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Sunday, April 28, 2013

First Movie Date

The Ballet Scene
A Mad Obsession
First time I took a girl out to the movies I was about six going on seven.  
The youngest of my siblings had been born in October of that year [two of his children, the youngest one of those two also bearing his name, would later be born on the same month] and me and my sister, the only one we ever had, took off to the recently inaugurated Cine Gavidia to see The Red Shoes.  
Siblings by mother only [Mayita had been a single mother until meeting Payito, my father], Gloria Marina was 10 years older than me so read that part of my taking a girl out to the movies as more of a ruse of hers to distract me and to make me stop fretting about being unable to enjoy Mayita’s attention because she had just delivered a boy.  
Tall for her generation, my sister was then a slender, busty teenager that had just started working as a secretary.   Not only could she type — fast — and take dictation by stenography but she also had the best Palmer calligraphy that I had known at the time.  Her handwriting was even better than Mayita’s, which for me was telling a lot — nope, while mine was never too shabby, I didn’t get either one’s ability.  
We are talking about 1954.  Movie offerings at the time in hot and steamy San Miguel — way way far in Eastern El Salvador — were mostly Mexican fare.  
Since English-speaking movies had to be subtitled — dubbing was not used as much at the time — it was not very often that you got good quality films at the local movie theaters.  Which is part of the reason why a film as old as me was only then showing.  

Yoyita [that’s how I always called her] was not at all concerned about my ability to read subtitles —those who have read my earlier post on this blog will gather that at the age of six I was reading up a storm — but inquired, after the movie, whether the plot had made any sense. She was not surprised at all that, for me, it had. A real feast to the eyes, the ballet scene in The Red Shoes [you can also see here the part two] was mesmerizing to us both.  
I am not gonna pretend to be a genius and will concede to anybody that at that early age there were some things that clearly made no sense for me.  And it’s not like, for everybody, the intricacies of human relationships are easy to decode.  Those complexities in human behavior are precisely the reason why I concluded that some of the answers in The Red Shoes may have also eluded my sister’s understanding.  
While she was a romantic [two of her favourite songs where Doce Cascabeles and Dos Cruces] there is, if you have seen the movie, things that are not fully made clear on why they happen.  
Fast-forward about two-and-half or three more years to another movie outing with my sister.  
At the time she was a secretary at the newspaper where I would later start my professional adventure and in celebration of her job [and probably, if I remember well, as part of her conversation with my mother about her plans to marry a young poet, public accountant and teacher] she had treated the three of us to see Beneath The 12 Mile Reef.    

Released about three years before, the film had been selected as the gala opening for the Cine Regis because it was shot in CinemaScope and the movie theater was the one with the new wide screen where all the beauty of the movie could be appreciated.  
One of my greatest goofs
Two things I remember most about the movie.  
While I was [aged eight or nine] still too young to fully be caught up in what one may call a romantic interest, in “Costa Brava” [one of the three titles that the movie was released under in Spanish] red-haired, 5'1" Terry Moore was too much of a little firecracker of a woman not to make me wonder what sexual attraction can be.    
The second is one of my greatest goofs of all time, which earned me a pat on the head from my sister — plus one of her most hearty chuckles — and hollers from the entire audience.  
About 35 minutes into the movie you’ll see this scene where Gilbert Roland, who plays Robert Wagner’s dad in the film, beats Peter Graves in a fistfight.  At a point in the squabble, Roland’s marine captain’s cover falls off, his sidekick picks it up and hangs the hat on a palm tree.  
Once the fight’s over, Roland, Wagner and their companion leave the place.  
“Hey you, guys, you forgot the hat!” I hollered to the three of them, in Spanish, so entranced was I by the whole thing [no, the movie is not as good as The Red Shoes, but’s good enough to follow.]  
The howls of laughter from the entire audience were enough to make me feel like wishing the earth could swallow me.  

There was of course a point to the forgetfulness. Roland’s character dies later and sure enough his son, Wagner, returns to the secluded place where the hat had been left.  
No amount of smugness was enough for me not to stare angrily at the old man who pointed at me when leaving the theater to say to his wife, “See, that’s the kid who sensed there was something going on with the hat!”    
Over the years, Yoyita and I kept close.    
I rejoiced on the birth of each one of her four children, lamented the death of my oldest niece [of which I only knew weeks after it happened, because by then I had already started — unknowingly, I must say — my long journey to expatriation], shared heartbreaks and worries and concerns over many things, separation with children being one of them, flew back to be with her after her husband’s sudden death of cardiac arrest, and talked whenever possible, but not as often as either one of us wished and needed.

Meeting Miguel Ángel Asturias, around the time he became a Nobel winner
During all those years Yoyita became a teacher, a short story writer, got a B.A. in Literature & Philosophy and earned more than well-deserved merit for her works, as you can read here [search by Gloria Marina Fernández for a synthesis of her endeavours] and even after being afflicted since the early 2000s with terminal renal failure kept on working, her thirst for life stronger than her fear of death and writing the lyrics for this song, composed by her youngest, also a writer, a teacher, a song composer, a musician, a blogger and the one responsible for this hommage to her memory.    
I was there for the long of her life. I wasn’t for the short part.  
I say this not so much with regret but with sorrow.  
At her death, the last day of October, 2012, it had been years since we had last talked.  

This is an overdue note of condolences to her children and grandchildren, yes.    
But my remembrance of her goes without mourning.  
Someone may think you oughta mourn.  
Me, I will always speak of Yoyita in celebration.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Beyoncé & Jay-Z in Havana

A stroll in Old Havana
Just in case you haven’t had your fill with stories about Beyoncé, today’s newspapers have more than enough about the singer's and hubby's, Jay-Z, tourist visit to Havana, Cuba.
CubaHora, the self-proclaimed first ezine in Cuba, has plenty of photos with reader’s comments, in Spanish, about the event.
“Now I understand why they were doing repairs to the Saratoga a few days ago…” says one of those readers, nicknamed lukaz, referring to the hotel where the couple is staying.
You’ll notice, in those CubaHora pix, the U.S. flag waving just to the right of the Cuban flag at the front of the hotel.
Just a few other Cuban media have published the story, says CubaHora, adding a query to its readers: “Do you think it’s OK that we give coverage to this visit?”
You can also read a full report in the Miami Herald, where there is also a series of pix.
Below you'll see the screenshot with picture of the Saratoga hotel facade mentioned above.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bobby Boucher, Where Art Thou!

And there will be meowing and barking!
The sound you may have heard could very well be a relieved “whew!” coming out of the Florida Gulf Coast.
As reported online by The Atlantic Wire, the authorities of Lee County have decided “not pursuing any other charges” against two morning-radio hosts that on April Fool’s Day warned listeners of dihydrogen monoxide coming out of their taps.
As duly noted by wikipedia, dihydrogen monoxide, “shortened to ‘DHMO’, is a name for water that is consistent with basic rules of chemical nomenclature” and used “almost exclusively” in humorous context.
Back on April 2, the local NBC-affiliate in the area reported that the hosts of "Val and Scott In The Morning" had “sent people into a panic, concerned over Lee County's water quality.”    
Such was, apparently, the panic, that Lee County authorities felt themselves compelled to issue a press release [see screenshot below].

You also have this from The Atlantic Wire in its update from Wednesday: “The DJs' joke was totally immature—think grade-school level—and yet remarkably successful. They warned listeners that dihydrogen monoxide was coming out of the taps in the Fort Myers area. Of course, dihydrogen monoxide is water, but people were so freaked that Lee County Utilities had to make a statement saying that their water is safe to drink.”
Make that another relieved “Whew!”
In an era of public safety and security concerns, it’s probably understandable that an April Fool’s joke created such a ruckus among the Lee County commissioners.
But it’s not even new.
As noted in the wikipedia hyperlink above:
 A popular version of the hoax was created by Eric Lechner, Lars Norpchen and Matthew Kaufman, housemates while attending University of California, Santa Cruz in 1990, revised by Craig Jackson (also a UC Santa Cruz student) in 1994 and brought to widespread public attention in 1997 when Nathan Zohner, a 14-year-old student, gathered petitions to ban "DHMO" as the basis of his science project, titled "How Gullible Are We?".
No news yet on whether the “chemically challenged Floridians” [as TAW described them in its initial report] have expressed any concern for those cats and dogs raining over Lee County, as can be seen on the screenshot atop this post.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fat Man With a Big Cigar

Probably fatter... and even more famous
Last thing I want, believe me, is for anybody to think that the way I have put this together is so that a favorable comparison can be made.
By that I mean, no, I am not in any way suggesting that there is any similarity with the classics. My intention is none other than to remember a joke that Payito [as me and my two younger brothers always called our father] used to narrate to us all when little.
As I have previously reminisced on this blog, the onomatopoeic retelling of the misadventures of a cat that fell into a well would have us bursting at the seams anytime he was in such a good enough disposition to tell jokes [you can go here to read the version in Spanish].

What you have to bear in mind is this: they are just jokes. Nothing more than jokes. Corny jokes at that. And to be truthful, absent some kind of physical humor, they probably won’t make sense to anybody.
There are, of course, details that I leave out. It’s a rather prolonged retelling. Not unlike what a stand-up comedian will do. Meaning, anytime there is a feedback from the audience the comedian is gonna milk it and hold the vibe for as long as it’s possible.
Along the way, details would gradually be made known [it doesn’t matter that we already knew them, what was funny was to let Payito imitate, for example, the acrobatics you go through when you are trying to ‘hold it’].

In brief, the joke of the chubby-cheeked man with the big cigar narrates the troubles the character endures while traveling on a train.
It’s crowded and hot. To top it off, just as the announcement is made that there is an approaching tunnel and will everybody please stay put and above all, don’t you dare looking out the window or you will most likely be decapitated by the craggy walls, he HAS to use the bathroom.
Which he can't.
Resourceful that he is, our character unfasten his belt, lowers his pants, let's his keister protrude out the window and thankfully proceeds to relieve himself.
Just then, as is his duty to make sure that no harm comes to his passengers, the conductor looks out the window and yells: “Will that chubby-cheeked man with the big cigar get his head in!”
That’s the whole joke.
Now, about the not-making-comparisons bit.
Telling jokes is always risky. And it’s even riskier to tell jokes whenever bodily functions are involved. Some call it toilet-humor.
But let's not hold up our noses.
Even the classics, as did Cervantes in this chapter of Don Quixote, use it.
Cervantes sets the stage:

The advice seemed good to Don Quixote, and, he leading Rocinante by the bridle and Sancho the ass by the halter, after he had packed away upon him the remains of the supper, they advanced the meadow feeling their way, for the darkness of the night made it impossible to see anything; but they had not gone two hundred paces when a loud noise of water, as if falling from great rocks, struck their ears. The sound cheered them greatly; but halting to make out by listening from what quarter it came they heard unseasonably another noise which spoiled the satisfaction the sound of the water gave them, especially for Sancho, who was by nature timid and faint-hearted. They heard, I say, strokes falling with a measured beat, and a certain rattling of iron and chains that, together with the furious din of the water, would have struck terror into any heart but Don Quixote's.

Sancho then manages to tie up Rocinante so as to prevent his master from leaving him alone in order to pursue another adventure. And the author continues [click on the pix to read]:

Hilarious, won't you agree?