POSTCARD FROM IRELAND


It was a day like today, just after the rain soaked every blade of grass, and the world looked squeaky clean as if it had been mopped with God’s soap. I was sleeping in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar berth on a ferryboat that swayed like a rubber raft. I was awakened by a knock at the door. “Ma’am. We’re here.”  I looked at the young man questionably.“Ireland,” he added and shut the door. “We’re here?” I twisted myself round in the blanket and raised my chin to the porthole.Oh my God– It exists. Look at that tiny little village and the little harbor and the colors.

I landed at the Port of Rosshaven from London where I’d spent two nights in a room the size of a cigarette holder. I loved London as much as I could in two short days; carrying thirty-five pounds of clothes. Part of one day I spent packaging up half my wardrobe to ship back. The plan was to spend one month in Ireland. Other than that, my itinerary was unplanned. In those  days, I leveraged myself to the outskirts of foolery.I gathered my Northface garment duffle, shoulder bag, and departed the ferry.  It was Sept. 5, 1987, and I was thirty-something, recently separated from a career in commercial real estate and my pad in the Bankers Hill neighborhood of San Diego. Everything went into storage so I would be free to conquer whatever it was I thought I was conquering.

That first day I made my  way to the picturesque village of Kinsale. The tourist office made the reservation for me and suggested that I rent a car. No need, I thought. I’d get around on my own for a while. She slapped a map of Ireland on the desk and pointed to several towns and then counted the miles between each town. “The buses stop running in September because all the tourists have gone home. You be wee on your own.” “ Well, I’ll look into it tomorrow. I’ll just get a cab to the Bed and Breakfast tonight.”

That night ended faster than any in my life. I woke up and decided to stay another. I could not part with the warmth of the Innkeeper’s country kitchen and the canary yellow bedroom, or the county road, the red barn and the miles and miles of rollercoaster hills cushioned in that indescribable Irish green. Her house was a quintessential B & B, blushing with the right bedding, Irish linen, French and English antiques and contemporary restaurant-grade kitchen.

I remember the Innkeeper drove a BMW, and her house sparkled as if it had been photographed earlier. That first day I walked into dreamland, and I did not come out until I left Ireland.  This was my first solo trip to Europe. I began with Ireland because my friend, Kenny, insisted I go find the Casey in me. That’s my mother’s maiden name. Everyone thought I should be institutionalized for taking off like I did; mid-career on the rise and all of that.

That first evening I walked into town and ate at the restaurant the Innkeeper recommended. I wish I could remember the name of the place. It’s written in my journal, but the journal is in Taos, NM. Anyway, that dinner still rates in the top ten of all dinners, including all those four-star French Michelin Chateau feasts I found my way to later on in the trip. I hit a dozen villages between Clare, Kerry and Limerick. I took a seaweed bath at the seashore of Ballybunion, stayed in a folk singers

The beach in Ballybunion in Kerry of Ireland.
The beach in Ballybunion in Kerry of Ireland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

luxury hotel for a week because he wanted me to bring his tape back to America, attended an Irish wedding and the racetrack in Dublin. I watched the Farmers Matchmaking Festival in Lisdoonvarna and climbed the hill to the Cliffs of Mohr.  On my hike up to the cliffs, I passed a man gardening in his front yard. He stopped and began to chat. His house was so beautifully Irish, handcrafted in brick and stone with acres of fertile land as his back yard. I told him it was the most beautiful home I had ever seen. He turned around in his rubber boots, leaned against his pitchfork, and said, “America, that’s where I want to go.” He said he would give me his house if I would take him with me. We talked for a long time about what matters, and as we parted I remember what he said, “Send me a postcard from America.”


WRITING MY WAY HOME.


This is a previous post (2011) that I am re posting for new readers.

MY FAMILY  history was brought to life in an unpublished memoir.   The stories lived on during a long arduous journey of research and trying to get published.   Sometimes I read pages to get close to my parents.  I squeeze in between them like a ghost, hear their voices, and see their expressions.  If I remove the outside world, the hum of the hotel air-condoning , the delivery trucks, and speeding motorcycles,  I can remember swimming in the pool with my mother.  I see her bathing cap strap pulled down across her chin, her red lipstick, and her one-piece strapless bathing suit. I can see her freckles, and her long slender arms backstroking as she swam.scan0013

Early in 1960 my father decided to build a swimming pool in the backyard of our house on Thurston Circle.  I had just completed swimming lessons and asked my father for a pool. Years later he told the story: “My little girl asked for a pool, and I built her one.”   I think he built the pool for my mother.   He was under investigation with the FBI and Department of Justice, and spent most days in court defending himself against a deportation order to Russia.   Subpoenas, arrests, and trials were routine events that tied my parents together against a world of misunderstanding.  After eleven years of nail biting suspense, my mother just wore out.  The pool was built with the intention of removing my mother’s anxiety and sadness.   My father designed the shape of the pool around the original pool at the Garden of Allah, a highly scandalous Hollywood hotel apartment that attracted starlets and gangsters in the early 30’s.  I know this tiny detail from photographs I’ve seen of the Garden pool.   More obscure details surrounding the building of our pool were found reading his FBI files.

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My father accused the pool contractor of being an informant for the government.  One sunny afternoon he marched him out of the house. I was hiding behind a drape when the confrontation broke out.  I recall the big shouldered contractor running from my father’s threats.  Most likely an FBI agent was parked outside and  followed the man after he scampered out.

The pool was finally completed in mid 1961.   There are photographs of my mother and I in the pool; her smile is radiant and naturally composed.  She and I swam everyday.  My father  loved to swim too, but he was busy with court proceedings and meetings.  Before the year ended my mother filed for divorce, the house burnt down, and I was released from childhood. I don’t regret those events any longer.  They were steps that shaped my character, and what brings me back to the topic of growing up with gangsters.

The best memories of my childhood are in swimming pools and restaurants with gangsters and gamblers.  They were part of the family, and when they were around my father was on very good behavior, and my mother defenseless against their irresistible humor, pranks, and generosity.   She just sort of glided in and out of activities, and helped me ride the vibrations.   She didn’t laugh out of herself like I do, and she rarely yelled.   The older I get, the less I seem to be like her.  Maybe the passage of life experiences determines which parent you will take after. Had I married and had children, maybe I’d be more like her. Since I get into all kinds of tricky situations, and throw the dice, I need my father’s strength more.

Over the years, I have forgotten some of the dead reckoning discoveries I made about our family history.  Still nothing compares to reading about my Aunt Gertie.  She was my father’s sister. Until I read about her in the FBI file, I didn’t know she existed. I haven’t figured out why my father left her out of our life. According to the FBI files she was a remarkably loyal sister. Gertie was the one who confronted the federal agents when they arrived at the family home in Winnipeg, Canada.  She pushed my grandmother out of the interview, and spoke for the family.  The agents showed her a recent photograph of my father.   She told them that her brother left home when he was twelve and they had not seen him since.  She could not verify the identity of the photograph because almost twenty years had passed.  The agents left without any evidence and continued to search for the birthplace of my father. Every time he was arrested, he entered a different birthplace.  He named Chicago, New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles.  His origins were discovered through a letter that his mother had written when he was fifteen and confined to a boys reformatory.  The letter was turned over to the FBI, and that is how they discovered his parents lived in Winnipeg.  The government could not deport my father to Russia without verification from his family. Eventually my father won the battle. He was granted citizenship in 1966, two weeks after my mother died.

Gertie died after my father. I don’t know if they corresponded over the years.  I have learned enough about my father to know he was protecting her from further harassment.  Maybe if my father lived longer they would be coming after me.

THE THINKER – THE IMPROVISER.


I was there a few days before I noticed a figure darting from one sea-lion to another. He gestured for me to follow but I couldn’t catch him.

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He caught me by surprise from behind and wiggled over to me.
‘Let’s eat. I’m starved.” The Thinker dove down then up above my head. He cupped his fins around my head and pulled my hair.
“Where you been my Fins?” I asked.
“Why?” He said as he let go of me.
“ It’s just a normal question?”
“I don’t answer those kinds of questions. I am building my sand castle! Wait till you see it–it’s going to blow you away. Everyone will be blown away!”
“Exciting! I’m so happy for you. Will you show me?”
“ Maybe. Don’t look at me like that. Your eyes, they draw me in. It scars me. I don’t know what to do with you little one. Who are you?”
He lowered his eyes and sucked in his gills.
“I really love you. I mean I want to be with you forever!”
You should make a book of shells and tell their stories. ”
” You’re right! I know their stories too!”
” You could make a lot of money.”
” I don’t think about that. When I need money I just ask for it and it comes. All you do is count what you have. ”
” You think that!”
“Yes I said it didn’t I. ”
We carolled between starlight nights and crimson sunsets on the rock porch exploring varieties of sea mates. He used his fancy fish feet to get us into private ceremonies, and parties. The fish authorities didn’t bother us at all. We crashed into a party of penguins, and we weren’t eaten alive. My eyes were always on the thinker; as pleasurable anticipation bubbled inside.  In the morning he read to me from his bible, and watched the seagulls. He drove me in many directions, unfamiliar ideas, and habits that got me to thinking so when we swam we were always talking.
“You need to lower your voice. Make it deeper.”
“Why?”
“Trust me.”
One day he swam me to a blow-hole.
“I’m not sure I can get through as easy as you do.” I said.
“Don’t say that. Follow me.” so I followed. I’d waited a long time to see the sand castle. As we expanded our gills and soared upward, my eyes searched for the castle.
“You see it? Isn’t it spectacular?”
“I see the sand yes, but where is the castle?”
“You don’t see it? Come on—really. ”
“No my fin. I don’t see anything but piles of sand.”
“ Look beyond the piles. You have to see between the lines. You don’t get it do you? You only look at what’s right in front of you. There’s castles everywhere; huts, hideouts, back alleys. ”
“Is this what you mean by patience?”
“ No! This is conciseness of the universe. We’re not alone you know. The skeletons and ghosts are here.”
“ Have you seen them?”
“ The water of Santa Fe is as crowded as pavement. I’m telling you what no one else will. You should thank me for that. I’m handing you the key to the universe.”
“ How about the key to a warm place to rest and food?”
“ You’re such a brat. Come on. I’ll take you
to shore.”
I met his power posse; and they all assured me they could reverse or  promote anything I wanted.
“If you are ever in trouble call me. I can fix it.”  the Thinker said.
“ Like what?”
“ Whatever you ask. You want to live forever under our safety net. You have to trust me. You’re a city cougar with a Range Rover and a brick house above water. Come on–don’t you see that. Most of the fish hate you. You need me.”
His eyes narrowed into dagger like bits of darkness.
“I’m not a cougar. You are the first young exotic fish I’ve swam with.”
“ Oh really. That’s not what I heard.
“ What did you hear?”
“ I know about you?”
“ Really. Then tell me what they say?”
“ You’re impatient, aloof and swim alone. ”
“ I’m not like that always.”
“ Well I know, I’ve seen inside you.”
One day he emerged as a sea monster, holding empty bottles and wailing. I felt a rush of empathy and covered him with my body. He wrestled in pain for days and then when he surfaced, he was wearing a different face, and his touch was absent. His teddy bear eyes were like bricks of strength.
“ I’m not coming back.” He said
“ Why?” I pleaded
“ Wrong question.”
“ What did I do?”
“ You don’t see my castle. I can’t be with you. All you think about is lobster and hotel vacations.”
“ I haven’t had lobster in years, or a hotel vacation.” He swam away, just as suddenly as he appeared.
It was like a knife severing me from one place to another. He despised me. His curiosity and mischievous cleverness triumphed over affection and companionship. His splashes exploded into monsoons of tears inside of me. I returned to my brick house and closed the drapes. Every night I danced and cooked. I sat on the porch in a spray of solemn sunlight and didn’t miss the waves or blow holes. I’d missed my dance music, old movies, journal and sanctuary of comfort. I made him vanish with a vow.

As I cut his sunflower from my yard, placed it in a vase and said, ‘when the flower dies so does my love for the Thinker.’ The sunflower died yesterday. I pulled off the wrinkled yellow petals and scattered them in a planted pot. Maybe he will come back as the beautiful sunflower I once knew.  But I know he won’t. Love is in all of us. How we give it and cherish it  is unique.  I still have my love. No one can take that.                           20141122_143530[1]

 

 

*

 

THE THINKER ON MY TRAIN


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I asked the Thinker why the universe brought him to me. ‘To guide you through Santa Fe and teach patience. Without it you will find yourself where you are now.’
‘Where am I now?’ I snapped. He clasped my arms around his neck and we swam to the center of the Plaza. There he opened a porthole and asked me to look through it. Historical images emerged like a kaleidoscope and the Thinker told me stories of Santa Fe. Some were humorous; like the bank robbers who dragged a safe down Palace Avenue and left cracks in the stone sidewalk. Other stories pointed to the feuds, violence, and mysticism surrounding the Vortex. He whisked me away to a mirror, floating sideways, and asked me to look into it. The reflection was me curled up with my knees to the chin, while a school of fish surrounded me. They were talking about my mermaid skin and long fins. I was touched. Then the Thinker took me to another mirror and there I was poised on a chair; reserved and grave. I looked like I was somewhere else.
He tossed me in a circle, waved his arms in conductor fashion and said, ‘Get rid of her. She’s not liked.’
The image troubled me and so I jumped off his back and crawled behind a sunken wooden door. I was there a few days before I noticed a figure darting from one sea lion to another. He gestured for me to follow but I couldn’t catch him.

SHARE, PUBLICIZE, COMMENT, AND RESPOND TO BLOGGERS


IF YOU DON’T SHARE YOU DON’T CARE.
I’ve just started recommending a few of my wordpress pals, and their writings. I still resist the word blogging because it sounds like slobbing. Web writers are amazingly talented, from all over the world, and all ages. I’ve learned about the cultures through their stories from: India, Russia, Brazil, Ireland, Scotland, Europe, and the Middle East.

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SHARE THE ROAD TO WRITING

A LADY LIKE AUDREY


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The throw of the dice this week lands on new adventures in selfless livingness.
There is assurance that most of all, above the tasks, aspirations, dreams and commitments; we are dead beats without love. The feeling has to pass through our veins and arteries, as often as possible, from one suitor or another. You can love a moon in a black sky, as much as a man or woman. I believe the feeling it gives us is medicinal. It gives us something no other prescription can. That is why when sickness comes, all the love pours out from friends and family.
This comes at a time when a beautiful woman who is more saintly and then anyone I’ve met, except my mother, is suffering. You wouldn’t recognize the heaviness she is carrying; she remains light and sprite. Her doe birch brown eyes flatter her high forehead, and her silky mane of brown hair that moves like a Clairol commercial, do not interfere with her life. She devotes much of her time to the Good Samaritan manifesto. She regularly offers her time to the various shelters, serves food, and provides loving comfort to the sick with her registered lap poodle. She told me that the residents of the hospice all wait for her to show up.
“It’s amazing; they are all standing there waiting for me to come in. No one visits them. Can you imagine living like that??”
“No.
“You should come with me sometime; it’ll give you a whole new perspective.”
I agreed; and thought about what she said. We all have our way of disposing of selfish acts. Some pray, some donate money, and what I’ve found that works for me is to spread my kookiness and follies without prejudgment. If someone looks sour and glib; that’s the person who needs me. It is a branch of love that will keep on blooming.

 

DON’T READ THE NEWS OR WATCH IT ON TELEVISION


[contact-form subject='[SMILEY%26#039;S DICE’][contact-field label="Name" type="name" required="1"/][contact-field label="Email" type="email" required="1"/][contact-field label="Website" type="url"/][contact-field label="Comment" type="textarea" required="1"/][/contact-form] I’m a creative nonfiction short story writer, and a  columnist on arts and lifestyle. I have never said one word about politics; I am not a debater, academic, or political science major.

As a writer I read the newspapers; Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and the Santa Fe New Mexico papers, where I live.  I watch all the news stations. I quit MSNBC, cause Chris Mathews made me hyperventilate.  I think Charles Krauthammer is the most knowledgeable and sustainable journalist of our time.

Do to an act of nature, lightening, I lost Cable for a month. This was when Syria broke. No one talked about it here, and I felt the communities disillusionment. When my service was repaired, I turned on the news.  I felt more insulted than the time a young boy told me my legs were hairy.  Who did you think you are kidding? You want us to watch both sides fisting each other like a street gang!  Please someone tell them, the Press, chill out a bit and stop turning the news into a talk show.  You talk to us as we were mutes.  The Government has evolved as false as who we see in the mirror.  If you are plain you see beautiful, if you are beautiful you see plain.  I see you government, and I am ashamed.

I haven’t read the papers since June. This Thursday I went to the bank to make a deposit to cover my negative, and I looked at the newspapers on the customer coffee table.Image, My eyes shut after two headlines. How much more can we take? I really have lost track of priorities.

Should I get a job because my writing remains unrecognized. I need a retirement guidance counselor. I don’t like the title of financial advisor; they sound too rigid. Should I respond to the dreadful vacillation of American Policy. How much more debating can they do? It’s like when I worked in corporate real estate.  The meetings I attended and had to present were progress reports on whether I was an effective employee. I don’t know how I lasted as long as I did; my act was good, and I impressed some of the boys, but communication was too formal to bring out honesty. Maybe that’s what has evaporated in our

government, or am I seeing it differently because I’ve aged into it slowly. I think it started when the cool shit act came about. Some artists have it,  Musicians, yea they got it, gangsta’s got it, but they always had it. Those of us who feigned cool acts, became feigned. Rambling now. Got to sweep fall leaves and

start editing 350 columns.

I’m listing to Nessun Dorma, and oil treating my hair. I was thinking how much I detest all this multitasking. I can now handle five projects at once; write, sweep mop the floor, water plants, contemplate resolutions to my finances, all the while feeling my nerves tighten, and even though I stretch four times a day; this crushing operatic play in life is overstrung.  I watch those Sandals vacation commercials and practically cry because how many of us haven’t had a vacation in years, or a chance to

play a round or golf or read More Magazine all the way through?

MUSIC and DANCE INSTEAD OF PILLS


mq1tTIEMPO LIBREADVENTURES IN LIVINGNESS – CUBAN STYLE

SOMETIMES AN INTERVIEW WITH A MUSICIAN GOES DEEPER than a narrative history of recordings, concert calendar and early training. That happened when I met Jorge Gomez; founder, keyboardist and musical director of Tiempo Libre, an all Cuban born Timba band.

We met in a modest hotel room in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he and his six band members were invited to play for the second time at the Lensic Theater. It was steam-bath hot and muggy that Friday afternoon. As I stood in the doorway, Jorge wrapped up a recording session. After introductions’ everyone cleared out except Jorge and Raul Rodriguez, the trumpet player. Raul, propped up against the headboard of an unmade bed, one leg bent at the knee, the other straight out. He reminded me of Miles; cool in his skin and unflappable.

Jorge and I sat at the kitchenette bar, between us his keyboard on the countertop. Eagerness to begin was dilating from his eyes, so I began with my favorite question to all immigrants; how did it feel when you landed in the United States?

“Oh my God! It was my dream; all through childhood in Havana.”

“Do you love America now?”

His arms shot straight up, as he rose from his chair.

“Are you kidding? We love America! How can you not? This is the best country in the world. I’ve been all over: Europe, Asia, Mexico, and Caribbean. You have all the opportunities; you make your own life here, whatever you want.”  He shifts his attention to Raul, agreeably excluded.

“You can’t do this in Cuba—right Raul?” Jorge leans forward and I’m struck by the indisputable untainted smile.  Jorge continues to dramatize his arrival in Manhattan, with arms and eyes, “I got out because I had friends in New York.  They helped me get gigs in the bars, weddings, and then we got into the clubs.”  The room is silent except for Jorge’s satin smooth transitions from one question to the next. That alone is reason enough to meet Jorge for conversation.

“We were not allowed to listen to Cuban salsa music, or American music; only classical. I trained at the Conservatory all my childhood. I play all of them; Beethoven, Brahms, all of them.”

“Where did you learn Salsa?”

“From America! Yes. As teenagers we climb to the roof and we to wait till state programmed Cuban music goes off the air at 1:00am. Then we wrap aluminum around the antenna and turn our radio on. We pick up American music; like Gloria Esteban, Michael Jackson, everyone. We listened all night so we’d take the rhythms’ in our heads you know.”

“What’s the difference between Cuban Salsa and Latin Salsa?”

“Everyone claims this is their Salsa; it’s Latin, Marenge, Colombian… it is a blend of many cultures and musical influence. We take from each other. All the instruments I learn come from listening. They teach me everything; and I teach them.”

“Do Americans play Conga different than Cubans?”

“It depends on the person. See if the person is open to learn everything then he push through. For example we have been playing all these places like Michigan, Minnesota, Minneapolis…all those places that are so.” He pauses to express it precisely. Cold he says, laughing out loud.

“And I’ve seen American band playing Cuban salsa so so good, my God, so well. Blue eyes and blond hair.” Jorge breaks to howl out his enthusiasm and surprise, and demonstrate the memory.

“Who do you like to listen to do today?”

“I don’t know the names, but I have a lot of friends, and they call me and say, ‘I have a band, you come and hear me.’ So I go to the club and Wow! This is good music! Everyone is dancing. I love to see them dancing! I want to see them happy. If they want to sit and listen, good, if they want to sing along, good, they want to dance good.  Everybody have a different reaction. My job is to transfer the energy to the person; that’s the idea. Not to play the music for me; I want them to be happy.”

“ How do you do that?”

“ Sometimes you are sick, and no matter how many pills you take you are still sick. Right?”

I nod and watch his facial expressions twitch in thought.

“Then let’s say I come and say, Wow! You look so good man, you are looking good, and he claps’ his hands and pantomimes the joy he’s transferring. ‘You wanna a coffee cake and coffee, yea, come with me, (clapping again) you want to sit here? Yea sit here and see the sun.’ Suddenly, you feel good.” He nods his head. “Trust me.”

Jorge is toe tapping in place, his arms positioned in a warm world embrace.

“You forget all about the pills. Trust me, that is the kind of energy I give.”

“I suppose you don’t get sick?”

“Never. For sure. Never. I don’t know what this head pain is… how you say, headache? Like friends say I have so many problems, so many headaches, I can’t go out. I say, ‘What! Come on we go the beach, to the sand. Bring your conga. What are you crazy! Come on!’ So he comes and we play on the beach in Miami.”

Jorge drums on the counter top. “Have a beer, have another.’ And everyone on the beach comes to us. The whole idea is to forget your problems. So my friend says to me, ‘I had the best day of my life.’ Yea! Be happy! This is youth; this is how you stay young. Life is so big.”

I shake my head, “Not in America; we concentrate on sickness and misery.”

“Yea! You don’t have sickness yet, but you are going to get it.” He ruptures into laughter, and takes a sip of beer. My father tell me one time you have to hear your body; your body going to take you in the right direction. Just listen and you are going to feel so good. Sometimes I can’t go to sleep at night. All the songs and ideas in my head and I can’t sleep. I must write it down, and the next morning I feel so good, because I didn’t go to sleep. I drink beer because I am too happy-over happy.”

“Where did you learn this happiness?”

“From all the difficult paths I have in my life. Childhood was very difficult;no food, no water, no electricity, no plumbing. What you going to do? Party, go outside, dance, play basketball, baseball. I get my friends and they say, my problems’ are bigger than yours. Bla bla bla.”

I’m laughing now as Jorge continues to articulate his life philosophy.

“ At the end of the day you are so happy because you see people less fortunate and some more, and you are in the middle, and you want to help those people, you can’t go it alone.”

He chuckles again. His smile is broad as his cheek line. A streak of sunlight crossed the keyboard, and Jorge’s eye and brows are in motion, as much as his legs arms and hands.

“ What you’re going to hear tonight is a lot of crazy crazy energy, good music, a lot of stories. You’re going to see a lot of soul. When Raul plays his trumpet you’re going to turn inside out.”

“What is Timba music?”

“A mixture of jazz, classical, rock, and Cuban music.”

“Sounds like a musical.”

“Yes, Yes! We are in preparing for that.”

Four hours later I was in the Lensic Theater, twelve rows from the stage. Lead singer Xavier Mill, Jorge, Raul, Louis Betran Castillo on flute and sax, Wilvi Rodriguez Guerra on bass, Israel Morales Figueroa on drums and Leandro Gonzales on Congas opened the set, and five minutes into it I was below the stage. Two and half hours later I was still dancing, along with half the audience. That’s entertainment! http://www.tiempolibremusic.com

The three-time Grammy nominated band will perform Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at a Special Event at the Arts Garage in support of AVDA, Inc. Arts Garage in Delray Beach, Florida.

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