accompanied me, assisted me with my luggage and was even glad to see me on multiple occasions at the front desk of a hostel or residence where I was staying!  Yesterday, on my way back from Valencia to Barcelona on the bus, I met a young lady who turned out to be a doctor in Valencia who was on her way to Glasgow for vacation.  She actually invited me to sit next to her and explain a bit about “The Affordable Care Act”, known to many as Obamacare and clinched her teeth when I described how it works and whom it covers.  She was in shock that the current president wants to get rid of it and is doing everything he can to curtail its existence … as well as the existence of the people who may rely on it!  I was fortunate enough to meet people in the countries I traveled to, mostly young people, who admired the fact that I am a retired teacher from America traveling through as much of Europe as I can, getting to know the culture and the folkways and mores of the people whose country I am visiting!  They appreciated my openness, my honesty … and my love!  I also appreciated theirs.  For those of you who know me, and who know what it means, this is why I say “Namaste”!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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