José R. Rodríguez's Biography (sort of)

I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, at a time of political turmoil. Getting in and out of the Hospital Universitario meant ducking and running as leftists students were protesting the newly minted democratic and pro American government. Tear gas and stones filled the air as my mother screamed in pain to get me out into this wonderful world.

After all these decades students are still protesting and more stones, plastic bullets and tear gas still fill the smoggy air over Caracas. The only difference is that now the students are pro democracy and the government is leftist. Things don't change much; we just see new variations on the old theme.

I grew up attending catholic schools and despite the horror stories about nuns and priests from hell, I have nothing but praise for my teachers, starting with the humble Colombian sisters who lived in poverty and ran their elementary school with love and dedication, and ending with the overqualified Salesian priests of my high school. Among these priests I had Spaniards, Italians, Germans, Polish, and Venezuelan men of letters and science, and to them I owe them the little I know now.

Yes, I was lucky to have been exposed to such men and women. I have never again seen such an openness of mind and heart within any institution. Those times were a renaissance encapsulated inside the walls of a high school where hills with eucalyptus trees stood watch over soccer and baseball fields. Of course, such utopias are unnatural and soon get trampled by reality.

After graduation I joined the Military School of Aviation in Maracay. The school was at the foot of the coastal mountain range. Green, humid and hot, no need for water heaters, but not so hot that air conditioning was a necessity. Utopia succumbed to harsh discipline and my 18th birthday found me standing night watch with an automatic rifle slung over my shoulder and a steel helmet pressing on my shaved head. It was shocking, but also and eye opener to realize that the world was a mixture of outstanding people and assholes, all looking the same until you got to know them or they showed their true colors. That initial knowledge of reality that I gathered in those days has not changed. The ratio of good people to assholes is always debatable but my belief on the existence of those well defined groups is unshakeable.

Of course, we are mixture of good and bad. The ratio of that mixture determines who is an outstanding character or not. I think the ratio can change from day to day, from situation to situation, but at the end there is an average that points to a particular propensity of character. I find that the most interesting people seem to be those with an even score, those who shift between both grades and who surprise us with the unexpected. That may explain why I write about ugly people and imperfect personalities. Writing about the extremes of good and bad would be too easy.

I left the military life after two years, tired of the constant hazing and the fact that military life means not always being able to get away from assholes. Confined to a base, to a trench or to sharing a pup tent meant getting to know people that sometimes one really didn't want to know that well; there was no going home at night for some rest and privacy.

After my brief military life, I came to the U.S. to become a pilot and to learn English; I'm still at it, I mean, learning English. After arriving I decided that aeronautical engineering would be better than being an airplane driver. At nineteen I wasn't too sure about what to do. Even at this old age I'm still doubtful. Looking at the shape of the airline industry nowadays, I would probably be smuggling arms to Iran now if I had become a professional pilot. Instead, I lead a quite life of desperation working as an engineer. Steady job, mortgage, a wife, dogs, a car loan, the whole American dream in easy payments.

Along the way I became a skydiver, a private pilot, a mountain biker, a downhiller, and now a BMX racer. For a man my age, I should be having an affair with a younger woman, riding a Harley, getting tattoos and body piercings; instead, I'm and old man riding little bikes over piles of dirt and mountain biking on snowy Colorado trails. I have never claimed to be a smart person. If you read my stuff looking for good advice or enlightenment then perhaps you should try other books.

Why do I write? Because I have to, the same reason why I get back on the bike after I crash and get over the concussion. There is no good reason, it is not even advisable, but I cannot help myself.

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