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NEIGHBORS : 'Black Angel' : Blind Oxnard CB operator belongs to a group that helps stranded motorists in Ventura County.


If you own a CB radio, you've probably heard the voice of the Black Angel, a.k.a. Richard Ysordia.

The Oxnard resident belongs to a group called Radio Brigada de Auxilio Internacional, whose members monitor ham radios, keeping their ears open for stranded motorists in Ventura County.

What makes the 58-year-old Ysordia different from other ham radio operators is that he is blind. In 1971, while he was driving in the Point Mugu area, he began seeing flashes of light. Over the next five years, he suffered through the various stages of retinitis pigmentosa.

But it hasn't slowed him down. Ysordia spends a lot of time at the Braille community center in Oxnard, raising rabbits and walking around town with his guide dog Claudette.

And, of course, when Ysordia is not otherwise occupied, he's near his radio.

"One day I was just sitting, listening to the radio. I was listening to the gossip," said Ysordia, who is fluent in English and Spanish. "Then a message came through from Guatemala. It was raining that day over there. They had a big storm and a man told me: 'We can't get through. I can't get across the bridge. Just holler to the other side of the bridge. Tell them to put up a roadblock. The bridge has fallen.' So what I did, I started calling the other side. And finally they answered."

Next month, Ysordia expects to test for a license that will enable him to speak regularly with people throughout California and Mexico. "I've been studying Morse code," he said. "It's just like Braille."

In keeping with an old British tradition, the Victoria Pub in Ventura will be holding its third annual pancake race Sunday at 4 p.m. in honor of Shrove Tuesday.

"It's like a medieval thing from England when religious things were really enforced," pub manager Louise Taylor said. "For Lent, people weren't allowed to keep any luxury food items in their house for fear of being reprimanded by the church. They made pancakes to use up their leftovers."

Taylor has invited chefs from throughout the county to participate in the event. While not wanting to give away too many secrets, she did admit that a key to winning is having a cold pancake.

"They flip easier," she said. "You can toss them in the air without fear of them sticking to the ceiling or to the pan."

Listeners of KVEN probably have noticed some changes in the station's programming this week. Among them is the absence of Ken Williams, a talk show host there since June, 1989.

To accommodate a couple of added shows, the station had to get rid of someone. Exit Williams. Williams expects to be on the air again soon, but for now misses his audience. "What I miss is to have that microphone to help local people deal with the war," he said. "I felt I was able to be a sounding board for people who were listening. I was able to relate."

Why is Williams able to relate so well? He served in the 82nd Airborne Division for two years during Vietnam. Sort of.

"When I showed up, they were auditioning singers for the entertainment unit," he said. "So I auditioned--in the latrine, in my fatigues. I had to sing 'Battle Hymn of the Republic,' a cappella, in front of two officers and a first sergeant."

He passed the audition and was transferred from the infantry division. Nonetheless, Williams said he still faced some combat situations. "I was a singing paratrooper," he said.

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