FAREWELL CUBALASKA, WELCOME MANHATTAVANA

30 11 2013

I arrive at the little house in Queens after a week in Alaska. Six intercontinental planes. Minus twenty degrees Celsius and the noonday sun peeking over the horizon. I was so free and so happy. I am going to love there, under the Fairbanks Aurora Borealis. My son will be born there. And he will be as Cuban as you. Or more so. Because he will have no memory of horror.

I arrive at the little house in Queens and fall down dead on the couch.  I don’t even unpack. I’m dying of hunger. I have almost no voice. If I get sick in the United States I will have to heal myself alone. To go back to Cuba would be suicide. There the doctors from State Security would wait for me to fulfill their mission.

I go out and get some Colombian roast beef with rice and red beans. They put a slice of avocado on it. Nothing tastes like anything, but in the United States that’s how it is. The smell revolts me. I stay hungry.

Actually, I don’t like buying from the Latinos in the neighborhood. They have a mortuary look that even post-Castro Cubans don’t have. You go into the restaurant and they look at you like iguanas, with toothpicks between their teeth and the ugliest clothes in the world, exceeded only by the schmaltzy music playing.

I bought it anyway. Chewed a bit. Then, I toss the whole mess into the trash. Or not. I go to toss it, but I can’t reach the can in the kitchen. Because at that instant there’s a little mouse in the middle.

It’s gray. It’s starving. It’s clear that it spent a week without me, locked out of the little house in Queens without a thing to nibble. It must be very young. Now it’s almost begging me with its eyes, like a spontaneous pet. it would be so easy to smash it with a shovel. That’s what we’d do on the little island.

But I put the leftovers in a plastic bag. I almost put it in his mouth. And the mouse started to eat the rest of my food in the little house in Queens. Every now and then he looks at me. I look at him. We look at each other. We’re both fucked up. Alone. Helpless. Nobody would remember us if we didn’t help each other.

I kick back on the couch. This is exile. Substitute for what in Cuba would have been a bloody death a hint of mutual pity and solidarity.

29 November 2013

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ALASKA AND MY DAD / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

30 11 2013

ALASKA
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

“Would you like to live in Alaska?”,
my father used to say.
“If you never go to Alaska, son,
death will surprise you incomplete”.

Mysterious words
pronounced in the late 70´s of an island
under the shrieking socialist sun of
La Habana.

Words not in English
nor in Spanish, of course,
but in a Cuban jargon with no references:
a dead tongue that in my childhood
sounded
as a curse.

I was 9 or 10
or maybe no age at all
and I looked as frightened as today.
But I had my father
which was also my grandpa
although he talked of death
and
Alaska
and
other incomprehensible
fates.

He was 52
when I was born
in the early 70´s of an island
under the socialist sunny shrieks of
La Habana.

Besides the transparency
of his Sicilian eyes,
I inherited two private homelands
from dad:
chess
and
English,
two labyrinths hard to distinguish
in the magic of his bookshelf.

We lived in Lawton
a delicate neighborhood
in the outskirts of La
Habana
now turned into a suburban wasteland
in the outskirts of La
Revolución.

My father so humble
so lucid
so loser
so tamed under the spell
of the official speech,
swallowing permitted pills
to overcome his nightmares of
Alaska
and
death.

My father so much my
grandfather.

He retired when I was still a kid.
Here and there he insisted
with his northern case
(technically, an escape)
calling me sometimes
“son”
and sometimes
“grandson”.

He hated life under Fidel
for sure
but this was something nobody around him
ever
guessed.

My father so shrewd.

He thought he would survive the
Commander in Chief.
But August is the cruelest month.
And on the 74th birthday of the
Maximum Leader
my father was generous enough
as to pass away
thus losing forever his bet
with his former Jesuit classmate:
Fidel.

It was a sudden Sunday and grandpa
had just turned 81.

An amateur autopsy
told us later he had cancer,
a merciful metastasis
that put him to sleep with no nightmares
and
no pain.

Never been to a doctor.
Never suspected a thing.
Just a couple of coffee-like throw-ups
and the transparency of his Sicilian eyes
became so opaque.
Maybe he did win his bet
with the decaying corpse of
Fidel.

“Forget about life in Alaska, son”,
were almost his last words:
“there´s not such a place on Earth”.

His name was Dionisio Manuel Pardo Fernández
(almost a 19th century name).

Since then,
I has taken me 13 years to understand
I wouldn´t need to pronounce more
his long and musical name.
No need to take him out of his sacred chamber
where decades and decades of American magazines
were frozen after the splendor of the 50´s
in his bookself.
His reading resistance resembled
the dearest delusions of a Don Quixote in La Habana of
Fidel.

I´m sorry, grandpa.
A deal is a deal, dad.

Not only there was indeed such a place on Earth called
death
or
Alaska
but I am here now
to challenge you to display
the chessboard
over those archaic English dictionaries
bought in the 80´s for a couple of Cuban pesos in
La Habana.

1. Pawn King-Four.

I know how you will defend.
Once Sicilian, always Sicilian.
The terminal transparency of your eyes
makes obvious that black square
now emptied for the ages.

1. (…) Pawn Queen-Bishop-Four.

Note: Original poem is in English

30 November 2013





I Have Not “Stayed” in the USA…

28 11 2013

Having spent eight months traveling in the US, I’m starting to make Cuban State Security nervous, just as I’m making the island’s dissidents nervous, since the two entities are sometimes so similar that you can barely tell them apart.

Several state police agents went to intimidate my neighbors on the corner of Fonts and Beales in Havana’s Lawton neighborhood, and threatened the friend who took me to José Martí International Airport on March 5. They accused him of illegally loaning me his vehicle, which is untrue. They spread the rumor that I had applied for political asylum in the US and was conspiring against the Cuban government as part of an organization, which is also untrue. They made sure that my 78-year-old mother was shaken up when she realized what was going on, although they didn’t interrogate her this time.

They have also pressured friends of mine on the island who are not linked to pro-democratic social activism, getting them to communicate with me by email and “extract” information on my activities in the US. They forced one of my friends to visit my mother and place a hidden microphone in my house, even though I wasn’t there at the time. They interrogated another friend about my sexual orientation, and practically forced him to testify that I was having clandestine homosexual relationships (under Castroism homophobia is criminal).

I have also received messages from supposed activist colleagues in Cuba, urging me to come back immediately. Apparently there’s no one on the island who can take over my work. One of them even called me from Havana, despite the fact that I’ve never given my cell number to anyone in Cuba. To top it all off, the independent journalist Julio Aleaga went so far as to spread lies about me on a Cuban protest site, suggesting that I was an “economic migrant”: A term with which the Castroist government makes a mockery of the always political nature of Cuban exile.

If my foreign residence permit is valid for two years, why is there such anxiety over my presence here from everyone in Cuba? Forget about OLPL for a little while, I beg you. Then—and only then—will I give you a surprise that the people will never forget. Thank you.

From Sampsonia Way

26 November 2013





Ahhhhhhh laskahhhhhh…

28 11 2013


27 November 2013





OLPL in The North Pole / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

28 11 2013


27 November 2013





Santi Cuba / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

28 11 2013

27 November 2013





My dear lovers, parents and grandparents

26 11 2013

Like every self-respecting homeland, ours is a cruel cemetery.  One by one we go diminishing the men and women who marked history, those who really shone in Cuba’s history with an intensely personal light, a history of the heart that hurts and hardly forgets: the intimate history of the soul of what a nation has lived, a whispering and secret dream.  Not that other shouted demagogue, half combative and half mini-populist, that’s even accented with “Revolution” for a mafia-like elite, an amazing alloy of barbaric foundational peasants and last-minute upstart bourgeoisists.

Like every self-respecting totalitarianism, we had strict schedules, which would still be retained throughout the country if not for the fact that socialism had the late decency to kill itself, never to sprout again.  At least not in Cuba.  And one of those schedules involved the dawns of the saddest Sundays in the world, Sundays lost forever on an Island that now only exists in our imagination which fades them out one at a time.  You know, I’m talking about the Silent Comedy, by Armando Calderón.

Never said better, because the Silent Comedy didn’t even remotely match the longevity of Charlot of the 1910s with the First National, the Keystone Comedy Film or the Mutual Film Corporation.  Nor the classics of Buster Keaton, nor much less El Gordo y el Flaco, among other silent geniuses still anonymous in my infantile ignorance which never grew up.  The Silent Comedy we attended, marveling, in that disappeared Cuba, on our soviet TVs with horrendous quality, was a work and a grace of its unique author, a man in suit and tie named Armando Calderón, sometimes with a primitive digital watch puncturing his side.

The “man of 1000 voices” really had many more than a thousand.  His vocal range, of a scarce phonic shade, was incredibly endless.  With his unique bipolar register of damsel in distress or a freed thug, this old man never narrated with the same voice twice in one episode, which he edited almost randomly, manipulating the tapes that were rotting in the archives of a system that had the money to make a soldier babble in heaven, but not to take care of the treasure that is universal patrimony.

To top talent when compared to today, where no Cuban speaker is able to speak a phrase without reading it in an overacting way (the worst example of which would be the simian Serrano hired by NTV), Armando Calderón recorded his madness live, the jeering at merengues and old cars among the neighbors of the Calle de la Paz, the languid art-nouveau girlfriends, the rascals and policemen, all an anachronistic chronicle of that utopia called the United States of America, nothing less than a little despotic country where single-party communism sanctions you forever if “you maintain correspondence with family abroad” and you don’t confess it in every professional or academic interrogation.

Every Sunday, like in the song by Carlos Varela, the sun rose in another city.  A poverty-stricken city like once-ruralized Havana, but where even the sense of film adventure allowed us to breathe.  Our gods, like in another song by the same folk singer, were Charles, Cara de Globo, Soplete, Barrilito and Barrilón, the fat Matasiete, Pellejito, the Conde de la Luz Brillante and the inevitable charleston.

Armando Calderón wasted himself away before our eyes and we didn’t realize it. He howled, rattled tin plates and bottles, blew his harmonica and sometimes only the air of a siren, rattled fences that had collected in some project, shot gang-gang shots, feigned breaths of orgasms before anyone in his pipsqueak audience had had one, clicked his practiced tongue at all kinds of trades of republican capitalism, while his everlasting suit wore itself out and his tie hung like a bad hangman’s noose.

Our Renaissance gentleman who made himself a ringbolt on camera, lacked the British funding for the future series The Storyteller, but nevertheless, in terms of creative motivation, he had nothing to crave.  Still, the most mediocre and repressive of the Cuban cultural institutions, one which, from the beginning, put its antennas in the hands of the Chief Hegemon of our History, gave itself the luxury of sanctioning him more than once, perhaps so he would finally mummify himself and depart to grieve in silence, which this dumb magician was responsible for.

His era had technically ended: color transmission in Cuba was beginning, after a humiliating delay for the #2 nationwide television program in America.  Being dumb teenagers, we could no longer tolerate another second of even the best film photography.

Whether it was the alcoholifan at the bar or cancer in his vocal cords after decades of force, we simply did not realize his metamorphosis.  The owner of our local divine Comedy watered himself down to one of his dead characters throughout almost a century, but life then was eternal for my generation, and the destiny of the early Sunday morning wasn’t important to us, not a shred to his beloved lovers.

Listen to the silence of the bugle.

18 November 2013