• Fidel's Beltway Smoochfest

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    So
    Fidel came to town for another Beltway smoochfest. Brought back
    some Cuban memories……

    Right
    where the Hemingway monument now stands in Cojimar, Cuba, is where
    my best friend Evelito and I started diving. We were seven. Yellow
    grunts (ronquitos) swarmed around the shallow reefs and
    we stalked them with straightened coat hangers while scowling milicianos
    stood watch on the sand, fingering their Czech machine guns, like
    any teenaged boys with their first guns, actually.

    They
    had orders to shoot any boat that entered the water. Already people
    were going “fishing” and turning up in Key West. Can’t have that
    sort of thing, they were told. Remember, we’re a free country now.

    We’d
    bring the little Grunts, quivering on our coathanger “spears,” up
    on the beach to Tata. She’d smile, clap, and kiss us both. Tata
    was Evelito’s mom and my Nanny. That night she’d fry the little
    suckers up hole, Cuban style. The skin, salty, garlicky, limey and
    crispy. The meat underneath, white juicy and flavorful. The head,
    on.

    John
    Huston knew. He explained it to a bemused Jack Nicholson in Chinatown.
    “Hope you don’t mind.” Remember Huston’s Orangutan-like visage smiling
    at Nicholson as they sat down for lunch at Huston’s seaside villa?
    ” I think they should be served with the head ON.”

    Tata
    looked nothing like Mami in Gone With The Wind. She looked
    more like Condaleeza Rice, or Whitney Houston; a young and elegant
    mulattress. Old family pictures we recently retrieved from Cuba
    rub it in. Damn that Fidel! If the swine had waited another
    ten years to take over — hell, call it eight — I’d a had her. Latin
    tradition called for it, in Cuba as in Louisiana.

    Just
    ask renown southern historians Mick and Keith….”Brown Sugar!
    How come you taste so good …”

    Remember
    how they were “Sold in the market down in New Orleans. And
    how, “all her boyfriends were sweet sixteen..” ?

    They
    had it right, those two Limeys. Don’t ask me how. That’s about the
    time you move in on the female domestic help. Your very first romp,
    with the family’s — okay, father’s — blessing.

    Damn
    that Fidel. I had a few years to go. Then you, “woulda heard
    me JUST AROUND MIDNIGHT!!”

    Rick
    Ocasek fantasized about “his best friend’s Girl!” Shoot
    Rick, I’d have romped with “my best friend’s MOM!” and
    my babysitter! — Mrs Robinson, Mandingo, Summer of 44 and In Praise
    of Stepmother all in one! Damn those preachy, bearded prigs and
    their rancid Revolucion.

    More
    Pinko buncombe, I’m afraid. My older cousins say these lascivacious
    fantasies are just that — the flights of a horny, middle-aged male
    mind.

    But
    let’s concede them for a second. Now, the Pinks tell us, Tata’s
    daughters and grand-daughters are happily free from such degradations.
    Adolescent senoritos no longer prey on them.

    Right,
    pot-bellied whoremongers from Germany , Spain and Italy do. Two
    Lewinsky’s a day on a flabby sunburnt slob from Turin, Hanover or
    Barcelona buy them half a bowl of frijoles negros, after
    ten they buy some spandex shorts. Viva la Revolucion! ,
    say the European whoremongers and pederasts. “Light up a Cojimar!”
    say the backslapping yuppies with “Go For It!” sneakers.

    We
    still correspond with Tata. She still looks nothing like
    Aunt Gemima. More like Tina Turner, and right about her age. Hey,
    hey, hey!…. Maybe there’s time!? Castro can’t live forever.
    But nothing from Evelito, not since 1992. He was balsero(rafter).
    Tata waved him off, rosary in hand, as he paddled off the Cojimar
    coast — right where we used to dive she said — into the Gulf Stream
    in June of that year. He and three friends were on an rickety amalgam
    of innertubes, plywood and fifty-gallon drums.

    That
    was the last time anyone saw them. Evelito fell among the balsero
    majority — the two-thirds who never make it to any shore,
    either ours or back to Cuba’s. He’d be loath to admit it, a proper
    60’s person with his Che t-shirts and all, but Eric Burdon wrote
    a song for Evelito in 1966 — for him and his 83,000 other compatriots
    who became shark fodder: “We gotta get outta this place…if
    it’s the LAST thing we EVER do!”

    The
    last thing indeed, for one in three. The Gulf Stream currents, storms,
    thirst, hunger, Hammerheads, Tigers, Oceanic Whitetips, Makos — they
    take their toll, just like on the Old Man’s monster marlin. “Dentuso!”
    (toothy one) the Old Man snarled while wacking at them with his
    oar.”Cabrones!” as they ripped and mangled his Marlin.

    Forget
    the shark Bambification campaign on Discovery Channel; forget all
    those snooty, “experts” always quoted by the media after a shark
    attack, always wagging their fingers at us, “Shark attacks are very
    rare,” they chirp. “Sharks are very misunderstood. You have a better
    chance of being struck by lightning ..blah…blah…blah.”

    Tell
    it to Evelito, to Elian’s Mom — to the 83,000 others. Dentuso’s
    teeth have the same effect on thirst-crazed humans dangling
    helplessly in the water as on the Old Man’s marlin.

    Progress
    and liberation indeed! Pinks in the Western media tell us the Revolution
    was all about people like Evelito. Yet he died either like a captive
    of the Apaches, slowly, of thirst and exposure, staked in the sun
    without escape, or like the girl in the opening scene of Jaws. Him
    and 83,000 others from his humble social strata. That’s a capacity
    crowd in New Orleans’ Superdome, dying horribly. The firing squads
    were much faster.

    “Fuego!”
    and it was over. For 21,000 men (and boys) it was over. Armando
    Valladares listened from his cell. “The cries of Long Live Christ
    the King!” He writes in Against
    All Hope
    , “would make the pits of that centennial fortress
    tremble.”

    But
    in those last seconds against that blood-splattered wall, these
    brave martyrs triumphed. They converted Valladares himself to the
    faith. Read it in Against All Hope — cause you sure as hell
    won’t read it in the U.S. media. A move to canonize some of these
    martyrs, Rogelia Gonzalez, Virgilio Companeria , Alberto Tapia,
    members of Agrupacion Catolica none older than 22, is afoot, adding
    them to the list of Spanish Civil War martyrs.

    But
    again, don’t look for this in the Media. You’ll only find The National
    Council of Churches and Pastors For Peace fellating their murderers
    like backstage groupies. We live in strange and queasy times my
    friends. Kafka at his most demented couldn’t dream this stuff up.

    I
    said the firing squads were faster. For the martyrs, yes. For the
    families it wasn’t so easy. You saw many of them on TV recently.
    Those noisy tacky people in Little Havana. Those “pampered ingrates”
    Gumbel sneered at daily. That “Miami Mafia” that so disgusted Katie
    Couric and Dan Rather. That “rabble” Alexander Cockburn proposed
    we “Nuke.”

    By
    the way Alex baby, Mr “brave” and “irreverent.” Let’s see some genuine
    iconoclasm. Let’s see you suggest the same, even in blatant jest,
    for Watts, Harlem or East L.A. Then let’s see how long you maintain
    a literary reputation after that. Hell, let’s see you beat
    a hate-crimes rap and a visit to a “de-programming” camp like Rocker.
    Pick a real fight. Don’t kick a paraplegic already gasping
    in the dirt and surrounded by a jeering Beltway mob.

    Wrong
    metaphor actually. Helpless cripples don’t land on the Bay of Pigs
    without air cover and fling themselves headlong against an enemy
    who outnumbered them twenty to one. They don’t persist against a
    rain of artillery that, according to a U.S. observer (a D-Day and
    Bulge vet), broke a Waffen S.S. division in France. They don’t rise,
    spit out the mud and blood then ram headlong into superior forces,
    inflicting casualties of twenty to one. They don’t emerge , unbroken,
    heads high, after twenty years in Castro’s dungeons — twenty years
    of what John Mc Cain endured in Hanoi.

    Not
    that these Cubans revel in their role of victims. Indeed that’s
    what so exasperates the media about them. They’ve never applied
    for work on the Liberal plantation, never jumped aboard the Democratic
    hayride.

    They
    don’t take orders from the Beltway. They flip it off. Most work
    in the private sector. They’re like teen-agers with their first
    jobs, no longer needing money from Mom and Dad. They’re harder to
    control now. Ask any exasperated (me!) parent. The Beltway
    media and the Democratic party see Cuban-Americans much the same
    way: snotty, uncontrollable little punks who wont take orders. Like
    any teenager they’re in serious need of a thrashing. They need a
    few swats across the snout to wipe that snot of their nose and that
    insolent little smile off their lips — to bring em in line goddamit!.

    But
    it’ll take more than Reno’s stormtroopers for that. Castro’s Soviet-
    trained soldiers and torturers couldn’t do it. At one time in 1962
    one of every 17 Cubans was a political prisoner. Some “pampering”,
    Mr Gumbel.

    Abandoned,
    betrayed and finally out of ammo John “Profiles in Courage” Kennedy
    offered to evacuate them from the beach at the Bay of Pigs. “We
    came here to fight!” barked Commander Oliva ( a black Cuban, Messieurs
    Rangel and Jackson) into his radio. “No Dunkirk here!” But it was
    hopeless. They had nothing left to fight with.

    Captured
    they stood tall — never breaking during torture and show trials — all
    1200 of them. A few years later their same torturers were giving
    hands-on training to John Mc Cain’s torturers in Hanoi.

    We
    hear a lot about America’s “Greatest Generation.” And I believe
    it. My father in law earned bronze and silver stars, 101st Airborne.
    My mother-in-law worked at Higgins boats right here in New Orleans,
    riveting the very boats that carried her fiance to shore at Anzio
    where his legs were shredded by a volley from a Kraut burp gun.
    40 years later he limped up the aisle, grimacing slightly with every
    step. But he smiled when handing me his daughter as a bride. Nope,
    no argument with you on that Brokaw.

    But
    don’t forget Cuba’s Greatest Generation. They don’t get books, movies
    and a D-Day museum. They get media elitists jeering them , daily,
    for five months. Gumbel, Rather, Lauer, even Couric — how you kept
    all your teeth while interviewing them, I still can’t understand.
    I’d a crammed that microphone in your mouth and halfway to your
    colon. My-father-in-law suggested the opposite route.

    Speaking
    of Mc Cain. Yes, now here was something The Cuban Reds
    could teach the Vietnamese Reds. How to torture and kill helpless
    men. Now if only the VC would have accepted Cuban training in Guerrilla
    war! Where people actually shoot back! Sweet visions! We’d
    a mopped up over there in two months. And just maybe…just maybe,
    without neccesitating the firepower and cojones of Al “To
    Hell n’ Back” Gore.

    True,
    we’d have fewer of those $4:95 Chinese buffets around today. But
    nobody said containing Communism was cheap.

    The
    valiant Che’s last words before capture in Bolivia were. “Don’t
    shoot! I’m Che’ ! I’m worth more to you alive.” Compare that
    to the yells of the men he assasinated in cold blood. So
    he wasn’t just a bumbler and sadist. He was also a coward.

    And
    boy was he right. Alive might have ended the cold war 20 years earlier.
    Air dropped into the central highlands with bundles of his books
    on Guerilla war in October of 68, we’d a had the boys home by Christmas.
    No Tet Offensive. Forget operation Rolling Thunder, all that napalm,
    all those bombs. A week after the drop we’d been fighting black-pajamad
    Beavis and Butt-heads, bumbling into ambush after ambush, starving,
    bedraggled, enraging the local peasants. We’d a mowed them down
    like wheat, the fate of every guerilla force trained by
    Che.

    Some
    swear he was a CIA agent. They notice that everyplace he
    went the Guerrillas perished en toto, routed, stomped and
    humiliated, never to resurface. That’s the very proof against
    his being a CIA agent, I counter.

    That
    was Camelot’s CIA, mostly Ivy League Pinks. At eradicating Communist
    Guerrillas they couldn’t qualify as Che’s water boys. Like their
    New Dealer ancestors they viewed Communists as “Liberals with guts.”
    They could never find it in their hearts to smash them, to give
    them a taste of their own medicine, like Franco or Pinochet. And
    that, as history shows, is what it took.

    But
    nooooooo! Those damn gooks insisted on learning from Mao! A guy
    who actually fought a war! The Red Chinese executed
    millions. But they’d actually faced an an enemy that — get this
    Che — shot back! Yes! I’m serious! These things happen in
    real Guerrilla wars, Che! Cross my heart and hope to die!

    What
    a bitch! So the red gooks won. And now run Vietnam, free to torture,
    kill and impoverish their citizens at will. The poverty of Saigon
    converted to the penury of Ho Chi Minh city.

    In
    this hemisphere (and Africa) Guerrillas carried Che’s manual in
    their packs — carried them very briefly that is. By page three they’d
    be blasted to pink mist in an ambush. Bonnie and Clyde died peacefully
    compared to many a valedictorian of Che’s Academy of guerrilla war.

    It’s
    amazing they lasted that long. Che was himself trained
    in Mexico by Colonel Alberto Bayo, an exhiled Spanish Red. In three
    years of Spanish Civil War Bayo and his Reds won ONE battle — and
    against ITALIANS! The battle of Guadalajara. Naturally
    this earned Bayo a seat on Pinko Olympus.

    P.T.
    Barnum would wilt with envy at Red salesmanship.Anyone in Sales
    or Marketing understands the hilarious endurance of the Che myth
    and why Fidel gets standing ovations, blown kisses and panties with
    phone numbers hurled at him upon any visit to the Beltway. The Cuban
    revolution is like an oldies station, all classic rock all the time.
    Red Spain served the same for an earlier generation.

    Listen
    to some of those songs on classic rock — hey, I’m as addicted to
    them as anyone. But actually listen to the songs. Pure
    crap, lots of them.

    Listen
    to Hendrix — no, not the greatest hits. They’re great. I mean the
    other stuff. The other 8/10’s of every album….Dreadful noise!

    No?..Then
    renounce any claim to bad-mouth your kid’s music. Green Day and
    Smashing Pumpkins sound downright melodious in comparison to most
    Hendrix.

    But
    who cares? We relive our youth during that appaling blast of feedback
    and mangled notes. During those glorious five minutes in a traffic
    jam we recall lithe girlfriends now Walruses, friends now in prison,
    the high school quarterback now an Orson Wells — nay, a David Crosby,
    look-alike. We recall faces, names even smells…..Fidel does the
    same to Pinks.

    Yes,
    Evelito, a humble lad of mixed-race, died in agony escaping the
    Revolucion. I, a classic representative of the ancien regime,
    sit here on my Gazebo overlooking a pool, sipping a Cuba Libre while
    listening to Hot Rocks and The Car’s Greatest Hits. Think about
    that when you hear that only the pre-revolutionary “rich” were inconvenienced
    by Castro. Think about it, Jesse Jackson and Charles Rangel, next
    time you nuzzle and coo with Fidel, next time you hoist his arm
    shouting. “Viva Fidel!.. Viva la Revolucion!”

    “I
    Hate The Sea,” the title of a gut-gripping underground
    essay by Cuban dissident Rafael Contreras, which I read on vacation
    in Cozumel, on a beach chair, in front of the sea, sipping a Dos
    Equis. It was about some young men Rafael met on the beach at Cojimar
    right where Evelito and I would dive. They stared out to sea much
    as I was then doing — but they cursed it, spit into it. “It incarcerates
    us,” they fumed, “worse than jail bars.”

    I’m
    on the sea weekly, either fishing or diving. I’m human so I love
    it. Mankind has always been drawn to the sea, it soothes, attracts,
    infatuates. I met my wife on the beach. Vacations and happiness
    occur by the sea. Always and everywhere the most expensive real
    estate faces the sea. “Water is everywhere a protection” writes
    Anthropologist Lionel Tiger trying to explain the lure. “Like a
    moat. As a species we love it.”

    Yet
    Cubans hate it. Che was right. The Cuban Revolution indeed created
    a “New Man.” But one more psychologically perverse than even Che’s
    fevered brain could conjure. The robots he envisaged working on
    his socialist ant-farms for “moral” rather than material incentives,
    pliant, obedient, unthinking, faces like Nicholson at the end of
    One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest — these at least had a precedent.
    Something close existed on Kibbutz, if only briefly.

    But
    in Cuba Che’s totalitarian dream gave rise to a psychic cripple
    beyond the imagination of even Orwell or Huxley: the first specimens
    in the history of the species to actually hate the sea.

    Arthur
    Koestler moved with with Darkness
    at Noon
    . Whittaker Chambers had me nodding earnestly with
    Witness.
    Robert Conquest’s The
    Great Terror
    benumbed the faculties. Solzhenitzyn’s
    Gulag
    Archipelago
    had even French Intellectuals shifting unconfortably
    in their Cafe seats. Valladares’ Against
    All Hope
    roused even Fidel’s amen corner in the Beltway
    media to a few nervous coughs behind the hand. But nothing shook
    me as deeply as that 200 word essay by Contreras. I put the magazine
    down, emptied my Dos Equis and grabbed another.

    Didn’t
    help. Nor did the tequila that night. My vacation was ruined. Boo-hoo.
    Poor little me.

    Evelito,
    on the other hand, would’nt know much about vacations.

    September
    14, 2000

    Humberto
    Fontova’s book entitled Helldiving — about cajun-style
    undersea lunacy — will be out this winter. This is from
    Salesrep Survival Guide, in progress.

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