Friday, March 31, 2006

Nothing in Life is Free

"I Like to be in America
OK by me in America
Everything free in America
For a small fee in America!

("America" Sondheim and Bernstein "West Side Story")

We have been observing and thus enduring the long awaited and slowly unfolding remodeling of our local Sun Fresh supermarket. The place was getting a bit dowdy, or as my Grandmother would say "a bit tatty", so the re-do was welcome. So far we have a new salad bar, an expanded sushi bar, a new dining area, new pharmacy, a refurbished deli, a bigger seafood counter and fresh meat counter, redesigned bakery section, new shelves, new signs, new freezer units, new checkout counters, new tile and soon a new floral department and bank. We are uptown.

But I may not be able to enjoy all the new ammenities... they are pricing me out! I have noticed the steady creeping upwards of the prices on things I buy regluarly. I was first alerted to this by my dear friend Mary Ruth who at 80 years old relies on her Social Security and retirement to live. "I am going to have to go shop somewhere else" she moaned, "I can't afford to pay for all this luxury". I have noticed the potato bread I buy is now 2.49 instead of 2.29 like it was before. My green leaf lettuce I enjoy on my pastrami sandwich is now 10cents a pound higher than a few weeks ago. Thankfully they have not raised the pastrami yet. Mary Ruth bemoaned that the cookies she buys for church had gone up a few cents as well.

I guess someone has to pay for all the nice new things. Nothing is free anymore for sure. I guess I could shop elsewhere, but around here the choices are few. The Thriftymart on Main is nasty ("KC's Home of Brown Vegetables and Green Meat") the Apple Mart on Broadway is just plain scary, befitting its legacy as the legendary "The Night of the Living Safeway", the Price Chopper is just a bit too far and the Hen House is too upscale for me.

So I guess I'll just have to buckle down and perhaps have to do without leaf lettuce on my pastrami. But it will be be satisfying to know my pastrami came from a nice fancy new store.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Slip of the Tongue

Just as I think I have it all figured out and know how someone will react, they surprise me.

A couple of weeks ago, a St Louis radio program host Dave Lenihan was commenting on the reports that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's name was being bantered around to be the new NFL commissioner. "It would be a big coon...," Lenihan blurted out. He meant to say "it would be a big coup for the NFL". He immediately apologized and said he combined "coup" with "NFL". Too late, he was fired in less than 20 minutes. As a former HR manager and current HR Guru for Hire, I would never had recommended that, but I digress. Anyhow, the station manger, obviously afraid that the Black community would come unglued and lawsuits and screaming would commence, went on the air to tell everyone that he was gone and that "there is enough hate." The St Louis NAACP President praised the station's action.

Then the unthinkable happened: Lenihan appeared at a news conference held by the NAACP. They called for his reinstatement at the station saying they believe he is sorry and that the incident provides a "teachable moment". The very same President said that he changed his mind after talking to other members who said that Lenihan would like to have the group's help in defusing the issue.

Lenihan and his wife announced that they had joined the NAACP and was going to be involved in a program to discourage drivers from fleeing police officers.

Unthinkable # 2 happened when a Post Dispatch columnist who writes on race issues also defended Mr Lenihan in a recent column.

When living in St Louis, I noted that the NAACP and the Columnist were usually quick to point out and condemn any slur or slight or discrimination against the Black community. They should, it is their job.

So what is this about forgiveness to Lenihan? It pleases me that everyone is being rational about this, but you have to wonder if this is not a carefully staged publicity stunt on both sides? Lenihan gets to be known as a martyr and the NAACP scores some points for a kinder and gentler group? Who knows, I can't figure it out.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Revolution Coming??

The Supreme Court-Jesters are up to their old tricks again. The Republo-idoits that have been appointed by Reagan, Bushie I and Bushie II are just totally out of step with the society. I hope they do rule that GLBT citizens have no Consitutional Rights. Maybe that will spark the war that will lead to victory.

It took riots and destruction to move the congress to approve racial civil rights in the 60s. It is taking massive demonstrations to get immigration reform. Maybe riots and protests (not parties like the 1993 and 2000 GLBT marches on Washington) will finally move the intrenched "leaders".

Someday, the Gay community will be pushed and will explode. I want to be there.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

50 Random Questions and Answers

1.Where were you 1 hour ago?

At Sun Fresh

2. When is the last time you filled up your gas tank?

Yesterday PM

3. What is the most amount of money you spent in one store?

Not counting car shopping about $1300

4. Is there anything pink within 10 feet of you?


5. When is the last time you went to the mall?


6. Are you wearing socks right now?


7. Do you have a car worth over $5,000?


8. When was the last time you drove out of town?


9. Have you been to the movies in the last 5 days?


10. Do you consider yourself kind?


11. What was the last thing you had to drink?


12. Whhe last thing you mailed?

Letter to Rolf

13. Do you wash you car?


14. Last fast food you ate?

Take out sushi count??

15. Where were you last week at this time?

Same place I am now.... at the Building I manage

16. Have you bought any clothing items in the last week?


17. Do you believe that opposites attract?


18. Heavy or light sleeper?


19. Are you impatient?

Hell yes

20. Your dream vacation?

A tour of Antarctica

21. Last boat ride you went on?

Pelican Eyes on March 9th

22. How old are your parents?

Deceased but would be in late 80s

23. Are you in love?


24. Do you have any single friends?


25. Last play you saw?

"A Chorus Line"

26. Have you been to New York?


27. What are your plans for tonight?

Listen to a new CD...make a pizza

28. Last concert you went to?

Kansas City Symphony

29. Next trip you are going to take?

Probably to my sister's in Illinois

30. Ever go to camp?

Not willingly

31. Were you an honor roll student in school?


32. Favorite Month?


33. Are you wearing any perfume or cologne?


34. Are you hungry?


35. What is your favorite part of the chicken?


36. Do you own a cowboy hat?

Heavens no

37. Do you have a tan?


38. How old do you want to be when you have kids?

been there done that

39. Does anything hurt on your body right now?

my right arm always hurts

40. What's your favorite Starbucks drink?

I avoid Starbucks like the plague

41. Last time you got pulled over?

Last fall by some stupid State Partol Officers who were in the road on the down side of a hill. I slammed my brakes and fishtailed the Queen Mary. They thought there was a problem with that. No ticket but they harrassed me and I reported them.

42. Ever been arrested?

Surprisingly no

43. Did you do sports in high school?

They did me

44. Do you like hot sauce?

On anything

45. What is your cell phone's ringtone?

"Vivaldi 4 Seasons"

46. Do you need to do laundry?


47. How long have you been at your current job?

a little over a year

48. Do you hold grudges?

I don't get mad, I get even

49. Are you rich?

Ha ha! Yeah right...

50. Last person you called?

Ross Marine, he was not in

Monday, March 27, 2006

Four Things

I got this as an email from Judy a couple of days ago. Sometimes these things get too long and involved but this one was short and kind of interesting. I decided to answer and force anyone who stumbles on this site to read it!

1 Condo Manager
2 HR Manager
3 Waiter
4 Library Tech

1. Day the Earth Stood Still
2. War of The Worlds (original version)
3. Birdcage
4. Airport

1. Urbana, IL
2. Philadelphia
3. St Louis
4. Kansas City

1. Iron Chef (Japan)
2. Weather Channel
3. Night Court (re runs)
4. History Channel

1. England
2. Israel
3. Turkey
4. Nicaragua


1. Seafood Pad Thai at Thai Paradise in KC
2. Sushi
3. Beef Stroganoff
4. Homemade fried chicken

1. I am not telling, this is not an X rated blog!
2. Nicaragua
3. A good symphony concert
4. Brunch in Paris

1. Keys
2. my big butt
3. Ball cap
4. Too much emotional baggage

Listening to classical music

Kurt Vonnegut. As a sheltered, white boy adolescent, he woke me up to the world as it really is. So it goes.

Late evening 10PM-1AM...everyone leaves me alone

Jim McElwain. He just sort of disappeared.

1. Bagpipes
2. Auto repair

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Impact of "Brokeback"

Robert W. Butler, movie critic at the KC Star, has a great essay in today's paper titled "Brokeback blazes trails to small towns".

I saw the movie and while I enjoyed it, I think it was a bit long and a little too sanitized. Annie Proulx's short story actually moved me more so than the movie. I rooted for it and like many (including those with whom I was watching the Oscars in Managua dubbed in Spanish) were shocked at its loss and the obvious homophobia of Hollywood. It was easier to give a film with a racial context the Oscar than a gay one. This crap that "Brokeback peaked too early" is nonsense. I guess that means Oscar voters see only what is in front of their faces. Maybe they are that stupid.

I know that "Brokeback" and Proulx's story will be around longer than "Crash" ever will. It has changed the way the world sees gay relationships forever. Thank you Ang Lee and all involved. That is more important than any silly gold statuette. We all know Oscar has overlooked some of the most important films and actors. You are in good company.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Babi Yar

On a cold and quiet Friday night, I am listening to one of the most remarkable pieces of music ever written, the Symphony No 13 "Babi Yar" by Dmitri Shostakovich. Written in 1962 it sets a remarkable series of poems by Yvgeny Yevtushenko one of which, "Babi Yar", describes the massacre of Jews in Kiev in 1941.

After invading the Soviet Union, the German army reached Kiev in September 1941. On September 24, five days after the Germans captured Kiev, a bomb destroyed the German headquarters. The shocked and angry Germans cordoned off the area and gathered people in the vicinity as suspects. Then another nearby building exploded. For days, bombs exploded in buildings throughout central Kiev, killing both Germans and locals. Declaring the bombings the work of Jews, the Nazis retaliated against the Jewish population of Kiev.

On September 28,a notice was posted:

"All Jews living in the city of Kiev and its vicinity are to report by 8 o'clock on the morning of Monday, September 29th, 1941, at the corner of Melnikovsky and Dokhturov Streets (near the cemetery). They are to take with them documents, money, valuables, as well as warm clothes, underwear, etc.

Any Jew not carrying out this instruction and who is found elsewhere will be shot. Any civilian entering flats evacuated by Jews and stealing property will be shot."

Most thought this notice meant the Jews were being deported. On the morning of September 29, it is said virtually every Jew in Kiev came to the appointed location.

At a gate, only a few people at a time were allowed to go in. Soon machine gun fire could be heard. Far too late, the Jews realized they were trapped and doomed. Taken from the front of the line in groups of ten, they were run along a gauntlet formed by rows of soldiers. The soldiers savagely beat the Jews as they passed. A witness reported:

"The soldiers kept shouting: "Schnell, schnell!" laughing happily, as if they were watching a circus act; they even found ways of delivering harder blows in the more vulnerable places, the ribs, the stomach and the groin.

Screaming and crying, the Jews exited the corridor of soldiers onto a field, here they left their clothes and all their belongings. Those who resisted had their clothes ripped off them by force."

In small groups of ten, the Jews were taken along the edge of the ravine called Babi Yar. One of the very few survivors remembers she "looked down and her head swam, she seemed to be so high up. Beneath her was a sea of bodies covered in blood."

Once the Jews were lined up, they were shot and their bodies, some still living, fell in to the ravine. Then the next group....

Shotakovich bravely set the poem by Yevtushenko as a memorial to the Jews and as a step in parting the vail the Soviets had placed over their indifference to Nazi atrocities in their own country. The poem was widely circulated with Yevtushenko making the cover of "Time" magazine. But the Soviets had Yevtushenko (and thus Shostakovich) add a line to the poem declaring that the atrocities were against Soviet citizens, not specifically acknowledging the genocide of the Jews.

Shostakovich's symphony was almost scuttled by Nikita Khrushchev, who tried to stop its performance. The premiere went ahead to great acclaim. The work was gleefully presented in the west as a symbol of Soviet protest. However, after the furor died down, the work was infrequently performed.

Not light music, but an incredible statement and a fitting memorial to over 100,000 Jews, gypsies and their supporters who died at Babi Yar.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Amnesty International Slams US Police Treatment of GLBT Citizens

Amnesty International has released the above linked press release aregarding the treatment of Gay and Lesbian citizens by police here in the Land of "Freedom". I generally dislike police and trust them even less. This just confirms my feelings.

Speaking of freedom, are you all, like me, sick of the word "Freedom" being misused by the right wing to deescribe their warped view of the world? Freedom to them means freedom to fuck over anyone they want, freedom to make life miserable for those that dare to challenge or disagree with them, freedom to legislate their hypocritcal morality.

Please fellow citizens, redeem this country and vote out the right wing nuts.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Vicki and Toni

Forget Coca Cola, beer is the beverage drank 'round the world. Almost everywhere I have traveled, there is a local beer. You rarely see a local cola, but someone, somewhere is brewing beer.

Central Europe, of course, has many great beers. Every country surrounding Germany brews a pilsner or ale or two. England has its ale, Ireland floods the world with the dark and hairy Guinness. Even Israel brews "Gold Star" beer. Turkey counters with "Efes". I have not visited the Orient, but we here in the US enjoy Tsing Tao from China, Sapporo or Kirin from Japan and every week at Thai food nite, Greg and I slug a Singha from Thailand.

Latin America brews some good beer as well. US markets are flooded with Corona, Modelo, Pacifica, Negra Modelo, Tecate, Dos Equis and others. I have sampled beer from El Salvador and Honduras as well. I believe there is a beer from Costa Rica too.

Nicaragua joins the world in brewing beer. The verdict on Nica beer is out among the world's beer connoisseurs. Beer snobs seem to prefer the darker beers over the lighter Nica Pilsners. Victoria and Tona (pronounced Tonya, blogspot will not let me use the "~" symbol over the n) are the two largest brews from Nicaragua. Victoria seems to be the most ubiquitous with Tona not far behind. Most tasters seem to prefer the darker, bolder flavor of Tona over the lighter, more "Bud Light" flavor of Victoria.

I really am not a beer snob so I see little difference. I just know that it is not really Nicaragua unless I have a Vicki or Toni near by. In the past, we could only get Victoria in the countryside so that is why I began drinking Vicki. I have more recently acquired a taste for Toni, as I do believe it has gotten better and has smoothed out a bit. Victoria has released a new beer called "Premium" that looks like a Corona. I have not had many and do not see the reason to pay more for it over a Toni or Vicki.

Every Cantina has a new shiny cooler advertising Victoria, Tona, or even the new Brazilian (another country heard from) Brahva. Each claim to have the coldest beer available, with a digital thermometer to prove it. I am a little suspect, as some of them register quite a few degrees below freezing. With the coming of electricity to much of the campo, the beer is colder now than it was.

Vicki and Toni may not be in the same league as Flo, but these ladies are certainly more popular. Given the choice however, most Nicas would dance with Flo anytime!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Nica 7 Years on: The Price of Progress

My recent pilgrimage to Nicaragua was my 10th since February of 1999 and I look forward to many more in the years ahead. The last 7 years have brought many changes to the Land of Lakes and Volcanos. Some can be labeled as progress, some are inevitable, some unwelcome. I, somewhat naively, dislike change and often wish things were the same as when I found them. But as much as I protest, things change..and people change.

1) Managua
Here is some good change, the progress of increased investment and interest in Nicaragua as a place to do business and visit. In 1999 the airport had no jetways (you left the plane on stairs rolled up to the door, immediately experiencing the shock of the humid, Jet-A fuel scented air) no air-conditioning inside, rudimentary baggage claim (your bags were simply just distributed on the floor) and an overall decor that had not been touched since the 80's. After claiming your baggage, you stumbled out in to the seething morass of beggars and "porters" relentlessly grabbing at you and your bags. I feared for my safely and belongings as we rushed to the waiting car to take us to the Casa Ave Maria. The streets were rough and strewn with trash. A general stench of garbage and diesel permeated everything. Although the earthquake that destroyed Managua was in 1972, it looked like it had happened yesterday.

Today the airport is modern and expanding. Clean and comfortable, the crush of beggars replaced by official porters and cabbies. You get on and off on jetways with real boarding gates and baggage claim carrosels. Duty free shops are nicer and bigger than those in Houston.
The City of Managua, although showing the scars of years of abuse and neglect is much cleaner and the new Caraterra Norte is smooth and even has stoplights. New hotels and services, shopping (even a Costco like PriceSmart) and restaurants are plentiful. Still poor and still susceptible to earthquakes, Managua is almost livable. At least it does not scare you to death.

2) Mulukuku
The 21st century has arrived, albeit late, in Mulukuku. In 1999 we took batteries for the clinic as there was no electricity except for the small generator at the co-op compound. Now, there was a request that we bring them a laptop, and there is talk of a wireless internet tower. Phones are arriving via Enitel. There is one payphone on the main road now looking brand new and unused. I didn't see if it worked, but it must a harbinger of things to come. There is electricity in Mulukuku now, from about 9am to 12mid. That has brought TVs to those who can afford them, and even cable TV; courtesy of an enterprising resident that installed some satellite dishes and strung cable. A few with money have Direct TV. This has brought the world to Mulukuku, and violent shows and a regression from a front porch society to an in front of the boob tube society. Although the electricity means better refrigeration, security and our ability to do more than just pull teeth (we even did root canals), it has taken the innocence of the village and thrust it in to the world.

3)San Juan del Sur
No longer Nica, SJDS is Gringolandia South. Once a few lonely and enterprising gringos roamed the streets. Ricardo's was the only place in town besides the few seaside restaurants. Now there are gringos a-plenty, new houses everywhere, ATM machines, gringos, real estate offices, condos, gringos, pizza, Chinese food, hotels, gringos, cruise ships and did I mention gringos. "Mas trabajo" said one of the locals as I asked about the latest gringo invasion. "But can you afford to live here as the prices go up and up on everything in the lust to capture the dollar?" I got a shrug.

I wish time had stood still here, that the SJDS of 2001 was still there today. A lazy village, the view of the sea unspoiled. The Hotel Piedras Y Olas was still a dream, the pool and rancho the only signs of what was to be. My dream of living there a dream then as well. But then I would have contributed to the gringofication of the place, so maybe it all worked out. When the pool opened a couple of years later it was fun to swim and play there with no one around,the place to ourselves, with only a cooler of Victoria for a bar. The invasion of the pretentious retired gringos sitting around never venturing out to the world was still off in the distance. You used to only be able to get good cheap seafood in SJDS, now there is steak and pasta and European dishes at US prices. Pools and fancy homes now dot the hillside. You can't spit without hitting gringo $.

4)The Nicaraguan People
I see the change in the Nica people as well. For some, a life in the new middle class is emerging, having the ability to buy things, to have a nicer house, a car, appliances. I see a bit more pride in the country as it cleans up and presents a fresh scrubbed face to the world. There is pride in its products, the fine rum, produce, poetry and art and the world is taking notice.

But I also see the dreams and ideals of the Revolution disappearing. No one talks of Sandino or how Nicaragua finally threw off the chains of imperialism in the 1979 Revolution. They want to forget the Sandanista years and the long, bloody Ronald Regan backed civil war. Now, if someone owns a Kamaz truck from The Soviet Union, the Cyrillic "Z" at the end is removed, so as not to be laughably Russian. The country's politics are sliding into a morass as well. Once most of the eligible voters voted with gusto. Now there is talk of abstaining, in order to show the discontent with the corrupt politicians who promise and promise and lie and lie and lie. Much like here in "Los Estados", polictical apathy is running high.

The invading gringos keep talking of "changing the Nicas", teaching them, training them to "do it right". "Service in this country sucks", one of the students proclaimed after failing to recieve his beer he ordered, "they need to learn customer service". Fucking leave them alone, I love them as they are: industrious, pleasant, laid back, clean, smiling, never wanting to let you down. Frustrating as hell to type A gringos. A breath of fresh air in this complex world.

Progress: Yes. "Mas trabajo": Yes. Something lost: Yes. The price of progress I am told.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Lucia Di Lammermoor

Gaetano Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" is a text book opera if there ever was one. The juicy libretto is full of drama, pathos and betraytal; just barely staying on the right side of silliness and absurdity. The music however is hauntingly lyrical with dramatic arias,rousing choruses and one of the most celebrated "mad scenes" in all of opera.

The Lyric Opera of Kansas City redeemed itself after a clunky, boring Carmen in this excellent production that concluded Sunday. Soprano Angela Turner Wilson, in the title role and who is singing her first Lucia, proved to be a Lucia of great power and ability. The rest of the cast also was a full step above the Carmen cast. Troy Cook as Enrico (Lucia's manipulative brother whose remorse for his misdeeds is too late to save Lucia)is an excellent actor and his baritone clear and powerful. He was perfect in his role and added to the overall vocal exellence. Jianyi Zhang as Lucia'’s lover Edgardo was a bright and forceful tenor and also a decent actor.

The set, the ruins of Lammermoor Castle in Scotland, were appropriately gloomy and shadowy. The opening with the fog and the single sentry creeping down the stairs with a single torch was very effective. Neither the sets or the costumes were particularly showy, but added to the sense of doom and gloom essential to the plot.

The famous mad scene was never maudlin or campy. Wilson never forced or exaggerated her expressions and movements, she truly appeared to be beside herself in agony and despair. The excellent staging and make up gave her a pitiful, ghostly appearance, or as the KC Star critic pointed out, almost "Carrie like", with her white dress and hands with stained with blood.

The orchestra, as usual, was a bit overwhelming in some spots. I chalk it up to the Lyric Theatre accoustics. The performance never drug yet was not rushed or forced.

Wilson's Lucia was a revelation. Some more seasoned patrons compared her to the great Lucia's they had experienced at the Met or La Scala. Sure in her role, bouncing from young lover to a mad, betrayed woman to cold blooded killer, she is an artist to watch.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Tressa Waggoner: The Latest

Blogspot provides a site meter that logs visits to my blog, allows you to track visitors by ISP address and how the person found your blog. Besides those just browsing through Blogspot, the second most common entry to my blog has been through a Google search for "Tressa Waggoner", the Colorado music teacher threatened by the ignorant buffoons Bennett, Colorado.

To refresh, Waggoner was placed on administrative leave after she showed a video clip of Faust to her students. Waggoner showed a 30+ year old video clip of the opera, narrated by Joan Sutherland and performed by singing sock puppets. Ironically the video is called "Who is Afraid of Opera?" She had hoped to educate first, second, and third graders in one of her classes about opera, and chose Faust to teach the children about bass and tenor voices and "trouser roles" in opera.

This led to accusations that she was a lesbian promoting homosexuality, despite her being married and a mother of two children. Faust's plot (the title character sells his soul to the devil to recapture his youth) led to her being labeled a Satanist. She has been on paid administrative leave since January 30. The local paper reported that Waggoner would not be allowed to return to her post in the school. The school Superintendent, obviously under the influence of the Nazi element in town, told Waggoner that she would remain on paid administrative leave, but added that it would be "too much of a disruption" to parents and students if she returned. Wisely, she plans to leave Bennett.

According to Waggoner, 53 people at a school board meeting in February supported her return while 6 opposed it. These 6 have obviously bullied the town before. Like those of similar ilk, even when they lose, they will stop at nothing to ruin the person they fear.

Waggoner is not alone in her disgust with this little hell-hole on earth. According to the Rocky Mountain News, Bennett mayor Karen Grossiant resigned in February, saying Waggoner's removal was the "last straw." She told the paper that Bennett, population 2,500, "has a mean-spirited undertone."

I have stronger words: ignorant, frightening Nazis, the type of people who would turn in their neighbor if it suited their purposes. All while hiding under the cloak of religion. The poor kids of this community are scarred forever by their paranoid, mentally unstable parents. Avoid this place at all costs!

Good luck Tressa. And to anyone from Bennett who should read this, I feel sorry for you.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

La Hora Nica

"Hay mas tiempo que vida". A popular Nica saying, translated as "there is more time than life". So why hurry. Nicas have a flexible concept of time. Mostly due to the nature of life, long hours working (if you have work), long hours trying to make ends meet if you do not, and the relentless hot sun. This is not to say Nicas are lazy. On the contrary. Nothing is given here, if you have food, shelter or possessions, you have to work for them. Therefore, Nicas are industrious and rarely waste things. As my friend Grant says: "Nicas are most remarkable. Give them something broken and they will fuck with it until it works good as new or is completely destroyed, there is no inbetween."

To survive in Nicaragua, you need to understand two concepts:
1) La Hora Nica,
2) Manana


Nica time is opposed to La Hora Gringa or Gringo Time. If someone tells you a meeting or event is to begin at 7PM they really mean "not before then". It is advised that you tell your friends "3PM Nica time" if you are meeting with Nicas or if you insist on punctuality "3PM Gringo Time". Gringos are constantly early for things until they understand and live the Hora Nica and thus easily spotted, cooling their heels as they wait.... and wait.

The meeting itself may only be a suggestion. Excuses for not keeping a meeting are not necessary. But if offered are always accepted...and life goes on.


Does not mean "tomorrow". It, in actuality, means "not now" or "not today". Remember, if you have more time than you can use, more time than life itself, then what is the rush? Compounding the meaning of manana is that Nicas always strive to save face. They do not want to disappoint you if they do not have what you want or have failed to deliver on a promise. So it is easy to placate with a semi-sincere "manana".. not now.. but maybe tomorrow... or the day after that, or the day after that....

In our watch controlled world, I somewhat enjoy the Hora Nica. It frustrated me at first, but as I got used to it and began to immerse myself in the culture, I appreciate it and understand its necessity.

Relax, manana all will be ok. Have a drink.

Friday, March 17, 2006

La Cosina Nicaraguense

Nicaraguan cuisine is somewhat like English cuisine, a contradiction in terms. It is doubtful that Nica cuisine will ever take center stage in the world, unlike her fine rum.

The vast majority of Nicas live on beans and rice. Now Nica beans are very good, nice firm red ones, very flavorful and robust. Mixed with rice and a bit of lard and salt and you have the national dish Gallo Pinto. Gallo Pinto is translated as 'spotted rooster" as the dark of the beans contrasts with the slightly reddened rice, much like the bi-colored rooster. The dish is also known as "Moros and Christianos" or "Moors and Christians", contrasting the dark skinned Moors and the lighter skinned Christians of Spain. Gallo Pinto is nothing but versatile, it serves as a breakfast lunch or dinner, sometimes all three. Served with a hand made tortilla and the salty, crumbly curdled milk cheese called Cujada (pronounced more like Gua-hara)it sustains the vast majority of the population.

Luckily I love rice, beans are ok, but I could sustain on rice. Nica white rice is very good.

Saute in a large pot about 1/2 a green pepper and 1/2 onion rough cut with a small amount of oil for about 4-5 minutes.

Add to this mixture the amount of rice as desired according to package directions and lightly toast the rice until it is covered in the oil and just starting to toast.

Remove from heat and add the amount of water and allow to steam until done. DO not remove the onion and pepper, let it steam with the rice.

This is best served with Churrasco, a thin sliced steak broiled and covered with chimichurri, a sauce made of olive oil, onion, parsley, garlic and pepper, all finely diced.

Plaintains, the big cousin of the banana is a favorite staple. Either in tostonies which are crispy fried medallions using the green plantain or the soft, sweet ripe maduros, it is a shame we in the US do not use this wonderful fruit.

Sea food is plentiful on the coasts. Snapper, tuna, dorado, lobster and more can be found in the warm Pacific waters. Nicas love Ceviche, finely chopped raw fish is marinated in lime or lemon juice until the acid in the juice "Cooks" the fish. Combined with onion, pepper, cilantro, and other vegetables. It is served chilled with crackers or toasted tortilla. It is one of my favorites.

The rich volcanic soil in Nicaragua yields sweet, robust vegetables. Onions are ubiquitous in Nica culture, served with everything and eaten with gusto. The carrots are huge and sweet. I was served carrot juice one time and thought it was orange juice, it was that sweet. The watermelons actually have flavor here, as do the wonderful juicy pineapples.

Nica cuisine may not be ready for prime time, but for sure if one looks, no one will go hungry.

Buen Provecho!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I Can't Afford to be Poor

A bit of a paradox is it not? I can't afford to live poor. I would love to chuck this stressful, hypocritical life here in Gringolandia and live and work in Nicaragua. Most of my friends, except an enlightened few do not understand that. Unfortunately, I am coming to the realization that it will never happen. And thus I feel even more disconnected from life.

I have been a poor steward of money. Most of it went to child support over the years. I never seemed to have enough to stick back, and when I did, someone wanted it now. When I lost everything in the last days of Beverly, my ill considered move to Chicago and then to St Louis with loser companies, I have since then lived on little, a used car, a job that pays little but comes with an apt and utilities. I do not lack for much, I have nice things.. but not enough to chuck it all and live on my savings in Nicaragua.

Going there with out a job or some financial backing would be suicide. I do not know if I have the conscience to live like a king in such a land. Hell, I can't live as pauper. There is little health care (not that I have much here) and I do not want to be a moocher on friends...sure way to lose them. There are not enough jobs for Nicas let alone a fat gringo with few needed skills. Making the jump is scary. Maybe I just need to do it. Maybe I am not so sure after all.

I lost out on the chance to be a land baron, my own fault in part and the greed of others. Priced out now, I look on in resignation and resenment at what might have been. Interlopers on "my" land that I once proudly took a picture of, with me standing by "my" tree. The pic was torn to bits along with my meagre investment, now an amount not worthy to pick up off the ground.

Strange, a poor country now being invaded by the rich. Some of the Nicas welcome the influx. "Mas trabajo" said Arturo, a bartender, when asked how he felt about his hometown's gringo invasion. I guess that is good, but when gringo prices are being charged, are gringo wages being paid? Can even Nicas afford to live in their own land? Most could not in the new hot spots. Will the resentment grow and explode?

I have a grand plan, but like most of mine, my personality and lack of focus will result in nothing. I am a Pisces through and through. Grand dreams, frustrated reality. I want to start the optometry program and learn how to give exams and glaucoma. Spend some time in Nica and then back here, get a job doing something and save, save, save for 3-4 mos in Nica. Sometimes I suprise people (and myself) and actually accomplish something.

I continue to wistfully look at and go to the land of lakes and volcanos and dream of what may be. It tears me up. Why do you have such a hold on me Nicaragua?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Flo: One of Nicaragua's Three Great Ladies

It is everywhere, from the arrival hall at the International Airport in Managua to the most remote village, everywhere Flor De Cana. She is the national elixir, a world treasure, the best of its kind, one of the three great ladies of Nicaragua along with Vicki and Toni (more on that later).

Nicaragua is rich in sugar cane and thus rich in its most sublime byproduct, rum. Unforunately, the lack of a major distributor has meant that in the US Flor De Cana is hard to find. Thus US citizens think Bacardi or Captain Morgan is the best. Phooey.

She, in her best iterations, is as dark and smooth as fine teakwood. Sweet but not sugary, the sweetness is subtle yet unmistakable. A wonderful aroma, rich and earthy. Even the light versions are light years ahead of bacardi and such. Flo would never insult you with an alcohol-y taste. She thinks she is brandy.

My favorite is the Centenario D'Oro or Centennial Gold. Aged 18 years she is a work of art. I will personally beat anyone who dares waste this liquid gold by combining it with Coca Cola. The International Wine and Spirits Competition took note of her glory:

The International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC), in London, England, awarded Gold Medal and Best in Class to Flor de Cana Centenario Gold 18 year-old. Judges notes were "A Massive majesty in huge nose packed with treacle, caramel, and vanilla but in stupendous elegance. Delicate sugars float in a wave of esters and tantalize the nose while full flavors satisfy the palate. Wonderful richness yet all in sheer elegance. A quality of product that is a surprise to the world at large. ExcellentÂ".

Massive Majesty indeed. In my return luggage were 2 bottles of Centenario Gold (one wating for the annual men's retreat this fall), a Centenario 12, and 2 Grand Reserves for mixing. I enjoyed a shot of the 21 a special limited edition that to me was not much different than the D'oro at a significantly lower price.

For the more expensive versions, I prefer it stright up with a sliver of ice. Grand Reserve and lower is good for mixing. In the stores, a Centenario is about $11, a Grand Reserve about $7. In the states, a Grand Reserve will set you back $30 easy..if you can find it. Centenario 12 is around $60, the 18yr old Gold... not even available, only found at duty free shops in Managua.

If ever you can find it, or wish to come to my house, try some Ron Flor De Cana. It is the spirit and taste of Nicaragua, one that is never forgotten.


Monday, March 13, 2006

La Flor Mas Linda

This is the first of my series of Nicaragua blog entries. I just completed my 10th trip to this wonderful, yet struggling country, equally blessed and cursed.

My first trip was in 1999. As a member of Trinity United Methodist Church, I watched some of my fellow members go in 1998. They were full of wonderful stories and a desire to return. I decided to go on the next trip and snag an interesting stamp on my passport. I went. I saw. I fell in love with a country and people so full of grace, simple generosity and a will to survive in spite of natural and man made disasters that would crush an ordinary people.

Why do I love the place? It is hot, dirty, expensive to travel to, the roads a mess, most of the time not all that safe. It is hard to explain. One has to see it, be wrenched from our comfy couches and see how 99% of the world lives. There is a Nicaraguan magic that some experience. The spirit and energy that comes from people who bravely toil each day to survive. Many visitors come and go without understanding what I and others feel. Maybe it is as my friend Greg said, Nicaragua with its challenges and struggles of the past attracts the broken from the world, and gives them a place to call home, a place to repent and heal.

These words by the great Nica musician, revolutionary and poet Carlos Meija Godoy say it best. "Nicaragua, Nicaraguita" is a wonderful song that should be the national anthem:

Ay, Nicaragua, Nicaragüita, la flor mas linda de mi querer, abonada con la bendita, Nicaragüita, sangre de Diriangen! Ay, Nicaragua, sos más dulcita, que la mielita de tamagás, pero ahora que ya sos libre, Nicaragüita, yo te quiero mucho mas.

(Oh, Nicaragua, little Nicaragua, the most beautiful flower of my desire, fertile with blessing, little Nicaragua, offspring of Diriangen! Oh, Nicaragua, you are sweeter than the honey of Tamagas, but now that you are free, little Nicaragua, I love you so much more!)

When I toast Nicaragua I lift my glass of Flor di Cana rum and say:

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Been Away for A Bit

I have been in my dear Nicaragua since the 25th. Got back today. I'll blog about the trip over the next few days or so. I am tired!!