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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.

Could Bob Dole ever be an Eagles fan? I hope not.

June 12, 2016 Leave a comment

I am an Eagles fan and yes, it is frustrating. They haven’t won a championship since 1950. Even worse, I became an Eagles fan during the seventies, when they put on the field some horrendous teams. Fortunately I have some escape valves. I root somewhat for the New England Patriots. They became my team when I lived in Boston and first started to follow football. This lasted even after I moved to the area, until I switched allegiance to the local team. I also have a sentimental attachment to the Green Bay Packers; because they are from a small town and are owned by the townspeople, they feel like a sort of national underdog. I would think they should be considered America’s team. But make no mistake: The Philadelphia Eagles are my team.
Some people have been Eagles fans for life. They revel in it, they paint themselves green, tailgate at games and make the team a central part of their life. However, I doubt any of them would unconditionally support Nelson Agholor, a wide receiver recently accused of rape by an exotic dancer.
There have been a few instances where women have accused well known, affluent athletes of rape hoping to make a financial killing. For Agholor’s sake, I hope that is the case. Alas, those are the exception. A teeny, tiny exception. Overwhelmingly, women claiming to have been raped have been raped. And then they are made to feel responsible. They are accused of bringing it on themselves by drinking or dressing in a provocative manner or being an exotic dancer or even of being a whore. Rape is rape. There are no extenuating circumstances. None. Zero. No respectable Eagles fan would condone Agholor’s alleged behavior.
Which brings me to Bob Dole. This is someone I respected. Senator Dole, who ran for president in ‘96, seemed a responsible, sober public servant. Whether I disagreed with his views or not, I respected him, till a few days ago.
Bob Dole just said “I’ve been a Republican all my life, and I know that both candidates are flawed, and Trump has done some things that would curl your hair, things that he shouldn’t have said…I mean, what am I gonna do? I can’t vote for George Washington, so I’m supporting Donald Trump.”
I would have hoped Mr. Dole would have said: I have been a Republican all my life but I have also been an American all my life and while I cannot support Mrs. Clinton, my conscience, common sense and abiding love for my country will not permit me to support Mr. Trump.”
That’s what a decent human being would have said. What this Eagles fan says about a player who commits heinous acts or says odious things.
Being a Republican or a Democrat is not like being a sports fan. We aren’t rooting for a team, we are voting for our future.

They are doing it to us, and we are letting them.

April 8, 2016 2 comments

Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders are doing it. Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul did as well, just as president Obama did eight years ago. They kept their federal jobs, their titles, salaries and wonderful benefits while openly seeking other employment.
The Hatch act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity. Even state employees who are principally funded by the federal government are subject to this law. So why should it be possible for members of the Senate and House to keep their jobs while running for higher office?
Silly me. Because they pass the laws and they carefully exclude themselves from being affected by those laws. And yet, they do like to carry on about their ‘solemn duty’ to follow ‘laws’ that don’t exist. (see phantom Biden rule about supreme court justice nominations.)
So, while I am paying their salary, they not only aren’t showing up for work, they don’t even mind being filmed and recorded while pursuing this other job. If they worked in industry, my HR department would fully support my decision to fire them and no court in the land would dispute my being right.
If you were paying their salary, and you are, why wouldn’t you fire them?
Which brings up a related situation: the GOP platform is explicit about wanting smaller government. They are big on shrinkage, something akin to the “Costanza rule.” So why doesn’t the GOP question whether some positions are needed at all, such as state governors. Does New Jersey need one?
Chris Christie spent the last year seeking other employment. (Some may argue he has spent a lot more time than that.) Even when it became clear he wouldn’t get the position he sought, rather than returning full time to his current duties as governor of the state, Mr Christie chose to take an unpaid internship as Mr. Drumpf’s lackey, in the hope that it may lead to some undefined, albeit well rewarded, federal job.
Fortunately, at least in Mr. Christie’s case, as the ancient knight in the Indiana Jones “Last Crusade” episode said, “he chose. . .poorly.”