Friday, July 6, 2007

A Blessing

Just came back from four and a half hours at an oncologist's office where I was providing moral support and driving skills to a relative. Earlier in the week, I had called the local hospice to see if there was some sort of waiting list. So I thought I would take some space here to marvel at the kindness we have been shown. When you are given the diagnosis no one wants to hear and the prognosis that is worse than bleak, you feel emotionally battered. It's kinda like what I imagine getting hit with a two by four would be. First, there is the shock; then there is the pain so overwhelming that the outside world ceases to matter. It is at that moment that family members most need to have their wits about them as they deal with doctors, insurance companies, diagnostic tests, surgeons, you name it.

So what a relief to speak with the Hospice. "Don't wait too long. Most people wait too long. Contact us as soon as curative care stops. We take care of everything.: insurance companies, equipment, everything." All of this is said with genuine kindness to a person overwhelmed with the enormity of the thing. Those few words are a balm.

Then we go for chemotherapy where the staff is kind, upbeat, informative. Their very ordinariness is a reminder that life goes on, that whatever the outcome, there is a now to be lived.

Speaking of the World's Oldest Profession

Yesterday's brouhaha over the Times web page reminded me of something. Distasteful as it is to me that tourists take advantage of a cheap vacation on the backs of an oppressed people, it is the sex tourism that makes me crazy. Men who are overaged, or oversized, or just plain defective travel to Cuba where they have young women for the taking. At one point Iberia Airlines had a promo that showed cartoon mulattas tending to the needs of a baby. Wink, wink, nod, nod.

This all reminds me of another book: Mi Moto Fidel; Motorcycling Through Castro's Cuba. Originally intended to be a travel guide to Cuba, the book winds up being more of a travelogue. To give the author, Christopher Baker, his due, after slipping his minders and motorcycling across the country, he makes a real effort to get to know the real Cuba. He does not seem to belong to the earlier category of men and comes to the correct conclusion about Castro, but it is something earlier in the book that caught my attention.

When he gets to Havana, he hooks up with his girlfriend there, who is trying to get him to commit and take her away. Later in the book, her mother has taken up with an Italian who is going to take both women away. She regrets she will have to leave him. He writes about all this as if they were routine, run of the mill relationships. As I was reading, it was like looking at one of those pictures where another picture is embedded in the lines of the first.

The question that came to my mind, particularly in reference to the Eurosludge that takes advantage of desperate young women, was "Do these men think that in a free society with a robust economy these women would have the time of day for them? I'm not sure. I do know that the human capacity for self-delusion is large.

That ain't no lady: Pimping and the Times

Ran across something interesting on Babalu. On their Cuba web page, the Times has a Google ad offering nubile young Cuban women for romance and marriage. Cute, huh? Like one of those cartoons without words.

It is a word that has me crazy, though. Babalublog makes the cut for the links section but is listed as a "rabid Anti Castro" website. Would they dare use the word rabid to discuss any other group? As one comment on Babalu points out, have you ever heard of a "rabid anti KKK" website? No, of course not.

Frankly, in the realm of the Cuban diaspora, Babalu is quite reasonable. And something tells me the paper applies the label to more than a website. So, you Old Gray Lady; you decaying dowager; you whore monger, you, we are not mad dogs, nor squirrels, nor even chipmunks, that is if chipmunks get rabies.

No, we are not mad dogs. We are an aggrieved people who have been doubly wronged.

Check it out:

Then if you feel you must, and I suspect you will, there are some email addresses in the comments section to let the Times know just how you feel about it.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Pavlov's Dog and The Mad Emailer

Conditioning is an interesting concept. Last night shortly after being bushwhacked by the military history channel, I was trolling through the channels and landed on the Glenn Beck show. I noticed Dennis O'Leary ( the Rescue Me guy in case I have the wrong name) was his guest, so I perched there a while. I was watching when I noticed, ohmygosh, was that a guy in a beret on Glenn Beck's t-shirt? It couldn't be. Glenn Beck?

My initial reaction was to make a mad dash to the computer. What is left of my reason led me to sit there and try to make out what was on the damn t-shirt. Unfortunately it was obscured by those banners they put on the bottom of the screen, so it was a near impossible task. I decided A) Glenn Beck would not wear a Che t-shirt under any circumstances B) the figure didn't have a beard and C) it did have a certain likeness to Venezuela's Chavez. I still don't know what was on there. If anyone knows, and I know you're out there, even if you don't comment, please let me know.

It was my reaction that made me laugh. The bell went off, and there I was nanoseconds from high moral dudgeon. Food for thought.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Telling the truth about Che

The mad emailer strikes again! I'll just post the email I wrote the Military History Channel.

I was minding my own business, watching "Sea Stories," when there was a mini
biography of Che Guevara. I must tell you that since you present yourself as a
"History Channel," I was sorely disappointed. The only attempt to be objectively
historical came with the lip service at the end. Not for nothing is Che known as
the "Butcher of the Cabana" (a prison). Is that supposed to be answered by the
sixteen year old saying, "It was a revolution, and in revolutions, people die."
I did not think that your channel would perpetuate the romantic revolutionary
myth. Perhaps you should read Humberto Fontova's Exposing the Real Che: and the Useful Idiots who Idolize him.

What is it with these people? Bad enough the media doesn't do real research, but now the Military History Channel? Gimme a break!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Reads Notes- Part 2

I'm on my way to pick up After Fidel in Spanish for Mom when I remember I never finished Read notes. So here goes: the last few entries are all children's books about Celia Cruz. Me llamo Celia and Azucar are my favorites. One of them (I don't remember which) ends with Celia in heaven where the angels greet her with her trademark "Azucar!" If I'm not mistaken, these two are also bilingual. Oye, Celia, a new one published in April, is more of a celebration of Celia and Cubanidad, if such a word exists. Like many born and raised in the states, I can be Spanish challenged.
While I'm on the topic of born and raised in the states, I've come across a few titles that are particularly suited to introducing or reinforcing a child's Cuban heritage.

The Bossy Gallito by Lucia Gonzalez. Based on a Cuban folktale, the little rooster is placed
against the backdrop of the courtyards and patios of Old Havana.
Drum, Chavi, Drum by Myra Dole. She's written a few, but this is my favorite. A little girl
wants nothing more than to drum in the 8th Street parade, which she is
forbidden to do because she is a girl. Notable for actually having "De Nada,
Monada" in the text. Fun, feminist and very Cuban.
Oh, No, Gotta Go by Susan Middleton Elya. This one is ideal for the little Americanitas next
door. Most of the text is in English, except for the occasional word in Spanish.
Not Cuban, but any one of her bilingual books makes for a great introduction
to the language.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Michael Moore and The Day Fidel Dies

I promised more on Moore (couldn't resist). Started watching the interview with Larry King but then couldn't stomach it (couldn't resist that one either). Larry's starts by congratulating him on ticket sales or some such. Moore positively beams. I reach for the Rolaids and turn the channel. On another day, CNN is actually rerunning the aforesaid, and I hear Moore saying that "they" have no network, no voice, no power, or something to that effect. "Great!" I say to myself. "He's talking about the poor, benighted Cubans." Of course, he's talking about the people in his documentary. I can actually feel the rage.

And that's what I'm thinking about, because at that moment, I actually hated Michael Moore. I, lapsed Catholic that I am, despised Michael Moore and his cheap tricks. I wanted to make pointed comments about his appearance, his girth. I stopped myself, but it reminds me of something-
My brother and I have a longstanding appointment to meet in Miami when Fidel dies. My mother says it's unseemly to celebrate someone's illness or death. I know she's right. Last time my Cuban American compatriots offended the sensibilities of The New York Times and Charlie Rangel among others by dancing in the street at the news of Fidel's illness. Now Charlie Rangel is another one of those characters I don't mind offending daily and the Times, ditto. It really, however, is not good PR.

I couldn't help myself. I celebrated, despite my better angels. I celebrated for my father, for my uncle, for my grandparents, for Celia, for all of the those who never got to see the day. I celebrated because this man who had created a world of hurt for me and millions was finally getting his. And the day he dies, I will feel triumph that I have outlasted the fucker, that perhaps to borrow Ford's phrase, the long national nightmare is maybe over.
That's it, in essence, the death of Fidel is the birth of hope for an entire nation and a people. Lord knows how it will all play out, but his death will be a milestone.

Personally, I'd just like to be in New York, the day Osama dies.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Ragaouna Masr

I'm not much of an expert on Egyptian politics, but there was a front page Wall Street Journal article about the demise of Egypt, from a cosmpolitan powerhouse to a nationalized, equal society (meaning equally poor),eerily reminiscent of Cuba's fate as well. Ragaouna Masr means 'take me back to Cairo' The only problem is that the city to which the story refers, similar to Havana, does not really exist anymore. I look forward to the day that WSJ puts a similar article about Cuba on the front page.

CNN Revisited

Some people never learn, and I guess I'm one of them. I confess I was watching CNN again the other night. In my defense, I refuse to watch MSNBC since it became the official propaganda arm of the liberal elite. I even gave up my old favorite "Hardball" when the Vietnam guilt of the baby boomers who populate it took it over. Any network that allows the self-important snide disrespect of Keith Olbermann is not for me. So I'm reduced to watching CNN on occasion.

Anyway, there I am watching Anderson Cooper when he announces a later segment checking the facts behind Sicko. I'm expecting a rehash of the Wolf Blitzer segment, when I see Sanjay Gupta. Amazingly, Cuba plays very little part in the report. Not so surprisingly, Gupta concentrates on the facts about socialized medicine. Then I says to myself, "Dummy, Gupta is a doctor. Of course."

For whatever reason, although I give the report a D when it comes to fact checking the Cuban system, it's the only report I've seen that wasn't lifted from AP. But then the program was followed by a rerun of Larry King interviewing Michael Moore.... More later

Election Follies: Who's on First?

Now I've seen it all. There is Hillary Clinton, defending the honor of Cuban Americans. See link below:,2933,287494,00.html

Wait a minute. Is this the Hillary of Venceremos Brigade fame, whose husband instituted the "wet foot/dry foot policy? And let's see, she's taking on Fred Thompson. Isn't he the only one who immediately responded to Moore's Sicko, exposing the reality of Cuba? I haven't heard a peep out of Hillary on that one. What's a Cuban American to believe?

Something tells me I'm better off taking my chances with Thompson, preferring to believe that he was trying to make the point that Cuba is a possible source of spies, and possibly terrorism, and that he was not referring to the huddled masses.

The same article mentions Bill Richardson referring to how proud he is to be a Latino. I've been following politics since I was a child, and I like Bill Richardson. But I only found out he was "Latino" when he was running for governor, God knows how many years into his government career. I don't hold it against him, because life was tough for Hispanics years ago, and he was blessed with a nice Anglo surname. I just ain't gonna swallow the born again Latino identity.