Thank you Fidel Castro! Happy 26th of July*

61 years ago today, Fidel and Raul Castro lead a group to attack the army barracks in Moncada, Cuba.

While his attack against US supported caudillo Fulgencio Batista wasn't too successful (look it up) it did lead to the arrest of the Castro brothers, which then allowed Fidel Castro to take the stage in his own defense.

That's where it gets good.

Castro argued that Bastista was an undemocratic dictator (yes, correct) and it wasn't ILLEGAL to try to overthrow an illegal government, therefore what he had done was actually the most legal and ethical and patriotic thing a person could do.

He ended his four hour speech with something along the lines of "condemn me if you must..... History will absolve me."

Castro was exiled from the island, went to Mexico, met Che Guevara, and trained to return to Cuba to complete the unfinished revolution of 1898, the one that kicked Spain out but didn't lead to complete independence. Of course it didn't. Cuba is strategically placed to block off a big part of the Caribbean, protecting the US's most vulnerable underbelly. But I digress.

In 1956 Castro and his compadres leave Mexico in a boat called the Granma and sneak back to Cuba, inciting Cubans to rise up against Bastista.

Violence grows (nothing like Syria, nothing like Darfur), and US backed Batista tries harder and harder to repress the violence with MORE violence.

 It doesn't work and really the world sees Batista as an undemocratic dictator that looks more and more like Stalin or Hitler.  The US can't back THAT, so in Spring 1958 the US withdraws support for Batista by declaring an arms embargo.

In a matter of months Batista will flee the island and Castro's junta will be successful.  The 26th of July becomes a national holiday to celebrate the beginning of the TRUE revolution, the one that lead to Cuba's independence.

July 26th is a bitter day for Cuban exiles, reminding us of all that we lost since That Bastard Castro started crap.

Now I know you want me to be angry at Castro for bringing communism to the island, but I'm not.

Yes, he took my family's house, their business, their insurance and bank accounts.

But he didn't take their spirit, their  love and their resiliency. My grandfather brought the family to New Orleans on a vacation, one from which we haven't returned.

And I'm glad. I've been to Cuba and although it's gorgeous and interesting and dripping with history, we definitely have it better here.

Go ahead and gripe about the NSA, about taxes, about whatever you want -- we live in a free country that has been percolating with opportunity for hundreds of years.

Here I know my kids can go further than I have, limited only by their intelligence, courage and self-discipline.

Here we have more protection, more security, better healthcare, more educational choices, and also we have Disney World and Universal and air-conditioned malls and awesome highways lined with gas pumps.

If you'd asked me years ago I would have said that the US should have encouraged Batista's government to execute the Castro brothers when it had the chance.

Now I accept what REALLY happened -- thanks to Castro, over a million people like me live in a much better place, far from communism, oppression and limits.

Maybe history will absolve Castro after all.

 In my heart, I just did.

Book #59: Paper Towns

This 100 book project has made me a John Green fan, so I expect drama, pain, wisdom and redemption in book #59: Paper Towns.

The book starts with a bang and keeps the reader rolling for several chapters after that.

Much like in John Green's must-read book Looking for Alaska, the narrator of this story is a reserved, shy male who becomes fascinated with a daring free spirited ultimately self-destructive girl. 

This worked well in Looking for Alaska but I chafed against it in this book, wondering if there is a pattern to Green's stories.  I call Zoe over (she's read all these book, remember?) and tell her I'm starting to think this author doesn't like women, or thinks all "interesting" women tear people's lives apart or actually force people to tear their own lives apart.

Zoe nods.

She has other things to do than engage in literary criticism with me, so she asks, "is that all, Mom?"

And I say no. I have a question. I want to know if this book gets better.

 Keep reading, she tells me and I tell her that's not a good answer but I keep reading.

I want to cry, I want to feel the powerful emotions I'd been brought to in Green's other books, and I am genuinely unhappy that he did not use his powers to take me on a gut-wrenchingly beautiful sad story.

Then I get over that.

I really apologize to the author for comparing this book to any of his other book's because this book is just so smart.

 Enjoy it for  being a well graphed journey about clues, about history, about Florida and cartography.  It belongs in the same bookshelf as The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Thumbs up to Paper Towns, a non-tearjerker by a great author.

Giving Cuba the Boot

After four weeks with this Dr. Suessish, Lily Pulitzeresque heavy log of a cast it's finally the day to get this beast off.I expect the worst.

When I came to the Ortho Clinic 4 weeks ago, in pain, on crutches, I had to park far far away and hobble in through the rain praying to not slip. This time, I have rock star parking, the first non-handicapped spot to the left. Awesome.

The wait is short and soon enough my cast is off (and yes, I declined to bring it home and/or put it on ebay and/or keep it for the Smithsonian) and I'm sent for Xrays.

I *do* want to keep the black boot part because I want to bring it to Cuba for my cousin who constantly breaks her foot. I feel sorry for her because she's a doctor in a land full of doctors but with almost no medical supplies.  Not a great place to live but probably the best setting ever for a good Twilight Zone story.

 I leave the black walking boot that covered my cast on the stool of my chair and go to Xrays.

When I come back there is a gentleman in the spot next to mine - not unexpected because we are all lined up in a row of 10 beds like an old hospital ward.  I guess broken bones rate low on the privacy scale because there is literally no way to talk to any patient or review any Xray without all of us hearing it.

The last time I was here, everyone pretended they couldn't see or hear anyone else, which was weird but it worked.

This time the stranger gentleman next to me is talking to this guy and that guy, suggesting someone get this and that.

The doctor sees him first and sends him for something and as this guy walked by he laughingly swatted at my newly-uncasted, still broken foot.

He actually didn't hit it, and I didn't flinch. My ninja training paid off (again). 

Pleased I didn't scream like a girl (I guess) this joking stranger smiled at me and limped off to where he was going.

The doctor sees me and sends me back off for more xrays. When I get back the stranger gentleman is back, smiling.

Now I notice he has a boot on his foot like the one I had over my cast. Instead of covering a cast, his boot is just covering a sock.

Did you get your cast off today? I point at his foot.

He says yes and points at his hand, which has a finger still oddly twisted.

The doctor comes back and gives him this paper and that one and says this and that and normally I'm the best spy *EVERRRRR* but I can't concentrate because as the man stands up to walk out I notice he has 2 similar walking boots -- one on his foot and one in his hand.

I look down, my boot is gone.


Another person (#boring) would have said "Excuse me sir, please, that's my boot" and "Hey, buddy, are you BootJacking me?"

But I have been raised by forces that have taught me to let go, let go, let go.

If someone here and now needs this boot so badly they would bootjack me, let them have it, let it bless them now.

I guess the boot wasn't meant for Cuba.  Blessings go where they are needed, right?

So, OK, I have to say something, so I say, "I hope you enjoy your boots" to which he responds with a the a nod then limps off.

The doctor turned to me.

I want to blurt out


I don't say any of that.

 I smile and get this form and that instruction and get ready to go where he's sending me.

As I tuck the paperwork away the doctor leans down next to me and scoops up something black that was sitting right out of my view ..... "Do you want to take your boot with you?"

I nod, yes, and say thank you,   I'm taking this boot to Cuba.

Book #58: A Spellbinding Love Horror Baseball Story

Book #58: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King is the kind of book that makes a person love reading.

Master storyteller King tells the story as a series of innings.

 By the top of the third inning chapter I know I will get nothing done until I finish this book and find out what happens to the Tom Gordon loving 9 year old girl who is stumbling lost through the Appalachian Trail, hallucinating, starving, scared.

 I also know she will die, of course she will die, this is a Stephen King book.

Oh wait, maybe she will start killing people first.

 Then die.

Either way, I know Stephen King.

This girl will die.

This book is as fantastic as it is unpredictable.

King's writing is delicious, his details engrossing and his soulful philosophy behind death-life-survival-horror is wise and kind.

 I put the book down long enough to dictate "It is God's nature to come in at the bottom of the ninth" into my iphone, then turn off the world and sink into the ending of the best G-rated horror-baseball-love story imaginable.

Book #57: Taste the Rainbow

Book #57 was given to me by a student who warned me this was the first book in a series and offered to give me the other books when I was ready to read them.

I think I forgot that in the 7 months and 50+ books since then (and also having gone through WW2 five times since January, I'm always mentally elated and exhausted)  and if I had remembered that tidbit I might have read this book faster than I did.

This was short book written for a young audience: many chapters were less than four pages and the plot moved roller coaster fast from this world to that one and boom there is magic and a weasel and a drumstick.

At the almost-end of the book a series of prophesies are reveled, promising enough stories to fill four or five more books.

Awesome. I love James Patterson but I won't be reading any more of this series.

Having read all the Harry Potter books I couldn't  help but scowl at things that seem too similar between the books, -- in fact it seemed like someone wrote a formula and said here, fill in the chapters.
Some things felt too close to Potter....  instead of He Who Must Not Be Named, there is The One Who is the One.  Instead of dementors there are other spirits that suck your warmth and happiness.  There were redheads (OK, yes, those are universal) but still. If you haven't read the Harry Potter series, go read it. It won't let you down.

I brought this book with me on a strange day, one where my son would be an actor on a film and I would be the parent.  The shoot goes long into the day, my phone is dead and I get a little bored so I stroll around in the base camp.

There's a huge spider living in the corner of this outdoor state park wooden building.  I'm sure it's heaven for the spider, but I need someone to play with so I decide to throw skittles at the spider.  I'm a pretty good shot (not) and one of the skittles gets tangled in the spider's web, dangling menacing between the spider and the table of food below.

I throw a rainbow of skittles after that and none hit the web.  Enough. I switch to grapes.

One grape misses.

Another grape misses.

A film school student walks by and says (in the most professional way) "that is a bad idea."

I agree. I get on my scooter and go back through the bumpy national forest, back to my car and get Book #58.