Opening Statement



Monday, 23 February 2015

Is Canada Under Attack 2?

Is Canada Under Attack Part 1 is @ Here!


Canadian progressives beware: The Harper Conservative's much anticipated Bill C-51, new "Anti-Terrorist" act [C-51], is about to be passed into law! Did you know that it allows the federal government to arbitrary decide what activities "undermine the security of Canada" letting them legally violate our most basic constitutional rights and freedoms? Unfortunately, even Justin Trudeau's Federal Liberals supported the Bill, though Thomas Mulcair's NDP did not. Either way, with a majority government the PC's will inevitably get the Act passed!

My guess would be that Mr. Trudeau doesn't want to play into Harper's hands by seeming to be "soft on terrorism", with a federal election pending. Alas, until the PC's are defeated that gives Harper a horrific, open license to violate the very constitutional rights that PET and our older generation once held most sacred as a cornerstone of Canadian democracy. Nowadays? Seems most folks don't understand, let alone appreciate or care about such matters any more. Tragically, the latest Angus Reid Poll [Here] shows that there's even very strong public support for C-51. The only consolation? Some Canadians still grasp and are worried about the serious, nagging issue of public over sight amongst the current "terrorism" hysteria. 

So how will Canada vote come election time? With Harper's "Year of Fear" gambit, it could be out of fear rather than any sense of reason. Our dollar's tanked! Working and even middle class families can't make ends meet! Most Canadians can't even afford to retire anymore! Meanwhile, our attention is being recklessly diverted from these very real dangers at home. Instead, we're waging war with C-51 and our aging fleet of CF-18 jet fighters against a big, bad, boogie man terrorist threat most of us little understand!

Alas, it only becomes increasingly more hard to tell who the real enemy is now that C-51 is being passed into law! On the home front, any and all Muslim Canadian, First Nation peoples, and protest "misfits" can now fall under the new Bill C-51 definition of a "terrorist threat". That means it's open season on any lefties, and other such n'er do wells! Or for that matter anyone who looks, dresses and acts differently or "weird" in "Our Canada", whatever that is supposed to mean any more! But not so a murderous US Nazi group who recently came to Canada planning to shoot up a crowded shopping mall out east. Indeed, the Harper government now has the arbitrary power to decide as they please who they will go after, and who not with his new Anti Terror Act @ Here's How!

Moreover, Mr. Harper is playing the "Islamaphobia" card [Readto divide and conquer the Canadian electorate. He's stoking public fears of diabolical, cartoon like, Islamic, Jihad extremists apparently set on blowing us all up. Not unlike during the Cold War when there was a commie "red under every bed", now you'd best sleep with one eye wide open watching out for that suspicious looking Muslim family living down the street!

Mr. Harper's "Year of Fear" should come as no surprise! If in doubt, check out my October "Is Canada Under Attack 1" blog! All is not well in Canada, the true north weak and cold! The dollar? Jobs? Our pensions? Nope! These are not a pressing concern, at least according to the Harper government. Not if we are all going to get blown up or shot by a darn terrorist at any time by golly! No matter that our alleged Ottawa terrorist suspect last October was actually a well known crackhead angry because his passport to go abroad for treatment was late arriving at the office. Seems the RCMP has a "secret tape". Mr. Harper can't let us see. It allegedly proves that our deranged terrorism suspect is actually one of those new, recently "radicalized", Muslim extremists now popping up everywhere in Canada these days! 

Why can't you see Mr. Harper's tape? Well because, -just because! Hell, don't you like our brave new world of Canada under Bill C-51? Wait! You'd better not answer that question! Just quietly put that thought in your medical marijuana pipe and smoke it! Whether the mad man in Ottawa last October was a terrorist or not is now up to Mr. Harper to decide, Buster! You'd better hope he doesn't decide that you are actually a "misfit" just for wondering what's really going on! Because maybe it will be your civil rights that's going up in smoke next! 

Meanwhile abroad, our CF 18's are apparently busy blowing up "terrorist bomb factories" and the like in Syria. They are also inadvertently helping protect it's particularly vile dictator as a part of the deal. How do we know what those fields of rubble once really were? Well, that doesn't matter. Mr. Harper knows eh! You can also rest assured knowing that he's planning to help the US fight and win it's Orwellian Iraq War again, after already winning and losing it about 13 years! Hey! With our CF-18's on their side how can the US possibly lose the War Against Terror now? 

By gar, Mr. Harper's "Year of Fear" is surely keeping him a very busy man while he tries to defend your rights and freedoms! Thank God for that! Breathe a sigh of relief Mr. Johnny Canuck! You can still draw funny cartoons of the prophet Mohammad in Canada if you like, no sweat! As for you Ms Candy Canadiana? See that suspicious bleary eyed "misfit" sitting next to you on the crowded subway train? Maybe you're afraid he's actually a terrorist from hell seeking your help, on a whim, to build a ten ton "fertilizer bomb"? Blow up a railway bridge? The CN Tower? Or God forbid to help him go cut off Mr. Harper's head? Sacrebleu! Worry not! That's all Mr. Harper now needs to arrest him but good under our very own, new "Made in Canada" Terrorist Act!

Is Canada under attack? Ironically, the answer is both yes and no! There's a very real, important goal of terrorism that's often overlooked! That's to create a situation where one's opponent makes a misstep by reacting rashly. President Bush excelled at that after 9/11. Now post 10/22, Prime Minister Harper too! 

We don't need to worry anymore about some "hear say" terrorist plot undermining our freedom, democracy and way of life. Mr. Harper's Anti Terrorist Act has accomplished that already. Do the terrorists want Canada to create enemies around the world, killing people and making them hate us? Mr.Harper is very busy doing just that right now thank you, by blindly lashing out at phantom terrorist enemies with our CF-18 jet fighters. 

We have seen the enemy. He is truly from within. Thanks a lot Mr. Harper! If Canada is actually under attack, then by subverting our constitution you've just played right into the "terrorists" hands! If not, perhaps it's because any real enemy of freedom and democracy can see you yourself have accomplished that already! For shame! A poxy on both you and Bill C-51, Canada's new "Anti Terrorist" Act!

Post Script:

Feds conveniently release an edited video of the Ottawa terror suspect at the height of the C-51 New Terror Act debate. Basically any half wit could make up this sort of "political statement". IMHO? It proves little about the need for C-51 Kulture of Narcissism

COMMENTS:

Guide to Ontario's New Sex Education Curriculum!

Updates posted in large typeset!


My Blogsite Acronym Guide is @ Here! 

NEWS UPDATES!

Part 2 of your Teacher Free Speech Guide continues 


SEPTEMBER 2nd

Campaign Life continues it's sex ed protests across the province outside 107 MPP constituency offices as classes are set to resume for the fall @ Campaign Life

The Peel board announces it won't exempt students from learning about gay families and gender issues @ Star

The Ontario government releases a new TV add promoting the new sex ed curriculum that is about to take effect @ CBC

JUNE 30th

Social Conservative Mike Coren explains his controversial change of position on LGBTQ at the Metropolitan Community Church @ Toronto Star

June 18

PC party leader Patrick Brown fought and won his spring leadership race in large part by engaging and inciting the provinces anti-sex ed vote. He's been awfully silent ever since. You can read about his strategy in the "Party Politics" section of my spring "Teacher Free Speech News + Views" blogs. It begs the question, where do the protesters go from here? Or the PC's, who as a caucus, supported the new curriculum?

Anger and resentment, once ignited, continues to burn, now widely out of control. Witness the recent attacks and altercations at the June 7 QP Rally where NDP MPP and ordained United Church Minister Cheri DiNovo was swarmed by protesters who erroneously thought she was "mocking" them Now/ Video andTwitter Also the recent HCDSB Catholic board meet on the new sex ed curriculum where police had to be called in after angry parent protesters started to fight and spit as they lost a vote @ Sparks Fly!

Is this the message that responsible "religious" parents wish to send out? And where is PC Patrick Brown's leadership now that the situation is spinning out of control?

May 19

Ontario's new PC party leader Patrick Brown signed up 41,000 new members to win the leadership race. Many are from the province's multicultural community, opposed to the Wynne government's new sex ed curriculum and support for abortion and gay marriage. Often overlooked, in the great debate, is the fact that the PC's support the new sex ed curriculum. But will Brown stay the social conservative course, now that he has won? @ Brown

Former right wing Catholic columnist Mike Coren claims many extremists in the "Church of Nasty" have turned on him since he came out in support of LGBTQ. The attacks have been very personal, brutal, and none too Christian. Hmmm. Just like his own columns back in the day @ Coran



Mike Coran is on the outs: no longer right?

Multiculturalism, religion, and Ontario's political discourse over sexual intercourse @ Sex Ed?

On favouring a fact based approach to sex ed @ Pros

May 5

Thousands of students were kept home from school in the first day of a parent strike against MOE's new Sex Ed Curriculum. In Toronto, 1350 students were absent at Thorncliffe Public School, 400 at Gateway public and 590 at Valley Park Middle School. More @ Sex Ed?

A Fact Check on criticisms of the new Sex Ed Bill. What does the curriculum actually say @ Sex Ed



April 29th

Premier Wynne refuses to withdraw new Sex Ed Bill despite parents renewed protests @ Wynne

Here's a link to the Parent Strike Facebook page. They are threatening to withdraw their children from classes the week of May 4th to protest the new Sex Ed Bill @ Parents

National Post editorial argues pulling kids from school doesn't make sense. Incorrect claims about the new Sex Ed curriculum explained @ Post

Difference between required "curriculum" and "prompts" may be causing some parent confusion over what new Sex Ed Bill requires to be taught @ Prompts

5000 parents protested the new Sex Ed Bill again on April 15th as part of a renewed second wave of the attack which seemed to die down after somewhat fizzling earlier in the year @ QP


QP: Angry parent protesters are back for another round!

Ontario's long awaited overhaul of the Ontario Ministry of Education's [MOE] Sex Education program Grades 1-12 was finally released today, replacing the last curriculum documents from 1998. Implementation is due in the provinces publicly and Catholic schools this fall. Minister Liz Sandals is adamant that extensive consultation has been completed and that the program will not be withdrawn again, unlike the last time in 2010.

After all is said and done, it will be you our provinces teachers who are on the front lines in the classroom. You are ultimately responsible for properly instructing the students in your care. This is a teacher free speech blogsite. We don't toe any party line here from parents, parish, school boards or union in discussing issues or concerns.  

It's important, though not easy in the course of your busy day, to readily find the information you need. Also to be able to have an intelligent and meaningful self directed discussion on the daunting task at hand. I hope this blog can assist you at least in some small way!

Below you will find a compendium of news and research links for your erudition. There's also a link at the bottom of the blog for an open forum free speech discussion on the issues that arise, should you wish

I support the need for the new updated sex ed curriculum. I have complete faith in our teachers' ability to implement it in a positive, constructive and responsible manner for the good of our youth. Also note, I work on the premise that to be well educated, we need to consider every point of view [POV]. This blog will post complete information as is practical, and not censor news and views links or commentary because I disagree.



Documents:

MOE media release @ Feb 23

MOE Curriculum documents 1998, 2010 and 2015 with parent guides, tip sheets, daily PH Ed info + other support materials @ DOC LINK!

More specifically, for your convenience:

New MOE Curriculum Gr.1-8 @ PDF

Parent Guides to Human Development + Sexual Health Gr 1-12 @ Here including Gr 1-6 and Gr 7-12

MOE Tip sheets for Online and Consent

Equity + Inclusivity 2014 Document @ PDF

MOE cited Supporters of new curriculum @ Pro


EARLIER NEWS LINKS

What's new, grade by grade shown at a quick glance @ Here!

Another good summary of the changes is @ London Free Press

New curriculum is "most up to date" in Canada @ CBC

Critics are ready for a good fight @ PC's 1st

Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto provides Q+A on how new curriculum will be incorporated within the schools Family Life program. They are not protesting the initiative @ Catholic Schools

ICE [Institute of Catholic Education] will provide resources for the provinces publicly funded Catholic schools. Cardinal Thomas Collins explains that the parent's role is always pivotal in inculcating Catholic values @ Collins 

TCDSB will incorporate changes within their existing Family Life program @ Catholic Board



Cardinal Collins: Catholic school support is nuanced but on track

Reality check? Key phrases being used by critics are refuted in an article concerning the 5 big myths about the new sex ed curriculum and what the MOE documents really sayHuffington

It's important to read the documents for yourself rather than be told what they say @ National Post 

Concerns exist about how the program is being implemented, including the parent consultation process @ Toronto Sun

They are not radically different from the proposed 2010 curriculum @ Toronto Sun

The existing 1998 Ontario curriculum does not take into account changes in legislation and policy including same sex marriage and inclusivity @ Toronto Star

New curriculum seeks to bring sex ed into the digital age @ Globe

Online sexting concerns explained @ CBC

School straight talk on sexting, consent, body parts, mental health + other relevant life skills are badly needed by today's youth @ Cohn

The students behind the "Consent" petition comment on the new curriculum. Out dated existing program was written before they were born @ Students

Is new sex ed curriculum reactive rather than written from a sex positive approach? Some critics argue it doesn't go far enough @ Positive?

Contrary to popular misconception, the old Sex Ed program was not better back in the day @ Sex Ed

Arguments on why the new curriculum isn't age inappropriate is @ Global

Parents need to educate themselves and also have an open dialogue about the issues with their children for the program to work @ 610

Parents as First Educators explain their opposition to the new curriculum with numerous news links and a petition to support their point of view @ PFE

Campaign Life petition explains it's concerns about the consulting process @ CPL

Conservative pundit Michael Coren is critical of the critics @ Coren



Criticism of the new curriculum is sometimes fueled and fanned by extreme attacks against Ontario Premier Wynnes sexual orientation and her alleged Liberal sexual deviant agenda @ Vox

Premier Wynne takes aim at PC McNaughton's comments about her qualifications for introducing the new curriculum as Ontario Premier. Is McNaughton homophobic? Video included @ Wynne

Key 2010 protest figures are back for the fight. Some consider it an "indoctrination" on gender identity. Other specific concerns are outlined, including teaching youngsters about masturbation, anal sex, sexual orientation + expression, anal and consent @ Christian College

Rev Terry Burns explains the protesters indoctrination and social engineering concerns @ Right

Concerns are expressed about the new curriculum and Catholic gender theory @ Cambridge RTL

Some PC leadership candidates expected to appear at the Campaign Life QP anti Sex Ed curriculum protest rally. However the party is divide. As official opposition, they are quietly supporting the changes @ Feb 24 Rally



PC leadership candidates McNaughton + Brown appeal to sex ed protesters. Elliot plays coy @ Party Split!

PC Brown, parents + other protesters explain their concerns @ Video

QP Rally turns nasty. 2 PC leadership candidates show up. McNaughton accused of homophobia for comments about Premier Wynne. About 300 anti sex ed protesters apparently attended. Video provides a good cross section of parent concerns @ McNaughton

Fear mongering and politicising the new curriculum changes does not help our youth @ Ottawa Citizen



MOE Liz Sandals presents new curriculum for public hearings

More to be added ....

COMMENTS:

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Thunder!


THUNDER



I remember visiting a dusty village
high up the mountains of Cuba.
Sweat rolls.
Eyes squint.
Under the 
hot dry 
sun.

Da.

Wondering 
what city
lay beyond?

Habana?
Santiago?
Cienfuegos?
Pina Del Rio?

Da.

Do I hear 
cracked ruins?
Suddenly crashing?
Bursting in the 
violent air?

No. 
No se. 
Don’t you know? 
Mati says.
The voice of thunder? 
It must be thunder.
The sun is making 
you crazy.



Quietly 
we walked
the parched streets
to a crumbling 
village school.

Da.

Ask how we can help.
Mati draws back her long black hair.
Tight. Picks up a tiny naked child. 
Mere skin and bones. Crying. 
Reaching desperately for a breast.
She rocks him asleep in her arms.

The locals smile. 
Reach for 
my camera. 
David! 
Matilde! 
Show us 
your baby.

Da.

I look at Mati. 
Tenderly hugging him.
Wondering who’s child is this?
Overhead thunder rumbles.



Da. 

Lightening flashes.

Da. 

We look up. 
No clouds.
No rain.
Unreal.

Hand him back. 
Continuing on our way.
Under the unforgiving sun.

Mati, who walks beside us? 
Who walks ahead?
I count only los dos. 
The two of us. 
You and I.
Together.

Si sez she. 
Is he wrapped 
in hunger? 
Despair?



Datta.                                                                Give

Que? 
What? 
What did you say? 
Que tienes? 
It’s loco.

Da da da

Whats happening here?

Da da da da da

What’s that murmur?
That sad lament?

Da. 

Watch your step. 
The cracked dry earth.

Da. 

I don’t know. No se.

It must be 
the sun. 
It’s loco. 
Too crazy. 
It’s driving 
me nuts!


Damyata.                                                        Control

Hey, where’s the sun?
Thunder rolls.                                  
Lightening flashes.                            
Black clouds.
A damp gust.
Is that a drop 
of rain?

Da Da Da Da Da Da

Drip

Drop

Drip

Drop

Drip

Drop


Da?

Giving water?

Giving life?

Dripping
Dropping
on the rocks?

From over mountains?

Far distant above cities?

The mountain village?



Dayadhvam.                                                  Sympathy

From Beyond?

No. No. Says Mati. 
There’s no hope here.
No hope of rain.
Just dark clouds 
that's all.

Dark clouds
Thunder.
Lightening.

No rain.

Si. I know
No hope.

There’s
no hope
at all.

Remember the sun?
Who’s child was he?

Que? 
You must 
be going 
crazy.



Yes 
but
He
needed
help
and
you
gave
it to
him.

Small comfort.

I wish 
somebody 
beyond
the mountains
the cities
gave a damn.

All I hear
is thunder

Si. 


There’s
No hope 
of rain

Da.


Datta.


Dayadhvan.


Damyata.


No hope
for rain.........................

[DTC]

Friday, 13 February 2015

On The Road In Cuba!

DTC: 1996 A Cuba Story! [Complete] 



Chapter 1: Palma Soriano!


My adventures in Cuba continue: There was a long weekend ahead at the Toronto Friendship School. Willy, Ramon and Mati offered to take me on a road trip over the mountains to visit the interior of the island. We hired an older gentleman, "Popo" (means papaya...) who owned an old beat up Polski Fiat. There aren't any post 1961 embargo American cars in Cuba. Was an option. Turned into a good adventure. Not your usual tourist tale. Indeed, allow me to share with you my real life Cuba Story.

Popo showed up about 6 hours late. No big deal in Cuba, the "land of waiting." A popular joke claims that at first everyone was waiting for the revolution, then for the workers' paradise, now for Castro to leave. Waiting is quintessentially Cuban. Popo had stopped along the way to pick us up at a party. My tour guides were glad for him. Glad he had a good time at the party, even though we'd be left stuck waiting! They thought that was great! Because he stopped at a party? And now we were running late!

To his credit Popo brought me a bag of fruit from the party. No token gesture in a land where most everyone goes hungry! I'm boiling mad but what do I say? Anything? When in Rome, or in my case Cuba, how does the saying go? Oh well. O.K. Climb aboard! We're off! Up into the foothills of the Sierra Maestra and onwards and upwards into the mountains!

We are soon high up overlooking the 500 year old crumbling city of Santiago de Cuba. The glistening late afternoon Caribbean sea. On the other side of the mountains, we drive down into the valley of "El Cristo", permanently shrouded in cloud. Only moving silhouettes are visible to the eye. Strangely beautiful. Quite unreal!

We continue puttering along in his car, out onto the plains towards the small old Spanish colonial town of "Palmas".  Tall swaying palms dot banana and sugarcane plantations stretching as far as I can see. We drive past a huge run down sugar mill into the sun bleached ruins of a town where everyone and everything is moving in slow motion, in the sweltering late afternoon heat. I thinking this is all right. Very picturesque. Quite hot, but hey; our trip is indeed looking like an adventure!"

Sitting in our sweat soaked shirts, dust swirling about, we proceed into the town square .... where the radiator boils over! Psssssssssss! And dies. So much for the Popomobile! The hood's up. A crowd gathers. Everyone peering in as the long late day shadows stretch across the square. What to do? 

Once again we are engaged in the great Cuban past time of waiting! Fortunately, a friendly family invites us to stay overnight in their simple overcrowded quarters. Folks walk through all hours to check the gringo out. Hola! Hello there! It was different. It ended up being quite the party. An End of the World Party!

The End of the World Party is another great Cuban national past time. What else have they got to do most of the time? We are stuck waiting again too. Well, hooray for the End of the World Party! Tinny salsa music blasts in the back alleys under a Habana moon. Hips sway. Hand rolled cigars are passed out. There's much story swapping and good laughter. Then, an electrical blackout grinds everything to a halt. Damn those Yankees! Ha! We laugh. Call it a night.

Next morning Ramon finds another chico with a car! A beat up, old, baby blue, 1956 Chevy with a cracked, window shield. A Madonna sticker on the dashboard. The cheap fan barely works. A dumpfy kinda charm! Not unlike Palma. Yes Palma is different than Santiago. Like small town Ontario is different from the big city. Let's drive on further inland to see more of what it's really like................

 The early morning heat builds quickly. Sometimes I don't feel alive until it hits 30 degrees Celsius. Even in far less than ideal conditions like these. Am I a stickler for pain? It's a case of quality verses quantity.There's a trade off. In the First World, we've got most of the wealth. Yet we often seem to forget how to enjoy the simpler things in life. Not so the Cubans, whatever else they lack.

Everyone is out on the street to see us off -the whole community! There's old folks. Young amigos y amigas. Toddlers too! The End of the World Party isn't over. All of them are like family now, so sorry to see us go! 

Fortunately, I suppose, there's no electricity still. So no salsa music. Or they'd all be dancing. Cuba's like that: it doesn't matter where you are or what you're doing. Any time's a good time to dance. I kid you not. We'd have never gotten out of Palma! So we toss what's left of Popo's bag of fruit in the back seat. Mucho kisses. Warm embraces! With a wave we rumble down the street. Off on day two of our Cuba trip!

From the holy to the profane: The Sierra Maestra mountains recede behind us, along with El Cristo valley. We drive down the streets of Palma past the towering palms back out onto the plains. The banana and sugarcane groves stretch outward past the horizon. Sitting with the windows rolled down. Drinking it all in. Still quite enchanted. However, soon there are warning signs that's about to change. The once lush vegetation grows increasingly sparse. Half starved cattle, matted hides hanging on bony frames, stand placidly along the roadside, nosing about in the sun dried grass, occasionally swishing away the hordes of flies with their tails. Is that a buzzard circling around and around overhead? We motor across a swaying bridge hanging precariously over a very deep river valley. A great divide of sorts for what lies ahead.



Chapter 2: Contramaestra!

We drive into the town of Contramaestra, a couple of hours later; another old Spanish town forgotten in time. Head for the city centre; the plaza. Circle about in the car looking for a place to stay. Contramaestra is an endless vista of old ruins. A mad mix of Spanish colonial, the occasional American deco structure. We drive past an old rundown Soviet flatbed army truck; closest they'll ever get to public transit in this poor place!

The locals are just standing around -nowhere to go, nothing to do. Look at the despair in their faces! Some seek refuge in the doorways. Under the stark palm trees. In the little park in the centre of the plaza there's a hula hoop contest! Little school girls with skinny stick legs swirl them around and around their impossibly tiny waists. The innocent brown faces squint under the glare of the hot relentless mid- day sun.

Everyone looks up as we pull up front of an old run down building,  "La Cucharacha Motel" as Matilde half jokes. The faded sign promises air-conditioning! Says they accept payment in pesos! Willy slips into the office, returns a few minutes later to explain the situation, "They only have two rooms with air conditioning."

We wearily cart in our bags through the wall of heat. Unpack. Take a cold shower with a hose and a pail in the shared, stained shower stall at the end of the hall. Close our room window shutters. Shut out the sun's glare.

The rattly room air conditioner in my room slowly kicks into gear. Lucky there's electricity! And a black and white Soviet era t.v. set! That's as good as it gets! Don't drink the water though! Ugh! What's scurrying about in the sink? There's not much spring left in this bed. Boy does it sag!

"Well, it's beeg!", Mati notes, "Willy + Ramon only have two small beds in the other room. Mas pequito!"

"Well, we can figure out the arrangements later. It's dinner time. Let's eat!"

The menu shows spaghetti is served morning, noon and night. An over boiled mess with a runny, red sauce. My entourage decides to head to the countryside to see what they can scrounge up for supper instead. I decide to wait. Sit on the rusty, wrought iron balcony. Drinking a thick black espresso. Smoking a cheap Cuban cigarette, a Cuban quick fix, until they get back. 

"So what did you find?" Ho boy! I grow silent. Mystery meat? I wouldn't feed that to my cat, but can't say that. Not here. They try so hard to please! 

"Listen amigos, I don't think so. No. No. I will be fine! Dinner can wait."

Later on, out of desperation I slip out for a stroll. Aha! A dollar store! Its dark and musty inside. The shelves are bare, but for a case of Coca-Cola. And, in a locked glass counter -a Neilsons "Mr. Big" bar! A prized trophy.

"So uh, how much?",  $1 for the "Mr. Big" bar. 75 cents for a Coke. "Well, all right then, I'll take Mr. Big and um .... a can of Coke." 

The handful of locals grow silent. All eyes upon me. The clerk takes out his key. Slowly sticks it into the lock. A low murmur. "Somebody bought the "Mr. Big" bar! Somebody bought the "Mr. Big" bar!"

How embarrassing! On the wrapper it says it's made in Toronto at a factory I drive by every day. The Canadians have arrived in Contramaestra!  Perhaps a hint the Americans will be returning too?

I quietly place two crisp US dollar bills on the counter. The clerk desperately fishes about the old, battered cash register for enough change. I quickly slip back onto the street. Beat a mad retreat to our hotel room with my booty.

Willy greets me, quite excited, "Guess what? There's a concert at the Tropicana tonight. A local band knows some Beatle songs! They came to ask you to go see them play! Can you help them learn the lyrics better in English? We can tape it!"

"Okay! Okay! Willy, get out the ghetto blaster. Where's your Beatle tape?  Put it on. Let's see what we got. We'll go over the lyrics with them beforehand for practice. Willy, you can translate! Matilde and Ramon too!"

This definitely appeals to the teacher in me. Plus its looking like another End of the World Party, as I unravel the electrical cord. Lean over to the wall to plug it in. Then ...

"BBBBBBBBBBBZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!!"

Oh no! The Soviets wired the hotel for 220 volts! We sit, dejectedly staring at the burnt out player. Our last link with the outside world. Ramon later managed to fix it! At home, we'd just toss it out! But here? Once it's gone, quite possibly there's no more ghetto blaster for Beatle tapes. 

"Well, amigos. Amiga.", I sigh, "I think I'll cut my losses. Take a siesta. We can still go to tonight's show! Figure out what to do then. ­Hasta luego! See you later......."



Chapter 3: A Night Out On The Town!

I awake from my siesta in the early evening. Stare at the creaky old overhead fan futilely moving the stale, hot air around and around. Where am I?  Dazed and confused from all the heat and exhaustion, I yank open the shutters. Contramaestra! 

The long evening shadows create a Cuban twilight zone in the plaza below. Some good hombres hang about below a lamp post smoking cigarettes. Passing around a bottle of rum. Everyone's spilling out into the street.

The chicos' strut about in impossibly tight pants. The chicas' in bright makeup and minis. Everybody trying to catch one anothers eye. Naked toddlers race about at play. The little girls practice twirling the hula hoops around their impossibly skinny waists. Looking at my watch, I notice it's time to get ready for tonight's big show. 

Willy suggests we don't dress up too much so as to not draw attention. Highly unlikely! One suspects by now most everyone in town knows that visitors have arrived. With me, a foreign one. Very rare indeed!

I head to the hotel washroom. Can't drink the local water. So I brush my teeth and gargle with the last of my Coke. Blech. A little boy, waiting for his father by the toilet stall, watches intently. A little wink. He smiles. Stares shyly at the floor. Cute.

First stop -the dollar store. I buy three more Cokes to take with me. Damn. I feel so guilty! Off we head into the Cuban night, the streetlamps casting a pale glow down the narrow cobblestone streets of Contramaestra.

Suddenly -a blackout!!!! Damn those Yankees!! By now a conditioned scream! We'd almost break out laughing except for the chaos that ensues. Cubans on clunky old Chinese bicycles crash into each other, people walking on the street. A mad cacophony of angry voices, bruised arms, shins and knees. Even a fist fight or two as tempers flare. Ho boy! For awhile we stumble about. Total strangers lost in the dark Contramaestra night.....

Somebody resourceful has rigged up a generator at the Tropicana! Around it's tall fence a tumultuous sea of locals mill about. In gay lipstick. Faded party dresses. Baggy button down shirts and worn ill-fitting freshly pressed slacks. Hoping against hope that tonight they will get in! It's a Cuban promised land of bright lights and thundering drums! Tonight's­ el spectacular supreme!


Look -the gate man! "Amigo! ­ Estoy Canadiense! I'm Canadian....."

He gestures for security to let us in. The guards fan out parting passage among the jostling sea surrounding us. We dart for the gate. Matilde determinedly hangs onto my hand for dear life. Ramon bravely tries to fight back the crowd. Willy's bringing up the rear. The crowd descends crashing upon us, picking him clean! At the last second we yank him through. For the rest of our trip he'll bemoan his lost pocket calculator. A cheap gift but all he had to work out the school finances.

"My Chinese slippers! I lost one! I lost one!", Matilde cries!

"We'll get you another!"

"But, I bought them in Habana!" 

"Don't worry!"

A table has been reserved for us up front of the decrepit old stage. I nervously sit down. The band soon joins us. Yes. They've heard a lot about Canada. Another Cuban joke: if Quebec separates from Canada they'll join us. Then we'll have the United States surrounded. Ha! Unlikely.



Chapter 4: Tropicana!

A pale spotlight shines on centre stage:

"BABALU!!! BABALUAAA!!!", a skinny Ricky Ricardo look a like, a forgotten out take from the "I Love Lucy" show, breathlessly pounds away on his conga drum. The Tropicana Orchestra joins in. Dancers in swirling skirts, hips swaying round and round, delicately balance fake fruit baskets on their heads. Everyone is looking pretty tattered and frayed but that hardly matters tonight! The show has begun! The spectacular supreme!


Striking a match, I light up a fine Cuban cigar I've been specially saving. Enjoy one along with the other hombres. A fine, thoughtful plume of smoke. The fragrance tickles my senses. You know, the whole trip is worth it if only for this one night alone! Whatever else the Cubans might lack they enjoy a rich sense of music and culture without compare. 

I can't pronounce let alone name the rich smorgasbord of songs and dance that we are treated to tonight! The rich array of horns, percussion and rhythm instruments. The stand up bass. Tres guitars. We are treated to Son-Montuno. Changui. Guaracha. Mambo. Bolero. Merengue. Yoruba. Afro-Cubano. Every strain and combination of Cuban musical styles there within! The list goes on and on. Absolutely fabuloso!!!

Suddenly, the Tropicana falls silent. A nervous Cuban Frank Sinatra gingerly steps into the limelight. In broken English he bravely attempts to croon "My Way" to the hushed audience. The orchestra awkwardly struggles to back up his foreign Broadway tune. Little of this would've been tolerated a little over a year or so ago. All eyes are upon us as they finish the song. A stunned silence. I politely clap. Whistle enthusiastically. Stomp my feet. Everyone seems pleased and gives him a huge round of applause!

And now, the act they've been waiting for all these years: It's the Cuban Beatles!!! With guitar strings made from stripped electrical wire. A battered old out of tune keyboard. Drum skins that have definitely seen better days. But nothing's going to keep them from their moment in the spotlight in this really big show!

Oh no!! Not Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da!!! Too bad I screwed up the ghettoblaster and we couldn't do our teaching thing! But the Cubans love it. Totally gobble it up. Then a few more songs. The Cuban Beatles throw in a McCartney number "Hope of Deliverance". Sadly fitting and all things considered quite sweet. And then OH NO! 

"Come up! Come up! On stage!", There's excited whispers and shouts. They know I'm fluent in English! Arghhh!

Well, we do what we have to do to fight the good fight. The Cuban Beatles break out into a rousing rendition of "The Ballad of John and Yoko" (Lennon not Lenin...). I try to help them along. I swear to god this is the only place in the world where ANYBODY will ever clap and cheer while I sing Beatle songs on stage or anywhere else. For an encore I show them them how to do the twist while the band bashes away at "Twist and Shout". I'm even really getting into it now. Ha. In Cuba nobody really cares as long as you catch the spirit. That's about all they're going to get from me tonight!

Okay folks, that's about it! But no, no! "Speech! Speech!"

The Cubans love speeches. Long, long speeches like Fidel gives on t.v. at night. Truth be told, I'd make a pretty lousy Cubano Communist. Instead we indulge in a little patriotic good cheer. Always a safe bet. 

"VIVA CUBA! VIVA CANADA!", I cry out, pumping my fist in the air.

A sea of hands and fists wave in unison held high under the full Habana moon. Pretty crazy! Indeed they go nuts! Cuba's like that. It's truly an enigma. You've just got to love Cuba for being itself. Maybe it truly is impossible to figure it out. You've just got to experience it with your heart.



Chapter 5: Putting On The Ritz!

Awoke next morning. Figured we'd better get head back for work in Santiago. That's really what the Cuban School Project's all about. Everybody would be getting worried about us too. 


First we'd need to make the good bye rounds. Say farewell to all our new found friends in Contramaestra. I began to roll over the new names and faces in my mind as Willy and I pack up the baby blue 56 Chevy on the street out front of the Roach Motel. Glad to be done with all that, or so I thought.

"Excuse me sir!" An old man is standing beside me watching with great interest. Obviously no razor. His thread bare suit has seen better days. Sunken cheeks. Yellowed and missing teeth. A survivor. He raises a keen eyebrow, slyly leans over to me and says, "I can tell you are a veeerrry reeeeech man!"

"Oh yeah? How can you tell that I'm rich?"

A big warm grin spreads from cheek to cheek as he gazes at me with sheer amazement in his sparkling eyes, "Because you stay een a motel and brush your teeth and gargle with Coca Cola!" 


Chapter 6: Corazon!

Driving through the outskirts of Contramaestra we spot the Cuban Beatles relaxing on their front porch. Trying to escape the insidiously creeping, mid morning heat. Ricky and Frankie are there too! Pretty soon it's a jam. An acoustic one -easier on the strings! A little Spanish guitar. Some sweet tight harmonies. I may have heard the old Beatle songs a zillion times, but never like this! Somebody leads us in the "Ballad of John and Yoko" one last time;

Christ you know it ain't easy
You know how hard it can be
The way things are going
They're going to crucify me

I hope the embargo doesn't crush Cuba. That they don't get nailed on a long, lost, Cold War, political cross. Or caught in the crossfire of the next dubious world crisis. But with the way things are going down here -well, God only knows what comes next! It's such a sad, sad situation. You couldn't meet a better people. Anyway, before long the whole neighbourhood's gathered around the porch. It's another End of the World Party! Everybody clapping and singing along! English songs! Cuban songs! It doesn't matter!


"See the drummer?"

"Yes Willy."

"Pedro is the local school director." 

As the Cuban Beatles launch into an obscure Cuban folk number he does the dance that they all love. Up and down Pedro bounces face down on the floor. Keeping his balance. Lightly touching it with his tongue. Could you see your school board director getting down like that in Canada? Hmmm.

Everyone's still dancing, as we drive off. Cubans are like that! Any excuse will do. Anywhere. Anytime. I watch them disappear in the oppressive, sweltering heat through our rear view mirror as we make our way out of town. Back to Santiago de Cuba.


We'll drive across the plains to Palma. Rendezvous with Popo. Probably he's somehow fixed his Polski Fiat by now against all odds. Drive us up back up into the mountains, through El Cristo headed for a return to sheer Godliness; boiled water, a cooked meal and shower at the Toronto Friendship school! I wince at the thought of leaving our Contamaestra amigos y amigas trapped in their desperate hell. And yet, and yet, I'll bet they are still dancing and singing there today against all odds!

We stop for a stretch in the open plains. Everybody has diarrhea except me. Never thought I'd admit it but thank God for Coca Cola and Mr. Big bars! Ha. A lone condor circles lazily overhead as I walk out into the parched wind swept grass. The soil beneath my feet seems to give a hot heavy sigh; caught in an endless cycle of poverty and despair. Cuba; holding on like there's no tomorrow!

We didn't get very far on our road rip into the interior of the island this trip. Maybe it's more than I could take. By all accounts, it only get worse past Contramaestra. We are but on the cusp of the disease and hunger awaiting further inland during the current Special Period. As unimaginable as the embargo. 

I sigh. When my time and money runs out, I get to leave. Catch a flight back to our own little hellish First World malaise. I know, our neo con reality can really suck. But it's all very relative. My Cuban amigos y amigas will always be in the back of my mind. It's an especially heavy cross they must bear. Nothing they can do about it. I'll keep going back to try to help out. A big chunk of my heart will always be in Cuba.

Salud!

Davido

PS: "Cuba and the Night" will continue ......



RELATED READING: 

The Cuban School Project @ CSP

Toronto Friendship School @ Cuba + The Night 2

Traditional Cuban song + dance @ Santiago de Cuba Diary 4

Afrocuban culture, song + dance @ Santiago de Cuba Diary 5

Another Short Story: "Christmas in Cuba [1996]" @ Christmas in Cuba!

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