01 January 2014

Grape Anesthesia

So I called up the old man and asked him if he ate his grapes.

He did. My mom put them in sandwich bags. Why didn’t I think of that?

And so I asked him “What where you doing 54 years ago?” and he said “Probably eating my last grape.”

The old man is half existentialist, half cynic and half comedian. In Cuban you can be medio anything. In fact, four medios add up to a peseta.

So I said “Seriously, What where you doing fifty years ago when Batista was leaving Cuba”

And he said: “Seriously, We had no idea. I was probably eating the last grape”

And I thought abut it as I saw all the people partying on TV and heard the distant music of a neighbor's party.

The world as we know it could be changing as we sip our champagne and eat our last grape and even with the instantaneous communications of today’s world, we wouldn’t know it.

So I imagined that New Year’s Eve in 1958 and all the hard partying, dancing Cubans sipping Cidra and chomping on grapes totally unaware that the island they were floating on was about to be swallowed up in a whirlpool of change.

And little did those that knew what was about to happen imagine that 54 years later the island would still be sinking into that swirling, bottomless abyss.

The inevitable yearly visit of my asterisk-my cross-the moment where I realize that the New Year celebration is also the anniversary of the day that freedom died-had arrived,

And the second glass of champagne became not a toast but a bitter grape anesthesia.

31 December 2013

Happy New Year*.

For me, New Years has always been a celebration with an asterisk-Happy New Year*.

The New Year brings with it the promise of renewal and the hope of better days to come. Unfortunately, for me and all freedom loving Cubans, it also marks the day that we lost our freedom-the asterisk.

Since this January 1st marks the 52th year of the “revolution,” it means that many more of the generation that were young adults when Castro came to power did not live to see Cuba’s return to freedom. Come to think of it, that means that most Cubans alive today were born after the day of the asterisk.

So, most of us that live on the hyphen have to rely on the ever dwindling generation of Cubans who new life in Cuba before the asterisk to tell us what it was like to live in Cuba when life there was normal. And, I’m sorry, but living under the oppression, indoctrination and rationing that came with the totalitarian regime of Fidel Castro is anything but normal.

When I was a child, I used to listen in amazement of the stories that the adults told of how things were like before Castro. I could not conceive of being able to travel abroad and come back to Cuba without permission or going to the bodega and buy whatever you had money for without a ration book.

I do have a point.

I clearly remember one New Years Eve that my mother and grandmother were fussing over grapes. Yes, grapes. You see Cubans have a tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight for good luck. I think that’s a carryover from the Spaniards, bless them.

Anyway, on that particular New Years, there we no grapes to be found and my grandmother was not happy with Fidel. And when I asked her what the big deal with the grapes was, she said it was bad luck if you didn’t eat the 12 grapes. She told me how before Fidel the whole family would get together and have a party and I would ask her about all the stuff they ate and drank and it all sounded like a fairy tale to me.

S o that New Years Eve was the first of many without grapes which was ok with me since getting force fed those 12 grapes at midnight took all the fun out of getting to stay up late. Later on though, my superstitions got the best of me and I started to worry about what horrible bad luck would befall my family if we didn’t eat our 12 grapes at midnight. Fidel would never leave, (that proved to be a well founded fear), or we would never get our exit.

I was sure that every obstacle and struggle our family endured in the next few months was due to not eating the 12 blessed grapes. Sometime in February or March, I must have professed my “grape theory” to my father. He proceeded to smack me in the head with a classic Cuban father cocotaso and to tell me not be a comemierda. ( Not having a comemierda for a son ranks high in the Cuban father’s hierarchy of priorities) And he proceeded to explain to me his Castro theory the way only a Cuban father could. He explained that we could have each eaten a truckload of grapes and other than the ensuing cagalera, it would hot have made a bit of difference because all of the problems were caused by Castro. That’s the “No Castro, No Problem” model which admitedly held a lot more water than my childishly superstitious “grape theory”

I’ve eaten my 12 grapes every year since coming into the US. Even when I’ve gone to a party where there are no grapes for the midnight tradition, I’ve had them waiting for me when I got home. I tried taking them in my coat pocket one year, but that’s a another messy post.

I called the old man to see if he had his 12 grapes ready and he said they were taking them to their New Years eve party. I told him not to take them in his pocket. He told me not to be a comemierda. He still worries about me.

So eat 12 grapes at midnight for good luck or just because you can and raise you glass to celebrate this Happy New Year* and hope that next year it will be just a plain ‘ol Happy New Year.

Happy New Year*

08 September 2011


Whether you call her La Virgensita. La Santisima, Nuestra Senora de la Caridad, La Caridad del Cobre or just "Cachita"-because only Cubans would have a nickname for their patron saint- or Ochun, today is her day.

And I got me one of those big old candles with her likeness on it and I'm going to light it right now and join the millions of Cubans that today pray that, just like she saved those three Cubans from the storm so long ago, that she protect our fellow Cubans from the Hurricane that is battering the island today. And that once the clouds begin to clear that the light of freedom shines brightly to every corner of our enslaved island.

21 September 2010

Multiple Choice

I’m probably the only Volvo-driving, France-loving , latte-sucking, tofu-chomping holistic-wacko, neurotic vegan weenie anti-Castro Cuban blogger. Maybe not, I prefer café con leche to latte.

As a Democrat, I have philosophical differences on the size and scope of government with most of my fellow Cuban bloggers. But we do agree that in civil, economic and political life should all be based on free exchange of ideas.

A government by the people and for the people can be a proactive and positive force in society.

We all know what happens when government isn’t for the people.

In recent years, government has grown so that it seems that it doesn’t exist for the governed but for the governors. The governed have become the masses to be lead to wherever the governing class sees fit.

And that is tyranny.

Side-stepping the democratic process in order to exercise a party’s political will against the will of the people as was done when the National Healthcare bill was passed is not government for the people. It is government in spite of the people.

And in spite of the out of control governing class dictating how we live our lives, I figured the “masses” had pretty much given up and were more concerned with Dancing With the Stars and American Idol than with their elected officials

Lo and behold, though, came the tea party. Out of nowhere. And they are mocked, even by the sitting president, as “tea baggers.” Sad.

And I’m watching the news last night and hear the very same President say:

"So the challenge, I think, for the Tea Party movement is to identify, specifically, what would you do?" he added. "It's not enough just to say get control of spending. I think it's important for you to say, I'm willing to cut veterans' benefits or I'm willing to cut Medicare or Social Security benefits or I'm willing to see these taxes go up. What you can't do, which is what I've been hearing a lot from the other side, is we're going to control government spending, we're going to propose $4 trillion of additional tax cuts, and that magically somehow things are going to work. Now, some of these are very difficult choices."

Now, for starters, if you accept President Obama’s premise that’s it’s up to the citizens, because after all, the tea party is just that, a bunch of concerned citizens, why should it be their responsibility to come up with the $4 trillion he and the current congress has put us in the hole for? Isn’t that what elected leaders are for? to solve or problems? That’s like blaming the crime victim for the crime.

But no, I do not accept his premise that it’s up to the tea partiers, or citizens, to come up with a plan to fix his mess.

I don’t really think he President Obama gets it. I know he’s a constitutional professor and all, but really. The above quote, to me is mind boggling.

In a democracy, we have elections. Elections are tests, multiple choice tests. A, B or C. They are not essay questions.

If the law professor doesn’t realize this soon, the next few elections may very well turn out to be even simpler-a true and false test, yes or no. And the citizens will say no to his premise that its their responsibility to come up with solution for their leader’s messes and kick him and his like – minded elitists out.

14 September 2010


I’ve pretty much given up reading “news” on Cuba. It pretty much all boils down to some “reporter” parroting the regime’s lies. This guy here, Marc Frank, apparently likes parroting the party line since before becoming Reuter’s man in Havana he wrote for the People’s Daily World, a Communist Party USA publication. Heh.

Frankly, I didn’t realize that Frank had written this piece for the Financial Times that I linked into from Drudge, so I started reading and (screaming at my screen).

So, as a therapeutic exercise, I have copied that article here along with my expletive deleted comments.

I don’t feel better now.

Financial Times
Economy & Trade

Cuba to cut 500,000 from state payroll
By Marc Frank in Havana

Published: September 13 2010

Communist Cuba will shift (shift?)hundreds of thousands of state employees to the private sector (what private sector?) in 2011 as the government prunes more than 500,000 workers from its payroll.

The official trade union federation (the regime) said on Monday that eventually more than a million jobs would be cut. (Is it still going to be illegal not to have a job in Cuba?)

“Job options will be increased and broadened with new forms of non-state employment, among them leasing land, co-operatives and self-employment absorbing hundreds of thousands of workers in the coming years,” (in the coming …years!…hmm…does the socialist paradise have unemployment insurance?) the union statement said.

According to a document circulating within the higher ranks of the Communist party in preparation for the “reorganisation of the labour force” announced on Monday, 465,000 non-state jobs would be created in 2011, of which some 250,000 would fall under the category of new licences for self-employment. (ha I see the regime controlled “private sector”)

Self-employment, begun in the 1990s, (wow, Fidel invented self-employment in the 1990’s..wasn’t his mother self employed in the world’s oldest form of self employment?) covers everything from family-run restaurants to car repair shops, construction and artisans. Non-state jobs included workers hired by the self-employed, ex-state employees such as taxi drivers who would move to a leasing arrangement, and employees of small state businesses that went over to a co-operative form of administration, said sources who have seen the plan. (sounds like a well centrally planned private sector)

The plan represents the most important reform undertaken by President Raúl Castro since he took over from his brother Fidel in early 2008, and the biggest shift to private enterprise since all 58,000 small! businesses were nationalised in 1968.( in 1968 ?!?! 9 years after Fidel & co. turned the place into a concentration camp? How about all the businesses confiscated from 1959 to 1968?!?!? BUT in one year they will create 250,000 jobs….hmmm….so between 1959 and 1968…never mind…in 1968, Cuban exiles owned more than 58,000 small businesses in the US)

Raúl Castro has fostered discussion in the media (lies) and grassroots meetings (more lies) on the problems afflicting the socialist economy, (an oxymoron) but he has made mostly minor changes up till now. The exception has been agriculture, where Mr Castro has leased state lands to 100,000 farmers and loosened the state straitjacket on sale of farm inputs and produce. (some private sector, they get to work the government’s land…more like the feudal sector, really)

The government reported ( and I parrot without question) more than 85 per cent of the Cuban labour force, or about 5m people, worked for the state at the close of 2009. There were 591,000 workers in the private sector, with most of those being farmers (serfs) and 143,000 self-employed. (slaves) The massive layoff of 10 per cent of the state labour force is scheduled to begin in October and stretch through March. New licences for self-employment would be issued beginning in October , the sources said.

Geographical limitations on self-employment and prohibitions on obtaining bank credits, doing business with state entities or hiring labour outside the family, would be eliminated. (not to mention what criteria will be used to issue these licenses? Will Yoani Sanchez or Darsi Ferrer be issued licenses? Who needs to get bribed to get a “license”, Antonio Castro?....please!)

Better accounting would be demanded of businesses, and the way they were taxed would be changed. As well as taxes on income, the self-employed would pay a sales tax and 25 per cent social security tax for themselves and each employee, the sources said, while co-operatives would pay a tax on profits and social security.(wonder if they’re issuing any licenses for tax attorneys?)

The state expected tax revenue from the self-employed to jump from 250m pesos ($9.4m) this year to about a billion pesos in 2011, the sources said. (or else…you don’t want to have to get audited by state security)

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. Print a single copy of this article for personal use. Contact us if you wish to print more to distribute to others.

11 May 2010

Blue Movies

OK, so I don’t go to the movies.

I haven’t been to a movie theater in years.

For a while there, every time I went to the movies I would regret it. I’ve had the cell phone talker, the narrator, the chatter all sitting near me. Hell, I’ve even had the snorer and the soundtrack singer. So eventually I gave up and just wait for the movies to come out on DVD.

This weekend a friend got “Avatar” in Blue Ray and invited me over. He takes pity on me because I still watch a 27 inch analog tube TV.

Oh boy. Great effects. After a while you swear those cartoons are real.

However…what about the plot?…unreal.

After the movie was over, I proceeded to explain to everyone why they had just sat through communist propaganda. Laughter ensued.

People just can’t believe that I just can’t sit there and enjoy a movie without looking for the subliminal red flags of communist propaganda. I don’t know, maybe I’m just gifted or cursed.

Avatar, of course, pins the noble savages against the capitalist profit seeking military-industrial complex.

The blue “aboriginals”, (really, red would have been more original), of course, live as one with Mother Nature in a communal egalitarian Utopia. They are so communal that they even connect to the planet, Pandora, and every living thing on it through some tentacle-like appendages. They are like “the Borg” only nicer.

These folks don’t have material possessions, or clothes and they don’t need them because since they understand that they are part of the collective whole. All they need to do to be happy is to be one with each other. Awe.

Their memories are collective. They are ruled by a wise old leader who has inherited his position. No need for elections or debate here. He makes all the decisions.

In the Pandoran jungle Utopia, they are all equal and call each other brother or sister, depending on their genitals. And they refer to themselves as “The People.” (The People’s Republic of the Na’vi, anyone?)

Now, of course, this sounds a lot like John Lennon’s candy coated communist manifesto, “Imagine,” except for the “no religion” part because Na’vi worship a tree or something. (not too sure on that). Maybe they should have been green instead of blue, but green or red people are not as stylish as blue people and the left is all about style.

But it also sounds a lot like Castro’s idea of a perfect society. Or a leftist Hollywood wet drem. Oh wait, Castro is leftists Hollywood’s wet dream.

And the answer to the question of whether I can enjoy a movie for “just” entertainment is yes.

But, Avatar, is a movie with a message. It is a morality tale and as such you are supposed to “get something out of it.” And I did. A bunch of collective, communist propaganda.

Really, I don’t know see how you can get anything else out of it. You have the individualists who are out for themselves on one side and the collectivists who sacrifice their individuality on the other and the whole point is to show the viewer how suppressing their individuality for the good of the whole is the way to roll.

Unfortunately, us humans are not built to roll that way and the only way to make humans roll that way is for heads to roll because we have to be forced, or coerced …or brainwashed…err…educated by cool, friendly cartoon characters.

God, isn’t that just what the evil capitalists do when they advertise?

06 May 2010

And A Little Birdie Told Me...

I was a mischievous child. Always up to some secretive mischief.

I thought I could get away with anything.

A psychologists would probably say I was “Acting out,” but it was rebellion. Totalitarian society encourages small individual acts of rebellion, I think.

And I was thinking about my “acting out” and I though of my grandmother, Ramona.

That old woman loved me more than anything. And I knew it. And I would take advantage of it.

I remember playing with the veins in her wrinkly hands. I don’t know why I remember that, but I do. And I remember her telling me about all the bad things that I thought I had done secretly and I would ask her how she knew and I remember her telling me a little birdie told her and I would be furious at the little, big mouthed bird.

And I think back in amazement of how such a young child would know about the evils and dangers of communism and know enough to keep his mouth shut yet he believed that some little bird was ratting him out. I guess it kind of made sense that in a place where everybody was ratting everybody else out, even their own family, and all the walls had ears that birdies would tell all. But, still, the cynicism mixed with innocence is mind-blowing in retrospect.

And so I think of Ramona, and the little birdies that talk to her. They told her Fidel was a devil when they perched on his shoulder in that now infamous “sign”

And I remember watching the tattle taling, gusano eating, chivato birds flying freely around while we were trapped in the world/s biggest bird cage. The birds, they were free. Free to fly to Florida and eat Ham and chew chiclets and play with Rosie.

And I also remember the time I freed the “azulejos” by opening their cage door, but I don’t remember if I did it because I hated them because they told on me or because I wanted them to fly North. I just remember getting in trouble for it.

And I was reading Yoani’s blog the other day and she had a post about a “Wild Beast” and it was about “Twitter”. Twitter’s logo is a blue bird and the whole purpose of “tweeting” is to tell everybody what you’re doing,(sometimes to annoying detail).

And Yoani was talking about how equipped with a cell phone, dissidents can tell a little blue birdie called “Twitter” what’s going on in the Cuban cage in “ 140 character fragments” so the little birdie can tell all

He didn’t know that our tweets travel to cyberspace through the rough sending of
text-only messages by way of cellphones. Nor could he imagine that instead of
ending up in the hands of a member of the British intelligence services, our
brief texts go to this blue bird that makes them fly through cyberspace.

And I though of how the birdies are signing and a different tune and how its being heard all over the world…

…a little birdie told me.