Here I come California

When school was closed for holidays, most students went home to their families. Some of us immigrants had family in various cities across America (Washington DC, different parts of Texas, Atlanta, Georgia, and elsewhere). While I enjoyed going to friends’ families during the breaks, at times, I preferred staying on campus. This required securing permission from the authorities to stay in the dorms while school was closed and most college personnel were away. I enjoyed the solitude. Being a sociable and outgoing person, the opportunity to ‘marinate’ in inner silence and inward focus in an empty campus was delightful. Days would pass by without talking to a single soul. I had a microwave in my room. Frozen pizza from the local grocery store was my staple food; not the healthiest of choices but at that time, that was less important. Access and affordability determined decisions.

I was fortunate enough to find out that the music room was open during the breaks. I spent half days in the piano room playing Ethiopian classics (Tizita, Ambassel …). I never learned how to read music, but, I had a good ear – I played freestyle. My extended piano sessions accommodated my nostalgia, therapy, and entertainment all wrapped up in one. The rest of the time was dedicated to contemplation and my meditation practices. There too, I did not follow any particular tradition or methodology. I simply shifted my attention inward. A certain level of detachment from the conditioned ‘person’ who had a story (immigrant, college student, etc…) revealed glimpses of Reality -that all is just in passing and that whatever appears will disappear; that all the changing aspects of who I say I am were only impressions that come and go. These small insights were good enough to last a while in terms of setting a perspective.

After graduation, I lived in a bigger town called Lexington, Kentucky, about two hours away, for a couple of years and headed to southern California, where my sister and her husband lived. They picked me up from the Los Angeles International Airport. It was late afternoon, and the drive through the six-lane highway south was riveting. The palm trees and the sun setting behind them as Madonna sang about San Pedro (La Isla Bonita) on the radio left a lasting impression. ” La Isla Bonita” was Madonna’s first song with Latin influences; its instrumentation features Cuban drums, Spanish guitar arrangements, maracas, and harmonicas – the perfect arrangement for a southern California ride. The lyrics talk about an island named San Pedro; according to Madonna, the song is a tribute to the beauty of Latinos. And I agree 100% Latinos are simply beautiful!

California was a ‘trip,’ to say the least…

– Panos

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