Making Money In Havana

“Fredo, we gotta go to Cuba before it’s too late.”

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My business partner Nick, who co-owns a dive bar with me, seemed genuinely worried.

“Now that Obama’s opened it up, there’s gonna be this tidal wave, and if we’re not surfing it, we’re gonna drown in the whitewash.”

Normally Nick is a man of few words: he lets his tattoos and notoriety as the president of a local motorcycle club do the talking for him.  So when Nick waxed poetic about the ocean, my ears were pricked.

Why “Nightcrawler” Is A Better Movie Than It Should Be

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One of the best perks of being a member of the Writer’s Guild (a union for writers; feel free to snicker here: sitting in a cozy coffee shop typing is sorta like digging for coal or installing sheet metal – we laborers must unite!) are the screeners we receive every December.  The Writer’s Guild holds its own awards, and members are given DVD copies – “screeners” – of Academy Award-type movies (war; holocaust; slavery; Historically Important Stuff) to watch, as the label says, “for your consideration.”

So when Jake Gyllenhaal’s thriller “Nightcrawler” arrived the other day, I had to scratch my head.

Yummy Spam

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I don’t think I’m quite yet old enough and I’m certainly not rich enough, but so much of my e-mail spam these days implores me to consider dental implants, yacht rentals and burial insurance.  Oh, and bath tubs that are easy to get in and out of.  Sigh.

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And, of course, I can’t go a day – Sundays are no exception – without at least half a dozen e-mails from the Democrats begging me for money.  Donate once to moveon.org and your in box will never be lonely again.

But occasionally I do get a few servings of spam that bring a smile to my face.

Around The Horn: How Do You Vote?

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This last Tuesday, we the people, in order to form a more perfect union, headed to the polls for our mid-term elections.  Estimates vary, but something like 35% of us eligible voters actually turned out (in war torn Ukraine, 60% of voters made a point of casting their ballots).  So I was feeling pretty good about the “I Voted” sticker I wore on my shirt when I went to work afterwards.  There I ran into my manager Diana, who, I’m guessing, is in her mid-twenties.  I asked if she had voted yet.

“No.”

“Going later today?”

“No.”

“You’re not voting at all?” I asked.

“I don’t think so.”

Letter To My Son

(10 days ago – after 18 wonderful years – we dropped our son off at college; it is still too raw for me to write about the day itself, but I wanted to share with you the letter I stuck in his hand as I hugged him goodbye and tried not to let him see the tears welling in my eyes)

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(above: on the drive over….below: 18 years before the drive over…)

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My dearest Rafael,

I’m sitting in the London apartment we rented, and am just beginning a letter which I will give you when you leave home for college.

This will be a random laundry list of thoughts – but you are not allowed to throw them away!  (I WILL check!)

Around The Horn: Stop That Thief!

Today I’d like to address a sensitive subject: childhood thievery. 

Not kids being stolen off the street or depressing crap like that, but the stuff you stole as a child (and please, do not tell me you never took a five-finger discount when you were a kid).

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Let’s use a cut-off age of ten years old. 

I remember stealing two things: packs of gum (various, but especially Bubble Yum) and the fancy metal caps off car tire valves.  They were the “hip” thing to have for your bicycle tires, and I didn’t have the money for them.   Soooooo….I cruised the parking lot of Sears until I found a car with shiny silver valve caps, crouched down, and stole a pair for my bike.

Letter To A Douchebag

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There are many ways to identify douchebags: their open shirts, their indoor sunglasses, their liberal use of hair product, but what about their parking habits?

I hate people who park in other people’s reserved spaces.  That whole sense of entitlement, of thinking the rules don’t apply to you.  Ugh.  And then there are those people who straddle the yellow dividing lines, hogging up two spots.  And don’t get me started on the goons who park illegally in handicapped spots – in my book, you’ve just booked a seat on the karmic express to hell.

So why on earth did I receive this charming letter the other day?

Meeting Jello Biafra

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He was standing against the wall, beer in hand, talking to a much younger blonde woman.  But it was getting late, and I was tired – if I wanted that autograph, I had to make my move.

Jello Biafra (former front man for the Dead Kennedys, political prankster and activist, founder of Alternative Tentacles Records, and all around punk rock royalty) was DJ-ing at my little dive bar, The Ruby Room, and I had vowed I would get the man to sign a couple of records.  I felt okay about this: after all, I had restrained myself from bringing ALL six of the LP’s I own, not to mention the handful of 45’s.

Jello’s work mattered to me.  Still does.

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Kicking Out The Homeless: Why I’m Kinda Okay With This

In the city where I live, there is a spit of land by the shoreline where people take their dogs on walks, let their children get their feet wet, and where an estimated 30 homeless people are living.

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Just this week, the city reached a settlement with the homeless, agreeing to pay each of them $3000 in return for a promise that they leave and not return to the property, which is owned by the city.

The legal issue is federal and state disability laws and Fourth Amendment property protections (which include shopping carts filled with stuff), versus the city’s “anti-camping” ordinance, the city’s way to prevent the homeless from squatting.

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Is It Art?

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Hmm.  Okay.  A dorm room fridge with a Black Flag sticker on it.

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Well, let’s see….

…it’s in a museum.

…it’s in a nice plexiglass box.

…a label describes the piece (Kaz Oshiro, “Small Fridge #5 (Black Flag)”, acrylic, bondo, canvas, 2005)

So, yes, it must be art…right?