Do Albino peacocks get laid?

May 12, 2017 1 comment

People ask how I felt returning to Cuba after a fifty-six year absence. In truth, I don’t know. Most Cuban exiles in similar circumstances concentrate on what was versus what is, like the collapsed roof of my childhood apartment in La Habana Vieja, or the sad condition of the streets and parks where we grew up. And so did I, but I’d been told, so I knew what to expect. The best part of my experience was being there.

In general, when Ruth and I travel, I like to wander around, a personal quirk she doesn’t always appreciate. This time, traveling with my sister—who was only fourteen when she left—and our spouses, neither fluent in Spanish, plus having a Cuban travel agent suggesting a framework, changed the tenor of the trip. Our Havana guide, a twenty three year old engineering student, took us along a prescribed route, down calle Teniente Rey, past Sarránow a museum—and toward the cathedral; the sort of itinerary tourists enjoy.

We started our walk on El Capitolio and because of new construction I was disoriented. When I asked our guide if this was calle Egido (it was) he didn’t know; he’d never heard of calle Egido. I soon recognized where I was and paused to peer down calle Bernaza and, of course, detoured on calle Villegas to point out the store where I worked—now people live there—and the spot where I chased and caught the bra thief, and where “Our Man In Havana” was filmed, and the hole in the wall were I drank my daily eight or ten cups of café, and the spot in the colonnade where the ostiones man had his little stand. The excitement was all mine.

Next day, when we took an enjoyable day trip to Las Terrazas, a former coffee plantation in Pinar Del Rio, now an Eco-community—I may do a full write up of the place—what stuck with me the most was the unexpected: there was a regular peacock on the parking lot, showing off his colors even though he was being harassed by tourist but, on a side patch I spied something even more magnificent. An albino peacock. ,

Of course that was my judgement, as personal as when comparing what was with what is. From the peacocks point of view the one opinion that counts will be rendered by the peahens.

Jose Marti and I; BFFs?

May 4, 2017 2 comments

I came back from Cuba last week, after eight days in Havana and el campo. (Habaneros consider that everything outside Havana city limits is el campo, ie., the country, the provinces, the place where farmers dwell). This was my first trip back in fifty-six years. In Havana we went all over, including in Old Havana the house where Jose Marti, the father of our country, was born–now as then a museum. Afterward we walked over to where I lived until I was ten, on Compostela street, a couple of blocks away. Alas, although the roof on Compostela street has collapsed, people still live there. My wife Ruth was saddened that people have to live under such conditions but, apparently, even if the government had been willing to fix the place, the residents would have to move out during the renovation and there is neither a place for them to go or a guarantee that they could move back in once the place is fixed. I spoke to the woman hanging clothes to dry on the balcony; she wasn’t impressed that I’d lived there some sixty five years ago.
I used to stop by Marti’s house when I lived nearby, (it was free back then) to admire the small rooms crammed with furniture where our greatest hero was born and raised. Nowadays the museum has none of that furniture and instead has documents and mementos and a two CUC admission fee. (I don’t know what CUC stands for but you get one for $1.10. That rate of exchange was obviously designed to show that CUCs are more valuable than dollars. Don’t knock it: nowadays reality is what you think it should be and clearly, quite a few people have, and act, on the basis of their own reality)
Marti died in battle, May 19th, 1895, but had he been alive when I lived on Compostela street, I’m sure we would have been best friends. (I would have advised him not to rush out and charge the Spaniards which he did, succeeding in his intention to become a martyr). Marti wrote poetry (like his Versos Sencillos), some of which has been adapted to song, La Guantanamera, and I like to sing. He wore a mustache, I a beard. He wrote, I read. We were both Cuban. We had tons in common.
Yep, there is no question in my mind, (Ruth thought so too), we would have been best friends and, with any luck, we would have hung together, snapped selfies and gone places, maybe even to the US, to pal around with Andrew Jackson–my new favorite president. I know Andy signed into law the Indian Removal Act (he said you can’t stop progress) responsible for the Trail of Tears and the death of thousands of native Americans, (he thought it was best for them), that he was a slave holder (also best for them), but I’m sure he was a swell guy, once you got to know him, and Marti, Jackson and I would have been best of friends, if only they had stayed alive.

Categories: Uncategorized

Andrew Jackson and Fidel Castro

May 3, 2017 2 comments

I have been reading newspaper accounts of January 1959–refreshing my memory, not of the events, just their sequence–of the time when Fidel Castro gained power. There were lots of things that had to align just right for Fidel to succeed and for Batista to sneak away in the dead of night and it occurred to me that Fidel would have had no chance if Andrew Jackson had been president (instead of that wishy-washy Eisenhower who knew nothing of making war) Apparently Andrew Jackson was mad as hell when Castro won.

Zombies and vampires and the end of time, oh my!

April 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Some movie genres don’t connect with me. Zombies, vampires and evil geniuses intent on destroying Earth have never scared me because they aren’t real. End-time and post apocalyptic movies have never done much for me either. Jaws, on the other hand, scared the hell out of me; sharks exist and have been known to munch on people.
Nowadays I’m witnessing an evil entity—an asshole, clever albeit far from genius, but definitely evil—whose unwitting purpose seems to be precisely that, a global catastrophe of war and ecological devastation.
The most stunning aspects of this evil, amoral man are two-fold: a complete lack of ideology and his unique motivation, a narcissism so dominant, so overwhelming, it requires him to succeed, no matter the cost. He will trample everything in his path because he lacks empathy, he will foresee neither danger nor downside because he lacks intellectual curiosity, and he will neither perceive nor admit defeat because he lives within his own, gilded reality.
Contemplating the looming possibility of the apocalypse gives rise to other fears; if the rise to power of such a man is possible, can zombies and vampires be far behind?

Who needs a wall?

November 19, 2016 Leave a comment

If we really wanted to stop illegal immigration, we wouldn’t need a wall. If we really wanted the unknowable millions of illegals to return home, we wouldn’t need to round ‘em up.
All Congress would need to do is pass a law that jails those who employ illegals. Those employers would be fined—which would help balance the budget and reduce the national debt—but they would have to serve time. First offense: one year. And I don’t mean the lowly foreman. I mean everyone up the line to the top. It’s high time for CEOs to stop ‘taking responsibility’ while claiming no knowledge and suffering no consequences. [There might be a temporary building boom owing to the many new prisons needed]
We need not be draconian about it. Our wise Congress would surely include a provision to issue permits to allow the hiring of some illegals to, for instance, harvest tomatoes. [Or build new prisons] But to make sure illegals aren’t taking jobs away from hard working Americans, those workers would, by law, be paid at least minimum wage.
You may argue such a law would add yet another interfering governmental agency. Not at all. We could re-purpose immigration agents currently employed in keeping ‘em out, because no one would be coming in.
It could be that easy, if our government officials were really interested in addressing illegal immigration. And if the people that hire undocumented workers were equally interested. Once Congress passes such a law, we could sit back on our easy chairs, sipping (add your beverage of choice) and watch those many million unfortunate people return home. Keep in mind, though, we would be also watching the collapse of the US economy.

What scares white males?

September 29, 2016 3 comments

Eight years ago we elected our first black president. In a few weeks we are likely to elect our first female president. Rather than these been seen as great steps forward, they have given rise to fears, primarily among white males. I have been struggling with this, trying to understand what is so scary to my fellow white males.

I may have found an answer. According to Lynn Saxon in her book “Sex at Dusk: Lifting the Shiny Wrapping from Sex at Dawn,” in some deep sea angler fish species, only the female becomes a full adult.

I am sure she doesn’t mean to imply that all males or only males remain childish. After all, quite a few women don’t believe a woman should be elected president.

But it can get scarier than that. Apparently Charles Darwin (as reported by Ms. Saxton) found in some barnacle species “a number of dwarf males inside the female.” Even worse, the female had two little pockets, in each of which she kept a little husband. The troubling issue of size was first brought up by Marco (‘little Marco’) Rubio and it must concern not only Donald (‘tiny hands’) Trump, but many of his white, male supporters as well.

And if that isn’t demeaning enough, consider the male redback spider, who intentionally flips his body into a position above the jaws of the female in order to be eaten during mating.

I don’t know how much of a difference there is between a redneck and a redback spider. I’d guess less than the difference between a redback and a wetback.

The final insult may be offered by honeybees in their nuptial flight, once more, according to Ms. Saxton. “When a successful male mates with the queen: his ‘endophallus’ explodes to become a copulatory plug inside her and he drops dead. Why? It is a strategy to prevent other males from mating with the queen but for that privilege he loses both his phallus and his life. What’s more, the queen is able to pop out the copulatory plug and to mate again anyway.”

A day in Ronda, Spain

September 23, 2016 2 comments

Entering Ronda, a small city in the south of Spain, on a hot, sunny, September Saturday, we were surprised by crowds that made it seem as if everyone in town and the surrounding, picturesque, Pueblos Blancos, White Villages, were jammed into the city streets.
At first we assumed they may be celebrating Santa Teresa de Jesus, whose hands are kept in the Madres Carmelita Descalza convent at the center of the city. Franco, who helped by Hitler and Mussolini led the fascists to victory in the Spanish civil war and ruled the country until his death in 1975, was so fond of Santa Teresa that he ‘borrowed’ her hands to kiss them nightly. The hands, encased in a silver reliquary, were returned upon Franco’s death. But no one was lined-up at the convent, not even to buy the delicious cakes baked and sold by the unseen nuns.
The reason for the crowds was next door, for la corrida, the bullfight. The best toreros and the fiercest bulls were to meet at the Plaza de Toros for what many consider the best bullfights in Spain.
I am not a fan. Bullfights are controversial, even in Spain; Barcelona has already banned them. But as luck would have it, we had visited a fierce bull breeding ranch and learned much about bulls and bullfighting.
The young bulls are raised in a fenced pasture where they lead a life of leisure, eating—4,000 euros per bull yearly upkeep—and sleeping. They are so lazy that their food is placed uphill and their water downhill, to get them to move a bit, leading one to wonder how they develop their tremendous strength, other than by testing themselves against their contemporaries, sometimes with fatal consequences. They never, ever, see a man on foot until fully grown, and at 1,500 pounds, enter the arena.
Bullfighting is considered an art. To become a torero remains the poor man’s dream; the best earn up to 250,000 euros per corrida. But a bullfight is carried out according to tradition and strict rules; the various toreros have very specific duties. The number of charges, just as the number of passes is prescribed. Plus the bulls are very intelligent; after only a few charges at the cape, they will charge the man.
A bullfight is the ultimate reality sport. The fiercer the bull the better, though some are duds, disinterested Ferdinands; no one knows till the moment of truth.
Attending a corrida was tempting. But the small arena sits only 5,000 and with tickets costing thousands of euros and long gone, we settled for people watching and sightseeing—we came to Ronda to see its spectacular gorge and bridge. Everyone was in a festive mood with many, mostly women, wearing colorful costumes from yesteryear and happy to smile and pose, even for a dumbfounded tourist.
It was lucky we were there that day, enjoying the atmosphere and an unhurried lunch of tapas and sangria at a shaded outdoor cafe. A most memorable day.