Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

sábado, agosto 26, 2006

Avoiding Ernesto

When Katrina left and then finally Wilma left too, I slammed the door, called the locksmith, and changed the locks. I muttered after them, shook my head. Putas. Bitches. Done me wrong. Good riddance. Don't let the door hit you on your way out. And don't ever, ever come back. Then the silence, not the eye of the storm, but how it sounds when all the electricity is out and the streets are flooded. The loudest sounds are swimming insects in the sink. A forest of concrete is now porous like swiss cheese and as weak. The windows are gone. Everything in the freezer will thaw and stink and ooze. And there will be rivers of fetid garbage, sewage, and drowned animals in the bright sunshine.

I don't think Ernesto, above, is a reincarnation of Wilma. Or Katrina. Or any of my other famous home wreckers. I pray I'm right. In the meanwhile, there is the waiting to find out. And while there is waiting, the hot, wet breeze blows off the Caribbean. I smell the heavy, wet wind, trying to detect her, to sniff out her intention, her direction. Her perfume, once so familiar, is barely detectable. And I have no idea whether this time she is smiling or furious, benevolent or destructive. There's little to do but wait and see.

So, two waiting, waiting for hurricanes to go away book recommendations. Both have a Cuban connection. Why not? When it comes to the hurricanes, the wonder island has the most experience:

*Pedro Juan Gutierrez Dirty Havana Trilogy: A Novel In Stories . Pedro Juan is some kind of Cuban Bukowski, and this book, banned in Cuba, is as hot and humid as any.

*Oscar Hijuelos The Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love: A Novel. Hijuelos' birthday was last week. And this book, set in the Cuban emigre community of the 50's Bronx, is a steamy, yet poignant tale.

sábado, agosto 19, 2006

Garcia Lorca

Federico Garcia Lorca
Seventy years ago today in the hills northeast of Granada, Spain, Federico Garcia Lorca was executed.

City That Does Not Sleep
In the sky there is nobody asleep.Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the
street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the

Nobody is asleep on earth.Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.

Life is not a dream.Careful!Careful!Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists.Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.

One day
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the
eyes of cows.

Another day
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful!Be careful!Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention
of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes
are waiting,
where the bear's teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.

Nobody is sleeping in the sky.Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world.No one, no one.
I have said it before.

No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

lunes, agosto 14, 2006

Fidel's Birthday

It is really hot. It is really humid. Everything is sticky despite the car’s air conditioning. The roads are filled with green glare but otherwise seem empty. The few other cars seem to have diplomatic plates and their windows are rolled up tight. Our maps show fictitious roads that have no apparent entrances. There are no signs anywhere. At every intersection we roll down the windows to taste a blast of heat and to inquire if this is la Ruta, la Careterra Central. It is not a surprise that we sometimes retrace our voyage. It is not a surprise that there are people waiting at every intersection. Waiting for a ride. Or just waiting. Napping. It is also not a surprise when people appear from nowhere to sell us chocolate and coconut and bananas as the road climbs high and steep into the hot Sierra Maestra.

Our wizened hitchhiker passenger tells us incorrectly that Fidel has never been all the way to Baracoa, only Columbus and him. Yes, we will take him to Guantanamo or even Santiago if he’d like. We don’t bother to ask him if he thinks Baracoa resembles Macondo. It’s too hot.

Every town has its row of revolutionary slogan signs, signs about La Battalla de Ideas, its row of heroes, from Marti forward, its freshly painted Communist party office. Every TV has the same channel, and the channel shows Mesa Redonda, in which El Maximo Lider patiently answers the expected questions, and Super Bloqueo, in which we learn that everything, including the lack of toilet paper, vegetables and deodorant is Bush’s fault, but that, don’t worry, it’s going well, thank you very much.

It’s hard to believe this, that it’s going well. The chickens all seem to be skinny and meatless. There are entirely too few fat people. The shelves are frequently empty. The island is surrounded by the sea, but the last fish seems to have been caught by Papa Hemingway. Thank God a bottle of Havana Club rum is $3.50 and beer, Cristal or Buccanero, is a buck. But a buck is a huge investment in intoxication if your weekly take home is $12. Moneda nacional is worthless; and hard-to-get divisa requires excursions into the parallel, illegal economy, the one where lobsters and cognac and boxes of cigars and steaks fall off trucks and fly mysteriously onto your table.

If I start a conversation about how hard things seem, I’ll be told how we’ve resisted the empire and its intrigues, that medical care and education are abundant, and that despite appearances things are really great. If I say things are great, I’ll be told how bad it is here, and how much better it would be to swim through the shark infested sea to Miami, to stop working as an engineer, and to find part time work in valet parking on Calle Ocho. If I mention El Duque, I get told about how Los Industriales beat the Baltimore Orioles. One thing’s certain. We need a bottle of rum so we can hang out and discuss all of this. A bottle between four or five people won’t fill the afternoon, though it may bring some excitement and drama to the game of dominos and distract us from the oppressive heat. Then we'll see if we can get another.

At night in all of Havana except, apparently, the Cohiba Melia hotel, there’s no real air conditioning. Stay up late so that things will cool off slightly. Then bring the heavy, turbo Chinese fan over to the edge of the bed, turn it on, and lie down so it’s less than a foot away. This is how to be comfortable in Havana. Drinking a lot before sleeping, contrary to popular opinion, only makes one hotter. Interrupting the night with cold showers (are there other kinds in Havana?) is a good strategy.

The taxi driver wants to know where we’re from. He knows we're not Cuban because we have sunglasses. We tell him, in slang, La Yuma. No, we’re not Canadian, we mean the real, original Yuma. What do I do for a living? I’m a writer. Good, he says, pocketing the change as if I were Hemingway himself fat and drunk from his latest royalty check, then you can afford this $5 tip. He has a point, I concede it.

Right up there with the crazed delusion that the Iraqis would welcome US troops with flowers is that other old bugaboo, that when Fidel dies, Cuba will suddenly embrace capitalism and, even crazier, the US has a role to play in that. What a joke. A 50 year blockade, migration of everybody who could possibly float or swim to Florida, more than a hundred attempts on Fidel’s life not including the exploding Cohibas, restrictions on visiting for relatives from Miami, restrictions on how many dollars can be sent to those still on the Wonder Island, the Bay of Pigs, the fly overs, the CIA, the constant propaganda, the presence of the US Interest Section on the Malecon. A million insults large and small. Anybody who believes this myth is just crazy.

If the US wants to see a "free" Cuba, all it has to do is lift the blockade.

In the meanwhile, the exoticism of the pastel 50's cars, the beauty of the falling down buildings in Centro and the Malecon, constantly replaying records from Buena Vista Social Club, and pouring down Mojitos at the Florida Bar and the Hotel Ingleterra is a very poor excuse for the love affair we should be having.

jueves, agosto 10, 2006

Pele Of The Written Word

Jorge Amado (1912-2001)

Today is Jorge Amado's birthday. This from The Writers' Alamanac:

It's the birthday of one of Brazil's best-loved writers: Jorge Amado, (books by this author) born near Ilhéus, Brazil (1912). He is one of the most widely translated novelists in the world; they called him the "Pelé of the written word." His thirty-two books sold millions of copies in forty languages. Brazilian hotels, bars, and restaurants, as well as brands of whiskey and margarine, were named for characters from his books. He's the author of Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon (1958), Home is the Sailor (1961), and Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1966).

Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon remains one of my all time favorites.

On another note: I've been writing this blog for a full year. This is the one year anniversary post. Blogs seem to me a lot like Borges' Library of Babel. There are zillions of blogs. Some have one entry. Some have many entries each day. Some have photos. Some have graphics. Some have millions of readers. Some have been read by no one except their writer. Some have been created and then their author forgot their name. And then there's this blog, this one here, which is having its first anniversary, at this somewhat secret, partially undisclosed location, which you, dear reader, seem to have found. It's as Borges wrote, "This much is already known: for every sensible line of straightforward statement, there are leagues of senseless cacophonies, verbal jumbles and incoherences. (I know of an uncouth region whose librarians repudiate the vain and superstitious custom of finding a meaning in books and equate it with that of finding a meaning in dreams or in the chaotic lines of one's palm ... They admit that the inventors of this writing imitated the twenty-five natural symbols, but maintain that this application is accidental and that the books signify nothing in themselves. This dictum, we shall see, is not entirely fallacious.)"