This is the month of December 1999.

The new millennium is around the corner, and so far it looks like I'm going to make it there. I'm 66 years young going on 67. Health-wise I feel great, and except for a cancer of the prostate scare which I went through about two years ago, and which I have since licked, via the latest state-of-the-art radiation procedures, I think I should consider myself a normally functioning human being. Of course occasionally some aches and pains pop up from time to time and perhaps some memory lapses here and there, just enough to remind me that I'm no longer that "sparky dude" I always thought I was, just because I jog around Belmont Lake every day, and do my stretches and 20 pushups. (I took up this habit for two reasons. One is so that I could hear... heavy breathing again, ..and two, so that I can die... healthier!)

Right now I have just finished my daily jog, my tongue is hanging out and the old ticker is beating a mile a minute. I'm sitting on a bench in front of the lake waiting to calm down so I can feel that "well-being high" I always get after a sweaty workout. (I have to exercise in the morning, before my brain figures out what I'm doing.) I hang out here a lot. I just sit on the same bench every day and look at the wild geese landing on the lake, I sketch a lot and let my mind wander. This is mostly where I take my life's inventory. The good things I did, and the bad--over the years--the ups the downs,. The joys, disappointments, the good times and the bad. I'd like to think that there was a balance in all those experiences, very much needed so that the old soul gets upgraded.

 It seems like yesterday when I left my native Cyprus heading to England! I was only nineteen and restless, full of dreams and any teenager has. "I wanted to be this and that", and one day "I'd return home smart, rich, and famous"! Two years later, I did return! with a pregnant English wife called "Celia" and we landed at my parents house in Nicosia in April of 1954. Baby Lisa Maria was born on October 15th of the same year. I got a job as a storekeeper at the British Navy Army and Airforce Institutes "NAAFI " and we moved to Famagusta renting a house by the Alhambra Hotel close to the beach. We hired a babysitter, and Celia got a job as a secretary at the British bases in Dhekelia. She was 17. Things were normal for a short period of time, until marital complications began to surface, mostly because of the relocation and different culture difficulties having been encountered by Celia in her new domain. New faces, different language, strange-to-her habits. She increasingly became adamant in having us return to England in a desperate way, so, we packed and went back to London hoping that this move will help normalize things. I get to further my education, and she gets to once again enjoy being back with her family she left behind at the age of 16. We were actually both, way too young to face the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood, so it was clear that the road ahead wasn't exactly going to be very smooth, considering the fact that by this time she was pregnant again.

The year was 1955,.and the outcome was that Celia went to stay with her mother, and I went back to Cyprus to stay with mine, and got a job at Cyprus Airways first, then as a guide at Louis Tourist Agency.

It was while I was at Louis Tourist Agency, that I met this American lady from Santa Barbara California who arrived as a tourist sometime in August 1956. Besides the usual group guidance of the Island we were normally servicing tourists with, she had made a special request of my boss, asking if she could also have "private" tours arranged for her, so she could take movie pictures of the places she was mostly interested in, and of the local people of the Island living in remote places, like in the sporadic villages nestled on the mountains of Mesaoria, and Pentadactylos. Mrs."L" was a millionaire philanthropist, and at the time she was globe-trotting, taking these movies for some organization for "spastic children" she was a president of, back home in the US. I was picked for the job, and I had given "Mrs L" the private tours she wanted. I remember she had a great fascination for donkeys. "Stop...stop"! .she would say. She'd jump out of the car and run right next to a donkey, and take pictures from all angles! Sometimes a donkey or two happened to appear a little excitedly disproportionate in between their hind legs, and "Mrs. L" would go crazy taking those pictures, like it was an extraordinary phenomenon that had to be recorded. "We don't have donkeys where I come from" she'd say, and I'm thinking "I hope she edits these films before she shows them around"!! When she was leaving Cyprus, I saw her off with a bouquet of flowers, she gave me her card, and she told me, if I ever needed her, to get in touch. And so I did. A few weeks later, I wrote her a letter and asked if she would sponsor me to immigrate to the United States. (The nerve)! .I didn't get an answer to my letter, but a few weeks later I did get a letter from the American Embassy in Nicosia, telling me that I should contact them immediately, as they had an "affidavit of support" for me, for immigration to the United States sent by "Mr. & Mrs. L". I thought ...yesssss!!!!!...America... here I come!!!

"Nicola Gabriella" arrived in the world on August 11th 1956 in London, UK, and I arrived in New York City November 13th of the same year. I was greeted by two people. One was my good friend and colleague from Louis Tourist Agency, "Andy Soutsos", who had immigrated to the US a few months before me, and the other was "Mrs. L", who was waiting at the dock, complete with a stretch limo, and a private chauffeur. I was offered to go and establish residence at their Penthouse, next to the United Nations building in Manhattan, or have a choice to live with my friend Andy who had an apartment in Astoria Long Island. I had chosen the latter, as I felt a little uncomfortable to totally unload myself onto these two wonderful middle aged people. They were nice enough to sponsor me -a total stranger to them- and not only did they sponsor me, but they went out of their way to reciprocate and give me tours of New York City in their limousine. I was taken to posh places for dinners such as the Tavern on Green in Central Park, the Astor and the St. Moritz hotels, (where on one occasion we had a table right next to Jerry Lewis and his wife). I thought I was in the middle of a dream! ..A young kid from Cyprus arriving in New York with a small suitcase, suddenly making the high society scene in Manhattan!....Far out!!!! I thought. America was exactly how I had visualized it, and seen it in the movies! There were no homeless people spread out in the streets during those days, drug dealers in every corner and life was just like in the paintings of Ken Ottinger and William Rushing.

My first job was selling toys in Macy's on 34th street on the 5th floor, and that was where I saw my first snow fall from the cafeteria's window a few days before Christmas. I was mesmerized! ..Mrs. "L" had not only introduced me to New York City's lifestyle, but
also to my first spiritual lessons. She had taken me to spiritual workshops of the famous Indian Yogi-guru Paramahansa Yogananda in Manhattan, and had also loaded me with spiritually related books, that I had thoroughly enjoyed reading. A new experience was unfolding, which started the foundation of my expanded belief system. A major change in my life was beginning to take shape.

Continues on----->