Catching the last leaves of the season can be done always only around New York. And no other better place to go than in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park whose winding alleys bring you to and around the lake. The main roads of the park are full of bikers and the hidden alley inside the wooden areas are trampled by horses. On one lawn people are playing ball and just a hop away Lefrak skating ring is mobbed by skaters. And after the long stroll walking just a little bit more to Park Slope is just a good excuse for a nice cappuccino.
When traveling in Cuba you see few of Fidel’s pictures, except some dusted posters that somehow defy time or billboards that encourage the technical development passed in front by horse drawn carriages. The pictures and slogans look to be the realm of the dead heroes, mostly dedicated to Che Guevara who is the symbol of “The Revolution”, their revolution of stale ideas and principles taken from history books covered in Caribbean mildew of the last 50 years ago. Che is the spirit and the romance, the courage and the boldness, the spirit of justice, all encompassed in the slogan “Let’s be all like Che”. In comparison with the romantic, (and the extremely dogmatic and murderous) Che, Fidel was the incarnation of the bureaucracy of the revolution, the one who had to deliver the undeliverable, the one who had to make it happen but whose resilience and longevity in face of the isolation and numerous assassination attempts got accolades even from his enemies. However while you walk the streets of Havana or other cities of Cuba the failure of the revolutionary project is obvious in the mind of the people you encounter who are not shy to tell you want they think. I lived under a similar regime, during Ceausescu’s Romania, and I felt so close to these people and their life experience and I thought of gathering all their stories in a book. Here are several passages.
““What do you think? That we will do the same in Cuba like you did to Ceausescu in Romania?” My friend was startled. The official’s berating came out of the blue, nothing that she said calling for it; just because he heard that she was caring a Romanian passport. She was in a tour organized by Harvard in Cuba during an MBA program, just several years after the special period ended; time of starvation and suffering; time of forced changes and uncertainty. Many times I thought that the brief execution of the Romanian dictator gave chills on the spine to many like him. They shared a dream that they could not deliver and became a nightmare for all who lived it. But they were stubborn and did not want to change it. In their villas, closed circuit stores, vacation chalets, surrounded by their sycophants everything was fine; the social experiment was successful even if it may encounter some hurdles on the way. Yes, of course, people may suffer and die in the process but nothing ever could be done without sacrifices; always the others’ sacrifices.”
“The priest was sitting on the bench waiting to give benediction to children and adults before the mass. I went and sat near him on the bench and asked him a question about the relationship between the Catholic Church and Santeria…The discussion changed course and it took me completely by surprise.
“…Everybody is welcomed to the church and we expect the entire village to come. No matter what cult they practice, no matter that they are Marxists, atheistic, white, black, mulato, they all should congregate in the church because this is heart of their pueblo. This is of utmost importance to have people return to the church”.
But how the Communist state sees the church influence? Do they help in any way?
“Actually not only that they do not help but they boycott it as much as they can. They never ever helped. What happened in the last 50 years was barbaric. For 50 continuous years they erased from people’s mind any concept of moral values. For 50 years they brainwashed our children in believing their ideology, their discourses devoid of any worthy ideas. For 50 years they taught the children that 4 X 4 is 16 but they never talked about the value of a human being and what it represents for the society. This degraded the society and rips into its moral structure.”
“But father, the changes are inerrant. The society would change. A younger generation would take over and change things in a foreseeable future”
“We need a major change in the society but don’t be so optimistic about a new generation. The gerontocracy that rules Cuba is terrified of change. They know that a new generation would adapt to the new realities of the world and this is the reason that the ones promoted at higher levels are all old people, rooting from the same stale ideas of the failed revolution. To rule a society you always have to adapt your ideas and the Marxists never had new ideas. You watch TV and there are no ideas just empty slogans that don’t go anywhere.”
“How can you trust a society where the garbage man has the same salary as the doctor? How can make the doctor to study hard and become a very good doctor and help people if he is paid the same. Are the needs of the doctor and the garbage man the same? This is fantasy.”
“And Obama’s visit?”
“Why is your president coming here?; To play ball with the dictator? Hardly any changes would happen; the state will peddle the same platitudes afraid that any change would dis-empower the ruling class. When Gorbachev came here in the middle of Perestroika absolutely nothing happened. He came and went and Cuba did not change a bit. What Obama can do? “….
“But the people can help. They can come with ideas that put pressure and bring some change. Isn’t it?”
“Actually this may not happen, at least for the regular guys. The major problem in Cuba is that people are extremely poor. Their entire life is spent looking for food. For 50 years the Communists transformed a population in food foragers during crisis after crisis. You cannot have any ideas when you run around all day to get food to put on the table for your children. People are like under anesthesia thinking only from one day to another if they can get some money to eat. There are 50 years…”
This “50 years” mantra is like a national obsession. The same “50 years” trumpeted by the Communist as a major achievement I heard it repeated like a curse by so many regular people: ”There are 50 years and I lived all of them under this regime.” told me with chagrin one my hosts in Havana.”
(Excerpts from the book “Between Ceausescu and Fidel” by FlyingMonk)
“Love is all around us like air; pressing in on us, making us more like love.” said Agnes Martin whose retrospective is just across the street from Central Park at the Guggenheim.
By far we had the best November that I could remember; temperatures in the 60s and clear skies with just a little bit of rain concentrated in few days. So we went again biking through the beautiful foliage that still hangs on some trees.
This time we discovered Columbia Trail in Morris County, NJ, a stretch of more than 15 miles one way on an old train track, decommissioned in 1976. The track was built in the first half of the 19th century to transport iron ore dug from northern NJ to smelters on the way.
The trail crosses rural New Jersey through some small towns, starting in High Bridge and going through Califon, a town founded by a guy who made his fortunes in the gold rush and wanted to name it California but the board on which they engraved the name was shorter so he settled only for Califon.
Further the trail continues through Long Valley, an outpost of German immigrants on the middle of the 18th century with an old Gothic church ending in Bartley Road from where, across the road, the train track continues being still in use and serving towns on the way for another 15 miles to Wharton, NJ.
…this election may have caused to all. It was the most embarrassing election that we could remember, a circus and a cheap soap opera opposing a bozo billionaire surrounded by stories of once young chicks and the wife of an ex-President. Doesn’t it smell of Latin America? I know that many of the people around the world would have expected better from the USA, and we did also, but this is all what we could offer at the moment. We, in the USA were not exposed till now to this scenario that many in Europe saw before: the fascist against the crook (even if, here, it’s not too much proved about the crook). France saw it between LePen and Chirac, and Romania saw it between Vadim and Iliescu and for sure many others countries I don’t know about. And they chose right, dumping the fascist. We, the people, the beacon of liberties and the lighthouse of freedom, did not and cheerfully we picked the fascist. But in spite of the outcome we are relieved that is over and now we have just to ponder on our fear of what this unexpected outcome would bring for our country and the world.
In the election night I went to sleep at 10:40 PM. When CNN announced that Ohio was won with 14 points it was clear, at least for me, that The Donald will win. The spread was too large not to be a contamination around. So I woke up in the morning within the general disbelief that Hillary lost. Of course, I am talking about East Coast’s disbelief, a disbelief rooted in our bubble mentality of affluent communities gyrating around Manhattan. There were almost no doubts that Hillary would win, first because she was by far the best candidate and her opponent was incredibly ridiculous in petulance and hate. But all this was only in our bubble. The bubble of our liberal establishment whose entire universe is narrowly defined between the island of Manhattan and the other shores of the Atlantic or of the ones who buy into this liberal ideas because of the good-cause factor. A liberal establishment that thinks that everybody must live together and chaff the ones who express any doubt about it. The liberal establishment that cherish a diversity that is forcefully imposed and front-lined in spite of the obvious fact that people are not prepared for it. The same elites that in Europe consider that EU is a great concept in fact when it proves to be great only on paper, doubted by its constituents whose concerns are way more mundane that the lofty ideals. An elite that considers itself far superior and impose models of living and flavor of “newspeak”. An elite that during elections keeps pushing issues that create a smoke screen about LGBT and bathroom usage instead of talking about the real issues that people care about, not that those are not important but not SO important to be front line in an election. All these elites that meet among themselves deciding the fate of humanity and pushing on fast track for an advancement around the world that is beyond comprehension for so many who barely are able to put food on the table. (see also: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/09/rise-of-the-davos-class-sealed-americas-fate)
But for us, in spite of the catastrophic result and its deplorable soap opera aspects, this election was also a good change. For the first time in the long history of the American elections some of the candidates left the PC aside and spoke about issues that people really care about. They shed the smoke screen and they spoke about the drugs pouring over the southern border brought by illegal immigrants, the fear people have about un-vetted Islamist immigrants and the fled of jobs over the border. Trump is fascist and a nut but taken wholesale part of the issues he approached were not off the charts except the broohaha that he wrapped them in. On the opposite front Bernie was able to energize the youth like nobody else with his issues about one payer health plan, free college tuition for community college, the corruption in Washington that we know very well about and Hillary’s in-bedding with Wall Street. And, yes, they may not have any solutions for all these issues for the moment but at least they came in public discourse, and this is the necessary condition in creating solutions.
So how come a person like Hillary, the epitome of the East Coast elite, so brilliant, intelligent, with such a high standard of ideas can lose against a clueless opponent like Trump?
The fact that she ran a terrible campaign with aggressive pointless advertising that did not show what she stands for but was saying repeatedly that Trump is a jerk (duhhh, everybody knows that) was of no concern. The fact that there were so many things hanging on her after so many years that were no proved but were out there nobody seemed to care about and she forced her way in, instead of leaving Bernie who would have won against Trump hands down. The fact that the media followed Trump like flies to a pile of shit creating acute interest in their derision, falling in this way in their own trap. The fact that Hillary is as interesting as a block of cement in the rain when she gives a speech, almost as boring as Gore was, was again no concern. Hers and the democrats’ curse is that they schemed in their Clintonesque style to get rid of Bernie and in this stands their defeat. I am absolutely convinced that Bernie would have won against Trump.
For many years I kept talking with friends that we really have no idea how people around us live. We go to our busy Manhattan jobs, on one of the most competitive markets in the world, an island of high level prosperity of which we take a part, we spend time on subway or train commute and we come to our nice homes exhausted. In our spare times we browse through New Yorker and go to the BAM or Symphony Space, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall but what happens outside of this circle we are clueless about; how a single mother is living in Harlem with her husband in jail and one son dead on drugs; how a family of five with one earner can live if is no job around; what people who care about religion talk about dinner table in a Wisconsin’s house that is threatened by foreclosure. Did we met anybody in Ohio rural area? Or Wisconsin? Chances are that we did not. And all what we hear around is the talk of political correctness and wild activism that, for me at least, sounds so similar with the Communist propaganda that I had to gulp for so many years.
(see also: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-37924687)
The Donald put an incredible reality show combining fear with empty messianic promises. Our New York clown and playboy whom we always made a face when we heard about, became the king to his own utmost surprise. But in spite of the enthusiasm that he generated in the campaign he garnered less votes than Romney but to his luck, Hillary got way less than Obama, in spite of winning the popular vote. Since he started his campaign I was afraid exactly of a scenario like this. Many people whose frustrations were boiling for eight Obama years voted for him in hordes being duped to give the vote to a fascist and challenge the viability of our republic. The others who were with the rope around the neck gave the vote for just void hopes of a little bit of air. All suckers, being conned by the conman. Nobody will be paid back simply because it’s nothing to pay with. Some jobs may have been lost to Mexico, many others were won in other more affluent places of the US, but the core of the jobs were lost to automation that nobody talk about because the war against the machines is way to Sci-fi. (see also: http://www.denverpost.com/2016/11/06/factory-job-losses-robots/ ). And this is just the beginning, as the luminaries of Silicon Valley predict that in 30 years more than 50% of people would be unemployed in an America that would be the manufacturing power house of the world. And what can we offer then? Brown shirts….
What puzzles me is how come when the Republicans are able to get a president in the House, the chosen one is systematically by far the most idiotic and clueless of the entire ballot. Their terrible pick is ruining our nation. Meanwhile the protests runs continuously in American cities, like people just woke up now from some kind of anesthesia. I wish they would have protested while The Donald was making inroads in the Republican convention trashing and insulting his opponents or after his disgusting interventions in the debates with Hillary.
Unfortunately my dear friends this is all what we could offer for this show because we placed ourselves in our own corners and we never wanted to talk to the other side. Let’s hope that the next show would offer something better. If it would ever exist another show…
Congratulations on your win. I wish you the very best for a successful presidency.
As you know, I supported Clinton. I do not believe in your stated policies, especially your anti-choice stance and your positions on regulation of environmental impacts and healthcare. I think that the Mexicans that are here have improved our society and they should be given a path to citizenship. I do agree that we need stronger borders, but I don’t think this can be accomplished with a wall that is unnecessary now and prohibitively costly. But even if you had policies that I could agree with, you do not have the breadth of experience of Clinton; the kind of governing and political experience I think is necessary for the job. Finally, you have changed so much over the time I worked for you and since then that I hardly recognize you from the days we did Trump Tower. You do not have anything like “the best” people working for you and you do not take criticism or listen to advice, two qualities essential to the president. That is me being honest, and you always told me I was “too honest.”
But we are where we are, and I am writing you as someone who knew you when. I supported the idea of you becoming president in the 1980s when everyone thought you and I were crazy. At that time, you did have the best people and you followed our advice. Nobody called you Mr. Trump then, we all called you Donald, and you were 100% accessible to us and open to anything we had to say. Your office door was always open and your speakerphone was always on. We paid you deference and treated you with respect, but we were not afraid to be earnest and critical. We did not fear you. You and I know that is not the case with you anymore. You seem to need or want to be adored. Well, you have nothing to prove anymore and you can go back to being a listener willing to change your mind and be corrected. I think fame went to your head and you really started believing you know everything – you don’t.
You have a bunch of losers following you around. The ones in your organization can’t do any damage to the country but I can see why you have had so many failures in your business. Now you will be selecting a cabinet and you MUST choose the right people. Show the world that you will only settle for the absolute best. You should have Republicans and Democrats on your staff and women and people of color. Don’t do what the pundits are all predicting. Giuliani and Gingrich who hang on to you like leeches are out of touch hacks whose time has come and gone. Donald, they are just not worthy of you. Neither is Christie who is despised by the entire state of New Jersey and has zero credibility. The likes of Palin and Carson are also far beneath you. They are cartoon characters, and they are out of touch with most of America. You more than anyone need people who really know governing and politics. You major concern was always could you trust people. And you put people into positions they didn’t deserve because you could trust them, but you must realize that people who would do anything for you are often just holding on to the jobs they know they wouldn’t otherwise have. You will find trust worthy people outside your inner circle.
Remember Hillary won the popular vote. More people voted for her than you. These people have priorities that you need to address. You got elected mostly by real people who want their jobs back. True, there are a lot of racists and xenophobes who supported you, but I know you do not really wish to serve their interests. You have your own tendencies which you need to work on. You must be there for the working people of all stripes, and we are not down with the nonsense spewed by most of the people who are pulling at you for appointments. These hacks will only continue the hatred, fear and distrust that were the hallmarks of your campaign. Get rid of them. You need to shed the image of the Trump supporter who wears a shirt saying Hillary is a cunt, vote for Trump, and replace it with one of the hardworking American, black or white, Christian or Muslim, native or immigrant etc. who is the backbone of the country. Now you are my president too. Act like it.
When I worked for you, you were a democrat. You believed in choice. You supported strong women like me, Susan and Louise. Imagine you glorifying Phyllis Schafley! What must Melania, Ivanka and Rhona think of a woman who said women should not work outside the home? And you want to overturn Roe v. Wade? Why? The country doesn’t want this. This will not make you great. Forget it. Remember how you admired, liked and respected Mel Fante, Peter Lobello and Jerry Floyd? You would never tell them they could not get married to the person they love. Forget about overturning gay marriage. You are not like this. Sure Pence would put them all in jail, but that’s not you. I suspect he wasn’t your first or even close choice for running mate anyway. You say you want to eliminate all regulations, but you don’t want to be known as the president that destroyed the environment. You have the opportunity to save the planet because you are the leader of the free world and you have the Congress with you. Protect the earth, the air and the water. You want to repeal Obamacare, but you said yourself that people should have health care. Surprise everyone by coming up with a plan that’s better, where people aren’t disqualified for pre-existing conditions. It doesn’t have to be a plan that business loves. Wall Street expects you to cave to Big Pharma. Astound them by demanding a negotiation on all drug prices. Donald, there is nothing that can stop you.
It’s hard to respect you after what you have said about women. I have always said you never treated me with discrimination or disrespect, although you did like to leer at pretty women. I wrote that behavior off because of the times, but your conduct on Howard Stern and the Access Hollywood tape is outrageous and cannot be excused. Call it what you want, but it’s right there for the world to see. “No one respects women more than I do.” What a ridiculous line! But you can be redeemed and you can even win my respect back which I know is very important to you.
First you have to disabuse yourself of the notion that if a woman is harassed she should leave her job. If I did that I would never have gotten to work for you. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t have worked anywhere without that treatment in those years. It might help if you admitted that you harassed yourself, and you are ashamed of it. Another thing, don’t be flippant about equal pay. This is an important thing and you can have a positive effect. What you need to do is set up a presidential commission on women in industry and have it head up by a real progressive woman who will really study the reasons for pay disparity. You should make it a commitment of your presidency to get women equal pay, get them into non traditional roles like engineering and construction and, as best as you can, eliminate harassment against them in the workplace. You control all the agencies and can decree changes with an executive order. Oh the great changes you could make for women.
In this crazy world, you are poised to be either a total disaster, or one of the greats. Once you are president, you can do what you want. Forget what it took to get you here. Maybe you will lose some evangelicals and the racists will stay home next time but you will pick up lots of Democrats. You can be a president for everyone if you put the country first and let your ego take a back seat. Reform the prisons, rebuild our infrastructure, make healthcare affordable, fix immigration humanely. Forget about reducing taxes for the rich, reduce them for the middle class. You know jobs were lost to technology, not to closing factories due to trade agreements. Bring the technology jobs back to the US. Do something about student debt. Help poor young people get college or training for the good jobs you are promising.
I am praying you do some of the things I suggested. I would love to vote for you in 4 years, although I have never voted for a Republican in my life, but I would for you if you changed. I remember the day you bought me a used mink coat when you saw me prancing around the office in it. I remember when you treated me like an equal and we joked around all the time and you called me B. Res and honeybunch. I remember when you consoled me over the fact that the California project got condemned. Even though you totally trashed me I remember the Trump Tower days fondly. I would like to see you go back to the brash, confident and mostly fair person you were then.
When I was on my local school board, I was a real radical. Then they made me president. I rose to the office. I realized that I represented all interests not just my own narrow ones, and I was a better person for it. I know you can be a good president.