Wednesday, June 22, 2016


I want to tell you about one of my neighbors here in Miami. His name is Ricardo. He is a 25-year old Venezuelan who came to the U.S. in the aftermath of the mess of his birth country. For those who don’t know, Venezuela is, literally, crumbling. The government has become a rigid, Stalin-esque state-sponsored producer of repression and abuse. As a result, tens of thousands of Venezuelans fled and relocated here in Miami. After Cuba, it is the Latin country with the most representation here.

Ricardo is a twin. His brother was killed in a car crash when he was eight years old. His recollection of the event are sketchy – “One minute him & I were in the passenger seat of the car, the next minute I woke up, I was in the hospital and my brother was dead.”

Ricardo is a force of nature. He is the damn friendliest, ebullient person I have ever met. He is constantly happy, energetic, persuasive and persistent. You WILL end up doing what he wants to do. And you will enjoy it. He will insist.

Ricardo is gay. He has a boyfriend and he wants to settle down and marry him. He says he is tired of hookups and guys who only want to get laid. He is extremely comfortable in his sexuality. And, just for the record, I am extremely comfortable in his sexuality. I am probably the least homophobic person in the world, and I personally feel happy for people who know who they are and refuse to let other’s opinions dissuade or influence them. We spent Monday evening in the apartment pool talking about, well, whatever we wanted to.

When Ricardo was 17, he told his mother he was gay. She responded by turning the ring she had on her finger around so that the stone faced towards the palm, and slapped him across the face with it. It left a permanent scar on his face which he covers with a beard. She called him a “Goddamn faggot.” And this all happened in a shopping mall. In public. Shamed publicly. By his mother.

So to sum up: Ricardo is a happy, friendly, gay young man who has had a life of heartbreak, rejection, loss of his twin brother, forced relocation and violence at the hands of his mother.

And he keeps smiling.

There’s a message in there for all of us.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


As my friends know, a few months back I got married. And my wife is wonderful; there is no doubt that I married up. Dawn’s inclusion into my life has brought a number of positive influences to it, and one in particular –

I have met my neighbors.

I am not very sociable when I am at home. After a day of work in the bustle of downtown Miami, I just want to retreat to my little slice of Gringoism where I hear no Spanish & no one cuts me off in traffic. This city is crazy, so I prefer my home time to be relaxing with as few outside influences as possible.

But Dawn moved here from a rural area of Alabama knowing no one but me. She had to make friends, and I am happy to report: She has. And, through that, so have I. Now, you would think that, this being Miami, she has met a bunch of Cubans. Not true. By my count she has only met one – the elderly lady who lives around the corner who doesn’t speak a lick of English. But besides her, here are some bios of her, I mean our, new neighbor friends –

Ricardo – Ricardo is a 24-year old University of Miami student from Venezuela, where he and his mother fled from when Chavez assumed power. There are a lot of Venezuelans here in Miami who did the very same thing. Ricardo is nonstop chatter, and very gay. Friendly as hell, with a wide-eye sunny view of the world. I smile whenever I see him.

Ahmed – Ahmed is a 23-year old UM student from Saudi Arabia. Chain-smokes. Very thick Arabian accent, and when he talks on the phone with his mother, it sounds like Jihadists plotting a terror campaign. But Ahmed is anything but. Ahmed is a bit reserved, and avoids eye contact, but when you engage him he blossoms with talks of his dreams. His main dream is to have sex with as many American women as he can. And when we talk about, well, whatever, you can tell that America is influencing him. A typical Ahmed rant is something like, “I call to order pizza. Dees fucking Cuban on phone say he can’t understand my English. I tell dees asshole same thing.”

Molly – Molly is the elderly German lady who lives upstairs. She has been here in the apartment complex for 23 years. Very thick German accent that has obviously never left her. She is very hard to understand, and her sentences are peppered with “und” instead of “and.” Molly stays up all night watching Fox News and conspiracy shows. She is convinced that Armageddon is around every corner. But she brings us food. So that’s nice.

Scott – Finally, an American! Scott is, well, he’s Scott. He has been everything and knows everyone. Says he used to play guitar with Jimi Hendrix. Has written novels. His father founded Burger King. His dream is to move to California and sell his screenplay to Hollywood executives. Hey, go big or go home, right?

Brenda – Another gringo. Brenda is originally from Michigan, but has been in Miami for a very long time. This is evident by her leather-like skin that is about ten shades too dark for a typical Caucasian, and straw-like bleach-blond hair. Brenda lives at the pool. Molly says she uses the pool to bathe herself.

So thank you, or curse, you, my lovely wife for introducing me to these people. But given that they all live within a nine iron of where I rest my head each night, I guess I need to know these things.

Which reminds me. I have to go give Ahmed a golf lesson. There are no golf courses in Saudi Arabia.

This should be interesting.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Flashing 12 Generation

The time change happened a couple of weeks back, and as is my custom, the next morning I went around my home & moved all the clocks forward one hour. I mean, why have clocks showing the wrong time? Decoration?

Anyway, the process of re-setting my little world to the norms of the outside world got me thinking about my mom, and more broadly, her generation. Mom’s generation was definitely pre-computers, pre-digital, pre-anything but pencil and paper. Moving the clocks meant turning some button on the back that moved the minute hand forward 60 minutes. In contrast, I went to each of my digital clocks, held down the ‘Time’ button, and then clicked the ‘Hour’ button once. There – Spring Forward was accomplished.

My mother’s generation has been called The Greatest Generation, and I am not about to argue that moniker. Parents selflessly gave of themselves – fathers went to war, mothers raised their kids, and they complained very little about either. This was the American Dream of the 1950s. My parents bought a nice home in a nice suburban area, dad went to work dutifully each day, and mom got four kids ready and off to school each day. And then, in the case of my mom, she would get dressed and drive to an office somewhere and be a Bookkeeper.

Mom was a whiz with numbers. Oftentimes she would bring her work home with her, and after feeding all of us, would spend her evenings banging on an adding machine (the mechanical type, where you would punch the numbers, then pull a little bar down where the total was then printed on a roll of paper). Later, she relented and got a calculator - but with the roll of paper for an audit trail.

When computers hit the scene in the 90's mom was at the very end of her working career. She was approaching 70 years old, and when she finally balanced her last ledger, she wrote in the numbers, and, literally, closed the books. Her career was done.

But mine was really just getting going. And in my generation, the tool of necessity is the personal computer. At this minute I am typing this story in Word, and when it is done I will upload it to my blog.

A blog. Try explaining a blog to your parents.

Anyway, I remember trying to get my mom to embrace computers. I showed her neat Youtube vids of babies making faces or whatever, and she thought that was just grand. I then tried to use that bit of interest to explain to her, ‘You know, mom, anything you would ever want to know can be found right here.’ Want to take a trip somewhere? Don’t call the travel up Expedia. Want to find a good restaurant in Medina? Google it – don’t flip open the yellow pages.

It was no use. My mom was institutionalized in the Old School ways of doing things. “I spent fifty damn years in the business world punching keys. I don’t have to punch anymore.” Okay mom. Just trying to help.

So what does this have to do with setting clocks after a time change? Well, how many of you have parents, where to this day, if you go to their homes, there’s a VCR (Forget DVD players) that has a flashing 12:00 displayed on it? And how often do you sit there thinking, ‘I could fix that in about ten seconds,’ and then you do, but then you go back a week later and there’s the flashing 12 again?

Our parents were brilliant, and my parents in particular sacrificed themselves for their children. For that I am eternally grateful.

But setting a digital clock or VCR? No clue.

So here’s to the Greatest Generation.

Or, if you prefer, the Flashing 12 generation.